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It took three years but I'm on my way! (long)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I became disabled from strokes May 17th, 1999. That was thirteen years ago. The strokes affected my left side. I was unable to walk or use my left side, I had a lot of trouble talking and my vision was shot. I had what is called a "a left field vision cut". I'm sure there is a fancy name for it but that's what they called it. If someone gave me a sandwich, cut in half on a plate, I could see the piece on my right, eat it, but have no idea there was another half on the left side until someone spun the plate in a half circle putting that piece on the right side of me. It was like magic the first couple time they did that LOL
Its pretty surreal to wake up one day having these disabilities. Every morning when I woke up in the rehabilitation hospital I'd wake up crying, totally freaked out and confused. I had no clue who I was or where I was. One of my nurses, i can't recall her name but she was fantastic, she would talk to me and explain what had happened. It was like that movie "50 first dates", and it stinks to live it.
So I learned how to walk, talk and feed myself again. Not easy with a dead left hand.
My disabilities are something I've adjusted to over the years but I still get frustrated sometimes. I've regained some usage of the left hand. It has "poor fine motor skills". That means it's good to somewhat grab things, but not really LOL
I think the thing I miss most is typing two handed. I used to type 85 WPM. Now its like 30. Its super annoying.
My coordination is a whole lot better. I no longer have to use the leg brace and cane. Since starting SP two years ago I've actually managed to get a slow shuffle jog going on. A HUGE accomplishment for me.
My left field vision cut is barely noticeable now. Its improved dramatically but there is still a little one. It took me six years to start driving again. I took a test at the rehab hospitable to make sure it was safe. Now its like those non driving years never happened.
I was able to get back to work again. A wonderful woman I had worked for before my strokes took a chance and hired me to do the Internet & marketing for a local newspaper. It was the kind of work I did before I got sick. I am so blessed that I was able to retain all my computer skills. It took awhile but I got them back!
I really can't do math without a calculator but that's OK, I have calculators!

We moved to Florida because my body was wreaked from the chemo & prednosone I took to control the Central Nervous System Vasculitis that actually caused the strokes. Cold weather practicably put me in a coma, I had zero energy and just wanted to sleep and it hurt! My bones & joints were so painful. It was either start pain medication or move someplace warmer. So we did.
Its not all puppies and kittens. I still have some pain, corporal tunnel & bursitis in my right arm that hurts like nobodies business if I over use them or if the weather suddenly changes. But the weather in Central Florida is pretty mild. Its hot or its raining.
So I tried a stint working at Walt Disney World. I worked in the Pirates of the Caribbean store for about two years. It was for the most part a great experience. I went to every single park repeatedly, I gorged myself on Disney. I know all the parks like they were my back yard. I got to "see behind the scenes". It was cool. The problem with working there full time is it becomes your life, your whole world is Disney. There are other reasons I quit my job there, anyone who has worked there will probably understand what I'm talking about. I don't want to kill the "magic" of Disney for others, suffice to say its not so magical when you work there. but it gave me the confidence that I needed, I know knew I could handle pretty much anything after working there!
I decided I would go for the "dream", I would go into business for myself, I would open my bookstore. Yes crazy talk, especially with all the gloom & doom about the end of the printed word due to computers. Remember about 15 years ago, the talk about computers bringing about "the paperless office"?
That did not happen at all. And there is going to be a lot more then books sold at my store.
I'm not financially set by any means. In fact my illness wiped us out financially, and I don't get SS because I was a year short of work hours because I stayed home to raise my kids until they were school age. Yea Social Security, way to penalize stay at home moms!
So I researched what was available for disabled folks wanting to work. I found Vocational Rehabilitation. They are a government program run by each state.
There is a very long very time intensive process to be gone through just to to be approved. In fact I did it in Connecticut & Florida, both times I found a job myself before the process was completed. This time I went for a program for self employment instead of help finding a job and I was determines to work the system for my benefit until I got what I needed. I admit I feel a tad bit angry at my Government. I was born here. I paid into the system for almost ten years before I had kids. My husband pays into it. My dad did his whole life but died at age 55 from a brain tumor, he never benefited from his work. My mom worked and paid into it. Yet "refugees" and illegal immigrants get free housing, free medical, food stamps, free schooling. Yet out veterans and folks like me get very little. Yes I rant.

