It’s Official!

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I have finally become an official business with my own website! It’s pretty basic, but I think it looks pretty good. Now I really have to start marketing. Ok, not quite yet – right now I have so much work I’m barely keeping up! I’m looking forward to the first of what I can consider to be a truly successful month.

Feel free to stop by the site and let me know what you think!

http://www.chapharpliteraryservices.com

Professional Milestones

I am determined!

I am determined!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here. Things have been hectic and home and work has been unpredictable. For about two weeks I had absolutely no work coming in. Nothing, nada, zilch. I’ve always worked. Many times I’ve worked two or three different jobs at a time. And to sit here, basically in the middle of nowhere (or at least I can see it from here), with no outside employment opportunities and being turned down for freelance work time and again, it just made me feel useless. And worthless. And that wasn’t something I wanted to share with the world at the time.

Now that I’m past it, I’m once again a pretty happy lady. Last week I decided to take a few dollars and create a Facebook ad for my business FB page. The ad generated 36 new page likes, which I am really thrilled with. These are people who don’t know me or anything about me. They just liked the page for my business. MY business!

The second thing I did was create a cover photo which would actually reflect the business. I had been using things like outdoor scenes and generic things that had nothing to do with anything, other than I kind of liked them. But I decided it was time to present a more professional appearance so I tackled something I’d never done before. And after several hours of swearing and tossing my mouse against the desk, I did it. Using PowerPoint, I created a slide with a nice clean background, an actual title announcing my services, and two columns stating the types of projects I have experience working on. I had to work with the font and placement of the columns a bit so it would fit into the cover photo space correctly, but I am very proud of the way it turned out. Actually, you can see it as the main picture here on my blog as well, so you all get the distinct honor of seeing my awesome amateur graphic kind of stuff! Aren’t you the lucky ones.

I then made one more change to the FB page. Actually, to the entire account. I changed the name of my business. I know I still have to work on getting my dba and a business license, etc., but the business hasn’t taken off enough yet for that to be a priority. Anyway, when MM and I previously talked about starting a business (computer repair, handyman services, etc.), we knew we wanted the name ChapHarp …. something. It combines both our names and is unique. So after doing some brainstorming (with input from others, not just my own brain and the voices inside), Bookgal67 Freelancing was re-christened “ChapHarp Literary Services”.

My next step is to create a website. I know I touched on that a few ramblings ago, but there’s something telling me that now is the time. It’s been suggested to me that I start out as inexpensively as possible for 6-12 months until I see for sure whether or not I can make a go of this. And I have to admit, I agree with that wholeheartedly. It’s also been brought to my attention that in order to keep costs low, I can get free hosting using a sub-domain of the host site, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. If anyone has suggestions on how to go about doing this or reputable host sites which do that kind of thing, please let me know!

So I’m looking into getting a hosting service and building the website. And all of a sudden, the drought ends. Since Saturday (it’s Monday night now), I’ve acquired enough projects to keep me busy for probably a week and a half, and they all want it done by Sunday night. Actually, two are due by the end of the week with the third due Sunday night. It’s feast or famine! But I’m loving the feast!

The “Who” and “Why” of “My Changing World”

I’ve enrolled in Blogging101 here on wordpress, and the first assignment is a Who I am and Why I’m Here post. I’ve done this in my About Me section, but this is the assignment, so here goes.

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Bookgal67 is a woman in her late 30-teens who has been around the block a few times. My world has seen a lot of changes in the last year and a half and I began this blog a little less than a year ago. At first it was just a place to write down those random thoughts that rumble around in my mind from time to time; a place to share those thoughts and hopefully bring a smile or maybe some inspiration, or just some food for thought to those who read it. But then life really started changing and I decided to go a different route with my blog. It is now a place for me to practice my writing skills while I share my journey with others. Sometimes my posts are about an issue I’m facing, sometimes it’s just an update as to what is going on and what changes are occurring, and sometimes they are inspired by something I’ve read by another blogger or maybe just something I’ve seen out on the Internet that inspired me to share my own thoughts.

Part of my goal in sharing publicly rather than just writing a personal journal is to reach out to those who have been through similar issues or may be facing them right here along with me. Sometimes writing a personal journal just makes me feel isolated and I don’t always want to feel that way. Writing in a blog and seeing that others “like” what I have posted makes me feel not so alone, and for me, that can be a real boost to my emotional and mental state. It’s a little scary at times, putting myself out there, because I don’t know who might read it and make fun of it. But it’s more my hope that I can help someone else not feel alone in their own struggles.

