Thursday, July 8, 2010


Are we ever justified to do something shady to accomplish something good? I guess the first question is, just how shady and the second would be, just how good?

I previously mentioned a time when my parents were separated for a while and how precarious our existence was. My father was closing down his construction business in Key West while conducting some funny business with a lady friend on the side.

My mother who had lifelong severe asthma problems had been forced by health matters to take my brother and I back to Ohio where she could breathe more easily. At least that was the story we kids were told. Mother was thinking divorce.

Dad paid our bills but there was very little extra. Money was as tight as I can ever remember. We were living in a tiny trailer in a low end trailer park in Austintown, Ohio. The only food money coming in was often just what my fifteen year old brother could pick up after school and weekends working for the park manager.

This is where I learned to loath spaghetti. Mother was bed ridden and scary sick with a deep cough and swollen legs. I was just twelve and the family cook. Jim made 75 cents a day which went for milk, bread and canned Chef Boyardee spaghetti which I was actually capable of warming up.

My father had always been the cook in the family. Mother had come from money and had grown up being waited on. I don't recall ever seeing her prepare a meal. Her poor health kept her in that role and it helped that my Dad was a marvelous cook. So she could not help me with more than my warm-up-canned-food skills.

Ole buddy Chef and similarly canned products were our nightly meal for way too long. I can feel my gag reflex wanting to let loose just thinking about it. Now I know this sounds grim but it did sharpen my survival skills and gave me a base line for as low as I ever want to go which is always good to have. Today, as long as I don't have to eat spaghetti, I am good.

Mother's birthday was coming up and there was no money for a present. Mother was depressed by my father's ignoring us and by her illness. I felt a desperate need to get enough money to buy her something really nice to cheer her up. My only marketable skill was baby sitting and at that time there were no jobs available. I was a new, unknown quantity. I just had to get some money. That is when the “shady” Patti was born.

Friday before the big day I was taking a long walk, trying to come up with a plan. I noticed how some of the homes along the road I was taking had lovely flower beds. An idea was buzzing in my head. I took my tiny self ( I was always undersized) up to a house that had an especially attractive garden and rang the bell.

"You have such a pretty garden." I mumbled with head down when a lady answered the door. "Would you let me pick a few flowers for my Mother's birthday?"

"Of course sweetie," the nice lady responded. She went into the house to get some shears and proceeded to cut me a lovely bouquet. She then tucked the flowers into some silver left over wrapping paper and proudly handed them to me.

I thanked her over and over and she just beamed at being able to help the cute little waif. I am sure she carried a warm glow in her heart for several days. That part I could feel good about.

Now a nice kid would have been satisfied and taken the flowers home to her Mom who would have been quite pleased and the story would have ended there. Everyone would have been happy. However, I wasn't necessarily a nice kid. I had more ambitious plans.

I walked with my bouquet down the road. I had a plan. When I saw a house with no garden, I walked up to the door and rang the bell.

Again a lady answered. With my most pitiful look, I made my pitch. "Would you like to buy some flowers? I am trying to raise some money to buy my mother a present for her birthday."

Of course the nice lady bought my? flowers. Wouldn't you? I was suddenly a whole dollar richer. That was big money in those days. She was not only nice but generous. My plan worked perfectly.

Now I should have stopped there but it was working so smoothly that I continued my con at each new house with a garden followed up by selling my gift bouquets at the next house I saw without a garden. Fortunately the houses were spaced far apart.

I repeated this con 4 times and as far as I know, no one was the wiser and eight women went to bed that night feeling quite pleased with themselves and I was $3.75 richer. One lady was not quite as generous but that was OK.

I really didn't feel like I was lying, just was not telling the whole truth. However, I did take from one to sell to another. Can anyone spell ponzi scheme? Did that make me a budding baby Madoff? I am a bit embarrassed to admit I was quite proud of my scheme.

Ok, that was the bad Patti. The good Patti bought her mother a planter shaped like stone gristmill. It actually had a wheel that turned reluctantly and was stuffed full of African Violets.

Curious, I Googled "gristmill planter" yesterday and good grief, there it was exactly as I remembered. I was amazed to find that these planters are all over the Internet from $8.00 to $30.00. I evidently was not the only one who thought they were cool and I only paid $2.50. Such a deal. There really isn't anything you can't find on the Internet.

As you can see, it really was quite garish but I was busting with pride at what I thought was beautiful and expensive looking. In my 12 year old mind, it was museum quality. The African Violets helped some.

