Curl Up With A Book: Winter Reads

I’m a huge reader. I’m also a huge planner.

That’s why I’ve chosen which books I’m going to read this winter.

Classic fiction. Contemporary fiction. Non-fiction. Personal development. Erotica. Two of each. Grouped very loosely.

Classic Fiction: Pre-1950

Classic Fiction

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. Purportedly the gold standard in British humour.

The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire. Poetry of Paris.

Contemporary Fiction: Post-1950

Contemporary Fiction

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. A little love for J.K. Rowling, if you please.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve got to read it before I see the film. And of course I’m going to see the film.

Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. Sombre and high-minded, even though I’m not at the best of times.

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. Understand myth and you understand all stories.

Personal Development

PD

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How To Change by Charles Duhigg. Change your habits and change your life. Something I’ve been working steadfastly at.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Classic self-help.

Erotica

Erotica

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. In a world of Fifty Shades of Grey, I like my smut a little classier.

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson. “A journey of self-discovery made through the metaphors of desire and disease.” (Source)

Off to the bookstore I go!

The Search Is Over: My New Winter Coat

Since I spent last winter in California, I didn’t have any use for a winter coat. (I know, I know, hate me now.)

I wore my three winter coats last year for two months before I left and I was already sick of them.

The tattered plaid one. The vintage purple one. The matronly red one.

It was time for something new. It was time for something modern. It was time for something perfect.

I’ve been gravitating towards more sleek, architectural lines as of late. And lots and lots of grey.

And I stumbled upon the coat of my dreams.

Coat

 

The Bay

At $300.00, it was a purchase I couldn’t justify on my three-jobs-just-to-make-a-living-in-Ottawa salary.

I left the coat. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The fit was beautiful. The boiled wool the lightest grey. The weave so thick and impenetrable to wind. The leather trim and inside collar. The pink satin lining. I needed this coat.

A week later I pulled it up online to show it to my roommate and LO AND BEHOLD, it was on sale!

Forty percent off.

Bringing it down to $180.

Which I could TOTALLY justify.

Off we zoomed to The Bay. I picked up the last one in my size and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve already received a million compliments on it, and I just feel so good when I wear it.

This winter I’m styling it with a cobalt-blue paid of leather gloves, a cobalt cross-body bag, a cobalt and grey chevron-print scarf, charcoal grey boots, and grey fuzzy earmuffs.

But what I love the most is that I can change up the accessories whenever I get bored, and have an all-new outfit.

Here are some ideas!

Coat Styling

At Left: Pietro Alessandro Mini Fold-Over Tote * Fownes Bros Tech Leather Palm Gloves * Canvas Bauble Scarf * History Women’s Cable Knit Beret

At Centre: Saint Laurent Sac De Jour Small Paneled Patent Leather Tote * Oasis Suede Bow Glove * Only Women’s Sue Scarf * Hallhuber Cashmere Beanie

At Right: Michael Kors Sutton Saffiano Satchel * Italian Leather Classic Gloves * Silver Fever Jacquard Pashmina * Barbara Habig Sophie Hat

It’s almost enough to make the thought of another Ottawa winter bearable.

Almost.

Daily Happiness

If you’ve read my book, Find Your Inner Happy, you know that I’m all about active strategies to make you happier over time. But what can you do right now? What can you do today? I’ll tell you what you can do: these things!

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Spend time around water: take a hot bath, drink some cool water, swim, be near the ocean. Water has healing properties.
Meditate: sit still and straight. Pay attention to your out-breath.
Sweat: find an exercise you enjoy doing, and do it. I like running and biking and hiking and lifting heavy things.

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Write: whether it’s a paper journal or a blog, writing things out is cathartic.
Eat real food: the fewer the ingredients, the better.
Sleep more: even a little more. Take a nap if you can. If you can’t, go to bed a little earlier.

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Support: read a magazine or blog that’s better than the work that you do, preferably with a beverage and a in a spot of sunshine. Bonus points for subscribing.
Be honest: like ol’ Abe, do work you believe in, and tell the truth.
Pick your clothes up off the floor: your environment reflects your mental state. Delight in daily beauty and respect for your belongings.

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Put around photos of those you love: see their wonderful faces every day.
Build community: bicycle around the ‘hood, go to the park, the cafe, the grocery store. Being around your neighbours will open up your heart.
Indulge: sometimes, eat too much ice cream. Stay up too late watching movies. Eat all the bacon and eggs. Only sometimes.

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Be foolish: Smile at strangers. Laugh loudly. Without fear.
Pick up trash on the street: don’t just say, “Someone should pick that up.” Because you know what? You’re someone.
Spend time with a dog: dogs will make your heart happy. Don’t have a dog? No problem. It’s easy to say, “Excuse me, may I please pet your dog?” Scared to say it? Don’t be. Remember, be foolish. (Also a lot of people are super-chuffed to talk about their dogs.)

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Sing along to your favourite songs: loudly. Off-key if that’s how you sing.
Breathe: in and out. Slowly.
Help others: for no reason, other than it’s the right thing to do. Stop obsessing about your own happiness and focus on someone else’s.

