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.

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Movin’ On Up!

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I see that it’s been nine months since my last post. No apologies, I warned you.

A lot has happened during that time. The thing that interrupted my flow was a promotion. It was almost a last-minute thing. I decided just days before the deadline to apply. There was a lot of studying to do, and a competitive interview over the course of a few days. About seventy-something people went in for the auditions, roughly two dozen made it to the list. I was number three.

I received offers for additional interviews to promote to other shoppes within the Company, but I was holding out for an in-house move up. One other person in my House interviewed. She was number two. Our scores were only a few points apart.

We were both turning down one offer after another, banking on the possibility that we hoped was more probability, that a current supervisor was going to transfer out. When that person did, all we had to do was hope nobody transferred in. When this supervisor did go, and nobody transferred in, we both accepted the invitation to interview.

I felt much better going into this one than I did the first one. Why? What made this one so much different than the last?

The first interview was virtually a regurgitation of facts. Did I know what to do if someone came in drunk, or engaged in sexual harassment, or was constantly late for work, or was injured on the job. That kind of thing isn’t really my strong suit. I never tested well.

This was going to be more personal. I’m not necessarily more comfortable talking about myself, but I’ve been in enough promotional interviews to know that I had to sell myself. I’d given a great deal of thought to the questions I’d thought they’d ask.

There was one question that I was anticipating that was never asked the first time. What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness. That question is almost always asked, yet I find that most people haven’t given a single thought about how they will answer it. Coming up with something that sets you apart is easy. Everyone is good at something that could be applied to virtually any position.

But what does one say about a personal flaw or failing? You certainly don’t want to say that you have no flaws. That sounds arrogant, and anyone who can’t admit to having made a mistake is a liability. That kind of person can leave a team, or an entire corporation, in a real lurch.

What do you say? Do you go all out about the worse thing that comes to your mind about yourself? “My memory sucks.” How will that look when retention and recall are vital to the position? “I can’t stand fat people.” Whoops, your potential boss is 300 pounds. “Gay people give me the willies!” Um, right. “I hate the color purple. Barney terrorized me as a toddler.” Don’t forget to shiver.

What I told them was, “Quite frankly, I’m a social dork.” And I am.

I have a hard enough time keeping up with conversation in a loud, public setting, I don’t need to compete for air-time. There are enough people present who are trying to talk louder than the next guy, the last thing I’m going to do is add to the cacophony. I can’t stand it when Sean Hannity does his thing with thirty people in his studio. Everyone thinks that they have something more important to say, or they want to shout down someone who disagrees with them. I can’t hear what any of them thinks.

This gets in the way when my wife and I end up at a dinner with a table full of people we don’t know. My poor wife ends up taking up my slack.

Now, if you ask me about something I care about, or know something about, I’ll jump right I there. Not a problem. I don’t even mind a good debate, as long as everyone can be an adult about it. But I’ve learned that when it comes to religion or politics, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and more than likely, they aren’t going to change yours, either.

What does that have to do with my desired supervisor position? I took the chance that it would make me appear weak. What I was counting on was that they had talked to my peers and former supervisors to find out I’m not a wilting wall-flower or just shy. I was not afraid to be heard if I had something to say. The thing I had to learn was where, when, and how to interject myself into the conversation in order to be heard.

The rest of the interview was more about my experience and style of supervision. It was very conversational and went better than any previous promotional interview I’d ever had. Probably because I was older, wiser, more mature, and had three decades of experience and history to back me up.

I don’t really know how well the other person who was vying for the same job did. She said she felt pretty good about it, but wasn’t sure. She’s much more personable than I am, and I’m sure she presented herself well. I think that my extensive time in the field is what ultimately put me over the top. I do think that the other person would make a great supervisor, and had I not gotten the job, I’m glad that it would have been her.

Here I am, eight months after my official promotion. Things have gone about as well as I could have expected. I am enjoying my job. It offers a lot more freedom than I had before. When I fill in, doing what I used to do, like today, I’m reminded do some of the reasons I decided that now was the right time to advance. Perhaps I’ll write more on that later.

There is a school of thought that I should have promoted into another House, then come back after a year or three. I don’t completely disagree with that. But I am not in a place in my life where that would be possible.

God has blessed me tremendously. Everything fell into place exactly as it needed to for me to slide behind the desk I now occupy. Had things gone another way, I would have decided that God did not want me to do that job. At least not here, or not right now. I would not have blamed God, or gotten mad at Him for taking it away from me.

God doesn’t do things on our clock. He may do what we ask Him to do, but don’t look for Him to do it our way or within the time limit we establish. What is supposed to happen, will happen. When it is supposed to happen. No more, no less. Not before, nor after. We have to adapt ourselves to God’s time table and methods, not try to restrict Him to ours.