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It arrived. Our free range, locally grown, tom turkey. Weighing in at a whopping 28 pounds! To quote Richard Dreyfuss in the groundbreaking movie Jaws upon first setting eyes on the great white:

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat (roasting pan).”

I consulted the classic Betty Crocker cookbook for recommended roasting time. Her helpful guide stopped at 22 pounds. We had to do math.

You know how they recommend you “pat the skin dry with paper towels” to ensure a crisp crust? Well, we decided a roll of paper towels couldn’t dry this beast – so we resorted to this:

(shot on an iPhone 4 and edited in iMovie)

Happy Black Friday.

Several months ago I was asked, “Would you like to buy a turkey chick and have me raise it on my farm?” This was from a dear friend who was embarking on an organic farm business in Camas, Washington. She named her little patch of wonder Shangri-La Farms. I’ve been on her egg delivery route for months. There’s nothing like a farm fresh egg.

So it seemed like a great idea to raise this turkey, and as Liz says “Know Where Your Food Comes From.” I’m in.

Tomorrow he dies.

I got this email from my farmer friend:

I am happy to announce that you will have the freshest Turkey possible for your Thanksgiving table!

On Wednesday, November 24th, (the day before Thanksgiving) I am driving my live turkeys to Boring, Oregon at 8am where they will be butchered and dressed out by a professional!  After a few hours, they will be ready and I will bring them back to Camas.  I want to deliver the turkeys straight to your home as soon as I return to Camas, probably around 11am.  It will take me about an hour or more to make all the rounds.

I don’t know why this should feel weird. I guess it’s like ordering fish and having it arrive whole – eyes staring up at you. Or getting a little piece of aorta in your burger. Too real.

Of course Mark has jokingly suggested we “pardon” our turkey. But then I’ll have to drive to Whole Foods and pay too much for a fresh free ranger – again. I’m going to let him die.

I heard that Obama isn’t sending the pardoned turkey to Disneyland (like Bush did) instead he’s going back to our roots and letting this turkey live out its days in Mount Vernon at George Washington’s home. He doesn’t want that turkey to go through TSA – can you imagine that deep cavity search?

Gobble Gobble.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

UPDATE November 24, 2010, 3:50pm: I just received an email from Farmer Liz. It simply said this: “The butcher guy was frozen this morning so everything is behind schedule. The turkey should be done by 5:00.”

I’m frightened…..

CLARIFICATION November 24, 2010 4:00pm: (from a friend who also sentenced a turkey to death today) “The guy who helped the birds commit suicide had frozen pipes this morning and that set everything back….”

Turkey Kevorkian……

Observations on credit union trends.

The re-branding (let’s change our name and logo) trend

Somewhere along the way a speaker or consultant or, dare I say, and ad agency posing as both, convinced credit unions that their biggest obstacle to growth was their legacy. It’s too specific. People will still think that they have to be a Portland Teacher (for example) to join. Even though the evidence to the contrary was staring at them on their balance sheet.

And so the name changes began.

Altana, Aventa, Aspire….

Community, Community Driven, Champion Community….

Encompass, Encore, Extra….

Meridian, Meritrust, Milestone….

Wildfire, Red Canoe and wait for it…….Salal.

Here’s an interesting list if you want to read more.

This trend thankfully has slowed down. But only to be replaced by: Merger Mania!

Now I get that in this historic bottoming out of our economy mergers would increase. But if you are paying attention, there are many mergers in the works that don’t HAVE to happen.

Here’s my theory. When a trend begins, panic ensues. Those that are not considering changing their name or merging begin to think that maybe they should. After all – everyone else is doing it. We must be doing something wrong. We should change our name. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Let’s merge. That must be the right decision.

Before you know it, bad economy, poor heathcare, gulf oil spill, tornadoes, hurricanes, increased pat downs, cats and dogs living in sin.

(insert needle across the record album noise here)

(Now insert birds chirping and a harp playing softly)

What if we decided to take a deep breath. Assess our situation thoroughly. Focus on what we do well. What we’re known for. Can we sustain ourselves with a simpler model? Get back to basics?

Our members need us now more than ever. We have 100 years of history that has proven we can make money in a devastating economy.

Remember, we not only survived the Great Depression we thrived. The years following that historic event resulted in a credit union boom.

If you don’t have to merge – don’t. It’s a bloody distraction.

Oh, and “economies of scale” is math. It’s not a strategy.

You hear the word merger a lot these days. So to clarify, here are the many meanings:

1. To merge – as into traffic. Necessary to freeway on-ramps. Often mistaken for yield by little old ladies in Buicks with AAA bumper stickers. Honk politely.

2. To marry – join in union because of love and extreme compatibility. The goal is often to grow the union. (i.e. have some kids, procreate, expand).

3. To cover up or stave off failure. Typically the phrase “achieving economies of scale” accompanies the marketing message announcing this type of merger.

Don’t confuse them.

I’m back in the office after a life-changing trip to Fishers Indiana. The first annual CU Watercooler Symposium was a giant success. It was an experiment that could have gone totally wrong. As a meeting planner and public speaker for years, I have to say it had so many opportunities to implode. The planning was unconventional, the coordinators for the most part inexperienced, the venue, a credit union – and did I mention in Fishers Indiana?

I was one of 11 editors tasked with pulling this off. I “hired” a speaker for expenses only. Always dicey. Let’s face it – there are two schools of thought on this strategy. You get what you pay for and he doesn’t really have a contract so if something better comes up, I’m screwed.

I met my speaker choice the night before the gig. I trusted that he would a. show up, b. show up sober and c. deliver the goods. I’m happy to say he did all three and more. He was so great CU Times approached him directly after his speech and this appeared by the end of the day!

The Watercooler was streaming live to audiences all over the nation. Most attendees live tweeted. There was no place to hide. The CU Warrior and Tim McAlpine just put it out there. And it was brilliant. They took everything we hold sacred in the conference arena and just tossed it lovingly out the window.

The biggest difference for me though was not the agenda, or the way speakers were “found” but the audience. These people wanted to be there. There was no golf, we stayed at the Hampton, we ate buffet food and we partied at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

It felt like some weird version of summer camp. At the end there was hugging and “see you next years” and a sense of belonging I’ve seldom felt at a regular conference. In just two short days there was bonding on the level of a DE or CUNA Management School. We worked hard, we played hard.

At this stage in my career, I feel very blessed to have been a part of this. A page has turned. Here’s to the next 10 years. The 2020 vision of credit union conferences is changing. Long live the Watercooler!

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November 2010