Mike Columbo, the Channel 4 investigative reporter, called me this morning to let me know that they were going to run the segment about my problems with the bank on tonight’s five o’clock news.

When I first contacted Mike, I didn’t expect him to respond, and I never thought my problem would be dramatic enough to actually air the report.  I was amazed to see that “my” segment was the lead teaser for the newscast and that the segment ran a full four minutes!  Mike and Eric (the cameraman) did a wonderful job of making me look good, and I didn’t say anything stupid.  It was even a good hair day for me!

Tonight, Ted and I went to a movie, and I was a little worried about being mobbed by groupies and autograph hounds, but it wasn’t a problem.  Probably because I wore my contacts for the interview, but I had my glasses on tonight.  The disguise worked and we were able to watch the movie in peace.  Whew!

Back to business, the lady from the bank’s corporate headquarters left me a voice message two days ago, asking me to call her.  I’ve left her two messages, but she hasn’t called back.  I’m not convinced the matter is settled, so I’ll wait to see what the bank tells the CFPB–my new federal government best buddy.

Tonight, on 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley reported on the Social Security Administration’s Master Death List.  Problems with the list include identifying live persons as dead, as well as failing to record deaths, in which case Social Security benefits continue to be paid.

Mr. Pelley informed us that part of the problem lies in the fact that the SSA “uses a nineteenth century record-keeping system.”  Mr. Pelley then exhibited a well-worn magazine file box, read the label on it to prove its antiquity, and told us that the paper records in that box “are, in fact, from 1912.”

A journalist of Mr. Pelley’s caliber ought to know that 1912 falls in the twentieth century.  This kind of thing happens so much in serious broadcast and print media, it should be no surprise to anyone that the United States continues to fall in worldwide educational rankings.

And that’s just sad.

Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of the Federal Reserve emailed me to say they had contacted the bank and forwarded my complaint to them.  Today I had a call from Andrea in the Executive Client Relations Department of the bank’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh.  

We were at a movie until after 4:00 pm today, so Andrea’s office was already closed for the day (Eastern time zone) by the time I returned her call.  I left her a voice mail.  When/if she calls me back on Monday, will she tell me the matter has been resolved and the line of credit is finally closed?  If she does shall I believe her?  Given my history with the bank, I think I’ll insist on written confirmation.

Today we went to a matinee and saw Eddie the Eagle, the story of the British underdog ski jumper who made it to the 1988 Calgary Olympics Winter Games.

It’s a gross understatement to say that Eddie had serious physical problems with his knees as a child and was not predisposed to become an athlete.  His dream, however, was to prove everyone wrong and to participate in the Olympic Games.  In the movie, after Eddie fails in yet another of his many adolescent endeavors to succeed in an athletic activity, his dad remarks that, “It’s only a matter of time before he walks through that door in a wheelchair.”  (????)

In spite of that non sequitur statement, it was a good movie and we enjoyed it.

According to the TV newscast, the Lake St. Louis fire department needs a tax increase.  The reporter informed us that the department’s newest fire truck is 18 years old and constantly needs repair.  For example, she said, the speedometer is broken, so the firemen have to write down their mileage.  Question:  Why don’t they look at the odometer?

It gets worse.  If it’s the odometer that’s actually broken, how do the firemen know the distance they’ve traveled so they can write it down?  Do they really do the math to manually record the mileage?  If a fire truck travels for 15 minutes at 25 mph, . . . 

With reports like this, the main thought in the reporter’s head must be “If I only had a brain!”

In the ongoing saga of Schroeder vs. The Bank, I filed complaints with little expectation of action, especially from the state and federal government agencies.  Surprisingly, after only three days, the Federal Reserve actually read my complaint and forwarded it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Today, four business days after that, I received an email from the CFPB saying they have contacted the bank and forwarded my complaint to them.  Within 15 days, the CFPB will contact me to inform me of any action the bank has taken or will take to resolve the problem.  Meanwhile, I can track the progress of my complaint online.  Who would have expected such direct and timely action from the Federal government on such a relatively minor complaint?  My tax dollars are apparently hard at work.  (Or it’s a really slow week at the CFPB.)

With Channel 4’s (i.e., media) contact yesterday and the CFPB’s (i.e., federal government oversight) contact today, I’m feeling hopeful that the situation will be resolved very quickly and without (figurative) bloodshed.

