Remember when our friends GAVE us a free van?!?! Yeah, that just happened. A few days before my parents came to town, Tim and Macy got into a car accident in my 1998 Honda Civic. Small car. Thankfully, they were not seriously hurt, though there have been some chiropractic and massage visits to address neck and shoulder stiffness (mainly for Tim). I want to go on record and say that my husband is a kick ass driver. And while that might seem like something not really worthy of a compliment, I grew up in a car where parents constantly fought over my father's driving. My dad used to race cars as a hobby and is a great driver, but he definitely pushes the envelope of safety and in recent years, has been in a few accidents. He's a bit of a daredevil, which isn't the worst way to survive living in southern California for 5 decades. But it seriously freaked out my mom and it would have been nice if he had cared more about that. I'm used to a quick, defensive driver as my male role model but didn't want to deal with any driving-related bickering or actual safety issues. Tim's and my first date was a double date setup (thanks, guys!) to Disneyland. So we spent a few hours in the car that day since it takes 90 min or so to get to Anaheim. I got to see this man drive and thought...damn. Defensive, quick but not terrifyingly so, great instincts. I figured I could drive with this man for the rest of my days and never utter a complaint. That's a big deal.
When he was in job transition two years ago, Tim got his CDL to drive school buses. And he killed it. For those of you who haven't gone through that process (ironically, both of us have a CDL), it requires a 45 min "walk around" of the vehicle before you even get behind the wheel. You have to take the examiner through a safety check and point out one million things under the hood, in the vehicle and around the vehicle that need to be checked before you drive a bunch of passengers in a large vehicle. It's several pages of memorization. My guy, in his late thirties, put that memorization away in a few hours. I remember doing that well when I was a 21 year old college student getting mine, but if you put those pages in front of me now? Ugh. I hope I could still memorize it at all. So, not only is my man the perfect driver for me, he has a kick ass brain.
Okay, massive husband brag aside, Tim and Macy were hit by someone in an intersection a few blocks from our house and that fool drove off! Our car was totaled (easy to do but still) and theirs was obviously damaged as well and they slowed down to get their bearings and then just drove away. What?!?! Tim and I were both so shocked and angry. Because Tim is a defensive driver (great in snow and ice by the way...now I feel like I'm auctioning him off but seriously, this guy is a catch), he saw the car coming in his peripheral sight and hit the brakes hard. So the guy who would have totally t-boned right into my husband instead hit the drivers side headlight. Thank God. Every time I think about that car plowing into my old tiny sedan and going right into my husband's body, I start crying. Whew.
Unfortunately, even though my husband is amazing, he's still a human being and so he braced himself for impact. I did when I got into my big accident at 17 too. It's such a normal instinct but man, it sucks. That's why Tim has needed more treatment. Meanwhile, my darling 9 year old was in the passenger side back seat not aware of anything until impact. She got a little scared, but was totally fine physically (I still want to take her in for an adjustment just in case). And again, my guy is so focused and strong in an emergency that he was able to keep her calm and reassured as well.
The Honda was totaled. We knew it would be. How do you salvage a 19 year old car after a big accident? You don't. Sadly, for those of you who've known me for any stretch of time have known my dear old friend, the Civic. You guys, I've had that car since I was 19. I just turned 36. We were buds. I planned on it being Macy's first car. It only had 185k miles on it, which for a Honda is chump change. I believe it would have made it many more years to come (I'm super weird about maintaining/loving on/marrying my vehicles for life). And so not only did a stranger put my family at risk, frighten my child and take no financial responsibility for running a red light, but they also took my beloved car. All in all, not cool.
