Sunday, July 23, 2017


I have been blessed by a family that cares, a family that loves, a family that is close and enjoys each others company.  Having only a small family unit of four, I never thought it was actually small.  I always had aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents on both sides of my family who loved fiercely and were fully invested in my life. I also know how extremely rare this is. It wasn’t until my parents divorce in 1987 that our extended family dynamics changed. An entire side of our family just kind of stepped away. An aunt and uncle, two cousins and my grandma became acquaintances, rather than treasured family.

When my dad left, times got tough. Food stamps, Food Share, excessive gardening, public assistance, handouts, hand- me-downs, fake cheese, powdered milk, expired canned foods became my existence. Most 12 years old are unaware of what it takes to function, to keep food on the table, to keep growing teen girls in clothing. Most 12 year olds don’t know that having $210 a month in public assistance for a family of three is the difference between having a roof over your head and asking relatives if they could take you in.

Angie, my sister, and I started babysitting at a very young age to earn the money that we needed for personal items, clothing and to be able to participate in school extracurricular activities. We struggled. Daily. I remember when my shoes hurt my feet so bad but I didn’t have the heart to ask for new ones. I was also wearing the canvas shoes from thrifty mart for gym class and the toes had long worn through. My gym teacher brought me a new that she was planning on donating.  When my jeans developed holes in the knees and between the legs from wear, I tried to repair them with safety pins and patches to make them last a bit longer. I hit every free box at every garage sale to find large tee shirts to sleep in.

When our washing machine broke and we started using the public laundry after church each Sunday, Angie and I tried not to complain. We found that if we brought homework, a good book or the one walkman we owned, the 2 ½ hours passed quickly. I got a new, unbearably thin winter jacket from Pymida after my grandpa’s trench coat fell to pieces. I missed the bus too many times because I was attempting to stay indoors as long as possible rather than face the cold. I placed plywood and four by fours under my mattress when the box springs sprung. Angie and I got excited when we found used underwear at garage sales that appeared to be next to new.

When I look back on my meager beginnings, I am reminded of a few very important truths. Our mom was faithful, she never gave up and she was never ashamed of what we didn’t have. You do what you have to do. That includes selling everything that is nonessential. Furniture, clothing, books, jewelry, movies and music, home decor, and occasionally even the items that you hold dear. Sometimes that $10 is the money you need for gas for the week. The people that left food on our doorstep, money in the mail box and paid for Angie and I to go to summer Bible Camp will always hold a place in my heart.  I may not know who they were, but they helped others in a time  of need, and I am forever grateful.  Potatoes and vegetables can be amazing for every meal and all you need are mushrooms and onions to make them even better. Food is food.

I have also learned that my upbringing has influenced me greatly. I am THRIFTY. Garage sales, thrift stores, online sale sites, word of mouth buy/sell and Craigslist.  I am often cranky when I have to pay more than two dollars for a kids pair of jeans.  I will make lists of what is needed so that I don’t buy extras of what we already have. I sell things in lots such as children’s clothing, books, or shoes.  People feel they are getting “more” in numbers.  Coupons are amazing. Grocery store printed coupons,  manufacturers coupons, apps such as Cartwheel, Ibotta etc., help save so much money.  Make friends with thrift store operators. Ask them if you are looking something specific and see if they will set it aside.  If someone goes out thier way to assist you,  reward them, bring them coffee, fresh veggies from your garden, fresh baked bread or cookies. Learn the amazing art of bartering.  What do you have, what can you do , what can you produce that someone else needs? If you need car repairs, do they need childcare? If you need clothing, do they need meals? Or shopping, yard cleanup, driving children to and from school or sports? There are so many ways to make it mutually beneficial when you in return need something.  

Also, donate, volunteer, step in the gap.  Donate gently used items to those in need.  (And remember not to donate your junk. If you or your kids won’t wear it, if it has holes, stains, broken zippers, refrain.) Grace Church Community Clothing Closet in Eden Prairie and Blessed Bee in Chaska are two great locations that will happily accept your in season clothing donations.  Donate your furniture that is in good condition to the PROP Shop in Eden Prairie. Donate your magazines and books to your local schools or library. Donate your working car to CAP to assist new employees to get to and from work. Donate food, personal care items and laundry detergent to local food shelves. Volunteer often.  Help your elderly neighbor clean up their yard. Consider coordinating a group to serve at Feed My Starving Children in Chanhassen.  Contact Love Inc., Blessed Bee, Local Food Shelves,  Local Schools, the Library, and Local Churches to see where you can be of assistance. Contact the City and ask if any public clean up projects need volunteers. Step in the gap.  If you see someone struggling, do something, encourage someone, just help them. Buy food for a family in need.  Give children a ride home from sporting events or after school activities.  Take care of a single mom’s kids so she can work a half shift. If you have the means, consider paying a month of rent for a displaced local family. Drop a roll of quarters at the laundromat. If you are registering your child for an activity, ask if you can also pay for a child in need. Ask your child’s teacher how you can help the school prosper.

Life is busy. Life is challenging. But when you can help others, we often find what we have, is what need. Less is more.

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