What I’m reading: Pioneer project edition

I. Love. Books.

Given the choice, I’d pick reading above almost every activity imaginable. I can’t remember the last time I went a day without reading at least a few pages of a book. And it recently occurred to me that if I were stuck in my house for days on end, as long as I had green tea, ingredients for grilled cheese, and books, I could entertain and sustain myself without getting bored.

It should come as no surprise, then, that as part of my pioneer project, I’ve done some research and identified a few books that are an integral part of the project:

The Modern Pioneer: Simple Living in the 21st Century–This is basically my handbook for my project. Many of the recipes, activities, and crafts I have planned are ideas taken from this book. My husband is particularly excited about brewing our own beer. I’m looking forward to having a completed sewing project that doesn’t look like shit.


Confessions of a Prairie Bitch–memoir by the actress who played Nellie Oleson on the Little House series. I love memoirs, and I am really excited that she wrote one. I hope she talks extensively about Michael Landon because he always seemed like such a nice guy. Also, I want to know what she thought about being hated and how she got through it.


O Pioneers!–part of a trilogy by Willa Cather about life on the prairie land. From what I’ve heard about it, it’s a little more accurate than the Little House series so I’m hoping to get an even broader perspective of frontier life. If this one is good, I’ll read the whole trilogy.


Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm–I picked this one up on a whim at the library but had so many books out at the time, I made a note to read it later. The book is another memoir, this one about a woman who had to employ survival skills that would have made the pioneers proud to save her farm after her divorce.


I’m also in the middle of reading the whole Little House series with my daughter and, because it was essential to the pioneers, I’m trying to read the Bible.

I hadn’t originally folded reading into my project plan but I figured, why not? Many pioneers valued reading and devoured what they could get their hands on. That’s right in line with what I do anyway, so adding just seemed logical.

What books would you add or recommend?


31 Steps for Feeling Happier, Step 26: Try something new

31 Steps blog buttonHow did yesterday go? Did you find something you dislike about yourself and decide to embrace rather than hate? Do you feel better now that you made that choice?

I kind of do. I mean, I want to be okay with that part of myself but I don’t that I’ll ever fully accept it. I do, however, feel better that I’ve decided to try to be happy with it.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense.

But I think you understand. trying something new

Given the intensity of yesterday’s challenge, today we’re going to do something a little easier. A little more fun. A little more adventurous. What are we doing? Today, we’re focusing on trying something new. It can be a new food, a new system of doing chores, a new hairstyle, a new movie, a new book, a new band. Anything that is new to you, and might be a little out of the ordinary, will work.

How will this make you happier? Well, it’ll break you from your comfort zone, which is a great way to build self-confidence. Trying something new may expose you to a whole new way of thinking. It might make you more productive. It might introduce you to some new friends. Any of these, individually or combined, can have a significant impact on how happy you feel on a given day.

For instance, when I first tried Zumba last year, it was a huge step for me. I am horribly uncoordinated, I’m not particularly outgoing, and I’m not exactly what you call a “joiner”. I tend to do things by myself. Group activities freak me out. But I was getting bored with cardio machine and weights and if I was going to keep my depression at bay sans pills, I had to try something new. So, I bit the bullet and went to a class.

Little did I know how much it would change me. And how much happier I am now as a result. In fact, if you were at FinCon13, you might have noticed me wearing what looked like a breast cancer awareness bracelet with a weird looking black symbol on it. That’s my Zumba bracelet, given to me by one of my instructors/friends as a sort of security bracelet and reminder that I can do more than I think (and keeping with me all those I know fighting their cancer battles right now).

It worked, too.

But the moral of the story is that you don’t know the life changing effects trying something new can have. That’s not to say that finding a more efficient way to clean your bathroom will change your life but it might make it easier and free up more time for other, more interest stuff to try.

4 agreementsAs for me, my new thing for today is reading the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’m not much into new-age type philosophy but my cousin, whom I respect and admire a great deal and is an NLP provider/hypnotherapist/life coach, recommended it. I trust him and his opinions so I’m giving it a shot (and based on the reviews and summaries I’ve read, it does sound like a philosophy I can get behind).

I broke my mold once before and it worked wonders. I’m hoping this does the same.

What’s your something new? Anything you’ve been wanting to try and haven’t? 

31 Steps for Feeling Happier, Step 10: Read a book

20131006-115008.jpgI actually sat down and made a career vision board yesterday. It felt weird to put on paper what I’ve been thinking in my head for a while yet it also felt good. I don’t know if I’m ready to let anyone else see it but I know it’s there. I can look at it when I’m feeling down and need inspiration and motivation to keep going. As I said on Facebook, it’s not at all pretty to look at but it’s done. It’s probably more reflective of the ugly, messy journey that I’m on than if I had made it all sparkly and beautiful anyway.

While I’m not ready to show you my entire vision board, I will tell you that part of it deals with writing a book. That’s been a long standing dream of mine. I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a published author (which, I guess I sort of am. I was a contributing author in a book on writer’s block. You can see it on Amazon if you want. If you buy it, I get no money at all but it would make me feel good). I took a step towards that last year when I participated–and won–NaNoWriMo. I’m working on another book this year as well and at some point, will edit them both and start shopping them around.

Because there really is nothing like a good book. And if I can contribute to that, I will have achieved one of my major life goals.

