Thursday, December 17, 2009


Let's have a little fun today! Come to think of it, let's have a little fun for the next couple of days! This is one of my very favorite Christmas decorations, do you know what it is? If you DO, you could win a bracelet from Rocky Creek Gems! Now how cool is that? From now until midnight, CDT, on Dec. 20 you can submit answers. Then, I'll take all the correct answers and draw a winner. Actually, I'll let my husband draw the winner. While it's doubtful the winner will receive their bracelet by Christmas, you should have it in time for Three Kings Day (Jan. 6). It would also make a great valentine gift. So put on your thinking caps and take a guess!

Monday, December 14, 2009

NO HUNTING Christmas Tree

Usually we have a "hunting-theme" Christmas tree--shotgun shell lights, pheasant/quail feather garland, a pheasant perched at the top of the tree, and all the ornaments are hunting related. This year though, I did something different. I decided to do a NO HUNTING Christmas tree.

Well, actually, it wasn't my original intention--I originally intended to continue the hunting tree theme we usually enjoy. Except that I brought the wrong Christmas tree down from the attic. Yeah, yeah, I know--READ the box! That's just TOO easy! I have about 5-6 Christmas trees because I HATE hauling them up and down from the attic. Sometimes it's just easier to buy a new one. Or, as was the case for at least three of these trees, (yes, it's 6 trees that I have!) they were on sale for 90% off after Christmas. WHOA! You mean I can get an $80 tree for $8.00? And a $230 tree for $23.00?? SOLD! In fact, I'll take 'em both!

So no, it's not all that hard to get the wrong artificial Christmas tree. And once I had this baby out of the attic, NO WAY was it going back up! The other problem is Thomas, "El Gato Supremo", the Head Cat; the cat in charge of everything including dog-training. Thomas adores going into the attic. As soon as he hears the creak of the attic door he comes running. He can get up that ladder faster than greased lightening! And then you have the problem of getting him OUT of the attic. There's no rushing him. He'll come when he's darn good and ready to. So no--I had this tree down and I was using it. That's all there is to it.

The tree I ended up with was one of those super-realistic ones that is mostly trunk with branches strategically placed to look like one of those high altitude pines. Flocked with real pinecones and fake snow, it's really a cool looking tree. But it doesn't hold many ornaments. By that point I really wasn't in the mood to spend the next 4 hours decorating it anyway. So what to do? Decided on a string of red shotgun shell lights and some red bead garland. For ornaments I had a brainstorm I quickly regretted--my life-sized, clip-on dove decoys!

Yes, MY decoys. I bought them a few years back to use to decorate my office (got one perched on a pair of antlers by my doorway--next to the inflatable rattlesnake) and to use for booth displays. Of course my husband kind of decided HE liked them as well. Fine, but they're still MINE. And now that I wanted MY decoys, I couldn't find them. I did eventually, but by that time this idea was losing its "shiny" brilliance.

However, once on the tree, they really did look great. One of the boykin spaniels, Zoe, was particularly impressed. She got down underneath the tree and got into her low-profile, head-down, nose-on-the-ground, wait-for-dad-to-give-the-word crouch. She knew what these were! So as a final touch to the tree, I put a small pan of crushed, dried corn underneath the tree for "safety" since everyone knows you can't hunt over bait!

It was extremely difficult to get a photo of the tree because its in front of our French doors that lead to the back patio. Lighting is horrible! So taken from the hallway, the back of a chair that had to be moved gets in the way of a good shot. On the plus side, Mike's saddle in the background adds a certain amount of flair, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sharing A Little Handmade Christmas

It is now November 24. Exactly one month from today it will be Christmas Eve. Growing up, we always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve so as not to "compete" with what Santa would bring that night. Let's face it--evening is when the Christmas tree is at it's most beautiful, the gifts have the most sparkle, and a fire in the fireplace is at its finest. Today though, I want to offer up my Christmas present to any and all who would like it.