Homemade hard rolls for sloppy joes tonight.  Recipe credits go to Laralee.  The smell of fresh-baked bread is all ours.


This morning, I received a follow-up call about the travel club presentation we attended.  The conversation went like this.

Lady:  You attended a travel club presentation last week.  Do you remember that?

Me:  Yes.  (Yes, I can still remember things that happened as long as five days ago.)

Lady:  What did you think of the presentation?

Me:  It was interesting.  (But not in the way it was meant to be interesting.)

Lady:  Were the people presenting the information courteous and friendly?

Me:  Yes.

Lady:  Did you sign up for the travel club?

Me:  No.  We wanted to check it out some more.

Lady:  What could we do to make the presentation better?

Me:  You could settle the lawsuit asking that the company cease and desist operating in Missouri.  (Expecting to hear a disconnecting click.)

Lady (without missing a beat):  OK, I’ll make a note of that.  Thank you very much and you have a great day.

Today the Channel 4 investigative reporter, Mike Colombo, and his cameraman, Eric, came to the house to film an interview with me about the problems Ted and I have had trying to close our line of credit at the bank.  It was pretty low-key, but Mike was duly impressed with my documentation.  He mentioned several times that I could be useful as an investigative reporter.  Not likely to happen, but a nice compliment anyway.

Eric selected the kitchen table for the interview.  Afterwards, he spent about five minutes filming me from different angles while I “examined” my pile of documents.  They spread the documents out on the table and took photos and video of them, and then they asked to take pictures of the car–the reason for opening the line of credit.  From our house, they headed to the bank to take exterior pictures of the scene of the problem.

I asked what the next step will be, and Mike said the producer will call the bank’s media department to inform them of what’s going on.  From that, they will probably be told whether or not the account has actually been closed.  If not, we might be going on-air.

I’ll be thrilled if this whole mess just gets settled by the bank and I’m never on TV at all.  We should know soon.

Interview in progress

Interview in progress

Budding TV star with investigative reporter, Mike Colombo

Budding TV star with investigative reporter, Mike Colombo

After missing three weeks of tutoring at the Success School because I was sick, I went back today.  It felt so good!  Everyone said how much they missed me and how Ted asked for me every week and was disappointed that I wasn’t there.  They even sent me a get-well card and everyone signed it.  (The mystery is where it went, because I didn’t get it in the mail.)

Ted and I spent three hours working on his social studies and geometry.  We are a good match and we work well together.  (See January 27.)  Ted seems to catch on to things fairly quickly and can do math in his head, so I asked him why he failed so many courses.  He said he thinks the teachers just went too fast for him.  Isn’t that a shame?  How hard would it be to give the guy a little extra time or a little extra help before he fails the class?

While I was out sick, “my” room, the Blue Lagoon (so called because the outer woodwork is painted blue), was refurnished.  They put in a (very well-used) sofa and a comfy chair.  Unfortunately, they took out the table.  Luckily, there are folding tables in the old shop classroom Ted and I used one week (also January 27), so I got one of those and the learning continued.

My "Blue Lagoon"

My “Blue Lagoon” (actual size)

When we bought my car, we took out a home equity line of credit to pay for it.  We made the final payment six months ago and closed the account.  Or so we thought.  Since December 23, the bank has contacted me 11 times to tell me we have a balance due, including late fees, for the maintenance charge to keep the account open.  Each time, I tell the same story and, each time, I’m told that the issue is resolved and I won’t receive any more bills or calls.  Not true!

Well, the bank picked the wrong person to mess with!  I documented every encounter!  Last week, after “resolving” the issue yet again, I decided that if I was contacted one more time, I was going into action.  I only had to wait two days for the next call.  I politely explained the situation (again!) and said I would be filing complaints with the Federal Reserve and the state attorney general as soon as I hung up.  (I’d already checked online to see if this was a viable thing to do.)

I filed official complaints with both.  The Fed sent a follow-up message today, saying that my complaint has been reviewed and forwarded to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for action.  (Pretty quick action for a federal agency!)  Since nothing strictly illegal has been done and the complaint is basically about harassment, I don’t really expect any action from either agency.  It just gives me satisfaction to file a formal complaint with the legal entities that oversee the bank.

