Mary Boza Crimmins grew up near Orlando long before Disney transformed the area into a tourist hotspot. She and her husband raised two sons and now enjoy two grandchildren.
She started working at 17 and eventually became a professional educator teaching primarily middle school history, government and geography classes.
“I loved middle school students. You can have really good, honest conversations with middle schoolers,” she explained. “I also taught high school students, but they seem to turn inward a bit too much.”
A lifelong learner, Mary desired to be the wisest person in the room, but she admits she wasn’t the smartest. She was constantly updating her teaching plans to accommodate students who had different educational needs.
“Every school year and every day was different,” she explained. “I still have relationships with some of those students who will email me or text me from time-to-time. I’ve even met a few of them for coffee.”
Most of her career was spent teaching at a private Christian school; however, her final two years were at the second largest public school in Orlando.
“I taught during COVID when I was in the classroom with a mask on my face trying to teach kids in the school and online at the same time,” said Mary. “I got to a point where I realized I couldn’t do it anymore.
“I wanted to pursue something that gave me freedom and more energy,” she added. “I expended all my energy in the classroom, but, beyond that, I didn’t have any left for myself. I wanted to live life more fully.”
Always a teacher
Although Mary is no longer in the classroom, and doesn’t plan to return there, she continues to educate people by transforming her teaching superpowers into a business of her own.
“I wrote things for every single employer I ever had, such as their policies and procedures. I wanted to put my writing, researching and organizing skills to work for businesses and individuals,” she explained.
Being in business for herself was a long-time dream. In fact, she and her husband bought a business a few years ago. He worked at it full-time and Mary did what she could part-time after school and on weekends.
“A few years earlier, another teacher and I started a business with the goal of teaching grammar and communication skills to businesses,” she explained. “We got a couple of jobs, but it dissipated quickly. We found out we couldn’t run a business, teach in a classroom and raise our own children.
“Being in business was something I really wanted to do, but the timing wasn’t right at that point,” she added. “We live in moments and seasons, and that wasn’t the right season for me. COVID was like a signal that it was time for me to go in that direction.”
Mary started Crimmins Communications, which provides ghostwriting services and creates content for people and other organizations.
“I am working on creating an online course for a client, and I’m moving into coaching as well,” she said. “I’m still a teacher, but I just took what I was really good at doing and applied it in a way that allows me far more flexibility in my life.”
Working with adults was quite a change for her, and required a completely new skill set.
“I’ve worked with a lot of interesting people throughout my life, and 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds are really interesting,” said Mary. “I am old enough now to have wisdom to say ‘no’ to things I really don’t have the skill to do. However, the things I have been able to say ‘yes’ to doing have been really cool.”
Taking the Holy Spirit to Work
On Jan. 23, 2023, Mary woke up early that morning and started journaling. It’s a discipline she tries to do daily. As she was making an entry, she felt God was leading her to journal about the Holy Spirit.
“Later that day, I was coaching a woman about writing. We would each create something, then share it for the other to read,” said Mary. “Her words to me that morning were so encouraging. I felt pushed by God to write, then pushed in the same direction by a human being.
“I decided I was going to run in that direction to finish what I started and get it published,” she added. “I titled it, ‘Taking the Holy Spirit to Work: Encouraging and Empowering Christians in the Workplace.’“
Even though most of Mary’s career was in Christian education, she also held jobs in the secular world, such as a paralegal and purchasing agent.
“I discovered when people often get to work, even during the Christmas season, they basically leave the Holy Spirit in the car,” Mary explained.
“Regardless of what we think about the culture and political climate, Christians often shirk back in the workplace in terms of how they fully present themselves,” she added. “That’s unfortunate because there were certain points in my life where I would have imploded my career if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding my thoughts, words and actions.”
It didn’t matter whether Mary was working with preteens or adults in a religious context that cost a lot of money, or if it was in the public school. The dynamics of work may have been different, but the Holy Spirit worked in the same way.
“I want people who are Christians to start feeling like they can be themselves at work, but also allow other people who may think or act differently to be themselves, too,” she explained. “That’s the primary message of my book.”
Looking for opportunities to minister
If Christians allow it, the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to opportunities to minister to people everywhere they work. People are struggling with so many problems and concerns today for which they don’t have answers, it becomes an open door for Christians to share their faith.
“If we take time to look at that person in front of us and get to know him or her by asking questions, it’s amazing what we can discover,” Mary explained.
People will intentionally or unintentionally offer bits of information for which the Holy Spirit can guide a person of faith in how to respond.
