Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Best Christmas Present (Newsletter - Issue 302 in January 2001)


Christmas was going to be different this year. With Erin back at her mom's house in West Virginia, it would be the first time in her thirteen years that she wouldn't be with me. I know she is well, and that she is with people who love her, but it didn't make it that much easier for me to deal with. 

One of the biggest changes was that I would have to get the stuff going back to her into the mail well before Christmas Eve (my usual shopping day). That was way easier to deal with than is the reason that change was necessary. However, I'm a strong man, and other people have had to endure far greater adversity in their lives. Even knowing this, it's difficult at times to not just feel sorry for myself.

The Pains of Learning ( Newsletter - Issue 296 in June 2000)

When I was in the third grade, a couple of buddies and I were goofing around during math. Mrs. Olson called the three of us up to get hacks. Joe got the first one as Blaine and I awaited our turns. The whack of the paddle across Joe's posterior didn't catch our attention quite as much as her breaking the paddle. When she replaced her paddle two days later, it would have been unjust to spank me. I did my work and kept my mouth shut. By today's standards, this would be considered abusive. It did affect my psyche. All the way into college, I did math during math courses -- all because of the hack that Mrs. Olson didn't give me.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Marketing Bankruptcy (Newsletter: Issue 295 in May 2000)

In the '80s, we began recommending non-obligatory agreements with full disclosure as the way to recover unsecured money in bankruptcy. Hardly anyone listened. Within a few years Voluntary Repayment Agreements (VRAs) started being used. By this time, we were recommending that members who were no significant collection problems be offered retention of their lines of credit in exchange for VRAs. Hardly anyone listened. To date, our Bankruptcy Program clients have recovered hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars using this strategy.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Saving CUPS Part 3: Slaying the Dragon

There were many changes in the first part of 1988. The regulatory agency had a new Supervisor. John had been Betty's attorney assigned to her as counsel in the pursuit of the accounting problem. Obviously, I was not privy to their discussions on how to attack the problem created by the managers whose plan to correct a problem with GAAP would serve as a textbook example for the rule. However, John was much more vicious than Betty was. 

He went after the jobs of these four managers. His tactic was to attend a board meeting and have the manager excused. He would then present to the board his case for dismissing the manager. In the case of Jim Whyte, one of the founding fathers of the local credit union movement, he was called back in to learn he was being fired.

Saving CUPS Part 2: Explaining Contra Accounts to CPA's

One of the most difficult aspects of consulting is that people often don't want advice; they want advocacy. Certainly, consultants can never ethically accept jobs that require advocacy over sound operation. That is the function of marketing departments.

The state had imposed an accounting principal known as "lower of cost or market" (LOCOM) because of the nature of the problem the credit unions had created. Though Bert would have preferred me to figure out a way that LOCOM accounting was unreasonable, he accepted the fact that there was nothing we could do about it. 

Saving CUPS Part 1: Trapping the Moles

In a matter of two months, I left Telco Credit Union to open up a consulting business, and closed the consulting business because Credit Union of Puget Sound (CUPS) was using me full time. I was settled into my new position as Administrative Assistant to Bert Noel when he called me into his office. 

He put a memo from the state examiners in front of me and asked me if I had ever heard of a minor infraction cited in detail. It was some really minor error in the way the credit union accounted for something. I had not ever seen such a write up before, but I also had to admit that I wasn't an accountant. I asked him what Chet or Kenny had said about it. He hadn't talked to them. He had just received the memo from the state examiner who was posted in the accounting department since the credit union had been put on the watch list for an investment and accounting problem.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Her Name is Imogene: My 1977 MG Midget

I haven't had a toy since I traded my '05 Suzuki Boulevard C-90 for an enclosed utility trailer that served me well. I sold it when I no longer needed it, and I searched the northwest to see what deal might be out there for me. I found about fifty vehicles that caught my eye for one reason or another. I kept an eye on these vehicles ranging from motor scooters to motor homes. There were many really good deals, and several of the vehicles that perked my interest most were either marked sold or the ad was deleted by the seller.

Imogene emerged from that search as the car that I wanted. She was in Oregon, and I needed to make certain that I wouldn't be wasting my time. I offered $100 on top of full asking price with the condition that I have two weeks to complete the deal in person and in cash. The seller agreed to the deal, and I started putting together the plan to bring her north. That didn't take long. Anthony agreed to drive his car down and follow me back in his car.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Public Relations in Adverse Situations (Newsletter: June 1999)

This is a reprinting of an article I wrote for the Newsletter, which was a monthly publication of PCCC&C.

