Rebuilding My Wardrobe

Wardrobe

Not having a steady income flow means that I’ve learned to be very cheap in order to get the bills paid. This means that the things I want are no longer options and many things I need are relegated to want status because I can find a way to live without them.

This is why I went for several years without buying new clothes. Oh, I’d buy a new shirt or a pair of jeans if I absolutely needed to, but clothes became a “want” item and I couldn’t afford to want anything. As such, my look and my style suffered. I’ve posted before about my fat girl style and let me tell you, I’m not much into fashion, but it’s a real drag when I can’t keep up with my own style the way I want to.

However, lately, the income has picked up and gotten steady and I’ve been able to capitalize on it. In other words, I’m buying new clothes.

And it’s a glorious feeling!

I’m finally able to do some of the trends that I’ve be admiring: skinny jeans tucked into boots, cute cardigans and scarves, bright colors, things that actually fit. I’ve felt so dumpy in my old stuff. I’ve got sweaters that are a decade old and are, unfortunately, showing it. I got tired of always wearing t-shirts and jeans that were patched within an inch of their lives. Like I’ve said, I’m no fashionista, but dammit, I like to look good. This is my fat body and my fat body deserves to look its best. I know other folks would rather I dress this bad bitch in a muumuu and never leave my house, but that’s not going to happen. (Unless I can find one of those fabulous 1970’s Hawaii Five-0 muumuus, but I’ll still be leaving my house to show that bad boy off.) I’m enjoying this whole experience of getting new clothes and rocking them hardcore.

But this little bit of extra money coming in doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my cheap ways. I’m still only buying clearance or sale stuff, still waiting for days when I can take an extra 25 or 30 or 40% off. I’m still trying to stretch my dollar to the limit, getting the most I can for what I pay. And there are still things I’d love to buy, but that price has to come down more first.

I’ve waited for so long to be able to get to this point in which I could buy new clothes that I’m worried that I’m overdoing it, that all of this spending, even if I’m not spending that much at a stretch, will come back to bite me in the ass. That’s the trouble with being money-less for so long. Having money doesn’t eliminate the worry of going back to not having money.

But in the meantime, while I work to make sure I’m not money-less again, I’m bound and determined to look good doing it.

So, About 2012…

Pat Hughes

I was going to do some kind of reflective, year-end post about 2012, but I’ll be honest…I don’t really feel like it.

Most of it was pretty boring. I did boring, routine things. I struggled to pay my bills, used up a big part of my savings, felt like a complete failure, failed to meet many of the writing goals, and totally lacked any kind of success on the professional front (and most of the personal front, too). Really nothing to get into or write the Internet about.

But I did rarely have the occasion to do some cool things. I went to Cubs Con and Casino Night. I saw the Cubs lose their 100th game of the season, but Pat Hughes waved at me and that totally kills any of that pain. Let me repeat that. Pat Hughes waved at me.

I was able to hang out with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (Hi, Becca!) and I met some really cool people, too (Hi, Harry!). I reconnected via social media with some people I haven’t seen in ages (Hi, Josh!) and I met some really cool people that way, too (Hi, everybody!).

I found out just what I’d do to try to make a life and a career my way and just how frustrating and hard that can be (and just how frustrating and hard I can be, too).

I changed a little, grew a little. It wasn’t all fantastic and glamorous. Most of it wasn’t. But it wasn’t an absolute waste either.

2012 was okay. And it’s a good thing I went through it because I have a feeling that 2013 won’t be much different.

I’m ready.

Freelancing Through Life

Business card origami (and kirigami)
Business card origami (and kirigami) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s been a lot of talk of jobs in my little part of the world lately and I was trying to think of how to explain my current job situation.

I say I’ve got three jobs right now. I teach basic Spanish to my homeschooled nieces three days a week. I get the neighbor boy up and ready and take him to school two/three days a week. And I work floorset a couple times a month at a clothing store at the mall.

However, if you count writing (which, in my head, I always do because it’s my constant, full-time job even if to doesn’t pay for shit most of the time), I’ve got four. And if you count jewelry making, I’ve got five. And if you count…

Of course, there are people that look at that and say I only have one job because I only work for one “real” employer. The rest is just garbage, under the table work that doesn’t count. Which is fine, but I respectfully disagree because I think anything I do to make money is a job.

