Home Entertainment, or “How to Survive When You’re Broke”

img_0019This image is an original oil painting by my grandmother, Gladys Parker. You can read more of her poetry and learn all about this amazing woman at her blog, The Rock of Gibraltar.

This week’s Spin Cycle topic is supposed to be about sharing our best cost cutting secrets to help you get through these tough economic times. I must confess – I have no cost cutting tid bits. I’m kind of like Jan, over at Jan’s Sushi Bar.  I spent the first 24 years of my adult life living hand to mouth. When you’re always broke, and always poor, you don’t think about how to cut costs. You think about how to answer the phone when the bill collectors call. You think about how you’re going to buy a week’s worth of groceries on the measly nineteen dollars you have left over in your checking account, after you paid your light bill (late) so you could have power for a few more days.

We ate alot of grilled cheese sandwiches and canned applesauce, y’all. I don’t want to think about it, much less type anything about how I did it. I just did it.

So. Here’s my spin on this topic. I give to you the words of the wisest woman I’ve ever been privileged to know – my grandmother, Gladys Parker. She raised her three children, on her own, during the great depression.

One of her favorite expressions was “making do”. As in, “we just had to make do”. She was an expert at making do.

To say she was tough is an understatement. She had to be. And in living her life, she learned to appreciate, to revel in, the little things around her. She entitled this poem “Home Entertainment” because, truly, this is how she entertained herself. Not by spending money on movies, or dinners or in the shopping malls. She looked out of her window and marveled at the creatures and beautiful sights that were there. And then she wrote about it, or painted it, and in doing so, shared a bit of herself with the world.


Interesting, the things that I see
Looking out over my balcony.
Squirrels are running and playing today
Up and down their little highway.

Amid the trees – most limbs are bare
And not quite touching everywhere.
For the little gaps they care not at all
They take their jump and almost fall.

Two of them jump with great ease
Like a pro on the flying trapeze.
Another is running – then turns around,
Sizing things up ’til a new way is found.

The last one comes to try his hand,
Jumped right over – where did he land?
On a branch that bent far, far down
He nearly fell to the ground!

It’s fun to watch these dare-devils play
And beautiful birds that come this way.
Hadden Hall is the place to be
On the penthouse floor up in the trees.

Gladys Parker
January 2001

12 thoughts on “Home Entertainment, or “How to Survive When You’re Broke”

  1. I would LOVE to have known your grandmother; she sounds like a helluva woman.

    Grilled cheese and canned applesauce, huh? We were big on cheap bologna and those (back then) 20-for-$1 packages of Ramen noodles.

    Oh, yeah, good times. Not.

  2. Um, yea. I still to this day HATE applesauce. I think I would have rather had grits. And if I remember correctly it was “cheese toast, cinnamon toast, and applesauce.” Grilled cheese usually got paired with soup.

    When I first moved out on my own I ate a lot of Ramen noodles too. After many months it just started to feel like gritty, flavored, flour in my mouth more than noodles, so I can’t eat those anymore either.

    Part of the problem with the economy these days is that no one will “just make do” anymore. Sure, families do it all the time. But businesses won’t. They borrow money until they’re too deep in the hole to get themselves out and then they turn to the government for a “bailout” (rhymes with handout) so they can continue to stay in business. If they would just go bankrupt and fail already they wouldn’t drag everybody else further into the hole.

    What’s ironic is that the US government operates the same way. They spend more than they have rather than just “making do” and continue go further in debt to the Federal Reserve. I guess when the interest on a dollar is higher than the actual value of a dollar, maybe they’ll stop.

  3. Jan, you would have loved her. She was one helluva woman. And I can’t tell you how many times this tough, determined, “make do” woman came to my rescue. She had a knack for just knowing when me or my children needed something, and just showing up right on time.

    Kyle, it’s too bad Grandma Park never went into politics. Can you imagine what it would be like if she were President?

    And you’re right. I forgot about the cinnamon toast. It was even worse that I remembered!

  4. Wonderful insight! I completely agree with the ‘not knowing how to answer the phone when bill collectors call’. Twice Sears came for our refrigerator, don’t want to go back to those days AT ALL!

  5. Wow, I honestly hope I never have to “make do” more than we do now, but it’s encouraging to know that we would still make it, even in the tough times. Sometimes, when things are the most lean, you get the most creative. And another poem from Gladys? AND an oil painting? I seriously love your grandmother! You’re linked!

  6. What a woman your grandmother was. I grew up making do. We didn’t eat out; we ate lots of grilled cheese sandwiches too. Lots of liver and onion; we read lots of books, and played outside a lot. WE didn’t have cable. I survived.

    I also couldn’t agree more with a previous commenter’s thoughts on letting business fail, and living/spending w/in the means that you’re given. Ordinary citizens do it. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have a government and business that do the same thing.

  7. Loved this post and your grandmother’s poem. My grandmother lived in a anyon in the middle of LA. There were tons of squirrels there and she and I used to sit in chiars in her bacyard and watch them. This post brougth back great memories.

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