Category Archives: Consumerism

“Oh, good, let’s talk about money!”

I’ve only seen the first episode of Downton Abbey, but Maggie Smith’s money line and her sincere query as to what is a “weekend” have already sold me on the series. The last time I checked, we were number 49 on the library’s wait list for the first season DVDs.  You’ll know when it comes.

Her awkward dinner party sentiment struck me as quite apt, though, as I feel like I’m thinking and talking about money all the time these days. And while our culture clearly no longer considers money an impolite topic of conversation, per se, I still feel a bit awkward writing about it. The topic of personal finance is labeled “personal” for good reason: no one really wants to know what other people earn and spend, and nor do they really want to share their own statistics. This hesitation arises from a deeply rooted association between self-worth and salary that, in my opinion, betrays a decidedly un-Christian perspective on how we value our own lives.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about money today because everyone needs to know that I have, for the very first time in my life, successfully tracked my spending for an entire month!

*SMACK*

(Wait, what was that? Was that…? Did my dad just face-palm? Hey! I know you’ve been suggesting this for the past ten years, okay? Better late twenties than never! How about celebrating this minor success? Gosh.)

ANYway. I’m serious: Zach and I made a budget and, generally, kept to it. It would perhaps be overly dramatic to call the process excruciating, but I can honestly say it was difficult. Though I love individual deals as much as the next saavy shopper, persistent coupon clipping and denying myself impulse items was really tough at first. I can do the (simple, basic) math (with a calculator), but forcing myself to actually think about cash flow was uncomfortable. Maybe it chaffed because I don’t like to acknowledge my limits. Maybe I was battling my personal entitlement demon, who clawed in protest whenever it was denied instant gratification. Or maybe I just needed to break my habit of fuzzy math- budgeting from my single days. (In this delightful system, one $200 tax refund can be used to justify over $600 worth of purchases! Best when not combined with credit cards). Whatever it was: I broke through.

By the end of September, I could think about money without despairing. What’s more, I actually developed a positive attitude toward frugality: instead of seeing it as a horrible prison of self-denial and rules, I came to appreciate the  freedom it gave me to plan for the future without anxiety.

As a result, we’ve found that we’re able to save more than ever before, despite me working part time and the addition of baby-related expenses. It’s a good feeling.

I’ve discovered that–for me, at least–the key to managing a budget is a generous allotment of wiggle-room. For example, we’ve based our utilities budget on our average bill from the winter months, even though we barely spend a 1/3 of that during the summer. So if one of us happens to maybe go over his/her allowance at an Ann Taylor Loft sale, he/she might be able to find room to categorize that expense without endangering the ultimate savings goal for the month. I realize that this is not, strictly speaking, an example of best practices when it comes to responsible budgeting, but let’s return to the larger picture and the cause for general celebration: I Have A Budget!!

The Good family started a budget

And found that they couldn’t make much fit

But then the wife got a glint

In her eye, went to Mint

And figured out how she could fudge it.

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Filed under Consumerism, Domesticity, Money

O Entrepreneurs!

(Entrepreneur: An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterpriseventure or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome.)

When I was a kid, my dad was always creating or discovering new business opportunities for me and my brothers. If we weren’t pulling a wagon full of extra zucchini door to door (a dime a dozen, literally) or hawking baseball caps bearing the family restaurant logo, we were mowing lawns or babysitting or yanking weeds in the garden for a small fee. My older brother Andy and I even assumed ownership of a small name plate engraving business for several years. Teaming up with my best friend Hope and her sister Joy, we got some pretty decent accounts from a local community college and a sports camp. DuBois Industrial Nameplate Company, we called it, (“DINC” for short). Andy  handled most of the business arrangements for the company: I think I was more of a liability than a partner, but he still gave me a generous cut of the profits.

 

Our machine looked something like this, but more antiquated.

