"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
Author's Note: Not even 3 months since Mama left to be with Jesus. Honestly, it was hard to re-read this with all the "still" references, but I couldn't bear to take them out, even though . . . .
There were so many other ways Mama helped out at home -- to save money, make money, and stretch money. These are just some of the ones that stand out. . . .
Looking back, I don’t think I realized how tough things were financially for my family. Yes, I knew I wore hand-me-down clothing most of the time. I knew most of my clothes were not in fashion, and that became more of an issue in middle school/high school as I became more aware and those things became more important. I’d like to say I was mature enough that none of that mattered, but that would be a lie. The truth is, though, Mama did such a good job compensating in so many ways, that I didn’t grow up feeling “poor”.
I know it was hard raising a family of 4, then 5 on one meatcutter’s salary, but Mama did LOTS of things to help make ends meet.
While Mama and Daddy had decided that she would be a stay-at-home mom, Mama was always finding ways to supplement Daddy’s income. I have no idea about the time frame of these, but I remember these ways that Mama tried to make our lives a little richer….
Stop! A yard sale!
I remember from my youth, shopping yard sales with Mama. She was a bargain hunter in all realms, but this has always been one of her favorites and continues to be! If there’s a yard sale anywhere around, Mama’s probably going to find it -- and probably she’s going to stop and shop. . . whether it is someone’s garage, a flea market or a road-side sale!
Probably my favorite yard sale find ever was at the 701 flea market. It was before 4th grade, although I don’t remember exactly when. I reached down into a box and pulled out a semi-hardcover drab brown book. It was fairly thick, and there was nothing to draw me in, and yet it did. 25 cents, and Mama had purchased for me another item that would shape my life. It was a 1908 poetry textbook -- full of classics in all poetic genres. It helped me immensely with a big poetry project in 4th grade with Ms. Deavers and it is still one of my most prized possessions. It has traveled with me to college -- and to all three states I have lived in. It has sat opened by our bedside to favorite poems Shane and I have shared by candlelight-- with candlewax stains to prove its use. During my first year teaching, I often shared poems from it such that Joey would ask often if he could read my poetry book during free time. That book has enriched my life more than I can say.
Even now, Mama is constantly on the look-out for treasures for her kids. A couple years ago, she added a plethora of pastels to our Fiesta dishware collection, and so much more through the years.
Yard saling allowed Mama to get things for us that she wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford, and she is still might quick to call out on a trip, “Stop! A yard sale!”
Stanley Home Parties
Mama met a lady named Ona Lee who sold Stanley Home Products when I was young. One of Mama’s earliest ways to make extra money was selling Stanley Home Products. Even though I was pretty young at this point, I have LOTS of memories of Stanley Home Products -- visiting Ms. Ona Lee, helping Mama pack for parties, and lots of the products themselves. Mama would go out and have parties in people’s homes and introduce them to the products and they would order products, which she would later deliver to them.
They had everything from dishes and cookware to gadgets to cleaners and probably lots more.
Three of my favorite Stanley pieces were a little adding machine that I used for a very long time. It was a little hand clicker with a button for ones, a button for tens and a button for hundreds/dollars. It was red and I spent lots of time clicking those buttons and “helping” Mama… Another favorite was the bun-warmer. I don’t know if that is what it was called, but it is what we used it for. It was a big yellow pot with a shelf that set inside that was scored with holes. It reminded me of a Chinese checkers board. You would put a little water in the bottom and load that shelf up with hot dog or hamburger buns and they were the best ever! Soft, steamy, and perfect! Although sometimes there were a few that got soggy. They were not my favorites, but there is nothing like those buns! The other product was a set of nesting bowls. There was yellow and turquoise I know -- probably another color or two, but the yellow one is the one that has stood the test of time. In fact, Mama still has the yellow Stanley bowl. It has gone to more potlucks than I can count and has been used to hold all kinds of things. We used it a lot when we were freezing vegetables from the garden. My favorite use for the yellow bowl was popcorn. I don’t remember how often we used it for that, but my favorite memory was when we went to the drive-in movie as a family. We went to see Benji at the drive-in. I loved the movie, I loved being with my family and I loved Mama’s popcorn in the yellow Stanley bowl. In fact, I loved that memory so much that we recreated it years later when Barefoot Church hosted a movie night playing Benji and we all went together as a family with the yellow bowl in tow once again.
Friendly Home Parties
Later, Mama did something similar with Friendly Home Parties. It was the same basic premise -- parties in the home to introduce people to the products. They would order and we would deliver. I was older by the time Mama started with Friendly and I remember going with her and helping out with the parties themselves.
