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Jackie Hope: The stuff that dreams are made of

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Know the saddest part of summer coming to an end? No more garage sales.

These little neighborhood mini-markets are called different things in different parts of the country: tag sales, rummage sales, yard sales, moving sales -- even when the seller is not really moving -- and estate sales, if they're in posh areas.

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Here in North Dakota we call 'em all garage sales, unless we really are moving, or we really are clearing out an estate. Oh snap, here is a bolt from the blue: In Dickinson, when we have a yard sale, we are selling remnants of quilting fabric. Yard -- get it? OK, moving on.

In Great Britain they are called jumble sales or bring-and-buy sales, and those names are spot-on when describing a resale sale. Come on, you know how it goes. You call a friend to say you are having a garage sale. The friend replies on Facebook and says she has some stuff she wants to bring to the sale.

In three hours, 27 other people have read the post and are bringing good stuff to the sale, too. Now see, here is where you can use your algebra: 3 hours, 27 people -- exponential to the third power. Person No. 27 does not have time to Facebook, so she tweets: "Garage sale at (your name here) #awesome #stuff!"

You know this woman is serious about the sale because she hash tagged both awesome and stuff, and added a couple of exclamations to make the hashes more impressive. #awesome #stuff gets retweeted. (Or does it get rehashed?)

Finally comes the sale day, the big kahuna. You have 81 friends in your garage -- look, exponents! -- with boxes of really awesome stuff, ready to be unpacked and sold. And see how the cast-offs went from stuff to good stuff, to awesome stuff and to really awesome stuff? Exponential. Math skills for daily living.

Now here is the bring-and-buy part. While you are unpacking your awesome stuff, you begin looking at everybody else's stuff. Everybody else's stuff looks a boatload better than your stuff, like awesomely better, so you take a little stuff from here and a little stuff from there, and pretty soon your original boxes of stuff are emptied and restuffed with new stuff your friends brought. Genius! New wardrobe, new tchotchkes, new toys. And all from the same old friends. This is the good stuff. No exponents, just true stuff.

No time to stage your own garage sale? Then go for instant gratification and visit someone else's. Hey, what other place are you gonna get a vintage Atari system complete with a joystick, Asteroids, Space Invaders and a few Cheetos, all left over from the last century? Or some stylin' stilettos that have never been worn?

You can always find fly shoes at a sale because girls buy shoes that don't fit. It is not intentional, it is just that cute shoes always seem to be in a size smaller than we wear, but we buy the shoes anyway.

And then when we are wearing them, we have to sit down and take them off, so we lay them on their sides, with the small size label showing, and everyone can see what small shoes we wear. Or sometimes we buy shoes with heels and platforms so high, they buck us off. Uh, theoretically we can fall off our shoes, but this has never personally happened and we will never speak of it again. Anyway, there are bushels of shoe bargains to be found at garage sales and I'm tight with that, aren't you?

Motherlode of garage sales: the church rummage sale. Church ladies have amazing stuff they bring to the sales and the sheer amount of amazing stuff is almost beyond your wildest dreams. Imagine all the tables in your old school cafeteria, weighed down with those Fisher-Price toys from your childhood: corn popper push toys, telephones with openy-shutty eyes, Slinky dogs with springs in the middle. And real Slinkys, the ones made out of metal instead of rainbow spray-painted plastic. Holy socks, imagine the stacks of shoes from which to choose! Bonus: there is always a bake sale table, too. Bundt cake and brownies and berry pie, oh my!

Here is the beauty part of a church rummage sale: the money you spend there is nearly always designated for a charitable project. Your money joins up with other people's money, and the good works all that money underwrites are blessings beyond measure. Now, that's exponential, to a real high power.

Listen up, people. There are 92 more shopping days until Christmas and there are 178 more days until the first day of spring 2014, when it will be open season for garage sales.

Just think of all those cute shoes waiting for you. The game is afoot!

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