My Favourite Tools for Work From Home Jobs

I would describe myself as a work at home mum.  My daughter is three years old.  She now attends nursery three afternoons a week, and usually spends another one with Grandma, and the rest of the time she’s with me.  I don’t work for anyone else and I’m home-based, but I’m also registered self-employed and I do a variety of things to bring in money. I’m working on expanding my activities at the moment, as I’d rather like to remain self-employed even after she goes to school.  Although I do miss the company of working in an office, I like the flexibility and variety of working for myself (I never was much good at fitting in!).

For people that work from home – or anyone who uses the internet a lot – I thought I’d share the tools that make my work from home jobs easier. I’m discovering new ones all the time.

My Laptop

LenovoI used to joke that my parents’ house had more computers than people (my dad worked with them).  Now I have my own home and it’s exactly the same.  I like working on a laptop, but they’ve had trouble keeping up with me.

A while ago I googled ‘best laptops for writers’ and the consensus was that the best keyboards are on the older models of the Lenovo Thinkpad T-series (410-430, 510-530).  This meant getting a refurbished one, but I would have had to anyway because new Thinkpads are very expensive (they’re aimed at the business market).

Having destroyed my third keyboard on my old laptop, when the fan went my husband told me to get a new laptop.  I’d been making do for quite a while with bits not working properly, but I finally bit the bullet.  I now have a Lenovo Thinkpad T510.

So does the keyboard live up to reports?  Yes!  It’s so brilliant.  Typing is so much easier and more comfortable.  It feels like a desktop keyboard.  I love it and I whole-heartedly recommend one for work from home jobs, or if you just do a lot of typing.

Dropbox

DropboxBacking-up work is essential (ask any writer who’s just lost whole chapters or hours of editing) in work from home jobs.  I used to do it on a memory stick, but I didn’t remember to do it often enough.

I now use Dropbox for online storage and Microsoft Sync Toy to back up to it automatically.  I’ve got it set to update ever day, so now it’s all done for me.  Cool, huh?  And it’s all free!

Sign up to Dropbox through this link and we’ll both get an extra 500MB of storage space.

Grammarly

GrammarlyGood spelling and grammar are essential for work from home jobs that involve writing. Grammarly is an automatic checker, generally considered the best available.  This I pay for, but I think it’s worth it.  You can use in online for smaller documents and as a Word plugin on any length.  Although there’s no substitute for human proofreaders, Grammarly definitely goes a lot further than the free checkers available.

Have you got any great tools that you use for work at home jobs?

Follow Jennifer Gilby Roberts’s board Writing on Pinterest.

Follow Jennifer Gilby Roberts’s board Blogging on Pinterest.

This post has been part of:
Penny Pinching Party @ The Thrifty Home
Thrifty Thursday @ Living Well, Spending Less

Where to Sell Your Old Books

SellBooksIf you’re anything like me, you have a lot of books.  Every so often, I’m forced to go through them and get rid of some just to reduce the risk of being found pinned under an avalanche of them.  Rather than just giving them away, this time around I’ve been trying to earn a little money (so I can buy more books!  Death by book slide, here I come…)

Since I want to get them out of my house fast, I haven’t been selling them individually.  Instead, I’ve been using two book-buying services:

Amazon Trade-In

The US version is well-established and takes all sorts of things, but the UK one is quite new and only accepts a limited catalogue.  Books have to be packed into boxes and dropped off locally (in the UK it’s at post offices or Collect+ stations).  Postage is free.

They pay in Amazon gift cards, and for my last order they were offering a bonus £5 off £10 spend voucher code when you traded in £15 worth of books.  Add that to the Amazon giftcards I’ve been earning through Swagbucks (another recent discovery – now I earn money from my search engine!) and I’m building up a very nice stash.

We Buy Books

We Buy Books is a UK only site that buys books, CDs, DVDs and games.  So far they’re my favourite, because they take a much wider range than the Amazon store, they will collect your packaged books from your home (Monday to Friday) and they pay in cash (by cheque, through Paypal or straight into your bank account). They also have occasional voucher codes to increase your payout.  As with Amazon, postage is free and payout only takes a few days.

Book Scouter

On Book Scouter, you type in the ISBN of a book you want to sell and it looks at all the book buying sites in the US to find you the one that’s offering the highest price for it.  Brilliant if you’re selling high value books like textbooks.

Have you used a book-buying site?

