It’s Not You; It’s Me

Greetings, my dear Preservers of the American Dream!

I don’t know how to say this . . .

It’s not you. It’s me.

Sweet people of Envoy, my time here is done. Before I go into how much I adore you all though, let me explain.

It all started when I was six and morphed a movie I’d seen the week before into a plagiarized short story for my first grade class. I ended up winning an award for it. “She’s a writer!” the teachers said.

“Yes, I am a writer,” I enthusiastically agreed, hoping the school administration didn’t watch TBS.

“You copied that movie,” my mom said, laughing, but in a charmed way, not a vicious way.

And ever since then, all I’ve really wanted to do is write. And then thankfully – oh SO thankfully! –  a really cool mortgage company agreed to let me write for them, and I had so much fun doing it.

When I left you all at the beginning of the summer, I had big plans to return this fall. Envoy Insider was going to be better than ever! New interview questions, new shoes (quite unrelated to Insider, but I was excited about them nonetheless), new ideas!

But then a couple of weeks ago an acquaintance of mine approached me with an offer. “Are you a journalist?” he asked.

“I’m not a journalist, but I am a writer,” I told him.

“Last year I found out that the man I thought was my father was not my father. I’ve done so much research. The story involves swingers and politics and murder, and I’d like someone to write it into a book. Would you be interested in writing a book for me?” he asked.

Three days later we met at a Starbucks located inside a Kroger (I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. The Kroger employees were having a team pep rally at the table next to us and cheering each other on with a special clap). I listened as my friend told me his story (y’all, it’s crazy). “I’d like to get rich off this. And I’d like you to get rich off this. Do you think we have a story?” he asked.

“I’ve never written a book before,” I told him. “I’m a gamble,” I said. “But I think we can do this.”

And so, dear readers, starting in October, I am going to be working on a book. While I’ve so loved interviewing you all, I had to take this opportunity. It may be a disaster, and if it is, I will come crying back to you. But it might not, and I won’t know unless I get started.

Whenever I used to tell people what I did for Envoy, they’d say, “What a cool company!” They were right.

Thank you for being so kind to me. You’re such wonderful people, and I’m eternally grateful for you allowing me into your lives.

Christina

mchristinaledbetter@gmail.com

I Should be in Prison

I just returned from a cruise and have landed upon one truth in life: there are people for whom cruises were made and there are people for whom cruises were not made. I write to you all firmly from my position in the latter.

Speaking of me…

Some of you wrote in questions for me. I’ll answer those before moving onto my fancy interview…

Q: Where were you born?

A: Just outside Atlanta in a hospital room. My dad had to sit out in the waiting area because I was born so long ago that they didn’t allow dads in the delivery rooms. My mom’s sister-in-law drove her to the hospital in her new station wagon and kept yelling that my mom better not have me in the new station wagon.

Q: How did you end up in Houston?

A: When I was twenty and going to college in Atlanta, I met a very smart, kind man named Benson. We dated for three weeks and then decided we’d like to spend the rest of our lives together. We got married a few months after he graduated college (with a chemical engineering AND chemistry degree – that’s how smart he is), and a few months after that, he was offered a job in Houston.

That Christmas, before we left, my family wrapped us up a bunch of toy cowboy hats and gun holsters to take with us. That’s one of my favorite Christmas memories, mainly because my family is a solid lot of crazies and it was a small window of normalcy. Whenever I write that my family is a bunch of criminals my mom gets all flustered and calls me to remind me that she’s never had a speeding ticket. So for the record, America, my mom is not a criminal and really likes to cook vegetables. (But everybody else is crazy.)

Christmas 2002

Christmas 2002

Q: What would you do if you didn’t do this?

A: I’ll tell you exactly what I’d do, since I’m not going to be doing this over the summer. I am now writing book reviews for the Associated Press. And I still walk dogs during my lunch breaks. And I eat a lot of salad. But if I had to do a totally different career, I’d like to be a coach at a CrossFit gym. I like to yell at people and clap a lot, and I think those passions would play nicely into the career. The other thing I’d do is devote all my time to ministry. I serve in the marriage ministry and women’s ministry at my church and I really love it. So if that were a job, I’d do it.

Q: What else is on your bucket list? I think you should write a book.

A: I think I should write a book, too. I’ve started one, but finishing is a whole different story. It’s about my crazy-except-for-my-mom family. If any of you are publishers on the side, call me.

Q: How do you get a job like this?

A: I used to work for one of Envoy’s Houston branches as an assistant and I asked my boss, James Beaver, if I could start a little blog for our branch. He was really cool about it and gave me fifty bucks to buy a domain name. He remained cool when I turned the site into the least professional mortgage blog on the internet. Gradually, other people started asking me to write for them. Eventually I just begged Envoy to let me try this Insider thing and I guess they’d drank too much coffee that morning because they agreed. So basically I’d suggest just start writing, even if it’s a personal blog, and keep writing until people notice.