But it’s getting rather crowded trying to explain my jobs.

So I’ve decided to just to say I’m a writer freelancing through life. And if anyone presses, I can fill them in on the jobs that I’m working on at that time. Since not many people would ask for clarification, it would save so much time.

What does that mean exactly?

I’m a writer. First and foremost. But I’m not in the position to support myself solely through writing (yet), so I have to have a day job. But since I technically have three day jobs right now, two of which are subject to change at any given moment (meaning the second my services are no longer required, I get the boot), and I’ve been making and selling jewelry and doing various other things to earn money to pay my bills, well, let’s face it…I’m a freelancer. A freelance writer takes on assignments and jobs. Well, that’s pretty much what I’m doing, just not with writing. I’m using my other skills to take on jobs.

I’d call it prostitution, but I feel like that would project the wrong image and get too many hopes up.

In the end, it doesn’t change the mind of the people that think I’m lazy and worthless because I don’t have a “real” job, but it does make it easier for me to explain how I make a living.

I’ll stop short of putting it on a business card, though. Writer will do just fine for that.

Tales of Money-less Woes

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

I’m having trouble making my ends meet this month. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not something I’m proud of. But it is a fact of my current existence.

There are two very good reasons why I’m having trouble this month. One, this bill period saw 3 1/2 extra bills (car sticker renewal, website renewal, a domain fee for a domain I thought I’d completely deleted but apparently I didn’t and of course that sort of thing isn’t refunded, and a little extra added onto my cell bill because I had to change plans mid-billing cycle). Two, I’ve only started one of my three new day jobs.

Had I not had one or two of the extra bills, I would have been fine. Had I started one or both of my other day jobs, I would have been fine. The combination of the two has me scrambling. If I had a couch, I’d be raiding the cushions for change.

It doesn’t help that sales have been slow the past couple of months. Books sales, jewelry sales, eBay sales, nobody is spending their money on the stuff I’m hocking. That money would have been both welcome and necessary.

Here’s the thing…I know I’ll land on my feet. The bills will get paid. They always do. I’ll find a way. I’m clever and resourceful and I know I’ll find the money I’m missing. Maybe I’ll borrow it. Maybe someone will come through in the clutch and buy something. Maybe I’ll luck out and get a quick odd job. Whatever happens, the bills will get paid.

When I was 22, this was a challenge. I didn’t like it back then, but back then I was 22. I was young. Now I’m 32. I shouldn’t be running into these problems at 32. I shouldn’t be scrounging to pay bills or borrowing money. I should be in a much better place financially and I’m not.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m not and I take responsibility for all of them that are mine. Not holding a regular 9-5 job like other grown-ups is one. My life would be so much easier if I could just be normal and work a 40 hour a week job and get that steady paycheck. But the older I get, the worse I get about submitting to that life. A flexible part-time gig is more my speed. As soon as I get all three of  my jobs going, my bills will be paid and I won’t be working more than twenty hours a week.

Being very optimistic about selling myself is another reason I’m broke. I have this stupid idea in my head that people want what I sell. That friends and family know people that want what I sell and will pass my info to those people. The reality is that those people are probably out there, but they aren’t getting word about me. And if they are, they don’t have the money to indulge themselves with my goods. My inherent awkwardness about promoting myself doesn’t help this cause.

I could go on, but I won’t. Nobody needs to see my list of money failures.

And that’s what this is. The culmination of many failures. We’ve already discussed how much of my self-esteem is tied to my bank account. Being called an ugly fat cow can’t even come close to doing the damage to my ego that borrowing money can.

Particularly now. I’m too old for this. I shouldn’t be here. Yet here I am.

With no one to blame but myself.

I’ll get through this month. I’ll get rolling on all of my jobs. I’ll sell a few more things. My bills will return to normal.

And slowly but surely I’ll find some self-worth once again.

That Hustle

Four coloured 6 sided dice arranged in an aest...

About 7 months ago, I chose to become a freelancer of sorts. I decided to earn my money through odd jobs and through selling jewelry, t-shirts, and a self-published book, all in the pursuit of allowing myself more time to write.