This post has been part of:
Thrifty Thursday @ Living Well, Spending Less
Frugal Friday @ Sarah Titus
Share the Wealth Sunday @ Fun Money Mom

Respecting Other Women’s Choices

the-photo-shoot-669199_1280The no kids club.  Not the book by Talli Roland (although that may well be worth a read).  Following on from my post on C-Section Shame, another thing I don’t understand (there are many) is why choosing to not have kids is considered by some to be unacceptable.

It’s not so long ago that women would usually marry whomever their father chose (if they were rich) or whoever they could get (if they were poor).  Few women remained unmarried by choice, because their options for supporting themselves were so limited and staying single meant no sex or children. If their marriage was unhappy, they could either stay and endure, or leave and be left destitute and lose their children.  And they had no way to prevent children coming, even if the family couldn’t afford to feed another mouth, or their own health was failing to the point where pregnancy put their life at risk.

In the UK, we’re in the run up to a general election and there’s various things going round prompting women to vote, because other women endured so much and sometimes even gave their lives in campaigning for it.  But it wasn’t really about the vote.  The right to vote was, as much as anything, a symbol of equality.  What they were really campaigning for was for women to have choice and control in their lives.  For them not to be forced to enter or remain in situations that made them miserable because they had no good alternative.

baba3e11a456141db4a589c250b0277aSome people claim that it’s a betrayal of those brave women to be a housewife and mother, or to enter a traditionally-female occupation such as nursing or teaching, or basically do anything that women could always expect to do.  That’s nonsense.  We really betray them when we criticize another woman for exercising her freedom to choose a certain lifestyle.  By implying that she should care more about what other people think that what her own heart tells her is right for her. If her actions are not directly harming others then they are none of our business.  Even if we fear she is making a decision that she will come to regret, we have to let her make it anyway.  We cannot see the future anymore than she can, but unlike her we also cannot see inside her head.

This post has been part of:
Skip the Housework Link Party @ Reasons to Skip the Housework

6 Pinterest Boards Chick Lit Readers Should Follow

Like using Pinterest to find your next great read? Here are six boards for finding great chick lit books you’ve missed.

Follow Elizabeth’s board CHICK LIT AUTHORS on Pinterest.

Follow Rachel’s board Chick-lit, Romantic Comedy, Women’s Fiction, & Romance on Pinterest.

Follow Jennifer Gilby Roberts’s board Chick Lit Books 2015 Releases on Pinterest.

Chick Lit/Contemporary Novels – Book Junkie

Books We’ve Reviewed – Chick Lit Central

Books Reviewed on Novelicious – Novelicious

Any other great boards for finding chick lit books?  Leave a comment and let me know.

C-Section Shame

Photo by Jason Pratt at Flickr
Photo by Jason Pratt at Flickr

Apparently there’s a “Christian” group on Facebook who’ve been posting things claiming women who have c-sections don’t really give birth (and worse – don’t google it if you’ve had one).  This whole c-section = failure thing is something I’ve been bothered about ever since I became aware of it.  I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Now, I agree that the ideal is a drug-free vaginal birth.  I also agree that c-sections aren’t something to be done without a good reason – it’s major abdominal surgery, after all.  But, apart from a small minority of cases, c-sections aren’t done without a good reason.  They’re done because the birth is not going “naturally” and mum and/or baby are at risk.  In the old days, what happened was that one or both of them died.  Now, fortunately, doctors can intervene and (usually) save both.  Now that’s a miracle.

I have given birth once and, as it turned out, it was a “natural” birth with no pain relief to speak of.  Would you like to know how I managed that?  One, my baby was born three months early so she was a lot smaller than a typical newborn, which made it a lot easier.  Two, it was luck.  She was in the ideal position, didn’t get stuck, wasn’t distressed, the placenta didn’t get in the way – basically everything went fine.  And that wasn’t because I did special preparation (did sod all, since I thought I still had months to go), or because I am “godly” (don’t pray, don’t go to church, never christened) or because I am “superior” (just trust me on that one).  I was just plain lucky.  Apart from the whole three months early thing.

Among my friends, reasons for having c-sections include: really big baby/small woman (she pushed for an hour – you can’t say she didn’t try), baby in distress, risk of permanent paralysis from vaginal birth due to SPD and placenta previa (baby would have suffocated, mum likely bled to death).  Those sound like damn good reasons to me.  If I’d had the same complications, I’d have had a c-section.  If I have another baby, maybe I’ll need one. “Giving birth” is getting baby from inside-mum-and-attached to outside-mum-and-detached.  It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference what happened in between, so long as mum and baby are both okay.