I had enough left over to buy a whole chicken which our sweet neighbor who had taken me shopping had roasted for us and thoughtfully provided the veggies and potatoes. I knew Mom had to be as sick of canned spaghetti as Jimmy and I were.

She was delighted with it all and was happy as I had seen her in days. When she asked where I got the money, I just said that I got it picking flowers. Not a real lie, no real harm, but was there actually a foul? Remember, I was Beaver Cleaver twelve. Judge me gently.

Have you ever slid over to the dark side for a noble purpose??

Just a quick thank you big time for the prayers and good thoughts you sent Jewels. She is still in treatment but is feeling better. She was quite overwhelmed and warmed by your caring and comments.

It seems she was not the only one suffering from this rare disease in our county. Three others have been also been blessed with Tularemia. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so proud of my bloggy friends. You really are the "best".


  1. "Shady Patti and her ponzi scheme" weren't bad at all, no harm was done to anyone! You were actually quite clever!

  2. Ah! the age old dilemma. I would be lying if I said I never schemed in such a pattern. Further I am the child of the 3 siblings my mother claimed could not lie well...

    Apparently she was not acquainted with my scheme of lying. It is not a black and white subject--too many shades of gray.

    How about Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the Tooth Fairy. We all play games in life.

    At least you did not steal the flowers. I and friends did that one night for the Senior Prom. The class snitch told on us and we had to go to the principal's office. Since we were first offenders our punishment was to go apologize to the homeowners whose beautiful rose gardens we ravaged. and mutilated.

    However it was a powerful lesson. I have returned to Wal-Mart when I find an item I forgot take out of the buggy. Once it was a 75 cent travel size shampoo. I could reason they had overrung more than that in all my shopping career. Which I sometimes call to their attention also.

  3. Patti,
    I think you were being creative and resourceful. :) You make me smile as I might have done the same thing during those poorer years. Now my sister believes in the "ends justifies the means" in a different way. She takes something I say or do and twists it and turns it until it is the biggest ugly lie. I have suffered at her hand since the day she was old enough to talk and I'm nearly 60. Ten years ago after a serious illness I had my sister told everyone I was faking it so I would not have to take care of our mother. I love my sister but I stopped contact with her and my life has been much better since. I am the only one who takes care of our dear mother while she goes skipping down the road. Sister just recently wanted to have lunch with me to discuss how things stand with mother. Mom is near death. What do you think Sis wants to know? :)

  4. I have never known hunger --like you did... People who haven't been through that kind of life don't really understand what being poor is truly all about. It probably made you a much better person in the long run --after going through that time in your life.

    Two things I remember right now that I can share:
    1. When I was about 5, I stole a candy bar from one of the stores... My parents found out and made me take it back, pay for it --and apologize... SO embarrassed. BUT--I never ever did that again.
    2. I remember hiding my Daddy's cigarettes when I was a teen. I hated seeing him 'kill' himself with those things.. He asked me if I took them --and I LIED..... There was no good outcome from that story either. When he finally quit smoking, it was too late. Emphysema killed him.

    SO--even though I was trying to save my Daddy's life, I went about it in the wrong way for sure...

    Great post, Patti.

  5. I think you were full of ingenuity ...what a clever girl you were. Did you repeat the scheme ever?? should have didn't hurt anyone and you actually didn't really lie ...and it really helped your mum xx

  6. Don't judge that little girl too harshly, she was doing somehing for her Mama. I love the story. I don't have any stories like that about me but I do have my Mom's stories in my head that she loved to retell.
    Thanks for sharing your "shady" story.

  7. You were not lying! And you did an honest deal each time you met some nice lady who either gave you the flowers or the money! This is a beautiful story! I love it!!

  8. That is quite impressive business work for a young waif. You did an excellent job getting your mom a fine birthday present and a wonderful dinner. Well done.

  9. I would not say you were a baby Madoff in the making - you did a wonderful thing for your family!!

    At least you asked for the flowers. Once (or maybe 20) times, I picked flowers on the way home from school to give my mom. At some point, the woman whose garden I ravished followed me home and told my mom on me. That was the last of my impromptu bouquets!!

  10. Well, you were working for a good cause, and your guilt was enough of a monitor to keep you in line. Sorry about the spaghetti over-gag.

  11. I used to be obsessed with new shiny long pencils (as a kid, possibly 9-10 yrs old) and remember taking a coin everyday from my piggy bank to purchase a new one daily :) It was just what I'd call some little joy & my mom found out as she noticed the piggy bank was no longer heavy. No relation to your question but it came to my mind suddenly. I don't think what you did was shady. It was a precocious 12 yr old working for her money the best way she could.