I think of it as being on the hustle. I’m hustling to get my money. And hustling ain’t easy.

If I think about it, I’ve been hustling most of my life. That’s how I made a lot of my money during junior high and high school. I worked in my mom’s daycare for twenty bucks a week. I worked in my cousin’s daycare for seventy-five bucks a week. I cleared junk off of lots for five bucks an hour. I saved what lunch money I didn’t spend. I collected change. I babysat. Hustling.

I don’t hustle as much when I’ve got a “real” job, aka, steady, official paycheck. But I still look for ways to make a little extra money. It’s like a habit I can’t break. Always hustling, trying to get my dime.

Like I said, the hustle isn’t always easy. I made twelve bucks in sales last month. That’s it. I scrapped up about thirty bucks doing what I call “spare change work”, which is quite literally doing little things for change. On a good day, I’d make four bucks. Not a lot, but it’s four bucks I didn’t have and four bucks I needed because I only sold a couple of things on Etsy and didn’t sell anything on eBay.

Tough luck.

Those bad months can be killers. I had two in a row, only selling fourteen dollars worth of stuff in February. That’s rough. The tax return kept me afloat during that time, but it would have been nice to get ahead, you know? That’s how I look at it. Get the money for the bills this month, I can start working on next month. The more time I have, the more likely it is that I’ll make my bills. There is no surplus. It’s all about thinking ahead and paying the bills.

I live poor on the hustle. I couldn’t do this if I had “real” bills, I know that. I’d be forced to work a job I hate to make ends meet. That idea has never appealed to me and I’ve done what I can to avoid it. This doesn’t mean I don’t like working a “real” job. I like the regular paycheck, for sure. I like having co-workers, most of the time. In fact, I’m looking for a part-time gig right now because that regular paycheck would be a nice boost and frankly, I need to get the hell out of this house a little more.

But I would still be hustling. I’d still be selling on Etsy and eBay and Spreadshirt and Amazon and Lulu and Nook. I’d still be looking for odd jobs and taking extra gigs. I’d still be trying to sell my short stories.

I can’t help it.

The hustle is in my blood.

The De-Cluttering Project

I have a problem with accumulating stuff. Not a hoarder-level accumulation problem, but it’s a pack rat problem, nonetheless.

I come from people that don’t get rid of things if there’s still some use for them. We drive cars until they won’t run anymore (mine’s a ’93 and I’ve had it ten years now). We’re the kind of people that wash out and save butter tubs for storage and keep cloth scraps just in case. We do our best not to rip the wrapping paper so we can use it again. And don’t forget to save the bows!

So, I acquire things that I end up eventually not needing or using, but I have trouble parting with them for various reasons. You know the ones. So-and-so gave this to me. What if I need it? I might use this eventually.

Last year, I started lightening this material load by selling most of my action figures on eBay. Yes, they were nice to have, but they were just sitting in some tubs upstairs. I had no room to display them. They were going to waste. So, I made the tough call to sell them. I cleared out some room in my storage, someone else got something they were looking for at a bargain price, and in the end, I realized I didn’t miss them.

I have once again begun de-cluttering the material portion of my life and I’m using eBay as my garage sale. Do I need the money? Sure. Do I need the space more? Yeah. There’s no sense in me keeping these things when someone else can get more use out of them. And there’s no reason to let these things continue to take up space in my life if I’m not going to make the most of them.

It’s a thought process that’s kind of hard for me to get used to, especially since I am such a pack rat by nature. There’s nothing wrong with saving things for later or trying to make the most out of what I have, but I need to put a limit on things. Consider it service-time limit. If I haven’t gotten my use out of it by a certain time, then I need to put it in the “get rid of” pile. And then follow through with the getting rid of it.

I’ve got a tub full of wrestling magazines. Stacks of writer magazines. DVDs I never watch. Books I’ll never read again. Clothes I’m holding on to for no good reason. Boxes in the basement filled with mystery contents. Why should I let this stuff rot in my house? I shouldn’t. And that’s the way I need to look at it, particularly with some of the items with some sort of sentimental value attached to it. I have to measure that value very carefully. What’s it really worth to me to keep this item?

