I think in music videos. And since MTV and VH1 don’t air them anymore I have to rely on my own versions.

I can be sitting in an airport and music pops in my head and suddenly I have created a video montage around me.  If I had the time, talent, software and money – I would make videos all day long.  I love it when a character dies or someone is kicked off of a reality show and music plays and they do the slow-mo synopsis of their time on earth/TV.

aa_solsbury_hill_10Stop and think for a minute what your video would look like? The highlights, the low lights and now I challenge you to come up with your theme song.

My theme song has always been Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel.  It’s a rare autobiographical song dealing with his break as lead singer of Genesis and anticipation of his new challenge as a solo artist.  I have been able to identify with that feeling many times in my life.

My heart going Boom, Boom, Boom.

I posted on my blog this week for the first time in five months. I got five comments! My ego made me check my stats and I discovered my most popular category – the stuff folks really dig – bitching.

So here goes.

Two days ago the Los Angeles Times ran a front page story on how dry New Mexico is.  How dry is New Mexico, my land of enchantment? The driest of the dry according to the Times. Last year, for example, it rained a total of THREE inches. But in the last 30 days we have experienced double that rainfall. It’s been a typical monsoon season. Clear and sunny in the morning – hot by noon – clouds rumble in – wind kicks up and rain dumps on our desert dusty land. It’s been delightful.

My drive home on the Cochiti Highway each night is beyond belief. The usual cracked parched dirt has been replaced with a lovely blanket of green. The cows are grazing, the bunnies are feasting, it’s like living in the Northwest without the gloom.

Last night as I was sipping my cocktail on my back patio I noticed Mark tugging on a little plant that had begun to grow between our flagstone. I shrieked at him. What are you doing? He said, “I’m pulling up a weed.” That’s not a weed! That’s a desert miracle. Some persistent god given growing living plant that is merely adding color to our otherwise beige patio. Nope, Mark argued, it’s a weed.

What is the definition of a weed?  A weed is something that you did not plant and feel like you may have no control over unless you kill it at first site.  Doesn’t matter if it’s nice looking, may serve some purpose, it’s not in my plan, it’s got to go.

WEEDSIt got me thinking about the culture of credit unions. A “weed” is often seen as new thought or the enthusiasm of a new employee wanting to improve something by suggesting change. Management often sees this as a threat because THEY didn’t plant it and if not killed at first site could grow out of control (influence other staff).

Weed killer comes in many forms – the spray kind “Oh, we tried that once.” The classic manual weed pull “Our computer system can’t handle that.” And finally bringing in the big guns, going to the root (the dandelion digger) to make sure the weed will not return “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

I vow to protect my weeds. To find beauty in them and celebrate their success. I’m going to look at them differently, as certainly having some potential. Especially when there’s been a severe innovation drought.



I hear it all the time – our members don’t CARE that we are a cooperative. And why should they? What have you done besides state the antiquated rhetoric “A credit union is a not-for-profit owned and operated by our members with a volunteer board of directors…blah blah blah.” We seldom even USE the words Co-Op.

Raise your hand if your credit union URL ends in .coop! Did you know you can’t just willy nilly buy a .coop on Go Daddy? Nope. You must APPLY for it and prove that you are indeed a cooperative.

When we asked a random sample (statistically significant) of our members on a scale of 0 – 10  “How likely is it they will recommend the credit union?” and “Why?” the answers were astonishing. Almost 30% of our members love us because we are local, not a bank, a credit union, or a financial cooperative. They do care.

Armed with this information we designed a logo – cuz that’s what we do in marketing.


Like to say we had a master plan, but we didn’t.  Thinking we would slap that on our web, maybe a t-shirt, we really didn’t know.  Then it came to us – let’s find local Co-Ops and see if they’ll partner in on the message. In Santa Fe (which is like liberal-granola-eating-Subaru-driving Portland only with sunshine) had only ONE Cooperative, the La Montanita Co-OP Market.

But up north in Los Alamos (where we started) we found two! The LA Co-Op Market and Little Forest Playschool, a parent run co-op since 1951! We met with them to brainstorm on how we might work together. Little Forest Playschool has an annual sale to raise money to run the pre-school – we offered free advertising. We put it up in our lobby on our InLighten Screens. LA Co-Op Market asked if we could partner with them to do a membership drive. We opened 83 memberships at our Los Alamos branch in one day for the market. Then it happened – the word got out and a delightful woman named Micheline approached me about adding the newly formed—- wait for it —- Los Alamos Beer Co-Op to the campaign!

Armed with these amazing partners we approached all of the Northern New Mexico credit unions and asked them to join in. Not a hard sell.  Last week-end we sponsored the first Keep It Co-Op Community Concert in Los Alamos and on August 21st will host the First Annual Keep It Co-Op Community Concert in Santa Fe. The city of Santa Fe liked the idea so much they kicked in some serious coin to support the event.


