I’ve finally decided to jump in to my dream of writing and stick with it. I’ve always had a writing project in the works, but I’ve never felt so passionate about it as I do this new one. So, I’m going to share some of it with my audience in hopes of finding encouragement to keep up the momentum. I’m 20,000 words in, so I feel pretty confident about it. If you have any opinions, please share.
I’m still playing around with a title, but I like No More Bullshit: Life Lessons because it encompasses the premise of the book, which is ultimately about the changes I’ve made in my life after becoming more enlightened. The book also contains my real voice, which is a potty mouth accompanying my Southern accent and intellectualism. I want people to be aware that this is supposed to be a humorous look at the experiences that prompted me to change. It is not faith-based although I do incorporate some spirituality that has helped me, so I do not want the wrong audience to pick up the book and be offended.
So, if you have any feedback, I’d really appreciate it. Feel free to comment.
People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them all the things that I do professionally, but they simply don’t understand that being a solopreneur takes HUSTLE! Here’s why broken down by my jobs:
Freelance Writer: I may be busy as hell for three months, and then no one needs me for a month. I still have to pay my bills, so….
Author: Some months my books are selling, and I’ve got great gigs. Other months, nothing.
Speaker/Training: Speaking and training gigs need to be planned well in advance. I have often booked a speaking opportunity six months out, and I have also said to myself, I have a gig coming up and not booked anything else. After that gig, I realize that I should have planned better.
DJ: This is an occasional job as well.
As you can see, I do many things. Some people say that if you do a lot, you’re not doing enough. They say, “do one thing well.” Blah blah blah. I say, I do what works for me, and I enjoy doing many things and doing each one well.
One of my favorite “jobs” is making things to sell. This is a quick buck. However, sometimes I have made things that people simply wouldn’t buy, so I’ve had to learn my audience (just like with everything else I do). Most of the people who buy “art” at festivals and places like our local gallery night are those who like to decorate their porch for holidays and occasions, like football.
Here in the South, football is an occasion, especially for Alabama fans. That’s why I’ve created this Alabama hanger:
How to Make an Alabama Door Hanger to Sell
- Pencil (to draw outline)
- Utility Plywood (I use 4’x8’ because it’s $9.99 per sheet at Home Depot, and I can make about 10 of these with one sheet, so it costs me a little over $1.00 per sign for the wood)
- Drill Master Jigsaw (I think I paid around $30 for mine, and I prefer the corded one because I have bad luck with rechargeable batteries, but it’s well worth the expense! Also, I’m not including this in the cost of making the sign since it can be used for so much.)
- Sander/Sand Paper (I use this cheap $10 rotary tool with the sanding piece.) $1
- Heavy Duty Staple Gun & Staples (Not including in cost except for staples) $.50
- Paint (I use the $.50 acrylic paint from Wal-mart.) $.50
- Paint brushes $1.00
- Ribbon $2.00
- Twist ties (I use the pipe cleaners from Dollar Tree) $.10
Cost: Approximately $7.00 to make
Suggested Price: $35-50
Shipping Cost: $5.00
Possible Profit Per Sign: $23-38
- Cut out the shape: Draw an outline with a pencil, and use the jigsaw to cut it out. I can just eyeball this, but some people may need to use measurements. I’ve seen some that are not as proportioned, so I think as long as the general shape is obtained, it should be good. A good lesson that I learned is that once you get a good shape, use it as a pattern. Go ahead and trace out the amount that you are planning to make.
- Sand the edges–I use my rotary tool, which is the cheaper version of a Dremmel. It has a little sanding paper attachment. I just go around the edges with it at medium speed and make sure there are no splinters.
- Paint–I didn’t have enough gray, so I mixed black and white. I like to make mine a little artsy with the highlighting. I started with the white background for the A and then I used Tuscan Red to fill it in. I had to go back with the white after and fix the edges.
- Make the bow: With bows, I just loop them around until I get the shape I want. Then I use as many twist ties as necessary to keep them in place. It’s definitely not fancy, but once you attach it, no one sees the mess!
- Attach the bow: I use the stapler for this and start at the center making sure the bow is lined up where I want it. Then, I staple it to the board. I use a couple of staples near the center and outside to hold the bow in place. Then, I shape the bow.
- Attach a hanger: I like to use the pipe cleaners from the dollar tree for this as well because you can twist them around the staple for extra security. You can also use a ribbon. I just make a loop and staple it, and then twist it up to secure it.