This project is quick and simple; inexpensive and yet quite impressive. When my daughter's paternal grandparents were alive and living in a nursing home, she made one of these trees each and every year for her grandparents. Everyone loved it! And since they were so easy to make, it made no sense to pack the tree up for next year--Kendra could just make another one, and she did! Instead, we told her grandparents to give it to whoever they would like to have it. I hope everyone who tries this project will enjoy it, and I hope too, that you will make at least one to donate to someone who otherwise might not have a tree.

Clothes Hanger Christmas Tree

Materials Needed:

6 wire clothes hangers (make sure all are the same size)
1 string of 35-50 lights
1 50-60 ft. package of fluffy Christmas garland (the fuller it is, the less you need)
Masking tape
Optional: cat-helpers to inspect and guarantee quality


Take two clothes hangers, hooks facing each other, and place one end from each hanger together to form a triangle. Tape the top of the triangle with masking tape.

Tape each hook to the side of each hanger to secure the triangle shape. Make 3.

To make the frame-work, start with 2 triangles. Insert one inside the other, then place the third one inside the first two. Space the sides so that they are approximately all the same distance apart. Secure the top of the tree, and inside the base with masking tape. (Feline helper optional)

Add the lights by taking the end light and taping it in an upright position to the top of the tree. Wrap the remainder of the string of lights around the tree, spacing them as evenly as possible. Tape lights in place to the frame of the tree as you go. If necessary, twist the string of lights so that all the lights are facing out. (Cat-helpers not recommended for this step)

Starting at the top of the tree, take one end of the garland and tuck it securely inside the tree. It is not necessary to tape it in place. Start wrapping the garland around the tree, making sure that the lights continue to be facing out. Tuck the bottom end of the garland into the previous rounds to end.

Plug in your tree and enjoy! To store, unwrap the garland from the tree to prevent it from getting smashed on one side during storage. Or better yet, donate the tree to a local nursing home and make a new tree next year.

I sincerely hope each of you who read this post will make one of these trees and will thoroughly enjoy it. I'd love to hear about your trees!

c 2001 Linda McMurry

Thursday, October 29, 2009

When Bullies Grow Up.

My spirit is bruised and bleeding today, and my soul is so heavy it's hard to keep going. Why? Because I am a victim of workplace bullying and have been for the last 5 years. I used to have an exciting and worthwhile job working with Texas landowners. I made a difference.

But then I got a new boss. At first I was excited. She was the first woman to head up the Private Lands and Public Hunting program--the agency's flagship program. There were the usual tensions, but I attributed them to the usual adjustments people must make to having a new job, and of having a new boss. But I was wrong. It only got worse. And worse, and worse.

I suddenly couldn't do anything right. Or I would do something I'd been doing for years only to find out she'd already done the task without telling me. As I did my best to communicate my concerns, I was repeatedly told the problem was with me--she was the boss and I needed to adjust. But she was also very quick to blame everyone else when she did get things wrong. Worse, it was her word against ours, and we always lost.

She doesn't have managerial skills, and sadly doesn't seem overly interested in acquiring them. She doesn't understand the role of authority and responsibility. If you give someone a responsibility, you must also give them the authority to get the task done. She doesn't understand the connection. Nor does she understand the difference between delegating and "dumping." She tries to do everything. When it turns out to be impossible she will then dump the task on us. Then, when it doesn't turn out properly WE end of taking the fall for it.

I went the division director--who had been one of my former bosses--and tried to explain what was happening. Essentially I was called a liar. Again, I was told it was my job to adjust. Now, I'm smart enough to know that this is not the whole story. At some point, as a good supervisor, she has a responsibility to utilize the skills of her staff and maximize their potential.

No, I'm not the type to just quietly roll over. I went to HR and begged them for help. HA! Their suggestion? Quit. Yeah, that's right--maybe I should just quit the job. Now what sort of job retention program is that? While the agency claims to have a grievance process, the truth is that it is a sick joke. Unless the complaint is one that concerns an EEO violation, or an illegal activity, you're just out of luck.

So what does workplace bullying have in common with other types of violence? Actually, quite a bit. It is psychological violence and the trauma is as physically damaging to the victims as if it were physical. With it comes the same feelings of shame, humiliation, sense of despair, a very real fear of retaliation and reprisals.

