This is soooo exciting—my first column of 1998! Actually, I'm kind of dreading 1998, because it's the year I finally turn the big 4-0! Can you believe it? (I sure can't!)

But, with this new year, I've vowed to turn over a new leaf. That's right, your old pal Jean has made three major self-improvement resolutions for 1998! Here goes:

First, I'm going to try not to be such a perfectionist. Take last week, for example. I bought these cute Post-It notes with sunflowers on them at Wal-Mart. But when I got them home, I noticed that the yellow on the sunflowers didn't quite match the shade of yellow on my plastic Post-It-note dispenser.

I seriously considered going back to the store and exchanging the sunflower Post-Its with the plain ones I usually buy, which better match my dispenser. But then, out of nowhere, a little voice inside me said: "Earth to Jean! Earth to Jean! It doesn't matter what color your Post-It notes are! It doesn't matter if they don't match the dispenser perfectly!" So I decided to stick with the sunflower ones. And you know what? They look just fine in my dispenser! (Come to think of it, It Doesn't Matter What Color Your Post-It Notes Are would make a great title for the book I'm going to write someday!)

Second, I'm not going to let things I can't control get to me. Like at work, for example. (Yes, I still work that boring data-entry job at the insurance company!) Right before Thanksgiving last year, our entire computer system crashed, and anyone who hadn't rebooted their computer in the previous week lost several days' worth of data entry. And guess who didn't reboot her computer! I wound up having to work that entire weekend, including several hours on Thanksgiving, logging in the codes that were lost.

But what really made me mad was the fact that the company didn't want to pay me overtime for that weekend because it was my mistake. (We're supposed to reboot our terminals at least once a week.) I considered quitting right then and there, but I realized that quitting wouldn't be a smart thing to do, what with all the payments left on hubby Rick's new truck and the holidays coming up. And letting stuff like that get to me certainly wouldn't be good for my health or my sanity, either. So I let it go and felt a lot better right away. There's no point dwelling on the negative, as I always say!

Third, and most important, I'm going to stop worrying about what other people think of me! I realized this after getting a letter from a reader who wrote me in response to my recent column about how I drove through three counties to find this adorable Kim Anderson print. (She's the photographer who takes those darling pictures of the little children in adult clothes kissing.) I was really thrilled to get a letter regarding my column, because, to tell you the truth, I don't get all that many. But do you know what the letter said? It asked why the newspaper was running my "stupid" column instead of "Power Sewing"!

I was shocked and crushed! I couldn't understand why anyone would go out of their way to write such a mean thing like that. But then I realized that if I worried about everything everyone said about me, I'd go nuts! Besides, if everybody felt the same way about everything, this would be a pretty boring world, right? If people hid every time something critical was said about them, we'd have no brave people in this world, no one like Oprah Winfrey or Elton John, both of whom overcame tremendous adversity to get where they are today! (Well, I don't know about Elton John, but hubby Rick's always putting him down, and I think he's great!)

So those are my resolutions for 1998. Keep an eye on me, folks, and make sure I stick to them!

By the way, did you happen to notice my column's new name, "A Room Of Jean's Own"? It's symbolic of my turning over a new leaf this year. And, what's really great about it is that it came to me in a way that seems too destined to be an accident!

Last month, I was at Waldenbooks trying to find one of those 3-D hidden-image books for my brother for Christmas, when my eyes happened to fall upon a book on the shelves. I was immediately struck by its title: A Room Of One's Own. It was by an author named Virginia Woolf, and a little voice inside me told me that I should read it, even though I'd never heard of it. So I snatched it up and made a beeline to the checkout counter. (It was hours before I realized that I'd forgotten to buy the 3-D book!)

There was something about the title A Room Of One's Own that appealed to me. Having lived with hubby Rick for so long, I guess the notion of having a room of my own, a room where I can go and just be myself, had been a long-standing wish of mine. Then I thought to myself, I do have this newspaper column, and, even though it's not technically a room, it's a place for me to be myself and express my feelings about stuff. So calling the column "A Room of Jean's Own" seemed perfect! (Boy, am I philosophical, or what!)

Unfortunately, the book A Room Of One's Own turned out to be really disappointing. In fact, it's not even a story! It's this long, confusing speech, written with this big vocabulary, almost as if Woolf was going out of her way to try to impress you with her knowledge. And it's weird, to boot. I never got beyond the first three pages. But, as I said, the title is great.

So here's to 1998! I'm sorry I got so philosophical in this column, but to make it up to you, I promise next time I'll share my internationally renowned recipe for triple-mocha almond fudge brownies! They're better than sex!