Still speaking of me…

I Should be in Prison

An Interview with Envoy Insider Christina Ledbetter (Conducted by Benson Ledbetter)

Benson: So, one question – what do you eat for breakfast?

Christina: I eat oatmeal with strawberries and apples and a banana and hemp seed and flax seed and walnuts.

Benson: I’m not really going anywhere with that. Just a get-to-know-you question. But your breakfast does sound complicated compared to most people’s breakfasts, so that’s why I asked. Do the people reading this know that you’re a writer, other than this blog?

Christina: I’m not sure, but I guess they do now. Hey everybody – I’m a writer! I write all sorts of crap – blogs, junk mail, reviews, articles and whatnot.

Benson: What do you like the most about writing?

Christina: It’s the main thing I’m good at. But maybe you should think of something interesting about me and then ask something that will make me say that. Like, I’d never ask anyone what’s their favorite thing about mortgages because that’s boring. I’m not trying to cut you down, but we want this to be funny. Here, I’ll show you my list of questions I usually ask people.

(opens document and waits while Benson scans it)

Benson: What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever gotten away with and didn’t get caught? Do you think that’s a bad question? That might be a bad question.

Christina: This is so horrible, but when I was like 13 and 14, I used to steal from stores. Like, I’d go into a dressing room to “try on” clothes, and I’d steal them – stick ‘em straight in my purse. And when my mom asked where I got the clothes, I’d claim some boy bought them for me. I’m so embarrassed. And I never got caught. I should be in prison. And I swear I don’t steal ANYTHING anymore. I even pay all my taxes, even when people pay me in cash. Can I still get arrested you think?

Benson: No, you’re not saying where or when or anything. Speaking of doing things wrong, and since you’re a writer, have you ever been caught plagiarizing? And you can put in parenthesis (makes parenthesis with his hands) Benson knows the answer to this.

Christina: I got caught, and I quote, “self-plagiarizing” in college. I did not necessarily excel in science, so in my Geology 2 class, I turned in the same research paper that I’d used in my Geology 1 class, and the professors found out. I got a zero, but still managed to pass the class. And the next semester, I ran into the professor from Geology 1 in the hallway, and I put my cell phone to my ear and pretended to answer a call because I was embarrassed.

Benson: We have to redeem you somehow. When is a time you saved the day?

Christina: I really like to nap. People like me who nap a lot don’t really save days. Oh wait! One time when I was working for James Beaver as his assistant, he’d had a really busy, stressful day and hadn’t had time to eat, and he had to leave for a meeting in a few minutes. He was sitting at his desk rubbing his head and complaining when I remembered something. I had some extra crackers and an apple and I think even some carrots leftover from my lunch and I gave it all to him. Day: saved. He was so happy.

Now ask me what I’m proudest of.

Benson: You need to put in there that you told me to ask you. I don’t know if we can call this an (making quoting motions with his fingers) interview anymore.

Christina: Ask me.

Benson: What are you proudest of?

Christina: I am the most proud in my whole life of our marriage. We’ve been married almost 13 years now, and I think we have such a great marriage.

Benson: That’s pretty awesome. I didn’t know that. What is your favorite piece of clothing that you own right now?

Christina: A scarf I bought at a JCrew outlet.

Benson: Why is it your favorite?

Christina: Benson, I don’t know if these questions are going anywhere.

Benson: I just know you like clothes. I’m letting people get to know you by asking questions about your clothes.

Christina: You are so funny.

Benson: How’s Chief?

(Chief is our new street dog. Meaning he was found in the street and now he’s all mine.)

This is me in my office. Sometimes I work. Most of the time I do stuff like this instead.

This is me in my office. Sometimes I work. Most of the time I do stuff like this instead.

Christina: Chief is all puppy. He likes to wrestle, and chew stuff and get all in my face, which I love. Earlier he smooshed his snout into my cheek. It was my favorite part of the day.

Benson: I have one more question. How many pull-ups can you do?

Christina: Well, strict with no kip, I can do five pull-ups unbroken. I haven’t tested myself in a few months though. So who knows, it could be twenty. But the other day we had a workout that involved 50 strict pull-ups and I did all of them, but I had to break them up. I ripped my hands open and everybody thought I was so tough.

Benson: It has been an honor to interview you.

***

Okay folks, I’m out. If you want to keep up with my personal blog, which is pretty boring because I write about my cat a lot, you can read it by clicking here. Until then, you all have a great summer, and I’ll be back in the fall!

