4 Things I Learn from Being a One-Car Family

Today, for the first time in well over a week, I went to the grocery store. My husband’s car pool situation didn’t work so well this week, and he had to drive by himself each day. He elected to work from home today {Friday}.With access to our van, I could therefore drive to the store so I could restock the fridge and pantry.

In March, we celebrated–and I do mean celebrated–5 years of functioning as a one-car family of 4. Half a decade! For families in larger cities, where public transit is more available, this might not seem such a feat. For other families, managing a household with 2 drivers and 2 children but only one car sounds unreasonable. But we do, and (for the most part) we do it well.

boys catching wind
The boys catching a breeze in the backyard one day.

This all started in the fall of 2011, thanks in part to many of the books I’d been reading–from works by the well-known Christian author Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President:  Politics for Ordinary Radicals and The Irresistible Revolution, to a book called Radical Homemaking:  Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by author Shannon Hayes. [Side bar:  I cannot recommend Radical Homemaking highly enough! It’s NOT a feel-good book about decorating and entertaining as a happy wife. It IS a manifesto of sorts about the value of being a producer more than a consumer, and how “homemaking” frees us up to do that.]

I was yearning to simplify our lives in radical ways. By driving less, I knew we could accomplish that:  less money spent on car insurance, upkeep, gasoline, tolls; less pollution contributed to the environment. That fall, I began praying that my husband would come on board with the idea of being a one-car family. At that time, we had a small 4-door car and a mini-van. I stayed at home with the boys, and many days the van simply sat in the parking lot of our townhouse complex. I didn’t broach the topic with Mike so much as I mentioned, once in a while, what the benefits might be of ridding ourselves of a vehicle. And I kept praying.

Months later, as I again offered my thoughts of how we could probably get by with one car, Mike showed interest. He’d been considering it. We had a thorough conversation about it, and we agreed to give it a go. We sold the mini-van and kept our Hyundai Elantra. In case you don’t know, this model of car is small. But I loved driving it! It was peppy. It got totaled in a wreck in 2014 (no worries; the boys and I were fine, and Mike wasn’t with us at the time), and I still miss that little car that the boys had named Gray-ie. (Our silver van was named Sylvia; our current mini-van, purchased after the Elantra was totaled, is white. The boys named it Igloo. I never get a say in these things.)

air boat ride
Waiting for an air boat ride almost 5 years ago.

My plan (casual comments and lots of prayer) had worked! Incidentally, I tried the same tactic a couple of years ago regarding getting rid of our TV–to no avail. Let it be a reminder to me that prayer is not a magic formula, and that my husband is NOT EXACTLY like me.

In these past 5 years, I’ve been learning some lessons from this one-car lifestyle. Here are 4 of them:

  1. Living a simple life requires intention. Simple living isn’t synonymous with “easy” living. In our middle-class, North American culture, one must be deliberate about saying “no” to the never-ending influx of stuff. In terms of vehicle ownership, we’ve also had to be intentional with planning:  car pools, schedules, dentist appointments. Once Mike had to leave the boys’ soccer practice early to get to a Cub Scout leaders’ meeting. He took the car, while I stayed at the park and fished with the boys after practice concluded until he came back to pick us up. There are many instances where one of us drops off the other (with or without children, depending on the event) and comes back later to pick that spouse up. We have to be committed to figuring things out in order to make this work.

    wilson and calvin on floor in pallet
    The boys (AKA Woodrow and Garfield) enjoying their living room fort years ago.
  2. Being interdependent on one another is good. And it’s not the same as being dependent. Choosing to own only one vehicle means that there are times when we need to ask for help. Whether it’s Mike’s talking with co-workers about carpooling (which typically benefits both parties) to sometimes asking for a ride or even borrowing a friend’s extra car after Gray-ie got totaled but before we bought Igloo, we sometimes find ourselves needing to seek out others’ help. You know what? That’s how the life of Christ-followers is meant to be lived.

    We seem to value individualism and independence so greatly in our society that we often do almost anything to avoid putting ourselves in the position of needing. But the early church didn’t seem to live this way:  Acts 2:44-45:  “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

    Every person within the body of Christ both has something significant to offer as well as a need to receive what others can offer. Sometimes our family simply needs a friend who will drive my husband home from work or drop off Woodrow at Boy Scouts.