“I have a very strong personality, so I relied on the Holy Spirit to help me realize when I needed to draw back,” said Mary. “In my book, I offer examples of situations in which people can understand how to respond.
“Sometimes Christians feel as though their voices have been squelched. Yet, often if we feel that way, it’s because we made certain choices,” she explained. “I want people to feel confident to share their faith with others.
“Christians don’t need to climb on a table with a bullhorn and start preaching. That’s not what sharing your faith is all about,” she added. “Yet, I am sure people of faith have been in situations where they aren’t comfortable about expressing who they are. That’s where they need to follow the Holy Spirit.
“I’m not a theologian or even an strong evangelist. I’m simply a woman who knows what the Holy Spirit did for me,” said Mary. “If it could happen to me, then I know it could happen to someone else, too.”
Learning new skills
Going into business for herself in her 50s did not require a lot of capital other than the purchase of a computer. But, what Mary really needed was her own stamina and willpower.
“There were definitely a lot of learning curves as I did ghostwriting and went to school,” she explained. “I finally got to the point where the investment in myself has started paying off.
“I stopped worrying about what other people thought I should be doing and just worked to serve my clients well without needing to perform to the expectations of others,” she said. “It took a while for me to get away from that counterproductive mindset of trying to please others.”
For Mary, finding her first clients was as simple as having coffee with someone.
“I have been blessed to be in the same community for a long time, so I was able to tap into that community and reach out to people I already knew,” she explained. “Most of my clients came from having coffee either with them directly or with others who pointed me to people I could help.”
It certainly helped that Mary taught in the same area for 28 years.
“I really can’t go anywhere without seeing somebody I know,” she explained. “My husband has worked in the boating industry for more than 30 years, so I tapped into that as well.
“I would just call people and ask them to meet with me for half an hour to share their expertise,” she added. “It really paid off for me. I was always sure to write a thank you note expressing my appreciation for their time.”
Mary recalled meeting someone for coffee and trying to describe what she did for a living. About a month later, the woman called to explain she was working on a book that was a “hot mess,” and asked if Mary could help make sense of it.
“That was my first venture into developmental editing of a book for someone else,” she explained. “It was fun because the woman’s father had written it, but she didn’t know what to do with it.
“I took it from a string of random thoughts and weaved it into something for which others could find value,” said Mary. “They were really happy with the final product, and I just wanted to do more of that.”
Priming the pipeline
For Mary, ghostwriting was a challenge because she had to delve into someone else’s heart and mind to transform their thoughts and experiences into an interesting story.
“I was putting data into the keyboard and the words just came out,” she explained. “Sometimes the biggest challenge was getting to a point where I established enough rapport that they’re comfortable with letting me run with their story.”
The other challenge with ghostwriting was ensuring there were always new projects in the pipeline.
“Finding the next client to keep my pipeline going is always a challenge; however, I have been fortunate that work continues to stream in,” Mary explained. “It’s not like a fire hose, but that’s okay because I had enough of a fire hose life as a teacher. I like the peace-of-mind in knowing there is more work coming through the pipeline.”
The key to ghostwriting is being able to adapt to a client’s voice, cadence and speaking style.
“By listening to their phrases, I am able to listen to where their hearts are coming from so my writing flows in tune to that,” she explained.
“I had a recent situation where I was writing a chapter that wove in information about a woman’s great uncle,” said Mary. “After reading it, she texted me a complement on how I captured the situation with her uncle to the point it put her in tears. It was very reassuring and encouraging.”
Flavoring words with experience
Mary snagged a contract to write a course about parasailing for use in professional development. But, she had never parasailed in her life.
“I approached a parasailing captain and explained what I was doing. He graciously let me go parasailing for free,” said Mary. “It was a great experience because I am able to embed those feelings as a passenger into the course I am writing for a client.
“By weaving that experience with my teaching skills, I can develop a course to teach crew members who work for parasailing companies. I want them to be aware of all aspects of the parasailing experience,” she added.
Mary is putting her writing skills and knowledge about self-publishing books to work coaching others to become better communicators.
“Even though I taught social studies, my students would complain when I assigned them writing work because it wasn’t technically an English class,” said Mary. “But, I told them it was still education. They needed to do it because everyone must know how to communicate, either verbally or through written words.”
Coaching others throughout her career gave Mary a lot of joy, especially when it helped them reach their goals later in life.
“Teachers like to help people reach their goals, and I’m still doing that as a ghostwriter and editor,” she explained. “My clients usually know they have a book inside them, but they are just stuck at bringing it to life.
“They either don’t have time to write it, or need help with the wording. Either way, they entrust me with their story,” she added.