And viola! You have an Alabama door hanger:
Although my kids HATE the fact that we do not have a microwave, I am relentless on the issue. We have a small kitchen, and a microwave is just not a necessity to me. I’m the one who cooks, so it’s my choice. Plus, I like to live by the motto: “If it’s convenient, it’s probably not good for you.” Microwaves are all about convenience. End of story.
However, there are some great microwavable meals that are soooo convenient that I have had to find a way around not having one, especially since I’m working from home a lot these days and do not have the money to go out for lunch.
Evol is one of my favorite brands of vegetarian and healthy meals. Their philosophy is simple: Our Mission is to inspire people to care about where food comes from and how it is produced, by making REAL FOOD that tastes delicious. So, when I saw their Goat Cheese and Portabello Raviolis in a single frozen meal, I was like, gimme! gimme! gimme!
So, to overcome the no microwave issue, I put a little olive oil in a pan and dumped the frozen raviolis in there, let the ingredients warm, and viola! A warm, delicious (and somewhat nutritious) vegetarian meal in minutes at home for only $3.50 from Target.
Have I already talked about how much work #self-publishers have to do to market their stuff? If so, I cannot say it enough. If not, I probably dreamed that I did.
Today I attended a meeting (thanks to my friend, Mia Bolden who owns Beautiful You Studio here in Pensacola, is a life coach, and is my pole fitness instructor AWESOME lady!) about #SocialMediaMarketing. On the way up the elevator, we talked about how there is so much information about this that it is overwhelming. Here are some things that I found valuable from today’s meeting:
- It does matter how many people you follow versus how many people follow you. I know that you youngsters are probably thinking DUH, old lady, but I did not actually know that this was a thing. So, I looked at my Instagram and Twitter accounts to find that the ratios were drastically disparate. I had a wopping 600 something followers on Instagram, and I was following over 2,000. This is a BIG NO-NO! I guess it makes you look desperate or something. REMEDY: There’s an app for that! It’s called Unfollow. Go figure. It allows you to mass unfollow people who are not following you back. BOOM!
- 80/20 Rule: I had heard this before, but I needed it to be reemphasized I guess. Basically, you want to share 80% content-related stuff that is not sales, and 20% sales. So, for my sexual harassment stuff, I should be sharing 80% information about what’s going on with sexual harassment and 20% of what I offer. Another tip was to use the outside information (like statistics) and then create a personalized infographic that addresses that information. So, I could use information from a news article about sexual harassment and create an Infographic using Canva that demonstrates what I would do to address it.
- 7 Times: We are hit with so much marketing that it doesn’t sink in as quickly as you’d think. In fact, the statistics show that it takes about 7 times to be exposed to something before you notice it or understand it. So, this is why commercials are repeated over and over. Have you ever sang a song but not listened to the lyrics? I do this all the time. I’ll realize it when I decide to sing karaoke. I’m like, “Oh, I did not know that’s what she was saying!” I guess it’s the same concept. We have become so neutralized by all the ads that it takes repetition to get the message through. So, for those of us trying to push our message out, remember 7 is the lucky number.
These were my big takeaways for the day. I hope they help. If you have any questions, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment 🙂
Two weeks ago, after watching the movie Okja, I finally decided to call it quits on the meats. I’d already been going in that direction for a while for health and other reasons, but that film pushed me over the edge. If you are thinking that you need a change, watch the movie. No more encouragement is needed.
Here’s my plan:
- Don’t tell the kids and see how long it will take them to realize we haven’t had meat.
- Use variety.
- Be cheap about it.
- Write about it here and share the recipes that work.
Week 1 Recipes:
- DAY 1: Enchilada Stuffed Grilled Mushrooms found here. These were fantastic, but I used smaller mushrooms (being cheap), so I had to compromise quickly to feed my hungry teenagers. Luckily, I had a can of refried beans and had recently wanted Mexican pizza (like Taco Bell’s). So, I slapped some beans on some tortillas, layered them with cheese and jalapenos and the leftovers from the mushrooms. THEY WERE A HIT. *The kids didn’t notice the lack of meat.
- DAY 2: Zucchini Lasagna (my own recipe). This is one that I’ve been making for a while, but I usually add sausage and pepperonis. I made it the same just without the meat: my favorite Italian marinara, vegetables, and cheese with sliced green zucchini taking the place of noodles. It’s actually better because it only takes about 30 minutes in the oven if you saute the veggies first.
- DAY 3: Curry Cabbage & Cauliflower Stir Fry found here. Of course, I had to omit the coconut oil because my wife is allergic. However, everyone loved it, and the kids still hadn’t realized no meat was involved.