Christina CA

I Almost Kissed My Ex-Mother-in-Law

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

Starting next Wednesday, I’m taking a break from the Insider for the summer. Unfortunately, there’s no juicy scandal behind the decision and TL and I didn’t get in a brawl in the break room and knife each other. Rather, I have some vacays planned, and we figured it’d be better to take a break and then start fresh in the fall instead of me trying to interview you guys while I’m busy sipping mimosas by the seashore.

However, I’ll be posting one final interview next week before I slip into the shadows of the universe. Who’s it with, you ask?

Me.

So if there’s anything particular you’re wondering concerning my fascinating life of writing blogs and feeding my cat, write it below and I’ll have my husband ask me.

Until then, you get to meet someone way more interesting than me…

I Almost Kissed My Ex-Mother-in-Law

An Interview with Envoy Mortgage Monroe, LA Lender Support Specialist David Parker

Envoy Insider: Hey David – Congratulations on winning this interview! Did you vote for yourself?

David Parker: No.

Insider: What?! Why did people vote for you then?

David: Probably because my life is like a Jerry Springer show right now.

[Note to Our Dear Teammates in India who may not Know Jerry Springer:  Jerry Springer is a man who created a charming talk show a few decades ago in which he’d invite classy guests on to discuss such conundrums as “My Wife Slept with the Mailman AND My Sister and Now Her Mother Wants Custody of Our Blue Tick Hound.”]

Insider: That’s wonderful! Can you please tell me the ways in which your life resembles a Jerry Springer show at the moment?

David: I can, but I don’t want you to put it in this thing though.

Insider: Well can you tell me, like, a little bit?

David: I can say this. I’m a single dad. I’ve got two kids – a ten-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl, and I pretty much work and go home and spend time with them.

Why he has a can of Dr. Scholl's Odor X on his desk is beyond me. But apparently it's working since so many of you voted for him.

Why he has a can of Dr. Scholl’s Odor X on his desk is beyond me. But apparently it’s working since so many of you voted for him.

If I had kids this adorable I'd spend all my time with them, too.

If I had kids this adorable I’d spend all my time with them, too.

Insider: And now can you tell me the part that I can’t write here?

David: [CENSORED]

[Note: Even I have moral boundaries, folks. But I can say this: David straight up has a Jerry Springer situation on his hands, and I think he deserves some ice cream.]

Insider: Have you ever won anything?

David: This?

Insider: Oh, ha! That’s the best answer I’ve had yet.

David: Other than that, no not really. I don’t go to casinos because I do terribly at them, but when I go, I do roulette. One time me and my friend went to one and I was up $450. Then our dealer asked us to excuse him so that he could go smoke a crack rock –

Insider (bursts out laughing): He said he was going to smoke a crack rock? That’s great!

[Note: Crack is probably not great. I don’t know why I said that.]

David: Yep, and then this lady came to take his place and I started losing.

Insider: See, crack heads aren’t so bad – Whoa! Sorry about that – I have two dogs in my office and they are wrestling right now and keep bumping into me. Do you have pets?

David: No, I hate animals.

Insider: You hate ANIMALS?

David: I’m not an animal person at all.

Insider: You know I do these blogs, David, because I’m trying to make y’all look good, right? What am I suppose to do with “I hate animals”?

David: I did tell my kids that if we get this house I put an offer on, they could get a cat.

Insider: Well now that’s very nice of you. I happen to love cats. Tell me about the house you put an offer on.

David: It’s ugly, but it’s in this really cool area. Good school district, too. I’m ready to get a place where we can stretch our legs.

These kids need a bigger yard if they're going to build any more snowmen of this size.

Until they get a cat…at least they can build snowmen.

Insider: I’m sure the kids will love it. What was the most unusual thing about your own upbringing?

David: We moved around a lot, but that’s not so unusual anymore. My dad was a US Marshal. And a fun fact for you: he transported Timothy McVeigh. We lived in Oklahoma City at the time of the bombing. My mom worked a couple of blocks away, and it blew the doors open on her building. A girl down the street from me, her dad died.

Insider: That’s terrible…

David: I think the trial was in Denver, so my dad transported him from Oklahoma City to Denver.

Insider: Can you tell me about a time someone helped you out?

David: I’ve gotten hand-me-down cars. Actually I’m in the first car I’ve ever owned that’s not an old lady car.

Insider: I don’t know if we’re allowed to say “old lady” car.

David: Gangster car?

Insider: Yes, we can totally say gangster.

David: I always put a whole bunch of speakers in them. My favorite thing to do was get it LOUD – we’d be in the Wal-Mart parking lot and play, like, “Our God is an Awesome God” with my big speakers. (laughing)

Insider: You sound incredibly gangster. My husband went through a gangster speaker stage with his vehicles. I’m thankful we met after that time in his life had already passed. What else should people know about you?

David: I spent a 6 weeks living in Hong Kong.

Insider: No way!