Saying no to tutoring
After Mary left teaching, some parents asked her to tutor their children. Because she was so good at it, tutoring was a very successful endeavor. However, it’s not what she feels called to pursue today. So, in order to say “yes” to more important things, Mary had to say “no” to other really good things.
“Tutoring is not part of my business any more. I still do it with some students who have been with me for several years, but I am not taking on new tutoring clients,” she explained.
“It was a good job and tutoring helped me pay for building my website and to launch my coaching business,” she added. “I love having contact with former students, but it was just time to move into a different direction.
“I thought about preparing a course to help teachers develop a tutoring business, but that’s part of my problem,” said Mary. “I have too many really good ideas that I need to focus on one, and then do it very well.”
Traveling for fun
With one son in Tennessee and another in North Carolina, Mary and her husband often travel to visit them and to explore new areas.
She is a big fan of waterfalls, of which natural ones are in short supply in Florida. Consequently, Mary loves to hike, especially if the destination involves a waterfall.
“I find that to be very spiritual. Putting one foot in front of the other without concentrating is a way to clear my mind,” she explained. “Our dogs are Foxhounds, and we love taking them for walks every evening.”
Mary and her husband are polar opposites when it comes to personality types. He is a quiet extrovert, while Mary is a not-so-quiet introvert.
“We do a lot of socializing, especially around the holidays,” she explained. “He gets the Christmas decorations up around Thanksgiving. Then, we put lawn chairs and a firepit out on the driveway and invite random people to chat or share a simple dinner.
“Like the song says, this girl just wants to have fun and to experience joy,” she added.
When Mary left her classroom for the final time in June 2021, she ignored her husband’s advice and jumped into a lot of activities.
“Looking back, I shouldn’t have done a lot of those things right away,” she said “I had planned to do a lot of writing, work on grants for clients, and help people with their resumes.
“After doing it for a while, I realized I didn’t like grant writing, nor creating resumes,” Mary explained. “Once I figured out how much I made per hour doing that, it wasn’t worthwhile.”
She was also taking classes on search engine optimization, which is a skill Mary didn’t really need. There was a lot of scattered direction in her life during that time.
“I said ‘yes’ to some things I shouldn’t have committed to doing. So, I worked on improving my discernment and developing the wisdom to say ‘no,’” she said. “Today, I’ve really focused my direction.”
Mary felt pressure to jump into her business in order to bring in money. However, if she had just relaxed and determined what she really wanted to do, Mary suspects doors would have opened for her rather than trying to force them open herself.
“I had just left a good-paying job with benefits, and I was operating out of self-imposed angst,” she explained. “I felt like I had to prove myself.”
Whittling down the plethora of book ideas Mary has in order to focus on her next project has been challenging. She decided to write a short book exploring all the action words found in Psalm 23.
“The book I really have a passion to write is about education and the four Rs that aren’t being taught in schools today,” she explained. “The four Rs are reading; rational thinking, such as math; responsibility and relationships.
“It will take a lot of research and interviews, but I really want to write that book because we need to overhaul education in this country,” she added. “I’m also thinking of starting a podcast on that topic. I’d never run out of material.”
Another project Mary is contemplating is a book exploring ancient texts and showing how the words still apply to people in the 21st century.
“It would be geared toward people who have never read the Bible or don’t want to read it because they think the book is too confusing,” she explained. “So, I’d like to make those texts come alive for them, but not in a way that replaces reading the Bible.”
Advice for people over 50
Looking back on her childhood, Mary always wanted to be a writer. In her career, she frequently wrote material for employers. As a teacher, she wrote stories to try making history come alive for students.
“I didn’t have the discipline to sit down and write a book myself, but I should have started doing so years earlier,” she explained.
“Look at what really excited you as a child, other than being an astronaut or movie star,” said Mary. “For me, writing was always something I wanted to do.”
She advises seasoned citizens that there is no reason to re-invent themselves just because they are entering a new stage in their lives.
“Be comfortable in your own skin,” Mary explained. “Yes, you can recalibrate, if necessary. But, you don’t have to completely re-invent who you are.
“Let’s face it, there are fewer seasons ahead of us than there were when we were 30 or 40, but those seasons are still there for you to bloom in some way,” she added.
“I don’t feel the clock counting down tick-tick-tick as though I am running out of time to the point I need to jump into it,” she said. “Just live each day to the best of your ability.”
Mary’s book, “Taking the Holy Spirit to Work: Encouraging and Empowering Christians in the Workplace” is available on Amazon and in other bookstores.
If you order the book from a link on this page, Forward From 50 may earn a small commission.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.