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Okay, how many of you like to get complaints?

It sounds like a silly question, but complaints give you the best opportunity to cross-sell services, improve existing services, and create new services! Most people in the industry know this from some past training, but it is worth reiterating.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Remembering Mom: Finding Her on the Floor

I don't remember the weather or the date, but I will never forget the feeling I had that morning in April of 2008 when I opened the door to Mom's house and heard her calling for help from the back hallway. When I rushed back there, Mom was on the floor where she had lain soiled since she got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water and to go to the bathroom.

I wanted to call 911 on the spot, but she convinced me to call Maureen to help instead. She assured me that she had laid there for several hours, so another little bit wouldn't hurt more. She did not want the medics coming in to deal with her soiled and dirty. I called Maureen, told her we had an emergency, and went to help Mom a bit in the five minutes or so that it took Maureen to arrive. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Remembering Mom: If Her Services Had Been About Her

Mom was entombed yesterday. Her service was a lovely sermon that she would likely have despised. It isn't that the minister wasn't eloquent. It was that he talked too much about religion, and got too many things about her incorrect.

To be fair, the job of speaking at her service was offered to me before the minister was hired. I declined. I had the experience speaking at Dad's service. Besides not having practiced public speaking for almost two decades, Mom never asked me to do her service. Dad did. There were points during his service that, if I had broken down, I probably could not have recovered. I was practiced in those days. To that end, it is as much my fault as anyone else's that Mom's services turned into a sermon like at a church service.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Family Finale

One of the things that Dad was most proud of showing off to people was how quickly he could muster the family to gather. He has been dead now for nearly twenty-eight years, and so has the family unity that died with him. It didn't have to die, but it did.

I think the erosion of the family was mostly due to regret. I cannot get into the heads of people, but I can listen to what they say and observe what they do to figure out if they are being honest. If they say one thing, and then do another thing, they aren't being honest. It isn't rocket science; it's human behavior. Actions generally reveal more about people's motives than do words.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Remembering Mom: She Knew Her Tomato Plants

Back in the old days, we would buy a bag of pot, and hope that no more than a fourth of it was stems and seeds. No matter what we tried, there were no good ways to consume the stems and seeds to get high. Just smoking the crap was more likely to give you a headache than a high. If a wayward seed made its way into a joint or a bowl of weed, it would pop like popcorn, except there were no kernels. The lit portions blown out by the seed popping were going to be holes in your shirts and cloth seats.

One of my final antics before leaving home was to use some of the seeds to start about twenty plants. I did it in the closet of my upstairs bedroom with a sun lamp my dad once used.

It wasn't an overly well thought-out plan. Even cousin Guy caught me. I had to beg him to not tell on me.

Yvonne Koecke (1935-2020): Third Eerie Premonition About Death Came True

Mom told me that she didn't fear death; she feared the mode of death. When she explained the difference, it didn't have anything to do with her cause of death. It had to do with the third of her three eerie premonitions that came true. I'll get back to that.

Mom was born on May 31st, 1935 in Leith, North Dakota. Her parents, Roy "Clair" and Dorothy Kamrath, packed everything up that July, and moved to Oregon with their oldest child. 

She told us tales about growing up in the logging camps, and various homes and farms, as her father moved the family seeking regular work during the Great Depression. The family would grow with Clarence, Bill, and Eileen added to the pack. Pa, as we used to call him, found regular employment with Oregon State College in Corvallis, and the family settled into its permanent home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pondering Death and Its Options

Intellectually, I know that I will eventually die. However, there is this little part of me that wonders if I might be that special someone who somehow defies death. If you will excuse the source if it bothers you, Woody Allen said it best: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying." It is natural to feel that way because of our basic instinct for survival, but it is also intellectually dishonest to hold onto the thought for anything other than fantasy.

While we hold onto those thoughts in one part of our minds, another part of us wants to be adventurous and to live life to the fullest. James Dean's self-fulfilling quote, "Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse," takes the idea to the opposite end of the spectrum of life and death from immortality. While most of us don't go anywhere near that far in our pursuit of adventure, we tend to tie the will to live to having a life worth living.

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Price for Charity

Note: This was originally published in Issue 294 of the Newsletter in April 2000.

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The capabilities and limitations of people vary from person to person. Each of us, though, has both, and they change throughout our lives. For example, the lady at the gas pump trying to balance on her one remaining leg* that I helped had no problem pumping her own gas before she lost her leg in an accident. Though she was limited in her ability to stand without some sort of aid, she also has capabilities that other people don't have.