Today, Ted and I each received a letter from the bank (it was only a single account) offering to work with us if our financial circumstances are making it difficult to pay the overdue charges!!!  I decided I’m finished talking to the bank.  Let them take us to court.  But meanwhile, . . .

Next step:  contact Channel 4’s consumer advocate.  (Hey, why not?)  Again, it’s only harassment and we haven’t been cheated out of anything, so I didn’t expect a response.  An hour later, the reporter called, wanting to interview me tomorrow.  I can’t do it tomorrow, so he’s coming to the house the next day.

Hopefully, one of two things will happen:  (1) my stated intention to contact the Fed and the attorney general scared last week’s bank person into doing some paperwork; or (2) a call from the media will embarrass a different bank person into doing some paperwork.  I don’t really want to be on TV.  I just want to close a paid-in-full account.  How hard can that be?

Another record high today:  78 degrees!  Unfortunately, reality returns next week with highs in the mid- and upper 40s, but this was great while it lasted.

We attended yesterday’s travel seminar for two reasons:  (1) We were curious what they’d have to say; and (2) we wondered if we’d really get a major prize without spending any money.  We assumed we’d only get a gift if we signed up for a trip, and we had no intention of spending a dime.  It was a surprise to be handed a folder with the details related to our Caribbean cruise.

Today, Ted looked the company up online–again, out of curiosity, since we have no intention of joining their travel club–and it only took a moment to discover that there is a pending lawsuit against VSA Travel Clubs and its Missouri chapter, Destinations.  The lawsuit requests that the company cease and desist operating in Missouri because of the large number of complaints and lawsuits filed against it.  Here’s how the BBB rates VSA Destinations:


Ted also read the information we were given about the cruise.  (I’m busy reading a novel, which is more interesting!)  The cruise might be equally scam-like.  Within two weeks, we need to send the $200 and select a date to cruise.  We suspect the $200 cost will turn out to be a deposit on a full-price cruise.  Oh, well, the Caribbean is way down on our travel list anyway–and the $10 in cash we received from the travel folks plus a $4-off coupon from the restaurant bought us lunch today.

We attended a sales pitch seminar for a wholesale travel company today, partly out of curiosity and mostly because we were promised a high-end gift just for attending:  a 50-inch plasma TV, a Caribbean cruise, or an iPad, as well as a possible “bonus” prize of a $100 Wal-Mart gift certificate.  We figured we’d have to sign up for some travel (not a chance!) to get the gift, but we decided to go anyway.

With a membership in this travel club, we can get unbelievable savings on unlimited upscale travel, including condos, hotels, cruises, air fare, tours, et al.  The cost to join the club is a one-time bargain (?) payment of $12,999 plus a $286 service fee plus a $59 quarterly membership fee.  Apparently, we can save more than that on our first two major trips.  Even better, the membership can be willed to one of our children so that when we die, our child will have these awesome travel deals for the cost of the quarterly $59 fees.  When we said we couldn’t commit to that without time to think it over, the price instantly dropped to $3,499 plus fees if we handed over a credit card immediately.

It was a fairly interesting presentation, but it brought to mind two major financial cautions:  (1) If it seems too good to be true, it probably is; and (2) be suspicious if the price is good only at this moment.  We said we still wanted to think it over, so the “closer” guy came over to talk with us–also unsuccessfully.  Surprisingly, they were very polite and we didn’t feel strong-armed.

A third person then took us to the desk to “sign you out” and we got to draw for the Wal-Mart gift certificate.  We won $10 in cash, but then we also got a Caribbean cruise!  It won’t be free but, at first glance, it looks like it will be only $200 each for a seven-day cruise, which is pretty good for spending two hours at a sales pitch.

Today’s high temperature:  a record high (since 1930) of 77 degrees.  Normal high is 46.  Tomorrow’s forecast high:  72.  I drove with the top down to enjoy the sunshine.  It’s definitely a good day!


File photo. If only the trees and grass were already this green!

Today I met with John, my mentor, to discuss the teacher trainings in India.  As I expected, John had some good questions, suggestions, and advice.

