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When You are A Great Mentor, You Are Never Alone

Two weeks ago Wednesday, Arthur and Sheila Prensky had their 38th wedding anniversary. On Thursday, Arthur turned off her respirator.

Arthur and Sheila had no children. They had two dogs, Judith and Sarah, who are long gone.

Arthur was my boss when I was a pediatric neurology social worker and he was Chairman of Pediatric Neurology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The first time I laid eyes on him, he was screaming and upsetting the entire nurses station claiming that someone had stolen his puppet. One of the nurses finally dug her hands into the enormous junk filled pockets of his white lab coat and found it. He muttered an, “Oh, I’m sorry.” and wandered off. I thought, you have got to be kidding. This is the supposed genius I’m going to be working for?

He was not only a genius, but one of the quirkiest, dearest and kindest men in the world. He was always playing tricks on people. One night while working late, one of the other docs, Ed Dodson, went to the bathroom in their suite of offices and Arthur held the door so that couldn’t get out. Then he let go of the door so that Ed would go flying. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an elderly lady psychiatrist. The good news, she had no major injuries. The bad news:  She had no sense of humor. I didn’t say he was always good at his stunts.

My personal favorite was when I had my son Teddy. My Mother ran into Arthur and Sheila at the symphony. I was now living in Washington, D.C. and Mom told them I was in labor at Walter Reed Army Hospital. After I delivered Teddy, everyone was running around the recovery area trying to hook up a phone. Arthur was calling as “General Prensky” to wish me well.

There is never a time when a group of us who worked for Arthur don’t share stories of his kindness, genius or quirkiness. Our spouses and friends who never had the opportunity to work under him are forced to listen to stories for hours. The truth is, those who don’t know him can’t wait to meet him and are never disappointed when they do.

With the passing of his wife, those who loved and learned from Arthur have come out of the woodwork. I was called by Walter Lemann, an adult neurologist in town about Sheila’s impending death. I contacted the “Aussie Boys,” former neurology fellows now 45-65 who came over and studied with the great one. They have called and written.

His colleagues have been out to the house and have called frequently. We are talking to one another to make sure he gets the help he needs to get his house ready for sale and to move.

Frank and I took Arthur out to dinner last night, and although he is very lonely and misses his dear Sheila, he is looking forward to some traveling. He is a white knuckle flier, but still wanted information on how long it takes to get to Australia.

I will never forget when he offered to have my wedding at his house because my Dad was dead. Last night, when he came for dinner, I used the serving try he gave me for my wedding 31 years ago.

When you are a great mentor, as Arthur was and continues to be, you are never alone. Especially when you continue to surprise and delight. Arthur wants me to find someone to help him get rid of the porno on his old computers before they are donated.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, friend of Arthur Prensky

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The Weisman Method of Finding the Right Life Partner

carol-and-frank.jpgIt is so damn painful to watch. We’ve all been there. Two people I care about are separated and talking divorce. Frank and I had our doubts at the wedding, not much more than a year ago. She is a fashionista daughter of wealth who has the odd trifecta of brains, taste and depression. He is hungry for money, the good life and recognition. They both over-indulge. Not a recipe for happiness.

 Four things can kill most marriages, money, sex, relatives, and cleanliness. Money did these two in. She spends, he withholds.

 They are suffering, their parents are in pain, their friends are worried. Could it have been prevented? I think so.

Enter the Weisman Committee Method. My theory is that when you start sleeping with someone, your brain turns to mush. The trick is this: Before you meet someone, appoint a committee of 3-5 people you trust, who care about you and tell them that one day you will bring someone around and ask them one question, “Should I marry this person.” Not, “Is s/he a good person, or a nice person, or an attractive person or do you like this person.” only “Should I marry this person.” If your committee doesn’t unanimously say yes, wait until they do, or take a walk.

When I met Frank 32 years ago, my committee unanimously said yes, and we were engaged in 3 weeks.  We’ve been married for fabulous 31 years.

I have another friend who asked me if she should marry her sweetie. I said yes. I personally can’t stand him, but that isn’t the point. He is perfect for her. They 14 years of wedded bliss and I don’t have to live with the anal-retentive twit.

When my dear young friends are in a little less pain, I will tell them about the Weisman method. I hope the next time  they wed, it is for 31+ years. They are  good people with the wrong partners and they had no committee.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Frank’s Wife

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Will I Ever Be a Lady?

winifred.jpgMy Mother used to tell my that her Mom would despair of her wild antics and tell her that she would never be a lady. In fact, my Mom became exactly the kind of lady I want to become and continue at times to fall short of: fun, forgiving, wise and compassionate. I spent time with another such Lady in London last week. As Frank says, she is three times a Lady. She was born the daughter of a Lord, she married a Lord and in her own right, she has the Order of the British Empire and now the Commander of the British Empire. Lady Winifred Tumin is simply one of my favorite people in the world. Frank and I saw her at the NCVO meeting where I was speaking and she invited us for lunch to her new digs on the Themes.

 What I don’t love about her house are the four levels of stairs, but Winnie is in her seventies and still has fabulous gams, so running up and down the stairs is paying off.

What I do adore about the house is the art. Like Winnie, it is eclectic and fun and discerning and varied. I wish I had that kind of taste.  Every room makes you want to curl up with your favorite tipple, whether latte or wine, and either read a favorite book or cuddle your favorite  sweetie.

