Empowering Women

***DISCLAIMER: If you are a feminist this post may piss you off. You might want to not read it.***

Let me begin by being honest with you. I am not a feminist. I believe that men and women are relatively equal and the only thing I can’t do is become a penis model. I’ve never had a man tell me I can’t or shouldn’t pursue a goal. Furthermore, if a man had ever said those things to me I’d laugh and then ignore. I can’t recall ever being a victim of “The Man.” If you’re a feminist then more power to you! It’s just not a “me” thing. I am, however, a woman who believes there is a need for women to empower other women.

It boggles my mind to see how women can tear each other down. Women often get labeled as “catty” or “crazy.” There is a reason for that. I’ve seen Ms. Catty and Ms. Crazy in action. Goodness. Please. Stop it. Really. Just stop. Must we rip each other to shreds? Is it really necessary to be mean to one another? The answer you are looking for is no.

Show love to the women in your life. Encourage them. Build them up. Compliment them. It is so easy to do and costs nothing but a few seconds of your time. See a women on the street and like her hair style or maybe her shoes? Tell her. Smile at her. Say hello. Be friendly. It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt. I promise.

Some women feel compelled to see themselves in competition with other women. I don’t view life that way and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m competing with other women. I’ve started writing two books, haven’t yet finished either but I know women authors who are published. Do I envy them? Do I secretly hate them? Nope. I see them as inspiration. Actually, I see them as much needed inspiration. No bitterness allowed!

It is my belief that female friendships are powerful. If you have in your tribe a group of women who are confident, possess a positive outlook on life and are supportive then you’ve got it made.

Blog Re-Vamp & Celebrating Women

March is National Women’s History Month – a month to celebrate women. Exciting!

This is also a new beginning for The Smoking Squirrel. I’ve been away for quite awhile and it is time I return to the world of blogging. I’ve missed it!

This month I will share so much with all of you. I am most thrilled about the interviews I’ll be posting. You will meet four incredible women who I am blessed to call my friends. Each one has a fantastic story and I am sure you all will thoroughly enjoy meeting them. I’ll be posting one interview each week. Please follow The Smoking Squirrel so you don’t miss out!

Here’s to women! Let’s celebrate!

Quick! Change the Channel!

I’m a re-run junkie. There. I’ve said it.

The latest television shows, news channels, sports channels…these things don’t interest me in the least. What I care about is keeping my brain clutter-free or at least free from television pollution so I tend to stick with re-runs.

I can quote verbatim every episode of I Love Lucy. I can tell you just from hearing the title of an episode of Roseanne what happens during that specific show. Dick Van Dyke trivia?  You can’t win. I know it all.

For years I’ve said that watching old television shows is good for you…for me…for all of us. They are relaxing. No violence, no profanity, no nudity. Just good TV. There isn’t a comedian alive today that is funnier than Jack Benny was. I can’t think of one single current television show that could possibly be more entertaining than watching a Dean Martin Roast.

Watching re-runs is, in my opinion, therapeutic and recently I read an article in Reader’s  Digest that confirms my theory. A study conducted by scientists at the University of Buffalo have concluded that watching re-runs is energizing. Why? Because re-runs don’t require mental effort. They are familiar. They bring about comfort. We can spend time with our favorite characters and take a break from the “real world” which, let’s face it, is downright exhausting.

The next time you feel guilty for jumping on Hulu to watch Mr. Ed or Netflix to binge watch Andy Griffith, don’t. Watch the shows you love and remember it’s good for you. Catch a classic, have some laughs and let your mind and body relax. Watching Fox News? Glued to E checking out latest reality show?  Quick! Change the channel!  Find an oldie but goodie. Take the break. You’ll be glad you did.



Making Your Money Back: Rebates & Surveys

So, I’m into rebates and surveys now.  I’ve installed rebate apps on my phone and take surveys off receipts from store and restaurant purchases.

First, let’s talk rebates.  These apps make redeeming crazy easy.  They are self-explanatory and simple to use.  I have an iPhone but I’m pretty sure both have apps for Android.  Here’s the quick lowdown.  You can click the links for more information.

CHECKOUT 51:  FREE.  Simple process.  Rebates are updated weekly.  You select the items you plan to purchase or have purchased , upload a photo of your receipt and done!  Once you’ve accumulated $20  in rebates you can transfer the money to your bank account or PayPal account.