- DAY 4: Cheated. Went out. Long day. Still no meat though.
- DAY 5: Mushroom Stroganoff found here.
Weekend: No kids, so no cooking!!!
Long story short: I’m loving the vegetarian life because it offers variety, it’s actually less expensive, and I’VE LOST 4 POUNDS!!!!
This self-publishing journey has been quite a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. I feel myself growing by just doing it. It is crazy to me how often we keep ourselves from doing things just because we don’t know how or we feel we don’t have some authority. I am so glad that I’m overcoming this. What is that study that says you have to practice something for 10,000 hours before being able to do it well? If that’s the case with self-publishing, I’m two books in and have only been practicing for about 1/10 of that number.
Here are some things I’ve learned:
- Patience is a virtue. I am not a patient person, so this one is difficult. However, it is interesting when my personality is altered by a process. When I sit down to write, I have my stories in my brain, and I just expect them to flow perfectly and quickly onto the document. Then, I don’t want to have to edit them. And, I do not want to have to go through the grueling process of creating a cover page and marketing plan, etc. These things all take time, and if you rush through them, you will regret it.
- Self-publishing is hard. I have read many tips and tricks online, and they all say that you should hire an editor and a cover designer. I am too stubborn for this at this point because I feel confident in my ability to do these things and save money. We’ll see how this works out. On my first book, I had to republish three times because of mistakes. However, that book was an experiment. I wrote it in two weeks and had it published within the same two weeks. I don’t feel like it counts as much.
- Do what works for you. This is kind of an extension of number 2, but I have learned that I cannot do what others do. I have to find my own way and s
- tick with it. This is the cool thing about self-publishing: you have the freedom to do that, and your success or failure depends on you. My motto for this is, if it doesn’t work, find another way. It’s that simple. I have to follow my own style; otherwise I’d just pay someone to do it for me.
Overall, self-publishing is a journey. I do not expect overnight success. I do not really even care much about that part. What I do care about is that I am finally publishing my work. I’m finally getting my stories out there into the world. If no one wants them, fine. If just one person reads my stuff and enjoys it, I will be ecstatic.
Although my new book is fiction, it is rooted in my experience. As I write about the mother and her hatred for her daughter that stems from her hatred of homosexuals, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the pictures that my mother had of me. I wonder if she burned them. I wonder if she threw them away. I wonder if when she takes out her photo albums to look back at times past, if there are empty spaces where I once was, or has she filled them with someone who took my place? I wonder if she left them there and pretends that I died on the day that she walked away from me. I wonder if she wonders the same thing.
I long to move forward and forget this pain, but it won’t go away. So, I write it. I write it in hopes of offering solidarity to someone who may suffer as well. I write it in hopes of saving someone from hurting their own child out of ignorance. Someone may respond to this and say, “Your mother loves you,” or something with the good intentions of comforting me. I don’t need comfort. I write to get it out, not for sympathy. Besides, I know a mother’s love. And, no fear of eternal flames could keep me from giving it. I would walk through those flames for my children no matter who they loved or what they did. They are and always will be mine.
In discussing Sexual Harassment Training, I have come across many instances of women who are creating the problem rather than solving it. I believe that I can speak for those of us who have been damaged by sexual harassment/assault, when I say, “Stop!” If you are participating in behavior that reinforces sexual harassment, then, I demand you to quit.
One example of women who are reinforcing this issue is the woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants. In 2017, if you think that getting what you want by flirting or using your sexuality is okay, you’re wrong. You should only be getting what you want by means of intelligence, skills, and capabilities. Otherwise, you are part of the problem.
In trying to end sexual harassment, solidarity is required. If you want to flirt, that is your prerogative. I’m not slut-shaming. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with exuding sexuality. I’m saying when someone purposefully uses their sexuality to obtain a position, a raise, or other benefits, then it becomes a different issue. This is why people think that sexual harassment is okay: because some women accept it.
I do not want to obtain a higher position because of my sexuality. I do not want to get a raise because of my sexuality. I want to obtain a higher position because I am smart, strong, and competent. I want to obtain a raise because I earned it. Women taking shortcuts and allowing their sexuality to be used are demeaning the accomplishments of people like me, and ultimately, I am sick of it.