My favorite products from Friendly were a fiber optic lamp that looked like a fountain of rainbow colors or fireworks exploding in the sky! I LOVED that lamp. The other piece that I thought was so cool was a reversible doll. It was Little Red Riding Hood on one end, but when you flipped it over, it was the big bad wolf. As a reader/story-teller, that doll really appealed to me. It was so cool.
I enjoyed the time with Mama spent with parties and packing and wishing, and getting to visit the homes of friends, neighbors and church folk.
I don’t remember the time frame, although it probably would have been middle school or high school that Mama took a tax course so that she could do people’s taxes. She worked part-time during those years during tax season helping people with their taxes and it also helped in another way, because it allowed her to help all the family with their taxes through the years. I think this is something she and Aunt Gwen did together, and they are the family tax gurus even now. If anyone in the family needs help, they are the go-to ladies for all things taxes. . . .
I mention this in the birthday section, but it bears repeating, as it was a way Mama helped out our family, friends, neighbors and earned extra money to help ends meet.
Mama is a jack of all trades naturally. She is good at pretty much anything she sets her mind to, and this was no exception. She was basket-weaving frosting, whipping up royal icing, making roses on nailheads, decorating Mickey Mouse cakes along with the best of them before we knew it.
She made cakes for profit, and cakes for church. She made cakes for family and cakes for friends.
This foray was also during those middle school/high school years. Looking back, times must have been challenging for our family during that time. As Dale and I got older and involved in more things, and then Shanda came along during my 7th grade year, I know it was hard financially as our family of four became a family of five -- and I became a teenager with more school expenses and more extracurricular expenses as well.
While there were lots of ideas and things tried to make extra money, this was probably our favorite for lots of reasons:
1 -- More cake in our life -- you can’t go wrong with that!
2-- It was really cool and interesting to watch -- much more interesting than taxes!
3-- It allowed me, at least, to try my hand at it, which was fun -- and is part of the reason I teach reading, writing, math, and music instead of decorating cakes. Apparently, I did not inherit Mama’s jack-of-all-trades genes. Some things I am truly not good at -- this was one of them!
Mama’s cakes were beautiful and tasty and a testament to her talent and her willingness to work hard in many different ways to support our family.
Couponing and Refunding/Rebating
Another thing Mama got into during this time was couponing and rebating. Memory fades, but it seems she took a couponing class early on, and then began a club that met at our house. It was more fun than taxes, too, for several reasons:
1-- We got to meet interesting people like Augusta Davis and mailman Alan Buffkin and lots more. It was fun having people in our house.
2-- It was fun to help. I got to snip coupons and rebates and UPCs and so much more! Snip, snip, snip. It was my way of contributing.. .
3-- I also got to address envelopes for the rebates. Pretty soon I had learned the zip code for Minneapolis, Minnesota by heart.
4 -- It was fun to work alongside Mama doing something that helped our family -- and sometimes we got special things from rebates for us -- kool-aid cups, Del-Monte Christmas ornaments, etc. Those ornaments still have a place on the tree, and we each claim our own as we’re hanging them each year.
Coupons allowed us to eat foods we wouldn’t normally be able to afford, and double-couponing doubled our savings and we were able to eat like kings on the paychecks of paupers because Mama learned all sorts of tips and tricks and had this network of friends with whom she shared a penchant for saving money. They shared money-saving tips, coupons, rebates, and friendship that enriched our lives in many ways.
Later on, Daddy bought a farm and Mama and Daddy worked together to try lots of entrepreneurial enterprises. Strawberries, daylilies, rabbits, and so much more filled days and nights -- all with an eye toward making life better. Most didn't pan out the way they'd hoped, but Mama nor Daddy was ever afraid of hard work to make a dream come true.
Eventually, Mama got on with the US postal service, and served for about 20 years with them. It was hard for her, but she persevered, and later thrived. She developed amazing relationships with her postmaster, co-workers, and her patrons on her mail route. They left her little treats -- or sometimes full lunches in their mailboxes and Mama loved them. She often came home with so many stories about who she had met or gifts they had shared. She loved her job and the people she worked with and for, and for the first time in her life, she was bringing in the bulk of the money for the household. By then, I was out of the house and living my own adult life, but I was so proud of her for pursuing hard things, persevering, and always finding little and big ways to make all of our lives better.
Wiggling money had to have been hard, but we never went without delicious food, and the clothes may not have always been stylish, but they got the job done, and our lives were all richer for all the ways Mama contributed.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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