Between a Crock and a Hard Place

We sold our house in late March, forcing us to purge through items that we no longer IMG_3139used or needed. My husband begged me to get rid of this crummy old crock-pot. He really couldn’t understand why I would keep it. It had no lid, was small, and didn’t have a timer. He also claimed it was ugly. Yet, I refused to give it up. You see, this crock-pot represented my creativity and strength during one of the darkest times of my life. It represented the tough years we had experienced and the strength that had been built into our lives because of it.
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In 2008 we bought a fixer-upper in town and were using every extra minute (and dollar) repairing this poor house. It required so much time and money, but that was okay because my husband was doing all the work himself, which saved us a lot of cash. Over the next few months as we finished the basement, I opened an in-home daycare (I will forever be indebted to those brave souls who saw through our work-in-progress house and gave me a chance to care for their babies). My daycare filled quickly because I was willing to work whatever hours anyone needed. By January of 2009, my daycare was almost completely full. Yay! However, that celebration only lasted five short months because by May of 2009 I had lost five of my children due to the economic decline and job loss. To compound the frustration, I was pregnant, therefore making anyone interested in my daycare hesitant to sign on because I would have to take time off to have the baby. I walked the neighborhood, delivering flyers to literally every single house in Rochester. I just had to make this work. Then, my husband took a pay cut at work and the situation looked grim. We were discussing options about what would happen if he no longer had a job. It was a dark time.

We had cut back on everything. We said goodbye to Internet and television. I said goodbye to my car. I bawled my eyes out when we gave away my cat and our dog. For dinner almost every night, we split a box of macaroni and cheese. I didn’t buy a single piece of maternity clothing during my pregnancy. We shamefully cut back on gift giving to our family and friends. We cut everything that we possibly could. We were putting any money we had into fixing our house so that we could sell, if it came to that.

It was fall and I had two children in my daycare. It was time to deliver the baby. As excited as we were, I was nervous about the cost of bringing a child into the world. After an induction and valiant effort, my doctor sweetly held my hand and said the words that sent me into the darkest place I had ever known: “Meghan, I’m so sorry but you’re going to need a C-section.” Not only was it scary and painful, but also it was expensive. Weeks later as I held the $2,500 hospital bill in my hands, I spiraled down into a deep melancholy about how life had gotten so hard. I blamed myself for this extra cost and felt I had letdown my husband tremendously.

Something inside me just broke and I knew that I had to get creative. I couldn’t stay so angry. Then, I discovered the rummage sale at St. Paul’s church. I went and found most things that I needed: toys, baby items, dishes, kitchen utensils, art supplies, and clothing. This is where I stumbled upon that ugly, old crock-pot. It had no lid, but I gambled on the fact that my pot lids at home would be a perfect fit. I put it in my bag, checked out for the grand total of $3 and walked home. My husband laughed at me when I showed him my treasures. He thought I was being ridiculous by going to the rummage sale. “We aren’t that bad off, Meghan,” he would say. But he didn’t realize how I tortured myself over the C-section. I set the crock-pot on the counter and my happiness just bloomed as my pot lid fit perfectly. It gave me hope and encouragement that things would turn around. I knew that life would be different. Not because of this crock-pot but because I could live this life. I could figure out how to make it work.

I had already figured out how to supply my daycare with toys, art supplies and books (have I mentioned how amazing our library is?). I discovered that making most things from scratch was a lot cheaper than buying the boxed or canned version, not to mention how much better I felt because I was eating real food. We saved a ton buying so many things secondhand and realized that society tricks us into thinking we need so much stuff. We walked our neighborhood for free entertainment and filled our free time with reading since we didn’t have television.

We prevailed through that financially difficult time and thanks to my father-in-law’s difficult, yet necessary decisions, the family business was saved. My daycare flourished and I had a waiting list for the remainder of time I would be in operation. Life is good and easy now, but I never want to forget that time of wondering what the next day would bring. Life is a series of ups and downs. Nothing is forever. I finally acquiesced to my husband’s request to donate that old crock-pot but I will forever remember it as a symbol of hope that “when I pass through the waters” a Greater Force is within me, pushing me forward.

Do you need a symbol of hope? I loved this Signatures of American History print by Chris and Nina Brown on Etsy. Reflecting on all those who founded our country inspires me to be more. I also love these prints found in the Etsy store, Anima Dolce. They are so uplifting. The song, “Get Back Up” is a great anthem for those difficult days.  Whether your symbol of hope is a song, a picture, a memory or a crock-pot, remember that it is just a symbol. The hope is inside you. That burning desire to be more and do more was placed there on purpose. Keep pushing forward. Never take your eyes off the prize. Never settle for less. You will pull through, the clouds will part and the sun will shine. Move past the darkness but never forget what you learned because of it.




About Meghan Zeile

Mom-in-the-know and local writer for Rochester Media. Always looking for tips with kids, family life, and fun local adventures. Contact at

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