Thankfully, we have kick ass insurance (USAA - military dad for the win) and they actually gave us a decent settlement considering how old the car was. The problem is, how do you replace a car you know like the back of your hand, gets great gas mileage (#blessed) and that you haven't ever had a payment on (thanks Nana)? Even with a little bit of money in your pocket, as the money person in this house, I maintain that a paid for vehicle is worth its weight in gold. I will maintain a fully owned car til the cows come home or at least until it no longer makes sense. But don't make payments on something that is a depreciating asset. It's not worth it. Even if it's low interest, the car will not be worth what you're paying on it as the years tick by. It just won't. And there is so much more that you can do with that chunk of money every month.
Because we like to love our old cars and not having payments, we typically don't have fancy cars because we don't have 30k lying around for depreciating assets and if we did, you got it, I wouldn't put that kind of money into a vehicle. I'm too practical. I'd invest it or pay down my mortgage or heck, I'd rather take several kick ass trips than throw that much money into something that you could easily get for a few grand instead (obviously the experience of driving a fancy car versus an old car is different but if you can't tell, to me, a car is a car is a car. It just needs to work).
We needed to borrow a car immediately because we can't really take our kids to two different schools (one gets out at noon, one at 2:50, Tim's done at 5) and get Tim to and from work. He also frequently needs a vehicle during the work day so it's just really not possible for us to function during the school year with one car. In particular, all of Tim's previous jobs (except for bus driving) have been flexible. It wouldn't have been a big deal to duck out to drop a preschool kid off at home but in this job, it's a big deal. Total non-starter. So our friends let us use a van that they'd had sitting in their driveway for awhile. It was so critical that we be able to keep the family running while we figured out all the insurance stuff, started looking for a new car, deciding if we were going to have to repurpose our Christmas trip money to increase the pot for buying a new car, etc. So many calls, errands, emails. That's one more thing I was processing in my resentment towards the other driver. All the logistical stuff was left on us because they didn't take responsibility for their actions. And the logistical stuff wasn't a joke. We spent a lot of hours transitioning through this process.
Then our friends said, YOU CAN KEEP THE VAN if you want to. We were given it as a gift and when we were done with it, we were determined to pay it forward and we've just been waiting for the right situation to come along for us to give it away.
For one, who says no to a free car? No one who's not crazy. For two, I have to tell you guys this in confidence: I've always been a van girl. My dream vehicle is a 70's green rusty pickup with a terribly ornery stick shift but I can't do that with little kids (damn laws). So my mommy vehicle of choice is totally a van. Have you guys seen those automatic doors?!?! We've got 'em. Have you seen DVD players BUILT IN? We've got one. Did you know they have SEVEN seats?!?! We've got seven seats. We even have the "stow and go" feature so the seats just pop into the floor at a moments notice. And I have to tell you guys, nothing feels fancier than having your own personal butt warmer. I was telling our generous friend that I have access to a Hawaiian vacation for butt every time I get in the car. Seriously, what more can a girl ask for?!?! People like to say, " happy wife, happy life" but I think "warm butt, warm heart" needs to gain momentum.
Rather than leaving this as a long ass anecdote about my vehicle-related neurosis, I wanted to end by saying whatever positive thing is being offered to you, take the gift. If someone wants to give you something, even if it's crazy and you have moments of feeling unworthy of such a gift, take it. After all the trauma after losing ministry and Tim's post-partum depression, we had to really learn what it was to receive. Being in ministry is about being a giver all day every day. And that sneaks into your identity. Let's be honest: being a giver feels awesome and it's putting a positive energy into the world that we desperately need. It's fun to be the one to give. But I have to say, if the fruit we're harvesting in learning to be receivers is in fact a kick ass van, I could not be more thrilled. Do your work. Let people love you. Lean into your community. Take the provisions being offered to you. Just feel loved. Just be grateful. And don't apologize or feel shame. It takes all the fun out of it.
So if you see a mom who looks like her butt is in Hawaii driving a 2005 blue Town & Country blasting Harry Potter, give me a shout.
* Disclaimer - I feel like my enthusiasm for frugality might feel very judgy towards those who have car payments and/or fancy cars. Sorry! I'm a weirdo. You're the normal one.