Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It's Tax Time


It’s that time of year again.  Income tax time!  I dread it with a passion, and I ask myself why?  I have worked as an accountant in some capacity my whole life.  In fact, I enjoy working with numbers.  I even prepared tax returns for a number of years.  Why is doing my personal tax return so painful?

Well, let me explain.  First of all, my husband is a farmer.  We have been in the farming business for 45 years.  You would think we would have the process perfected by now, but we always seem to have the same problem.  I take care of the books throughout the year, and try so hard to keep a record of everything we will need when it comes time for the tax appointment.  My husband has a more relaxed approach to recordkeeping.  He keeps it all in his head.  I am not saying he doesn’t have a good memory, but it is selective.  We just don’t seem to agree on what is important.  I like things exact down to the penny, and he thinks as long as it is close, the exact amount doesn’t matter.

It never fails every time we sit down with the tax preparer, she asks a question I can’t answer.  I immediately panic and turn to my husband hoping he will be able to search his selective memory and provide an answer.  He calmly answers the preparer’s questions.  The two of them work together quite well filling in the information my bookkeeping has not supplied.  I want to be like them, calm, cool and collected.  Instead, by the time the appointment is over, I am really beyond frustrated.  I try to convince myself there is nothing to get so worked up about, but the appointment always ends up the same way, with me aggravated and my husband clueless as to why I am.  Needless to say, I am always relieved when the tax returns are filed and I have another whole year before I have to do it all over again.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Girls Weekend


I have 3 friends that I have known since kindergarten or before.  We know almost everything that there is to know about each other and our families.  There were several years between college and kids that we didn’t see each other.  About 14 years ago, we all started getting together for lunches with our kids.  As the kids got older, we had girl’s night out about once a month.  When we turned 40, we decided to start having a girl’s weekend once a year in Des Moines to have laugh therapy, retail therapy, eat anything and everything we want, and celebrate our friendship.  This year our weekend fell on Super Bowl weekend.  We all took Friday off and left early that morning.  We then made the trek to the city, laughing and poking fun at each other all of the way.  We can go for weeks without seeing each other, yet it feels like we never were apart.  Usually, one of us does something early on our weekend together that generally haunts the unlucky one for the whole trip.  It never is anything bad, just something so embarrassing that they are reminded of it at every turn.  This year was my year to be the butt of all of the jokes.

 

We all have children with birthdays in February and March, so birthday present hunting is usually on our list of projects while we are out and about.  My daughter turns 16 this year.  She wants for nothing, not even a party.  So from suggestions from fellow employees, I decided to get her a ring with her birthstone and some diamonds.  I found one at a jewelry store and my friends all gave their approval.  We all stood at the counter while I was checking out and the salesman gathered my information for his computer.  First I must say that I don’t pay much attention to people’s hairstyle, clothes, and makeup.  I am a person that focuses on their personality.  That is what I pay attention to.  Needless to say, my salesman had a very vibrant personality.  He asked me what my name was.  I said it first then, I began to spell it.  I always spell it the same way whether in person or on the phone.  H O L C O M B----comb like you comb your hair.  My friends gasped.  I looked up at my salesman and he slowly turned around and said, “Honey, I haven’t owned a comb for years”.  I didn’t even notice that he was completely bald.  My 3 friends were rolling on the floor laughing.  So were the other patrons of the jewelry store.  I could have crawled into a hole if there were one to crawl into.  My face turned beet red and I started to sweat in fear of hurting his feelings.  Luckily, he started laughing and we chatted a little more about who the ring was for and if I had other kids.  He then told me about his family before he returned to his computer.  As he was finishing up the sale, he said, “Shawn, since I like you so much, I think I am going to give you a 10% discount”.  I couldn’t believe it.  Out of my own sheer embarrassment, I was able to make him laugh at himself and me and I received a discount.  If only my friends could have left that blunder in the store.  The whole rest of the weekend was spent seeing bald people and my friends asking me to see if the follically challenged needed a comb.   