  12. I find it very hard to judge harshly a child in your situation. As always, a very interesting post.

  13. Wanda,
    Sure glad you don't think so. I appreciate your opinion. Kind of late now to make amends I guess huh?

    My, weren't you the rascle. Good thing you had a clean record. Know what you mean about making you super honest later however.It sure does.

    Thanks, that sounds better than shady.
    It is a shame about your sister. Hopefully you two can patch up your relationship. I guess the best thing for you is not to expect much.

    That period of our lives we were really poor but actually never hungry. We had food, I just hated it.
    So sorry about your Dad, you did try and that was a justifiable lie.

    Sadly, I did consider that scheme as a career for pocket money but I just couldn't do it. I know I had worn out my welcome on that street.

    Reader Wil,
    Thank you so much. My intentions were good, the lies small and those ladies I know felt good about what they had done.

    Linda in NM.
    Think you ought to post about those tales of your mother's. Bet they were good.

    I guess you work with what you have. Mother told me later she thought the gift was ugly but she loved that I had worked? for it. Much later, I confessed.

    Your love for flowers came early didn't it? I'm sure your mom had a hard time reprimanding you if she did at all.

    Thanks. I am kind of sorry about the spaghetti over load for it really is what a lot of people feed you when you come over for dinner. Thank goodness for rolls and salad.

    Well that does relate for as far as you were concerned,holding that new pencil justified depleting your savings. You sure would have been easy to buy for in those days.

    Thanks and I really appreciate the mercy.

  14. The flowers were given to you so they were yours to do with what you wanted. Everyone was pleased along the way and you did something very nice for your mom.

    My parents were divorced when my sister and I were very young. Our mom worked and raised us all alone when there was no help like today.

    We wanted to do something nice for our mom so we decided to bake her a birthday cake. You did better than I did...We baked the cake and then walked to the store down the street where I took candles and sugar decorations without paying for them. I got caught and it spoiled the whole surprise of the cake for our mom but I never stole anything again. My mom enjoyed the cake without the candles and the decorations and I learned a very big lesson.


  15. I have no issue with that story at all. Well, except for your causing me to tear up a bit with the story....

    Have I mentioned that I'm glad you're back. :)

  16. Compared to my youthful shame - you are a saint. I could totally help you justify it all and we both in the end would think you are not only a saint but one of the highest order. I thought were a genious and just wished I had been that smart. Of course I would have spent the money on BBs for my BB gun which I would have used to probably shoot my brother. Are you getting the picture? But if you need to feel a little guilt or shame I am an expert at that also. Just let me know how I can help.
    Great post! Thanks.

  17. Oh, I thought of something else. It was so admirable for you to think aobut how much you helped all your marks feel good. Good work :) You are too funny!

  18. Mumsy,
    Thanks for the validation. Did your mom ever find out about the candles? Most kids learn that lesson early. I stole a bolt one time that my dad sent me to the store for because no one would wait on me. The guilt was worse than getting caught.

    Thanks so much Barry, it really is good to be back. Needed the break but needed to be here more.

    Oh, no saint here. I shot my neighbor with a BB gun once and the fact that he dared me to didn't cut it with my parents. Red Ryder disappeared.
    Love that you have my back.

    GQ again, Does that qualify me as a "con" with a heart of gold?

  19. I'm glad you are back to posting and yanking our chain again. If you are now at the feet of 70 and you were then 12. I'm pretty sure you did not Google anything :) even if your intentions were admirable. *LOL*

    We have got to get together sometime and have lunch.

  20. Amber Star,
    Oh dear, I see where I was not very clear. Really wasn't pulling your chain for this is an actual event. I Googled the gristmill a few days ago while I was writing this and sure enough, that vintage mill exhists today, old, battered and still ugly. I changed the text to be more clear---I think:))
    Thanks for making me aware of that.

  21. This is such an interesting story Patti, and a dilemma of sorts, I know. But, maybe I have larceny in my Heart...I think what you did showed an ingenuity and a caring for your mother that almost went beyond the "little white lies'....If you think about it, it says a number of things about people...ALL those women who gave you the flowers had a genersity of spirit and all those that bought the flowers also had a generosity of spirit---as you said, they no doubt felt very good about what they did. You were able to get your mother a wonderful present and provide a wonderful dinner, too, for her Birthday. If there was larceny in your being, it stopped there, Thank God, and you didn't continue your "conning" as you got older to become The Female Bernie
    In fact, Patti, I found your ingeneous scheme to give you mother something very special for her Birthday, very touching.
    And as far as lying---Show me someone who breathes and I will show you a liar at one time or another. We all lie at times for various reasaons---some good and some maybe not so good. But, to me, this was not a bad thing that you did, at all. Maybe if you had been a different person this might have led to who knows what--But that was and is NOT the case. And there is always what Jesus said..."He who casts the first stone..."

