Fighting Cancer with Great Love – Pick Up Sticks Style

Glena, Bunny and Sabrina in NYC, circa 2004

Glena, Bunny and Sabrina in NYC, circa 2004

When we published our Thanksgiving Every Day post back on November 21, we wrote that we had hoped to get it online earlier but that “. . .our week got preempted by life. . “

What we didn’t tell you was that the preemption was a diagnosis of State 4 Colon Cancer for our very best friend, Pick Up Sticks copywriter and blogger, Bunny.  The week before Thanksgiving she went to the emergency room in Santa Fe, with a referral from an urgent care doc convinced that she had appendicitis.  Alas, it wasn’t her appendix acting up.

Bunny and Sabrina on the Plaza, Santa Fe, July 2012, with a high school friend, Kerry

Bunny and Sabrina on the Plaza, Santa Fe, July 2012, with a high school friend, Kerry

Like everyone else, when we heard the words “Stage 4”, we found ourselves in a bit of a panic.  As some of you who have seen us all together at market know, Bunny is our family.  She is like our sister, but loves us like a best friend and we love her back accordingly.  We’ve know each other since first grade and we’ve shared prom dresses and rides with bad boys in pickup trucks and days on the lake in bikinis and several marriages starting and ending and a thousand family dinners and dancing all night in dive bars in New York. . and meeting you in our booth at market.

Glena and Bunny at the Logan High Prom, looking hot in 1977

Glena and Bunny at the Logan High Prom, looking hot in 1977

Bunny’s a freelance writer and we’re just one of her clients, but when she writes about Pick Up Sticks, it’s from the heart and from long experience.  She was with us at our very first retail show (Country Thunder in Phoenix) and has helped us nurse this business into fruition from day one.

So it’s only natural that in her healing process, Pick Up Sticks plans to be a major player.  On the day of her diagnosis, when several of her numerous friends were in the hospital room, her friend MariAnne fingered her Pick Up Sticks necklace and said, “I need a special Bunny charm, one I can wear that will remind me to say a prayer and send a good thought to her every minute of every day.”

Bunny, Sabrina and Baby Shasta, circa 1978

Bunny, Sabrina and Baby Shasta, circa 1978

That idea grew, and Bunny’s Mom, Betty, who is one of our exclusive retailers in Logan, NM (our hometown, of course) looked through the catalog and found a charm that expressed Bunny perfectly.  She then ordered every single one we had in stock, put out the word, and in the past three weeks, has sold almost 200 charms.  She’s sold them at a higher profit margin, putting all that money made into a benefit account for Bunny, who unfortunately, will have rather high out-of-pocket costs for the next six months while she begins chemo treatment.

We’re taking it one day at a time, trying to deal with what could be a dark diagnosis, and we’re watching Bunny turn it into learning and loving experience, which is what she does with her life every day.  For those of you who know her, you can follow her journal entries at www.caringbridge.org/visit/bunnyterry.  Send along an encouraging word if you’re so inclined.

Bunny and Glena at the 12 Shores Golf Course at Ute Lake, Thanksgiving 2011

Bunny and Glena at the 12 Shores Golf Course at Ute Lake, Thanksgiving 2011

We’re honored that Pick Up Sticks charms are adorning the necks of women from Maine to California who are daily reaching up to hold that charm and Bunny’s well-being between their fingertips, wishing her well and saying a prayer for her.

She’s slated for 20 chemo treatments at the end of which her oncologist will explore surgical options.  She’s got one under her belt and is feeling great.  And she gave up the blog for this ONE post. . .otherwise she says she’ll be back with a vengeance next week to talk about new designs or something like that.

Bunny and Glena in the center of lots of Logan girls, Summer 2011

Bunny and Glena in the center of lots of Logan girls, Summer 2011

If you have someone in your life who is going through something difficult and you need a little help picking a special charm for them, let us help you out.  This charm project for Bunny has been one of the most rewarding things we’ve been involved in since we started the business.

And of course, we’d appreciate your prayers and good thoughts sent her way.

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Logan, New Mexico – A Piece of Why Pick Up Sticks is What it is

Logan, New Mexico.  Population 1,094.  The place where, if you want to send someone a letter, you just write their name and then “Logan, NM 88426” on the envelope.  The place, like the theme song from Cheers, “Where everybody  knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” The place where there’s a 98% chance somebody’s going to give you a big bear hug when they see you.

Logan Longhorns bus in front of the old Country Store - circe 1974

Pick Up Sticks is a company with a great story behind it – the story of Glena and Sabrina as cousins and best friends who had a vision that combined art with found object and images and then created something fun and heartfelt that allows women to celebrate themselves and one another.  It’s not coincidental that this happened to two girls who grew up on the dusty streets of Logan, New Mexico.