IBOTTA:  FREE.  A tad bit more complicated than Checkout 51 but are also updated weekly.  These rebates are broken down by stores so you’ll have to search your store and then find the rebates you’re interested in.  Once you’ve shopped you’ll then to need to verify your purchases.  This involves scanning the bar code of the item(s) – bar code scanner is built-in to the app and then you upload a copy of your receipt or scan the QR code on your receipt – QR scanner also built in.  Some of the rebates are repeats.  For example, on staples such as eggs, milk, bread, etc. there are typically rebates available every week.  Once you’ve accumulated $20, you can cash out.

RECEIPT HOG:  FREE.  This one is a no-brainer. All you do is upload photos of your receipts and that’s it.  You earn coins for every receipt uploaded.  This one is a fairly slow process but why not do it?  Takes seconds to upload the photos.  No big deal.

The camera features is built-in to all 3 of these above apps.  This means you don’t have to give the apps access to your phone’s camera.  Also, cash-out options for these apps include several different store gift cards so you don’t have to actually withdraw the cash if you don’t want to. So far I’ve been able to cash out on both Checkout 51 and Ibotta once a month.  The rebates add up fast!

About the surverys…almost every store and restaurant has a survey request on their receipts.  Do them.  Some enter you into sweepstakes, some offer free items and others offer BOGO items.  They take seconds and it’s like the lottery – can’t win if you don’t play.  I also think your odds are a little better with surveys than with the lottery.  I do them quickly on my cell phone all the time.  Make sure you do the surveys as fast as possible.  Most offers expire after 7 days and then you can’t do them.

Go for it and have fun!


So I Want To Be A Writer…Do You?

I’m not sure what happened.  One day I woke up and decided it was time to be a writer.  The desire has always been there, lurking but aside from this blog and a few random pieces that nobody but I have read, being a writer – a professional paid writer – seemed a distant dream.  Sometimes we just have to take the leap, especially when we’ve run out of excuses.

I did it.  I woke up.  I took the leap.  I signed up on a freelance writing site and dove…hard.  I’m submitting proposals for every job I’m interested in and for which I’m qualified.  I’ve been at this for about 2 weeks, give or take a day.  I’ve secured 3 contracts.  There have been hiccups as is expected with any new endeavor.  That’s okay.  I call those hiccups “learning experiences.”

I’ve a few suggestions if you’re interested in freelance work.  Tidbits I’ve learned during my so far short career as a freelancer.

1.  Be prepared for rejection.  It will happen.  If it does happen, that’s okay.  Assume that wasn’t the right job for you and move on.

2.  If you choose to sign up on a freelance writing site, read the policies CAREFULLY.  Understand fully the ins and outs of how the site works and what they expect from you and the clients who might hire you.  The terms of the site are set up to protect you so don’t ignore them.

3.  Get organized.  Secret:  I’m not.  Not at all.  I have multiple legal pads with outlines,  I’ve got to make a run to Office Max for more post-it notes, pens are running out of ink, nothing is in one place, my hours are weird, I’m not sleeping well or long, I’m not eating right and in general my organization at the moment can only be described as “WTF?  A bomb went off in here or what?”  That not only applies to my workspace but my brain, as well.  I’m focusing on different projects with different topics and to say my thought process is scrambled is an understatement.  I’ll get it together.  My writing isn’t suffering but my advice to you is to get it together BEFORE you start writing.  Have a plan.

4.  Quiet the little voices in your head.  You know those voices (I call them Little Bitches) who attempt to cause doubt?  The ones that make you question every single word you write telling you they aren’t good enough?  That you aren’t good enough?  Shut those Little Bitches down.  QUICK.  They are evil and they are wrong.

5.  Write for yourself.  The most important thing writers should remember is at the end of the day, we are the ones who need to be happy with our work.  Yes, we may be writing for a company website or composing articles for a publication and yes, we want our clients to be 100% satisfied with our work but really, when it’s all said and done, we must be happy with our work.  We need to feel good about what we’ve written.

6.  Don’t overload yourself.  In other words, don’t be me.  I’m taking on whatever contract I can get.  I’ve got 4 articles that must be written by tomorrow.  I’ve got proposals waiting to grow up to be contracts.  I know me well enough to know I will take on everything I’m offered even if it means I’m working (too) many jobs at once.  I don’t care.  It happens that I’m rather skilled at multi-tasking.  Having multiple jobs doesn’t inhibit my ability to focus on what I’m writing.  But I will become frazzled.  I will get grouchy.  I will not sleep and forget to eat.  I will also love every second of it so unless you thrive in chaos, do yourself a favor and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

7.  When in doubt, ask questions.  If you feel unsure about a client, do not hesitate to investigate on your own.  Check out their website or blog, search Google for reviews of their business, ask the client direct questions and at the end of that if you’re still unsure or don’t feel comfortable with an offer, move on.  Intuition is key.  Listen.