Each time I tried to assert myself and explain how her actions were affecting me, the program, and sometimes the landowners of Texas--I lost another part of my job as she "showed me who was boss." I have had nearly all my job duties taken away from me, one by one. For some issues there was simply no other way--I did what I ethically had to do. I am sorry about the consequences that have come about because of it, but I'm not sorry I did what I did. It was necessary.

I do no meaningful work. Many of my work assignments are totally inappropriate because they require skills I'm not required to have--like building an Access database for the wildlife division's publications. I'm not a programmer, and my job description doesn't require me to do any programming. So I'm caught between refusing and being insubordinate, or accepting the assignment and being penalized for failing.

But to everyone's surprise, I DID create the database. And I did a really kick-butt job of it. It has all sorts of fancy bells and whistles, utilizes gorgeous agency artwork--the whole bit. Of course come time for performance review, I wasn't allowed to use the aquisition of this new skill as professional development.

This past year I was also set up to fail and this time I did. I was assigned to do archeological reviews for our wildlife management areas. No, this isn't something I'm supposed to have to know how to do either, but that was the point. However, this time I at least got documentation saying that I was never provided with what I needed to do the job, and it therefore should not be held against me. I'm sure she didn't like that, but it worked.

I am isolated. I am not allowed to have any contact with anyone outside my program without prior permission. Email, phone calls, you name it--unless I get prior approval it's not allowed. All of which makes it extra difficult to do any of the stupid little jobs I've been assigned to do.

I have been denied the equity pay adjustment I was entitled to allegedly because of my poor performance THIS year. But she has not followed agency policies by providing me with the required improvement plans for last year; she has not provided justification for lowering my performance review score from satisfactory to unsatisfactory, and she has denied me dur process THIS year by counselling my about my "poor" performance and what I must do to improve. And above all, the pay adjustments were not supposed to be tied to performance!

Did I protest? Of course. But all I have been told is that it is her perogative. I know that already. My question--that still remains unanswered--is a)when does SHE have to follow agency policies and procedures, and b) WHO is supervising her? It's not MY job to supervise her!

My professional reputation is pretty well shot because she doesn't do this with men, only mature, competent, women. I'm not the only one she does this to--I'm just the loudest. I am on anti-depressants, I have stomach problems, borderline high blood pressure. I clench and grind my teeth, and I pull at my fingernails. I cry frequently. It is all I can do some mornings to push myself out the door to go to work.

Twice now I have found myself at my desk dealing with her latest abuse, trying to remain calm and professional and playing with my pair of scissors. I am horrified to look down and see that I have been cutting on myself and that my hands are now bleeding. I didn't even realize I was doing it, but in a way it felt "good" because it was a pain I could see and focus on. Yes, I have thought about suicide. I won't do it because I understand why I am feeling this way, but yes--I do understand why people would want to kill themselves. It makes the hurt go away.

While most bullies are men, the victims of a female bully 70% of the time are other women. Bullying in the workplace is every bit as damaging as any other type of abuse, but with a major difference. The sad part of this is that bullying in the workplace is not illegal. HR departments do not exist to help employees--be clear on that. They exist to keep employers out of trouble. They will side with the supervisor each and every time. They are not your friends that you can count on to help you.

Will I quit this job? Hell no! I'm sure that's the ultimate goal of hers, but I refuse to throw away my financial future just because of her. I can retire on March 17, 2011, and when that time comes....well, let's just say I'll go out in style! Don't know how yet, but I will.

If you want to learn more about this legal form of psychological violence and the trauma it causes, start here at As is true about educating yourself about other forms of violence, this is not bedtime reading.

And now, back under my desk to hide from the consequences of once again being correct...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Please Don't Let This Happen to Us!

Since I really don't have photos to post this week, I thought I'd post an email I received from one of my cowbird trappers:


This is such a beautiful story of a bagpiper who was late for a funeral.

As a bagpiper, I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man who had no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a cemetery in the remote countryside and this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost and being a typical man, did not stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late. I saw the backhoe and the crew who were eating lunch but the hearse was nowhere in sight.

I apologized to the workers for my tardiness and stepped to the side of the open grave where I saw the vault lid already in place.

I assured the workers I would not hold them up for long but this was the proper thing to do. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. I played out my heart and soul.