By the end of the year I hope to have at least 25 steady followers and I hope to have helped at least a few people in some way. It will also be fun to see how my life has changed and what progress I have made in my personal and professional lives. I hope that I will have been able to give people something to think about, to have inspired and brought entertainment and laughter.

The Winds of Change

Change appears to be accompanying the new year. Due to some family issues, it seems that the Maintenance Man and I are going to be moving again. We are going back to my hometown in Indiana, where I never thought I would again live. We will be moving in with my sister to help her out with some things and are going to start our lives anew. We will be leaving most of our belongings behind, taking with us only those things which are either necessary or too beloved to do without.

Changing Times

Changing Times

The last year and a half of my life has seen many changes, and I hope this is the last one for a while. I’m in need of some stability but I know it will come with time. I will continue working at my own business as well as taking on temp office jobs from time to time to boost the income, and that in itself is going to be a challenge. I experience terrible anxiety flare-ups from driving in poor weather and high traffic. Where we are going has both in abundance. Just the thought of it leads me to fighting off panic attacks and I’m not sure how I will deal with everything, but I will do what is necessary. For the next few weeks we will be deciding what goes with us and what stays behind while I work a full time temp job and keep up with my own clients.

I have mixed emotions about moving back to Indiana. I will be with my sister who I love to death and have missed terribly throughout the years we have been apart. I will have the chance to build a new relationship with her daughter and finally get to meet her granddaughter, too! So those things have me very excited.

On the other side of the coin, there are several things I am not looking forward to. Living in someone else’s house yet again. Seeing and dealing with places from my childhood which hold not-so-dear memories. I don’t know if anyone would understand this, but I rather feel as though I am backtracking instead of moving forward. I grew up when I moved away from home and only went back for short visits, or when I needed to regroup from my failures. But I haven’t failed this time. At least I don’t think I have. Things are rough in some areas, but still moving forward. And now I’m going back to what was once home, but it doesn’t feel like home any longer. Maybe I have to go back there in order to continue moving forward. Or maybe MM is the one who needs the change in order for him to move forward. He has been in a horrible rut for the last year and a half and moving to where we are now didn’t help. Maybe we need to do this for him. Or for me. Or for both of us. Or maybe it is for my sister and her family that we need to do this.

I’m excited for the new beginning, being with family, and the future. I’m also anxious and afraid of the challenges and starting over. Do I really have the courage to do this again? Do I have any choice? Hmm… I do, but it’s not a good choice. So I must quell those fears and look forward with hope for the changes life is bringing. Starting over isn’t new for me, I’ve done it several times. But I’m getting tired. At this moment, here and now, I want to crawl into a hole and let the world go on around me, leaving me alone. But I can’t. I have work to do. I have people who count on me, who trust that I will do what is necessary to keep us all going. And I will. It’s what I do.

I don’t know why this change is needed at this time, but apparently it is. I don’t know the reasons. I only know that God, the Universe, or whatever higher power there is out there is making it necessary that we do this. I can only let go and know there is a reason and trust that it is for our benefit.

It’s Never Too Late

Never too Late

So here we are at the start of another new year. Everywhere you go or look, people are asking, “What are your new year’s resolutions?” I don’t have any. I stopped making new year’s resolutions many years ago. Like most other people, I tended to start out with great intentions and then forget about them pretty quickly. But I do like to take a look at the year just gone by and try to come up with a few things I’d like to see in the coming year.

This past year was a pretty rough one for me and the Maintenance Man. I started getting sick not too far into the year, was admitted to the hospital in early June and again in late July, and then a third time in September when I had surgery a day before my birthday, which I’m still healing from (the surgery, not the birthday). We moved, resulting in my having to resign from my full-time job. I turned my part-time freelancing into a full-time job, which I love, but am not making enough money at yet. The Maintenance Man spent the year unemployed and just had a birthday, which puts him further into the “we’re really looking for someone younger” category employers have.

Now, that’s not to say everything was bad. We moved to a new town and are having some interesting, to say the least, adventures with the house and family members we are living with. I am actually making money doing what I’ve always really wanted to do. There were no deaths in either of our families. MM is getting closer to his brother as they work on this old house, and I am getting closer to his family as well. We have a roof over our heads, food in the cupboards, a constant stream of hot coffee (very important to happiness!), and families and friends who love us. I’ve learned how to knit – nothing fancy, but I’m getting there. We are learning to be more cognizant of where our money is going, and we’ve simplified our lives tremendously.