 

 

In retrospect, we learned a lot from those experiences. We learned about deadlines and responsibility when we almost had to stay up well past our bedtimes finishing a project that had to be delivered the next day. We learned about the rewards of hard work when we spent a Saturday canning a year’s worth of salsa–a family favorite–from the produce of our garden. We learned about the correlation between work and money by keeping track of our hours spent bent over the manual engraving machine (though, some days, my adult experience doesn’t seem to validate that connection). And, perhaps most importantly, we learned a lot about ourselves. For instance, DINC was the first real opportunity I had to grapple with two significant character traits: my tendency to procrastinate and my abhorrence of trying to sell people things.

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not really  risk-taker. I don’t see myself as a business woman. But I am LEAST OF ALL a salesperson. Even if I believe in a product or service with all my heart, I cannot bring myself to try to get someone to buy it. It’s embarrassing: I blush and stutter and stumble over my words. I could barely bring myself to look our sweet elderly neighbor lady in the eye when I was forced to try to get her to take some zucchini off my hands. Sometimes I just gave it away, still feeling like a pest. (One of the reasons I dropped out of the Girl Scouts when I was still a Brownie was the unbearable pressure to sell those cookies!)

Despite my former discomfort with the sales aspect of small business ventures, I’m thinking about starting a little venture of my own.

I’ve been toying with the idea for some time. As my maternity leave approaches (only two weeks of classes left!) I’ve been trying to figure out a way to remain intellectually active and possibly work from home. The traditional housewife business ventures make me shudder: while I am grateful for Mary Kay and Arbonne and Tupperware and all they’ve done to liberate women, I would rather eat a cockroach than try to make a living hosting house parties in order to sell things to friends and their friends. I have to turn down invitations to spa parties and trunk shows because, no matter how tempting the free wine and facials and door prizes might seem, I know I will end up spending at least fifty bucks to assuage my easily triggered sense of guilt.

So, like I said, I’m considering a different kind of venture.

The idea came to me while I was working on lesson plans last week. My principal recently approved the addition of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! to my 8th grade English curriculum and I was putting together a new unit for my maternity sub. It was such pleasant work, reading through the familiar story of Alexandra Bergson and her resilience. I wrote reading quizzes and structured daily plans of discussion questions. I wrote a little guide to major themes. I chose key passages for analysis. I got to do the all the mental work of converting ideas from Cather’s pages and my head into something that 8th graders could digest without ever having to talk to an 8th grader.

While I do adore my 8th graders, there’s something so refreshing about just working with the subject matter. Wouldn’t it be great if I could write curriculum units for home school parents or co-ops who don’t have reliable instruction available for upper school literature? I’ve got the credentials, the experience, the practical know-how, and the time: do you think there’s a market? Could it be profitable? The existence of Sparknotes and other free cheat-sheets worries me a bit, but surely there are some people who would pay for high-quality instructional materials from a conservative, even Christian, perspective, right?

What do you think: good idea/bad idea? Those of you with homeschooling backgrounds, feel free to offer straightforward opinions here.

The thing is that I know that in order to turn this idea into a reality, I’m going to have to grow into the role of salesman that I avoided so diligently as a kid. Perhaps I’ll end up more like my dad than I expected to…

Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.” – Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

 

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Filed under Consumerism, Courage, Domesticity, Reading, Teaching, Writing

Weekend Snap Shots

It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon here in Colorado Springs–much too nice to consider writing all those lesson plans I’ve got to finish before taking maternity leave. So, instead of drafting a plan for how to make Cyrano de Bergerac appealing to 7th graders, I’ve put together a little weekend update for you!

What I’ve Been Reading:

Annie Dillard’s memoir An American Childhood:

I love Annie Dillard’s work, but have found most of it a little too strong for leisure reading during pregnancy. (For the Time Being, for example, includes too many speculations about unusual birth defects to be good for an expectant mother.) But this fluid re-creation of her childhood mind is both pleasing and intriguing. Dillard is perhaps the most observant writer I know, and these stories from her childhood in high-society Pittsburgh (of all places) shows how she honed her natural curiosity into keep powers of observation through collecting rocks, biking all over the city, and taking ball room dance lessons.

