Wisdom

I’m going to take a minute to brag about my wife. I’ll call her George, because that’s what I’ve called her for years. Her kids call her Preuss. At first, I was offended. It seemed a little too forward, too familiar for the student – teach relationship. But I learned that they loved her and it was out of affection.

It didn’t start out well. A friend of mine, her cousin, tried to match us up on St. Patrick’s day. I don’t like corned beer, I don’t like cabbage, and I didn’t really like her. After we ate, I suggested we go bowling. She wanted to sit around and talk about politics. So I went bowling.

A few months later we tried it again. Robocop at the drive in. Things worked out better after that. On December 31, 1988 we were married at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Quite the New Year’s Eve Party. The next morning we went down to the Crown Room for breakfast. The line was well out the door and into the lobby. Someone came and took us out of the line and sat us at a prime table near the windows overlooking the garden. Now, here we are.

Not only does my wife take exceptionally good care of me, she doesn’t subscribe to the Happy Wife, Happy Life way of thinking. You can see her post about that on her own blog here.

My wife is probably the wisest person that I have ever met. She’s really smart about things like history, English, and  grammar & composition. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m referring to is her ability to look at life and see what’s really going on.

She’s been called a prophet. Not the kind that foretells the future. A prophet is also someone who speaks forth truth.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that we ran a private Christian school for a number of years. (Thank you Barak Obama and merry band of Democrats for running that into the ground.) It was small. We typically started the school year with about 25 kids in the 9th – 12th grades, with the occasional 8th grader. We ended each year with over 50.

My wife took the school over from someone who was operating it at a local church and ran with it. She quickly grew from having just one other teacher to hiring three other teachers, which she paid very well, plus a teacher’s aid.

The only advertising we ever did was to send a flyer to the area churches, announcing that we had a Christian high school and gave them the web site where they could read our mission statement and so forth. As far as we could tell, we didn’t get a single student out of that effort.

What averaged us two new kids each month was my wife’s reputation. Word of mouth spreads quickly and it’s the best form of advertisement you can’t buy. The kids would constantly tell my wife that they had a friend who wanted to come, never having set foot in the building, but just hearing about how great it was. Or a parent would call and tell her that they needed to put their kid with her because a friend or relative told them Preuss really cared and could help.

George wasn’t popular with kids and parents because she catered to the students whims, gave them whatever they wanted, or because she was a pushover.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

She didn’t beg parents to send their kids to our little school. George went to their house and met each one personally. It was a reverse interview. Not, “Here’s why you should give me your kid.” It was, “Why should I take on the responsibility of teaching your child?” And the kid had to be there for the discussion. It didn’t go at all like the child expected it to go. She talked to them, asked them questions, showed an interest, and gave them a voice, which some of them were terribly lacking. Kids weren’t sent to her, they came to her. She was like the Pied Piper.

The structure and discipline that George provided was sometimes all that the child received. They weren’t getting those things at home. They respected her because she set a standard of behavior and held them to it. She set boundaries, and like teenagers will do, they pushed those boundaries to see how far they could go. They act like they want to break you, but in all reality, what they want is for you stand your ground, to hold firm, and stay true to your word. They want to respect you. She wasn’t unreasonable, and she allowed them to have certain freedoms. As long as they were respectful,  produced, and learned.

She didn’t beg for them to stay, either. If they got out of line she would say, “If you’re not happy here, you can go somewhere else. You don’t have to stay. Nobody’s making you come here. Go on, follow your rainbow, if that’s what you want.” I can count on one hand the number of kids who left because they were genuinely unhappy.

Over 300 children passed through our little school. Some came to get their grades straightened out, several left in their senior year and went to a public school because they wanted to graduate with their friends. Of those she had, for whatever length of time they were there, she says that her success rate was about 98%. There were some she couldn’t help. They were just too angry, or didn’t want to be helped. It was quite the revelation, and a very big disappointment, when she realized that she couldn’t help them all.

But of those successes, some are quite stunning.

One particularly angry student came to her who was self-admittedly borderline Columbine. It took some time, but that student eventually went to Bible school and has a close relationship with God. Another received a full ride scholarship to medical school. Her plan was to become a medical missionary to Africa.

George had a no homework policy. If you didn’t get your work done, you didn’t go home. There were many nights we were there well past 6 PM, sometimes as late as 8 PM. I hung around, cleaned up, and helped grade papers. He was griping, as teenagers do. One day, one of the other kids who used to have some trouble with the same thing, but turned herself around, finally told him, “If you just give her what she wants, you won’t have any problems.” It was like a light bulb came on. He finally got it.

She treated them like adults. Have an opinion. Disagree with me. Argue and debate me. Have an original thought. Establish a conviction upon a firm foundation. She taught them critical thinking, something that is terribly lacking in today’s educational system.

She wore boots and stomped up and down the length of the room, pounding on tables, and teaching in such an animated manner it drew the kids into the story she was telling. They wanted to learn and they wanted Preuss to teach them.

And she forced them to treat each other with respect.

If they mistreated one another or were rude, she called them on it, hard. If a skateboard or iPod came up missing, she’d tell them that she was going to pray to God that the thief would suffer ten times the loss. Only one time did the object not appear on her desk within hours. The one time it didn’t, we found the skateboard among the buckets in a storage room when we closed down.

