Jana Says

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Author Archive: Jana

Making my bed and other advice I do follow

Last month I wrote a post about all the advice I don’t follow. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad advice; it’s just not for me. Which is fine. Everyone is different and I think it’s important to listen to different perspectives and take from them what you need. But I figured it was a good counterbalance to that post to discuss the advice or suggestions that I do follow.

A qualifier: I don’t follow all of these to the T. I screw up, make changes, and sometimes flat out ignore them. But overall, this are a few tips and tricks I’ve accumulated along the way to make improvements:

  1. No social media notifications on my phone. None. Not at all. Not email, IG, Pinterest. I don’t even have Twitter or FB on my phone (although I do have groups and messenger, mostly for communication with the child’s gym. These people hate email). I did, at one point, have notifications for all the apps turned on but it stole so much of my time and sanity that I got rid of it all. It has made a huge difference in my presence with people and eliminates distraction. One exception: MLB score updates on all Mets and Orioles games. 
  2. Prioritizing my time. I’m a huge advocate for the way Laura Vanderkam discusses time and time management and using her system has, well, I don’t want to say revolutionized because that’s too dramatic but drastically changed how I use my time. Basically, instead of trying to do everything, I’ve whittled down my core competencies and what’s essential and important to me and fit my time around achieving the goals within those. I might be mixing up messages from two of her books but whatever. It works for me. 
  3. Meal planning. I don’t meal prep. I discussed that last time. I do, however, meal plan. I’m not a good enough cook to look at a whole bunch of random ingredients and mix it all up into something palatable nor do I have a good enough memory to remember recipes or what I need to buy at a store (or have on hand). Meal planning makes me pay attention to what I’m buying (saving money FTW) and it also assures that I know what I’m cooking and how to do it properly. It also answers the question “what’s for dinner?” I hate that question. 
  4. Sleep routine. Confession: my sleeping habits are shit. I have a terrible time falling asleep, staying asleep, and all that jazz. It’s even worse when my anxiety hackles are up. I had tried everything but what’s really helped is having a routine. And not having electronics in the bedroom. True story: we don’t have a TV in our bedroom and I won’t even read an eBook before bed, no matter how good it is. The combination of those has led to me being able to sleep decently 4-5 nights per week which is a HUGE improvement. 
  5. Making my bed. I forgot where I saw this originally but it basically said that making your bed sets up the rest of your day. It helps you feel organized and put together and some other helpful shit like that. And you know what? It’s true! There’s something about making your bed that separates night from day and says “let’s get today going”. It also makes my room look neater (and, considering my husband is a class A slob, any little bit helps) and keeps the dogs off the sheets. Everyone wins!

So there you go. Some of the advice I DO follow. 

How about you guys? What are some tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way that have made a difference in your life? Which ones do you recommend I try? 

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Show Us Your Books, March 2017

Not only is today Show Us Your Books day, it also happens to be the birthday eve for Steph, my amazing friend and SUYB co-host. For those who don’t know, Steph and I have known each other since 1995 when we were freshmen at the University of Delaware, and with the exception of about an 8 year or so period where we lost touch, have been friends ever since. Many, MANY of my college memories involve her and now, as an adult, I could not be more fortunate to have such a fierce, smart, funny, and outspoken friend. Steph, I hope you have the happiest of birthdays and holy shit, how are we 40?

Now, onto the books!

