(for Part 1, click here)
Our life together has never been exactly typical for our cultural and socio-economic background. In our 29 years of marriage, we have lived in twenty different domiciles, in seven different cities, in four different states, in places and situations so unique they deserved names to commemorate them: the Bea-Ch House, the Love Shack, the Treehouse, the Homestead, the Loft, The House on Mango Street, and more recently, the Cat Scat COVID Special, as well as several iterations of travel trailers and fifth wheels.
Between us, we have driven at least 30 different used cars (and no new ones),
some of which were given to us and some of which we eventually gave away to others. Honorable mentions in the vehicle category go to Pepe I and II, the Stinky ‘Vette (Che, not Cor) , the Great Pumpkin, the twins—Hector and Dorf, Man Bug, Gracie, the Brick, the Starcraft, Rooster, Madame Blueberry, the Fruit Bat, Dodger Blue, Iris, and—our most recent acquisition—our beloved Walter, on whose broad shoulders rest our hopes and dreams for the future.
There have been many years of struggle, more lean years than fat years, mostly because 1) we like to do things our own way; 2) we are opportunists, not averse to change, and sometimes not very discerning; 3) we aren’t terribly skilled at business administration; and 4) I was committed to staying home with the kids as much as I possibly could. We have run three different family businesses centered around Andy’s woodworking skills. We have traveled the country for months at a time, following a traveling woodworking show. We have worked professional church and para-church ministry jobs, which never pay much, at least financially.
Through all this, we scrimped and struggled at every turn, always seeking out ways to make poverty (at least lower middle class American-style poverty) feel fun and exciting. Some of my kids’ favorite dishes—most born from my own lack of grocery funds—were made more exciting with names like Glop, Chad Potatoes, Ugly Muffins, Steamin’ Hot Love, Moozies, Banana Dogs, and Snow Cream. One of the best days of the year when they were little was the bi-annual arrival of the big cardboard boxes of used clothing I purchased on eBay; the kids couldn’t wait to see their “new” cold weather or warm weather wardrobe. Couch cushions and car floor mats were lifted regularly to find mad money for things like Rainbow Hunts and cheap dates. Multiple garage sales were marvelous examples of God’s provision. Our family activities rarely came with admission fees—hikes, picnics, and afternoons at the river or sledding hills were far more common for us than movies, bowling alleys, skating rinks, or amusement parks. Our favorite Christmas trees—especially when our kids were teens—were ugly Charlie Brown trees, scraggly young Ponderosa Pines harvested from our own backyard.
Frugal-made-fun has been our running theme for most of our 29 years. Why? Because we were weird, I guess (and also a little stupid at times). Because we had our own way of defining the American Dream.
(for Part 4, click here)