As I played the workers began to weep. I played and I played like I'd never played before, from Going Home and The Lord is My Shepherd to Flowers of the Forest. I closed the lengthy session with Amazing Grace and walked to my car.

As I was opening the door and taking off my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, Sweet Jeezuz, Mary 'n Joseph, I have never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.

I sure hope this isn't going to happen to us when we finally reach the point that we're ready to put in a septic tank for the Brendle house!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let's Have a Halloween Sale!

I'm no different from most of us--I get sucked into the holiday "oh I've gotta have this" just as much as the next person. What's different? It's different because I'm supposed to be making things to sell with these cool "gotta haves." Now that I've got them, the holiday for which they were made is fast approaching; and once it's over there is no more demand for these things until next year. Of course by then I'll have found more "oh I've gotta have this" items. SO....let's have a sale! What all is on sale? Well, let's see....

How about some decorations that you can just hand on your door handle for some quick and easy decorating? These are PERFECT for offices--fun but not overdone.

Remember when we used to use paper grocery bags when we went trick or treating? Those fancy containers that kids have nowadays just didn't exist. And if you were really lucky your mother might actually let you use an old pillowcase! Those were our favorites because you didn't have to worry about them tearing from the weight of all the candy the way paper bags did. But of course, the chances of actually being allowed to use one was pretty slim. Today's kids would rather die than be seen tricking or treating with an old pillowcase!

Halloween pillowcases on the other hand are a fun treat to have! Sure, you could use them for trick or treating, but they're even more fun to sleep on! They're 100% cotton, practical, cute, and something totally different. They come in sets of two, and with lots of choices you're sure to find something your little ghost or goblin will shreek in delight over.

I like decorating for holidays in the less "traditional" places. Doorknobs are one of those places of course, but so are bathrooms. This cheerful hand towel and face cloth wouldn't scare anyone, but it sure is cute!

Then of course, there's clothing. I hate to dress up for Halloween in a costume. YUK! I do like to dress for the season and for the occasion! So I love holiday-themed clothes! Shirts are one of my favorites. This is a long-sleeve deep burgundy red T-shirt that has been embroidered with an autumn faerie. This design has close to 90,000 stitches in it, and took nearly 7 hours to complete. My other favorite holiday item is socks! Yes, I DO love socks! These two pairs of socks don't actually have to be confined to Halloween, but since they were knit with Halloween in mind, it's only fair to include them in the sale.

So there you have it. From now until October 20th, everything in the Halloween category is 15% off. Everything! Use the code TRICKORTREAT when you check out to see your 15% discount. After that it's going to my booth at the Oct. 24th craft show. From there, whatever doesn't sell goes to my office-mates, daughter, and the grandkids. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gotta Brag...Just a Little

Last Thursday, Oct. 8, Mike was honored by the Texas Section of the Society for Range Management with their highest award--Outstanding Contribution to Range Management. Finally! Plenty of other awards were given for "Best This, That or the Other Thing", but this is an overall award--for someone who is generally recognized statewide as constantly and continually working to improve range management.

The evening was made even more special when Joseph Fitzsimons, TPWD's former Commission Chairman, family friend, and owner of the San Pedro Ranch down in Dimmit County showed up to speak. Mike was the ranch manager at the San Pedro for 14 years before going to work at the Texas Department of Agriculture. Mike is still indirectly involved with ranch wildlife management on the San Pedro, and the ranch will always hold a special place in his heart.

The best part for Mike was when Joseph brought in his surprise guest--his father, Hugh Fitzsimons. Mr. Hugh was the person who hired Mike originally. Joseph and his father had been on "the outs" for a number of years, so it was gratifying to see the two of them together. There in the middle of all the recognition for Mike was Mike still looking out for the best interests of others! But that's the way Mike is.

Mike isn't the kind of person who stands up and shouts "Look at me! Look what I did!" Mike's great talent is in bringing the right people together. Mention any resource related topic and Mike will more than likely say "The person you need to talk to is..., because they've been doing...." Mike brings diverse interests together and helps them see what they have in common, facilitates win-win solutions, and really doesn't seek credit for anything. As long as the work gets done Mike doesn't care who gets the credit for doing it. I guess that's why it's SO nice to see him finally getting the long-overdue recognition he richly deserves. All of us who work in the natural resources arena would like to think we're making a difference. We'd like to think that the resource and the habitat is better off because of us. Few of us however, can really say it is. Mike can say it, but of course he won't.