David: My uncle went to teach over there and asked if I wanted to go. This was the summer after my freshman year in college and I had nothing else to do, so I thought sure.

Insider: What was the most interesting thing you did in Hong Kong?

David: Ate lots of neat things – I travel with my stomach. Snake, pigeon, green bean flavored popsicles, something weird and gelatinous called grass jelly.

David's view from his hotel room, where he'd just ordered some grass jelly for breakfast.

David’s view from his hotel room, where he’d just ordered some grass jelly for breakfast.

Four jars of grass jelly later...

Four jars of grass jelly later…

Insider: David, you should never, EVER eat anything weird and gelatinous. Do you have any funny stories?

David: I almost kissed my ex-mother-in-law.

Insider: Oh man, you really are like a Springer show! Please tell me everything.

David: My ex-wife and I had been together for a little while, and her parents came down to see her and meet me for the first time. And her mom looks JUST like her. So they stayed a couple of days, and everybody is getting ready to go, and out of my peripheral I just saw dark hair moving in toward me, and my instinct was to turn to her and pucker up to kiss her.

Insider: Oh David…

David (laughing): And she does this really awkward evasive maneuver-head juke thing and patted me on the back, like this little hug. (laughing harder)

Insider: You didn’t tell her you thought it was her daughter?

David: No, I was just too embarrassed. And her dad was standing right there watching the whole thing.

Insider (laughing): Oh my gosh! He’s like, “Stop kissing my wife!” One time it was my first Christmas with my husband’s family, and his sister’s husband is short and bald, and Benson is short and bald. Well the brother-in-law was just standing beside the Christmas tree and I went up and put my arms around him from the back, like giving him a back hug, and he goes. “HEY!” But at least I told him I thought he was Benson.

Well, David, even though you almost kissed your mother-in-law, you sound like a standup guy. Your kids are really lucky to have you. And I hope you get that ugly house.

***

Okay folks, remember to put any questions you want answered in the box above, and I’ll start practicing telling the story about the time I…

Vote

Who would you like me to interview next? Just write the person’s name in the box below, and whoever gets the MOST submissions will have to tell me all their deepest, darkest secrets for me to post to the web. Please convince your co-workers to vote, too. You could even campaign for someone (or yourself). (I’d campaign for myself.) Ideas for campaign strategies include: bribery (worked for FIFA!), promises to speak highly of your co-workers in the interview if you are elected, brute force, etc. Get creative, people!

Voting begins NOW and runs through end of business Tuesday June 2.

It was Funnier to Us

When I woke up yesterday morning I had no intentions of getting another dog. . .

WARNING TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC:

If you do not plan on getting another dog, please refrain from “liking” a local veterinary clinic on Facebook and sending your husband a picture from their page of a homeless puppy who was found on the streets in the rain half dead from starvation. Also refrain from driving to said veterinary clinic to “just see” said puppy.

So like I was saying. . . I got another dog yesterday. Named him Chief.

Yes, I realize this blog is not about me. No, I don't care because this is the cutest puppy in the nation and y'all deserve to see him.

Yes, I realize this blog is not about me. No, I don’t care because this is the cutest puppy in the nation and y’all deserve to see him.

Now then, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

It was Funnier to Us

An Interview with Spokane Valley, Washington Branch Manager Dan Sweeney

Envoy Insider: Hey Dan! I’m working on a new question for these interviews and it hasn’t worked out so far, but I have a lot of faith that you are going to be the one to make this happen. Okay, what’s something I can give you advice on? I’d really like to start giving people advice.

Dan Sweeney: You mean like as a woman?

Insider: Or, say, as a person with curly hair, or a Texan, or a writer. The possibilities are really endless here, Dan.

Dan: Well I’ve been married for 24 years and have two daughters who are 21 and 18, so I’m learning how not to say the wrong thing. I think there’s a lot of cautious honesty going through my life right now. (laughing) Just in my personal life though. Can you tell me how to not say the wrong thing?

Insider: Yes! Okay, here’s what you do. If they ask a question about something that is permanent, like a haircut – well, I know that’s not totally permanent, but still – you say it’s great. No questions, just great. But if it’s something they could change, like their shoes, then you can say that you think the other shoes are better or something. I like when my husband does that.

So you said you’ve been married 24 years. Do you remember before you were married going on any bad dates?

Dan: I don’t, because I started dating my wife when I was in high school. She probably has some bad date stories about me though! Actually, she has a really bad one…

Insider: With you?! What happened?

Dan: I ended up in the emergency room.

Insider: Please start at the beginning, Dan.

Dan: When we first started dating, it was my nineteenth birthday, and we were in Montana. I have to preface every story with “we were in Montana” because drinking laws were more lax there. So we were at a bar, and I’d had a lot of tequila, and I was arm wrestling, of course, with a high school friend.

Insider: Of course.