So, now comes the part about what I would like to see in 2015. I’d like to see me treat myself better – I am my own worst critic and I’m not very nice about it, actually. So I am going to try to not be so hard on myself and try to give myself pep-talks instead of lectures. I would like to continue creating a healthier me – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually; and I’d like to see my business grow into something substantial.

The quote I have chosen for my inspiration, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” may or may not have actually come from George Eliot (there is some debate over this), but that is who it has been attributed to. Quite frankly, I don’t care who said it or if it is a misquote of something George Eliot wrote or said, or where it came from. What I do care about is that it speaks to me, and I hope that it speaks to you, too.

When Life Hands You Lemons, Slice One Open and Squirt that Bitch in the Eye!

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I recently read a post by a young lady regarding how she feels like a failure because life threw a stick of dynamite into the path she had set for her life and blew it all to hell. I know how that feels. I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. I’ve dealt with so many sticks of dynamite I should be a damn pyrotechnics expert by now. But I want to toss out a Readers Digest version of my adult life to let her and others know that despite our best plans blowing up in our faces, life goes on; we find another path, and sometimes another, and another. Life is a journey and sometimes we need something to happen that makes us take off the blinders we’ve put on and take another look around. A lot of this is hard to write, as I reminisce. I haven’t always handled my failures well. I’ve done things I really kind of wish I hadn’t. But it all brought me to where I am today and helped make me the woman I am today. And she’s pretty damn awesome … most of the time. So let’s go back and see where I came from. (edited to add: This is really long, now that I’ve finished. Just warning you.)

I started college during the autumn following my high school graduation. I had an agreement with my parents regarding the financing of my college education, which was the same agreement they had had with my older brother. Basically, they would pay for my first year, and every subsequent year would see me responsible for an increasing percentage of the expense until I received my degree. It was fair and had worked with my brother, and I had no problem with it. But when the time came, due to other expenses they had encountered, they didn’t have the money. So I took out a loan and along with the small scholarships and grants I had been awarded, I had the money for my first term and an agreement from them that they would pay for the remaining terms that year. So off I went. I studied, and I had a good time, and at the end of the term I went home for the holidays.

Two days before I was to return to school, my parents sat me down and said they didn’t have the money for me to go back. They would drive me the few hours back to campus and help me get my things. If I wanted to continue my education, I could save up the money while I worked during the next term, and then go back. Nice plan. A solid plan. I would work for a few months and get the funds for the following term and head right back to the world of higher education. This was just a glitch. No problem.

I got a job that paid decently and started saving my paychecks. And then he walked into my life. Uh oh. Another glitch. A big one. One that found me shipped off to my sister’s house 900 miles away on the East Coast so I didn’t run off and get married. A year and a half later we got married anyway and I moved 2,000 miles back the other way to join him where he had been assigned military duty. Going back to school was a thought that had been pushed to the back of my mind as life moved along. I got a job, he was miserable (having left another woman behind who I had no idea even existed, but that’s another story), and in less than a year we were divorced. I was 2,000 miles away from my family, on my own. Great. I could have gone back home. Some of my new friends even asked me why I didn’t do so. My marriage was over, there was nothing keeping me there. Nothing but my own stubborn nature that said I was damned if I was going to go back home and hear, “I told you so.” Wow. I had messed up big time. I was a failure. A complete and utter failure. What to do? What to do? I know. I’ll drink heavily so I don’t think about it. And after work, I’ll drink again. And the next day, the same. And the next. But I had to keep going because life went on whether I wanted to keep up with it or not. There was nothing to do but put on my big girl panties and find another path. I took on a second job, paid my bills, and looked for another path.

Two years later found me laid off and living on unemployment for a time (which paid rather well, based on my previous salary), and living with a man who got drunk and pushed me up against the wall by my throat one night. Yeah. I wasn’t putting up with that. I packed up everything I could get in my car while he was at work and I hid out at a friend’s house for two days waiting for my mother to get a flight so she could drive back home with me. I was young and my parents didn’t want me driving cross country on my own. There was no “I told you so,” just “We’re proud that you stood up for yourself and left.” So I was back home with no money for going back to school and returning to my original path, so I had to find another.

