Reflections on My Very First Blog Post

I had an intense desire to tell my story.

I’ve been blogging daily since December 1, 2012. That’s well over 3000 posts on more topics than I can count. I’m amazed that I still have anything to say. The current plan is to keep going until I run out of ideas, but I can’t speak for the future me. This blog has taught me much, but one of the biggest lessons is that I evolve over time. The future me may want to head off in a different direction entirely. We shall see.

I decided to check out my very first blog post to see what I think about it from some emotional distance. It’s entitled, “Nature is what’s happening when you’re not looking.” I find it rather revealing in retrospect.

First of all, my writing has greatly improved since then. Not that what I wrote was bad. I would just write it a bit differently now. I tend to inject more of my personality into my writing these days. Perhaps that is because I’ve gained confidence. I also hope I’ve gotten even more entertaining to read. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

I still think I’m an acquired taste, like beer. Either you’ll like my stuff or you won’t. I can be weird. I’m definitely opinionated.

I’ve always thought that this blog had taught me how to observe the world. Everything I see, do, and hear is potential blog fodder. But now that I reread my first post, I can see that I have always been one to study the people and things around me. Whether I’m sitting quietly on the sidelines or right in the thick of it, I’m taking it all in.

And clearly, I was itching to write by the time I started. I had been holding back so as not to rain on someone else’s parade, but I sense a restlessness, looking back. I had an intense desire to tell my story. After more than a decade on the graveyard shift, I really wanted to be heard. Blogging was my way of reaching out.

It may not be as obvious to the outside observer, but I also sense that I had been in a rut for a long time, and was hoping to write my way out of it. This blog has been a catalyst for change. When I look at where I was back then and compare it to where I am now, I see this blog woven into the fabric of the flying carpet I’ve been riding on. I might have stayed airborne without those threads, but it would be a different rug, indeed.

And, without a doubt, I am grateful for the many friends I have made because of this blog. You know who you are. Thank you, dear reader, for being here and breathing life into the view from my humble drawbridge.

And now, as my friend Carole says, “Onward and upward, into the future!”

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Mary Eliza Mahoney

What an amazing woman!

During a recent rainy, late night commute home, I found myself on a deserted street. It felt like I was the only person alive (or at least awake) on earth. I looked up just as a digital billboard, perched high above a used car lot, was changing images. Suddenly, looking down at me as a beautiful yet somber face of a woman in an old-fashioned nursing outfit. The caption said, “Mary Eliza Mahoney, First African American nurse.”

I was intrigued. This was the first I’d heard of this amazing woman. Her presence made me feel less alone on that cold, wet road. I still had a few miles to go to get home, but the whole drive I kept repeating Mary Eliza Mahoney, so I’d remember her name long enough to Google her. It’s a good name. A substantial name.

When I got to my nice, warm, dry house, I changed into my fuzzy jammies (“Mary Eliza Mahoney, Mary Eliza Mahoney…”) sat in my recliner with my snuggly dachshund ensconced on my lap, and I Googled. The first thing I learned was that there are very few images of Ms. Mahoney. The one below is the same one that was on the billboard. She looks so young, and so determined. Given that she was born in 1845, though, limited photographs are par for the course.

She was born near Boston to freed slaves who had come up from North Carolina before the American Civil War, hoping to live somewhere with less racial discrimination. I suspect they instilled that strong desire in their child. She attended one of the first integrated schools in the country, through the 4th grade. She was 15 when the civil war started, and she saw the need and the value of nurses during that conflict. She decided at age 18 that she wanted to be a nurse. The war didn’t end until she was 20 years old. That part of history must have been extremely formative for her.

Her pursuit of nursing didn’t take a straight line, but you can tell that it always remained her goal. At 18, She got a job at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and worked there for 15 years. As a janitor. And a cook. And a maid. And a washerwoman. She worked 16 hours a day.

Finally she was able to become a nurse’s aide. Then, at the age of 33, she was admitted to a new program, the first in the nation, that that very hospital had started to train nurses. Although it was easier for African American women to pursue higher education in the North than in the South, it was still rare. It is expected that she was admitted to the program due to her 15 year relationship with that institution.