Dan: As we were arm wrestling I drew him across the table and knocked the table over. He got really mad and I went to hit him and missed and hit a brick wall. Then my wife had to take me on a little visit to the ER, so I knew she was a keeper.

Insider: I thought I knew the basic rules of arm wrestling, but apparently I don’t. Why’d you pull him across the table?

Dan: I don’t know.

Insider: You mean, like, you were just playing around and being rough? Like you weren’t mad?

Dan: Exactly.

Insider: Dan, Dan, Dan. That was a bad move. You should never pull a drunk arm wrestler across a table. So now you’re married with kids. Do you have any funny parenting stories?

Moments before striking up an arm wrestling match with the guy from the next table...

Moments before striking up an arm wrestling match with the guy from the next table…

Dan: Yes, I have three kids – two daughters and a son. When my oldest daughter was one, my wife and I went to St. Louis for a cousin’s wedding. We drove a mini-van, and after the wedding we’re all piled in. I was driving, my daughter strapped in the car seat, and we had seven people total in the car. So I drop everybody off at the front of the hotel, and go to park the car around the block. Remember, it’s late at night and we’re in St. Louis. So I walk back to the hotel and come into the room, and my wife goes, “Where’s our daughter?” And I just ran out of the room! When I got back to the car, she was sound asleep. In the van. In the middle of St. Louis, at night. My wife is never letting me live that one down.

All of these stories are making me sound bad!

Insider: I promise we’ll redeem you in the end. It’s my trick. They’ll think you’re awful but then we’ll talk about something fabulous you did and they’ll be like, “He’s so wonderful!” Unfortunately we’re not at that part yet though. Did you ever get in trouble in college?

Dan: So my former college roommate, Gary, is now my co-branch manager. We went to the same college, played football all four years…we stayed in touch. It was my junior year of college in Helena, Montana in the middle of winter. It was around 4:00 AM and twenty below when a train came loose –

Insider: What do you mean, came loose? Like it came off the tracks?

Dan: No, it was still on the tracks, but the story was that it was so cold that the guys driving the train were arguing over who was going to go out and set the brakes. So the train sets loose down the tracks and crashes into another train in the train yard right in front of our college, and there’s a HUGE explosion. It blew out the windows to the dorms and the whole college shut down for like ten days. Nobody was hurt though.

Well on the one year anniversary of the event, me and I won’t say who, but he was my college roommate, were out drinking and heard some people were going to go set off fireworks in, call it, “celebration” of the anniversary. We went along too, and set off fireworks in front of the school. We thought it was so funny, but the dean didn’t think it was very funny.

Insider: Why not?

Dan: He said the event was “emotionally scarring”. It was funnier to us though because we were a lot drunker at the time.

Insider: What a party pooper that dean was. So what’s one of your happiest memories?

Dan: All of my children. And, I talked to Jim Hopkins about this at the Circle of Excellence trip. He asked me what was my top achievement of the past year, and it’s that my wife just celebrated five years of being breast cancer-free.

Insider: What was it like to go through that with your wife?

Dan: It was obviously very emotional. She was 39 when she was diagnosed. But she had two aunts that died pre-menopausal from breast cancer, so we were involved with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure because of them. So it was always in the back of our minds as a possibility, but still a shock.

She had seven surgeries in one year, and the recovery period was kind of a blur. But she had good people around her. . . I’ll tell you, the weirdest thing you’ll ever do is shave your wife’s head.

Insider: So when she was recovering, who was physically there with her? I mean, did y’all have people you hired to come into the home?

Dan: It was me. There was this whole, “Everything happens for a reason” thing going on, in that I had held some corporate titles at other companies, and had made a good income. I was able to take about a year off to take care of her. After that, we – my co-branch manager Gary and I- went to Envoy.

Insider: Did the whole thing strengthen your marriage?

Dan: Oh yeah. But we’ve always been strong. It doesn’t go away though. She’s still on medications, and there are still struggles with that. But we don’t really talk a lot about what she went through much; we look to the future instead. My wife is great.

Dan emailed me this picture after our interview and wrote, "My wife had just celebrated her 5 year anniversary of being cancer free that day, so all the boys on the Lacrosse team after their game each gave her single pink rose.  It was really cool to see these boys that are 10 and 11 years old do that for her.

Dan emailed me this picture after our interview and wrote, “My wife had just celebrated her 5 year anniversary of being cancer free that day, so all the boys on the Lacrosse team after their game each gave her single pink rose. It was really cool to see these boys that are 10 and 11 years old do that for her.

Dan and his fam, including the poor daughter he almost left in St. Louis.

Dan and his fam, including the poor daughter he almost left in St. Louis.

Insider: I knew we were going to redeem you, but I didn’t know it would be this good. Dan, you are a fine man and your wife and kids are blessed to have you.