All Northern New Mexico based credit unions participate in shared branching – so guess what we’re doing next?

Anywho – feels good to blog again. I haven’t been able to because I always felt like I’d be revealing credit union strategy or the code to our super powers – but damnit – we need to cooperate!, not compete.

Cooperative Principle Number Six: Cooperation Among Cooperatives (it’s a good thing)

Can you imagine if the Don’t Tax My Credit Union effort was renamed to Don’t Tax My Co-Op! ?

Just sayin……

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Only a marketer could do this to us. Lure us into buying 25 different “styles” of black socks. If I had to do it all over again I would have loaded up on one style. And then when they started to die – load up again – on ONE style. But it’s so hard to do. Think of the wall of styles you’re accosted with at any decent store. All of them individually displayed on their cute little hangars, with a thin piece of tissue stuffed inside so that, like a dog, you are enchanted by the sound of the crinkling. If you did want to load up on just one style you would look like a hog. Destroying the display by leaving a gaping hole and a lonely silver post where the lovely socks used to be.

Last week I gave up matching my black socks. I’m done. Now I just reach in the chaotic drawer and grab two. After all, 50% of the sock is covered by my shoe and the rest by my pant leg. Who cares?

I guess it’s because I’m getting older and realizing that life is just too damn short to sit on a Saturday afternoon squinting, holding up socks in the natural light, laying them side by side, checking their textures to make sure I get exactly two alike to marry. And then the disappointment and mounting frustration of the stray socks.

I’ve noticed that I have more and more of these since I got two dogs……hmmmmm…….someday I’ll find a bounty of black under my fridge. I’m sure of it.

recycleBeing a born and bred Oregonian I can’t throw recyclables away. Bottles, cans, plastic containers, cardboard. It’s like a forcefield has grown around my trash can if I even get near it with one of these. Of course the Catholic guilt solidifies the decision.

Where I live now – Cochiti Lake, NM – there is no curbside recycling. We have to haul it 30 miles into town (Santa Fe) and we do. Even though it’s kind of funny balancing the carbon footprint of burning fossil fuel to recycle but whatever. I got over it. So can you.

Last November I had surgery to replace two ruptured discs in my neck. The procedure is called ACDF. I had the option of using a couple of chunks of my hip bone as new discs OR I could use a recycled bone.  I decided to go green and received a donation from two deceased people. Cadaver bones that replaced the ruptured discs.  Someone was kind enough to donate their parts.

After surgery the nurse gave me a pamphlet that had two stickers on it – the code numbers for the two people that now have a place in my heart and my neck. I had the option of writing their families a letter (anonymously) to thank them.

So today I wrote this letter.

Dear Donor Family,

I am writing to thank you for the kind and generous gift of tissue donation*  from your loved one. I am so sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that your decision to donate has changed my life in a positive way.

I needed a tissue transplant because I had two ruptured discs in my neck which caused me excruciating nerve pain and loss of mobility in my left arm. 

Since the transplant, which involved removing my ruptured discs and replacing it with the donation, I have been able to return to full capacity. No more pain. 

For that I am grateful to you and your loved one. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity. 

*not cool to refer to it as a cadaver bone.

If you are not an organ/tissue donor – please consider it. I mean when you’re dead – you’re either going to bury or burn your parts – so why not leave them for the next generation.

Thank you for listening.

UPDATE: Yesterday (9/11/13) I received a letter from Pathways (the company that facilitates the tissue donations). They received a letter from the donor family that I have the option of receiving. Hell yes I want to receive it. Stay tuned…….


I used to make Christmas cards every year. Depending on the complexity of my design it could take weeks for me to complete. I know people enjoyed them because they saved them. You can’t throw out a handmade card!

I believe there is a direct correlation between the number of cards you send and the number you receive. And I can say for certainty that if they are handmade your receive level is often greater.

But that was years ago and several moves ago. I don’t plan on sending any Christmas cards this year except to a few family members and very close friends- and you know who you are. I’m too busy and not feeling it anymore.

To date I’ve received two Christmas cards. Now I know it’s still early but I don’t expect to receive too many more.

PERSONAL SIDEBAR/SHOUT OUT: Dan, I sincerely hope I get the annual photo Christmas card from you though. I treasure those.

I wonder what the average age of a Christmas card buyer/mailer is??  Probably older than the average age of a credit union member (48).

I cannot imagine my 27 year-old niece picking up a box of cards at the store and taking the time to address them (which also means collecting mailing addresses) buying postage stamps and  finding a post office to put them in the system.

So anywho……it begs the question: “Are Christmas Cards Dying?” Has Social Media negated the need for an annual touch base?


It’s becoming harder and harder to find the original credit union stories. So many CUs have eliminated them from the “About Us” section of their website. But I remember the story of Portland Teachers CU. In 1932, sixteen school teachers pooled six dollars each to create PTCU (today called OnPoint). In 79 years PTCU has grown to serve 244,000 members with assets of just over $3 billion. Not bad.

