Dixie Darr

Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2006 at 6:50 am

Shopping Habits

“The universe has its own set of rules and its own sense of timing.” Richard Carlson, Don’t Worry, Make Money

Yesterday, I participated in a market research focus group. I spent two hours talking about grocery stores with five other women and the research leader. They handed each of us $100 as we left.

They only call me to do this about once a year, so it can’t really be considered a profit center, but it’s a nice piece of change, especially this time of year. It’s also fun, and I learned something from the other participants about a new grocery store that is being built in my neighborhood. It may turn out to be my regular store. After hearing what these women had to say about their own grocery shopping habits, I may also stop running around to different stores to follow the sales. One woman said she goes to only one store and figures it all evens out in the end. She might spend a little less there on some items and a little more on others, but she saves the gas and time that I spend going from place to place. That made a lot of sense to me.

If you’d like to participate in a focus group, look up market research companies in your local yellow pages. They are always looking for new people.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved


In Uncategorized on November 29, 2006 at 11:05 am


“You can have anything you want if you will give up the belief that you can’t have it.” Robert Anthony

In my quest to find people with unusual approaches to self-employment, I find that sometimes I just need to listen to whoever is around me. Yesterday, my writer friend Irv was talking about having Thanksgiving at his daughter’s house. She lives in a rural area outside of Denver and works as a midwife.

Thousands of midwives work in the U.S., but Jean’s business is a little different. Most midwives go to their clients’ homes or work in hospitals or birthing centers. Jean has set up a room in her house as a birthing center and the mothers-to-be come to her.

* * *

On another note, a local homeowners association made the news when a woman resident put up an outdoor wreath in the shape of a peace sign. The HOA told her to take it down because they interpreted it as a sign of protest against the war in Iraq. The resident explained that peace has a spiritual meaning, especially at this time of the year. She vowed to keep the wreath up, even if the accumulated fines reached $1,000. The negative publicity about their anti-peace stance caused the HOA to back down and allow her to keep her wreath.

It’s an interesting world we live in, where peace is a controversial goal.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2006 at 7:09 am

Time Is On My Side (Not)

May you live in interesting times.

Chinese curse

Time is definitely NOT on my side this week. Maybe that is why this little gadget caught my eye, when they featured it on one of those HGTV gift shows:

It’s called a Tempo Time Tag. Only about an inch long, it clips on your sleeve or notebook or anywhere else you might need a discreet time check. I’m not sure why anyone who wears a watch would need one, and everybody I know wears a watch except me, which is probably why I’m intrigued by it. I haven’t ordered it yet because they only come in packs of two and I don’t know why I would need more than one.

This is a practice that drives me crazy in things like batteries. Why can’t I buy exactly the number I want instead of the 2 or 4 or 8 that come in a package?

I’d also like to find someplace local that I can buy it to avoid paying the $5 or more shipping charge for something that weighs a couple of ounces. Maybe I’ll check the dollar store and see if they have something similar.

Have you noticed the proliferation of dollar stores? They’re everywhere. The current equivalent of the dime stores that abounded when I was a kid (and where very little was available for 10¢), these stores are as popular as thrift stores were a few years ago.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2006 at 7:18 am

The Holiday Siege Begins

“I have seen more artists damaged by unlimited time than limited time.” Julia Cameron Letters to a Young Artist

Every year, I get to the holiday season feeling rushed and overwhelmed with everything I have to do in a short period of time. I don’t know why it still surprises me. Today, the advent study class I signed up for at church begins and I start teaching a new class at the University tonight. I have three new classes starting in the next three weeks, one of which I have never taught before. My unfinished column is due at the newspaper, I need to get plastic on my windows before a winter storm hits tomorrow night, and I have to change the batteries in my smoke detectors.

I’ll work on the column for a couple of hours this morning, then walk to church and back to get my exercise in. Meanwhile, I try to make sure to write everything down. Knowing that I have a list eliminates the endless loop of reminders running through my head—at least that’s the theory. Somewhere in the mix, I need to decorate for Christmas, write my Christmas letter, address and mail cards, get together with friends, shop for (and wrap) gifts. Of course, there are also the usual activities of grading papers, preparing for class, attending meetings, writing here and on and on. I have to stop now because I’m starting to feel inundated again.

Breathe. Know that I will either get everything done or I won’t. Either way, I will emerge on the other side of the holidays, looking forward to my birthday in January and to spring of another year beyond. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2006 at 10:44 am

Books for Breakfast

“For those of us with a bookish bent, reading is a reflexive response to everything. This is how we deal with the world and anything new that comes our way. We have always known that there is a book for every occasion and every obsession. When in doubt, we are always looking things up.” Diane Schoemperlen Our Lady of the Lost and Found

The one place you won’t find me today Is at the mall. The stories on the morning news about shoppers mobbing the big box stores for after-Thanksgiving sales repel me. I’d rather buy online from the comfort of my own home, with the TV on in the background and a well-stocked kitchen nearby.

This morning I did take my usual Friday morning walk to the Tattered Cover bookstore in Lower Downtown Denver, but I didn’t buy my usual banana bread from the in store coffee shop. Apparently, the banana bread bakery took the day off, so I’ll have to make my own. As it happens, I have some bananas that have just reached the appropriate stage of over-ripeness.

Last Friday, I finally made the trip to the new Tattered Cover on East Colfax in the former Lowenstein Theater. My friend Lisa Ray Turner was having a book signing for her new book, Ghosts. She and her co-author Kimberly Field told some very funny stories about a famous robbery in the 1920s and ghosts on the third floor. I learned that mint employees are not allowed to bring any coins into the mint and women visitors cannot bring their purses. All the circulating coins in the country come from either the Denver or the Philadelphia mints.