One of John’s questions was whether I’d ever done any team trainings.  I said I had and that I actually prefer doing team trainings because I believe two personalities contribute to learning and help avoid boredom.  In fact, I told John, I’ve already asked Dr. P. if it would be possible to bring another trainer with me, and he said “yes.”  I told John that I have two people in mind–one of my teachers, who is now retired, and John, if he’d be willing to come with me.

Without missing a beat, John said he’d be happy to go to India with me.  Well, that’s just frosting on my cake!!  Thick frosting!!  With someone of John’s stature and experience at my side, a successful outcome is assured and my nervousness is gone.  John’s area of expertise is adult education; mine is teaching reading comprehension skills–what some people call “teaching kids to think.”  John will be very effective in getting the teachers onboard, while my strength will be teaching the specific skills to be addressed.  What a team we will be!

I asked John if he’d be willing to take the lead role, since this is a new experience for me.  His response was that there is no need for this, since he saw excellent leadership from me when I was president of the state education association (of which he is also a lifetime member), and then he said, “We will lead together.”  What an awesome man he is!  I’m so fortunate to know him and to count him as one of my friends.

I have a follow-up appointment for my wrist with Dr. P. on March 3. Between now and then, I’ll be preparing an outline of what John and I will include in the training and afterward for support.  If Dr. P. likes what he sees (this is the “I think” part, because even though it was Dr. P.’s idea, it still seems unreal to me), I’ll schedule a time for the three of us–John, Dr. P. and me–to meet and discuss the details.

One of my retirement goals was to offer my time and knowledge to help undereducated people in a meaningful way.  I’ve been doing that with my volunteer hours at the Success School.  Now, in addition to that, I have a chance to support education in an exciting way I never dreamed of, and with the best possible partner.  If God spoke to me from a burning bush, I don’t think He could make it more clear that He is guiding (shoving?) me in the way I should go at this time.  I wonder where it will lead, because surely this is not the end.

Pitchers and catchers report for spring training today, so winter is nearly over!  It makes me remember what a good time we had at the Cardinals spring training game in Jupiter, FL last March.  There was snow in St. Louis, but it was in the upper 70s in Jupiter.  Aaahhh.

058 Jupiter batter

I’m working on gathering information so I can give Dr. P. an answer about doing teacher trainings for him in India.  I checked out Dr. P.’s foundation website (http://brightlifefoundation.org) and listened to a one-hour interview with him on You Tube about his foundation and the school.  I also asked another medical doctor about him and received an unconditional character reference, as well as the information that Dr. P. is well-known for his work with his school.  Two days from now, I’m meeting with Dr. John H., my friend and mentor, who has done many educational trainings in 20 countries.  I’m hoping for some expert, solid guidance from him.

As I’m doing these things, the idea of going to India in an educational capacity is becoming more real and I’m getting a little nervous about it.  I’m not nervous about doing the training (I’ve done a lot of those); I’m nervous about doing it in an unfamiliar culture, where I know nothing about the educational system or about the teachers and their teaching styles.  I’m assuming that, if I agree to do this, Dr. P. will spend the necessary time with me to provide that information.

And then I saw the quotation below, and again had the feeling that maybe I’m being guided to this.



Today I proved that I play nicely in the snow/sandbox.  We had two inches of snow last night, but I’m still too sick to play with my new snowblower.  I shared it with Ted and let him have the fun this time.


My wrist is healing and I’m down to a smaller bandage.  I guess pretty soon I’ll have to offer to help do the dishes again.


Teddy isn’t feeling well today, so Ted stayed with him while Kari went to work.  While Ted was busy with something else, Teddy went into his room.  In a little while, he appeared before his grandpa in his latest regalia.

I’ve been feeling crummy for six days now, and there’s no sign I’m getting better.  In fact, my eyes are red, swollen, and draining today, so I decided it’s time to call in the big guns and make a doctor’s appointment.  It’s not flu; my lungs are clear; it’s probably viral; and it’s not what the doctor is seeing in most of his patients these days.  So there!  It’s not “that thing going around.”  I feel too awful to say that makes me feel special.

The prescription:  A cough syrup with codeine in it to stop my nearly constant coughing and Sudafed to clear the congestion he thinks might be backing up from my sinuses into my eyes.

The prognosis:  It might take five more days before I even start to feel better.  As Jeff would write, sigh.