As always, my reviews are copied and/or embellished from my Litsy reviews. You can follow me there if you want but as a warning: it’s boring. Even more boring than my IG account. 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. I cannot succinctly review this book. It’s too much, too big, too emotional. The writing is absolutely stellar and the characters’ pain was palpable. Even the annoying characters. The story was incredible and she used multiple POV and time jumping to further plot instead of as a gimmick. The abuse is hard to read and the pedophilia but also love but also still pedophilia is uncomfortable but both are necessary and not gratuitous. This is a strong, gritty book that’ll rip you but make it worth it. 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. If Looking for Alaska and The Messenger had a book baby, this would be it. A sad, haunting, engaging, sometimes rage inducing fast paced YA book that is a) impossible to put down; b) thought-provoking AF; c) one of those books you reference when people say YA books are just for teenagers; and d) insanely creative. You will feel all the emotions when you read it. Also, it was made into a Netflix series and it starts on 3/31.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. I generally do not like horror or paranormal books in any form so reading this was completely outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t a terrible book; it just wasn’t for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the blog posts peppered throughout the book and the ending smacks you in the face–HARD–but the rest was just meh. It passed the time just fine but nothing spectacular. Plus, it became glaringly obvious what was going on and after that, it all seemed dragged out. Except the end. THAT was a surprise. 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett. DNF. I picked it up and put it down and picked it up and put it down and repeat about 6 more times. I wanted to like this book but I couldn’t force it. The writing style wasn’t for me, I didn’t like the characters and I genuinely gave no fucks about what happened to them and there are too many others to choose from so I cut it off. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You all know what a TJR fanatic I am so I was thrilled, stoked, dance out of my seat happy to get this from NetGalley. Hands down, this is her best book. It’s a love story, exactly what you’d expect from her, complete with stellar writing and storytelling. But not at all what you should expect. The story is more complex, the women stronger, and she tackles LGBTQ issues, particularly for those of an older generation. Most of all, I loved the statements she made about forgiveness, family, choices, and protecting who and what we love. 

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano. Holding Smoke was one of my 2016 favorites so when I learned she has more books, I had to read them (sequel reviewed next). This one was a tightly written, smart, engaging thriller that completely threw me at the end. I loved and hated all the characters and I enjoy when a book does that. There were small mysteries within the larger mystery that could have been messy and annoying but weren’t. It’s a YA book, and some parts definitely felt like it, but overall, a great read. 

Nearly Found by Elle Cosimano. If you read The Hunger Games trilogy, you probably adored the first book and when you read the second, scratching your head thinking “I’ve read this before”. That’s how this one felt. Like a rehashing of Nearly Gone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still good but this one had the same characters and same plot and same types clues and the ending wasn’t as shocking because you saw the twist coming. It was nice to have answers from the smaller mysteries in the previous book but I found myself caring less and wanting new. 

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion. So, I loved The Rosie Project and DNF’d The Rosie Effect. This one fell in between. It’s chick lit, written by a man with a male protagonist, which is different. But I couldn’t help feel that had it been a female main character doing some of the stuff the male one did, there’d be huge backlash and that bothers me. The musical references and using people’s connections to music made it more interesting but I don’t recommend running out and getting this one. It counts for the Aussie author challenge and I got it from NetGalley. 

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. A collection of short stories. I don’t want to review this book because it’s everything you don’t expect and nothing you do and I want you to judge it for yourself. Her writing is simply spectacular and usually, when I read a collection of short stories, I can pick a few that stand out or a few I skimmed over. Not the case here. Read every single one and cannot choose a favorite. However, I will caution: if reading about sex makes you uncomfortable, pass on this one. 

TL;DR: Add The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Difficult Women, and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Add the others, too. Just not Imagine Me Gone

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show me your books! Nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading!

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Weekly six-pack, 2017, v10

What a week. Not so much from the I got a whole lot done perspective but more in the wow, this week has gone by in a fog perspective. I have approximately zero clue what I’ve done, where I’ve been, or anything at all, really. But I guess it couldn’t hurt to try to figure it out. 

Reading. Finished Nearly Found and The Best of Adam Sharp. Started Difficult Women. Got one new book from NetGalley and none from the library. Still working on my priority list and once I get through the books mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m comfortable starting request library books to read along with the NetGalley ones. And don’t forget, Show Us Your Books is on Tuesday!