    And what can we offer? In late February, a homeless mom and her 2 daughters stayed with us for 3 days while they transitioned from a shelter to an extended-stay hotel. I did their laundry, gave the mom a pair of my underwear (she had only one), and drove her to and from work on a Saturday. On that Sunday, I babysat her 2 children–one of whom was sick–while she worked, and Mike drove her to and from work. I can offer my home, my time, my decent abilities at cooking to provide a meal… Philippians 2:4…do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Friends and fellow Christ-followers do this for us, and we do it for others, too.

    boys rain boots

  3. Living according to my convictions and priorities is worth the work. I studied Environmental Biology in college, primarily because I loved God’s creation and believed this reflection of His beauty and creativity should be protected, that caring for the world He made also helped care for the people He created. So it matters to me how my family lives on God’s green earth. Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it…” I believe He holds us accountable to that. How are we treating His earth? 
  4. We do what we can. I can’t do everything, so I do what I can. Do you know the story of Katie Davis, from her book Kisses for Katie? In her own words, this very young woman quit her comfortable life, moved to Uganda, and began serving there:  teaching school, adopting orphans, caring for the sick. I read her book in my late 30’s and felt the longing that it stirred in my own soul. But I can’t quit my life as it stands now. I can’t drop everything and move to a developing nation, unless God leads our family to do so. Instead of daydreaming about what I might do, I try to pay attention to what I CAN do. We CAN survive and even thrive with one car, saving money which frees us up to give more generously, causing a bit less pollution in our world. We do what we can.

    Fellow Christ-followers, how might God’s Spirit be tugging at your heart to take a step of faith in living simply–in doing what you can? I’d love to hear your thoughts because I love being inspired by others.

Wear It Well Wednesday: Dress at the Lake

On any given day, you may find me wearing shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Or baggy pants and a tank top while I scuff around our house wearing slippers. On home school days when we don’t go farther than our yard or the park down the street, I don’t put much thought into outfits. But on Sundays, you can count on my wearing something more put together.

So it’s nothing out of the ordinary that this week’s edition of WIWW comes from what I wore to our church service last Sunday. The button-down dress is a cast-off from our friend and ministry partner Vivian. The boots were handed down to me from my aunt Anna. Even my socks are hand-me-downs, although they had never been worn when I got them.

The water behind me represents the lovely Lake Como, where my boys have done a bunch of fishing (and I’ve done a bunch of walking). In fact, Woodrow and Garfield found this sweet spot near the water at Lake Como Park for the photo for me.

dress-from-vivian

I love all the details on the dress:  folds, tucks, cap sleeves. And the wilderness scenes are special, too.

I gave away some other items last week that Vivian had recently sent us. A mom in need, along with her 2 daughters, stayed at our house for a few days. The mom–we’ll call her B–asked me about some make-up, so I showed her the stash Vivian had mailed in her latest parcel to our family. B picked out several new and unused pieces (eye shadow, mascara, eye make-up remover) and was grateful to get them–as I was grateful to share them with her.

We just never know what God may have in store for the things we give, which I think is an added reason to be a cheerful giver. In every gift, there is great potential.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Wear It Well Wednesday: Black, White, And Aqua

Today’s showing of Wear It Well Wednesday is the first since I cut my hair. We took this shot on the way home from church a few Sundays ago at Lake Como Park, and as you can see, dealing with the sun and shadows presented a bit of a challenge.

I not only donned this outfit that Sunday; I also wore it the afternoon before to watch (and thoroughly enjoy) a musical called “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” with my good friend Angela at the Winter Park Playhouse. Mike had been out of town the entire week–the entire exhausting, difficult week–and I sorely needed to get dressed up, get out, and spend time with a friend. After the show, Angela and I walked to an up-and-coming coffee shop called Foxtail and continued our visit.

So this outfit did double duty this weekend. Here’s the low down (As you know, all my WIWW posts feature hand-me-downs and other second-hand pieces because, well, that’s more or less my wardrobe):  The black-and-white dress is a cast-off from my aunt Anna; the aqua necklace came from our friend and ministry supporter Vivian, who has sent two big boxes of goodies from her family’s closets to us in the past several months. Much of what she (and Anna) sends us gets sold at consignment stores to help fund our Women of Vision fundraising efforts or sent to Cru staff in other countries. But I’m thrilled that I got to keep these 2 pieces from them. My sister Rachel gave me these boots (that she no longer wanted) over a year ago.

black-and-white-dress-at-lake-como

The shadows don’t do much for my face, so let’s just focus on the outfit. My sons do not relate to how I like to get dressed up to go somewhere, but opportunities for me to do so are few and far between. When I can, I embrace it–and usually wear hand-me-downs. Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

Kindness In the Books

When I coached P.E. classes at our home-school co-op for a few semesters, several students blessed me with gifts on Teacher Appreciation Day. Often, those gifts took the form of chocolate–one fellow home-schooling mother handed me a bag of chocolates on one of those days and whispered, “You don’t have to share these, you know?”