What I’ve Been Cooking:

I appreciated the wonderful recipe suggestions you all sent. I’d love to give you a little glimpse of how Anna’s Hearty Potato Soup turned out, but WP isn’t letting me upload those photos. (Sorry, Anna).

On Friday night, though, I make my best “fast food” imitation with some oven baked sweet potato fries and chicken fingers—so much healthier if you do it yourself!

Sweet Potato Fries: except not fried

What I’ve Been Growing:

Our little boy is looking more and more like a person all the time, at least, according to this in-utero illustration. (Why no belly pictures, you wonder? Because I get tired of asking my husband to take photos of my stomach.) Depending on who you ask (me or my doctor) I’m at either 34 or 36 weeks right now. Zach has affirmed that I have NOT begun to waddle yet.

He looks almost ready to come out, doesn't he? Only six more weeks or so!

What I’ve Been Researching:

Our friends Keith and Megan (who just had a little boy of their own THIS MORNING!! Congrats, guys!) have encouraged us in our search for the perfect cloth diaper. After consulting a few other experts (read: moms), we decided to register for a set of Fuzzibunz One-Size diapers. These things are adorable AND adjustable, so they should last from 4 weeks – potty training for multiple children. I know that committing to cloth diapers means high start up costs and a lot of laundry, but they really make diapers more affordable in the long run. Oh, AND they’re good for the environment.

The Fuzzibunz One-Size in Tootie Frootie. Very masculine, no?

What I’ve Been Buying:

You may remember a little brouhaha from a while back involving some car problems and a wiley mechanic. Well, I’m happy to report that we’ve received a decent chunk of cash back, and have finally moved forward with buying a newer car. Meet the Kia Optima 2007:

I've never owned a red car before. Or even a car! Three cheers for downsizing!

It’s currently parked on the street, where Zach and I fully expect it will be hit by an uninsured drunk driver before we have a chance to complete the payment/insurance process with the bank tomorrow. Nevertheless, we are grateful to have found a good deal and grateful to be done with car shopping!

What I’ve Been Neglecting:

  • Working on our wedding album, which I vowed to complete before the baby gets here.
  • Working on lesson plans, which I am legally obligated to complete before the baby gets here
  • Sleeping well: apparently, the baby wants to condition me to wake every two or three hours so I’m all chipper for night time feedings when he arrives.
  • Blogging. I know, okay? I know.
  • My toe nails: a pedicure is in order. Not because I’m self-indulgent, but because I can’t easily reach my feet.

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Filed under Cars, Consumerism, Domesticity, Mothering, Reading

Real Courage, Atticus-style

In an age when personalities are easily defined and categorized by such useful and limited tools as the Myers-Briggs test, it is much easier to give into these self-fulfilling predictions than to try to change. No matter what method of testing you try—Jungian analysis, the MBtypes, that one where your response to insults categorizes you—I always end up in the “peacemaker” category. This is usually a fine place to be: the world needs individuals who will compromise, communicate, and generally help everyone to get along.

But the typical weakness associated with this type is the ease with which we peacemakers submit to becoming doormats. I have never been the exception to this rule, though I’ve figured out how to fake it when necessary. In the classroom, of course, one must be firm: “If I see the cell phone again, it’s mine.” “No, you may not go to the restroom.” “If you tilt that desk back one more time, I will destroy you with my bare hands.”  (Don’t worry: my students and I understand one another—these threats have never led to lawsuits.) But out in the real world, a world where I cannot send other people to detention for failing to conform to my will, this firmness melts quite quickly. Is this simply who I am? Does my personality doom me to a life of spinelessness? My history suggests that it might, but a few incidents give me hope.