But enough about me. Let’s focus instead on today’s step which is simply to read a book. Take 15 minutes and get through a chapter or two. If you’re not in the middle of one (or two or three like I am), take some time to find a new one and start it. If you don’t know what to read and you suffer from too many good book choices paralysis as I do occasionally, browse Goodreads or Amazon for recommendations. Ask friends on Facebook what they’re reading. Ask me. I’m happy to share what I’m reading, what I’ve read, and what I want to read (I do have a Pinterest board devoted to books but I have not updated it in months). books 1

If you truly don’t have time to read today, then just make a list of books you want to read. Divide them into categories like career, fiction, classics, nonfiction/memoirs and commit to yourself that this weekend, you will choose one book from each category to read by the end of the year. A quote that Dave Ramsey used to say is “In 5 years, you’ll be the same person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read”. He’s right. Books can have a tremendous impact on you as a person.

They can impact your happiness, too. Reading a book is a great escape from reality. A book can inspire you to make a change or fuel your creativity or take a risk or simply just provide entertainment. Books give us something in common with strangers. They can be great conversation starters. And when you start connecting more with yourself and others, your happiness level starts to go up which in turn leads to us being able to work on other aspects of our lives.

That’s the power of books.

So start reading.

books 2

About that time I stood up for myself, asked a question, and got what I wanted

Those who know me in person may find this next statement hard to believe but I’m going to say it anyway–I have a hard time standing up for myself.

JasmineYes, it’s true that I’m outspoken, but often, when someone does something rude or inconsiderate or hurtful, I don’t say anything. I internalize it, keep it to myself and blow up at inappropriate times. Or maybe I stuff it down by eating another pumpkin chocolate chip muffin (since I have approximately 13,000 in my house). Or maybe I use it as another way to beat myself up and say that perhaps I deserve to be treated that way because I clearly did something wrong.

It does wonders for my self-esteem, let me tell you.

By not standing up for myself, not only do I hurt myself mentally but I also wind up inconveniencing myself. For instance, if I place an order for something–let’s use food as an example because why not–and it comes out wrong, I typically will not say anything. I will just deal with the problem because a) I’m convinced that something awful will happen to my food if I send it back (I *might* have paranoia issues sometimes) and b) I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I do this more often than I care to admit, and oftentimes, I just take the wrong product because I have limited time to wait for the right one and the wrong one is better than none at all. Then I profusely apologize when I have a crappy business card (this happened at one full-time job) or an ill-fitting wedding dress (yup, that happened) or whatever else. I do vote with my voice and let people know not to go to XYZ company or eat at 123 restaurant and I also won’t give them any more of my money. Word of mouth is essential when you live in a small state so if I mention that a local company is crap, news travels fast.

But I never let the right people know.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, though, I decide that I’ve had enough and I really don’t have the time or patience to deal with a problem. Also, my bank account is exhausted. It can’t really take any additional hits. Which is why, this past week, I stood up for myself on two-TWO–separate occasions! And I was successful in getting done what I needed!

Time #1–The Library

For the 9 years I lived in my old house, I had a regular library that I used. Getting there took about 10 minutes, maybe 15 or 20 if the traffic was really heavy. So, not too bad. Now that I’ve moved, I live approximately 45 minutes from that library. That’s too damn far, especially when  I another branch 15 minutes from my new house. So, when I got a notice that books I had on hold (The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls and Serena by Ron Rash, for those who are interested) were available at my old library, I was frustrated. I really didn’t want to have to drive to that branch. It’s a waste of time, I already spend way too much money on gas thanks to living in the middle of no where and cheer competitions, and we really need to save the mileage on my car thanks to the lease restrictions (side note: I will NEVER lease a car again. It was something that had to be done due to a major financial pinch a few years ago but never, ever again).

So I made a phone call. And I asked if the books could be transferred to the new, closer branch. And they said yes! Who knew? Now I get my books and I get to save on all the areas I need to save.

Time #2–The Gym

Because the husband has a gym in his office building and works hours that don’t allow him the opportunity to use our YMCA, we removed him from our membership (hooray for saving money). For whatever reason, that caused a glitch in the Y’s system and they charged us twice this month for our membership fee. I noticed it because I compulsively check our bank account (we had some issues with compromised information at our alma mater as well as a stolen card number last year so I keep a pretty close watch on our account). The other day, I went to the front desk to ask what happened, and I was told that the money would be refunded.

Imagine my surprise when 3 days later, no refund had been issued. So I called again. And spoke to a very pleasant, helpful lady who figured out why I had no refund and actually processed it this time. She even emailed me a receipt! We’ll get our money back in a day or two. Just in time to pay for October, too.

The Difference

Because I’m trying to work on improving myself, this includes standing up for myself and asking questions when I’ve lost money or need to be inconvenienced. I’m trying to recognize that sometimes, it’s okay to want things to be easy for me (also, I deserve my money back). The worst people can tell me is no. Then I’m in the situation I didn’t want but I can at least assure myself that I tried.

In these two situations, the main difference between present Jana and past Jana is that I got the confidence, and took the initiative, to actually make the phone calls. In the past, I would have put the onus on me to work out the problem instead of asking for help. But in the present, I acknowledge that that’s ridiculous. So I did it. And I got the results I wanted. Which gives me confidence to do it again.

Note: Make no mistake. If someone messes with my kid, I absolutely will not tolerate it. I will get in their face if I have to. You do NOT hurt my child in any way and get away with it. Same with my animals. Sometimes my husband but he’s bigger than me so it’s more intimidating if he stands up for himself. But all 5’3″ of me will be right behind him. 

How about you? Are you good about standing up for yourself in situations?