There’s a lot of talk about cases where a c-section could have been avoided if the mother had been left to go at her own pace rather than speeding things up with drugs (leading to more painful contractions, leading to epidural, leading to trouble pushing etc. etc.).  This may be true and may not be – we can’t know for sure what would have happened if we’d done things differently (probably just as well in some cases). Even if it is true, in many cases labouring mothers are pressured into interventions by well-meaning doctors and birth partners.  It’s hard to stick to your guns when you’re in that much pain.

The crucial thing is, even if we know we’ve made a mistake in the past, we can’t go back and change it.  All we can do is to move forward.  Regardless of your beliefs, to shame a woman for something that she can do nothing to change is just plain cruel.

Follow Jennifer Gilby Roberts’s board Motherhood on Pinterest.

This post has been part of:
Parenting Pin-It Party @ Bug, Bird & Bee

Where to Find Free ePub Books (Kobo, Nook, iPad)

Where to Find Free ePub BooksDo you read ebooks on a Kobo, Nook, iPad or other non-Kindle ereader?  Then you’re probably tired of sites that ignore your existence.  Here’s the ones that don’t.

Got a kindle instead? See my posts on 50 Places to Find Free Kindle Books and Where to Find Free Kindle Books for the UK.

Classics & Permanently Free ePub Books

These sites deal with public domain books (those old enough that the author’s copyright has expired) and some books made permanently free by the publishers.

Project Gutenberg

Open Library

Digi Libraries

Many Books

Internet Archive

Feedbooks

Free-Ebooks.net

Ebook Sellers

Kobo, Nook, iPad (and pretty much every ereader except the Kindle) work with epub files, so you can use any of these ebook stores.  There’s also Smashwords and Bookrix.

You can also borrow ebooks from your local library (through Overdrive).

Alert Sites for Free Epub Books

These sites let you know about books that are (usually) only free for a short time.  All include links to Kobo, Nook and iTunes (where the books are available on those sites – a lot of books are Kindle-only).  Some of them post the links on their sites, but for some you have to join their email lists.

Bookbub

eBook Soda

Freebooksy (their sister site Bargain Booksy does cut price deals)

Reading Deals

My Romance Reads

eReader Utopia

eBook Deal of the Day

Do you know of another place to download free epub books?  Leave a comment and let me know.

This post has been part of:
Thrifty Thursday @ The Thrifty Couple
Frugal Friday @ Sarah Titus
Share the Wealth Sunday @ Eat, Drink & Save Money

How Old do You Need to be to Understand the Word ‘No’?

8540673936_74ece04b5f_hSomeone posted a link on Facebook to a story about a mother’s reaction to her daughter’s bra strap being undone by a boy at school and it reminded me of an incident from my own past. Now, I don’t seem to have the greatest memory for my childhood.  My mother despairs of how much seems to be a complete blank.  This, however, I have not forgotten.

I would have been about 10.  I had entered puberty, but did not yet have any real interest in boys.  There was a boy in my class who had a crush on me.  He was a sort-of-friend (as much as boys and girls seemed able to be friends at that age in my school), but I didn’t share his feelings.  Everyone else in our class was convinced that I was just ‘shy’ or ’embarrassed’, which was annoying but tolerable. Then, a girl in my class had a party.

It was a big party, held in a hall somewhere.  All our parents were invited too and were sat around at tables, in full view of the dance floor where we kids were.  After the party games had finished, there was a disco.  My friends and I were sat on the stage at the back of the dance floor.  The inevitable slow song began and the boy who liked me wanted to dance with me.  He came and asked, and I said no.

This is where it goes downhill.  Ignoring my refusal, he used his greater strength to force me onto the dance floor.  I recall hanging onto the edge of the stage with one hand while he pulled the other.  Eventually, I lost my grip and he dragged me to the floor and held me tightly while we swayed so I couldn’t get away without hurting him.  Sadly, I didn’t.

I can still remember my face burning with utter humiliation.  This had happened in front of all our class and our parents.  Worse still, I felt let down.  Not only had no one intervened and told him to let me go, my friends had helped him and the parents were laughing and making comments like, “He got there in the end!” It was years before I could stand to listen to that song again (incidentally, it was I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston).

Now you may say “you were just kids” and that is true, but kids need to be told when their behaviour is not acceptable, so that they don’t grow into adults who think it is. All but a tiny minority of children understand the meaning of ‘No’ before they are two years old.  And the fact that they don’t necessarily obey it at that age doesn’t mean you stop saying it when they do something dangerous or unkind. Every parent knows that consistency is vital in establishing boundaries.

Should I ever see this happen to my daughter, I will intervene.  Should she ever have to use force to stop someone from harassing her, I’ll be behind her all the way, because she’ll be in the right. I never, ever want her to feel that she should put up with someone treating her badly, or not respecting her right to say no.  Is there any mother out there who does?