Coming from Atmore, Alabama, I was accustomed to women hurting women more than helping. When I started teaching middle school, I only had two girlfriends who were open and honest with me. The other twenty or so women that I worked with were pretty much out for themselves or competitive. For instance, we were encouraged to take initiative and participate in activities like pep rallies and other assemblies. When I offered to participate, I was quickly told that I was not needed. Once I moved on to community college, I was asked to attend a training for a new program. I was introduced to an exciting and innovative program that the state was funding through grants to help adult education students. When I returned enthusiastically hoping that this program could be considered for our school, I was quickly turned down by the female dean who explained simply, “It is not done here.” Here we are three years later, finally catching up and implementing the program. Even my friends were not really helpful. I watched them drop like flies when I went through a divorce. When I started different business ventures, no friends supported them. I couldn’t even get friends to come to a party/fundraiser that I held. Sometimes these experiences made me try harder to be a good friend and make sure that I didn’t treat people this way. Unfortunately, more often than not, women have not helped me.
In my new business ventures, I’ve started looking for a new tribe. Luckily, Pensacola actually has a different mindset. Last Thursday, I attended the annual Powerful Women of the Gulf Coast conference. My wife encouraged me to go, and although I expected division, I went. From the second I walked in the door, I was glad that I did. I fought back tears of joy to see so many genuine women helping each other. The group was founded by a group of friends after Hurricane Ivan devastated the area. They got together and helped each other rebuild their businesses, and this lead them to build the group.
As I found my way to the ballroom, I was greeted by vendors and realized that the group had given them the opportunity to present their businesses to the attendees. I found a spot at a table near the front and was soon joined by others who shared their stories. One lady was in a similar place as me–finding a new place in business. Another was looking for ways to recruit clients to her counseling. Another woman joined us as a rep for her sales group. An accountant joined the table who was just there for the inspiration. All of the women were nice and forthcoming in their stories and enthusiasm for the group.
The day progressed in empowering speeches and presentations. I didn’t even realize it was nearing the end because I was so impressed with ALL of the presenters. At the end of the day, we participated in a networking exercise where we exchanged our business cards and pledged to stay in touch.
That night I cried as I explained all of this to Alisa. I cried tears of joy in finding a group of women who genuinely want to help other women in business and in life. I also cried tears of anger that I was just finding this group at 35.
What happens when we help others? Only good things. I vow to be even more conscious of helping others, especially women because we need it. It is not easy to be a woman in business or society. We need each other.
I pulled into the parking lot and waited on him to arrive. He was old enough to buy beer, so I’d asked him to meet me and get me some. I was upset. My boyfriend had broken up with me, and at 17, I thought that that merited a drunk night.
“Why don’t you ride with me?” he asked as I went to grab the beer. “I’ll drive while you drink.”
I didn’t want to get a DUI, so I agreed. He was a friend of my boyfriend, so I thought that it would be fine. I hopped in his truck, grabbed a can, and popped it open. He was listening to some sad country music, so I turned the dial to find something more upbeat.
As the alcohol started kicking in, I loosened up and started dancing to the music. I remember glimpses of his Pepsi can fading in and out, and I remember offering him a beer. He refused and said that he needed to drive.
I was passed out when we pulled up to his house. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the truck. I mumbled something about what we were doing, but I just remember him pulling me into darkness. Flashes of his sand-paper skin thrashing against me. Waking up to the smell of cigarette smoke.
The next day I got a call from the ex-boyfriend. “You fucking whore. You fucked my best friend?”
I didn’t know what to say. I had.
Afterwords, when he came around, I was still polite. The boyfriend had taken me back, made me pay for my whorish behavior. They were still friends. He came to our house.
Years later, I read a similar story, but the woman was accusing the man of rape. I did not know that this was a possibility. I thought it was my fault. I got into his truck. I drank the beer. I didn’t say no.
Then I replaced myself with someone else in the scenario. What if it had been my daughter? Would I have still felt like it was her fault? No. If she was not in her right mind, she could not consent. Why did I feel so differently when it came to myself? Was it because my boyfriend told me that it was my fault? Was it because no one talked about rape in my town? Was it because women are held responsible for what men do to their bodies?
What if I had gotten pregnant? Did I have the ability to ask him to wear protection? No.
What if I had gotten a disease? Did I have the ability to make sure he wore protection? No.
I physically survived unscathed thankfully. Unfortunately, the mental and emotional scars are deep. I hated myself. I probably made decisions based on this hate. I still feel responsible. I have lost many nights of sleep wishing that I could go back to that night and not get into that truck. I cannot even express the damage that this does to a person. I probably missed opportunities to improve my life because I did not feel that I was worthy. I still battle with my confidence. I also have issues with my body. I want to look nice, but I don’t want to attract the wrong attention. I am not strong in my skin. I have been weakened. It takes a lot to fight. It takes a lot to speak. I could not even name his name in this story because I am still ashamed.