April 29, 2012

This Too Shall Pass

Remember a few weeks ago (not even) I talked about how we often don't take risks because we think we might fail? I encouraged everyone to take a leap of faith because, in the end, we all land on our feet. Well, I guess that advice wouldn't mean much if I wasn't willing to take that leap myself.

We don't take risks because we think we might fail, but the fact that we take the risk and overcome our fear of failure does not guarantee success. We are not automatically rewarded for our faith, instead we have to be able to accept the consequences when our gamble doesn't quite pay off.

Last Night's Surprisingly Insightful Fortune Cookie
I began college in August in 2010 after a seven year "break". I was twenty-six years old and my choice was nothing if not a gamble. I didn't have any money or a way to support myself, but it was something I was (am) excited to do. I crammed a major and two minors into two years, which included a mandatory two semesters of Spanish. While I squeaked by first semester Spanish I might not have the same luck this time. I'm cum laude in the university (close enough to magna that I could bump off a few theater majors for the title) and suma cum laude in the Sociology Department, but language is something I just can't wrap my head around. Here's the problem: If I don't pass this last test on Monday, I don't graduate this spring. If I don't graduate this spring I can't accept the teaching job in New Orleans. See? A chain reaction. I could finish up Spanish during the summer, but I'd still need a plan B for work.

Remember that saying about getting knocked off the horse and getting back on? I think that might be the trick. Not the failure but how you roll with the failure, how you mold it into something you can use. I don't really believe in fate.I don't think that this is the universe telling me that New Orleans is a bad idea, but I do think that sometimes it's takes an unforeseen boulder to force a river to explore alternative paths.

My test is tomorrow (Monday) morning and I have put in seventeen hours of study time so far this weekend with another ten or so planned for this evening. I figure that at very least I will walk into the test having done everything possible to pass. In the mean time I am trying very hard to breathe evenly. Wish me luck!

April 22, 2012

Midsummer Night's Dream

With only a week of classes left I'm in the home stretch and very ready to be done. I'm a little worried that my body, having survived on adrenalin for the past year and a half, will collapse when my main source of stress is removed. I'll be like Jason Statham in Crank.

With the end of classes comes all sorts of award ceremonies and other shameless bribes to ensure that those soon to be alumni remember University with fondness when they are solicited for donations in the future. On Wednesday I'm getting an award for Outstanding Sociological Achievement presented at a Sociology BBQ, but yesterday I was invited to infiltrate the honor program's award dinner. A friend of mine was receiving the Lombardi Scholarship, which apparently entitles them to a two hours ceremony complete with name reading, compulsory walk down the isle, hand shake, and publicity photo. Thank goodness the Sociology Department doesn't take itself that seriously. The silver lining was a buffet at the tip top of the second tallest building on campus. The food wasn't anything to write home about, but the coffee and desert (shot-glasses of mousse) was to die for.

While eating we were entertained by a lecture on business management (snore) but managed to slip out before the a capella group began. From there it was off to the highlight of my Saturday: A Midsummer Night's Dream performed at the Rand Theater at the University of Massachusetts. This is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, mainly because of Puck, "the shrewd and knavish sprite", who manages both deep wisdom and fierce comedy. In this rendition the director set the piece in 1950's Athena, introducing clothing and music from the period. I hate to sound like an old fogie, but when it comes to Shakespeare I'm a traditionalist. Lysander is not meant to wear a leather jacket nor Helena sing rockabilly. If you're going to mess with the original than go the route of the BBC's Shakespeare Retold and really jostle the script. While I was not a fan of the additions made, the Umass actors were wonderfully energetic and I was blown away by their ability to memorize two hours worth of lines while simultaneously studying for finals. If you're ever in the Western Mass area, I highly recommend catching a show.

April 18, 2012


Like many girls I got my ears pierced at the mall when I was about ten. Along with piercings for my sister and I, they sold my mother two pairs of those fake diamond studs and a large bottle of peroxide. Sara and I were psyched. We did everything that the lady at the shop told us to and for three months we didn't take those earrings out. I remember the day mum said we could remove the studs and wear dangling earrings.

It took me seven years to get another and it was that cartilage in the top of my ear, you know? In the meantime my sister didn't slow down, she must have eight ear piercing so far. The good news is that she recently took out the tongue ring which use to seriously bug me. When she was nervous she would tap the barbell on the back of her front teeth. Drove me crazy.

I don't wear earrings much; after getting them caught on things at the farm a few times I kind of gave up and they didn't work well under my construction helmet in Vermont. I have, however, been looking for a good hoop for my top of ear piercing (seriously, what's that called?) and found one this afternoon. A 12mm endless hoop earring. Yes, it's not a necessity, but come on! Sometimes it's nice to get something (cheap) that you don't really truly need. Truth is I had to swing by the store to get new reading glasses because (surprise) I broke another pair in my purse last night.

