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Cinderella Prizes - Part II

My wife will tell you she’s not prize motivated. I’m not buying it. When she became an Independent Mary Kay Beauty Consultant in 1986, she learned that she could earn quarterly prizes. Later, when she became an Independent Sales Director, she could earn yearly prizes as well. Mary Kay herself started the program back in the ‘60s when she realized a lot of the women who joined her company would use the money they earned to help their families. She implemented an incentive program that would reward her sales force with what she called ‘Cinderella prizes.’ Many of the prizes were things she knew most women would never buy for themselves. Things like diamond rings and other jewelry, fancy handbags or luggage and luxury trips around the world.

I remember the first quarterly prize my wife earned. It was a small black and white TV/radio unit with a telescoping antennae. I mounted it under the kitchen cupboard to the right of the sink so I could watch TV while doing dishes after dinner. I had to squint to see the images on the TV, but still, it was a nice prize.

Every three months thereafter, I would peruse the quarterly prize brochure when it came. Most of the prizes were Cinderella prizes – jewelry, fancy dinnerware, and things like that. I don’t recall Lisa asking for my advice when she picked out her quarterly or yearly prizes; I would just bring her the box when it came. She usually didn’t remember what she had selected, so it was always a nice surprise for both of us.

There were a couple of memorable prizes that bear mentioning. At the top of the list one year was a giant screen TV, one of those rear projection behemoths that needed to be lifted by crane into your house. She earned two of those over the years and they became permanent fixtures in our homes for many years. Once the flat screen era arrived, those monsters became obsolete and it was another job altogether to get somebody to come pick them up and give them away or dispose of them. In the end, I think I paid more to get rid of them than it cost to buy new TVs.

There was one prize among prizes, however, that I will never forget. One year, one of the prizes for Sales Directors was a beautiful, signature green and yellow John Deere GX-75 riding lawn mower. My eyes glazed over when I saw it. I pointed it out to Lisa and said, “Now that is the ultimate Cinderella prize right there!”

“Well, yes, if Cinderella owned a landscape company,” she said. I put the thought of getting that mower out of my mind,

I always mowed my own lawn and had never hired anybody to do it for me. Two reasons: I liked mowing, and I knew that nobody would do as good a job as I would. I descended from a long line of meticulous mowers. My dad’s dad had an old engineless mower. I remember seeing pictures of him pushing it in his front yard wearing a shirt and tie.

My own father, I believe, viewed mowing the lawn as stress relief more than anything. I can still see him in his work clothes – a pair of brown corduroy high-water pants, an old black sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off and Bethany College stenciled across the front and some beat up old dress shoes. He would trim the edges of the sidewalks with a hand clipper, pull up any offending weeds around the foundation of the house and the base of the trees and then mow each section of the yard with laser like precision. Crooked lines in the grass were not to be tolerated.

I learned from the best and was put to the test when I was in middle school. I was hired by my dad’s congregation in rural Wisconsin to mow the church, school and parsonage properties, not a small proposition, especially considering there was a large cemetery next to the church. Have any of you ever had to trim around 250 gravestones with a push mower? I didn’t think so. Every week I would drag out the two-cycle Lawnboy push mower, hop on the Cub Cadet rider and spend six hours mowing the property. At the end of the summer, the church treasurer wrote me a check for $250. I never questioned the amount but probably should have, given the fact that it averaged less than $2.00 an hour for the work I did. But I digress.

One day in early September, I came home from school on a Friday afternoon. It was unusually hot that day and my un-airconditioned classroom had been like a sauna. I reeked of sweaty, unwashed middle-school boys. My grass was long enough to conceal small children, and I dreaded the thought of mowing. I pulled into the driveway, opened the garage door, and there it was. I think I heard angels singing and there may have been a light from heaven shining down on it, but there sat the beautiful, signature green and yellow John Deere GX-75 riding lawn mower. My wife had given up her Cinderella status and gifted her yearly prize to me! I walked into the house where she was having a meeting with some of her team members. I got down on my knees in mock humiliation and said, “Thank you! Thank you! You’re the best!”

My wife explained what she had done, and they all started laughing. I rode that faithful green machine back and forth in my yard for 10 years. My boys learned to ride it when they were old enough and, after some stern instructions about edging the sidewalk and mowing in straight lines, took over the job of mowing the lawn. When the novelty of mowing wore off or they were too busy, I was always more than happy to hop aboard and cut the grass. It was, in my opinion, the best prize the company ever offered. After it was delivered, I never saw another prize brochure.

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