Now ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a leash, bed, collar, toys, food, blankie, and anything else that happens to be lying around the dog aisle at Petsmart.

VERY Carefully

A few weeks ago my husband and I went out of town for four days. During these four days, I left half a banana sitting in my fruit bowl on my kitchen counter. The key word is HALF. Once we were gone, rumor made its way through the fruit fly community that we were serving a free banana buffet at our house. Come one, come all!

To combat our fruit flies, my husband’s and my main strategy to get them out of our home has been to wave our hands in the air, similar to the way you’d do if you smelled something foul, and go, “These fruit flies are gross!”

And then a friend reminded me of a trick, and my world is simply so much better than it was nine hours ago…

VERY Carefully

An Interview with Envoy Mortgage Regional VP Michael Castanon

Envoy Insider: Hey Michael! How’s your day going?

Michael Castanon: It’s going well. How’s yours?

Insider: Really good. I’ve had a fruit fly problem and last night I tried one of those hacks from the internet where you put a bowl of vinegar out with saran wrap on top and poke holes in it and I’ve caught FOURTEEN fruit flies so far. So yeah, it’s a good day.

Michael (pausing for a while): So that really works, huh?

Insider: Yep. So do you have any problems I can give you advice on? I’m feeling very handy today.

Michael (without hesitation): No, I don’t have any problems today.

Insider: Okay, well if you think of any. . . So I heard you have really nice teeth.

Michael (busts out laughing): Who told you that?

Insider: TL.

Michael: They’re not really my teeth. I bought them – the Hollywood package.

Insider: Can you please tell me about the decision to buy your Hollywood package teeth?

Michael (still laughing): I bought these eight years ago before my wedding day. I knew it was going to be a big day and I had the opportunity to have a Hollywood smile, so I bought the teeth.

Insider: I totally get it, man. Before my wedding I went on this crazy dangerous acne medicine that they ended up discontinuing, all because I wanted to look hot on my wedding day. Speaking of weddings, how’d you meet your wife?

Michael: I was president and CEO of a large international mortgage lender, and she came to work there. I had trepidation, of course, about starting the conversation, but things worked out over time and we ended up dating and getting married. But as soon as we got into a relationship I asked her to leave the company.

Insider: I need more details than this, please. Like, you’re the CEO of a company and you start liking a lady that works for you. How did you navigate that?

Michael (laughing): VERY carefully! She caused a stir when she came into to the office. I was single, and some people said, “You should meet her! She’d be ideal for you.” Everybody was trying to play matchmaker.

Insider: No pun intended Michael, but I feel like I’m pulling teeth here. I want to know how you asked her out.

Michael: One day I just asked her, “Would you like to go to dinner sometime?” But you know, you get signals from people. And I was getting signals and certainly throwing signals out there myself. So by the time I asked her out, I knew that it was okay. And now we are married and have a beautiful baby boy who is six years old.

Dear co-workers who were trying to play match-maker: Well done, my friends. Well done.

Dear co-workers who were trying to play match-maker: Well done, my friends. Well done.

Insider: Congrats! So, what’s the hardest part about being a dad?

Michael: Being the best version of yourself all the time. It’s the people that live with you who see the best of you and worst of you. So just living an example of what it means to be a good person.

Insider: What’s the best thing?

Michael: Those moments when you see that your child is doing the right thing and making the right decisions.

Insider: Hey you know that show 18 Kids and Counting?

Michael: Yeah!

Insider: Well, I was watching an interview with the mom this morning and they asked her what her favorite part of parenting was and she said the same thing!

Michael: Really? It’s the most humbling experience you can go through, being a parent, because you realize how inadequate you are. God is gracious though.

Insider: Well, since y’all had the same answer you could probably have 17 more kids and do a really good job at it. What were you like growing up?

Michael: Outgoing. I love people now, and I could tell I was developing that as a child. I was in drama, acting, choir –

Insider: What was drama like? Because I regret that I never joined drama in high school.

Michael: I acted in a church group that did outreach in high school. So we’d go out and put on plays for outreach purposes, and that was fun. Actually, I was recruited by some scouts who wanted me to go to Hollywood but my mom wouldn’t let me. She didn’t want me to live that life. But in a lot of ways, I’m glad I didn’t go, because I’ve had a great life. I couldn’t be richer. Well, materially I probably could be. (laughing)

Insider: Smart mom. You’d have ended up in the tabloids and it would have ruined your life. Have you ever witnessed a crime? Or better yet, been involved in a crime?

Michael (slightly appalled but trying to mask it): Your questions are interesting! Goodness, witnessed or been involved in a crime. . . One time in high school there was a fight that broke out after a basketball game, and I was near the incident, and a kid pulled out a gun and pointed it at me, in my general vicinity. That was a crime.

