Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: challenges

Back to Blogging: Significant songs

This post is part of Alyssa’s back to blogging nonchallenge challenge. I think I got that right.

I love music. Always have, as long as I can remember. I even write about it a lot (like my playlists with Erin, a regular feature I did back when I wrote about money, and I have some other random playlists floating around, too). So when the prompt came up to list 3 song that define your life and why, I had to get on that. 

I’ll say, it was hard to narrow it down. I went with 4 (because I do what I want) and while one isn’t a surprise since I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, I’ll repeat it anyway. I also went with songs that define my life now, rather than overall because I’m a much different person than I was when I was 18 and even 30 and to use songs from back then would be fun but not necessarily accurate. However. Some of these songs have been constant in my life for the last 10 or so years so maybe what I just said isn’t entirely true. I don’t know. Music, especially good music, is timeless. 


Song #1: Maybe by Sick Puppies
This song changed my life. I wish that were hyperbole but it’s not. It came to me during an extremely difficult time, personally and professionally, an while 2 years went by before I took the message to heart, it stayed with me the whole time. It’s like the song was giving me permission to walk away from all the horribleness and let me know that yes, it’ll be hard but things have to be hard and change before they get better. 


Song #2: The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

For whatever reason, when I’m in the middle of any sort of crisis or weird situation or some sort of tough, awkward time, this song appears on the radio almost every day. I take it as a sign, like the universe is sending me a message that it’ll all be okay in the end and whatever I’m going through is temporary. 

Song #3: America’s Sweetheart by Elle King

I love everything about the song. Specifically, the message. It’s amazing. Essentially it’s about embracing who you are, loving yourself, and everyone who doesn’t like you or wants you to change can fuck off.

Song #4: I’m Not Alright by Shinedown (also, Amaryllis by Shinedown. Is it cheating to have 2 songs by the same band grouped together if they’re from the same album?) 

What I love about I’m Not Alright is that it gives permission to be not okay. To not be perfect, to be flawed, to be weird and quirky and that if you have a mental illness, it’s okay because it’s not the sum of who you are but the sum of all those parts make you who you are. That’s exactly how I feel about my depression. And Amaryllis is a song I listen to on my bad days; it helps give me clarity and perspective and keeps me going.



Song #5: Count on Me by Default

I am not a big crier but this song gets me every. Single. Time. Not even kidding, I can not listen to this song without getting choked up. I’ll tell you why, too. I heard it when I was pregnant with the child and it says exactly everything I wanted and want her to know . Everyone knows that life sucks sometimes and that there’s one person in their life who is there for them all the time, unconditionally, no questions asked, no matter what, and I want her to know that that’s me. 


I’m sure I could have added to the list but we’ll just stop here. How about you guys? What songs provide the soundtrack to your life?

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18 months after

This post is part of Alyssa’s back to blogging nonchallenge challenge.


Saturday is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Up until last year, it was one of those days that went noticed but unnoticed in my life. Then my miscarriage happened and now, it’s a day that has more meaning than I’d like (you can read here for my thoughts from last year). 

Since I’ve told people about it, I’ve learned that it’s way more common than I thought. Approximately 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. One in four. That’s a lot of us. And yet we still suffer in silent pain because it’s too uncomfortable to talk about. But we need to talk about it because the only way to foster understanding is to have those frank, unpleasant discussions. Doing so minimizes stigma and opening public discourse means that those suffering can find resources and assistance and comfort to get them through the trauma. 

And miscarriage is traumatic. 

I didn’t quite comprehend that a year ago. 

I do now.

It’s a difficult trauma to work through. More difficult than anything else I’ve had to do. 

But I’m doing it. And in the year and half since my miscarriage, I’ve not only learned to work through it but I’ve learned some other things. In fact, if I could tell the me a year ago some of what I know now, here’s what I’d say:

  • There will be days you don’t think about the baby. And when you do remember, you’ll have pangs of guilt that you forgot but really, it’s okay. 
  • Also okay? To honor the baby (or babies) you lost in whatever way makes you comfortable. 
  • Something of that magnitude will break you. But it will also build you up and find strengths you didn’t know you had. 
  • Your support systems is greater and bigger than you think.
  • It’ll be difficult, painfully, extremely difficult, to hear about pregnancies and to see pictures of healthy babies, especially ones who were born around your due date. Own your feelings about how hard it is on you and if you have to stay away from them in person or on social media, then do it. You have to protect your mental health.
  • But also, be excited for and supportive of friends who are pregnant. Maybe they’ve gone through what you’re going through. 
  • You’ll find yourself more appreciative of what you do have, and you’ll find ways to live a fulfilled life.
  • You are still that baby’s mother. You will always be that baby’s mother.
  • It’s perfectly fine to talk about it if that’s what you need to do. The people who care will listen and the people who don’t can fuck off. 

But most of all, I’d tell the me a year ago that today is better than yesterday. And every day gets better and easier.