Eventually (I’m hoping sooner rather than later), I’m going to get out of this house and move into my own place. I have to ask myself how much of this material life do I want to take with me? Do I want this stuff cluttering up my new world? Do I really want to move this stuff (the lazy person in me screams “no” when it comes to that question; I hate moving)?

It’s best that I start purging now. And it’s best that I get into the habit of purging now. I’ve got to get out of the rhythm of looking at something I’ve had for twenty years, forgot that I had, and then put away once again, just in case I might need it.

I won’t need it. But someone might.

Time to let it go.

Fat Girl Style

I am known as a tomboy, which isn’t a bad label to have. I earned it.

I’m low maintenance. I favor jeans and t-shirts. My obsession with shoes begins and ends with Chuck Taylors. I own exactly two purses and I rarely use them. The concept of spending hours on my hair and make-up is foreign to me. I really don’t like shopping, unless it’s of the online variety. I don’t try clothes on before I buy them, usually.

But none of that means I don’t have style. Oh, honey, I have LOADS of style.

Don’t let my aversion to shopping and trying on clothes fool you. I actually love fashion. Not runway fashion. I’m talking realistic, off the rack fashion. I’m talking about putting together pieces that work together and flatter my body. Granted, it’s not always easy. After all, it’s a sin in this country to be fat and laws forbid if you want to be fashionable and fat at the same time. But I have my ways and my stores.

Torrid, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, and Target are my go-to’s when I’m in the market for something new.

Torrid is more high-end and caters specifically to plus-size. They GET fat girl style. They’ve got gorgeous clothes that keep up with the trends. They don’t shy away from sexy or edgy.

Old Navy also has a decent selection of plus-sized clothes (that are only available online, the only downside if you’d rather shop in-store). They’re good with the trends as well and have a good selection of casual clothes and basics that belong in any wardrobe.

I know most of you are raising an eyebrow at Wal-Mart and Target, but for cheap staples, they are the way to go. Wal-Mart is where I like to get my jeans and I got my favorite Capri pants at Target. And both places also have a decent online selection of plus-sized clothes if they don’t satisfy in-store.

I have a diverse style. I try to balance edgy and punky with classic and casual. It depends on my mood. Sometimes, I want to look more sophisticated. Sometimes, I want to look more rock ‘n’ roll. I like having the option to dress to match my moods.

My make-up is usually pretty simple and natural, but I’ve got options to spice it up if I want. Red lipstick usually does the trick. If I actually want to spend a few extra minutes, I’ll put a little more effort into my eye shadow configuration.

I prefer my hairstyle to be as wash and go as possible. As it is now, I just need a little gel, some scrunching, and it dries into the rock ‘n’ roll, messy style I like to rock. Keeping it short has really helped get as much personality as I can out of my hair.

You put all of this together and I’ve got some serious fat girl style.

Unfortunately, as I’ve gone on about my wonderful style I’ve circumvented the truth that my style is several years out of date due to lack of funds. I’m working with what I have, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m not wishing for new clothes and filling up my wishlists in the event I come into money.

If ever there were a time for Santa to come down my chimney…

Until then, we’re adding “vintage” to my style choices.

Writing–Writing Novels and Raking Leaves

My friend DaLette got hold of me at the end of October to offer me some work. She needed help clearing a massive amount of leaves from a massive yard. It was just going to be the two of us working. Two women, two rakes, and a leaf blower. And we only had two days to do it. It was all her schedule would allow.

The goal for the first day was to clear half of the front yard, the biggest chunk of the whole project. The second day, we’d do the rest of the front yard, the backyard, and the side yard.

Starting out, it looked overwhelming. DaLette started on one side of the half of the front yard with the leaf blower and I took the other side with a rake. DaLette had already been by the week before and cleared out the gardens (which were full again when we started) and I started moving those piles down to the street. I’d pile the leaves on a piece of plastic sheeting and then drag them down to the street and dump them for the city to pick up.

I cleared out the bulk of the leaves in the gardens again and raked up many of my own piles to drag down to the street while DaLette made her own piles with the leaf blower. When her piles got big enough, we switched places. She made piles on my side and I moved her piles to the street. It took six and a half hours, but we got that half of the front yard done.