The 16 month program was grueling to say the least. She attended 12 hours of lectures a day, and got another 4 hours of hands on experience. Then she became a private duty nurse, in charge of six patients on the various wards. She got 1 to 4 dollars a week for that, a portion of which was returned to the hospital for tuition. Of the 44 women that started the program, they began dropping by the wayside one by one, including Mary’s sister. In the end, there were 4 graduates, and Mary was one of those. In 1879, she became the first African American registered nurse in the nation. I hope her parents lived to see that.

She decided to avoid public nursing, because there was a lot of discrimination there. Oddly enough, she preferred being a private nurse in the homes of wealthy white families. She developed an excellent reputation for being efficient, patient, and caring. At the time, many African American nurses were treated as though they were servants rather than trained professionals, so she tended to avoid the staff, eating alone in the kitchen.

As a successful nurse, her goal then became to abolish discrimination in nursing, and toward that end, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1909, and was the keynote speaker at their first convention. The association’s goal was to support and recognize the accomplishments of outstanding nurses, particularly those who were minorities.

After decades as a private nurse, she became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children, and remained so until 1912. She retired from nursing after 40 years, which is even more impressive when you consider that she didn’t graduate from nursing school until she was in her early 30’s.

In her retirement, she focused on women’s suffrage, and in 1920, she was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston. She died of breast cancer, after a 3 year battle, when she was 80. That was in 1926, a little over a year before my mother was born. (Ma would have turned 94 today. Waving skyward.)

Mary Eliza Mahoney was obviously a determined, goal-oriented, hard-working, strong, intelligent woman. I would have been proud to know her. There may not be many photographs of her, but she certainly has made her mark.

Sources for this article:

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-mahoney

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Eliza_Mahoney

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What Keeps Me Up at Night

Yeah, I’ve done that mind-grind thing where I keep worrying about something and try in vain to come up with a solution. I have done my fair share of stressing out over finances, jobs, relationships, and conversations that I’m dreading. I’ve even stayed up to care for sick people and pets.

But you know what really keeps me up at night? Excitement. I spend a lot of time tossing and turning and smiling at the possibilities. I can rarely sleep just before a trip to someplace I’ve never been, for example. I can just imagine what it will be like. I also thrill to new experiences, new connections, and the opportunity to learn.

Many is the night I’ve spent staring at the ceiling, knowing that I’m about to receive the gift of newness. That’s my favorite gift of all. It doesn’t take up space in your tool shed. You don’t have to dust it. It’s usually not tangible. But you’ll be able to revel in its memory for the rest of your life.

There is nothing quite like the first time you do something, see something or realize something. Beginnings are awesome. Change is wonderful just as often as it is dreadful. The anticipation of something can be every bit as amazing as the thing itself.

Anticipation is what robs me of my sleep!

Excitement (July 2011)

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The Moment My Life Changed

After yesterday’s blog entry, Chuck is on my mind quite a bit. Even more so than usual, because I recently celebrated the 7th anniversary of our first kiss, or as I like to describe it, “The Moment My Life Changed”.

I actually made the first move. We had been talking for 4 hours on this particular day. We had everything in common. And he was about to leave for the last time. He had been my roofing contractor, and his crew was finished with the job and had left. I knew that if I didn’t do something, he’d walk right out of my life and I’d never see him again. So I kissed him.

And I felt it in my knees. Which was kind of dangerous, since we were standing on my roof. But it was worth it.

I had 4 amazing years with Chuck before he died, and he really taught me a lot about what love is, and also what it isn’t. Ours was a complicated relationship. But I don’t regret any of it, and I miss so much of it.

While he was alive, I described that first kiss as the moment my life changed, but little did I know. My whole life can be divided into before that kiss and after it. That first kiss meant I experienced love, but it also meant I experienced death and grief and excruciating pain and loneliness and despair.

