Thursday, August 7, 2008

I want to pimp my

I'm 39 years old and I drive a 1996 Toyota Corolla. Three of the four quarter panels are dented (only two of the three dents are my fault). The rock chips on the hood are rusted. The paint is sun scorched and peeling off. For the last five years I've been driving the car, content.

I love the 35 mpg. I love not having to worry about getting dents and dings in it, after a while, they all kind blend together. I love the reliability of the car, which spins like a top, in spite of its ragged appearance.

Then I made the mistake of fixing something. After driving around for three years with a bashed in rear-drivers-side door (was dented with one the rear quarter panels), I finally decided to fix it. I called every (literally) auto salvage shop in West Michigan, asking the scripted question, "I'm looking for a rear drivers side door with power windows and power locks for a 1996 Toyota corolla, standard trim. Do you have any in stock?" I found one, and I mean one, that had the replacement rear door. Ironically, the parts store specializes in Toyota and Honda parts ( and was only about 20 miles from where I live. Not only did they have the door in stock, but they had it in the exact same color as my car (metallic black) which was a pleasant surprise in that I had already come to peace with the idea of driving around in a black car with a beige or red or some other colored door.

Most importantly the window was tinted. Now keep in mind that none of my other windows are tinted. The salesman seeing my car assured me that the tinting "peels" right off, for which I had every intention of doing, until one of my friends saw the window and commented, "cool."

"Yeah, it does look cool, maybe I'll tint the other windows," I thought. But if you tint the window, then you'll need to fix the dents, and if you fix the dents, then you'll need a new paint job, and if you get a new paint job, then you'll need a new sound system, and if you get a new sound system, then you'll need a turbo, and if you get a turbo, then you'll need cools wheels...

So, what has happened in the last month that has squelched my idle contentment in my faithful Corolla, and has cultivated a desire to drive a lean street machine a la Fast and the Furious?

Mid life crisis. Did I mention that I'm a 39 year old driving a 1996 Toyota Corolla?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My kids have a spoiled dad

"I don't want Mc Donalds," my child (I don't recall which one) whined from their 5 point harnessed car seat behind me.

"What?!?" was the only response I could muster. I was lost in my thoughts... how can a child not want Mc Donalds? When I was their age, I would have never said, or even thought, such a thing. 'In those days' the mere offer of Mc D's, as few and far in between as an annual trip to the dentist, would send me into a delusional tizzy with a song and dance that went something like, "Mc Donald's, Mc Donald's, we're gonna get Mc Donalds (repeat indefinitely)." Returning to my present reality, as I drive, my thoughts race on.... Equally as maddening is unfinished food at Mc Donalds. Half a hamburger, leftover fries, and 3/4 a carton of milk. How can a child not finish their Mc Donalds? You mean I'm going to spend $3 to $4 on a happy meal only to throw away $2 of it because my child thinks they're full?

"You're grounded from Mc Donalds!" I blurted out.

"What?" was the unison response from all three kids in back, while my wife threw me a 'what's your problem' look from the front passenger seat.

"You heard me, you're not going to eat Mc Donalds for the next month until you learn to appreciate what you're getting." At that moment, the inner smile in me beamed as I commended myself for showing good parenting and tough love to my spoiled kids.

The stunned silence was broken by one child cautiously asking, "What about Burger King?"

...and Cold Stone Creamery, Denny's, Applebee's, Wendy's, Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, KFC, the list goes on. I mean, my kids are really spoiled. It is an empirical fact that my 4 y/o daughter has eaten more Mc Donalds than I had before my 16th b-day. My 6 y/o son has gone skiing more times that I had before I turned 18. And my 8 y/o has logged more frequent flyer miles on her passport that I did before my 21st b-day.

But the cold hard truth is that my kids aren't spoiled. Their father is the spoiled one, and they just happen to be along for the ride. Fact is, I think Mc Donald's makes the best french fries. My Cold Stone cravings are insatiable (dark chocolate ice creme with fresh raspberries). Snowboarding is my winter passion. Imax is the only way to see a movie. Krispy Kreme donuts must be eaten hot off the fryer (buy a dozen, eat 8 of them, and throw the rest away because they'll be no good the next morning), and somewhere along the way, my children have become the benefactors of my living a modestly-decadent lifestyle that could just possibly border on hedonism.

However, my greatest fear is that somewhere in this familial decadence my children grow up with a sense of materialistic entitlement that is in diametric opposition to giving thanks to God for the way He provides (see Matthew 14:19 and Acts 27:35). Its the type of thing that begins with rote prayers said at meals, and extends to the subtle pursuit of things we think make us happy (In spite of charitable contributions and volunteering our time to serve those around us). For me, its a tension I have between enjoying life to its fullest, and denying myself to better serve God. Ultimately, somewhere in this all, as I wade through this tension, I have a responsibility to also raise my children to learn to appreciate the things they have, and to give thanks to those that provide.

So, I figure that the next time we go to Krispy Kreme, I'll let my kids watch me eat my delectable 'Krispy on the outside, Kreme-y on the inside' donut while I piously remind them that I had to wait 30 years before I had my first Krispy Kreme... how's that for good parenting?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Renaissance wannabe

The url for this site was suppose to be, but its not for two reasons. First, I found that calling myself a renaissance guy was presumptive at best, and arrogant at worst. Second, and more importantly, while my ego could learn to cope with the first reason (as evidenced by my attempt to register this blog as, that particular url was already taken.

Thus in a moment of humility and pragmatism, I took the name Renaissance wannabe. It really is a more appropriate title in that my frugality and my innate desire to "give something a try" has led me to tackle a variety of projects and activities that while at one time resulted in an incredulous response from my wife, has more recently evolved, or de-evolved, to a tone of indifference.

So, now this blog is a window into my life of activities, attempted exploits, and philosophical musings for the not-so-captive audience of the internet. Cheers.