Today I had a follow-up with Dr. P., the hand surgeon, to have the stitches removed from my wrist.  While he pulled and snipped, he chatted with me about the school he built and supports in India through his foundation.

He knows I worked in the educational field and that I’m retired, so he started telling me some of his concerns about the school.  I responded with some simple suggestions, and he moved on to more detail and teacher trainings.  I finally asked what he was really trying to tell me.  (At this point, I catch my breath, my heart rate accelerates, and my eyes widen.)  He wants me to put together a training for his teachers and then go to India to train them, at the expense of his foundation!

I’ve explored some avenues to make a meaningful contribution to education, especially for those who struggle to be educated, but the roads haven’t taken me where I want to go.  Could this be the Lord working in one of his famously mysterious ways?  The more Dr. P. and I talked, the more excited I became.  Sanity did not totally disappear, however, and I asked for time to consider this.  He said there is no hurry.

When I got home, I emailed the person I most respect in education:  Dr. John Henschke–my mentor, advisor, and friend.  I asked him to meet with me to discuss this idea.  John has taught adult education in 20 countries.  I know he will be able to guide me in asking the right questions and in doing the necessary research to verify whether or not I’ve discovered a shining star in my retirement sky.

When Oprah turned 50, she said she knew that her best work was yet to be done.  I always hoped that would be true for me as well.  This may or may not be the direction for me to take, but just think:  What if it is?


More than three weeks later, we still haven’t finished the puzzle we started on a chilly January night.  In fact, we demoted it to the dining room table two weeks ago and haven’t worked on it since.  I guess we’re not puzzle people.  I rarely give up on a project, and can think of only three that I deliberately quit without finishing.  I’m starting to wonder if I should go for four.

We’ve had three up/down weather cycles in the last ten days (25-35 degree temperature differences in the daytime highs), and that almost always gives me laryngitis.  This time was no exception.  The laryngitis wasn’t bad–one crummy day and then a come-back–but it was followed by something evil that took me downhill for three days.  This is the fourth day and I think I bottomed out yesterday, because I feel a little better today.  I assume that in 7-10 days, I’ll be fine.  Sooner would be good.

Question:  When you get sick in the winter, why does everyone blame it on “that thing that’s going around”?  Does “that thing” ever “go around” in other seasons?


Bissinger’s is ready for Valentine’s Day!  The superpowers of the beautiful red candy boxes pulled us into the store tonight and made us buy two chocolate-covered cherries apiece.  Yum!  The superpowers of chocolate are awesome!

This morning, I had a giant cell tumor removed from my wrist.  It’s a noncancerous growth of larger-than-normal cells.  It looked like I had inserted a marble under my skin, and I could tell that it was growing over the past few months.  It was getting big enough to become irritated when I repeatedly bumped my wrist on flat surfaces, so it was time to get rid of it.

Before the surgery, the prep nurse asked if I had any questions.  I asked how long I have to wait to put pressure on my wrist and to return to Pilates.  (Answer:  Two weeks for pressure;  OK for Pilates as long as I don’t do any moves that put stress on my wrist.)

This was an outpatient procedure, so the “rooms” were divided by curtains like an emergency room.  That meant I could hear other patients’ conversations.  When asked if he had any questions before his procedure, the man on the other side of my curtain said, “Just one.  When can I drink alcohol?”  (Answer:  Not while you’re taking pain medication.)  Obviously, his priorities are different from mine.


Those who know me well know that I believe spring begins on the day following the winter solstice.  Holding the thought that the days are getting longer keeps me from whining about winter, my least favorite season.  This week, I discovered a literary soulmate.

One of the characters in the book I’m currently reading was walking outdoors “into the blustery cold” of February in New York.  She asks, “Why is there February? . . . February should be eliminated altogether for the good of mankind.”

Time moves on in the story and it becomes March.  At this point, the same character notes that, “Seeing it’s March, it’s practically April, so it’s almost summer if you think about it.”  Yes!  I get that!


P.S.  There was a small flock of robins in the front yard this morning.  It must be nearly summer!

While driving today, I passed a store that specializes in selling alcoholic beverages.  The store’s roadside sign advertised a “Liquer Sale.”  Raise your hand if you agree that people ought to know how to spell what they do for a living.