There are times when I feel that I have literally spent my whole life working…struggling and striving to “earn my keep”. My earliest memories are of going to the fields with my parents. Much of my childhood was spent making a few dimes to contribute to the family purse. I chopped cotton, picked cotton, cut grapes, sorted peaches, pruned trees, harvested olives. I baby sat, cleaned houses, and did ironing. In high school I worked as a waitress at the old bowling alley in Durant.
I know I have mentioned most of this in earlier blog posts. However, since today will be my last one at Calera ISD, I thought I would take a few minutes to remind friends once again that I have not always been “Mrs. Maurer, kindergarten teacher”. And although I have only taught in public school for sixteen years, I have worked at some job or another since 1969, the first year I paid into Social Security. So retirement certainly feels like something I’ve earned!
Our principal mentioned his resume yesterday, so I got mine out and took a good look at it. Although it looks a little like a “crazy quilt” at first glance, it does have two unifying threads: people (big and small) and words. So, if you will indulge me, here is a glance back at the working life of Mary E. Maurer. BTW, I include that E. in my name because of a job I had at SOSU when I was Mary Hart and there was another Mary Hart on staff and our checks were mixed up. I became Mary E. and she was Mary A.
My first real job, after the aforementioned waitressing, was at Valley Medical Center in Fresno, CA where I became an EKG technician. I passed some “on the job” training and quickly learned to conduct heart tests on a variety of people in life and death situations. Remembering some of the emergencies I witnessed is mind-boggling. Thankfully that job only lasted a year before I realized I needed something a little calmer!
My language skills landed me a job in advertising where I first learned to proof ads, and later to produce them. I perfected my proofreading, typesetting and art skills for six years at a variety of advertising and printing jobs before becoming the production manager for Valley Publishers, a small history book publisher. I worked there for two years.
A move to Caddo prompted me to take a job at the daycare center operated by the Baptist Church. That was 1981 in case you are wondering about my class roster. It included J.T. and Tela Busby and their little friends.
Back to California where I spent a few years working as a nanny and/or doing “odd jobs” like sewing and house cleaning before going to work for Macy’s. I started out as a temporary Christmas sales person and ended up in personnel and training five years later. Truly one of my favorite jobs!
Next came a lovely job as a receptionist at St. Agnes Hospital, working for my former boss from Macy’s. I would have stayed there for much more than a year if Gary and I had not felt the need to return to Oklahoma.
God’s plan was for me to be here today, because when we returned to Caddo I got a job at Children’s Corner Daycare in Durant and worked there for three years. Then I was a teacher’s aide at Robert E. Lee while I returned to school and got my degree. Since getting my teaching certificate I’ve taught at Joe Martin Early Childhood Center in Quinlan, Texas, Durant ISD, Kingston ISD, Hugo ISD, and Calera ISD.
My mother always said that when she got very old she would “sit around and eat bon-bons and watch soap operas”. She didn’t live long enough to do so, but I doubt it would have happened even if she had lived to be ninety. So although I don’t plan to need my resume again, I think I probably have a little more working and striving ahead of me. Bring it on…
It has been a wild and wet weekend! Just happy to be here this morning and to still have our home. Prayers for those less fortunate. There will be a lot of challenges this week as everyone cleans up from the storms and prepares for more. Let’s all try to be kind and patient and keep our priorities straight.
Sunday is Mother’s Day and as part of our annual celebration I asked each of my students to write four sentences about their mother. I wrote ten words on the board for them: pretty, kind, smart, funny, good, play, work, cook, clean, read. We also have a sight word list, and “helper” words (a, it, is, the) and each student knows ten to twenty words (like, love, can, have, see) that we routinely use during writing. If someone needs a particular word I will give them a few hints or write it on a post-it, depending on their skill level.
This is an assignment that our moms treasure. Coming at the end of the school year it is also a major test of a kindergartener’s knowledge and skills. The ability to have a thought, put it into words, and write those words down so they can be read and understood by another person is a tremendous accomplishment for a six year old! And of course it is not achieved by all students.