That kiss and that love and that death also sent me headlong across the country, to Seattle. That has also been a bit of a jumbled bag of joy and sorrow. No regrets there either, most of the time.

Every year when this anniversary rolls around, I experience very mixed emotions. Part of me thinks I should stop writing it on my calendar, because I suck at remembering dates, so if I left it off, I would stop riding this particular roller coaster. But part of me thinks, no, I should hold on to it, at least until I experience another kiss that I feel in my knees. If I ever get that lucky.

Damn. What a kiss that was. Hoo!

First Kiss

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#FirstSevenJobs

I overheard someone talking about a hashtag that was floating around in social media that encouraged people to talk about their first seven jobs. I was immediately intrigued. First of all, what an interesting world we live in now, where it’s a safe bet that most people have had seven jobs. In the past, you might apprentice in a certain job and then do that work until you dropped dead. I don’t know if that would be comforting or stultifying.

But I think you can learn a lot about a person by hearing what their first seven jobs were. How old were they when they started working? How long did they keep various types of jobs? I think it would be interesting to hear from older professionals in particular. Your pediatrician wasn’t always a doctor, you know. Maybe she washed cars in high school.

I’ve had 23 jobs in my life. I don’t know if that’s a lot, or about average. I just know that it was necessary. Some I liked, some I hated. Each one taught me a great deal. I’m glad to say that now that I’m a bridgetender, I’m doing something I truly love.

So, without further ado, here are my first seven jobs:

1.     At the age of 10, I was self-employed. I grew houseplants and sold them at the flea market. I did this for several years, and this allowed me to buy school clothes. I am also proud to say that I treated my mother and my sister to a trip to Disney World. We lived nearby, so it drove me crazy that we couldn’t afford to go. But this will give you an idea of how long ago that was: I only had to raise $20 to get the three of us in. I remember counting it all out in quarters.

2.     The summer I was 15, I worked in the Youth Conservation Corps, doing construction work. We paved pathways, built nature trails, rehabbed a swimming hole, and built a picnic shelter and a barn among other things. I came home brown as a berry for the first and only time in my life, with biceps that would make Michelle Obama proud, and I had a newfound confidence in my ability to work with my hands.

3.     The next summer I worked on an assembly line, making prepackaged school lunches. I’m pretty sure that was the last job I ever had that required I remain on my feet for 8 hours a day. I don’t know how people do it.  That’s where I learned that if you touch enough peaches in the course of a shift, the fuzz burrows under your skin and makes you bleed, and the foil wrappers on juice bottles make you bleed even more. (And yes, we were wearing gloves, but they didn’t protect our wrists.)

4.     Next I was a cook and a cashier at a short-lived game room and restaurant called Go Bananas. I’d go home and still hear the video games in my head, and I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but for a while there it made me sick of ice cream. (Scooping ice cream doesn’t do good things to your wrists, either.)

5.     Then I was a bilingual cashier at a hotel restaurant. I got by with my high school Spanish. But I had been hired when the manager was away, and when he got back, he called me into his office and quizzed me. I was so intimidated I couldn’t speak English, let alone Spanish, and he fired me on the spot. That was a new feeling. I didn’t like the polyester brown uniform they made me wear anyway, so I was a little relieved.

6.     Next I was a cashier at a campground. That was kind of fun. I liked meeting the people who would come in from all over the country. And believe it or not, I enjoyed stocking the grocery shelves. I love being organized. (Which kind of makes me wonder exactly when I lost all control of my living space, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.)

7.     Then I went away to college and worked in the cafeteria. I got sweaty and greasy every day, and then had a class to go to directly afterward, so people refused to sit next to me. But it helped pay for school. I had to transfer out of there when the 40 year old cook got angry because I refused to date him. He advanced on me in a rage and I threw an ice cream scoop at him and ran for my life. He remained employed, which made lunch and dinner time kind of awkward, but at least I then got to work in the secretary’s office, and people would sit next to me in class again.

So there you have it: The beginnings of a blogger. What were your first seven jobs?

child labor