Sunday, March 11, 2012

Woman, for hire

I think it's funny when one asks "What do you do?"

I usually act confused, and say "You mean for a job?" and whoever is asking usually looks mildly annoyed and says "Ya."

The question "what do you do" makes my mind spin in so many ways I have to clarify the statement just to get an answer out. I used to answer, "I am a full time mom", rather than a "stay at home mom" , because it felt more honest. I didn't stay at home. I went to the grocery store, playgroup, beach, post office, library, etc... There was not that much staying at home, so I liked the term "full time mom", better.

Nowadays, what comes out of my mouth is "Photographer." I chew on the words slowly before I spit them out because I am still so new to the field, I am afraid that some random person might pop out of the bushes, point their finger and yell "Poser!" I have no degree in photography. Most of the stuff I've learned has been from hundreds of hours spent reading, trying to absorb all the information I can about software, technique, and trial and error. Learning by handling my camera in as many situations as I can, taking thousands of pictures, picking them apart on screen, and learning from that. Lots of hands-on, and learning from other photographers, too. I do love to learn new things, and that drive has sped up the pace for the love of this art form.

I am settling into that title, and am slowly feeling more and more confidant and prouder each time I say it. Although, ask me that question in another ten years, and the answer may be different. It may be "Novelist," "Cupcake bakery owner," " Children's book author," or back to "full time mom." These are all things I'd like to add to my life resume someday, and if I put it out there for you all to read, it may just come true.

My "work" resume might not be all that impressive, but I suppose it's all in who is asking. I usually don't offer it up much, since I feel a little guarded about it, but last week I ran into my neighbor on a walk and she was telling me how much she liked the fact that my interests take me all sorts of places. I started thinking, and she is right. It may not be impressive on paper, but the richness of all those little bends in the trails of life have offered me a resume that has made me feel rich inside, rather than in my pockets.

After high school I was sure I wanted to be a nurse. I signed up for prerequisite classes in the fall of 1995, and commuted off the Island every day to TCC.  After a few quarters of knocking down the list of prerequisite classes, I heard rumblings of "wait lists" and "full" in terms of entering the Nursing program. Sure enough, Nursing was a hot ticket that year, and the wait list was long, long, long. My heart sunk as I realized I didn't want to wait. I was in the office feeling glum after learning this news, and picked up a turquoise paper that had the words "Respiratory Therapist" program on it, eyeing me back. I scanned the prereq's list, and it was nearly identical to Nursing. So was the length of the program. All I had to do was finish my year of prereq's, apply to the program, and be one of the twenty chosen to do the two year intensive program. I was accepted, and started in the fall of 1996.

During this time, I made sandwiches. And, lattes. And, desserts. I worked at a little restaurant called "Mary Martha's" while I did my schooling. Some days, I would be making rice crispy treats, and steaming cappuccino's, and the next day, I'd be washing blood off of me from working in the ER, or taking a sample from the inside of someones lung. Studying, took up most of my time, though. The classes were hard, and along with it I had to put in my time doing clinical rotations at many area hospitals.

I graduated in 1998, getting my certificate of completion and AA, then took my board exams, passed and became legal and got my licence to practice.

Luckily, I was hired by a hospital that I really liked, and wanted to work at, Harrison Memorial Hospital. I quit my job as sandwich maker, and switched to donning scrubs, and worked there, up until two and a half months before Vanessa was born. I also worked at Bel Air Rehab Center where I worked with chronic ventilator patients, and people who needed advanced long term care.

It was a hard job emotionally for me, and took a small toll on my psyche. I cannot begin to count the number of souls I watched leave this earth. The suffering of people. The sad stories. There was also happy ones though, but they seemed too far and in between. It was a hospital, after all. I can't say it wasn't worth it, though. I met some extraordinary people and feel so fortunate to have known certain folks and friends who have left permanent imprints on my heart. Also, I feel as I was meant to do the work, as it was preparing me for the long days at the hospital with Vanessa, and bringing her home on oxygen, and other medications. I was very familiar with it, and was able to understand her care and what it took, so all those years spent learning I have no doubt, was to prepare me for the care Vanessa was to need from me.