This is the myth at the heart of our education system: All children can succeed. Well, yes…true. But at the end of a year of kindergarten some children have learned to read and write, and subtract or add two numbers. Others have learned to write their name and discern the difference between red and blue. Folks, that amounts to the difference between an apple and an orange. Yes, they are both fruits, both sweet, both good, both desirable. But we all recognize the differences between the two.
Most parents only see the work of their own child. Other than a few writing or art projects posted to our classroom bulletin board, student work just goes home. Each of my students has made progress this year. Each has learned new skills or further developed ones begun in preschool. Their parents are proud of them, rightfully so. However, they may not realize the advances made by a more capable student. They may not understand the competition to excel that will begin next year.
Look carefully at the differences between these two papers. Both students have been in my class since the first week of school. They are only two months apart in age. Neither is a major behavior problem, although one is more attentive to instructions than the other. One understands simple sentence structure. The other has yet to grasp the concept. One draws simple, but detailed people. The other barely renders the basics. They are equally separated by their math skills. Each of these students possesses the basic skills required by law to promote them to first grade. But as you might imagine, their experiences next year will be quite different. Apples and oranges…
I mentioned before that I’ve been downsizing, clearing clutter, getting rid of useless STUFF. Most of us are inadvertent collectors of STUFF, simply because we “put something down and move on to the next thing” or we set something aside thinking “I might need that one day”. Then suddenly it is three years later and we still haven’t used it. That’s exactly how I ended up with forty coffee cups! Each time I was given one as a gift, or brought a pretty one home from the store, it ended up in a different, less crowded section of the cabinet, until I was just accustomed to seeing three shelves of coffee cups. I would have been smarter to designate ONE shelf to cups and not make room for even one more than it could hold. But that didn’t happen. So Goodwill has been the recent recipient of some pretty coffee cups!
Despite downsizing, there are two categories of STUFF that are important to me- silly STUFF that will continue to travel with me no matter how many times I move. My elephant collection, lovingly and purposely accumulated since 1972, has grown to over 175 pieces and I make no excuses for that. I’ve probably purchased thirty of them. The rest are treasured gifts. Not treasured to the point where I wouldn’t give them up to buy a new kidney, but certainly appreciated enough to be packed and repacked and displayed wherever I choose to sleep.
The other category is “things that belonged to others” or SENTIMENTAL STUFF. With the passing of each previous generation I have managed to save a few precious reminders of their life and times. Nothing in my “family collection” is valuable. I won’t be visiting Antiques Roadshow anytime soon! But the salt shaker, thimble, shirt, vase, doll, Bible, broach, doily, spoon, lamp, etc. that belonged to a beloved family member evokes their memory as nothing else can. A prime example is the television lamp pictured here that I packed last weekend. It belonged to my grandfather, Lee Simmons. When I look at it I remember sitting in the dark watching westerns. The only light in the room was the glow from the tiny bulb in the back of this panther lamp. I remember a tiny screen with rounded corners. I remember tubes that were pulled out and exchanged at the store for new ones if the television failed to work. I remember that Grandad was the “boss of the TV” and I didn’t watch anything unless he liked it. I remember getting up to turn the knob that changed the channel, because Granddad decided that could be my job. And most of all I remember him very loudly saying at least once per evening: “Move over! You make a better door than a window!”
Most of my sentimental STUFF is endowed with similar memories. I don’t dwell in the past…okay, not too much…but it’s comforting to walk through the house and be reminded that generations have gone before me. I am but a small part of a vast network of people who have lived and laughed and loved. Seeing some of their STUFF is comforting, especially now that I’m an orphan.
As you already know, I am a creature of habits and routines and security. So it must follow that moving and retiring at the same time is totally disorienting and distressing. Well…not really. I feel a great sense of peace about this. I can “see” us in our new home and although I can’t quite “see” what I will be doing next year, I know in my heart that God has a plan for me and it will be something useful and good.
