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Continuing My Life Story: Gloria M.

Meet Gloria M., a retired public health nurse who joined the Anthology Senior Living community in October 2020.

In this installment of Continuing My Life Story, Gloria M. shares the pivotal moment when she knew she would become a nurse. It’s not what you might expect!

As a trained caregiver, Gloria says she relishes the warmth and freedom of her independent lifestyle at Anthology Senior Living. As she continues writing her next chapter, Gloria reflects on the moments and milestones that brought her here today.

Where were you born and raised?
I’m a native Houstonian -- we are rare! I was born in the Third Ward of Houston, which was an African-American area of the city, and then we moved to Sunnyside. At one point, we lived right in front of the train tracks. I would always watch the trains pass and so I love trains, even today. I have taken a lot of train trips in my life. Family is very important to me. I have a sister, two brothers, and nine nieces and nephews.

You knew early on that you wanted to be a nurse. How did you know?
When I was younger – 10 or 11 years old – I wanted to become a nurse. As a girl, we had dolls and I played with them, but my interest was always in caring for real people. When I was very young, I began taking people’s blood pressure and recording it.

You have a story of a nurse who inspired your career, but it’s not what one might expect. Can you explain?
Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. The Health Department in Houston provided community health services including dental, immunizations, family planning and maternity. The clinics were located throughout Houston and I received all of my immunizations and dental care there as a child.

At the clinic, I noticed there was a nurse who never smiled. She would give shots and they hurt! I said to myself, “I’m going to become a nurse at the health department and I’m going to replace her!” I was determined to become a public health nurse one day.

Sometimes in life, a person we meet changes our path forever. This happened again for you when you were a teenager.
At 16, I took a job as a darkroom technician developing patient X-ray films. One of the doctors at– a radiologist – called me in one day and said he heard I wanted to be a nurse. He asked me questions and I answered them. That was it. At the time, I didn’t know who he was.

You met that man again in a surprising setting. What happened?
When I graduated high school, my mother discovered there was a college scholarship available through the Rotary Club, an international service organization. You had to apply for the scholarship.

I applied and my family and I were invited to an awards ceremony. I think we were the only black people at the ceremony. When a man stood up to acknowledge the recipients at the ceremony, it turns out it was the doctor I had met. He was president of the local Rotary Club!

Because of being selected to win this scholarship, I was ultimately able to become a nurse.

It took years of schooling to pursue your career. How did you ultimately make your public health dream a reality?
I worked in the hospitals initially, from 1971 until 1975. Then I was able to get another scholarship to pay for my Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and I graduated from Texas Woman’s University with my BSN in 1975. I also earned my Master’s in Education later through an online program.

You were able to reunite with the nurse from your childhood. What happened?
At the department of public health, I visited different clinics. My mentor at the time brought me to the clinic I had visited as a child.

When I saw the immunization nurse from my childhood, I spoke to her. I told her about my experiences with her as a child, how her shots had been so painful. I had never been able to tell her that!

She retired about a year later and I was able to work at the clinic for several months before becoming a field nurse.

Reflecting back on your life and successes, what makes you most proud?
People aren’t always able to be what they want to be. I wanted to be a public health nurse and I became one!

From 1975 until 2005 when I retired, there were so many changes in public health -- principles, ideology. I was able to enjoy many of those changes.

I was so blessed to start with the department as a field nurse and end as an executive director responsible for several clinics.

You say your secret to life is your commitment to developing, both personally and professionally.
The essence of professionalism is to develop yourself -- always improving, always trying to help more. Moving from nursing into management, I was always focused on doing more. I always went back to what was important: being a good nurse.

You always remember that when you are interacting with the public, people are watching you, even the children. You have a responsibility to be the best you can be. You develop yourself within your organization and within the system.

I developed myself through mentors. I became involved in public health associations. I joined the Texas Public Health Association (TPHA) and The American Public Health Association (APHA). Organizations only work when the members of the organization work.

I feel very happy for the work I did to impact the city of Houston. I worked in public health for 30 years.