One of my favorite and most challenging college classes was a two-week seminar taught by the illustrious Mark Helprin. No living author possesses comparable powers of language and imagination: his lyrical novel Soldier of the Great War has remained at the top of my favorite books list from the first reading. Naturally, the course he taught was on creative writing and entry required composing an original short story. Writing fiction is not my forte and I had heard horror stories from previous students about his brutal treatment of their work. The possibility of being publicly belittled by my favorite writer deterred me for some time. But something—perhaps an unhealthy idolatry—propelled me to throw a story together at the last-minute and sign up for the course. Mr. Helprin, for his part, proved to be a respectful instructor, a generous editor, and an excellent story-teller. After the course ended, I wrote him a note, confessing my earlier fears and thanking him for proving them baseless. To my surprise and great delight, he wrote back! He said,

“Someone like you…must in your growing up lose timidity and gain self-confidence. Even had I been the world’s biggest son of a bitch, you, because of what and who you are, would have had no reason to fear me or to have been intimidated. Remember this: courage and goodness have the same route. It is impossible to have one without the other, even if one is, for a time, hidden.”

I’ve thought of his words often over the past few weeks as Zach and I have fought a repair shop for the correction of a rather gross injustice. I have had to argue with mechanics and managers, and I have, for the first time in my life, refused to take no for an answer. Where does this uncharacteristic boldness come from? Maybe it’s the early manifestation of what Zach calls the “Momma-Bear” instinct: a fierceness born of love. Or maybe knowing that my husband and my child will be worse off if this situation isn’t corrected gives me courage. I won’t write off pregnancy hormones either.  The troubles aren’t resolved yet (see prior posts: Deceptive really DID take a vacation this week), but we’re making progress.

The process of pushing beyond one’s personality type is not without growing pains. My mind, long accustomed to habits of avoiding conflict, fixates on the problem. Long hours of the night pass in anxiety as I rehash conversations, replacing what I did say with what I should have said and what I WILL say the next time an opportunity comes. The knowledge that I am (or will be) the cause of someone else’s bad day weighs heavily on me. I struggle with alternating feelings of guilt for standing up for myself and anger at being swindled in the first place. Change can be good, but it’s certainly not comfortable.

So, take courage, Liza. You’re not alone in feeling spineless at times. But if a doormat like me can discover a bit of hidden courage, I know you can do it too. (Just try to avoid starting the journey by confronting a national franchise :o)

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.  ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

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The Saga Continues…

When we last saw our hero, Innocent Consumer, he was in the process of confronting a man who had swindled him, neglected his horse, Lemon, and denied all allegations of inappropriate behavior. Let’s see how that conversation progressed:

Innocent Consumer approached his poor Lemon, peeled Deceptive’s tape off her mouth, and reiterated his request for a refund through clenched teeth.

“Deceptive, I paid you a fee for your services because you promised a certain result: a healthy horse. Not only did you fail to achieve this result, but you actively lied about the cause of the problem!”

“That’s a rather harsh way of putting it, Consumer. Besides, I’m not a cancer specialist.”

“You know the difference between cancer and allergies, though! And if you claim that’s not the case, you’re not a proper veterinarian at all! Nothing but a fraud!”

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll call up another vet, Reasonable. He’s more adept at cancer treatment than I am. Why don’t you take Lemon to him for a diagnosis and we’ll see what he says.”

“And if it IS cancer, you’ll be paying for the treatments, right, Deceptive?”

“Well, we’ll see…”

Sighing, Consumer slowly led his stumbling horse down the lane, up the hill, and around the bend, where they arrived at Reasonable’s practice. After a full morning’s examination of Lemon’s condition, Reasonable told Consumer, “I’m still not sure what the problem is. In order to figure out his real condition, we’ll have to operate. Operating could lead to two different conclusions: either we open him up and find a bad case of worms or we find an advanced case of cancer. The cost for treatment will vary based on the outcome, but the initial operation is about half of what you paid Deceptive for his misdiagnosis.”

“All right, Reasonable. If Deceptive will refund his fee or pay your fee for me, we’ll go ahead with the operation.”

So Consumer trudged back around the bend, down the hill, and up the lane and knocked on Deceptive’s door yet again. A young stable boy answered.