Now let me be on point. We all started with about the same amount of money. I don’t know if there was a credit union that started out with $50 million dollars or anywhere near that. These were all tiny upstarts. Yesterday The Financial Brand posted an interesting article about the future of the industry – 20 years out. Like so many, the prediction is mass consolidation and the end to the small credit union.

Today I was a guest, along with Sarah Snell Cooke, on The Power of Performance radio show with Jason Dias of Eloquent Online.

The show was meant to debate a hot topic that appeared in the CU Times last week. GTE Federal Credit Union changed their name to GTE Financial. Although I applaud the fact they did not kick their sponsor name to the curb (like Portland Teachers did) – to drop the credit union moniker was a point of contention with me.

During the discussion the largest credit union in the world was mentioned. Navy Federal Credit Union. Their “About Us” page says they were founded in 1933 with seven members and today serve over 3 million members with assets of almost $50 billion – with a “B”. That makes OnPoint look small. They no longer serve only the Navy. The serve all branches of the military and yet they remain true to their founders in both the brand “Navy” and the category “credit union.” Sarah said they grew because they had tremendous resources and that most small credit unions don’t have those.

Here’s where I get confused. The 1930’s was the boom age of credit unions. The majority of credit unions still standing were founded well over 60 years ago. And if they all started with a group of wide-eyed optimists plunking down six bucks each – how is it they all aren’t huge?

To be fair – Navy has a great field of membership because every year there are new recruits. A fresh batch. Many credit unions that were founded by say, the railroad workers, didn’t have it so lucky. But in the 80’s we were allowed to expand to family members and retirees. That’s how credit unions like Boeing boomed.

And after HR 1151 passed in 1998 – credit unions were allowed to have multiple common bonds. Anyone who lives, works or worships became the phrase that pays. But did it? Credit unions began to change their names in an effort to show the world that anyone could join. And when all of the good ones were taken we shifted to synthesized or pharmaceutical names. “Ask you doctor if Aventa is right for you.”

My dear friend Gene Blishen posted a brilliant blog yesterday in response to all this madness. He cited the Financial Brand article and the “shrinkage” of credit unions in America. Here’s a quote:

“I believe the key component to losing credit unions is their own belief that they are no longer relevant to their membership based on criteria that they inherited from outside sources. They begin to drink the wrong coloured Kool-Aid.” He goes on to say “By following the Pied Piper of ‘bigger is better’ they forget the culture they have and the history they have come from. To put it bluntly, they just give up…”

I would hate to tell one of the 16 teachers in Portland that put up what was a ton of money in 1932 that their vision was in vain. It’s too hard for a small credit union to stay in business in 2012. What with all the regulation, and technology, and competition.

Because it was so easy in 1932 – right?

I love a good spa. And I’m not gonna lie, Mark loves a good spa too. He’s my spa boy. So when we had the opportunity to go to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Hotel and Spa last week-end – let’s just say – hell yes! (see picture below)

The Tamaya is situated on sacred land owned by the Santa Ana Pueblo and is managed by Hyatt. When I am smitten with a brand I have to infiltrate and learn. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the head of food and beverage – Kristin on this trip. I wanted to find out how they were able to create such a peaceful, restful, zen-like atmosphere.

It’s simple, she said, we want it to feel like your home. Not a fancy hotel. The lobby is one giant living room. A big fireplace on either end with overstuffed couches and chairs and coffee tables and games and pillows. Not hotel furniture – real furniture. We ate breakfast at their buffet – instead of those big metal chafing dishes, the food was served in Le Creuset pans. Just like I have at home. The soap dish is a piece of flagstone – very artsy fartsy – like I have at home.

Then she shared the best part- where do THEY get their inspiration?

Ashley Furniture. Yup – she said periodically they will walk through their “home show room” and get staging ideas for their Hyatt home. It’s really the little details that make it special. Like the tchotchkes on the end table. Oh, and the pictures in my room were not bolted down!

After you read this go step outside and walk into your credit union lobby – how does it make you feel? Does it resemble a doctor’s office from the 80’s? I sometimes wonder if that’s where we got our inspiration. Sign in at the receptionist, sit on a hard chair under fluorescent lighting, read old magazines and wait for someone to call your name. Then you go back in the examination room and bare your soul (aka apply for a loan).


Now I want you to go to a spa…..and imagine the possibilities.

I named one of my dogs Dexter Morgan Wymore Sadowski. And I realized today that I seldom call him Dexter. In fact I only refer to him by his formal name when I introduce him. Here’s what I generally say:


Buddy boy!

Big Boy!

Buster Brown!

Dookie Howser! (when he poops in the house)

My Buddy Bear!


Is this normal? Do people do this with their human kids?

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January 2022