We’ve already told you the story of their hardscrabble, tough-as-nails ancestors who traveled by wagon to New Mexico from Missouri and how they settled eventually in Logan.  We’ve shared what an influence “Mother” (Glena and Sabrina’s great-grandmother Ade Johnston) was in shaping exactly who Glena and Sabrina became.  What we haven’t told you was how growing up in such a tiny little village helped to make them who they are.

The old Logan Depot. Our best friend Robin remembers going there when she was 4 or 5 with her uncle to get the mail sack as it was thrown off the eastbound train.

There are no stoplights in Logan.  There’s also no movie theater, no dress shops, no mall. . .as you might imagine, Logan’s the place where you just have to make your own fun. Use your imagination. Turn junk into treasures.  Develop insatiable curiosity and create something from it, whether it’s a playground game or a cigar box diorama.

We spent our summers riding bikes all over town.  The adults wanted us out of the house, always, and we traveled in a pack.  One summer the village authorities decided to put in a new sewer system, digging trenches down the middle of the street.  Those trenches remained open for weeks, and we developed an intricate game of hide and seek that moved from one block to the next every day.

Glena and Sabrina with a pile of cousins and Mother -Glena is seated on the far left; Sabrina is the little one with the pigtails

There were rules of behavior that we all instinctively knew.  One thing we were never allowed to say was “We’re bored.” It was common knowledge that our Moms had an arsenal of really awful chores for the kid who uttered that phrase.  You were required, with no exceptions, to speak to every adult you saw, and if you failed to do so, you were in big trouble with your parents.  When someone got sick, or even, heaven forbid, died, you went with your Mom while she delivered a covered dish to their house. You didn’t talk back.  You treated people with respect (okay, there were those episodes like when we chased that kid on our bikes, waving a dead snake, but the parents never knew about that, right?).

Those small town people taught us to have hearts.  And to play hard, using what we had on hand, which always included our imaginations.

Logan is just a small village sitting on a bluff overlooking the Canadian River in northeastern New Mexico.  But I’m pretty sure that if Glena and Sabrina had grown up in a city like Albuquerque or Dallas or even Manhattan, the results would have been markedly different. There would have been no Cromer’s Grocery, where they could run in, letting the wooden door slam behind them, grab a loaf of bread and tell Mrs. Cromer, “Thanks – just put that on my Mom’s ticket please!”  There would have been no hanging out in the butcher section of the Country Store, watching Leeman Stewart carve up a side of beef while he told stories.  There would have been no back booth at the Fireside Cafe where we sipped Dr. Peppers and ate our afternoon candy bar after school, talking about boys and learning to negotiate the treacherous slopes of junior high romance.

Logan taught Glena and Sabrina to care about people and gave them lots of close friends.  They were surrounded by family – grandparents next door (or living with them), great-grandmother down the street.  Glena’s Dad was running the Malco station out on the highway and always had a quarter for the coke machine and a bag of peanuts.

Sabrina's Dad Lloyd (far left) and Glena's Dad Albert (center) with Glena and more cousins

Our Moms met every morning (and sometimes every afternoon) for coffee at the Yucca or the Fireside Cafe. Our parents had frequent gatherings – barbecues out at Ute Lake or in someone’s backyard, coffee and cake at someone’s house after a basketball game, and that one glorious New Year’s party at the Feerer’s where I swear I saw the first chilled shrimp I’d ever seen. .  .

Logan is a place where people visit with one another and take care of one another.  It hasn’t changed that much since the 60’s and 70’s when we were kids.  We still speak to everyone we know.  We still carry in a covered dish when someone is sick or hurting.

It’s a place with lots of heart. It’s a place where you create your own life and your own fun. Just like Pick Up Sticks Jewelry.  It’s understandable why the Family & Friends charm category is always so popular with Pick Up Sticks customers – that’s what Pick Up Sticks is made of.

Pick Up Sticks Logo Photo – Where We Came From Part 3

Two little girl cousins, one hot summer afternoon, Anna Lee’s backyard in Logan, New Mexico, with a kiddie pool full of ice cold water. . .and, of course, a pistol.  Sabrina didn’t believe in swimsuits and Glena didn’t believe in being photographed – that’s why she’s threatening the photographer with her pistol water gun.  We were girls of the Wild, Wild West, living life as hard and fast and furious as we could.  Or as hard and fast and furious as Anna Lee (Glena’s mom) would let us.

As you probably know, we grew up in small town America – Logan, NM, population 550 in the 70’s,right next door to each other.  When we weren’t swimming in the backyard, we were swimming in Ute Lake, which was just down the road.  Or we were jumping on our bikes and high-tailing it over to Mother’s for popsicles on the beat up couch she kept on her front porch.  Pretty sweet stuff.  We’d like to have one of those summer afternoons back.