“I’d like to speak with your boss, please.”

“Mr. Deceptive isn’t here, sir. He’s gone on vacation and won’t be back for a week.”

Slightly stunned, Consumer nodded silently and turned to go back down the road. As he shuffled on, a strange, wry grin spread across his face. His eyes began to glow with a crazed gleam. He passed a goat tethered by the side of the road and suddenly shouted, “This isn’t over, Deceptive! You can’t get rid of me that easily. I’ll be BACK!!” Muttering to himself, Innocent Consumer continued on his way. The goat, unfazed, blinked after him.

* * *

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An Economic Allegory

My conversations, blogs, and–so dreadful–even my dreams have veered toward the vehicular now for a greater part of the month. With so much valuable thought time and sheer mental space devoted to automobiles,  one would hope that I would be developing a genuine appreciation for the complex machinery that we all rely on to ferry us about. Or perhaps one might expect me to arrive at a transcendental insight: “We do not ride the Subarus; they ride upon us.” At the very least you should anticipate the acquisition of a broader knowledge about different makes and models; their various strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons.

But, no.

Out of all this car related madness, I have learned precisely two things: both of them pertain to shopping, of all things, more than automobiles. (What can I say? I live to fulfill gender stereotypes. Don’t believe me? I’ll cry.)

I have learned that 1) the prices of things do not necessarily exist in direct proportion to a thing’s value and are, therefore, never truly fixed and that 2) what you pay for is what you get and if it isn’t, you have every right to pitch a fit. It is the last of these revelations that concerns me most today.

Consider this scenario, which shall be relayed after the pattern of Bunyan’s timeless allegory, for your enjoyment :

The Consumer’s Distress

Innocent Consumer’s horse, Dependable, is struck by a stray bullet one night as he was munching oats outside the Innocent Consumer’s barn. Sadly, the damage that Dependable suffers is so great that Innocent Consumer is obligated to finish him off. Inebriated Ingrate, who fired the shot in a drunken brawl, grudgingly pays Consumer the current market price of Dependable by means of restitution. Now, Dependable was getting on in years, but to Consumer he was worth his weight in gold.To Ingrate’s insurance company, however, his cash value was relatively low.

So Consumer had no choice but to buy another horse as quickly as he could with the money he was given: summer was coming on and without a horse, he would not able to harvest his corn in time. The only available horses in town were Flashy, Guzzler, and Lemon. Now, Flashy was a great looking horse. He had all the bells and whistles of a winner: the shiny coat, the flowing mane, the sprightly trot. His owner said that he could even go from the stable to a full gallop in five seconds! Consumer was eager to have a fine horse like Flashy on his farm, but when he tried to make a deal with his owner, Usurer, the man tried to manipulate Consumer into signing over a quarter of his crops for ten years in payment. Unwilling to enter into indentured servitude for the sake of a good looking horse, Consumer went on to another stable, owned by Conglomerate.

There, he took a horse named Guzzler out for a test ride. Guzzler was a strong horse and certainly capable of performing the demanding labor of the farm. As Consumer rode about town, though, he noticed Guzzler behaving a little oddly: every time they came to a public trough or a patch of grass, Guzzler would immediately stop in his tracks and start gulping down everything in sight. Consumer tugged the reins and kicked his sides, but to no avail. After a long, slow ride back to the stable, Consumer asked Guzzler’s owner “Do you feed this horse? He stopped at every patch of grass on the road!” Conglomerate replied, “Oh Guzzler eats about six square meals a day, with snacks in between.” Consumer was shocked: “But I’d have to grow another field of oats just for feeding him!” Conglomerate tried to convince Consumer that the extra field would be worth it in the end, for Guzzler’s hard work would make up for it. But Consumer could not commit to tilling the extra field, and he suspected that Guzzler’s work ethic might wane with time, so he went to visit the last stable.

