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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The problem with teaching


The last piece about the newspaper that canned me, long ago, was a rock in a pool of collective memories. The ripples touched on hard times, hard work, pride in our own ability or that of friends and siblings.  I had an awful time keeping it in my plus or minus five hundred words a post range, probably because of the facts that Mark Twain lets me leave out of a good story.  

My life has been the tale of getting into, through and out, one chapter at a time. Some ironic, some ending with sincere gratitude for having a page to turn, and some with sincere appreciation for being helped along.

The last fifty years of seven plus decades are the result of the chapter called “How your father and I came to be married.” It’s the ironic chapter, the foundation of the rest of my life. The writing needs some thought.

I left off the last post earning a master’s degree in American Literature and nailing my dream job, teaching freshman English at our community college.  I didn’t intend to carry on from there, but it’s an interesting story, so, editing by Mark Twain, here it is.

The teaching gig was night classes; a hopeful start at low pay. I kept my day job. There remained a scarcity of money, so I added a weekend job, cashiering at the local drug store. My husband was immersed in getting his sales career up and running, but he was available to watch the girls while I was teaching and on weekends.

And so things went on for two years. I know it was two years because I just made a time line. Funny how some things come together as one. Way over in Washington D.C., Congress was not funding liberal arts budget items. All over America PhD professors were out of work at universities and flooding the bottom of academia, community colleges. My contract was not renewed.

Back at my day job, I took a phone call from a collection agency threatening to garnishee my wages. After supper that night my husband went off to sell insurance, as he did almost every night. I put the girls to bed, and began going through the bill desk.  I was unfamiliar with its contents; my husband handled that end of our partnership. You can guess the reason.

Everything was months behind. There were credit card bills in my name; there was a loan in our names that I found had my name forged. I made a tidy list and hired a lawyer. The next time our paths crossed, after the children were in bed, I told him I had filed for divorce. His reaction: “You sure know how to hit a fellow when he’s down.”

Thanks to Mark Twain I can exclude the anguish, how awful divorce is for children, and skip to the part where I realized my day job would not pay the bills. I opened the newspaper to the want ads and looked for a profession that earned decent money. I found it, midway down the first column. Accountant!

Back to school again for a degree, Bachelor of Science Accounting. And I had just paid off my masters’ loan! 

To tidy the loose ends, my husband married my best friend and lived happily ever after. Sadly, for him, and for the girls, ever after ended a few years later; he died aged 44 of a massive heart attack. He was his wife's second husband, and she buried him in a single grave, for the reason, she explained to his parents, at graveside, she expected to remarry.  Love those little tidbits.

The end. I believe I’m off the nostalgia train for the time being.




32 comments:

  1. I'm gigging at the pragmatic grieving widow.
    Jane x

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  2. You seem to have always been able to assess things with a cool head. It must have been a great help.

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  3. You rhyme off going back to school to become an accountant like it was no big deal but I have no idea how you did it, with no money and children to look after and bills to pay. You are probably the strongest woman I know and I am full of admiration. ox

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  4. I hope he didn't have life insurance unless by some miracle you were the beneficiary.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. He had lots and lots, and his own children were the beneficiaries of nothing. His wife got everything.

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  5. "Interesting" does not even begin to cover your story, Joanne!!

    And, as Cathy alluded to in her comment, switching gears from English teach to accountant is not something most people can do just because they feel like it. The predisposition for success in each job are from the opposite sides of the brain (language/arts vs math/logic). We will have to conclude that both sides of your brain are pretty darn impressive.

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  6. Sounds like you learned to roll with it and roll on. It also sounds like you know your accounting and are a valuable employee. I hope your present boss appreciates that at least a little.

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  7. For some time you have been one of my heroes, and this post has just cemented your position. Thank you. In tones of awed respect.

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    1. PS: Love the widow's attitude. Did she remarry?