 

We spent the rest of the weekend eating heartily, shopping, and laughing.  Time spent with those 3 friends is time that I cherish every year.  Lifetime friendship is a friendship like no other.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lost or Not?

I was visiting Ashley last weekend at Cedar Falls. We had a great weekend.  It was time to head home. I really wasn’t looking forward to the drive.  It’s about three hours.

There is a Y in the road.  If you’re not paying attention you end up going the wrong way. It happened to Ashley once when she was coming home. So I decide to get Susie out. That is the name we have given our Garmin GPS. I had just gotten her out and pushed the “Go Home” button when my cell phone rang. It was Randy.  He wanted to know where I was and when I was going to be home. About that time, Susie said, “go right”.  I’m still talking to Randy and Susie says, “Go right” again, so I did.  Nothing looks familiar. I’m headed south and that’s the direction I need to go. Susie says, “Go 19 miles”.  I’m thinking that will hook me up to head towards Cedar Rapids.  Nope.  I didn’t recognize any of the towns on the road signs. You know how men won’t stop at a gas station for directions?  I won’t backtrack. I just kept going south, nobody was on the road. It was a nice straight road. The country side was wide open roaming hills all covered with snow. It was beautiful!

Susie had never taken me that way before, but I’m glad I listened to her. She showed me some very nice country side that I hadn’t seen and saved me close to thirty minutes. I can’t wait to take that route in the spring or fall sometime. I bet it is really beautiful.  Thanks Susie!

 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Walk Like a Duck

There is a saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, author is unknown.  I am not a dog, and  I wouldn’t consider myself old, but to a teenager I’m sure I would be considered older than dirt.

In a previous blog I talked about change and how we had went through several changes at the bank with our computer software. Well along with those changes were a lot of learning opportunities.   It seemed that every day we could find something else to learn. Now, eight months later,  those  opportunities have slowed down some but we are still trying to utilize all the bells and whistles this computer software  has to offer.

In addition to learning all about this new software, we need to take the time to talk to our customers and realize that we can learn from them as well.     This winter has been one that will probably enter the record books, with low temps and considerable snowfall.   We got to talking to our UPS driver about his  routes and difficulties he has had with the weather.  He told us that the main advice they had gotten from the UPS “higher  ups” is to remember to “walk like a duck”.  I didn’t really even think about that until he started walking out the door and demonstrated for us. So imagine a 6’5” man dressed in all brown waddling out the door.   Of course we were all laughing as he went on his merry duck like way.  The next morning it was cold and icy and all I could think of was “walk like a duck” and it brought a smile to my face.

The winter may be over before any of you get to read this blog, but remember next winter to walk like a duck and you might save yourself an embarrassing moment and a sore behind.  Heck, it might even put a smile on your face or someone else’s. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Waxing Nostalgic

We’ve hired some great young people here at LSB over the past few months. Every time a new recruit walks through the door for the first time I harken back to my first day as a banker. That’s been almost 20 years ago now and wow, have there been a lot of changes! Most of those changes have been for the better.

The first operating loan I ever made was at the annual rate of 10.00%. Today our operating rates are half of that. When I first started, I typed up all of my loan documents, correspondence etc. on a typewriter. Since I can’t type, they weren’t always what you’d call professional looking. Today, I write up all of my loan documents on a computer and they print off all crisp and clean with not a trace of white out on them!
One of my first jobs was sorting checks by hand to familiarize myself with our customers. All of those checks were then bundled up once a month and mailed out in big bulky envelopes to eventually line the bottoms of closets everywhere. Today you get a great image of your check and you can get your statements electronically. We’ve made great strides in the technology arena in the past 20 years and there are more great updates on the horizon.