One thing I needed, one thing I really didn't... That evens out, right?

April 17, 2012

Break Out The Fan

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; 
and the pessimist fears this is true.” 
- James Branch Cabell

My long weekend is over and done with and, like any good holiday, it was completely unproductive. Sunday was 90 degrees (yeah, in April) and the campus lawns were littered with college students angling for a tan. Honestly some of the novelty was lacking due to the unseasonably warm winter, but that didn't stop me from taking some nice long walks.

The downside of hot weather is that a car (as you might imagine) heats up pretty fast on a hot day. I woke up Sunday morning to delirious stickiness, so hot that the weight of the heat made me was to roll over and go back to sleep. I would have but I started wondering if I could legitimately roast to death. Time to get some new DD batteries for the fan and put away the rest of my blankets!

Today the college is on a Monday schedule, which is going to throw me off for the rest of the week. As of today I have exactly two weeks of classes left and it hasn't really sunk in that it's almost over. So much to get done!

April 15, 2012

Crab Rangoon Theory

OK, don't laugh at me.

My sister and I have an obsession with this Chinese restaurant in Dover New Hampshire called China Yan. Now, I love Chinese food in general, but China Yan is something special. Dover is a college town (well, right next to one) so the food is cheap, substantial, and delicious. We're talking a $6 buffet and homemade Crab Rangoon. When my sister visited from out west a few years back she went there before seeing her parents or me and claims that, upon her death, she would like her urn placed on the shelf behind the register. Yans is a family business and during my time in and out of the area I've watched their kids (a boy and girl) grow up from pigtails to high school. We use to order ridiculous amounts of Chinese food and the kid's mother would give us five pairs of chopsticks and at least ten fortune cookies, even though she knew damn well that we were the only ones eating that food.

See? Obsession isn't really too strong a word. When my sister and I were on the west coast we searched for a Chinese restaurant that could compare to Yans, assuming that the closer we got to China the better the Chinese food would get. While I'm sure there is wonderful Crab Rangoon out there, we didn't find it.

Crab Rangoon: that's how we gauge a restaurant. It's not very scientific, but the theory is that crab Rangoon is one of the easiest things to cheat on. You can get them frozen, use sub par filling, or fail to change the friolator grease. If they're cutting corner with the crab rangoon, the rest of their food cannot be trusted.

Anyway (I really was going somewhere with this) I recently found a Chinese restaurant that might be on par with China Yan. It's called Wong Garden and if you're ever in the Belchertown Mass area you should swing by. The only difficulty with my discovery is that they really aren't close to where I "live", so yesterday I concocted an entire day out based around my craving for Chinese food. I drove out to Spencer Mass where there is a great Salvation Army Store (which I only found one shirt at) and Pine Grove Cemetery. You might remember that I visited Pine Grove back in July of 2011 and not much has changed, but I got a coffee and walked about for an hour or so. It was a very nice Saturday out and the best part was that on my way "home" I drove through Belchertown and said to myself "well, since I'm in the area I might as well grab some Chinese food..."

April 14, 2012

Dandelions & Scotland

Spring is here and just to prove it the grounds keepers here at the college have been mowing some lovely green grass today in preparation for graduation. Classes are done in two weeks and a few days later the campus will be flooded with minivans containing excited family members and driven by fathers who eventually will give up on the traffic jam and try driving over the lawns. Between graduation and clearing the dorms, being in any moving vehicle will become treacherous. I was considering pitching a lawn chair for a front row seat, but I think I'll take advantage of the dorms being open to give myself a tour. Two years here and I've never been in a dorm.

Another benefit of Spring's springing is that the world is covered in dandelions. To the average homeowner they might be a weed, but to me they are the beginning of dandelion wine (which is very easy to make).

Thanks to Massachusetts' love of... itself and all things Revolutionary, I have a three day weekend. Technically April 16th is Patriots Day in the Bay State, however my mother called on Thursday evening to make sure that I observe Culloden, which is also on Monday. For those of you who are not Scottish (of have just moved on), the Battle of Culloden was the end of the Scottish uprising against England in 1746 and it lead to the Dissolution of the Clans. Those of you who are either Irish or Scottish know if Celts do one thing well it's hold a grudge and on Monday thousands of us will curse the English while raising a glass to Scottish Independence. I feel like this year is a bit different then the past 265 years of observances. It's important to note that the Scottish National Party has recently gained momentum and it is becoming increasingly likely that Scotland will vote to succeed from England in the 2014 elections.

By the by, my lovely readers, I do encourage everyone to read newspapers from other countries whenever possible for a more global view of the world. US papers, understandably, tend to cover news that is most relevant to Americans, but it's not that big a world: everything is relevant! Also, for all those looking to get their newspapers digitally, the New York Times is running a subscription special: .99 cents for the first four weeks and $1 per week after that.

