Notes to Women

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Bette Nesmith Graham

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I remember when I used to use Liquid Paper like paint, smearing it over the mistakes I made making my pages look messy.  I discovered today that it was a woman who invented this wonderful liquid eraser.   

Bette Nesmith Graham never imagined that she would be an inventor.  She was a divorced mother, trying to support her young son.  She learned typing and shorthand and got a job as an Executive Secretary.  She was an efficient worker who took great pride in her work and she searched for a better way to correct typing errors. It occurred to her that if artists painted over their mistakes on canvas why couldn’t typists paint over their mistakes too?

She set about preparing what was originally called “mistake out”.  She put some tempera waterbased paint, colored to match the stationery she used, in a bottle and took her watercolor brush to the office. She used this to correct her typing mistakes… her boss never noticed. Soon another secretary saw the new invention and asked for some of the correcting fluid. Graham found a green bottle at home, wrote “Mistake Out” on a label, and gave it to her friend. Soon all the secretaries in the building were asking for some, too.

Things rapidly progressed from there.  In 1956, Bette Nesmith Graham started the Mistake Out Company (later renamed Liquid Paper) from her North Dallas home. She turned her kitchen into a laboratory, mixing up an improved product with her electric mixer. Graham’s son, Michael Nesmith (later of The Monkees fame), and his friends filled bottles for her customers. Nevertheless, she made little money despite working nights and weekends to fill orders. One day an opportunity came in disguise. Graham made a mistake at work that she couldn’t correct, and her boss fired her. She now had time to devote to selling Liquid Paper, and business boomed.

Bette Nesmith Graham believed money to be a tool, not a solution to a problem. She set up two foundations to help women find new ways to earn a living. Graham died in 1980, six months after selling her corporation for $47.5 million (http://inventors.about.com/od/lstartinventions/a/liquid_paper.htm). 

Liquid paper became a widely used office product in the 20th century and a lifesaver for many office workers, thanks to a secretary who out of frustration with having to retype pages because of mistakes, decided that there had to be a better way. 

Stress

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What is stress?  For some it is trying to prioritise the many projects they have undertaken and making decisions.  For others it is moving to another apartment; raising a family; going for a job interview; meeting their future in-laws.  Stress is knowing that the deadline for an article is fast approaching and you just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write it.  Stress is having to wait another 15 minutes for a bus because the first driver did not stop even though he saw you dashing across the street, your arms flailing.

Then there is good stress like having a child; getting married or getting that promotion you always wanted.  These are stressful because they are big chances.  For each there are greater responsibilities and a lot of adjustments to make.

Stress can result from an overactive imagination.  Take Susan for example.  She invited her boyfriend for lunch for the first time.   She worried that she wouldn’t get home from church in time to prepare the meal.  She worried that he wouldn’t get a parking space.  She worried that he wouldn’t be able to eat chicken or turkey because she wasn’t sure if he was a vegetarian.  She worried that she would be so nervous that she would spill or break something.  Well, her boyfriend got a parking space as soon as he arrived.  Not only did he eat the chicken and the turkey but he had seconds.  Lunch went very well.  The only setback was that it was not long enough.  Susan had allowed herself to get stressed out because she imagined the worst.  Stress robs us of a peace of mind and rest.

Many of us have spent sleepless nights because of stress.  We lie awake worrying about that presentation we have to make to very important clients; a job interview or final exams.  A lot of times stress is self-induced.  We worry and fret unnecessarily and only succeed in giving ourselves high blood pressure. 

How do we cope with stress?  Taking time out is always a good idea and doing something else such as going for walks in the neighbourhood or in the park.  Around this time of year it is especially nice because of the changing colours of the leaves and the air is fresh.  Fresh air helps to clear the mind.  Exercise is another option.  Walk off the stress on the treadmill or pump it out of your system as you lift weights.  Read a book or flip through a magazine.  Pick up the phone and call a friend.  It helps to talk to someone. 

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