Gotta share a quote from Joseph's sister, Pam:

From: Pamela Howard
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 2009 6:35 PM
To: Nelle, Steve - San Angelo, TX
Subject: Thoughts...Mike McM

Steve, If it isn’t too late, I will add a short tribute to Mike. It is wonderful for you to honor him with this award ! I can only supplement the many ( some humorous, I am sure) reflections about Mike by saying that he was, is, and always shall be, foremost a teacher. His knowledge about wildlife, range management, biology, and rural life is prodigious , but it is his gift of sharing that defines him. Although he could be content as the expert in all these fields, he chooses instead to unselfishly share ANYTHING he knows with anyone sincerely interested in the topic. He wants you to be as excited as he is to see the rare flycatcher or know the tick’s natural predators. How many times have we all heard him begin a sentence with, “Did you know….” then go onto describe a little known fact of wildlife biology. He is a gift – honestly- and the whole natural world will be clapping along with us. Take care, have a wonderful time, and I wish I could be there.

Best to all,
Pam Howard

Yup, that's my Mike! I love him and I'm proud of him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Amazing What a Little Rain Will Do!

Rain...finally! I'm trying hard to think of the last time I've been able to watch it rain on and off for three days. Let's just say it's been awhile.

There is something soothing about being able to sit on the front porch and knit while watching it rain, and rain, and rain.

Rocky Creek has been more rocky than it's been a creek for the past two years. Any rain has only been enough to fill the deeper holes, and not enough to really run any water. This time however, it did happen! This time water was about 4 feet deep running over the road. By the time I was able to take pictures on Sunday, it was only about ankle deep on the road, but you could still see the debris line from the previous night. Pretty awesome, huh?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Inside the Cabin

Thanks to all of you who have commented on the photo of the cabin. Yes, I love it! It is peaceful and relaxing and the perfect place to just unwind. And having it makes it possible for me to help my parents out on the weekend. Without it I'd be driving 126 round trip! This way we have a "base of operation" for all our activity in the vicinity. So, here are some views of the inside!

Views of course wouldn't be complete with showing you some of the cedar beams that go across the ceiling decorated with some of my handiwork. The turkey-tail fan is from one of MY turkeys! We dried it and I decorated it with beadwork. There's actually six of them--one on each side of the three beams. The wreath is also made from turkey tail feathers. It's hanging high up on the wall--above the fish clock shown in the first photo actually. And of course, my husband Mike and Zoe, one of our Boykin spaniels, sitting on the front steps of the cabin after a successful teal duck hunt. Zoe is particularly fond of retrieving teal ducks because they're small--just like she is!

Blessings from Heaven

Finally, some rain!

With apologies to Shakespeare, it was "mercy, falling as raindrops, blessing all they touched." Rain on Friday night, and rain again on Saturday. You could just about hear the Earth sigh with relief and pleasure. Saturday morning, as I sat at the computer in my upstairs home office posting on the ArtFire forums I could look out directly into a midst of the large tree in our front yard. No fewer than 5 brilliant red male cardinals flitted and played among the raindrops dripping from the leaves. It was hard not to be happy!

More rain Saturday afternoon and Saturday night helped quench the thirst of so many plants and trees. It was so pleasant to be able to sit out on the porch of our cabin and knit while watching it rain! Haven't been able to do that in a very, very long time.

The extreme drought Central Texas is enduring has taken its toll on things. It's so sad to see tall, stately pine trees dead; half-century or more oak trees dead or dying--and all for a lack of any significant rainfall for the last two years. Surface moisture in the ground is long gone, and even deep moisture in the ground is gone. Ponds have dried up, streams aren't running any water. Water is being rationed. It's not a good situation.

But this morning it was different. I drove into work and it seemed as if all the world was green again! It felt so good to see something besides dusty, brown, brittle, and dead vegetation. It was still sad to see the dead trees--victims that didn't make it--among the newly green world, but hopefully those that are stressed will be able to pull out of it with this much needed drink.

