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I was the middle of five kids in the typical Catholic family in Northeast Portland in the seventies. My mom had to go to work to help ends meet and so the house cleaning was pretty much left up to the kids. My mom used to say (sometimes scream):

“If everyone would just pick up after themselves, we wouldn’t HAVE a dirty house!”

But since no one followed this brilliant advice, we had a chore schedule. And on Saturdays (when my dad was in charge) NOBODY got to go out and play until the chores were done.

If my mom were still alive and was a culture consultant, like me, she would convert her sage advice to the front-line and it would look like this:

“If everyone would just DO what they SAID they would do, we wouldn’t NEED a customer service department!” 

For example:

  1. If Verizon had actually KEPT their appointment instead of making me wait for hours, and then days for service, I wouldn’t have given up and switched to their competitor (after calling their customer service department four times and being on hold – giving up four hours of my life).
  2. If the guy at Saturn who changed my oil last Friday had properly torqued my oil filter, I wouldn’t have had to pull my car over in Northampton Massachusettes because my check oil light came on and it sounded like a jackhammer under the hood of my car. 
  3. If the guy at LIPA would have made a note in our new file that our house in Port Jefferson is a SINGLE family dwelling instead of a duplex, like we discussed, our gas would not have been shut off today.
  4. If the gal at Group Health pharmacy would have mailed my prescriptions overnight like she promised instead of Bulk Rate USPS – I wouldn’t be blogging bitchy topics like this!

I love the dump, er, transfer station. I love to stand at the edge of the pit and heave my crap into the steaming hole while the man in the caged-topped bulldozer smashes and compacts everyone’s “junk” into a giant cube that is carted away in a truck to “that place” we don’t like to think about. I love that moment when the last piece of your mind is swept from the bed of the truck. Ahhh…..freedom.

I love to donate clothes I’ll never fit into again (some with tags still on), souvenir shot glasses from obscure places like Fargo, North Dakota, coffee mugs with funny sayings, that framed picture of the Grand Canyon, that old bookcase that will look great in some college kid’s dorm. I like to think someone will go crazy for that Star Trek lunch box WITH the thermos still intact. Not to mention the home brew kit with all the parts and owner’s manual.

Where do we get all this stuff? Did it mean something to us at one time? When did we fall out of love with this stuff?

I have too much stuff.

Today I ran across a picture of my mom in a bag of framed photos. When my mom died, besides a few clothes and pieces of costume jewelry, the only other thing she owned were these photos. Because of some unfortunate relationship choices she had nothing. At the time that seemed tragic to me. Not because I wanted any of her “stuff” but because it seemed (or so I thought) that she was without. Without stuff.

Now I get it. That’s how we should all leave this world. Not with a house full of stuff that someone has to go through, fight over, or haggle with strangers at an estate sale. We should die with our pictures and our memories.

LA was burning last week. One person that had to flee their house said “All I was able to grab were my pictures.” And your life. Isn’t that all we need?

I think I’m going to pack for this move like my house is on fire. Memories and pictures.

Oh, and my books, and music and that couch, and okay, my sleigh bed….and coffee pot……and that cool lamp…………….

In loving memory of mom. I miss you.

It’s inevitable. In any election this close the “size” issue will always come up as some measure of greatness or capability.

Bigger is not better. Better is better.

I’ve been saying this for years as it pertains to credit union and the obsession with growth. I guess it’s natural. When the CU Journal comes out with their 100 years of credit unions issue they can’t help but list credit unions by asset size. It always starts with the biggest. (nice publication btw – great history page).

How cool would it be to list the top 100 credit unions by the LEAST amount of assets. What would that list look like? It would probably include the names of the few single sponsor coops that are still in the front of a house or the basement of a company or church. It would surely include financial institutions with a staff of ONE. One person that has to act as marketer, CFO, human resources, compliance, technology – not to mention – teller, MSR, loan officer, collector. Whew.

I think these unsung heroes deserve mention. Remember, even the biggest credit union in the world started out small.

When I was 14 years old I bought Phoebe Snow’s first album. I heard Poetry Man on KINK radio in Portland, Oregon and was hooked. It’s not often that a song, on first play, will grab my attention. This one did.

It’s not often that an entire vinyl album had no duds on it. None of Phoebe’s albums have duds. You know, that one song that feels hurried, or was a filler. The one that you just can’t stand to hear, so you get up, carefully grab the needle, tilt your head just right so you can see the separation lines on the album to gently set the needle back down without making that horrible “scrreacch scratch thump” noise? NOTE: If you’re under 30 you probably have no idea what I’m saying.

Well Phoebe Snow’s first album was this and more. It was the album that I listened to in high school through first loves, break-ups, stupid fights with parents, mind-numbing homework, sunburns, sleepless summer nights. When I was 21 I got to see her live at a cool venue in Portland that was like a lounge. Cocktails and live Phoebe. No one, not even the Rolling Stones could top that concert experience for me.

A few fabulous albums later, Phoebe sort of retired. You see, she gave birth to her daughter Valerie Rose. She was very ill. Instead of outsourcing her daughter’s care to continue her career, she chose to stay home.

She did some commercial jingles to pay the bills. You may remember her fabulous “Colon Blow” spoof on Saturday Night Live. Vintage Phoebe.

Last year, Valerie Rose died. I cannot even imagine that pain. No parent should outlive their child. Her long-time friend, Linda Rondstadt invited Phoebe to sing with her last year and well, she’s back!

Yesterday I had the honor of seeing her perform at the First Tech Credit Union Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon. Thank you to Tom Sargent and JaReda Webb for inviting me on the VIP stage to see her and meet her!

She is and always has been an inspiration to me. For not only her voice, but her honor as a mother and a strong self-employed woman.

Thank you Phoebe.

PLUG: She will be releasing a live album in October of this year. Look for it and buy it.

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