I was nearing the bottom of the factory sale bargain barrel when my co-worker friend, who I was originally selling the dolls for, shared with me that they had a friend who was interested in having me sell dolls for them, too. They made a phone call and before I knew it I was making a trip to pick up more dolls from a new client (to protect my client’s privacy I will refer to them as Client #2). After a long drive I arrived at their house and was astounded by their doll rooms, yes I said “rooms” plural. The displays were meticulous and everything was arranged with careful thought and intention. The upstairs was devoted entirely to dolls, two rooms filled to the brim with floor to ceiling shelves displaying layers of fashion dolls from the mass produced to limited editions to one-of-a-kinds and everything in between. Downstairs in the family room was a built-in shelving system that housed the entertainment system along with multiple shelves that displayed more dolls, their favorites I imagined. There were coveted dolls scattered about in the living room and bedroom as well. I whipped out my trusty Canon camera and started shooting, I couldn’t help myself, there were so many fascinating dolls and groupings that needed to be captured (back then I was very much into photography and loved to “play around” with my camera; these days I find myself a bit jaded by the advancement of technology and the “camera” every human being has connected to their hip). I had so much fun positioning and photographing all of the wonderful creations, for a brief moment I felt like a famous photographer shooting his models for the next edition of the cover of Glamour magazine. The collection was made up of, what I would guess to be, about 90% Tonner dolls: Tyler and all of her friends, Matt and all of his friends, Marley, Ellowyne and all of her friends…the list went on and on. I believe Client #2 owned at least one of everything that was ever produced by the Tonner Doll Company along with some dolls that I laid eyes on for the very first time. My photography ended up being mostly out of focus and disappointing, I looked forward to making another trip back to pick up more dolls so that I could try my hand again at capturing the collection in all of its whimsical glory. We boxed up a carload of dolls that they no longer desired and on my way back home I went, excited and grateful that I would have stable income for the next few months.
Photos from Client #2's collection
In December 2007 I attended my very first Tonner Doll Company factory sale. It was held at the John A Coleman Catholic High School across the street from Tonner‘s offices on Hurley Avenue in Kingston, New York. I was informed that I should arrive early as people start camping out the night before. I found this so hard to believe but nonetheless I arrived bright and early that cold winter morning with three close friends; we were each willing to invest a few hundred dollars in whatever goodies we could grab and afterwards I would do all the work listing the items for sale on eBay and take a percentage. It felt like a great win-win for everyone involved; they had no knowledge or experience with dolls whatsoever, just very good friends who were willing to go along with my hair-brained plan to keep a steady income streaming in while I searched for a “real” job. The night before we all congregated in the living room of one friend as I schooled them on what kinds of dolls and doll items to keep their eyes out for, even though I had NO idea what would be offered or what I would even be looking for. I showed them photos from the Tonner website and they diligently took notes to prepare themselves for the early morning insanity. As we waited in line, in the chilly high school hallway outside of the gymnasium doors, we sized up our competition and listened in on conversations about previous year’s factory sales. When the doors finally opened we moved swiftly into the gymnasium with the rest of the bargain shoppers, single-file, one by one; luckily we weren’t too far back in line and got a decent opportunity at some top-notch items. Let me tell you, that factory sale was crazy; I’d never seen anything like it! When I was told that it was comparable to a wedding dress sample sale, with people grabbing and kicking…they weren’t kidding. There was no time to think, you just had to get in there and you had to grab whatever you could get your hands on and stuff it all into the giant, lawn & leaf garbage bag that the Tonner staff provided you while you were waiting in line for the doors to open. If you got out alive and without injury you were considered lucky; ok, I just made that up for affect but it certainly does paint a very vivid picture of what a madhouse that factory sale truly was. Most people rushed in like they were on a mission to snag that last loaf of bread on the shelf before a winter storm hits. They filled their giant black bags with everything the could get their hands on, then they would go over into a corner and sort through everything, setting aside the items that they really wanted into one pile and those they decided against into another. This eventually led to Tonner having to change the rules about how their factory sales would run and operate. My three friends and I came home with lots of goodies and over the next few months I filtered them into my eBay store and we all made a decent profit. To heck with old records, model cars, and humungous artwork…more dolls is what I needed to find!