Not all of the changes have been for the best though. For example, when I wrote up a mortgage 20 years ago, it was a very simple two page document. Short, sweet and to the point. Today, mortgages are at least eleven pages long and as far as I can tell, they are not one bit more binding than the old ones. Just a lot more “here-to-fore’s” and “where as’” thrown about by a lot of high priced attorneys.
If you’ve applied for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage lately, you’ve probably noticed some changes for the worse in that branch of lending. I’ve probably written 500 to 700 home mortgages in my career. I could go from the application process to the final finished product in about 90 minutes if I was pressed and still comply with all the government regulations at the time. With all the new regulations in place today, I now have to ask one of our residential loan specialists to do the paperwork and the process takes days instead of minutes.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed watching all the changes take place and, God willing, I’m looking forward to another 20 years in the banking business.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Things Your Children Will Say


 

I have three lovely, healthy children who mean the world to me. I have often wondered when someone asks them about their mother, what do they say? How do they put into words a description of their incredible mother?

 Well let me tell you, just when you think they are old enough to have some discretion, they fool you. About a year ago, I had returned to work from a wonderful four month sabbatical. My 16 year old daughter at that time was in a psychology class her junior year in high school. If we are lucky, our family sits down a few times per week for supper together. At the dinner table this night of enlightenment, I asked the standard question. How was school today? Did anything exciting happen?

 My daughter proceeds to start visiting about her psychology class and that they are studying midlife crisis. She says the teacher asked the class if any of them knew of an individual that had experienced a midlife crisis, and of course Sydney raises her hand to answer the question. I am now thinking, “Who does Sydney know that has experienced a midlife crisis?” As I wait on the edge of my chair, she answers, “my mother”. Choking on my food, I stammered to ask her why me! She astutely explained that in her worldly experience anyone who takes a sabbatical must be having some sort of crisis in their life.

My husband was laughing so hard he almost fell out of his chair, and I was thinking, “Oh My Goodness, the teacher and now the entire school, think I have flipped off my rocker!” While, no one from the school system to date has directly ask me how I am doing, I still wonder every time I visit, what is going on inside their heads? Is that Sydney’s crazy mother? Has she survived the crisis?

Anyone who has parented children, is well aware they will make you laugh, cry, embarrassed, proud, and most of all loved. I can honestly say this is one of my top most embarrassing moments as a mom.

Jill B

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Boondocks Drive

Occasionally, my job takes me outside the bank and off the beaten path. I don’t mean just a little way off the path, I mean way off. Back to the boondocks, to the back forty, it’s not the end of the earth but you can see it from here. However you choose to describe that place, getting there is always the best part of the trip. I love those outings!

Earlier this year, I traveled to a farm to look at a set of cows a customer was interested in buying. I knew the general area but when I asked for specific directions to the place, the last landmark on the journey was “take a left at the decorative manure spreader”. Now you’ve got my attention. Decorative manure spreader?

I’ve spent a fair portion of my life around manure spreaders but I would never call any of them “decorative”. You can get lots of different mental pictures at the mere mention of a decorative manure spreader. Does it have little bells on it? Has someone planted petunias in it? Is it functional? What kind of image pops up when you close your eyes and imagine a decorative manure spreader? No two people would come up with the same picture.
Now the fellow giving me the directions had probably been by that manure spreader at least a thousand times. It was part of his routine, part of his neighborhood and part of him. He took it for granted. It wasn’t unusual to him. It was routine. But to me, an out-of-towner, it was a real oddity. Forget the cows, I’d make the trip just to see that manure spreader! Kind of like going to the Grand Canyon for the first time. I was all tingly inside…

I thought about it on the way to the farm. Is there someone in my life that is that farmers’ equivalent of the decorative manure spreader? Someone unique and unusual that I take for granted just because they are part of my routine? Is there someone in my life with special characteristics that I don’t pay much attention to anymore just because I see them every day? I was a little ashamed of the answer but I did give my wife and each of my kids a big hug when I got home that evening.
Oh, the manure spreader was worth the trip!