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    2. Yes. My youngest daughter ran into her fifteen years ago and she had a husband in tow. That is the complete extent of my knowledge.

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  8. Please get back on the train, there is more to tell and I want to hear it.

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  9. That took a steel spine and clear head to accomplish. Weak men make bad decisions. Fortunately you are a strong determined woman. God bless you.

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  10. I eventually found life was better without a husband. Only Twain knows the answer here I suspect. I can see how there would be a certain kind of satisfaction with accounting. Finding those missing pieces.

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  11. I admire your ability to take charge of a situation and move forward.

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  12. Joanne, I echo Delores' comment. :)

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  13. I'm echoing Cathy Oliffe-Webster.
    You're one of those "take it on the chin and keep going" people.
    You have my greatest admiration.

    I discovered similar problems when I began collecting the mail from our PO box when previously hubby had always collected it. Some men are such rats!

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  14. Wow! You really went through a lot with your ex. I'm sorry he did that to you but you surely sound like someone to have around when the pressure is on. Your determination really helped you along in life. Good for you!

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  15. Hari OM
    I love your Mark Twain offering. It does what it needs to for us - and serves its purpose for you. Important to mark the trail... You're some lady Joanne. Nostalgia is much too mushy a word for your reminiscences!! YAM xx

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  16. Boy, that is just awful. Divorce hurts everyone, doesn't it. But, often, it is the only way out. I congratulate you on your stamina and your ability to get a higher education.

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  17. What an amazing story of resilience, determination and accomplishment your life has been, Joanne. I'm wondering if that woman is still a friend. I am in awe of your strength and perseverance.

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    1. Shortly after the divorce I drove down her street and saw his car in her garage. The penny finally dropped. But we were "friends" until then. Actually, she was the source of a lot of information I could not understand how he learned. I've never been the brightest bulb on the string.

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  18. I love these stories. My own first husband was a lazy good for nothing. Wouldn't work but at least he didn't run up a bunch of bills but he did expect me to give him spending money. Well, we had a joint account so he just took it. I tolerated that for 3 1/2 years and then filed for divorce. He couldn't understand why. I got a phone all from him about 7 years later. He was drunk or stoned or something and wanted me to tell him again why I divorced him, that I had ruined his life cause he couldn't form any relationships. I told him if he didn't understand then, he wouldn't understand now and hung up.

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  19. It's a disconcerting tale. I have never met you in person but your writing suggests you are strong. Maybe you have always been. Maybe you have learnt to be. Maybe experiences like this have tempered the iron. It must have been terrifying opening that drawer.

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  20. I had the good sense to get out of trying to sell insurance once upon a time when I realised there was no bloody way I could be devious enough to make a decent living at it. Probably one of my better decisions. Of course, nowadays, when we're not so desperately poor, I probably could do it.
    But then I ask myself, "why?"
    Interestingly, one of my then colleges had some financial "secrets", and not just a few having to do with paying the bills. I heard about this a few years after I had left the business.
    He managed to find himself behind bars for some of his transgressions. His wife was mortified. She divorced him in short order. Funny how things can take a turn. I had no idea what he was up to. Just naive I guess.

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  21. 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going', Joanne, thanks for sharing your story - you are an amazing, inspiring person.

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  22. Said in awe and admiration, you are one tough broad.

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  23. Okay, I'm hooked. Riveted. Why is it that recounting times of great stress and emotional pain in a manner that is relatively straightforward is somehow still so devastating?

    And I'm here to tell you that teaching freshman comp at a community college is, yes, wonderful...but it's also getting harder and harder, as the students get harder and harder. I have hardly a one who hasn't been to jail or who isn't proud of dealing, stripping, running the streets, and "catching a case." I'm hoping becoming an accountant proves just the right thing in the next installment!

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  24. You're the second blogger this week who's shared details about her background. Thank you very much.

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  25. Neat that you got back to school to get a career that was going to support you and your children. Always interesting to learn more about people.

    betty

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