And of course I have more than a little experience with moving. I have my “to do” list right here next to the computer. I have about a third of our things already packed. And whether my children believe it or not I’ve gotten rid of a LOT of stuff! Downsizing in every way is a priority of this move.
I have only another week before our move will be my only “job”. We will need more help this time, because we can’t physically do as much as we could even five years ago. But that too will happen.
I can tell you from experience that it takes about three months to really begin to adjust to a new house. The first few weeks are all about getting things arranged in ways that make sense to you. I feel settled when I know I can walk through a house in the dark and not seriously injure myself! Lol As a child I had frequent nightmares about being blind, so I have always made sure I could navigate any home with my eyes closed. It’s a phobia…I know.
If I have any misgivings about this move in particular they are based on having close neighbors again. People are unpredictable and can be a blessing or a curse. We’ve had experiences in the past with good and bad neighbors. I’m not the “borrow a cup of sugar” kind of neighbor. Never have been. I’m more of the “let’s talk in the yard, but don’t bother each other” kind of neighbor. I love people in general, but it is my nature to be a bit of a recluse. I think many writers will understand that fine distinction.
So…Mrs. Maurer is taking this transition toward her new life in stride, more or less, but I predict there will be a little disorientation along the way. Stay tuned…
Note: This blurry photo of my childhood home in 1962 represents our 17th move (two states- CA and TX). I was twelve.
Like most people I have a few “pet peeves”, things that irritate me despite the fact that others might not even notice them. One is manipulating Bible verses to make them “fit” a purpose. I’m probably guilty of doing just that…but I try to avoid it. I try to make sure my interpretation and use of the Bible is as accurate as my little brain can manage. So I’m not going to accuse the writer of my daily devotional calendar of intentionally leaving out an important verse. I’m just going to assume he accidently did so.
However, I can’t let it go without a comment.
The verses for today are Philippians 4:8-9. Here is what my calendar says: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble…whatever things are of good report…meditate on these things…And the God of peace will be with you.” Close, but not quite. The author has left out what I consider to be an essential instruction- the first part of verse 9.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I know, I know nit-picky. But I feel better now.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
It seems sometimes that the world is filled with darkness. The daily news is disturbing, discouraging, and distressing. Too many problems, too many troubles, too much crime, and far too much violence.
Our own lives can become a daily battle against poverty, pain, and predicaments. Financial and health problems are two of the major concerns of most people, exceeded only by worries about our children. The stress of constant problem solving undermines both our mental and physical health. The vicious cycle of sleepless nights and stressful days only exacerbates the very problems we strive to solve.
Thankfully there is a way out. There is a way to stay on the path and not get lost in the forest. That way is the Bible. But it isn’t magic. It isn’t easy. It took me a long time to fully comprehend that the word of God can’t guide me if I don’t read it. I can’t just listen to sermons or read a few verses here and there in Sunday School. I also have to understand what it is saying to me and sometimes that requires the guidance of a pastor or fellow believer. My brain only makes connections to my own knowledge and experience…unless I expand my awareness by listening to the knowledge and experience of others. I don’t have to agree with them. Sometimes another person’s interpretation of a verse makes me more confident in my own views. Sometimes I have to alter my understanding because the other person is correct. The Bible doesn’t change. Only our understanding of it alters with time and experience.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
We’ve all heard the expression, “Let go and let God.” That’s the other part of letting the word of God light our path. Trust. Sometimes there is a curve in the path and we can’t see ahead. Sometimes a new path crosses the old familiar one and we don’t know which to follow. But if we continue to read the Bible and trust in God’s love for us, the light will guide our way.
This year has certainly been “different” and the return of rain has been a blessing to the garden and the pond. Yesterday I walked around the yard and just marveled at the beauty and variety of flowers blooming. I’m especially pleased to see that the wine cups have finally established themselves. Many people haven’t discovered these little gems yet! I’m also fond of the bright yellow coreopsis.