Now, I'm going to close this laptop and go sit in the sunshine and read a book on this gorgeous spring day. Enjoy! 

April 10, 2012

The Plan + Sarah

Friendship is born in the moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one."
-C.S. Lewis

Sarah and I worked on a farm together in Rutland Mass about two years ago. We were farmhands and drove tractors, did some carpentry, repaired a lot of piping, and did a ton of maintenance. Basically: we were awesome. We were also very good friends despite the fact that we were living and working together 24/7. Sarah was in college at the time finishing up a degree in nutrition and when she graduated she moved east towards the big city and a wider range of employment opportunities. We've managed to keep in touch over the past few years (you might remember we went to symphony a couple months back) and have been talking lately about our next moves.

It sounds like Sarah is stuck in a rut, not really doing the job she imagined for herself, and I'm heading off to NOLA so... I suggested she come to New Orleans with me. By now you've probably gathered that a complete change is my remedy for pretty much every life crisis, but it's a big move and Sarah's never lived outside Massachusetts. This called for some deep dialog.

After I got out of work yesterday I jumped in the Jetta and headed for Rutland, the halfway point between me and Boston. I stopped on the way and picked up bread, olive oil, and red wine and met Sarah at Heifer Internationals Overlook Farm. So we sat with our spread (she brought Gouda and grapes) discussing the possibilities and have come to a conclusion.

Sarah is going to find an awesome summer job, something that will allow her to keep up with student loan payments (which are not small) while still being fulfilling. Right now she's debating WOOFing around Massachusetts on a bicycle (which sounds awesome). In August or September, after I'm done with training and am full time at a school, Sarah is going to drive down to New Orleans and we will try being southern ladies for the next year. This will give her the moral support to make a huge move to the other end of the country and it will give me hours of entertainment with a great roommate. We're going to get a one bedroom apartment and be real roommates again (much like we were on the farm). That's going to let us save some money while living someplace nice. Honestly even half a bedroom is bigger than I have right now so it will be like a palace.

See? The plan just keeps morphing!


April 8, 2012


It's not that I don't like Easter, it's just that there's a awful lot of pastel and all the stores are closed. I had a ton of things I needed to get done today, like laundry and picking up some library books, but I'm going to blame Easter for making me unproductive. I tried, I really did. I woke up at 9am this morning, did some light housekeeping, and headed off for the laundromat. It took me a few minutes to realize that the door wasn't responding, but I got the hint and headed to campus to get some homework done. It took me 20 minutes to find a door that had been left open.

As much as Easter can be an inconvenience, the day after Easter is a holiday in itself. All that candy will get marked down to 50% and I'm looking forward to some dark chocolate and red wine tomorrow night.

So enjoy the beautiful weather and some forced down time. 

(that's been in my head since Thursday)

April 7, 2012

My Anniversary

"I ended up with forty acres, I ended up with a broken fiddle - and a broken laugh and a thousand memories and not a single regret." 
-Edgar Lee Masters

For my anniversary I'm going to let you in on a secret.

I was talking to a graduate instructor the other day about my upcoming move to New Orleans. The girl was about my age, maybe a little older, and she said that she couldn't imagine moving that far away from her friends and family and everything she knew. She asked me wasn't I nervous about being in a new city with complete strangers? She's not the first person to ask that. Over the years when I've spoken to people about my next move they all have similar reactions: "That sounds like so much fun! (but I would never do it)". There are too many maybes, too little certainty, not enough support system. What if I hate it? What if I can't make money? What if no one likes me? What if I don't like them? What if I fail?

Well, here's the secret: I hate these transitions because each one of these questions and doubts goes through my head too. Maybe it's that old "devil you know versus the devil you don't" sort of thing, but my anxiety is never higher than during one of these moves. The whole thing feels like a game of Boggle. You have those letters nice and in a row, but they're used up; you can't do any more with them. So you shake them up. Sometimes you get better, sometimes you don't; but you always get something different then what you had.

I read Edgar Lee Masters during my first year of college over a decade ago. The poem at the top is from his Spoon River Anthology about a farmer named Jones who plays the fiddles and spends more time at local dances then tending his fields. When he dies he looks back at his life and realizes he doesn't mind that he didn't work harder or make more money. It was the memories that mattered in the end.

Since finding this poem it's been my mantra, the thing I repeat in my head when I begin to freak out about the changes ahead. Recently a list by a former hospice nurse was picked up by some major newspapers. She wrote down the five regrets that people voice on their deathbeds.
  1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  2. I wish I didn't work so hard
  3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I'd let myself be happier
I guess what I'm getting at here is that it's ok to have doubts and it's ok to be nervous. There is nothing about me or my upbringing that allows me to nonchalantly uproot and take on a new challenge. Each time I change jobs or states I have those same doubts and those same butterflies, but in the end I know that I'll regret the chances I didn't take more then the ones I took. It goes by fast, just look at the past year, so don't worry so much about falling. We're like cats, we naturally land on our feet even if there are a few panicked moments when we're trying to get our bearings.