Mexicans of South Texas believe that the cenizo blooms as a way of asking God for rain. God finallly answered!

Friday, August 14, 2009

So Blue in Texas

How blue can one get? Apparently pretty darn blue! I was at our cabin in La Grange the evening my father fell and broke his hip. I really only intended to be there for the weekend, so all I had with me was one change of clothes. Trust me, this gives a whole new meaning to "wash and wear."

So I went to Wal-Mart (the only game in town) and searched for a few items to tide me over. Among other things I bought a really good-looking pair of black knit crop pants. You know the kind--made from that thick but clingy swimsuit kind of knit. They actually looked pretty darn good on me! I was jazzed!

Okay, so I've got my dad in the hospital awaiting his surgery and my mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease at the house. I decide that this is the best and most logical time for me to make the frantic drive from La Grange back home to Elgin to gather up enough "stuff" to last me the rest of the week. Elgin is about 65 miles away and oh is it hot! I think it was about 103F that day. The plan was to get over there, load up stuff and get back to La Grange in time to get my mother over to the hospital about the time my father was out of surgery. Three hour round-trip drive and a four hour surgery...yeah, sure! I can make this work!

Upon arriving home I quickly as possible loaded stuff into the car while trying my best to make it all fit in such a way that I could still get my mother in the front seat and have her wheelchair in the trunk so I wouldn't have to unload things before taking her over to the hospital to see Dad. Didn't take long to get really hot, and really sweaty.

With just enough time to pull this thing off, I made my trip to the bathroom, kissed the kitties, grabbed a diet coke, and headed back without any further ado.

It was a very long day and at the end of it I was ready to just collapse. I was so tired that all I did was take off my clothes, put on my nightgown and go to bed without any further ceremony.

The next morning however, something was wrong. I got into the bathroom and realized as I got ready for my shower that I was wearing blue underwear. I didn't remember having blue underwear! Whatever. But then I take off my nightgown. It's supposed to be white with green and purple frogs, but instead it's light blue with green and purple frogs. Something isn't right! So I go over to the mirror and to my horror the image reflecting back at me from the waist to the knees looks like a giant, overweight smurf. I'm blue! Oh, so blue! Then I look down at my hands--they're blue! I stare over at the commode seat--it's blue!

I did manage to scrub the blue off my skin. Well, pretty much anyway. I couldn't get it all out from underneath my fingernails and around my knuckles.

So I took my mother to the hospital to see Dad. Unfortunately he had a very bad reaction to the combination of pain meds he'd been on the two days prior to the surgery and the anesthesia. He was totally convinced the heart monitor was a coffee maker and he was going to get it and see how it worked or die trying--which was almost the result.

During this time he was holding on to my hand--or maybe it was me holding on to his hand--doesn't matter. Suddenly the aide who had been assigned to sit with him and make sure he didn't hurt himself gasped and cried out, "Oh my gosh, here, let me help you!"


"He's cutting off your circulation! Your fingers are turning blue!"

No, he wasn't cutting off my circulation although yes my fingers were blue. So I had to go through the saga of how blue I was, and why. How embarassing, even if the aide was terribly relieved. Jeez!

That night I called home and told my husband all about being turned into a giant smurf. His response was "Well, at least I know how your commode seat got turned blue." Groan. Is there anything I've touched that isn't blue?

Apparently, what happened was when I got all hot and sweaty the dye from the knit pants bled onto my underwear and body, and when I used the toilet both at home and at my parents, the blue got transferred from me to the commode seat.

Three weeks later and both commode seats are still blue. A cup of vinegar in the wash water has set the color of the pants and they haven't bled any further. The blue is out from under my fingernails and knuckles. But even bleach hasn't gotten the blue out of my panties or my nightgown. Apparently they will stay blue as a constant reminder of my brief transformation into smurfdom. Oh well!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The True Story of the Red Dog Saloon

This is a true story. It happened back in the 1980's in South Texas during the last oil "boom." Lots of temporary oilfield workers created a rather rowdy atmosphere during this particular period of time.

