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Struggle Bus: The Van. The Myth. The Legend.

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A side-splittingly funny, excruciatingly insightful journey through life with a large family and a geriatric van.

Synopsis

Struggle Bus: The Van. The Myth. The Legend. is designed to take you, dear reader, on a ride with the Wood family in the van that became an Internet sensation. This one-of-a-kind literary adventure you are about to embark on is about more than a viral van. It’s about managing the wonderful chaos of a family of 11. It’s about parenting. It’s about marriage. It’s about success. It’s about failure. It’s about faith. It’s about fun. It’s about a van becoming a metaphor for life as it is given a fun-filled beat down for the ages.

As you roll along with the Wood family, you just might feel driven to:

* connect a little more with the God who made you.
* give yourself a little more grace when you fail.
* smile and laugh a little more—both at the Wood family’s expense and your own.

Hop in, buckle up, hold your nose, laugh, and join the Wood family to explore one of life’s fundamental truths: the struggle is real.

Buckle up for a heart-warming, heart-felt, side-splittingly funny adventure in life and learning aboard the Struggle Bus!


Authenticity surges through this book like an electrical current. No canned answers or pious platitudes here. This is Real Life 101. Or maybe, Real Life 11, because it’s told by a father of nine. Yep, nine.


That’s why this upbeat, engaging narrative begins with the Craigslist sale ad for the family’s geriatric 15 passenger Ford van. The “full disclosure” ad generates scores of responses from families “sharing eerily similar stories.” Ditto messages urging the author to “write more.” So he does. Hence, this hilarious, cogent book about the struggles, successes, and adventures of a large family. Each chapter is based on sections from the Craigslist ad.


Struggle Bus is a worthy read. It nimbly charts the nitty-gritty details of failure, exhaustion, disappointment, embarrassment, laughter, discovery, forgiveness, connectivity, exhilaration, love, hope, and faith encountered along the Woods’s parental highway (and maybe yours, too). Topics include making mistakes in marriage and child rearing. Teaching, training, nurturing and starting over. Also learning how, when, and where to find joy in the journey.


Chapter standouts include chapter six, The Ghost of Vomit Past and chapter eleven, The Oil Change. Any parent who’s ever traveled with a sick kid or two or nine will relate to the former. Anyone who’s ever fogged a mirror will relate to the latter. I laughed out loud so many times it started to freak out the dog.


Also:


‘Daddy, did Jesus make that lady fat?” Unsolicited advice about unsolicited advice. The “vomit comet.” Grocery store line evangelism on proper parenting. (Been there. Heard that.) Sometimes life is better when we quit things. “Embrace the crazy.” Quit counting to ten. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Preventative maintenance. The Wood family songbook. “Get up, dust yourselves off, learn, and try again.”


A strong stream of truth swirls through every chapter. The style is nimble and quick. The voice is fresh and lithe. Both clever and lively, observations are keen, incisive, and peppered with a generous dose of self-deprecating humor. In light-hearted, lyrical prose, the author conveys some pretty weighty life lessons and observations while neatly side-stepping pedantic or preachy.


Indeed, the gentle, homespun wisdom imparted isn’t the kind that’s shouted from a mountain top or thundered from a pulpit. It’s quiet. Mellow. It sneaks up on you and gently smacks you upside the head when you’re not looking.


A delightful collection of stories and excruciatingly insightful prose, this light-hearted, free-wheeling romp through Real Life 101 is a gem. There’s an “every person” quality to this book that will appeal to anyone with at least half of a functional funny bone. Highly recommended for anyone who’s vertical and breathing or has ever had to say, over a driver’s seat, “We’ll get there when we get there!”


I loved this book. It’s just… fantastic.

Reviewed by

Kristine earned her Bachelor's degree in Communication/Print Media from Biola University. Her background is in marketing and public relations.

Kristine serves on the Board of her local library.

A frank but fair reviewer, she reads an average of 300+ books a year through a wide variety of genres.

Synopsis

Struggle Bus: The Van. The Myth. The Legend. is designed to take you, dear reader, on a ride with the Wood family in the van that became an Internet sensation. This one-of-a-kind literary adventure you are about to embark on is about more than a viral van. It’s about managing the wonderful chaos of a family of 11. It’s about parenting. It’s about marriage. It’s about success. It’s about failure. It’s about faith. It’s about fun. It’s about a van becoming a metaphor for life as it is given a fun-filled beat down for the ages.