    AS to that Planter---It is truly amazing that you found it on the Internet! And I bet those flowers DID make it look a lot!

  22. I would say you were one sharp kid at 12. You did a good job.

    Couldn't your Mother's family have helped her and her children? I know that's none of my business, but was just wondering.

    I would probably have done the same thing, except I use to be so shy, I doubt I would have gone up to the first door and if I had, that would have been my Mother's gift, I had no imagination when I was a kid.

  23. My dear sweet little Pattie how I wish I could of been there with you we could of doubled the money. lol
    It breaks my heart to think that you and family had to suffer like that because of a man chasing skirts. I can so relate because I can remember when my children were babies 1, 3 and 5 and not having money to feed them and now they probably are telling your story.
    Oh how sad.
    You did nothing wrong because when it comes to trying to please our moms especially at that young age we all would of tried to figure something out but what you did at such a young age was clever beyond your years. haha
    If I ever get to cook for you I want open a can of anything. hahaha
    Thanks honey for always checking on me. I am only staying on here for a minute I over did the pool therapy and paying for it today.
    But after hearing your story I realize how lucky I am. One thing about it you always entertain us

  24. OOLOH
    Boy if I ever need an attorney, you're it. Thanks so much for justifying my means.
    You are so right, that planter really needed the violets. Funny how you can see something that impressed you as a child and today you can only wonder what you were thinking.

    Thanks Patty. We were a pretty skimpy family. My grandmother was deceased, grandfather had all ready spent the family fortune and had run off, and my only uncle lived in New York. Mother had a deep proud streak. We were on our own for a while.

    Thank you for finding the energy to visit. I know that took some effort.
    It seems parts my mother's and your lives were similar. My dad finally did come home, all was forgiven and he was a gread dad and husband. Those were some shaky times however.
    I really appreciate the fact that if you should ever cook for me that a can opener will not be involved:))) You are just too considerate.
    Do take care my friend and try not to over do.

  25. I think that the share market works something like that, or futures trading, but your scheme was much better, in that you had something tangible at the end of it and a happy mum!

    So nice to see you blogging again (says he selfishly as you sit there with circles round your eyes at 4am trying to think of another post and to keep up with comment writing!!).

    Do give Jewels big hugs from us in NZ. Sad that she has got such a battle with her health. Hope Brandy is OK, wonderful that B. is in your capable hands.

    Oh..., and you can have a hug too! xxP

  26. oh the shock!!!!...nahhh!!!!
    Loved your story and yes i think we all have a dark side.
    I remember having no money after my divorce....I worked at a supermarket and stole some food but the funny thing is...that morning i went and bought cat food.
    Pure principle I was not going to take the cat food...I felt good paying for it but to keep myself going i didn't care what i did.....
    Forget I ever told you that.

  27. well Patti...if that is the worst you have ever done....

  28. Peter,
    Thanks fellow for your vote of confidence and yes I did miss the grind of a blog. Blogging is a case of the end justifying the means.
    Thanks for the Hug. Yours always have so far to travel but they arrive in perfect condition. No warmth lost.
    Hopefully Jewels and Brandy both have put that nasty "bunny fever" away for good.


    Hi lady, missed you. That was interesting how the cat's food had to be paid for. There are some lines we just won't cross.
    You do know that your confession is now world wide? Keep your head down.:))

    4th sister,
    That was the worst as a 12 year old. Unfortuantely, I pretty much have a "worst of" for each year. Not sure I will print those.

  29. Well patti...I had to come in through the back door today... From my sister Patsy to Harrison...'a piece of my mind' ...There you had left a comment...Now I got to you and you had not posted yet..I searched Grand Dad the other day...They are offering 10K for his arrest...If he was robbing my bank I would turn and leave and not turn him in either...I am at my girls for a few days...I may have link you as a favorite on her computer...she will love that...I guess I should put you on my side link,so I can find you when I am not home....

  30. 4th sister,
    Oops, I answered you on the next post. See what happens when I open the back door. Sorry about that.
    Front door, back door, come back any time.
    That reward is pretty good for an old codger.
    Enjoy your visit.