Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Mobile Mom as Part of a Mobile Society

Lunch is simply an excuse to catch up with friends and yesterday we found ourselves wondering over the amazing stupidity of others and our own relative knighthood when it came to being self-maintaining and prepared. The object that brought about such shock: a stapler. Yes, a small office implement started the discussion about how each of us had learned to carry those essential items which, when they are present, make our lives a bit nicer, a tad more comfortable, or simply less expensive. The items we put in our bags and cars, or carry when we travel, are viewed as a frugal moment of thought in order to save money or just a frugal investment of time in order to avoid emergency stops at random stores amid all of the other errands we do as busy women.

The women at lunch are powerful, self-assured and purposeful. They have full, loving, and adventurous lives that enrich them. Knowing them enriches me. Part of what makes these women so special is the unique attitude that life is a personal responsibility, one you should take seriously if you're going to truly own your life completely. We view our needs and wants as something we are entirely engaged in answering for ourselves. This starts with knowing what your life requires to move easily (what items grease your wheels) and then acquiring. Our motto is, "take everything with you that you will need to have fun - including a good attitude."

The focus of our discussion finally narrowed to our cars. These lovely conveyances carry ourselves and our families to school, work, baseball practice, the gym, lunch, friend's birthday parties, and even home. My van is particularly well known for travel as I drive all over the Eastern seaboard to lecture. I am always personally delighted to arrive at a lecture spot and not need anything of my hosts. The majority of the time I think, "oh - I should have a band-aid for that," I have a band-aid in my van. Mind you, I don't keep many band-aids but just enough for that 'in case' scenario. Entire boxes of band-aids, changes of clothes, and a library of maps would reduce my van's capacity for people to nil. Instead, I have a select few items that mean I've got the essentials for my family and my way of living.

A few of my favorite things:

  • Ultra fiber blanket (stored in a plastic zippered pillow case package) - for picnics and unloading without getting sand on my suitcases.
  • Fun kit - a plastic bag or small beach bag that zips shut (perhaps 10x12) with sunscreen, bug spray, small baggie of wet wipes, a collapsible hat, miniature first aid kit. I also keep sidewalk chalk for my son.
  • First Aid kit - stocked with items my family uses most (Neosporin, band-aids, antiseptic spray, anti-itch stick) all in the smallest containers available.
  • Map - a condensed map for the Southern region of the US (your states, maps, and mileage may vary wildly)
  • Paper towels - but not an entire roll. I snag the last little bits of a roll from my kitchen so it doesn't get dirty or ripped up in my car, or there are neat little car dispensers of paper towels with plastic cover and a slot for the towels. I will warn you, however, that these are nearly impossible to refill and traditional sized paper towels are too wide. Proprietary pigs, I tell you.
  • An umbrella - especially if its one that is not your favorite and it will fit in the door pocket (rather than all that random detritus) or under the seat.
  • Personal bag - for the primary driver's needs. A zippered paisley pouch (from a dollar store!) holds nail files, chap stick, cough drops, spare sunglasses, $10 emergency gas cash, feminine pads and pantyliners (samples individually wrapped work wonderfully), moist towellettes.
  • Grocery bags - stored one inside another, I've got these hooked behind my driver's seat for fast snatch n' go.
  • Dashboard - items frequently forgotten or needed: napkins (extras from fast food), plastic forks/spoons, straws. Basically any time I get handed one too many of anything helpful to eat in the car (including tiny paper plates) I stash them here.
  • Emergency information I might, one day, need. I compiled my most used phone numbers of close friends, family, and those likely to help me (AAA, auto repair store, etc.) and printed these out on a two sided sheet. This is stashed in my personal bag or dashboard in case I lose my phone, the charge dies, or someone else has to find the numbers for me.
  • Water - My family is trying to stay hydrated and I'm weary of paying $2 for water. I carry a strong refillable jug and fill my water bottle and one specially sized for my young son from this when we hit the park or stop at a gas station.
A supply of items like these saves me money when we arrive at the water park and don't need to pay $12 for a small tube of sunscreen or bottled water every day. I save sanity points when I don't have to turn around to get a straw from the drive-thru when I'm already strapped for time or suddenly find a store because I'm spotting on the day of my period. Many of these habits serve to support my ecologically friendly lifestyle, which buys me a little peace of mind. I find a certain pride and comfort in being able to largely take care of my own needs without relying on the kindness of strangers too heavily.

Americans virtually live in their cars. I believe that is why cars have gotten so much bigger recently. We are in love with driving. Living life by choice can include this pattern of driving and delving, and the desire to live it fully is made easier with just a little thought. I know people who carry a folding camp chair for comfortable seating at sports practice for their children. I know men who carry a small shaving kit just in case the big boss comes into the office for an unexpected meeting. Consider your car as another room in your home. It needs maintenance, it needs to serve your purpose for that space, and when you enter it you should be pleased to be exactly where you are. (I recently sprayed down my cloth interior to deal with residual "funk", and the change in my mood was dramatic when my car no longer smelled vaguely dirty.)

The needs are yours, the life is yours - the living of it is pure choice.

A few tips for sanity and safety:
  1. When you stop for gas, stop for cleaning. Start the pump and then pull out any random trash or fruit snacks that have gotten thrown in the floor. This will keep stinky stuff to a minimum (esp. with kids) and allow your vehicle to serve you best rather than "oh, let's take yours my van is trashed" being your degrading excuse. An added benefit - moving around your vehicle can keep you aware of strangers at a gas station and make you less likely to be a target. Always leave the door where your purse is stored locked.
  2. Secure items in a plastic crate or sturdy cardboard box that is bungee corded or otherwise secured in your cargo area. Loose items are dangerous if you are every in a wreck. All of my items fit in a snap together crate in my van's back section to keep the passenger area clean.
  3. The next time you are on your way out the door, grab a wet wipe of some variety (not bleach based) and run it over your steering wheel and door panel as you are sitting in your seat thinking "did I get everything?" The germs will be gone and you've used that moment to take care of your personal space.

1 comment:

Momma said...

I'm bookmarking these tips.