Below is another photo taken the same day, just to show you that on occasion, Glena was not the one in charge.  We debated for days on which one of these photos would best serve for our logo.  In the end, the one with the most action looking like we were having the most fun won.  As always, our motto is Have Great Fun With the Ones You Love.  Or Be With Those Who Make You Smile (shameless plug for one of our charms. . .)!

But it’s true.  Spend quality time with people you care about.  If you see a kiddie pool, jump in.  Who knows?  You might end up creating something as much fun as Pick Up Sticks.  We did!

Making Our Skeleton Dance: Where We Came From. . .

Ruth and Ade Johnston, Gallegos, New Mexico (circa 1920's)

George Bernard Shaw said, “If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, at least make it dance.”  That’s one of our favorite quotes.  In fact, Sabrina once designed a charm with that written on the back.  We love it because it tells part of the story of who we are and where we came from.

Logan, New Mexico (circa 1907)

Homesteaders.  Hardscrabble.  Hungry.  Tough.  Tenacious.  Those are all words that describe Glena and Sabrina’s great-great-grandparents.  The Osborns and Johnstons traveled to New Mexico from Missouri in 1906 in a wagon train with several other families, headed west with a promise of prosperity in their steamer trunks and saddlebags.  They landed in Logan, a tiny village in northeastern New Mexico, and settled on a section of land north of town, where water was scarce and the weather was frequently threatening and almost always unpredictable.

Logan, NM - crowd photo from 1911

But they persevered.  They were trailblazers and they were adventurous.  There’s a story about Tralve Johnston, Glena and Sabrina’s great-grandfather – when no one else could get a wild black stallion across the Canadian River, Tralve climbed on and then he held on.  It was a rodeo in the river, the old folks say, the craziest ride of the trip.  Tralve became a legend, renowned for his own wild and fearless behavior.

Ruth (right) and her cousin Opal in the 1920's

After staking their claim near Gallegos, New Mexico, Ade and Tralve Johnston tried their hand at dry-land farming.  For those of you who don’t know it, dry-land farming is a truly fearless endeavor – you plant as soon as the rains end in the spring (if the rain shows up at all) and then pray for moisture (but not too much) all summer long.  Sometimes, if you get extremely lucky, you actually make a crop.  It’s dry and dusty work, and seldom rewarding.  But it gets you land.  It gets you roots.

Logan Train Depot

They raised chickens as well, and sold the eggs in town.  Tralve took a job in the 20’s driving a truck, and when he started misbehaving and staying away from home too long, Ade divorced him.  It was scandalous, unheard of in those days, especially in rural New Mexico.

But she was stronger than the scandal; Ade just held her head high and worked harder at raising her daughter Ruth to be as tough as her mama.  Eventually Ade and little Ruth moved into Nara Visa and opened a restaurant, cooking for the locals to
make ends meet.

Nara Visa, NM, circa 1906

When times got tough there, she sold out and moved 24 miles southwest to Logan, where she opened a more prosperous café.  She didn’t quit.  She didn’t go home to Missouri.  She just kept working and building a business.  It was the 30’s – when most folks sold out and moved to California, she stayed.

Ruth and her cousin Opal (top row) in Tucumcari New Mexico

And that’s part 1 of how we make the skeleton dance here at Pick Up Sticks.  Instead of focusing on the negative parts of our history, we celebrate it.  We’re adventurous (who in the world would have ever believed we could create a jewelry business from thin air?), we’re tough and tenacious (those early years were almost unbearable – have we told you some of our scary early market stories?), and we believe in strong women because that’s where we come from.

By celebrating where we came from, we also celebrate you.   We celebrate your own family stories, the adventurous genes coursing through your veins, the hardscrabble tanacity you share with your forebears.  It’s our goal every day to help you feel happy about who you are and where you come from.

By definition, the word “vintage” means several things:  “No longer modern.”  “a wine, especially a good one,” and “recognized as being of high quality and lasting appeal.”  We created our jewelry line with a vintage feel for a lot of reasons – most of it having to do with our history with our great-grandmother, Ade Johnston (we called her “Mother,” and you can read more about how she influenced Pick Up Sticks here).

But we also felt that by taking images that were no longer modern and combining them with the best of quotes and inspiration, we might just create something that had lasting appeal to you.  History, especially your own, is always important, and it’s
generally beautiful.  Even if there are skeletons.  Just be sure you make them dance. . .

There are more stories and more skeletons.  We can’t wait to share them with you.