Attending. Meetings. A lot of meetings. Mostly over the phone, which is nice, but some have been in person and that’s no fun. Plus they leave me feeling drained and not wanting to talk to anyone. Even more than usual.

Celebrating. My kid. She had a hell of a week, starting with winning a bid to compete at Disney World in May and ending with straight As, yet again, on her report card. This was like the 4th or 5th consecutive report card with straight As. We don’t pressure her to do anything except her best so the fact that her grades are all self-motivated makes it even more amazing.  

Using. Remember how I talked about my introvert activism? Well now you can add lazy activism to the list. I learned about this website that will MAIL THE POSTCARDS FOR YOU. You type your message, pay a small fee for the postcard plus postage, and they do the work. There are now no excuses to not contact your representatives. NONE. 

Watching. Big Little Lies. When I found out they were adapting this into a TV show, apprehension took over. Liane Moriarty isn’t exactly a spectacular writer but this was an excellent book and we all know what can happen in that situation. But it’s on HBO, which is helpful, and wow! I’m pretty damn impressed at how good it is! It’s true to the book and incredibly well done and well acted. I’m glad it’s a limited run, though, because it would absolutely start to suck beyond the 7 episodes.

Laughing. 

That’s it for this week. Hope you all have a great weekend! I’ll be at a cheer competition on Sunday and doing absolutely nothing on Saturday except reading and sitting on my couch. Looking forward to seeing you all on Tuesday for Show Us Your Books!

 

Judging Covers with The Family: Two months in a row!

Time for another round of Judging Covers! This one should prove to be even more interesting because a) I couldn’t remember the title of one of the books I plan to read and b) my husband actually bought me one of these and claims to not know what it’s about.

I think he lies. 

Let’s see what they have to say. And if you like any of the books below, click on the cover image to go right to the Goodreads page for that book. No searching necessary. 

The child says: A poor little girl who lives in a small falling apart house in like a field and her parents don’t treat her very well and her dad is constantly working and her mom isn’t nice to her. It takes place around the 1900s, maybe the 1800s.

The husband says: A young girl from the Mississippi Delta and it’s about her growing up poor.

Goodreads says: Follows the Hess family in the years after World War I as they attempt to rid themselves of the Anti-German sentiment that left a stain on their name. But when the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night, the family must piece together what happened while struggling to maintain their life on the unforgiving Iowa plains.

In the weeks after Esther and Myrle’s disappearance, their siblings desperately search for the sisters, combing the stark farmlands, their neighbors’ houses, and the unfamiliar world of far-off Chicago. Have the girls run away to another farm? Have they gone to the city to seek a new life? Or were they abducted? Ostracized, misunderstood, and increasingly isolated in their tightly-knit small town in the wake of the war, the Hesses fear the worst.

The child says: This one is about a…like a murder mystery type of book. It’s about a kid’s brother who goes missing somewhere and he is looking for him even in the most dangerous places until he finds out he’s dead. 

The husband says: I think it’s about…hmmm….long silence…someone’s brother who lives in the middle of nowhere who gets into trouble and the other brother or sister has to come help him in the backward ass world the brother lives in. 

Goodreads says: Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place.

The child says: Oh, I know what this one is! You’ve talked about it before! So it’s about all these 80s movies and these people writing letters to them. I forget some of it but it’s a love letter to 80s movies. Me: That’s what it says on the cover. Child: Yeah…it gives it away. #smartass

The husband says: I think there’s a particular aspect to 80s movies that is unique to that time period and this person is writing about the uniqueness about that time period while showing the iconic The Breakfast Club closing scene. Me: John Bender! Child: The Criminal! #proudmama #ihavedonemyjob

Goodreads says: From the fictional towns of Hill Valley, CA, and Shermer, IL, to the beautiful landscapes of the “Goondocks” in Astoria and the “time of your life” dirty dancing resort still alive and well in Lake Lure, NC, ’80s teen movies left their mark not just on movie screen and in the hearts of fans, but on the landscape of America itself. Like few other eras in movie history, the ’80s teen movies has endured and gotten better with time. In Brat Pack America, Kevin Smokler gives virtual tours of your favorite movies while also picking apart why these locations are so important to these movies.