After looking back through some old record keeping, I realized the timeline of my events are a bit off and I have left out some important parts of my story. My apologies, I never promised this was going to be the next J.K. Rowling best seller!
BEFORE my mom passed away, and AFTER my boss at Digital Variant let me go part-time (May of 2007), I put an ad on Craigslist offering my eBay selling services; I thought that maybe there were other people out there that I could sell items on eBay for. I was open to selling anything someone wanted to get rid of and boy…did I sell some interesting things that year! My first client had a bunch of miscellaneous items that he thought was worth a lot of money. I had high hopes that he knew what he was talking about but lo and behold, not so much money came rolling in once those auctions were complete. Next came a woman whose husband starred in the soap “Dark Shadows”, they also had a bunch of miscellaneous items, but one that I was really hoping would sell and bring in some very nice money was a giant, floor to ceiling fireplace mantle with gargoyles; it was used on the set of Dark Shadows (who watched that terrifying soap opera when they were a kid?). Unfortunately it didn’t sell, along with most of the items that I listed for her; so that ended up being a bit of a bust. My third client from Craigslist was a man named David who did some touring with the Dave Matthews Band and had a lot of music memorabilia. I worked with him for a few months but most of the items only brought in a few bucks and I was starting to realize that I was putting a lot of time and effort into selling all of these items for what seemed to amount to only some pocket change. I pressed on though, keeping my Craigslist ad running and fielding inquiries; I was bound and determined to find my niche in this great big eBay world. I worked with a few other people here and there selling oddball stuff: old record albums, a model car collection (that was a nightmare!!), vintage tablecloths and other miscellaneous linens, and some artwork that actually did fairly well but was a pain the arse to package up to ship. I even helped a local family hold a yard sale at their residence because, by the time I had gained some experience trying to sell all of this miscellaneous stuff on eBay, I realized all the items they had were not worth the time and effort to put on eBay; even their yard sale didn’t do that great. I met some very interesting people but I did not find very many interesting things to sell on eBay that would provide me with a living wage. So, back to the job-hunt-drawing-board I went.
We interrupt this week’s installment to bring you a secret recipe.
Back many years ago, when I was married and living in Ohio, I came up with some recipes for dip and cheeseball mixes to sell along with my mother-in-law‘s line of jams, jellies, and other canned foods from her garden. After my mother and father-in-law's six children flew the nest they found themselves with more fresh fruits and veggies than they knew what to do with, the daughters convinced their mom to sell her amazing products to the public. I offered to help out when she got accepted to showcase her products at multiple craft fairs and festivals, the public loved her products! After a year of going from one festival to another I asked if she would mind if I came up with something to sell along with her products, she agreed and I went fast to work creating a line of mixes: Daughter-in-Law's Cheese Ball Mix, Serious Ranch Dip Mix, Dilly Dill Dip Mix, Red Hot Pepper Dip & Cheese Ball Mix, and Fiesta Chile Cheese Ball Mix. The mixes were very popular, especially the “Daughter-in-Law’s Cheese Ball Mix” - I named it that because it was a recipe that I had in my arsenal for a few years but it was just called “cheeseball” and for marketing reasons I felt that it needed a catchier title. Oh you should have seen the looks on some of the “mother-in-laws'” faces when we introduced it to the public for the first time, many refused to even taste it because they didn’t like their daughter-in-laws… ha ha ha.
All of the mixes, along with the canned goods, are still available from “Ordinary Evelyn‘s, Not So Ordinary” in Clay, West Virginia; but I am going to share my cheeseball recipe so that you can make your own… it’s quite addicting!
2 – 8oz packages of cream cheese (slightly softened)
2 TBSP dried minced onion
2 TBSP Accent seasoning salt
2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup chopped pecans
In a bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients and mix well with hands. Shape the mixture into a ball and roll the ball in the chopped pecans. Serve with crackers.