But the best thing about lunch at Lady Winifred Tumin’s are Winnie’s stories. She is a raconteur’s raconteur. We sat glued as she told us about going into hiding during the Irish uprising when her late husband was found to be on at the top of the list of people scheduled to be assassinated.

 A title is pretty much out of the question for moi, and I’ll never have legs like Winifred or my Mom, but to achieve even the slightest bit of their joie de vivre would make me one happy little mud hen.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, not quite a lady

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On Being a Mentor and Having a Mentor

Karyn and GregI got off to a very rocky start with my mentor Karyn Buxman. When I joined the National Speaker’s Association 14 years ago, Karyn was assigned to be my mentor. I e-mailed her. I heard nothing back. I called her. Again silence. I wrote her. No word. Finally, I called the head of the program and I said, here’s the deal, I have no feelings about this woman, I’ve never met her. I don’t know her. I need help. If she doesn’t have the time, get me someone else. He got hold of Karyn. She called me and we met. Karyn’s Mother had big time health problems. Karyn was traveling like a mad woman. We agreed that she would mentor me and she would get back to me within 48 hours when I needed help. It was the beginning of a kick-ass friendship. Knowing that I would need publishing help down the road, she was considerate enough to fall in love with and marry Greg Godek who now also mentors me. Now that is a seriously considerate mentor!

I have a big challenge right now trying to decide how many books to publish with the NY Times, Parade Magazine and Scholastic Parent articles about to burst on the scene in November and December. Greg has been helping me decide whether to turn my book Raising Charitable Children over to a major publisher or a friend of his who is a distributor. God bless having smart friends.

Meanwhile, I have been mentoring an emerging speaker. I met her while work with a battered women’s shelter. She is a board member of the shelter. She has a powerful story to tell. We’ve worked together to craft her story. The first time she told it to the board, she got a standing ovation. The first time I got a standing O, I’d been speaking for three years! Karyn used to tell me “You’ve done well little grasshopper.” My little grasshopper has wings. She gave me permission to share this e-mail with you:

“As you know I haven’t done much in the way of my desire to do public speaking.  A few weeks back I was in San Francisco and one day I was touring the city by myself.  Seeking some “me” time, I sought out a church I knew had a labyrinth.  As I strolled through the church I came upon a side chapel that had a podium with the Bible on it.  Approaching, I realized the Bible was opened to my most favorite passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Everything Has Its Time.  As I stood there with my hands resting on the podium a lump formed in my throat and tears in my eyes.  I felt I was finally “at home”.  Soon I was filled with great internal peace and a strong voice within that said “YES…this is it!  Getting a message out to others is what I am supposed to do!”  For years my question to God has been “What do you want me to do with all of “this” — all the experiences you continue to bring before me?”  I continue to receive individual pieces of the puzzle but I can’t seem to put it all together.  I have visions of what I believe will be, but I don’t quite know how to put it all together.  As I stood there and read the passage I found comfort in the words….For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven….

I am so glad to have you in my life….you are truly an inspiration.”

If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you aren’t mentoring someone, offer.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Mentor, Mentee

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The Magical Week

We’ve all had weeks where nothing goes right. Last week was just magical. I went to work in Williamsport, PA for the First Community Foundation of Williamsport, which is actually the 6th Community Foundation in the US. My hostess, Julie Adams, was hyperventilating big time. In the past, they had a dinner, but it had gotten to the point where the banks that bought a table were sending their tellers, so they thought they’d have a speaker instead. Enter moi. Julie and I talked about having an afternoon workshop on getting your board involved in fund-raising. Her goal was 50. It sold out at 165, the max the venue held and there was a waiting list. The afternoon session went great and Julie went from grey to pink. My friend David Strom (A fabulous man to know) had pitched a story to the NY Times about my book “Raising Charitable Children.” They bit. I got a call from the Times and they asked if they could send a reporter to Williamsport. I thought for about a nanosecond and said yes. Not only did the reporter show up, but so did PBS to film the Raising Charitable Children speech. I had forgotten that I had signed a release. It just kept getting better. Three flights later, I was in Oklahoma City. It only takes as long to get from Williamsport, PA to Oklahoma City as it does to get from LA to Melbourne. (In case you were wondering). Again, I had a fabulous hostess. Not only did Gayle Farley take me out for great Mexican food, but when I got back to my amazing hotel room at the newly renovated Skirvin Hilton, a bag of designer chocolates arrived in my room. Heaven. I did my speech, hopped on my 7th and 8th flights of the week and arrived home happy on Friday night. On Saturday, I had a phone interview with a reporter who wanted to know about family giving traditions. I had no idea what publication the reporter was from. I asked her. She said Parade. I asked which Parade. She said THE Parade, the magazine with the largest distribution of any magazine in the world. I just sat there stupefied. We chatted for 45 minutes. She told me that on Monday she would be talking to Bill Clinton for the same article about his book “Giving” and to expect a call from a fact checker and that the article will appear on Dec. 16. I hung up. I stared into the horizon and had a moment of utter contentment. Perhaps this week there will be a cure for cellulite. One can only hope!

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Knowing Your Client’s Donors

I was doing a keynote for the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Michigan State University in Lansing two weeks ago. As usual, I had written up my handouts and sent them a month in advance. One of the slides was about “Avoiding The Amway School of Governance.” I describe how Amway used to dragoon people into meetings without telling them that the meeting was really about recruiting to sell their products. I talk about how board members are asked to join boards and are also not told what it is actually expected of them. How was I to know that the meeting was in the Amway Auditorium? Gulp!

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