The child says: A memoir in 21 songs. 

The husband says: It’s about 21 songs and the guy is holding a CD player! Me: What does that have to do with anything? Husband: Because CDs could only hold 21 songs max. I got the hidden meaning. #imsureyoudid

Goodreads says: In Party of One, Holmes tells the hilariously painful and painfully hilarious tales—in the vein of Rob Sheffield, Andy Cohen, and Paul Feig—of an outsider desperate to get in, of a misfit constantly changing shape, of a music geek who finally learns to accept himself. Structured around a mix of hits and deep cuts from the last four decades—from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” to LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” and Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”—and punctuated with interludes like “So You’ve Had Your Heart Broken in the 1990s: A Playlist” and “Notes on (Jesse) Camp,” this book is for anyone who’s ever felt like a square peg, especially those who have found their place in the world around a band, an album, or a song.

How’d they do? Have you read any of these? 

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My introvert activism

With 45’s presidency in full effect, we’ve reached a level of activism in this country (and around the world) that I’ve never seen in my almost 40 years. If you’re like me, you want to get involved any and every way you can except there’s one problem. You are a raging, textbook introvert. Crowds intimidate you. Confrontation, particularly on Facebook, is difficult. Calling people on the phone is nerve-wracking and while good for an introvert in theory, is almost as difficult as confrontation. 

Basically, if you’re an introvert with a people aversion (like me), typical activism is not your cup of tea. But, fortunately, there are still things you can do to support your cause or #resist. I’ve talked a little bit about this before but here’s what else I’ve been doing:

  1. Voting with my money. I don’t have a ton of disposable income right now (thanks, Disney World. #cheermomproblems) but I do set aside some to contribute where I can like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. I also frequent stores, businesses, and other places that align with my beliefs and don’t support hatred and discrimination. 
  2. Social media. While I don’t engage in discussions on FB, I will share posts on Twitter or support other activists on their social media platforms. For instance, a friend of mine is a concert producer (like big time. Runs the shows from behind the scenes) and she frequently uses the hashtag #damselinsuccess on IG. There’s also an IG account where they share what they’re working on and highlight other women (similar to Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls). Following them, commenting, letting them know I support what they’re doing is sometimes the encouragement activists need to keep going. 
  3. Wear my label. I know this is mental health thing but it works here, too. Steph is really good at showing her feminist wear, and sharing others who make various products, so you can check out her site for ideas. But a simple, easy way to let people know where you stand is by wearing it. On your shirt, on your wrist, on your car. It’s subtle, maybe it’s passive aggressive, but that’s just fine by me. 
  4. Write letters. Or postcards. Calling is not my scene. I’ve never been a big phone person. I’m great face-to-face or in writing but the phone makes me weird and nervous. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to pick up the phone and call my representatives’ offices. EVEN THOUGH I know their job is listen to me, write it down, and move on, and they’re not judging me (seriously. My husband worked for Senator Carper and it was literally his job to answer the phone, write down constituent complains, pass them along, and then stop caring about it), it’s still difficult. So letters it is. 
  5. Buy or make things. I’m not crafty at all but if I was, I’d be making signs for my friends who do attend protests or making jewelry to sell or whatever other creative, artsy thing I could do. I could write a book like my friend Sheila and her friends did (and all the proceeds from the book go to Planned Parenthood) but let’s be honest, I’d write it and then not promote it. So instead, I’ll buy the things and share the things made by people braver and craftier than I. 

I’m sure as time goes on, I’ll find other ways to make my voice heard but for now, this will have to do. 

Other introverts, tell me what you’ve been doing? Anything working really well for you or anything working not at all?

 

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