Wednesday, September 17

Three-year-old boy in Whole Foods

"We have to find soy milk that doesn't have DEET!"

Tuesday, September 16

Actually, getting rid of my car completely changed my life.

Early on in this car-free thing, I decided it wasn't going to be all that big a deal. My lifestyle was car-light compared to the average American's, anyway. I took the bus most of the way to work. I did most of my shopping for clothes, shoes, and home goods online. I used my car a lot socially, so the only thing I thought might see significant change was my social life.

Ten months since I went car-free, I have to admit that I was completely wrong. I say "admit" because part of what I wanted to do by going car-free was show other people that giving up your car doesn't have to mean a big lifestyle change. You can be kind of normal and not have a car! Even here in the Triangle, North Carolina!

Well, turns out you can't. Or at least, I couldn't. Maybe someone else could have stayed the same. But I didn't.

It's like this. Without a car, you suddenly don't have this ability to make super-fast decisions: I'm gonna go to X exact spot, right now. Which sounds like a loss of freedom, right? Your choices are more limited.

Only I look back now and see that my choices when I had a car were much more limited than I knew. My mental map of "places I might get in my car and drive to" was mostly a mental map of places I might drive to and buy some stuff. Not completely, but mostly. Even though technically I was free to go anywhere under the sun.

It's a consumer culture. I wince, typing that, because it sounds like an obvious—almost trivially obvious—thing to say. Anyone who's remotely paying attention has already noticed that the United States has a bit of a consumer-culture thing going on. But what "consumer culture" really means is so much clearer to me now that I don't have a magic conveyance that gets me so deceptively easily to all of those money-grabbing places.

I say "deceptively" because the price is so much higher than most people realize. Even I, calculating out how much I might save by giving up my car, came up with a ridiculously low-ball number. Money was part of the decision, but not a big part, because I didn't think the difference would actually be all that big.

Turns out I'm saving three or four times more money than I expected. Add to that the money I've saved by having to put in more effort to go out and spend money, and the savings start to get ridiculous.

Of course, I thought I knew all this before. I thought of myself as moderately anti-consumerist. I wasn't spending on autopilot. I wasn't going to the mall just to "go to the mall." I didn't make grocery trips to get single items. I didn't have television. Etc.

But the numbers don't lie. After I gave up my—fully paid-for, cheap-to-insure—car, I suddenly started making progress on my financial goals. I suddenly realized that I won't have to work until I'm 67 just to make ends meet. I can be in control of my life, rather than being controlled by the need to make a certain income to cover all the expected, middle-class expenses—like a car.

It's not an exaggeration to say that I feel like getting rid of my car got me my life back. Before, I was in the driver's seat of my life—sure. But now I'm standing on my own two feet. Well, except when there's an empty seat on the bus.

Wednesday, September 10

Wow.

It never even occurred to me that the people in charge of transit systems might not actually ride them. Wish I'd stayed naive!

Saturday, September 6

Mistake?

I thought that I might make it to the end of the first summer and realize I'd made a horrible mistake.

Now, granted this was a milder-than-usual summer, but still—it's central North Carolina. It's humid and hot. You can't walk a mile during most of the day (even with dat parasol) without getting seriously annoyed with yourself for ever contemplating said walk.

And I don't regret anything. I am loving every minute of the car-free life. I'm still hoping I'll make it through the next 60-some years without having to own a car again.

But then I think about my parents (who are elderly and don't live near transit). I think about my friends (who have no intentions of ever ditching their cars). Being the car-free family member and friend of car-owning people is always going to be kind of problematic.

I thrived during my first car-free summer, but this still might turn out to have been a mistake. I may not know either way for at least another few years.

Saturday, August 16

Still can't get used to it.

There's service from the bus station to my house every 15 minutes on Saturday afternoons (as of about a year ago).

I'm still stuck in little-town transit thinking where NOTHING happens every 15 minutes on a Saturday. Living in a city rocks.

Friday, August 8

The status symbol of choice

Okay, it's not like my 20-year-old Nissan with bumper stickers all over it was ever really a status symbol.

But car ownership implies a certain economic status. A certain minimum economic status. In a town like this one, it does, anyway. This ain't Manhattan (and it sure ain't San Francisco).

I'd be lying if I said it never bothered me. I wince a little, inwardly, every time I feel like I'm giving off a vibe of "can't afford a car" or "got rid of her car in a desperate bid to make her budget work."

The truth is, ditching my car was part of my five-year plan to get to where I want to be financially. Five years from now, I'll have a status symbol that's way better than a car.

But even then, no one will really know about it. Five years from now, I'll probably still be hanging out at the bus station.

It would be easy for me to say that I'm independent-minded and I don't care what anyone thinks about my not owning a car. And in a way, it would be true. I don't care a lot. But I do care some. I'm not sure that will ever go away.

The loss of the status symbol is definitely worth it, though. Even more worth it than I imagined—both in money and in just plain not having to deal with a car.

Tuesday, July 29

Kids and cars

The website kidsandcars.org has some clever suggestions [PDF] to make sure you don't tragically forget the baby in the back seat on a hot day...

I really do wish everyone would give up their car.

Not everyone. But, you know, a lot of people. Because then everyone would be out and about early in the morning in the summer, and I could do an errand at 6:30 a.m. to beat the heat. Instead (for safety reasons) I'll be doing it at 5:30 p.m. when it's hot and everyone is around.

