I'm such an expert at procrastination, I finally got around to making my 1999 New Year's Resolution last week! But once you hear it, you'll forgive me, because this resolution is a real doozy!

Get ready for this, folks: This year, your old pal Jean resolves that... she will improve her mind!

I should've known I was asking for it when I told hubby Rick this. "Improving your mind, huh? That's not the only thing of yours that needs improving," he said. (Har-dee-har-har, Rick. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!)

But seriously, I first got the notion while watching Oprah. Her Oprah's Book Club segment was on, which I don't think I need to explain, since it's so popular. (For those few souls who have never heard of it, come out from the rock you've been living under!) Anyway, I always feel a little guilty when the Book Club segment is on, because I've been meaning to join it for the longest time. The problem is, I never seem to get out to the Barnes & Noble on the outskirts of town to buy the current selection. Once, I drove to the library to check out She's Come Undone, but I got distracted when I saw a sign in the window of Pier 1 advertising vanilla-scented candles. (I'm such a sucker for those scented candles!)

That's not to say I never read. I practically devour romance novels. (I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There's always room on my shelf for any book with Fabio on the cover! Rowrr-rowrrr!) And I have subscriptions to several major magazines, including Soap Opera Digest and McCall's. I also read a lot of celebrity biographies. And, of course, I've virtually memorized every Erma Bombeck column in existence! But when it comes to serious literature of the sort Oprah likes, well, let's just say I'm no connoisseur.

My friend Patti, who is an English teacher at the local vocational school, was shocked when I told her I was not very well-read. She told me that my own writing doesn't reflect that, since it's always so thoughtful and sensitive. (Her words, not mine!) "I would have pegged you for a big Robert James Waller fan," she said. Well, I guess I'm not, because I had to ask her who he was. Turns out, he's only the author of The Bridges Of Madison County, which is supposed to be practically the best book ever! Duh! (Go put on a dunce cap and sit in the corner, Jean!)

But Patti didn't laugh or make fun of me or anything. Instead, she asked if I wanted to join her own weekly book-reading club, which that very week was starting Song Of Solomon, a novel that was once an Oprah's Book Club selection. I recalled this being one of Oprah's favorite books, because it's written by her author friend who also wrote the book for that movie Oprah did last year that flopped, so I immediately said yes. Patti, who had read the book years ago but wanted to re-read it, even gave me her copy, because her ex-husband had left his own copy behind at their house after their divorce, and she said she could use that one instead. It's just like Patti to be soooo nice and thoughtful like that!