 Insider (flabbergasted that he’s going to leave the story right here): Well WHAT HAPPENED?

Michael: I ran! That was the end of that!

Insider: What was the most unusual thing about your upbringing? Besides being scouted to go to Hollywood.

Michael: Well, I was dirt poor.

Insider: What did that look like?

Michael: We didn’t have anything. I remember going for weeks without meat – sometimes we just had to eat bread. It was a tough upbringing, but being poor isn’t unusual.

Insider: It’s unusual for someone so successful as you though. How’d you break the cycle? Because a lot of times if you grow up poor, you end up poor.

Michael: I just always had a belief that there was a purpose for my life. Money is just a byproduct of what you do and the excellence of how you do it. You don’t pursue money, but if you’re pursuing a purpose in something that’s bigger than you, the money will follow.

Insider: Hmm. . . That’s good to hear, because right now I’m trying to figure out my writing career. Thankfully I have a lot of work right now, but some of it is boring and doesn’t leave me time to do the writing I actually want to do. Last night my husband and I were talking that maybe I should quit the boring jobs so that I can work more on other stuff.

[Note: This job is not one of the boring ones. Any company that lets me ask its employees if they’ve ever been in a fist fight is a crazy fun place to work in my book.]

Michael: But you’ve got to be pragmatic, too. You’ve got to be practical. You have to have the balance between being pragmatic and having a purpose, because the minute you start losing sight of your purpose, you’re off course.

Insider: Oh, right. Envoy should have hired you to be their public speaker.

Michael: Thank you.

Insider: Like, at the beginning of every meeting, they’ll be like, “And first, a word from Michael,” and we’d all clap. I have another question. You’ve been the CEO of companies before – have you ever seen someone lose it at work?

Michael: Oh yes. One time at a company, a gentleman from the funding department lost it. Actually, he wasn’t doing a very good job and we asked him to leave. Then he started threatening everyone and telling them he was going to beat them up. People were locking their offices. They ended up calling me in to calm him down.

Insider: What’d you say to him?

Michael: I just said, “What’s going on? What’s your grievance? Why do you have everybody on edge here for? Let’s talk.” Then I told him he couldn’t be acting like that in the office. It all worked out in the end.

Insider: Michael, you sound like a standup guy. If I ever lose it at the office, I’m going to have them call you to calm me down. Thanks for answering all my questions!

Michael posing with some fab Envoy folks who would never threaten to beat everyone in the office up.

Michael posing with some fab Envoy folks who would never threaten to beat everyone in the office up.

Michael Team

Envoy Mortgage: No need to lock doors around us!

Okay folks, you get back to work. I’m off to count my fruit flies.

I’ve Never Told Anyone This

I dialed my next interviewee, but the call went to his voicemail. An hour later, he sent me an email. This is what it said:

“I want to apologize for missing our call today. I knocked out a tooth and was at the dentist.”

I’ve Never Told Anyone This

An Interview with Envoy Mortgage Regional VP Mike Kuehner

Michael Kuehner (answering phone): This is Mike.

Envoy Insider: You knocked out a TOOTH?

Mike: I’m an idiot and uncoordinated. Earlier today I was playing tennis and stumbled forward and fell on the racket.

Insider: And it straight up knocked your tooth out?

Mike: Yep. It’s one of the lower ones. I got a stint in there now and they’re putting a bridge in there on Friday.

Insider: You’ve been in this business a long time, right?

Mike: A VERY long time, because I’m really old.

Insider: How old are you?

Mike: That’s a secret.

Insider: Well you’re the one who brought it up!

Mike: I’ll say this: I celebrated my 50th birthday already and we’re gonna celebrate it next year, too.

Insider: Why are you so funny about your age?

Mike: I’m recently single, and I’ve found that I’m more numerically attractive if I’m an age lower than 50.

Insider: Numerically attracting. That’s funny. Can you please describe your wardrobe?

Mike (sighing): People think I like to wear a lot of black.

Insider: Do they like to think this because you actually do wear a lot of black?

Mike: When I was in college a girl told me I looked good in black and I’ve rolled with it since then. Her name was Laurie Hammermeister and she was a cheerleader at Washington State. And really good-looking. I was like, “Shoot! [He actually didn’t say shoot but I don’t feel like getting fired this week] I’ll wear black!” (laughing) And she never even dated me! I’ve been wearing black all these years and she never even dated me.

Mike Golf

Little did Laurie know what she’d started…

Insider: It’s so funny how stuff like that sticks. One time in high school a girlfriend and I were having our makeup done for prom and the makeup lady told me I had a big forehead. I wore bangs until college. So where do you live?

Mike: I was living in California but recently relocated to Nevada.

Insider: What’s that like?

Mike: I’ve lived here before. Lived in California, Oregon, Washington…I was in the Marine Core for fifteen years.