Thursday, July 24

Giving stuff away on Craigslist

A guy sat in his truck on the street for literally half an hour waiting for a car to pull into the driveway to signal him that I was home. Rather than, you know, knocking on the door or calling to check whether I was there.

Guy wasn't dumb. Stuff like this actually happens all the time. People are SO CONFUSED by the empty driveway.

Wednesday, July 23

Thought for five seconds

about boycotting the bus until they catch Mr. Dipshit Drano Bomb or at least name a suspect...

...then stepped outside my front door. Ninety-seven percent humidity. Nope, I'll take my chances on the bus.

Sunday, July 20

Housekeeping without a chore chart?

Ever since I started living alone, I've used a chore chart—for me, not for any kids who have lived with me—and it works really well.

But then I think about it occasionally, and I'm like, who does that? A chore chart? For an adult?

I'm sure most people probably don't use a chore chart, but then, most people probably aren't on top of their chores, either.

Is it possible to be a normal person who has a full-time job, or kids, or whatever, and be pretty much caught up on your chores without a chore chart?

By "pretty much caught up," I mean 95 percent of the time you don't freak if someone comes over unexpectedly...

Thursday, July 17

Totally got laughed at on the bus

for reading The Lord of the Rings. Guess some bus-riders share my parents' opinion that fantasy novels are for kids...

Tuesday, July 8

Is it loud?

When I moved into my house, I had the old asphalt shingle replaced with a standing-seam aluminum roof. The idea being that if I had to reroof my house, I wanted to make sure that I'd never, ever have to do it again, no matter how long I end up living here.

Let's just say that the metal roof makes a statement in my older, historic-homes type neighborhood. Even my elderly neighbor now admits that she likes the way it looks, though.

The main question people ask me is whether it's loud when it rains. I wouldn't say the sound is loud—just different from the sound of rain striking asphalt. One time it hailed, and yeah, that was loud. Other than that, I can only think of one day when I noticed rain actually sounding loud on my roof.

Last winter, the top of my neighbor's tree snapped off and fell on my roof. Right over my head, actually, as I sat in the dining room eating breakfast. The roof came through without a dent.

Wednesday, June 18

Parasols go viral?

I really stood out at the bus station today. I mean, I always feel kind of stand-outy at the bus station, but today it was almost comical.

It was full sun and about 96 degrees. I was standing at the gate for the bus, in the sun, parasol up, while most everyone else was backed up into the mulch in order to stay in the shade.

I didn't even notice that I was standing way out in front of the crowd until one guy came up and pointed it out, and told me how smart I am.

The thing is, I'm not smart! I didn't invent UV parasols! I just don't understand why they haven't taken off here in the South. I'm kind of hoping to help start a local trend.

Then again, East Asian woman in Durham/Chapel Hill have been walking around the place with parasols for decades now, and it hasn't spread to white and black women (let alone men of any color).

Why?? It really works, and it would make life soooo much better for so many people.

Wednesday, June 11

I can tell I had caffeine today

because it's long past my bedtime and I'm still awake, trying to figure what the purpose of earning money is.

I think it's so you can deworm tens of thousands of kids, but I'm not totally sure yet.

Thursday, June 5

Blogging and not blogging

R and C's mother used to be a blogger. You guys think I share a lot on my blog—you should see hers. She blogged very openly about herself and her family life, including all about becoming an adoptive family and getting R and C.

And then she stopped blogging. Completely.

The thing is, I get it. Once foster care or foster-care adoption enters your life, it just becomes too private for blogging. Or maybe not private, exactly, because I'm not even really talking about the things you're obliged to keep confidential. It just becomes too personal.

Or maybe she stopped because of R and C's birth family.

Or maybe she stopped because she's just too freakin' busy.

Or maybe she did what I always thought about doing and abandoned her personal blog for a totally anonymous, key-facts-altered-for-privacy, honest truth-telling about foster care/adoption blog. Probably not. But maybe.

I think that's probably the best way to do it. If I had it to do over again, that how I would blog about foster care.

Thursday, May 22

Warm feelings

Maybe it's the car-free lifestyle, but suddenly I REALLY want solar panels.

Not feeling the urge to compost yet, though.

Tuesday, May 20

The driveway fake-out

Last night my neighbor called and asked if her daughter could park in my driveway. I said sure, thinking she meant just for the evening. So I was surprised this morning when I came out and the car was still there.

After I thought about it, though, I realized that this is to my advantage, even if my neighbor ends up parking in my driveway all the time. A couple of months after I got rid of my car, I realized that my empty driveway makes it look like I'm never home. It's been empty long enough now that a smart caser of houses will have realized that I don't own a car and I'm away from home all day.

If anyone's watching, a car suddenly parked in the driveway during the day will confuse them. That's a good thing!

Sunday, May 18

On foot


It's hard to describe how different our world is on foot.

I'd imagine most people think they already know—I thought I did, before I gave up my car. I went places on the bus. I did errands on foot. But I was really just a tourist in the car-free world. I didn't see as much of the everyday reality.

Today I wanted to count how many steps I took through parking lots. It didn't work—I lost count somewhere between 400 and 500.

At times, it almost feels post-apocalyptic. Like the world has completely changed, but the old structures still remain. I'm traveling on foot through a prior age.