Pick Up Sticks Retailer of the Month – Terry’s Floral of Logan, New Mexico

Betty Terry of Terry’s Floral and Gifts, located at 1001 Yucca in Logan, New Mexico, might seem to have a distinct advantage over most Pick Up Sticks retailers.  After all, her shop is located in the hometown of Glena and Sabrina, the team behind Pick Up Sticks.  In fact, it’s in the converted garage of Sabrina’s childhood home and just down the street from where Glena grew up.  Just by virtue of her store’s location, you might think there’s some Pick Up Sticks creative brainpower floating around in the air.

 

And of course, she knows Glena and Sabrina personally.  They grew up with her daughter, played in her yard, ran their car up and down her driveway, even ran through her front door for years, either in search of Bunny or something to wear out of her closet.  Betty knows the why and wherefore of Pick Up Sticks because she knows the why and wherefore of Glena and Sabrina.  Sounds advantageous, doesn’t it? 

But then there’s the size of Logan – not such a distinct advantage.  With a population of approximately 1,100 (yes, you read that right.  Glena and Sabrina grew up in a village without stoplights, crime or a movie theater. . .), Logan lacks what most retailers need most:  buyers in large numbers.  Despite this lack, Betty became an exclusive retailer just a few months after she began selling Pick Up Sticks. 

 

So we decided to make her our September Retailer of the Month.  We figured if Betty and Terry’s Floral can become an exclusive retailer and order $1,500 of product in a year’s time (although truth be told, she’s way past that number), anyone can do it.  We asked her for tips to pass along to you, and here’s what she told us:

“It’s all about getting charms out there where everyone can see and touch them.  My business is primarily floral, and for a small town, people in Logan really love to buy flowers for one another.  When I put a loaded  Judy bust form on the floor right in the path of every shopper, Pick Up Sticks started flying out the door.  My Judy’s an eye-catcher, and once she stops them in their tracks to take a look, customers are hooked.”

Terry’s Floral also has an active Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/oNGBQ8) on which Betty posts lots of Pick Up Sticks images, news and links to any new blog posts.  She makes sure her fans know when she gets a new shipment, posting several times each week so that collectors don’t miss the chance to buy something new.  She says if you’re not using Facebook to promote your product and your Pick Up Sticks, you’re missing a great marketing tool.

Finally, she offers initial charms on a ribbon to go with floral arrangements.  It’s a relatively inexpensive add-on that makes a bouquet immediately more personal. 

And of course, when she heads out to the Post Office every morning to pick up the mail and visit with her neighbors, Betty’s wearing her Pick Up Sticks.  “Sometimes I think I sell as much on the street as I do in the store,” she says. 

“I love selling Pick Up Sticks.  My shop is a hodge-podge of new and old things – a fun place to shop.  Pick Up Sticks is very popular here – possible because the owners/designers are local gals, but most of all because the charms are unique.  Every customer can find one that fits her personality or that of a friend.  They are great gifts for any occasion – some are quirky, some are serious, and I find that most shoppers want several to mix and match.  And the new clips are great – they make charms easy to exchange quickly.”

Great tips, and great job, Betty.  Congratulations to Terry’s Floral and Gifts of Logan, New Mexico (575-487-2420), for being our September Retailer of the Month.  Terry’s is proof positive that anyone anywhere can be a successful Pick Up Sticks Retailer!

Pick Up Sticks goes to the Logan Prom

Larissa's very creative and adorable Pick Up Sticks necklace

We just happened to be at the Annex Bar & Grill in our hometown, Logan, New Mexico, on Friday night, and as luck would have it, it was Prom Night at Logan High.  The Annex was packed with high school kids all dressed in their finest, enjoying dinner before the dancing.

Prom night’s a big deal in Logan – when there are less than 1,000 people living in a place, excuses to dress up, rent a tux, and buy flowers for your date are few and far between.  The girls spend hours on their hair and makeup and purchase amazing dresses, and this year was no exception.  We saw plumage unlike anything displayed throughout the remainder of the year, and in the midst of it all, we saw our  medium key (PT013) on a turquoise ribbon. 

Larissa Ramirez wore us to the prom in Logan this year!  She looked fabulous, and we love that she chose our jewelry to help her dance the night away.  We’re just sorry that they don’t still do the prom in the old gym like they did back in 1978 (see photo below of Glena and Bunny at the prom THAT year) – it would have been like some crazy sort of deja vu for our jewelry to go to the prom there, especially if they did the hustle. . . 

Glena and Bunny - Logan High School Prom 1978

Any of you out there know someone who wore Pick Up Sticks to the prom?  Send us a picture at marketing@pickupsticks.net and we’ll post you on our blog.  Be sure to include a story  – you know how we love a good story!

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm  Comments (1)  
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