Insider: The Marine Core? What’s the Marine Core like?

Mike: A lot of people yelling at me. They were so mean! The biggest thing I remember is I had been talking to the Air Force and the Navy, and ended up going with the Marines. The very first morning at boot camp they came in and woke me up at four in the morning, and someone told me, “If you’d have gone with the Air Force they don’t get up until six.” So every morning around six I’d look at my watch and think, we’ve been going for two hours and they’re just waking up.

Insider: Do you have any scary Marine stories?

Mike: I was in flight school and they had us going in the water upside down. Like on An Officer and a Gentleman. That part was pretty easy. The thing that was scary was when they did the same thing and you’re in a mockup CH46 helicopter.

They drop it from about five feet above the water and since the engines are on top, the helicopter flips upside down as soon as it hits the water. So you get the sensation of actually having a water accident. And it’s in a pool, so you can see. Well now that you’re used to that, they blindfold you. Plus there are six exits in the helicopter, and they shut three of them off and you don’t know which three.

Insider: No!

Mike: There are six of us in there, and this one kid FREAKS out and hits his head on the side of the helicopter and he’s bleeding like crazy. It looked really bad! He’s half drowned. There’s blood everywhere, and we drag him out…And I’ve never told anyone this, but I pulled the blindfold off my right eye so I could see. I cheated my way into the Marines.

Insider (laughing): Mike! The Marines are totally coming after you if they read the Envoy Insider.

[Note: In searching for whatever scene Mike was talking about in An Officer and a Gentleman, I actually found footage of the type of underwater helicopter evacuation he was talking about. Here’s a 30 second video, minus the blood and cheating… https://youtu.be/mVMC3lwl5Ho.]

Insider: Tell me about the best and worst vacations you’ve been on.

Mike: The best vacation was a trip on a sailing ship, about 250 feet long. If you wanted to sail, you could sail. If you wanted to drink, you could drink.

The worst vacation: So I have four kids and they ALL wanted to go to Disneyland.

Insider: Oh boy.

Mike: And nobody ever told me about the Fast Pass. So I’m standing in line and watching all these [BAD WORD THAT I WISH I COULD USE BECAUSE IT WAS REALLY FUNNY] cut in front of me and I’m like, “EXCUSE me? I’m here! What’s going on?” And they’re like, “Oh, we’re Fast Pass.” That whole vacation all I did was wait in line and watch people cut in front of me. The WHOLE time. Waiting in line.

Mike and his daughters. I think this makes up for the fast pass debacle.

Mike and his daughters. I think this makes up for the fast pass debacle.

Insider: That sounds awful. How old are your kids?

Mike: Now they’re 21, 20, 18 and 17.

Insider: Dang! You had them close together!

Mike: Clearly I didn’t plan it because now I’m going to have all four in college at one point.

Insider: Unless one goes to prison?

Mike: That’s true! There’s still time for that to happen.

Mike's kids. Hopefully one of them will decide to venture into armed robbery instead of college.

Mike’s kids. Hopefully one of them will decide to venture into armed robbery instead of college.

Insider: So you mentioned you’re recently single. What’s your strategy for dating. Are you online?

Mike: I’ve done a little bit online, had a few friends set me up. I don’t know what my strategy is. I really don’t. I’m finding that I’m an extremely bad boyfriend though. Actually, I haven’t’ gotten to that part yet. There’s people I’ve taken out on dates that thought I was their boyfriend, but I didn’t get the message. I’ll take them out three or four times, then I’m out travelling for a week with work and I call when I get back, like, “Hey, want to go out?” And they’re like, click. I’m telling you, this job is getting in the way of my love life.

Insider (raising my voice): Wait a minute, Mike. You take a lady out three or four times and then you don’t call for a WEEK?

Mike (raising his voice louder than mine): Why am I going to call someone in California when I’m in Washington? Or call someone in Nevada when I’m in Oregon? What am I going to say?

Insider (even louder): Um, like, “Hey, hope you’re having a great day!”

Mike: It wouldn’t end at that.

Insider: Well do you text?

Mike: I don’t really like texting. But you think I should text more, huh?

Insider: Because then you could just text the lady during the day. Like my husband will text me and tell me he’s thinking about me. And it’s takes like two seconds for him to do it and makes me feel good.

Mike: That works when you’re married, but not when you’re a boyfriend, because then the girl is like, “Where are you? What are you doing?”

Give the man some space, ladies!

Give the man some space, ladies!

Insider: Well, I guess you’re doomed, Mike. Is there anything else people should know about you?

Mike: God I hope not.

Insider: Mike, you are hilarious…and kind of crazy. This was so fun. Thanks for answering my questions!

Okay folks, you get back to work, and I’m off to convince HR to let me have my own dating advice column in the next issue of Envoyce.