What to do? What to do? I know! Follow my teenage fantasy of working in the heart of Chicago. Chi town. That toddlin town, as old Blue Eyes called it. Not only working there, but living there. Small town girl in the big city. I would get a job and apartment, and be a part of the exciting rat race. I secured a secretarial job with a law firm located in the center of the Chicago Loop and started my daily commute to the city. It was a fairly long commute so my workday including travel time was about 13 hours, 5 days a week. After a few months, I ran into a high school friend who was riding the same commuter train and we decided to get an apartment in the city together. Two young women, mid 20’s, sharing a studio apartment. But it was Chicago! It was exciting! It was grown up! It was… overwhelming. So now what?

A year after I joined the rat race I quit my job and, along with my oldest sister, moved 900 miles away to be near our other sister. Back to beautiful Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and with the local Naval and Marine bases, 8 men to every woman. Yep, this was the place to be! I would get a job, find a husband, settle down. Not as easy as it sounds.

But I eventually did find a husband and I spent 10 or 12 years there – I forget exactly how long, but it was a long time. Over the years I took some classes at the community college, learned new skills, didn’t get the education I originally wanted, but I got some of it. I had a job I liked and a husband who I loved – and who turned out to be an alcoholic who quit working when his mother passed away and decided to live on the couch and drink himself into oblivion while I worked 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to support us. I finally left him, knowing he was slowly committing suicide with alcohol and I could no longer watch it happen. Damn. Another marriage down the tubes. On my own once again. What to do? What to do? Drinking sounded like a good idea (yeah, I know. I left an alcoholic and started drinking heavily myself. Don’t remind me). But then I couldn’t get up for work in the morning. I was getting too old, could no longer drink all night and get up and go to work. But wait! I just happened to have a friend who could get me something to straighten my head after drinking. It wasn’t legal, but what the hell. It gave me the ability to drown my sorrows, stop feeling that horrible feeling of failure, and still go to work. Yeah, it was great! Better than liquor! It let me not feel anything. Glorious oblivion! But it was addictive. Highly addictive.

Fast forward about 8 months – still able to go to work, but not able to make it through the day without a bump or two…or five? 10? Screw work, I need something to keep me going. I lost my job. Went in one morning and found all my personal belongings packed up in a box. I called every hospital and rehab center in the area, to no avail. I told God I was going to make one more call and if help didn’t come, I was done. I broke down and called my sister, who by that time was living back in our hometown with her husband and daughter. She had always been the one person I could count on to not judge me, whatever I did. I poured out my heart to her, told her everything. She told me to stay right where I was and she would call me back. Within 30 minutes she called me back and said she was on her way. I called my dealer for what I knew was the last time. I just couldn’t face what I had to do if I had to feel those feelings. If I had been a failure before, what was I now? I was a freakin drug addict with no job, no hope. I had and I was…nothing. No, I was less than nothing.

I think it was three days later, after two bottles of wine with dinner and a few of my sister’s Xanax tabs, that I told her I was ready. She had found a rehab center that would take me, they were just waiting on me to decide to show up. When we got there, the intake worker didn’t want to admit me because I had been drinking. I gave her an ultimatum – let me stay, or I wouldn’t be staying anywhere ever again. This was the moment of truth. My darkest hour ever. Help me. Those words have always been difficult for me to say, and they still are. Having to ask for help is, to me, the most humiliating and degrading thing I can do. It means I’ve failed, and that is not acceptable.

So anyway, I stayed there for 2 weeks with another 6 weeks, I believe, of daily outpatient treatment. I got clean and sober. I went to meetings. I started learning how to feel again. But I didn’t trust myself. How could I? I was a failure, for crying out loud! But I reached out to everyone I met, told them who and what I was, admitted it to myself and everyone around me as I came to grips with reality. Several months later I met a man online who fell in love with me over the computer. He was older than I and he wanted to take care of me. Yes! My prayers had been answered! Someone would take care of me, would make decisions for me so I didn’t have to. I couldn’t fail again because it was all in someone else’s hands! Hallelujah! Praise God and pass the potatoes!