You’re in independent living now. Is it ever challenging for you to accept care from others?
I’ve always been the type of person – as my nephew says -- “I’ve had my way for far too long!” I was married once, from 1978 to 1985. I’ve been divorced forever! I’ve always been fiercely independent. I know what I want and don’t want. Since I’ve never had the responsibility of asking anyone, “Can I do something?” I just always do it.

I recognized that I was having too many problems alone at home. Surprisingly to my family, I packed up and moved myself into assisted living.

You’ve now moved from assisted to independent living -- it’s been a great progression. How did you do it?
As I was getting better, I knew I wanted to be independent again. I knew I needed to cook my own food, wash my own dishes. I started feeling better. In assisted living they prepared our meals, but I wanted to cook! I knew it was time to make a move. That’s when my sister found Anthology Senior Living.

My sister Ruth saw the Anthology Senior Living apartments. She sent me the floorplan. The rooms were spacious. I really liked the apartment and the configuration. It has all hardwood flooring. I’m in a wheelchair right now and it’s one large, open area. I really enjoy the shape and design.

I have to mention Jo Wood at Anthology Senior Living! Had it not been for her assistance and her pleasing and professional yet friendly marketing with me and my sister, I would not be here.

Having managed care teams for decades, what do you think of the Anthology Senior Living staff?
I love the staff. I say to them, “You are the family, not the staff.” They help me with different things. The activities director is motivating and encouraging. She’ll say, “Gloria, come to whatever you want to come to.” I pick and choose. The residents have been so welcoming, so open-armed. I appreciate that so much because it’s a new place. It’s already become home. I tell my friends, “I’m here at home,” and they’ll ask, “You’re back at home?” I have to tell them, “No, I’m here at Anthology!”

You love being home but the outdoors also inspire you, especially butterflies?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love butterflies. When I was young, I would always see butterflies in my yard. They always seemed to come plentifully in the spring and summer, especially the Monarchs. My mother had lots of flowers, and each time a butterfly would sit in a flower, it would instantly became more beautiful. As I aged, I began to appreciate the butterfly as a sign of renewal, a chance to start over, fresh and beautiful. When I see butterflies, I just feel happy. I have been blessed to have received all kinds of butterflies through the years as jewelry, artwork, clothing, even real butterflies on display.

I also love to look at the sky. We have a nice courtyard here at Anthology. When it’s warm, I’m going to go out by the pool! I’ve always done water aerobics and I’m going to put on my bathing suit. There’s a beautiful courtyard to enjoy.

What do you envision for your next chapter?
Anthology is a new story I’m trying to establish. When I came here, I realized I’m starting a new life story. Life is really a series of small stories.

What would be the title of your autobiography and why?
I would name my autobiography, “G.” Gloria is the professional person who fits with the norms expected of her. Gloria is my professional self, and she is important, but we are all more than one thing! The “G” is just me.

I’ve always been a type-A personality, insisting everything is done well. Work is extremely important to me, but I also like to enjoy my life. I love jazz music. I follow jazz bands. My friends often call me “Glo” or they call me “G” -- she’s the playful version of my professional life. She enjoys herself and puts work to the side.

I’ve been in the “G” mode lately. My personality is a free-spirited, enjoyable person. I love to plan a gathering! I love to socialize with people and enjoy my life. But right now I’m “COVID paranoid” so I’m content where I am.

You love music. What’s the soundtrack of your life?
I love jazz, R&B, gospel, opera and symphony. My favorite instruments other than the voice are piano and saxophone. My favorite artists include Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Cher, Bessie Smith, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Prince, The Jonas Brothers, NSYNC, Michael Jackson, Andrea Bocelli, Pentatonix, Beethoven (everything), Aretha Franklin and Yolanda Adams.

You are often pictured wearing hats; what do you love about hats?
I have a whole area in my apartment for my hats! I wear caps, hats and scarves. I wear special hats with brims. I like to wear anything that can enhance me. I like to mix it up.

Hats off to Gloria M. for sharing her inspiring life story!