After my mom’s passing I decided it was time to get serious about finding a j-o-b. My head was telling me I needed the security of a full-time job with benefits; my heart didn’t want to agree. I applied for a job with a local kitchen cabinet company; I had experience designing kitchens back when my husband and I built model homes and I always enjoyed doing that type of work so I thought…maybe “this” is my thing. The interview went well and I was certain they would offer me the job, but after I visualized doing that type of work in that office setting with those people, it didn’t make me feel happy; when I got offered the job I politely turned it down. The next position that sparked an interest was for another local company that helped develop TV commercials. Now this position really seemed exciting, it felt to me like the perfect “I live in New York” kind of job! A husband and wife team ran the company and again, the interview went very well; I really connected with the wife and told her about my Lost Soles of the Highway project as we both had a love for photography. She told me she had one other person to interview that afternoon and would get back to me later in the evening with her decision, but I had a good feeling it would be me. I left there elated and excited for the possibilities of this new chapter in my life, but as I drove home I started getting an odd gut feeling that this was not at all the direction I should be heading in. I turned off the radio and decide to call upon my old friend the rainbow… “If I am to accept this job, show me a rainbow”. I kept my eyes peeled the rest of the way home, once home I scurried about from window to window looking for my sign; I saw no rainbow and I also got no phone call. I had plans to meet up with a friend that evening, I left the house disappointed but kept a positive attitude. As my friend and I drove into town they told me about a trip they would be taking in a few months to Italy and asked me if I would like to come along. My heart skipped a beat; I LOVE to travel and an opportunity like this doesn’t come around every day. I explained that it would just not be possible for me to take that kind of time off from a new job that I was sure I was going to land. My friend continued to talk about the itinerary of their trip when out of nowhere a vibrant rainbow appeared in the skies ahead. I interrupted and said “Well, I guess I’m starting a new job, definitely cannot go with you to Italy”. That night I arrived back home to find no messages on my answering machine, but the Universe had given me my sign so I went to bed with visions of TV commercial showbiz dancing in my head. I finally received my phone call the following evening, she started out by telling me what a pleasure it was to have met me; I could tell that this conversation was probably not going in the direction I had anticipated. She went on to explain that they had chosen another candidate but she really connected with me and would love for us to become friends. I just smiled to myself and responded… “I’d love that as well and…I’m going to Italy!”
This segment is dedicated to my dear mother, Brenda M Carroll.
My mom was loving, caring, kind, and thoughtful…she was the best mom a girl could ask for. She overcame the challenges of having only one hand; her left hand was deformed from getting wrapped around her umbilical cord during pregnancy and never grew. If kids back then were as cruel as they are today I can only imagine the teasing that she went through; yet she was the face of popularity and was crowned “Miss Antler” in high school. She was a stay-at-home mom to my younger sister and me; she was a remarkable budgeter and financial wizard, always making sure we had the necessities and the “cool” jeans for the start of each new school year. She never once combined my birthday (December 22) with Christmas; always making sure my birthday was celebrated separately on the 22nd. Once my sister graduated from high school my mom went to work at a local daycare center, her expertise there was teaching all of the preschoolers how to tie their shoes before they went to kindergarten (remember, she only had one hand). Those day-care kids loved her dearly and when her two grandchildren showed up she treated them no differently than the others; but back at home she was their “Grammy” and was definitely taken away from them way too soon. Even though I know that it saddened her, she was nothing but supportive when I left my 17-year marriage and moved away to NY to “find myself”; she was always there for my sister and me as we struggled with our various life journeys. My mom thought my “Lost Soles of the Highway” project was a fascinating undertaking; she was my number one fan and one of these days I’m going to make her proud by doing something commendable with it. Upon her passing we found a notebook of poems that she had written over the course of the last several months of her life, many dedicated to specific people in her life. I took many of those poems and added some of my own personal photography to create a book in her honor, sending a copy out to close family and friends the following Christmas. We recalled how she once shared with us that she was baffled at this strange new desire to write poetry but we had no idea she was writing these poems or that she was so good at it. The book is titled “Love You Forever - Like You For Always” and is available as an ebook on Blurb.
I am so proud to call her my mom and I will miss her every single day for the remainder of my life.