This pink-hued message has been one gift that has lasted longer than the sweet treats of those Teacher Appreciation Days. The student who presented me with this told his mother that I was his favorite teacher at our co-op’s Tuesday afternoon classes. Maybe the sentiment behind the gift prompted me to hang on to it–and to keep it in such a prominent place (my nightstand) in both our old house and the one where we’ve lived for a year and a half now.

where-there-is-love-there-is-life
Where There Is Love, There Is Life

Currently it rests atop my great-grandmother’s Book of Common Prayer, next to a shell the boys found recently. I’m honored to continue cherishing this gift of my student’s kindness from a few years ago.

And speaking of kindness…a story I wrote about giving and generous living appears in the recently-released book Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Random Acts of Kindness. My word of the year for 2014 was “gift,” and the story I penned for this book revolves around how the word “gift” helped me remain mindful of opportunities to serve and bless throughout the year. We all have those opportunities for blessing others in our lives, if we have the eyes to see them and the heart to engage in them.

chicken-soup-for-the-soul-book

If it were colder here in Orlando right now, I’d curl up with a cup of hot tea and peruse the stories shared by the 100 other writers contributing to this book. Instead, I’ll get comfy under the ceiling fan and read their inspiring words.

I hope you’ll be inspired by these stories, too!

February: The Month of Love

It’s February, the month of Valentine’s Day and pink and red and cupcakes:  the month of love–although shouldn’t every month be one filled with love? I digress.

I’m blogging today about things I love. Maybe you’ll love them, too!

heart-and-note-cards

Hoopla for audio books. I read aloud for hours each week to the boys:  in the van (if Mike’s driving, of course); before bed; often during school hours. But I also like to play audio books for them, and in this way, they get to hear more great stories. In December, they heard The Jungle Book on audio. In January, we finished The Secret Garden and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. They’re currently listening to Swiss Family Robinson. And it’s all for free with my library card through Hoopla. This site offers e-books as well as audio books, for adults and for children. This site offers a map of Hoopla-participating libraries, so you can discover if Hoopla titles are available to you, too.

My apron. For Christmas, I asked for (and received) an apron–purchased second-hand, of course. In fact, we had gone to Goodwill during a break between 2 shifts for a Cub Scout fundraiser, and I spotted the apron while browsing. I slyly handed it to my husband and suggested he ask the boys if they wanted to get this for me for Christmas. They balked a bit at first–I think it was only September, to be honest–but he convinced them it might be the easiest present they’d ever buy. They acquiesced, and I’m proud to have it (as we might say in Mississippi). Here I am wearing it during a morning of baking orange-pumpkin bread with the boys, using an orange (satsuma, technically) grown by my grandfather along with pumpkin that I pureed and froze last fall. {This pic is prior to my haircut of last month.}

allison-in-apron
Doesn’t everybody have a world map in her kitchen?

The apron does more than keep flour or olive oil off my clothes; it reminds me to be intentional, mindful. When I take a moment to tie on my apron, I think about being fully engaged in the moment, thoroughly involved in the act of kneading bread or chopping celery for a soup or shredding cheese for chicken taco chili. I put on my apron and, thus, put on a mindset of focusing on the task (and joy–well, mostly joy) at hand.

Tim Tam cookies. When we lived in New Zealand, Mike and I became fans of a cookie called Tim Tam (I always refer to them as “Tim Tams” when I talk about them in the plural form–but the package just reads “Tim Tam.” Anyway…) For years, we could enjoy these only if we knew somebody visiting South Africa or Australia who might bring them back for us. Well, these treats apparently have crossed the pond. Mike and the boys bought these in Orlando (at a national grocery chain) and presented me with this package for my birthday last month:  

tim-tams             

If a person can find happiness in a cookie, I suppose it’d be this cookie. If you want to have the full Tim Tam experience, you can try a Tim Tam Slam:  nibble off opposite corners of the cookie, one on top, one on bottom–i.e., bite off the top right corner and the bottom left corner–and use it as a sort of straw for drinking up coffee or hot chocolate. And give your drink a chocolate infusion. So far, I haven’t tried this with hot tea, and I don’t anticipate giving it a go, either. I’ll just take my Tim Tams plain, thanks.