The Red Dog Saloon was a local "watering hole" frequented by many of these workers. One evening one of the "regulars" among the clientele got overly "boozed up" and started a fight. He was a bully anyway and not terribly popular. Like all bullies however, he had his entourage of followers who found it safer to be on his "side" than to stand up to him.

The person who did stand up to him that evening got pulverized. He was severely beaten up and sustained considerable injuries. Stumbling out of the bar, he escaped into the junkyard across the road. That should have been the end of it, but it wasn't.

Instead of being satisfied that he'd won, the bully decided to continue the "fun" and out went looking for the guy. Fortunately the rest of his group opted to stay and drink.

So across the street and into the junkyard he went to look for him, laughing and howling how his victim was a chicken, a coward, and just generally trying to goad him into coming out of hiding. Nothing doing. So the bully continued to actively hunt for the guy so he could continue punching on him.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, in an act of pure desperation--the victim stood up as the bully passed his hiding place and hit him just as hard as he could in the back of the head with a piece of pipe. The bully went down and the victim, without so much as a backwards glance, made his escape.

When the victim was finally released from the hospital he was charged with murdering the bully. He went on trial with a family friend of ours as his attorney. He ended up getting off scot-free. Why? Well because no one actually saw him hit the other guy; everyone knew the guy was a bully; no one could prove the bully wasn't still alive when the victim escaped; someone else with a grudge could have taken advantage of the situation and delivered the fatal blow because lots of people would have loved to see him dead; and to be honest--he needed killing. The jury agreed.

The moral of this story is simple. When you've got the upper hand, or you've won a disagreement--quit. Do not ever put people into corners with no way out. Always allow the person the opportunity to "escape." If you do not, you create a desperate person willing to do anything to escape, because quite honestly, they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by doing so.

And yes, this applies to on-line forums as well folks. Always remember the Red Dog Saloon!

"Value Added"

What is the "value" of something? In the end, the value is only as much as someone is willing to spend. So how do you create the perception that something is worth more? Creating the perception is what is called "value added marketing."

Landowners in Texas own the land, but the People of Texas own the wildlife. However, private property is just that--private. So how do people get access to hunt "their" wildlife? They do it through a process we call a hunting lease. What this really means is you are paying the landowner for the right to enter the property. It makes landowners and lessees partners with the state in managing the wildlife we all enjoy. These hunting leases are quite honestly what pays property taxes for most landowners and allows them to be able to afford to keep the land.

Good habitat benefits wildlife of all species. It also makes land more desireable for leasing. How this usually works is that someone will pay a set amount per acre, say $10.00. So a 6,000 acre lease would be $60,000--which is why it is seldom that only one person is a part of a lease!

So, why should a group of hunters lease one person's land as opposed to someone else's without charging less money? VALUE ADDED is how you do it. You offer something extra. Maybe it's fishing, or maybe it's year-round use. Whether or not the lessee actually goes fishing is irrelevant--they have the opportunity and that's what's really important. The property now has a perceived increase in value. Opportunity is what adds value.

Value added works in many other areas as well. The trick for any fundraiser is to maximize the donations received, and to find ways to get people to donate just a little bit more. Remember, after 911 the children of New York collected enough pennies to purchase a fire truck! Lots of tiny increases will most assuredly add up. Right now the 48forLarry is going on in order to help raise funds for Larry's surgery.

Collecting items to sell isn't a problem! Actually that's usually the easiest part of any fundraiser. The hard part is getting spenders to spend money. If having a Good Cause is all it takes, then why gather donations to sell at all? Why not just say, "okay folks, cough it up." Because we all know it doesn't work that way.

People use the opportunity to come away with a tangible item as an "excuse" or "reason" to give more money than they might otherwise do. They have the opportunity to say "Well, I paid too much for this, but since it was a fundraiser for Such & Such Good Cause, I really don't mind." Or just the opposite: "I got a great bargain on this at a benefit for Such & Such Good Cause."

Obtaining tangible items give people the opportunity to feel good about and rationalize expenditures in amounts they might not otherwise feel they can afford to make. It is a game of enticement. How can you make the person who is willing to spend $20 be willing to spend $25? How to do you make the person who wants to donate $50 be willing to donate $75?