If you guys remember, please light a candle on Saturday, October 15th at 7PM in your time zone in honor of all the babies gone too soon.


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January Frugality Challenge recap

You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly you know you’re supposed to be friends with them? 

That’s what happened to me when I was in Charlotte last year. I met this crazy awesome fun lady named Brynn (a name I love, by the way) who happens to run a blog, Femme Frugality, and we’ve kept in touch through email a bit and our blogs and that’s how I found out about her Frugality Challenge. She started it on Twitter and then, when she moved it to a Facebook group, I decided to go ahead and participate. She works so hard keeping track and putting it all together, plus I really needed to check myself after the spending orgy of December, and January seemed like a good time to reset my wallet because no joke, the end of December has me feeling likealaddin


So my need to feel not broke and my love of Brynn coerced me into participating.

The rules of her challenge are fairly simple but also complex. I know. Fortunately, she gives you a whole document full of all the ways you can earn points in the challenge. 

I should probably back up. 

The way it works is this: you get points for doing things that are financially savvy. Making all your own meals, forgoing a purchase, putting money in savings and retirement, doing a DIY project, finding free entertainment, having a budget, shopping with coupons…stuff like that. What I liked the most was that she does not encourage no spend days since she feels they encourage post-no spend spending binges but she does recognize that no spend days happen and you should get credit for them. 

Each week, or day, or whatever you want, you check in with the group on FB detailing your victories and adding up your points. Whoever amasses the most amount of points in a month wins a prize ($25 gift card to Target!) so that’s a nice perk. Plus, it’s a competitive yet supportive group and that’s fun to have as well. 

While I didn’t win last month’s challenge, I definitely did some things that made me happy. For instance:

  • I went 3 straight weeks with cooking every single meal at home. Not one meal out until my daughter asked if we could and we had a gift card to Panera so off we went.
  • I bought Weezer tickets with a Groupon! Save some decent money there which was nice coming off the expense of Pearl Jam tickets.
  • DIY’d a couple of projects: homemade candy jar with an upcycled Yankee Candle jar, homemade sugar foot scrub
  • Set a budget for my daughter’s cheer competition and stuck to it
  • Got some sweet deals on Keurig pods thanks to combining coupons
  • Took advantage of Showtime’s free trial weekend
  • Had several no spend days (planned and unplanned)

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how I did. It wound up being a good thing, too, because we just had a huge house repair bill, completely unexpected, happen this week and had we been blowing all our money on crap, we’d be seriously fucked right now. But we’re not and that’s nice. 

While this isn’t something I’ll do every single month (I just can’t be that compulsively diligent), I’m glad I did it because it got me back to a place where I’m happy with our financial situation and was able to regroup from December. We’re back on a budget that allows for some discretionary spending without feeling too restricted and that’s comforting, too because I actually like being on a budget. 

on a budget

If you want to participate in the challenge, join the Facebook group or post about it or tweet about it or just do it in your own quiet way and then, at the end of the month, when temptation comes your way, you’ll be all 



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Reading Challenge Roundup

I know many of you guys have strong feelings on reading challenges (love or hate) so if you hate them, I’d love to know your reasons why. I’m in the mixed feelings camp; I love the concept of them and the fact that they encourage me to read books I probably wouldn’t but I hate how overwhelmed I get at picking books and I feel the pressure to not only complete the challenge in a competitive environment (I don’t believe reading should be a competitive sport) but to finish books I don’t like simply to check off a box. But I also do like the fact that they help me narrow down my selections from my ever growing TBR so it’s a whole big mess for me. reading challenge

Reading challenges are also great for those who say they want to read more or get back into reading but they don’t know where to start so if that’s you, then I say pick a challenge, doesn’t have to be a big one, and have at it (and if my husband can set a Goodreads goal, anyone can do a challenge if they want)

To help you guys out, I’ve amassed a list of the reading challenges I could find. If you know of another one, please feel free to add it in the comments and I’ll update the list:

Erin’s Winter Reading Challenge–this post has the list of all the bloggers participating, their lists, and some fun facts. 

Aussie Author Challenge–h/t to Erin for this one since she participates and talks about it

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge–provides a handy list for you to print and links to Goodreads groups to engage with other participants

Goodreads–so many challenges. The yearly reading goal, seasonal reading challenges, and dozens more I know I’m missing

Bustle’s Reading Challenge–this one focuses on women and minority writers. A nice, refreshing change of focus. *I might actually incorporate some of these into my requests from the library

PopSugar’s Reading Challenge–a broader selection of categories than I expected to see from this site

Germ Magazine’s Reading Challenge–fun fact: if you read All the Bright Places, this name should sound familiar and the author of the book brought the book’s magazine to life. If I pick a non-blogger challenge, this is the one I’ll do.

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge–she has some giveaways going on with this one. My favorite categories are “a book that intimidates you” and “a book that was banned at some point”.