Follow Jennifer Gilby Roberts’s board Motherhood on Pinterest.

Turning 30

Turning 30It seems to have become part of our culture to approach the 30th birthday with terror.  Not being overly worried about ageing, I was surprised by how much it affected me.

As it came closer, I was consumed by the idea that I was no longer a Young Person, but an Adult (horrible thought). It took several months for me to come to terms with that. And it is a big transition to go through.  Your status forms a big part of your identity and when it changes the impact is huge.

I went through a similar experience when I got married and chose to change my name.  I knew I wasn’t Jennifer Gilby anymore, but I didn’t feel like Jennifer Roberts yet.  I was in this limbo phase where I wasn’t sure who I was at all.  And it wasn’t because I’d changed in myself, but the way I defined myself had.  It’s amazing how much impact that can have.

I’m now out the other side, so I can share the good news that it gets better.  You slowly adjust to your new idea of yourself.  I now firmly believe that being in your 30s rocks.  I’ve described them before as the “sod-it years”, because if you’re raising young kids you’re too knackered to fret about anything not connected with them.  But I don’t think you need to have kids to take that attitude.

As a 30-something, you’re no longer green. You’ve (hopefully) been places and done things.  You’ve got a pretty decent handle on who you are – what you’re good at and what you’re best off paying/bribing/sweet-talking someone else into doing for you.  You’ve had at least a few tough experiences and have the bedrock of confidence that comes from getting through them.  The hard times have also made you realise what’s important to you and what just isn’t worth worrying about.

Once you’re done mourning the end of being a Young Person, all this comes together into new freedoms. I find I’m more willing to stand up for myself.  There was a time when, if I was charged the wrong amount in a shop, I wouldn’t say anything.  Now I do.  I’m also less bothered by what other people think of me.  I could never have coped with bad reviews as a teenager.  Now I just accept that my work isn’t for everyone and shrug them off.  I can honestly tell you that I don’t mind if you don’t like my writing (or me, for that matter).  So long as you don’t get nasty about it, it’s fine.  And if you do… well, that’s your issue, not mine.

If you’re approaching 30, don’t panic.  Just give yourself some time to work through it and I’ll see you on the other side.

Brilliant Titles of Chick Lit Books

do not lick the phonesI see a lot of book titles in my Twitter feed and in Goodreads notifications.  It’s not often that a title alone is enough to get me to click on a book link, but every now and again it happens.  So I thought I would share the ones that got me.  Will they get you too?

Do Not Lick the Phones

People I Want to Punch in the Throat

No-one Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday

To really do it properly, I then downloaded an add-on for my browser that disables images (so I couldn’t see the book covers) and then searched Amazon for ‘chick lit’.  These are the titles (from the first 24 pages) which got me to click on them:

F*ck Normal

The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards

Borrowing My Mother’s Saints

Storm in a B Cup

A Beginner’s Guide to Salad

Deranged Marriage

We Could be Villains

I was amazed at how many pages I got through before I reached ten titles.  It just shows you how important the book cover is, because I’m more aware now that I usually scan the covers and not the titles.

How much attention do you pay to titles?  What kind get you to click?

Feel Good Movies

What movies can take you from down to dancing around the room in less than two hours?

I’m a sucker for musicals.  I used to want to be a dancer.  Not ballet – I wanted to be in Fame.  I didn’t actually want to be famous, I just loved the kind of music that makes your feet twitch and sends an electric pulse down your spine.  I love the cheesiest of pop music, because it does just that.  I still remember the dance to ‘Saturday Night’ (and I’ll do it in public too).  So any film that combines pop music and dance has me sold.

movies-walking-on-sunshine-posterRight now, I’m watching Walking on Sunshine.  80s pop music, linked together by a fun-but-unrealistic plot – it’s perfect.  I can already tell you that I will watch this film a lot.  It’ll come as no surprise that another favourite is Mamma Mia.  Unlike my husband, I don’t cringe over some of the singing voices.  It’s fun, it’s joyful and it makes any time of year feel like summer.  And summer makes everything better.  Long term favourites include A Chorus Line (major dancing done to that one).

Legally_blondeBut I don’t have to have singing.  Legally Blonde is brilliant for getting motivated to take action (must dig that out), Bring It On (watch the cheer at the start if nothing else), Revenge of the Nerds (going back a bit that one). While You Were Sleeping, Father of the Bride 2 and a recent favourite is What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

I think I should start watching at least one each week, especially with the cold winter days coming in.  Anyone want to join me?