I shouldn’t have trusted myself to make that decision either. Three years later found me married to a man who controlled every aspect of my life. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without him. The only thing I could do on my own was go to work and bring home my paycheck that he would spend and then make me call the utility companies to make excuses and deals to not shut us off, and with the landlord to not throw us out. Two tween stepsons who didn’t give a shit for me didn’t help much, either. This makes failure…how many? I’d lost count by then. Once again, my beloved sister came to my rescue. It’s a wonder she never gave up on me. But she hadn’t. And she still hasn’t. Anyway, she bought me a train ticket and I ran away from home with a week’s worth of clothing and my important papers.

I left everything and hopped on a train which I rode for 26 hours to move in with someone I had met over the Internet (again???). Yes, again. But this one didn’t want to control me. He wanted to help me heal. And he has. He taught me how to stand on my own two feet again and how to trust and believe in myself again. We have had our struggles, but 9 years later we are still together with no intentions of changing that fact.

And my path has changed yet again. After the surgery I had this past September, we moved away from the town we’d been in all that time (see my blog titled “Almost Amish” for that story). My employer refused to compromise with the work schedule I proposed. I now live too far away to make a daily commute (so says my car and my anxiety disorder), so I had to tender my resignation and turn my part time home business into a full time endeavor. I’m now working for myself as a freelance editor, proofreader and writer. When I was a young girl, THIS had been my dream. This was the path I originally wanted to take when I was growing up. This is where my passion truly lies.

My business is not yet terribly lucrative, but I am gaining more repeat business and steady clientele. Yes, we’ve had to ask for help. I’ve spent time alone with my own tears over that fact. It’s still one of the things in life I find most degrading. But I also know that sometimes I have to do that in order to achieve my goals, or at least to give me a chance to reach them. You’re probably looking back through this narrative and thinking, “what goals? She just meandered around life screwing up everything she touched and is now trying to say she had goals??” Yes, I did. Every screwed up step of the way. But this is the Readers Digest version of my adult life and it’s long enough without sharing all the details which you really don’t want to read and I really don’t want to share.

The bottom line of my story is that life never works out the way we plan for it to. In my almost 50 years of existence, I’ve never met one person whose life turned out they way they planned it. You set your goals, you make a plan, and you do whatever it takes to follow that plan. And then life steps in with a stick of dynamite or a bushel basket of lemons. You think, “this isn’t fair! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!” But it is how it’s supposed to be. Every failure, every roadblock, every stinkin lemon is thrown at you for a reason. The question is what are you going to do about it? Yes, give yourself time to grieve for the loss of that perfect life you planned on that isn’t going to be what you wanted it to be after all. And then grab a lemon, slice it open, and squirt that bitch called Life right square in the eye! And look around for the new path that’s beckoning you to take that first step down it.

Taking the Next Step

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I was offered the opportunity to test a new web hosting service for free.  I use it for a month, help them make it better, and if all works out well, I can keep my site there indefinitely. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal, but I don’t have a website. The company has a solution for that, in offering a free domain registration so I can build one. How can I pass that up?

So now the question is, how do I build a website? I know I can use MS Publisher to create one, and in fact, I just spent the last hour or so fiddling with one. I don’t know why it doesn’t fill the screen when I preview it, but I can work on that. But I’m a writer, editor, proofreader… I’m not a design artist. I don’t know how to make it pop. I don’t know where to get really cool pictures that will make me look as professional as the services I provide. I have this really great opportunity, but I don’t know how to really take full advantage of it.

And then there’s the question of coming up with enough material to sell myself on my own website. I can sell my services through targeting my FB page, my profiles on freelance sites where people are looking for my services, and I do a pretty good job when I know what the job is and I need to sell my services to a specific client for a specific job.

But this is completely different. I have to look at myself and my services, as an actual product. What are my strengths? Why should someone hire Bookgal67 Freelancing? What do I have that my competitors don’t? And how in the world do I create a website that doesn’t look like it was done by a 3rd grader in MS Publisher? Last, but certainly not least, I then have to determine how to market it and get it out there in the public eye so it gets traffic and, hopefully, generates more work.

Honestly, I’m a little afraid to take that next step. Actually, I’m rather terrified. You’d think that a person of my age and business (not to mention life) experience, would be ready to jump all over this. But here I sit at 4am thinking, “What am I going to get myself into now? Can I really do this? I’ve been doing pretty good so far, but…”  What I need is to kick myself in the butt. I CAN do this. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, what I’ve always been good at, and I’ve already taken the first steps. This is just the next one.

It appears I have some work to do. Oh, hey, if anyone has any tips for building a website inexpensively, I’d be happy to hear them!

Have a great weekend!