Audiobooks Challenge–for my friends who prefer audiobooks

There are some other ones that I know about that are in progress like the Semi-Charmed Kind of Life Winter Book Challenge. There are also ones that happen throughout the year like celebrating banned books and the Literary Ladies, should they do their summer challenge again. Then there’s my personal reading challenge and one that Alyssa and I had planned to launch but didn’t because #forgetful. But that one involved reading very long books. Six of them, all over 500 pages. I’m going to do it this year and the books on my list for that are (and they add up to roughly 4000 pages. So there’s that):

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (sorry, Erin. I know I picked it for yours but I’m counting it twice)
  2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. I got about halfway through it last year and had to stop. But I’m going to read through the whole book this year.
  3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  4. City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (at 900+ pages, I feel this should count twice)
  5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve tried this before and it didn’t take. I quit on page 4, maybe 5. I figure I can also include this in my “modern classics” category for my personal reading challenge. 
  6. TBD. Not sure what other books might strike my fancy and I like having a wildcard option

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Are you doing a reading challenge? Which one? 


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All the 2016 to-dos

I think there might be something wrong with me. 

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who doesn’t look at the new year as 365 days filled with opportunity and hope and achievement. Nope, I look at it as 365 days of overwhelming because I truly don’t know what I even want to do anymore. Setting goals used to be so fucking easy. Now? Too hard. So I wind up not setting them and then feel like I’ve failed at life at the end of the year because upon reflection, I feel like I did nothing (even if I did do something. Like last year. I feel like I did nothing to advance my career but then I remembered that I got a job in a brand new field. That’s something, right?). It’s like my perfectionist tendencies get in the way and then I downplay what I did accomplish because it’s just not good enough. 

See? I told you something was wrong with me. 

I want to make a declaration that this year will be different but I know me. I’ll declare it and then fuck it up. So instead, I’m going to make more of a checklist. I do well with to-dos. And maybe if I approach my goals as a to-do list rather than goals, I’ll actually do them. That would help me continue with the big shift I’ve been making (as in, I AM someone who accomplishes what she says she’ll do). So here’s what I’ve got:

Jana’s 2016 To-Do list

  • Finish the damn book already. It’s 2/3 of the way there. I know how to edit. I know where I want it to end. I need to just sit down and write all the words. 
  • Get back into regular exercising. I used to be someone who worked out regularly. Now I’m not. My mental health needs me to workout. Plus, if I don’t, the 10k the husband and I plan to walk later in the year is going to suck.
  • Restart freelancing. I used to freelance for a bunch of websites. Then I went all crazy (literally. It’s when I had my breakdown followed by my major depression episode) and quit everything. I like money. I like writing. I should combine the two again.
  • Launch my books project. Yeah, I’ll tell you guys about that when it’s ready. But right now I need to find a good web designer and remember to contact my co-host and get shit off the ground. 
  • Redesign this here blog of mine. It’s getting old and needs a face lift. 
  • Leverage social media to help with said side project and freelancing (and full-time job). There is a wealth of information and a number of people out there who can help me. I know how to connect with them and I have the means to do it. I just need to actually do it. 
  • Complete my reading challenges. Erin’s book challenge. My personal reading challenge. My Goodreads goal (75. I wanted to do 80 or 85 but there are some long ass books on my TBR this year and I refuse to feel pressured not to read them simply to achieve an arbitrary number on Goodreads). 
  • Travel. On the books already: Phoenix and Boston. Possibilities: Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego. Plus, I want to do more things locally and regionally. And visit with some friends who are not too far away, even if it’s for a day. 
  • Find a good beige nail polish color. I’ve been struggling with this one for years. Sometimes my nails just look terrible and I don’t want to use a color and draw attention to their atrociousness but I feel incomplete without nail polish on so I figure a nude/beige color will help in such a situation. Any suggestions?

I wanted to set some housekeeping/adulting goals like “do loads of laundry from start to finish on the same day” and “dust regularly” and “get up earlier” and “be craftier” and “give more to charity” and “volunteer more” but then I thought…nah. My house isn’t that dirty and I’m really okay with my bedtime/wake up time and I’m going with my charitable giving and volunteering and I’m a pretty high functioning adult so I left all that out. Why try to be something I’m not? 

Also not on the list? A specific weight loss goal. Weight loss is a funny thing and while I’m working on it, I feel that if I say “I’m going to lose 40 pounds this year”, that’s just setting myself up to fail because what if I don’t? What if I only lose 35? Will that 5 pound difference negate all my hard work? In my head, it probably will. So I’m just going to say that my weight loss is a work in progress and I’ll take what I can get each week. 

That’s it. That’s my list. Here’s hoping I can check them all off (sorry. I WILL check them all off)!

Did you set goals for the year? Do you have a word of the year? Any tricks for accomplishing your goals?


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