Oily owned the largest stable in town and he was constantly training old horses for new ones. The only horse he had that wasn’t as expensive as Flashy or as ravenous as Guzzler was a mild, medium-sized mare named Lemon. Lemon was a popular breed and she rode easily and well. Oily didn’t know where she came from or who used to own her, but he promised Consumer that she was top notch. Having no other available options and with the corn ripening at home, Consumer paid half of her asking price and promised Oily the rest when the harvest came in.

Consumer took Lemon straight to the fields, where she performed very well for a while. But soon, Lemon developed a slight limp. Then she began to cough. Soon, she was moving so stiffly and hacking so piteously that Consumer, alarmed, took her to see Deceptive, the veterinarian.

Deceptive charged Consumer an enormous fee for diagnosing the nature of Lemon’s illness. After a brief examination, Deceptive declared that Lemon was suffering from seasonal allergies and prescribed an expensive treatment. Consumer was concerned about the price of the treatment—it cost nearly half of what he had paid for Lemon in the first place! But Deceptive assured him that after a full dose of allergy medicine, Lemon would be a new horse. He insisted that all she needed was a round of medicine to achieve a full recovery. Comforted by Deceptive’s assurances, Innocent Consumer shelled out the cash for the treatment and went home.

When he returned the next day, Lemon was looking a little better. Her cough was nearly gone and she moved with only a slight limp. After a few days of rest, he put her back to work in the fields. By the end of only one day’s labor, though, her cough had grown harsher, her limp more pronounced. After an entire week of working at the farm, Lemon was in worse condition than she had been before the treatment!

Frustrated and disappointed, Consumer strode over to Deceptive’s office and demanded an explanation for his horse’s poor health. Deceptive merely raised his eyebrows and said “hmm…that’s odd.” “It’s not odd, it’s criminal! I paid a lot of money for that treatment and it was all a scam!,” cried Consumer. “Bring the horse in and I’ll examine her again—for FREE this time,” said Deceptive in his most assuaging voice. With a sick horse on his hands and time wasting away, Consumer didn’t know what else to do, so he brought Lemon back to the crooked vet.

This time, Deceptive made a more thorough examination. “Aha!” he cried, seeming most pleased with himself, “Your Lemon isn’t just allergic to pollen, she’s allergic to sheep too! I have another medicine for that and I’ll give it to her at no cost to you.” Skeptical about these so-called allergy symptoms, but hopeful that this new discovery would solve the problem, Consumer grudgingly consented to this second treatment and took his horse home that evening.

But in the morning, Lemon was no better. The following day, her symptoms were so bad that Consumer began to fear for her life! Enraged, he stormed back to Deceptive’s office and tried to explain as calmly as possible that his treatments had failed and he wanted his money back. Deceptive refused to entertain the notion of a refund, but agreed to examine the horse once more. When he returned, he said “Well, she’s still got the limp, but she’s not coughing any more now.” A glance out the window told Consumer that Deceptive had slapped a piece of tape over Lemon’s mouth, effectively smothering the cough.

“I don’t believe in your whole ‘seasonal allergies’ theory, Deceptive,” said Consumer. “In fact, I don’t believe you know what the problem is at all.”

“Well, on my original examination I suspected that she had an advanced case of cancer.”

“What?! Why didn’t you say anything? I would have shot her on the spot and saved you all this trouble and me all this expense!”

“Well, it might have been seasonal allergies. I wasn’t entirely sure.”

“But you were WRONG. Everyone makes mistakes, I understand that–but I’m not going to pay for your mistake. I demand a refund of your fees!”

“Well, now, that’s impossible. But what I CAN do is get you an appointment with another veterinarian who specializes in cancer just to make sure that she DOES have it.”

At this point in their conversation, Oily walks in.

“Oh there you are, Consumer! I was just wondering if you had gotten your harvest in yet? It’s time to finish paying for that fine horse I sold you.”

* * *

Imagine you are Innocent Consumer in this scenario: How would YOU respond?