As you roll along with the Wood family, you just might feel driven to:

* connect a little more with the God who made you.
* give yourself a little more grace when you fail.
* smile and laugh a little more—both at the Wood family’s expense and your own.

Hop in, buckle up, hold your nose, laugh, and join the Wood family to explore one of life’s fundamental truths: the struggle is real.

Hey, Honey, Don't Hate Me, I Sorta Did a Thing

In 2009, the Wood family was all set to take a begrudging leap into the market of 12-passenger vans. There was virtually no chance this leap was going to end well. How could it? I knew little about cars and less about vans. Fortunately, in His infinite wisdom, a generous God brought the likes of Sergey Brin and Larry Page into the world to create Google. Google gives car idiots like me a chance at success. I grabbed my laptop, spent far too much time creating a wonderful little spreadsheet, and then commenced with van research. I started by googling all the van things I was too embarrassed to ask other people. 

“diesel vs. regular vans” 

“What does the ‘V’ in V8 engine stand for?” 

“Do I have to have a CDL to drive a 12-passenger van?” 

“cost of Mercedes van” 

“cheapest 12-passenger vans” 

“Ford vs. Chevy” 

“Do people buy old limos instead of vans?” 

“Do I have to have a CDL to drive a limo?” 

“Lamborghini limo” 

“Lamborghini” 

“Cost to rent a Lamborghini” 

“Sales price of a kidney” (kidding on this last one) 

Anyhow, I eventually re-entered reality and resumed my search for van-related knowledge. After a couple of hours, I had learned enough to make a slightly informed decision. The decision: our next van would be a four-, five-, or six-year-old, 12-passenger, Ford E350 van. With a bit of searching (and a bit more off-task Lamborghini browsing because the new Gallardo is a thing of beauty), I was able to locate a number of vans that fit my criteria on Craigslist, cars.com, and eBay. Unfortunately, none of these vans were located in Amarillo. My closest option was located approximately four hours away in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I called up the seller and talked through the details over the phone (in 2009, people still used their phones for old school voice-to-voice communication). I asked all of the questions Google told me I should ask when buying a van. After the seller had answered every question to my satisfaction, I was excited to make a deal (well, as excited as one can be when shopping for used, 12-passenger vans). We agreed on a price and I—along with my dad who, God bless him, agreed to drive me 4 hours to meet a stranger for a Craigslist deal—headed to Albuquerque to pay the man. 

When I arrived, the owner gave me the keys, and I gave the exterior a good once-over. Everything looked as it should. Next, I popped open the hood and examined everything. Full disclosure: by “examined everything” I mean “pretended that I had the slightest clue what I was looking at.” What was under the hood looked exactly like an engine, so I figured I was good to go. Then, I hopped in the driver’s seat and looked around the inside of the van. The inside seemed a bit large, even for a 12-passenger van; so, I counted seats and seatbelts. 15. 15? I had just driven over four hours to Albuquerque to buy a giant, 12-passenger van only to find out the van I had tentatively committed to was, in fact, an even giant-er 15-passenger van. Ugh. So, I did what many great men have done throughout history: I rationalized. I rationalized until my mistake had, in my mind, morphed from an embarrassing failure into a wonderful stroke of good luck. I thought to myself, “Since I was getting a good deal on a 12-passenger van, I supposed that I’m getting an even better deal on a 15-passenger van. Also, it might be nice to have the extra room for the veritable cornucopia of parenting gear that our family takes along with us on road trips. Also, I’ve driven all this way and everything else looks great...”Sold!” We signed the papers and I started my drive home. 

About 30 seconds into my drive home, it dawned on me that my sweet wife might not be too thrilled that we now owned an extended 15-passenger van rather than the pre-discussed 12-passenger van. What had I done? There is a feeling that all husbands experience at some point in their married lives. It’s a unique feeling that comes just a moment after an act of monumental stupidity—when he knows that he is going to have to explain [insert act of monumental stupidity] to his wife. It’s an eerily similar feeling to the feeling all dads get when their child reaches a certain height and said child’s running hugs transform little heads and/or flailing arms into weapons of mass destruction. Anyhow, I got “the feeling.” I prayed a little. I pulled over to the side of the road. Then, I made the call. 