8.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms of payment.  Some clients will pay by the hour, some pay by the job, some pay by the word.  Decide how you want to be paid.  Do your homework.  Research what other freelancers charge for their work.  Obviously, if you’re a “newbie” you can’t expect to make the big bucks but you can certainly expect to be paid what you’re worth.  Don’t undersell yourself.

9.  Pay for nothing.  If a client approaches you and says you must pay for a product or pay for the opportunity to write for them, just say no.  Those types of shady folks are out there so beware.

10.  Have a comfortable place to work.  I’m so struggling with this right now.  I am not comfortable in any place I sit so I’m constantly moving and it’s disruptive.  I’m having to use my bedroom as an office space and let me tell you, there is simply no room for both.  The other problem I’m having is I’m hot all the time.  I’m old, there are hot flashes from Hell.  I’m most comfortable sitting directly in front of the window AC but doing that means rearranging…well, rearranging a lot.  It’s a pain in my butt.  I am making it work but it isn’t ideal so set-up your work space before you start taking on jobs.  You’ll be glad you did.

11.  Take classes.  Update yourself on the latest Internet jargon.  Understand SEO.  Get a feel for basic marketing techniques.  Brush up on your grammar skills.  Free courses online are available.  Tons of them.  Take the time to educate yourself.  Learning should be a lifelong pursuit so take advantage of the freebies.  Alison is a great place to start but remember – Google is your friend.

12.  Don’t forget to write for yourself.  Don’t allow your own ideas and goals to get lost while writing for others.  Make time to continue writing for yourself.

13.  Build a portfolio.  Another secret:  I’ve not yet done this.  I need to work on it.  How does one build a portfolio, you ask?  Hard work.  Approach businesses you have some knowledge of or interest in and offer to write a blog post or maybe a newsletter for them, place an add on Fivver stating you’ll write an article or blog post in exchange for a good reference, maybe consider an add on Craigslist.  Don’t get sucked into huge projects.  You want a relatively small writing project to showcase your skills.  Make your expectations clear.  Write a letter to sell yourself, state your reasons for needing to build a portfolio and offer your services for free.  You really only need a few written pieces in your portfolio to begin your freelance career.  Once you establish yourself you then build your portfolio allowing you to seek out higher paying jobs.

Being a writer is about passion.  Passion for words, passion for seeing ideas come together to create a story, article or blog and passion for the very act of writing. Believe in what you’re doing.  Believe in yourself.  Make the committment and remember to own it – I AM A WRITER!  YOU ARE A WRITER!  We must claim it to be it.



Practice What You Preach…Or Not?

It has been said that we don’t truly know someone until we live with them.  I disagree.  I think we truly get to know a person once we discuss politics.  As a rule, I avoid political discussions like the plague.  No good ever comes from a conversation about politics.

A few days ago I lost a friend.  To be fair, it was my choice to end the friendship.  Oddly enough, while it was his political post that started our conversation, it was not politics that caused me to let him go.

To give you some background…I’ve been friends on Facebook with this person for several years.  He and I had grown fairly close or as close as you can get to someone over social media.  We’ve had many late night chats about various topics, most of a personal nature.  He was someone I’d grown to trust, love as a friend and respect.  I’ve known his views on politics for quite some time and while he’d tried to get me to open up about my views, I chose to not get into that debate.  He’s been someone I’ve thought of as kind, gentle, loving and caring.  A person virtually incapable of hate.  This is why when I read his Facebook post I was so shocked.  I immediately felt the need to respond.  I was so utterly confused by his attitude.

I’m sharing our conversation with you here.  Maybe my response was wrong.  Maybe I’m missing something.  Maybe his hate is justified and I simply don’t see it.  I’ve long felt there is no good reason to hate (as he states) but possibly there is and I’m unaware.  People do hate but is there ever an actually GOOD reason for it?  I don’t know.  Regardless, what I’m sharing with you is verbatim, grammatical/spelling mistakes and all.  To respect his privacy, I’ll refer to him as “X.”