The next day, we started in the backyard, piling up the leaves and moving them out of the little fenced-in area and into the front yard. From there, it was all piling it up and moving it to the street. By the time we got to the sparsely covered side yard, we were both tired and hurting, but it was the easiest part of the yard and it felt the sweetest.

It was during this epic raking exercise that I gave a lot of thought to Nanowrimo, specifically the process of it. Going in on November 1st, it looks like that yard did at the very beginning of the first day. 50,000 words is a huge task and in the beginning, it looks overwhelming.

When I was raking, I kept looking back at what I’d done to remind myself that I was getting somewhere. Word count updates are like that. It reminds me how much I’ve accomplished just in case I forget. Looking ahead, at the rest of the yard that needed to be raked and at the words that need to be written, sometimes it’s hard to remember that I am moving in the right direction.

Like climbing up a hill, eventually it gets to a point where there’s more leaf-free yard than leaf-covered yard. There are more words written than words needing to be written. And that’s when the second wind really kicks in. Sure you’re tired. You’re sore. You outright hurt.  The ideas are drying up. Your brain begs for mercy. Your fingers scream for a break. But you can see the end! It’s just right there! And you’re not going to stop until you cross that line. You’re not going to leave one leaf on the grass and you’re not leaving one word unwritten, not stopping short of that 50,000.

At the end of those two days, I’d made enough money to pay my cell bill for the month. At the end of Nanowrimo, I’ll have another manuscript first draft I might be able to revise and rewrite into something that could pay off in the future.

But, it’s not about the money (actually, the raking IS about the money, but I’m trying not to spoil a point here). It’s about the thrill of victory. It’s about the sense of accomplishment.

It’s about standing at the finishing line, looking back at the beginning, and say, “Yeah. I did that.”

Try not to feel invincible after that.

The Fiction Writing Life

I’m sure I made a post about this before for Writing Wednesday, but I think it bears repeating for a Monday Megalomania because I feel that people not acquainted with writing for a living, or at least writing for publication, don’t understand how it works.

Most people that have a job leave their house, go to a place of work, make so much money an hour, come home and get a paycheck, either weekly or bi-weekly. Obviously, some people don’t have to leave their house. Some people are on salary. But whatever the variations, the basics remain the same. These are considered legitimate jobs.

I, on the other hand, am trying to cobble together some kind of day job out of selling Rejected, selling my jewelry, working jobs with DaLette, and anything else I can do in order to make money to pay the bills and have time to write for publication, in which I would also get money to pay the bills. None of these things are considered legitimate.

Why? Because it’s not a “traditional” job. I don’t get a regular paycheck. I don’t leave the house to do it. And a lot of people underestimate the amount of work that goes into the stories I write, thinking that I’m lazy and I’m not working hard enough to earn what money I do make from writing (or any of the other gigs I work to make money, but we’re going to stick to writing for now).

Allow me to illustrate the work that goes into a short story.

I get an idea. I decide to write this idea. So I write a first draft. Then I set it aside. Depending on the impending deadlines and how I feel about the story, I might set it aside for a couple of days or I might set it aside for a couple of months. It just depends.

Then I revise the story. And then I revise it again. And if I’m lucky, I can stop there and polish it up and call it done. But it’s not uncommon for a story to go through four or five revisions before I’m satisfied with it.

So, the story is as ready as it’s going to be at this point in time. I’ve got my prose all tight, the descriptions all lush, and the grammar so polished it shines. Now I have to submit it. If I don’t have a something in mind when I write it in the first place, the story might possibly sit there for a while before I can find a suitable publication for it. If I can find a suitable publication for it. That’s a risk I run, too. It’s entirely possibly that I write something that can’t be published (or at least, published for money; I aim to get paid for my work for the most part).

But, let’s say I have something in mind and so I send my story off. And then I wait. And wait. And wait. Depending on the deadlines, the reading periods, and many other factors, I can wait for months to hear back about a story. Most of the time, the waiting ends in rejection. And then I start all over.

But, let’s say my story gets accepted. Hooray! I’m getting paid! Except I’m not getting paid until the story gets published. And I’m getting paid the semi-pro rate (I won’t go lower) of 1 cent a word. Considering most short stories typically run anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words, sometimes as many as 8,000, I’m not exactly raking in the big bucks. Or the immediate bucks. Depending on what the contract says, I can be waiting for a considerable period of time.