So, happy anniversary to the Jetta,
who hung in there despite my neglect of her.

Happy anniversary to all of you,
who keep sending me good ideas and questions.

And happy anniversary of my car dwelling adventure,
which has taught me a lot.

April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Nope, I didn't drop of the face of the earth. I'm still here, still plugging along, still counting down to the end of college, Massachusetts, and the east coast in general. The end of things always leads to some nostalgia looking back on the past few years it's easy to winder if I could have made a go of it here in the bay state. I keep thinking that somewhere along the line I'll find a place that just feels right and be able to settle a bit. Honestly I'm beginning to think that settling down will happen only when I'm too old and arthritic to physically move forward. My low tolerance for boredom coupled with a general curiosity about the next bend in the road isn't really conducive to sedentary life.

Speaking of: tomorrow, April 7th, is the one year anniversary of the Tuckerbag and my full time vehicle dwelling. I got some bungee cords yesterday and used them to give myself some more leg room. Other than that I've reached a happy medium where everything I have works fine and I can stop "improving" my home for now. When I leave for New Orleans in May the Go Go Gadget Red car will temporarily retire to my parents driveway for some much needed R&R while I set myself up in Louisiana. I had considered taking her but each day seems to be a new noise. The brakes are still grinding like a crow bar is stuck between the pad and the drum. The check engine light, which indicated a catalytic converter problem, is staying off, but I have a suspicion it may have something to do with the relatively new coolant leak (speaking of, I need to pick up more coolant this evening). As much as I would love to bring her along for the adventure, I would rather she remain safely in New Hampshire then be abandoned on the side of I-81.

So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. It's Friday so I'll be out of work in about thirty minutes and then off to get some wine, salami, french bread, and olive oil. I'm going to hunker down on one of the campus couches and watch Rosemary & Thyme mysteries into the wee hours of the morning and then sleep as late as the Saturday shoppers will let me.

One quick announcement before I go. Wolf, one of my favorite car dwelling dudes, has just started a new Yahoo group for mobile dwellers which I encourage everyone to visit. Click Here to check it out.

April 2, 2012

April Showers

I spend 90% of my time on campus chillin' on the couch by the psych department, drawing on the chalkboards in the English building or, like today, listening to music in the auditorium. It's no wonder then that I feel some sense of ownership over the campus so I was kind of proud when I saw these flowers coming up today.

Not proud like a gardener would be, but maybe like the old English lady who hires a gardener and then accepts praise from her neighbors.

Anyway, I did get off campus for a little while yesterday. I took myself to the movies, choosing 21 Jump Street because a) it got good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and b) it came out a few weeks ago so I knew there would be very few people in the theater. Ideally I would be in the theater all alone but inevitably there are a few extra people and they always seem to sit near me. There are enough rows for us to each have our own and no one should be sitting in front of anyone else, but they manage to sit within spitting distance.

I had the good fortune to sit behind a woman and her teenage son. I actually walked in behind them and found a seat, then they moved so they could sit directly in front of me. Now, I'm not going to give away the film, but there were a few parts that might have made Betty White stand up and take notice so I can just imagine what this mother and prepubescent were dealing with. All in all, despite some cheap laughs, it was a pretty good movie but nothing like the original show.

So now it's Monday, April 2n and by this time last year I had given up my apartment. I house sat until April 7th when I officially moved into the Jetta full time. I'll have to think of a fun anniversary surprise...

April 1, 2012

Laptop Issues

About four years back, when my father upgraded to a new laptop, he passed this IBM Thinkpad onto me.

She has been a trooper.

She got me through college and acted as my television, personal shopper, filing cabinet, and link to the larger (and less collegial) world. Hauled around in backpacks, stuffed under seats, dropped and bumped more times than she should have been... It's amazing she's lasted this long.

Her fraying power cord is wrapped with black electrical tape and sometimes, when I tip her to the right, her CD-RW drive falls out. But these things are purely cosmetic, like the missing CAP lock button that disappeared a few years back. Sure, she's a little slow and I have to use Ctrl+Alt+Del a few times a day, but she still runs and, as you might have noticed, I'm loath to throw away anything that, with a little encouragement, will still function.

Despite my attachment to her, I did linger in the electronics department this morning messing about with the new laptops. They're so light and sleek, all their buttons work. Cameras and memory card readers seem to come standard now and they start up instantaneously. And they're so cheap!

Well, maybe someday when the girl needs more TLC than I'm willing to give her. At the rate she's disintegrating that might be sooner rather than later.