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Sit down to eat: and take your time with your meals. Never eat while standing up or driving
Get out in nature: for a walk or a hike. Natures makes us open and calm.
Put your phone down: do one thing at a time. Being present is always more efficient, and will help you have bigger, better ideas and new ways of looking at things.

How do you create happiness in your days? Do you do any of these? Anything I’ve missed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Why I Love Problem Solving (And You Should, Too!)

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When I first came to California last fall, I went to a grocery store and wandered down the cookie aisle. See, I love cookies. Love. Them. Especially Pepperidge Farm’s Milano cookies. Back home in Canada, you can get them in milk chocolate. And sometimes, sometimes if you’re lucky, in amazing dark chocolate. So imagine my surprise, my pleasure, when I came across the Milano section of the cookie aisle and was faced with upwards of 20 choices! Salted caramel, Boston cream stuffed, orange, raspberry… the choices were endless! I started to feel a little overwhelmed, a little lost, a little anxious. I thought to myself, I can’t possibly eat all of these! So what did I do? Did I make a couple of careful selections and be happy with them? No, I did not. I left in a panic.

Solving Problems Will Make You Strong Like Ox!

Of course, looking back on that now, I realize how silly that was. But I realized that this is how a lot of us react to problems. Think about it…

“I want to save money, but I can hardly stay ahead of my bills, and forget getting out of debt! Every time I start to get ahead, either my car breaks down or I get a huge hydro bill!”

“I want to be fulfilled in my career, but I hate my job, I can’t make money from my passion, and I don’t know what I love to do!”

“I want to be healthier, but all foods that are bad for me are just so good, and I hate every kind of exercise!”

“I want to fall in love with the right person, but I can’t meet anyone new, and every time I go out with someone, they’re all idiots!”

To put it in short form, the thing all these problems have in common is I’m sick of it.

Thinking about our problems like this makes it seem like they are obstacles to our happiness, roadblocks to love, irritations that get in between us and living the life that we want. And this thinking makes us feel like we have to eliminate all problems from our lives before we can be truly happy. That the only way we can be happy is to be problem-free.

This way of thinking is weak. It leads to either escapism (food, booze, drugs, TV, video games, internet, you name it), or checking out (living alone with few friends, unfulfilling work, maybe in the name of minimalism). The thing is, the longer we take either path, the more weak we become. Problems that at one time seemed fixable now overwhelm us, something as simple as changing the toilet paper roll becomes a burden, and we get beaten down.There is a way of thinking about problems that can empower us, though! Problems aren’t here to beat us down, they are here in our lives to build us up!

How To Change Your Problem Solving Strategy

It’s time to change your thinking. Think about problem solving like you might think about going to the gym. When you first walk into the gym, you’re not thinking about the end the workout—you’re thinking about the workout itself (well, most of the time!). Problem solving is just like that—it’s the act of problem solving that counts. It’s the workout that makes you stronger, not the end of it. It’s the solving of the problem that helps you grow, not the end result.

When I was a kid, I loved problem solving—word problems were my favourite part of math class. In fact, I’m still a total dork for logic problems. It’s been extremely helpful for me to take this love of problem solving into the real world. For example, I hate doing the marketing side of running a business. However, every marketing task I set for myself I see as a way to get better at doing marketing, no matter how much I don’t enjoy it. The point to me doing my own marketing is to get better at it—because the stronger I get at marketing, the stronger my business becomes.

Of course, I could choose to outsource my marketing, however the skills I’m learning now are going to serve me better in the long run. If I am to hire someone down the road to handle my marketing, the skills I am learning now will help me to communicate the wants and needs of my company.

So, what does that mean for you? How can you start using problem solving as an exercise to improve?

Here’s the thing: if you’ve been using escapism to avoid your problems, eventually you’re going to look at all the problems you’re facing and they might seem completely overwhelming. Maybe you’re overweight and out of shape, maybe you’re in a bad relationship, maybe you’re crippled by debt, maybe you hate your job. Or any combination of those problems, and more I haven’t begun to think of.

It’s okay to have that many problems! And it is possible to work your way out of them. The trick is to start with the smallest problems first. As you begin to clear out those minor problems, you will start to feel stronger and more hopeful, and you will be able to move on to solving bigger, harder problems.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to start small. Cleaning, organizing, repairing things—all excellent points of entry to building up that problem solving muscle. Clean the toilet, tidy your desk, organize your junk drawer, mend the sleeve of your favourite cardigan, clean out the spoiled food from your fridge. I’m sure you have a list of niggling little tasks that needs to get done.

Set aside a period of time for solving your problems—I am a fan of working in 20 minute chunks. I can feel like I can do anything for 20 minutes, even things I hate, like doing the dishes. Set a timer, and know that you are free to stop after your set period of time (however, if you find you’re in the flow and don’t want to stop, you can totally keep going!).

The more you practice problem solving, the better you’ll find you become at processing problems quickly. Think about a problem-solving session as a workout for your discipline, and you’ll not only get stronger with time, you will also approach them with a better attitude—they become something you get to do, not something you have to do.