It’s only February 1st, so I envision finding lots of other things to love this month. I hope you find many lovely things this month, too.

So I Got A Wild Hair…

This post comes with a caveat:  You might not want to try this at home.

I, however, was more than glad to. Because sometimes, good gravy, you just have to do something CRAZY. My favorite friend Lynn told me years ago that she sometimes just has to do something wild. For her that was once dying her hair a deep, rich shade of fuchsia.

For me, my recent itch to do something unexpected resulted in a new haircut. An “I made it myself” haircut.

before-hair-shot
The “before” shot:  There’s approximately a foot of hair I’m displaying.

At age 26, I donated my hair to Locks of Love. My sister Rachel cut one fat ponytail from the back of my head, and I was good to go with a short, slightly shaggy haircut. After Rachel whacked off the ponytail, I did NOTHING else to it. Later a woman complimented my “trendy” haircut. My next Locks of Love contribution took place at age 28, exactly one week before I got engaged. My third hair donation flew all the way from New Zealand (I was 31 this time), after I received a beautiful cut from a stylist who did the job for free since I planned to give my hair to Locks of Love. After that, I mailed off my fourth Locks of Love gift at age 35 and assumed I’d finished growing out and donating my hair.

I paid for a haircut for the last time in June 2012. Since then, I’ve cut my hair myself (or not at all), and I’ve had it various lengths over the past several years. For a while, I kept it at shoulder length or so. Then I thought, oh, why not? There are other organizations that accept donations of hair, and some even accept hair with strands of gray. Which I happen to have (just a few, mind you).

So I gave moderate attention to my bangs from time to time and let the length go. In December, I measured my hair and realized that my ponytails could make the cut. (See what I did there?) I’d already decided I would follow my friend Tabatha’s lead and donate to Children With Hair Loss.  She’d done her research in finding an organization for the hair that she and her daughters planned to donate. And I cut it tonight. Myself. Gathered the hair into 2 ponytails and sniiiiiiipped.

ponytails
I cannot explain the face I’m making.

Y’all. Sometimes the outlandish things we pursue are not healthy. But this one? This one was pure liberation. I’ve had short hair, long hair, REALLY short hair. It was time for another short ‘do. I’d anticipated that I’d follow through on this at some point this year, maybe in the spring or summer. But after I washed my hair today, I knew…I shall cut this hair TODAY. I’ll get it in an envelope and mail it to Children With Hair Loss tomorrow.

ponytail-in-hand

After I cut the ponytails, my husband trimmed the back a bit. It’s still a work in progress, and I may trim it a little more here and there. It’s like a new toy; I keep playing with it, flipping the bangs from one side to the other, sticking bobby pins here and there.

So, for free, I have a new haircut–and an ongoing project right on top of my head. And I got to satisfy my impulse to DO SOMETHING in a way that allowed me to give of myself. Sometimes we just have to dance with that wild hair.

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Winter Layers

This past weekend brought some genuinely cold weather for Orlando. On Friday night, the temperature dropped to the mid-30’s–and I was delighted! As much as being cold (and not being able to get warm) makes me feel absolutely deprived, I welcome any frigid weather we get here because I know it’s exceedingly rare.

I needed to dress more warmly on Sunday than I normally do, so this is the outfit I assembled. My cup runneth over with hand-me-downs, y’all! Both our friend Vivian and my aunt Anna bestowed heaps of second-hand items upon me over the holidays. I’ve sold a fair amount of it to help fund our Women of Vision giving projects (we’re getting close to our 2nd goal of $400 to support clean water projects undertaken by World Vision.) Much of what I didn’t sell will travel overseas to Cru staff who can use it; other pieces I kept for my own wardrobe.

Behold, this week’s Wear It Well Wednesday installment:  Hand-me-down khaki pants from my mama; shoes (short boots, which are called ‘booties,’ I think) from Anna, along with the dark purple jacket. I can’t remember if the dove gray tank is from Anna or Vivian (Thanks to both you ladies, though!) The necklace came from Vivian, too.

coffee-garden-photo

We took this picture outside a shop called the Coffee Garden, which I’ve visited once for a chat with a friend. I’ve wanted to shoot a WIWW photo here for months, but I needed to wait for the political signs to be taken away, since they obscured the colorful picket fence. But today, I got my shot!

What about you–how are you layering for the cold this winter?