dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
As the mother of two new babies, there is nothing so helpful and appreciated like hand-me-downs. The purpose of hand-me-downs is two-fold: I receive much-needed clothing for my growing critters and somebody easily cleans out their closet. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without the generosity of so many friends and their older children. And I certainly don’t know where (and can’t afford) to buy such cute, cute clothes.
Those clothes that were originally worn by oldest are then passed on to the consignment store in hopes of serving one last purpose as a few bucks in cash. A few of the generous free-bees make it into the consignment pile, too, but for the most part, I try not to be stingy with the karmic circle of generosity, and I pass it along to the next needy mom or donate them to a nearby charity. Please note that my motivation to accepting cast-offs is not to turn them around for a hefty profit—the last time I checked my balance at the consignment store it was less than enough to order a pizza. It helps pay down my school debt and bought me a dining room chair, from a consignment furniture store, incidentally. And most of it is used to clothe my two babies.
I have received more gracious gifts than I can practically use. Here’s how I add a little organization to the chaos of tons of baby clothes:
The best way to give and receive hand-me-downs is to be involved in a moms group, or church group with other mothers. Neighbors are wonderful connections as well, since we can easily see their crammed garages and pregnant and then un-pregnant bellies. It helps, of course, to be in a group with kids at least six months older (the givers) and about six months younger (the receivers) in order to make the perfect circle. But I have been blessed enough to receive gifts from friends of friends, hundreds of miles away. What a wonderful, wide-spread village!
Being well-connected, organized, generous and grateful are all essential in the great recycling circle of hand-me-downs. Believe in them and their usefulness and you may never have to buy kids’ clothes again… well, maybe not never, but certainly less.
I have a college education. I am poor. These two descriptions didn’t use to exist together very often, but thanks to the new economy and a healthy dose of artistic temperament they fit together in my life quite neatly. During my college years, I used to take pride in putting together funk-ily furnished apartments, dressing in thrift store finds (it was the 90’s after all) and reading all the beatnik-era classics I could get my hands on.
One of my favorite forms of decorating has been to find an old book case, cover it in some ethnic, vintage fabric, plop a trailing plant on top and then fill it with ALL my books and a few nifty albums. It looks great, and it’s functional—where else would I put my hordes of books? In stacks on the floor?
But these days, I certainly can’t buy all the books I want to read, even when they’re used books (a kind with a history), so that’s why my home away from home is the Public Library.
My county library rocks, and I’m not just saying that because I work there, um, as a volunteer. Nor am I saying it because come fall, I will be starting my educational career to become the new hot librarian in my town (Ahem, that is a worthy aspiration, no?)
No, I’m saying it because I love to read, I love the services the public library provides for free, and because the best way to be less obscure, or even less stupid when you’re poor, is to read.
Read and learn and get yourself educated.
I, personally, am a card-carrying member of the Contra Costa County Library system— found easily at ccc.lib.org, as well as the physical edifices in Walnut Creek, Danville, El Cerrito, Antioch, Pittsburg, and all over Contra Costa County. In the Bay Area, Alameda County has its own library system and Berkeley is an entity all unto itself—no surprise there. I hear that the Rancho Cucamonga Library in So. Cal “rocks” as well. That is, by the way, a direct quote—thanks, Aletha.
My favorite part about the library being online is that it can be a lot like shopping, only it won’t cost you a thing. Unless of course you are naughty and don’t turn your books in on time. The good news is that you can also renew online, which is super handy. You can also pay your fines online and thus avoid that stern look from the librarian—you know the one, where she stares over the top of the glasses perched on her nose and hanging from a chain around her neck. (I can’t wait to get me a pair of cat-eye glasses, complete with ornate chain—a graduation present when I finish school.)
Here’s how you to make it really work for you: if you know of a title or author, or movie title, (yes, they’ve got movies, too, and I only had to wait about two weeks for a copy of Eclipse to come in… but don’t tell anyone that I wasted two hours of my precious time watching it. My time, but not my money.) just enter it into the search field, let the system work its magic and then, voila, you just enter in your library card number and your last name and tell them when and where you want to pick it up. It couldn’t be easier, and it enables bibliophiles with kleptomaniacal tendencies to collect books, magazines, movies and cds (formerly know as books on tape) on all manner of subjects.
Currently checked out on my account:
All of which broaden my knowledge of various aspects of my life, Grey Gardens not withstanding, unless I plan to become a reclusive and eccentric old woman who feeds feral cats and raccoons. At this rate, it could happen.
The other nifty thing about libraries is the free stuff and cool, free events. I’ve picked up a few old tour books for free, a nifty decorating book for a mere dollar, and taken my child to the weekly kid’s story time (with the ever-so-patient and animated Mrs. B), and to see a Chinese New Year celebration.
Contra Costa also has free coupons available with a library card.
Your public library—you can’t beat the price or selection, for you or your child, and you can’t beat the cool people that work there. Let me know how much you love your public library and your librarian.
Ciao and happy reading!
ps. I always love a good reading recommendation…