Remember, it is supposed to be tiring, it is supposed to be stressful, or else you wouldn’t be growing. You wouldn’t be getting more awesome, every day!

Interested in going deeper with Jes? Check out Big Love Boot Camp!
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Ultimate Power: You Have It In You!

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I’ve been reading some of John Maxwell’s writings on the Law of Intentionality. Now, “intentionality” is one of those hippie-dippie buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot, but the non-hippie-dippie (read: accessible and not annoying) definition of intentionality is simply being deliberate and purposeful. How many times do you say we want to do something, but never actually make movements in the direction of that intention?

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way! You Can Move Yourself Forward!

I used to plan to go places. I would research flights, hotels, activities. I’d save money. I’d daydream about the places I wanted to go.

And then, when it came time to actually book things, I’d… not. I’d put it off. I’d make excuses. There were always hundreds of reasons why I couldn’t. I don’t make enough money. I don’t want to go alone. I’m scared.

My desire never had any intention behind it. I wanted to go places, but I was never deliberate and purposeful about my plans!

When I decided that I wanted to live in California, I knew that this would have to be different. I knew that I had to do this change intentionally. So I started doing the research, booking flights, rental cars, things I wanted to do. I saved my pennies and daydreamed about it. But most importantly, I started communicating my intention to other people. On this blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and to anyone who would listen, I would tell them my plans.

I changed my commitment to living a life less ordinary by changing my intention towards it. Because for all my plans, they wouldn’t carry me through until I started expressing my intentions and taking action on them.

We need to commit to intentional living. That is our commitment to being uncommon, to living a life less ordinary. How many personal development blogs and books have we read, how many podcasts have we listened to, and not taken action on? How often have we thought, Well, that makes sense, and then not done anything about it (and beaten ourselves up for not taking action)? We have to be willing to leap out of our comfort zones and change up our circumstance. We have to shake any unwillingness we have to improve ourselves.

You Can Take Action In the Direction Of Your Dreams

Our intentions are the driving influences behind our commitment. Our commitment to living an uncommon life, having an uncommon relationship, having uncommon adventures, and living our uncommon callings. I believe we can rise higher than the average, and that we should expect the best of ourselves that is possible.

Learning to communicate our intentions can be a tricky thing. If we don’t communicate them clearly, our intentions can actually get in our way and trip us up. We can never assume that someone knows our intentions—people need to be not only told our plans, but also the whys, the hows, and the whats behind it. It is our responsibility to express our plans—not so that we’re presenting them as an ultimatum, that it’s our way or the highway, but so that we can receive support and encouragement from a community who cares about us. Because in numbers we are powerful!

Why don’t we have strong intentions? Well, we assume that as adults we will continue to grow as we did when we were children. As children, every day we were growing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There was structure in place for our learning and growth. As adults, we assume that systematic growth is going to continue—but it doesn’t! The thing is, we are never going to continue to grow unless we are intentional about it. We have to tell ourselves, “I am growing now, in this moment.”

Take a minute right now. Think about how you need to be more intentional in your life. It’s okay—I’ll wait. Do you need to be more intentional in how you love others, how you love yourself? Is it about your commitment to your fitness and nutrition? What about your commitment to training your mind, to travel, to saying yes to adventure? There are probably already a couple of areas of your life that you really excel at, and probably one or two that need some work.

Here’s the thing—if you’ve made it this far through this blog post, you are already intentional. You are engaging and committed to positive change. You are ready to stop being scared of change, and to start being specific and intentional with what you want. You are ready to get over the fear of making mistakes and to take action. Think about when you were learning how to ride a bike. Did it matter if you fell? No, it did not. Because you got back on, and tried again. And now you probably know how to ride a bike! No athlete improves by accident—they train hard, they sweat, they hurt. And it is through discomfort that they improve. Growth and getting better at things does not happen all on its own. You are ready.

We have to be willing to be uncomfortable. Change is always going to be harder than we think it is going to be. And when things get hard, it is important for us to remember that pain is only temporary, and with the pushing forward it always gets easier.

So, how do we set those strong intentions? One thing that I have found which is really helpful to me is the power of the written word. There is so much power to be found in writing the same things over and over again. If you write I am confident every day, you are taking the steps in changing your thought patterns. And as soon as you change your thought patterns, you can change your life.

Our plans shouldn’t start tomorrow. They should start right now, today. If we’re talking the talk and not walking the walk, we need to stop that and start following through. Don’t quit too early. Don’t stop when it gets difficult. Remember that there is value in small steps.

You are better than “good enough”. Be the person you know you can be. When you are living who you are meant to be, you become boldly enthusiastic about life. And when you are boldly enthusiastic about life, you can inspire people to change their communities, their families, their businesses. You can change the world one person at a time.

Today, I challenge you. Identify something that you need to do. What have you been putting off? Take one small step, today. You can do this.

“A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become, and start being the man that you want to be.”
~Bruce Springsteen

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