You know the answer: Value Added. Spend this amount and we'll be most appreciative. But spend just a bit more and we'll give you this token of our appreciation. The item may not be one that will ever get used, but the opportunity to use it is what gives it value and what makes people bump up a donation just a bit more. Value added.

In my "neck of the woods" fund-raisers for these sorts of things are commonplace; the neighboring communities all pull together, and they all follow a set formula. First off are the BBQ plates. The "drive-through to-go" plates are sold first. People drive up, pay their money, and a volunteer hands them a styrofoam container with a meal in it, and they drive off.

Next comes the sit-down eat-it-here plates. Pay your money and get your food! During this entire time there is a silent auction. One gimmick frequently used is for someone (but you better be willing to pay up if you win!) use a false name to go through and bump up bids or start the bidding on items that appear to be moving slow. This creates the perception of value added--it's obvious to others that "someone" wants this item, so you better be willing to step up and bid.

Then comes the live auction. Here it becomes a matter of embarrassment, fun, and competition. I've been to fund-raiser auctions where a rooster went for close to $500 and being marketed as a "living alarm clock." Then since auctioning alcohol is prohibited, an auction for the bottle containing it went for close to $800. Other items are generally purchased and often donated back to be auctioned off again! These aren't rich people who did this, so WHY did they do it? Because the item provided the opportunity/reason/excuse for spending more money, that's why! It was the incentive, the bait, if you will. Whatever, it works. I've never been to one of these things yet that didn't raise in the neighborhood of $50,000.

So with this as my background, I began brainstorming ways to make people want to spend just a little bit more than they were going to spend otherwise. Value added to me was the obvious solution. Increase the perceived value of donations by offering incentives to donate just a bit more.

I also felt an obligation however, to explain to the AF community I was trying to solicit participation from what they would really be giving and what they could expect: the pros and cons if you will. It's ridiculous to think that everyone will use your coupon! Doesn't happen that way. Most people won't, and we need to be honest about that. The advantage to the donor--besides helping Larry of course--comes in advertising. The advantage to the fundraiser is to have something tangible to entice donors to increase the size of their donations--value added.

It should have been a win-win-win. But somewhere along the line I blew it. Somewhere along the line in trying to document for others my reasoning and how I went through the common "thought processes" and realities of donations inherent with all fundraisers I managed to come across as belittling the current efforts. Such was never my intention. However, with emotions running high, I guess I should have expected the possibility--but I honestly didn't. Mea Culpa.

At times like these, the best thing for all concerned is to just apologize and bow out. If the idea has merit it will be resurrected by someone else. If it doesn't--well, such is life.

All I would like to happen to me personally at this point in time is to be allowed the opportunity to step back with some measure of dignity; to not have my nose repeatedly rubbed into my mistake and the resulting responses brought to the top of the thread list again and again and again by people continuing to post to the thread. I have apologized. I am sincerely sorry, now please let it die.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rock, Paper, Scissors

What do you think of when you hear "Rock, Paper, Scissors?" The old decision-making game could apply equally well to Liberty Doll Creations. Why? Well because she does all three, and because making the decision as to which ones you can't live without can be difficult, that's why!

Take this gorgeous pink marble elephant pendant for example. Definitely a "rock," and a very cute one too! Yes, you could say "IT ROCKS!" because of course, it does!

Then there's the "Paper:" such as these absolutely ADORABLE little mini-envelopes! They're perfect for little gift tags--just seal them with a sticker, sealing wax, sticky rhinestone--you name it!

And "Scissors?" Yup! She's got that as well! With her trusty scissors (and a little help from a sewing machine) Liberty Doll is able to produce cute little items like these precious drawstring bags and doll clothes. Doll clothes? Yes! She actually makes doll clothes! I HATE making doll clothes. I can do it, but I sure don't like to. In the same amount of time I can make a full-size garment. So trust me--if you've got little girls who need doll clothes--shop here!

So, let's see now, decisions, decisions. Scissors cut paper; rocks squish scissors, and paper wraps rocks...
Oh heck! Just get them all! I have a feeling LibertDoll won't mind in the least!