For example, my last story to get published, “Land of the Voting Dead” in Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters, was accepted in April of 2010. I received my check, 53 bucks, November 5th of this year. I wrote and revised the story in December of 2009. I then added a scene to it in February of 2010 in order to meet the required word count. I revised it again. I polished it again. And then I submitted it. I easily had a week’s worth of work in that story.

And that was one of the easier ones!

At this point, if I ever get “At 3:36” published, I know the paycheck won’t match the work I’ve put into it. It wouldn’t be a far cry to say that I’ve probably have a month invested in that story spread out over a couple of years and I’m not finished with it yet. That’s a lot of work for one story.

But I only get paid on delivery and only for the final number of words on the page. I don’t get paid for all of the words I put down and then took out. Or put back in. Or changed. I don’t get paid for the rewrites or the research. Just the finished product.

Now, I’m only speaking for short story writing. That’s the only writing I’ve got experience making money from. And it really bugs me when people imply that because I’m not making a whole lot of money doing it, because I’m not getting a regular paycheck, that I’m not working.

I beg to differ.

I work seven days a week for very little.

Why?

Because it’s my job. And I love it. And one day it will pay better.

But it will never be a typical job.

People need to learn to respect that.

The Worth of a Dollar

I’m not going to lie, money is important to me. The making of it, the having of it, the spending of it. I’m not too interested in other’s people money. I’m too busy thinking about my own. Or the lack thereof.

Money plays a big factor in my self-esteem. I’m worth not just what’s in the bank, but what I’m bringing in and how I’m paying the bills. My ego lives and dies by my checkbook.

It’s a pretty messed up measure of worth, I know. Never mind how the stock market keeps gyrating or the fluxuating price of gold; what’s it say on my pay stub?

Now one would think that since I pin so much of my worth on my money that I’d have gone through college and got myself a good paying job and ergo I would be in the position to think my shit don’t stink. Have we discussed that I like to do everything the hard way? Yeah, that was clearly not the case.

In terms of my self-esteem, it’s lunacy that I’m quitting a regular paycheck to go back to scratching out what I can. On the one hand, the struggle will make me happier because I’ll be doing what I want to do.  On the other hand, my self-esteem is looking to take a severe hit because the money is not going to be steady and I’ll be struggling to make ends meet once again.

Because of my money issues, I’m very good with my money. I’m good at going without. I’m good at saving. I’m good at paying the bills first. I’m good at making sure the obligations are taken care of before I do something fun, and even then I usually defer to responsibility and save my money instead of spend it. My dad likes to joke about how tight I am. I don’t know why he thinks it’s so funny. He’s the one that made me that way.

My dad grew up poor. Real poor. Poorer than I grew up, for sure. My dad harbors a bitterness that my mother (who did not grow up poor) gave us things when we were kids. Never mind that a lot of our toys and clothes were second-hand, it was just the fact that we had them. That my mom spent money to give them to us. Now, my mom did run us up in quite a bit of debt with her shopping, but still, my sister and I were far from spoiled in the material sense. Money is a big deal with my dad. He never has enough and he doesn’t want to spend it. Ask him. He’s always broke.

When I moved in with him during my sophomore year, I didn’t ask him for anything. I wouldn’t even ask him for lunch money. I lived off of what I had in my savings account from babysitting and working in my mom’s daycare. It wasn’t until I’d lived with him for a while that it occured to him that he didn’t know where I was getting my lunch money. Then he started giving it to me.

My sister had to have her appendix out when we were in high school. All I can remember from that is my dad bitching about the doctor’s bill. So when I fractured my ankle before senior year, I refused to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to listen to Dad bitch about how much I cost him (yes, we had insurance, but there’s that whole deductable thing and then what insurance won’t cover, and all that jazz). Over a decade later, I’m paying for not having my ankle properly set.

There’s no worse feeling than asking my dad for money. The disgust is palpable. So I do everything in my power to have my own. To make my own.

I’m hard enough on myself. I don’t need him to add to it.

The true test of this next venture is to make enough money to pay my bills. I pay my bills, the self-esteem stays happy and my dad continues to see me as legitimate person dwelling in his house. It’s a win-win.

Sure. No pressure.