HIS ORIGINAL POST:  Just a shout out to all trump supporters out there if you post onto your timeline that you support Trump for president…I will remove you from my friends list without explanation or notice…I only have a certain amount of time in my life and I am definitely not wasting it on haters…this is your only warning and I don’t care how good of a friend you are I will not waiver or give second chances…hate it not great and I won’t waste time on you, you are gone…so please take this opportunity to remove yourself my feelings will not be hurt…I can then spend my time loving my friends who are not haters…

ME:  X, I love you.  I respect you.  Always have.  I’m not at all trying to start an argument but isn’t this a form of hate?   This is another reason why I do not like to discuss politics.  It breaks up friendships and causes problems when people can’t or won’t agree.  It shouldn’t be this way.  Ever.  To each his own but I simply can not understand choosing politics over people we care about.  In my head that makes no sense.

HIM:  it is a hate, yes…it’s a hate of racists…I don’t understand them nor do I want to…I am part of the people he is supporting hate towards…I am not willing to point a loaded gun at my own head for the sake of supporting everyone’s personal opinions…

ME:  Discrimination is also hate and by definition singling out and rejecting people because of their differences.  Your opinion seems somewhat hypocritical.  You do not support a candidate who condones racisim/discrimination but you are willing to discriminate based on a friend’s differing opinion.  I’m sorry.  This just confuses me terribly.  I must be honest with you and say attitudes like this are the very reason people like me do not want to get involved politically.  There is absolutely NO respect at all for differing opinions or life choices.  Why would anyone deliberately set themselves up to be hated simply because of a ridiculous political disagreement?  This is the very cause of wars and general violence between humans.  I’m with your friend who said she was shocked this would come from someone as loving as you.  I also am quite shocked and am very sorry you feel that way.

HIM:  I’m sorry you feel this was…this refusing to interact with people who have hate towards me because of my race have no business in my life…I will surround myself with people that love me and not tolerate those who would support someone who hates me…I am not budging on this and if people are calling me a hater myself I can at least say I have good reason…I don’t wish to interact with haters…I am a hater of haters (people who hate for absolutely no reason)…

THEN THIS GUY (Patrick G.) PIPES IN WITH THIS (I do not know him at all):  Lisa Summerlin what X is trying to say is if you are stupid enough to buy into Trump…good people just don’t have time for your dumbass.

ME:  Patrick G., I’ve not once said I buy into Trump.  The dumbass comment was uncessary.

ME:  X, there is no GOOD reason to hate.  

That was the end of our public conversation.  I’ll note here that several of his friends agreed with me and were shocked by his attitude.

In private I sent him this message:  Letting you go.  I can handle a lot and your political opinions and decisions are yours and I respect that but the hypocritical attitude?  That I can’t respect.  So please, when you post about losing friends over your status, do not lump me in with a group of Trump followers.  Let it be known that my reason for choosing to let you go was a human issue.  I can’t be friends with a hypocrite and unfortunately that’s exactly how you’ve come across.  Good luck to you & take care.

All of this came from someone who has always preached about loving our fellow human, accepting all differences, being kind and compassionate.  So, I ask you all:  what did I miss?  Is his reason to hate justifiable?  Does what he said make sense?  Is ANY reason to hate justifiable?  I go through life hating a lot of things – the unbearably hot weather during Summer in Georgia, how expensive groceries have become, when the sheets on my bed get tangled, rap music, when people do things only half-assed, dudes who won’t pull up their pants, when cats tear up my curtains, and Mexican food but are my reasons GOOD reasons?  Not really.  They just are what they are but choosing to hate a person – A FRIEND – because of politics?  Because they don’t believe EXACTLY the way you believe?  That I can’t get my head around.

I’m going out on a limb here and saying this.  Politics makes people hate.  There is no acceptance in the world of politics.  It makes people angry.  It has become ugly, violent, close-minded and quite frankly dangerous for anyone to speak their mind anymore.  It’s about brain-washing – “believe what I believe or you’re wrong and ignorant!”  I would bet my very life there is not one single politician in this world losing sleep over families and relationships being torn apart because of his or her views. When you choose something as volatile and convoluted as our government over friends and family, THAT is a problem.  Examine yourself for a moment and contemplate whether or not you are too caught up in a matter that will NEVER give you or even offer the love, support, encouragement and friendship of your loved ones.  Then I suggest you choose wisely.


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