So I got a Councillor assigned to me. Very nice lady. Unfortunately she had no clue how to do self employment. There was also a language issue. I don't speak Spanish, she barley spoke English. It was three years of a LOT of mess ups on her end. It got to the point where I knew I was never going anywhere and had to ask for a new Councillor in a different office because her boss was no help either.
Let me tell you. I took countless physical and mental tests. I had to write a business plan. That alone scared me enough to rethink what I was doing. If you've ever written a business plan you know what I'm talking about!
I have had to push this every step on the way. I had some help writing the financial areas of the plan but I had to do a load of research, sit in on small business seminars, go to "Networking" things, which I pretty much dislike intensely. I had to do all this by myself with my own money. They pay for all the medical stuff but everything else is out of pocket unless its a SCORE event and they approve of it. In order to get financial help, the product or business must be on the VR's "Vendor" list and it has to be approved by like 3 people. Its a really slow process. And they don't give you a list of vendors to chose from, you have to play "Go Fish" asking your Councillor if they have a certain vendor. They have a very small list for what I require. I've had to beg people to go through the vendor process. Its not fun for them or me!
there is defiantly no hand holding with this process. If you don't get it done, it won't get done. At least my new Councillor has a lot of experience doing work from home self employment. I'm her first retail business but she at least tries and will make the effort to learn what she needs to to help me.
So I had a scary presentation meeting where I had to sell my business plan to the two regional managers. It was nerve wracking, but my collage classes actually came in handy, especially the public speaking class!
I do have many years of office experience, and have been running the paper end of my husbands carpentry business for over 20 years so I'm not clueless.

My husband and kids came to the meeting to show they support me, and my daughter will be working in the store with me. I must have sounded good because they approved my plan, awarding me 25K, to implement my plan with up to 50K if needed over the next three years. This is what kept me focused and pushing forward. I get money to start my business that I don't have to pay back. The catch is I have to spend the money through their vendors, and even though my plan was approved when I need something, the Councillor has to write it up and send it to two people who decide whether or not I need it. So I have to have a good reason for what I want. My issue is when it comes to computers, I want the good stuff that is going to still be compatible next year and stuff I can update. I know computers and I'm picky.

I managed to get the BEST computer with the BEST inventory program, its called Anthology. The salesmen, Jim, stuck with me for three years, and I ask a LOT of questions, repeatedly. He stuck it out, became a vendor and I just picked up 8k worth of computer and software yesterday!!

This is the boxes that took over of three years of work to get.
Its a full POS (Point of sale) station with a cash registrar and label printer and a bar code scanner and a whole lot of manuals and training CD's. Its a huge program that will hold my stores inventory, and a lot more.

It's scary. I'm a little freaked out.

Everything I've worked for has gotten me to this point. Now I have to learn how to run this beast, get my 2k bunch of books inventoried, start my Online store, start selling online and get the orders processed and mailed out in a timely fashion, find new stock, build my stock and sell good so I can show that this is really going to work, then I take the next step and open the physical "bricks & mortar" store while still running the Online one.

I will need to do the book keeping on top of all that. I have my LLC, Retaled Books, we have someone working on our logo. I have over 20 years of Internet experience and marketing, building websites. I should be able to handle it.

My daughter Heather, who is bi-polar, pretty much unable to hold down a job because she has anxiety attacks, which is a vicious cycle because she has anxiety attacks due to the fear of having an attack while at work! I'm hoping that she will be able to manage this in time because she will know nothing bad will happen in her own store. If she has a problem she can go in the office or back room.

The reason for this long long blog is because I am panicking a bit myself right now and sitting down and writing out my long journey, the obstacles, the hard work, the reasons why I want my own business, it helps me focus. It reminds me why I started this whole thing in the first place.

I wanted to open my own business because:
As a disabled person its difficult to find a good job.
My daughter needs a job.
I'm too bossy to work for someone else :)
I hate all the retarded policies you have to deal with working for any company.

I want to open a bookstore because:
Running it incorporates many things I like to do such as Internet, graphics, marketing, book keeping & taxes, I'm weird, I like doing taxes
I have always been a voracious reader, from grade school, I just love books. So does my daughter!
My daughter is anal retentive when it comes to stocking & shelving things, our pantry an refrigerator is practically color coded and alphabetized so she's all excited about the stocking aspect, which I am totally not so that's great!
My mom is retired and has a serious knack for picking out books she buys for a quarter and sells on Amazon for $15 bucks. She also is good at doing the mailing part, she sold on Amazon for a few years.
I have 2 people who will work for free until we can make a profit!

Working with my mom might not work out that good, we will see. Since she moved out I can at least say I don't hate her anymore.

So there it is, my manifesto, wow its long!
I have a lot more work ahead of me. I'm sure I will panic a lot.

Going over the business plan and revisiting my reasons help me stay focused and on track. Its really similar to the SP book and plan for losing weight and getting healthy in a lot of ways. I go back and revisit my eating and walking habits, see if they need changing, remember why I'm doing what I'm doing, look back at where I was and where I am now. Its all a process and we can accomplish so much if we just just keep our eyes on the prize and keep moving forward!

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