“Hey, honey. Don’t hate me. I sorta did a thing. I accidentally bought a 15-passenger van instead of a 12-passenger van. But, you know, I was thinking that it’d be better anyway because [insert all of my semi-logical explanations for why I wasn’t an idiot].” 

“Sounds great to me. We really might enjoy having the extra space. This could actually work out better for us anyway,” she replied (after healthy dose of sarcasm-laced harassment).  

Unsolicited advice for any single guys out there reading this book: marry an optimist. Actually, marry a sarcastic, quick-witted optimist like I did. They’re funnier. 

I got off the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. She’s the best. Back on the road again. 

I glanced down at the gas gauge. Dang it. The little orange arrow was pointing directly at the letter E. I stopped at the next gas station. I pulled up to the gas pump, unscrewed the gas cap, and panicked. Had I bought a diesel van or a regular van? I had specified “regular” rather than “diesel” in my Craigslist search; but, I had also specified “12-passenger” rather than “15-passenger.” I hadn’t thought to ask the seller to clarify before driving off. The gas cap was no help. The owner’s manual was no help. I had no idea what would happen if you put regular gas in a diesel engine, but I figured it probably wouldn’t be good. I didn’t deserve to be a van owner. I spent twenty minutes (not an exaggeration) searching through all the van documentation and trying to decide what to do. Should I call the previous owner? Should I call Ford’s customer service number? Should I flip a coin and take a chance? Ultimately, I decided that there was no option that allowed me to drive away with my dignity. So, I called the previous owner. Straight to voicemail. Ugh. After 10 minutes or so on Google, I was 82% sure that the van took regular gasoline. I took my chances. I filled the thing all the way up with regular gas, prayed a little, and drove off. When I saw no smoke after 10 miles or so, I figured everything was going to work out just fine. 

As you will soon see, everything did not work out just fine, but it worked out fun. It’s been quite the ride. 

The Struggle Bus would become a pretty good metaphor for parenting and life. That “I don’t deserve to be a van owner” feeling I’d had in the midst of my gasoline conundrum felt all too familiar. Truth be told, from diaper #1, I’ve had a “I don’t deserve to be a baby owner” feeling. (To be fair, diaper #1 is probably the least human thing that babies do. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for those of you who haven’t yet had the luxury of changing a baby’s first diaper, but I’m going to. Imagine that your baby’s rear end has been dipped into a mixture of tar, rubber cement, and super glue. It’s like that.) Babies don’t even come with an owner’s manual. We once filled one of our babies up with regular milk for a few weeks before we figured out that we had a lactose-intolerant model. The results were decidedly messier than had I put diesel in our regular gasoline van. But, we prayed, sought out wise counsel, adapted, and changed. 

Sometimes, in parenting as in Struggle Bus driving, Google isn’t any help. If there was such a thing as an owner’s manual or a customer service number, it wouldn’t always help either. As you will soon read, whether it’s repairing a speaker hole or mending an “owie”… or whether it’s navigating rural backroads in Oklahoma or helping your kids perform in front of a crowd of Kenyans, sometimes you just make an educated guess and hope to God everything turns out ok. Then, when things don’t turn out ok, you pray, seek wise counsel, adapt, and change. 

From day one, our van has lived up to its name. It’s a messy, pride-killing, kid-filled, smelly beast of a vehicle—and we’ve had the time of our life making it that way. In other words, what started out as an intimidating mess of a van purchase has transformed into our spirit animal: the Struggle Bus. 

Thus begins the story of the van, the myth, the legend.

About the author

Josh is a native of Amarillo, Texas. He and his wife, Careese, are graduates of Texas A&M University (Gig ’em). Josh went on to obtain his MBA from Baylor University (Sic ’em). Careese and Josh have 9 kids and low standards when it comes to cleanliness. view profile

Published on February 18, 2020

Published by Lucid Books

40000 words

Genre: Christian (Non-Fiction)

Reviewed by