She taught them to fear God, but she also taught them that God was their Father and that he wanted only the best for them. They could go to Him and he would answer their prayers. They went, and He did.

Parents weren’t always right. George taught them how to respond to an unreasonable parent. What to do if a parent doesn’t believe you. How to regain lost trust. How to react when you’re being treated unfairly.

It wasn’t just the kids that she counseled. Parents often came in to talk to her, or called her on the phone. George was straight up with them and told them what, if anything, they were doing wrong, or guided them on how best to handle a particular situation.

One of the students she had went on to become and Eagle Scout. Not a small deal. He asked her to attend his ceremony. He received a single Mentoring Pin which he could present to anyone he wanted. He chose Preuss. I was very proud of her when she brought that home.

We closed the school down about four years ago, but to this day, she gets phone calls, e-mails, Facebook friend requests, instant messages, text messages, and invitations from her kids.

They call Preuss because they know she’s going to tell them the truth. She’ll dig out their hidden motives and agendas and get to the heart of the matter. She’ll give them an honest appraisal of their choices and suggest a course of action. They know they can count on her. Preuss will know what to do, she’s going to help me.

We’ve been married almost 30 years and she still likes me.

Proverbs 31:10-31 10 Who can find a virtuous woman?
for her price [is] far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband
doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household,
and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it:
with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise [is] good:
her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the
spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her
hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household
[are] clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry;
her clothing [is] silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates,
when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen,
and selleth [it]; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour [are] her clothing; and she shall rejoice
in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
and in her tongue [is] the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well
to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband [also],
and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously,
but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour [is] deceitful, and beauty [is] vain:
[but] a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands;
and let her own works praise her in the gates.

I did far better than I ever thought I would. I know that I could have done no better.

Commitment

I sat through a webinar last night. I’ve been getting e-mails from Jeff Goins since 2013. It’s not hard to join his Tribe Writers e-mail list. I’m actually enrolled on several lists and web sites – Writing.com, NaNoWriMo, Grammarbook, Writer’s Life, just to name a few. They are all packed full of useful information and motivation. But Goins’ just seemed a little bit different to me. More interested in the success of hopeful writers.

Over the years I, along with hundreds of other people, have gotten several invitations to attend Jeff’s Tribe Writing webinar, 3 Most Profitable Ways to Make a Living Writing Today, but I never took him up on the offer. I figured it was just another hook to talk me into subscribing to something I probably can’t afford anyway. Last night I had a bit of free time, so I figured, what the hell. It’s free. I’ve got nothing to lose.

I was wrong.

Just to be clear, he was advertising his Tribe Writer program, and he made several invitations to join during this limited time of enrollment. There were plenty of incentives and extras available only until the end of the webinar. The opportunity to sign up comes around only every 6 months, and there were no guarantees that the price wouldn’t go up, that the program wouldn’t change, or that it would even be around. I went back today to see if he was on the up-and-up. To see if I really could enroll after the webinar. No joy. Enrollment is closed for the next six months. He said it was so that he and his staff could devote the time and resources to a reasonable number of people. I was impressed with his sincerity, his huge following, and his money-back guarantee. Use it, and if it doesn’t work, he’ll refund your money.

But that’s not all there was to it.

The webinar was supposed to last about 90 minutes, but he went well over two hours answering questions posed by the 170-something people in attendance. Jeff was very detailed about the steps he recommends for going from Zero to Hero. He explained them at length and answered a lot of questions about it. There were plenty of things to download, lots of handy web sites, and there were testimonials. While I’m sure joining his Tribe Writers would be most helpful, providing a lot of classes, resources, tutoring, and a sense of community and support, he’s given enough information to at least get started and have a reasonable shot at success. I do wish that I had the disposable income to participate, but such is life.

I think that the biggest thing that I took away from Jeff is commitment. It takes time. There are no shortcuts. What I lacked wasn’t necessarily the will and dedication to go from merely writing to being a published author, but I had no real idea of how to actually go about doing it.

Writing a book and throwing it up on Amazon to be downloaded was most likely not the way to do it. That’s a sure-fire way to get lost in the smoke. Sending queries to agents and publishing houses is even more iffy. You occasionally hear about an author who really hits the big time like that, but they are few and far between. Self-publishing can be very expensive, and without a method of distribution, very challenging. But there are ways to go about doing it that are infinitely more cost-effective and have a much better chance of success.

Now that I have a plan of action, I’m going to do my very best to take it step-by-step, one at a time, in the order presented, and see where it takes me. I’m not going to outline those steps here, but if you’re paying attention, you just might notice some of the transitions. Others won’t be so obvious.

To that end, I am going to commit to writing a minimum of one post a week. You guys can help. If it’s getting towards the deadline and you don’t see anything from me, let me know. Tell me to get off my ass and get to work. I’m only on Step 4 and it’s a long way to Step 12.

If you have been looking for a path to get to your dream of going from being a writer to succeeding as an author, I strongly recommend that you try Tribe Writers. Just getting on their e-mail list will net you a great deal of helpful information.