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I’d Rather Have a Horse, too

Take most people, they’re crazy about cars.  They worry if they get a little scratch on them, and they’re always talking about how many miles they get to a gallon, and if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking about trading it in for one that’s even newer.  I don’t even like old cars.  I mean they don’t even interest me.  I’d rather have a g**d**m horse.  A horse is at least human, for God’s sake.  ~J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

Holden’s take on America’s car craze rings just as true in 2011 as it did when the book was published in 1951. Safety standards and styles have changed, but we’re definitely still talking about miles to the gallon. And there are definitely still folks who care deeply about keeping their cars in perfect condition. It’s still tempting to view one’s car as an extension of oneself, a stand-in for genuine value. And car salesmen (like all good salesmen) profit most from those with a weak self-image.

As a teenager, I managed to avoid making the seemingly inevitable association between vehicles and self-worth thanks to the wisdom of my parents. Rather than buying my a shiny little sports car on my 16th birthday, they sent me to school in a rather beat-up old Mercury Villager

We called it the Silver Bullet

A sixteen year old cannot drive a car so clearly uncool (yet not old-school enough to qualify as ‘retro’) and believe that the car says something important about her. This car forced me to eschew the idea of automobiles as status symbols. Or, at least, as my status symbol. The best part about this particular minivan was the inspirational license plate my mother had screwed to the front: A bright yellow plate that simply read “JESUS”.  Why should a car bear the name of Jesus? I always imagined people looking in their review mirrors and noticing that the Son of God was on their tail: kind of a modern twist on whole hound of heaven thing.  Presumably, the idea was to publicly identify ourselves as Christians so that we would have an extra incentive to drive well. Or maybe it was another one of the subtle ways that that my folks tried to keep me from cruising for cute boys. Regardless, the Jesus-mobile got me where I needed to go and provided a grounded view of the true value of a car.

Later, after a few car-less college years, my folks again set me up with the family’s latest cast off minivan. As a hip young professional living in downtown Colorado Springs, driving another scratched up, eco-unfriendly van stung my pride on occasion (nevermind who got it scratched up in the first place–that’s not the point!)

Imagine it dented, dirty, and with one white driver's side door.

But the Caravan served me well for a couple of years. Once again, it made highway flirting a little more difficult, and I realize that this was for the best. When my ego reared up at the sight of a friend’s snazzy little coupe, I learned to remind myself to be grateful that I wasn’t making car payments. While I never developed an emotional attachment to this one (it remained simply “The Caravan”), it also got me safely where I needed to go. Except that Sunday morning when I braved the snow and ice to make it to the church nursery on time, only to slide into a curb, bending the axle beyond recognition. (From this incident, I drew the valuable lesson that sometimes God wants us to stay home).

After the Caravan’s untimely demise, Grandpa came to my rescue with an extra Suburban he had sitting around in Kansas. (I’m pretty sure that only former auto shop owners have extra SUVs sitting around). By now you should be noticing a trend in my vehicular history: bigger and better, every time. This baby has a forty-gallon tank!

This eight-passenger vehicle is perfect for transporting Christmas trees and destroying the world's remaining fossil fuels

This car was definitely more aligned with Colorado style. With four-wheel-drive and a no-nonsense engine, I never ended up like THESE Colorado drivers. Plus, despite driving the least flirtatious car on the road, I managed to meet and marry the love of my life. See, high school self? You didn’t need a cool car after all! (There are days, it’s true, when I wonder if the sight of a car that would contain half-a-dozen offspring was influential in our relationship.But I digress.)

Sadly, the good old Sub is nearing the end of its days. And so, after years of living like an automobile vulture, surviving on the carrion cars left behind by my betters, its time to take the next step. Yes, my friend, I am talking about entering the used car market. I’m talking about blue-booking! Trade-ins! Craigslist! CARFAX REPORTS! I’ve avoided it long enough and I’m ready to take the plunge. Stay tuned for riveting updates.

(But if this doesn’t work out, I’m definitely getting a horse.)

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