It wasn't long before the creative monster inside was scratching to get to the surface. For some reason I had the intense urge to learn how to make bar soap. And Candles. And lip balm. And bath salts. So, on my days off, I read anything I could get my hands on, and taught myself how to make soap out of water, lye, coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil. Lip balms, bath salts, and candles, too. It was fun, and made my house smell fabulous. They had scents like "midnight in tunisia," "autumn harvest," and "china rain." I sold them mainly to co-workers who snatched them up and put in large orders, then I expanded to selling them at our local Pharmacy and at a craft fair one year. Soon I officially launched "Paper Moon Soap Company." At work, my nickname changed from "Island girl," to "Soap lady", and soon, nurses and such from other parts of the hospital were tracking me down to put in orders also. What was weird, though, was when people would come up to me and say "I think of you everytime I take a shower!" Then they would quickly add, embarrassed,"You know, because of your soap." I would giggle and say "Ya, I know," but still blush. Those were the smelly years, but in a good way.

I was sick a lot though, catching the nastiest flu's, fevers and colds, not being able to fight off the grodie hospital germs. I was planning to take a year off when Vanessa was born, continue to make soap, then go back to work at the Rehab center once or twice a week, but that never happened. Instead a black hole swallowed the next three years of my life as I died.

The next job I had, I was no good at, but it saved my life. To be very honest, after Vanessa died, I felt living to be too much of a burden. I wanted to die. Badly. My family, would have none of that, though. My mother worked, and still does, at our local Pharmacy. She is the "toy lady," and makes that area of the store beautiful and well stocked. If you live on the Island, you probably know her, or have seen her, so next time you run into her, say hi, she'd love it.

  As I was dying my slow death, the owners of the Pharmacy generously offered me a job. My mom worked there and they knew just how much  I was needing her, so they offered me a job right next to her, and I very reluctantly accepted. Those dark days were indeed dark. I remember sobbing, pulling my legs to the side of the bed because they were so unwilling to go, praying hard for the strength to get into the shower, and go to work. Some days I couldn't, some days I'd make it 45 minutes then had to go home, some days I made it my full shift, but barely.  I didn't do them any favors by being a cloudy, ghostly version of a human behind the counter, but they were so kind to give me that job, and understand my lack of being, that I will forever be grateful of it, and to them, because I am 100% positive, it saved my life by being there.

I slowly left the Pharmacy when I was in the mid stages of pregnancy with Grace. I had become very fond of the Pharmacy ladies I worked with, and by the time I left, I felt like I was working with a bunch of my "mommies." They hire some truly wonderful people there, maybe because the heart of that store is truly wonderful also.

After that, I had Grace, and slid into full time mommy hood. By Grace's second year I was itching for a creative outlet. Making soap again was a no-go because it was too toxic to make in the house. I know what I'll do, I thought, with a light bulb over my head. I am going to garden. I mean, have a BIG garden, and open up a farm stand and become a farmer. And, so I did, for the next two years.

It was intense, physical, back breaking work, but I needed it. It got me out of the house, and into the sun, and brought in a little cash too. Plus, Grace thoroughly enjoyed it, and ate very well. We became " Gourmet Garden's", and operated a self serve farm stand for two full summer growing seasons. Bursitis, tendinitis, and a cortisone shot to the shoulder put a stop to the next season, plus, my mind was wandering somewhere else. It was forming a story, a fictional story, and I spent the next year and a half writing a novel and got about 150 single spaced pages in, and just stopped one day, and put it down. It is gathering dust in a binder underneath my computer desk right now, begging to be finished.

Enter in a photography class I took a couple years ago that lit the fire within to explore that part of myself and you got yourself " Marla Smith Photography."

So, when someone asks "What do you do?" That is a loaded question.

"At the moment, I am fully enjoying being a photographer as a side job to my full time mommy hood." is the very short answer, but for reals, what I want to do, is hand them this resume. ; )

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