They stopped offering tours for a while after 9/11, but you can now make reservations for a tour. Although I’ve spent my whole life in Denver, I have never been inside the mint. Listening to Lisa and Kimberly made me want to take a tour. Their book would be a great Christmas gift for anyone who is interested in coins, mints or Denver history. And you don’t have to go to the mall to find it.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2006 at 9:09 am

Happy Thanksgiving!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank

This is everyone’s favorite holiday because it isn’t commercialized. We don’t have to send cards, buy presents, send flowers or hang harvest-colored lights. My cynical side thinks this is probably because Thanksgiving comes so close to Christmas and we just don’t have TIME to do all that before we have to do it all next month.

I’ll be celebrating with my dad and stepmother, a simple, quiet meal. I am especially thankful that we don’t have to watch any football on TV, even though the Broncos are playing. One of my personal Thanksgiving traditions is to read Truman Capote’s

nostalgic and funny story, “A Thanksgiving Visitor.” Tonight, I’ll watch Ugly Betty, my favorite new TV show.

Meanwhile, my contributions for dinner are the turkey, gravy, pumpkin pie and my famous Cranberry Salad (recipe below). In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I got the recipe from Rose Hahn over 30 years ago.

Cranberry Salad

Chop 1 bag (12 oz) of fresh cranberries and ¾ cup of walnuts. Mix with ¾ cup of sugar, cover and let stand overnight. Add 2 cups miniature marshmallows and one package prepared Dream Whip. Yummy.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2006 at 6:52 pm

Art as Business

“Perhaps if we talked of art more as a form of invention and entrepreneurship, we would have more enthusiasm for it as an American enterprise.” Julia Cameron Letters to a Young Artist

Today I visited a man who makes dinosaurs for a living. You can make a business out of anything.

Dennis Wilson wasn’t the kind of kid who could name all the dinosaurs by the age of two. He was an artist, not a scientist. After earning a degree in painting and sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design, he started making art from road kill.

You read that right.

It must not have paid very well because he applied for a job at the American MuseumNew York City as a preparator, sculpting and caring for exhibits. He had no background or knowledge in paleontology, but the museum had discovered that it was easier to hire artists and train them in science than to hire scientists and train them to do art. in

He got good at it, realized that not very many people in the country could do what he did, and moved to Denver to open Pangaea Designs. In addition to reconstructing fossils for museums, exhibits and private collectors, he designs animal-shaped toys for a manufacturer.

Dennis’s enthusiasm for his work is obvious as he describes spending six months placing thousands of individual feathers on a mononykus model.

The next time you hear that little voice in your head shooting down your latest great idea by saying, “You can’t make a living doing that,” remember Dennis. And do it anyway. Remember the Chinese proverb, “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2006 at 10:09 am

Let’s Retire Retirement

“I’ll run out of gas long before I run out of ideas of what to do. I don’t have retirement in mind.” Robert Redford.

I talked to my friend Kathy last night. She’s probably the most right-brained person I know, so I was eager to share with her Dan Pink’s theory that we are entering the conceptual age, when right brain abilities will become more important than left brain skills we’ve emphasized for the past century or so.

She was initially elated at the idea, then dejected because she thought, “I’m going to be too old to take advantage of it!” At 56, she’s hardly over the hill and I strongly doubt that she will retire at 65. Like most baby boomers, she and I plan to continue working long after the traditional retirement age.

To the astonishment of my twenty something students, retirement doesn’t sound like much fun to us. What are we supposed to do—play bingo and lie around the pool all day? I don’t think so.

In fact, many baby boomers are starting businesses. With their families grown, houses paid off and retirement funds available, it may be the perfect time to start that business. My friend Irv’s wife Bev, who’s in her 70s, is getting bored and planning to go back to work part-time. She had worked for many years in the legal field and now plans to provide document delivery services for lawyers. Sounds like a winner to me.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2006 at 9:36 am

Telling Stories

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.” Max Ehrman, Desiderata

I’ve been reading A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink about the increased need for right brain functions in our left brain world. My friend Maureen, the marrying woman, recommended it to me. She was reading it as an assignment before she attends a Making it Better Seminar in Las Vegas put on by our mutual friend, Barbara Winter.

This is one of those books that has great ideas and things for me to look up on every page. Pink lists six right brain aptitudes we need to develop, not to replace our left brain skills, but to complement them. I’m reading right now about the need for stories to connect with others. That’s probably one of the reasons blogs are so popular—because readers get to know the authors and their companies on a more personal basis.

An example: I’m more likely to buy Newman’s Own products after reading Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, the book that tells the story of how the business started and grew.

We remember stories better than facts and we connect with others through our stories. Think about that when you are planning your marketing materials. How can you incorporate a personal story?

This is a good incentive to me to continue my exploration of writing short stories, which my writers’ group forced me into.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2006 at 10:38 pm

To Market To Market

“Marketing is not a function; it is a way of doing business.” Regis McKenna

Most people I know who decide to become self-employed neglect marketing. At first, things go pretty well. They get work from friends and relatives and figure word of mouth will carry them through. Eventually, though, everyone runs out of friends and family and they have to reach other people. That’s when they decide that self-employment isn’t for them after all and they go back to corporate life where somebody else brings in the business.

I was thinking about this as I drove this morning and I noticed a Geeks on Call PT Cruiser next to me. The logo on the doors was prominent and both the car and the company name made me smile. Then I noticed a small plastic business card box attached to the rear of the passenger side. Take One it said.

Now that’s marketing. Not only was the logo clearly visible to everyone passing by, potential clients could also help themselves to a card even when nobody was around.

Constant marketing—that’s what it takes.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved