The Car I Couldn't Drive

Photo credit: Free Digital Photos
I am not what you would call a "car person". I don't know the difference between RPMs and the number of cylendars a car has (and what that means to me as a driver). I don't know the difference between an alternator and a transmission. I'm not even sure what makes the car go. I  do know how to change a tire (thanks to my step dad) and how to change the oil (thanks to The Man Beast). Beyond that, I'm hopeless.

However, that's not to say that I don't love my car. There is something about having a car that's magical. My car is a 2001 Malibu and it is completely paid off; it's all mine! Being a turtle fanatic, I've been able to find a turtle steering wheel cover and family stickers to go on my back window - despite the fact that my car isn't any shade of green (or yellow or brown). I ask quite a bit of it and it just keeps on trucking. Sure I have to give it a slap every now and then to get the AC working, but over all, it has been good to my family and me.

But this car isn't my first love. No, my first love was a 1988 white, Subaru Justy. It had a standard transmission, two doors and a hatchback. It was a basic model and it didn't come with AC. Virginia can get pretty hot in the summer, but I didn't care. It was mine.

Never mind that I didn't have the $2,000 to buy or the ability to drive it.

Luckily, my aunt loaned me the money and I was able to buy the car I couldn't drive. Again, my step dad came to rescue. I was scooting around my city in no time. Back in 1994, gas was super cheap. Add to the fact that my car was super small and a fill up was between $5-$10. I was in business!

I remember so many things about that car:


  • I didn't take care of it as well as I should have. I remember driving down the main strip of town, in a pouring down rain storm, and my brakes (brake pads?) fell off! Luckily, because it was a standard, I was able to "stop" without using the brakes.
  • The first time I drove it to work, a yellow Volvo backed into me. I didn't call the cops and the dude skipped out on me. (Lesson learned!)
  • I drove that car to Norfolk on my way to college. On the way, I was behind a large construction truck and a pebble flew off the truck, hit my windshield, and cracked it. I never pursued the company. 
  • I remember hauling friends around in the car frequently. For some reason, there was a stretch of time when something in my car stunk to high heaven. I never figured out what it was and one day, it disappeared.
  • I taught The Man Beast how to drive a stick shift in that car. In rush hour traffic. In Miami.
  • Toward the end of it's life, it was very sad and used to overheat in stop and go traffic.
  • One day it died and my mother sold my car and I don't even remember why.
There are a lot of firsts we remember. Most of us remember our first cars and you don't have to be a "car person" to be a part of the club.

All of these memories come flooding back every time I see a 1988 white, Subaru Justy driving around my town...
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What I've Learned: Back to School Shopping

Photo:Free Digital Photos

I turned 36 in June and for 14 years of my Mommyhood life, I've gone back-to-school shopping in one fell swoop. Backpacks, shoes, new clothes, and various school supplies were bought all in one, often exhausting, day.

But when resources (read: money) is limited, one tends to revamp how she does things. We have never been "rich" by any stretch of the imagination, but I was always able to pull a couple of hundred dollars together to get school supplies and clothes (admittedly, credit cards "helped" in some areas. Note: do NOT do this unless you can immediately pay off your balance, in full. And really, if you can do that, just pay cash. It's so much easier.)

With The Man Beast landing a new job and me resigning from mine, resources have been very limited. As such, I've had to be resourceful and keep an eye out for sales and do my back to school shopping in stages. You know - how normal people shop.  You do shop this way, don't you? You don't? I'll give you a few good reasons why you should break your shopping down into smaller trips:


  1. You can grab some good sales. Here in Georgia, we're winding down the summer, so most local stores have started putting back to school supplies on sale. Actually, Wal-Mart has had their bins out front, not to mention two isles, full of school supplies for a month or so. Office supply stores, such as Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max are having mad deals just to get you into their store. If you space your shopping trips out over weeks (instead of hours), many of the door busters are on school supply lists. Getting three-pronged folders for .20 or even .10 is good, but getting them for .01 is even better.
  2. Tax Free Weekends. Many states participate in tax-free weekends where customers don't pay tax on any clothes, shoes, or back to school supplies. This website lists the weekends, if available in your state. I love shopping at JC Penny because their clothes last, so I will be heading into JC Penny August 10-11 (my tax free weekend) to snag some deals.
  3. Don't buy everything  you need. School starts on August 6th in my community. My tax-free weekend isn't until the following weekend. Therefore, I'm going to buy some clothes before school starts and save the rest of my list for after. As far as general school supplies are concerned, if you haven't gotten them during the door busters (see point #1), you might be able to get some good deals after school starts. Get just the basic and build on when and where you can.
  4. Don't buy new. I know this might be a gross concept to some people, but tons of great deals on children's clothing can be found in thrift shops. Many communities have privately run consignment shops. My community recently had a Goodwill store open. The proceeds from sales at Goodwill stores go to help those with disabilities find jobs (which, as a future SPED teacher, is a mission very close to my heart). Salvation Army isn't just a church. Their stores also give back to the community as well by providing emergency help to those in need. (Help, of which if you'll remember, my family and I were personal recipients)
  5. Reuse what you can. Who says your kid needs a brand new backpack if their old one is holding up? Have you replaced a three-ring binder in the middle of the school year that is still in good shape? Don't replace something that doesn't need replacing. Shoes are almost a definite - kids grow out of those - but if your kids got clothes for Christmas, the chances are pretty good that some of them still fit. Go through your child's closet/dresser and assess what they really have. Most wardrobes don't need a full overhaul; a few select items that work with existing pieces works just find.
Do you have any other tips? Share in the comments!



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Brave: A Movie Review

http://disney.go.com/brave/
Yesterday, I got the chance to go see Brave, the newest movie from Disney Pixar, with my daughter's Girl Scout troop. The synopsis of the movie is very similar to most other modern-day Disney movies which feature a female main character: a princess who goes against the grain of what she is supposed to do and instead, does what she wants, only to realize the consequences of her actions. Merida's fate is to marry a first born son from one of the three surrounding tribes in order to keep peace among them. Her pickings are slim, at best.


So, she does what any hard-headed princess would do: she declares that she will win her own hand in marriage. (Yes, it confused her family and the surrounding tribes, too). And then she runs away. The sprites lead her to the cottage of an old wood carver and Merida, soon finds out she's a witch. She asks for a spell to change her mother. The witch warns her to be careful what she wishes for and soon, Merida regrets her wish.

Brave is more than just a movie about a rebellious teenager. This time around, I think Disney Pixar really got to the root of mother-daughter relationships and how incredibly fragile they can be. Merida wants to be heard; her mother wants Merida to realize that what she is doing for her is for - or what her mom perceives as - her own good. A classic mother/daughter struggle.

The movie had an incredibly slow start, in my opinion. I didn't really get "hooked" until after Merida storms off after the archery competition. From that point on, however, the movie not only picks up but really pulls you in.

Brave is a heart-warming story that reminds us that while we might change our fate, family remains the same; unwavering and steadfast in all of live's perilous adventures.

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Handle with Care: A Book Review

http://www.jodipicoult.com


From Picoult's website:
Synopsis:
When Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated – she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain.
As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she’s suing isn’t just her physician – it’s her best friend.
Each character in the book tells his or her version of the story to Willow. This format is nothing new to Picoult as she did something very similar in My Sister's Keeper. In fact, those who are familiar with Picoult's books know that this story does not have a happy ending; her stories never do. (Note: Picoult's book, My Sister's Keeper, is vastly different from the movie, starring Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin.)

The book challenges me as a reader, a special education educator and as a Christian. Centered around the lawsuit is the question: How disabled is too disabled? In fact, Charlotte's lawyer brings up a question that is undoubtedly on most pro-lifer's minds:
"And it's a slippery slope - if an OB decides a kid with brittle bones shouldn't be born, what's next? A prenatal test for low IQ, so you can scrap the fetus that won't grow up and get into Harvard?" (page 53)

However, on the other side of the coin, Picoult addresses the physical, emotional and even financial implications of extreme disabilities:
"Your first seven breaks happened before you entered this world. The next four happened minutes after you were born, as a nurse lifted you out of me. Another nine, when you were being resuscitated in the hospital, after you coded. The tenth: when you were lying across my lap and suddenly I heard a pop. Eleven was when you rolled over and your arm hit the edge of the crib. Twelve and thirteen were femur fractures; fourteen a tibia; fifteen a compression fracture of the spine. Sixteen was jumping down from a stoop; seventeen was a kid crashing into you on the playground; eighteen was when you slipped on a DVD jacket lying on the carpet. We still don't know what number nineteen. Twenty was when Amelia was jumping on a bed where you were sitting; twenty one was a soccer ball that hit your leg too hard; twenty-two was when I discovered water[proof casting materials and bought enough to supply and entire hospital, now stocked in my garage. Twenty-three happened in your sleep; twenty-four and twenty-five were a fall forward in the snow that snapped both forearms at once. Twenty-six and twenty-seven were nasty fractures, fibula and tibia tenting through the skin at a nursery school Halloween party, where ironically, you were wearing a mummy's costume whose bandages I used to splint the breaks. Twenty-eight happened during a sneeze; twenty-nine and thirty were ribs you broke on the edge of the kitchen table. Thirty-one was a hip fracture that required a metal plate and six screws. I stopped keeping track after that, until the ones from Disney World, which we had not numbered but instead named Mickey, Donald, and Goofy." (page 105)

If you're looking for answers, this book will not provide it. Instead, it will give you a million more questions to consider. I get very wrapped up in books to the point of rooting for a character or absolutely despising them. I think Picoult is brave for writing her characters in such a way that you can hate them (or love them) in one chapter and feel the reverse in the next. Charlotte is this type of character for me. I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the character I struggled the most with emotionally was the mother.

One thing I did notice in Handle With Care, was that it was very similar to My Sister's Keeper. The characters "felt" the same. Both moms were overbearing to a fault, the dads were trying to be the "good guys", and the siblings got lost in the shuffle and exhibited self-destructive behavior. Because of this, I knew that the ending wasn't going to be happy and it wasn't.


Picoult is to books what M. Knight Shyamalan is to movies; all of her books have huge plot twists - none of them particularly happy. In fact, I've found, that most of her books leave me feeling frustrated. "Can she write a happy ending just once?"

No. Because that's not the kind of writer she is and I think that is part of her charm. People pick up her reads to be challenged and I think part of the reason why Picoult never sums up her books with a "buttoned up and beautiful" mentality is because that's not real life. Storybook fairy tales do not exist. Yes, there are magical moments to be gleaned from the every day, but there is no palace, princesses, and knight in shining armor.

As always, I would recommend Picoult's books. In face, I'm heading to the library this morning to pick up another. I'm a glutton for punishment.



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