June 30, 2011

It's All Good

As I was sitting with my friend at the hospital yesterday I could hear a lot of patients lamenting their situations and the cruelty of life in general. It often seems like, just when things are looking up, obstacles are thrown into our paths that seem aimed at bringing us back to square one. Sometimes, after having those obstacles tossed at you for a while, it's easy to throw your hands up and quit.

The brakes went on the Go-Go Gadget Red Car and, with them, the routers. $300 later and I’m broke until the next paycheck (in exactly 7 days and counting). 24 hours ago I had been able to tuck a bit into saving and now we’re back down to $20 in the bank.

On the surface this might look like a total bummer (maybe it even extends a few feet below the surface), but think about it: How much money have I saved without rent? $300 is a small price to pay for a few months of housing.  Besides, these obstacles aren’t really obstacles at all: They’re just a way to keep things interesting. How boring would life be if everything went right all the time? Now I have brand new routers and brakes that I won’t have to replace for another seven years or so. So we're still here: a little more broke but a little less screechy! Don't think twice, it's all right.

“What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.”
-Edgar Lee Masters

Bad Brakes

If anyone has worked in retail you may have been given the compliment sandwich. Not just retail, really if you’ve ever had a boss who read way to many “how to be a boss” books you’ll have heard it. This is when a boss needs to tell you to get your act together but, instead of just saying that, they sandwich the bad “stop being an idiot” statement between two “you’re doing great” statements. As a sometime manager I always thought it was more trouble than it was worth (I'm sure my ex-employees wished it had been valued more), but my day was a compliment sandwich.

“I love your energy!”

After work yesterday I drove 45 minutes to visit an old friend/roommate I hadn’t seen in years. She’s this tiny Asian chick from Jersey with a fashion degree and a ton of energy. When she talks to her mom on the phone they switch back and forth between English and... whatever dialect they speak (I wish I was better with languages). Over the past year or so the stresses of money and relationships have been wearing on her to the point she has now ended up in a hospital for some much needed R&R. I brought the gummy bears (whiskey being forbidden) and we chatted about potential next steps. It was great to see her again and a total highlight of my week.

“You need to stop rolling your eyes at customers”

I noticed it on the way down there but it just kept getting worse and, by the time I headed back to school, the sound made me cringe. It can’t be the brake pads, it just passed inspection! But the grinding! Maybe it’s the brake plate coming loose again… God I hope it’s the brake plate. Anyway, it’s metal on metal every time I brake and that is never a good sign.

“You’ve been very helpful this week”

This morning I woke up and was immediately struck by something I haven’t felt in a month. Nothing! My knee didn’t ache, there was no cramp, I actually lay in bed disoriented by the lack of pain. Looks like those new and super cheap sandals are paying off.

So that's a compliment sandwich. Now I'm sitting in my old Mass town because the mechanic here is the only one I trust. Option #1 was bring the car to someone closer to work and keep my days pay. Option #2 was bring it to my dude (who I trust) and know that whatever he charges I'll be missing a full day of work. I hate that but he'll probably still be cheaper. Fingers crossed!.

June 29, 2011

What a Wednesday

Wow, thanks for all the sewing tips everyone!! I love hearing from people who actually know what they’re doing (so much better than trusting the internet).

New Shoes
I woke up at 1:30am this morning to the first sounds of rain hitting the roof and rushed to close the sunroof. This poor car has been rained in so many times I’m surprised it doesn’t continuously smell like wet dog. Around 7am I hit the snooze button twice before crawling into the driver’s seat and making my way downtown where I then biked in to work, still more than a little groggy. Better than yesterday morning when I got behind a truck, wasn’t paying attention, and realized that I was just following him (ie: was nowhere near the college). I hate that.

I got some new shoes, maybe not the ones I would have bought, but they were cheap ($3 at Payless) and not falling apart so that's a plus. There was just nothing fancier I could find that I liked! I figure that this buys me some time to find that perfect (and elusive) pair.

Tonight I get to visit a friend I haven’t seen in three years! She’s in the hospital (which blows) but doing fine and has requested a stealth delivery of gummy bears. I figure there will be at least a few hours of catch up and girl chatting about the good old days in the slum boarding house we use to live in. Good times.

So that's it for today ladies and gents. I got my first summer class grade and it was an A so that bodes well for the other three summer courses I'm taking. I still have to read twenty kids books for my children's lit class, take two exams, and write an essay by the end of the week. Time to caffeine up! Have a lovely afternoon everyone.

PS: I added a tab for some of my favorite and most helpful blogs. Check them out, they're great!

Hand Sewing

Beginner's Sewing Kit - $11 @ Joann Fabric
I have had one of my maybe awesome/maybe horrible ideas. Hear me out before you judge! I love Salvation Army and Goodwill and hate buying clothes at full price. The only problem is that they never seem to have one shirt/pant/etc in multiple sizes (go figure) so I end up not getting things I love because it doesn’t hang quite right. In case you missed it, I live in my car, and don’t have room for a sewing machine. Because of my lack of space I have not tried altering clothes, but that will end today! I’m going to try altering clothes by hand. Yeah, you heard me. This may be a total disaster (flash forward to my top unraveling at work) or really useful. Either way, it’s going to be a learning experience.

My first step was to read a bit. I got How To Sew: Basics (the Kindle version, of course) and, while free (because it was free?), it was surprising unhelpful. The one good thing was that it lists and explains some basic sewing stuff I’m going to need to get started. For  some instruction on actual stitches I went to Monkeysee.com (I'm kind of addicted to this site) and found some great videos on all types of sewing styles and techniques.

I'll bet this chic even hand stitched that shirt!!

So last night I went to Joann Fabric and picked up a beginner's sewing kit. I might make a quick stop at Salvies this evening to find something cheap to test on... My fingers ache just thinking about this project but hey, why not right? Are there any seamstresses in the audience? I know I sit next to one at work every day and am super jealous of her abilities. I may be picking her brain for useful tips... Mainly about seamstress first aid.

June 28, 2011

Depoe Bay, OR

I, like many, have a bad tendency to wax nostalgic about past destinations. I’ve noticed that there are quite a few people traveling around the west coast right now and thought I’d take this opportunity to point you in the direction of an awesome little shop.

Years ago my sister and I lived in Oregon for a summer. It was wonderful and we met all sorts of great people, but one place (and one couple) really stood out above all the rest. Sara (my sister) and I had been driving up and down the California Coast for a few days, trying to find someplace to settle down and get jobs. Everything was really expensive and finally we crossed the state line into Oregon traveling up the coast towards Washington. After rambling around for a bit we came across a beautiful little town called Depoe Bay, right smack in the center of the coast line, and we decided to settle there (mainly because we were out of money). Sara and I needed a permanent place to live and ended up at an RV park on the Siletz River camping in a field with two llamas named Sandy and Diego. Anyway, we went into Depoe Bay looking for jobs and I found Pirate Coffee Company run by Sharon and Barry. I had managed a Starbucks coffee shop for a few years and they hired me as a barista.
Sharon and Barry with "The Captain" and "Tennille"

They had the best coffee I’d ever tasted. They loved their shop and it showed in everything they did. Sharon had two coffee roasters in the back named “The Captain” and “Tennille” and she roasted all beans by hand. Barry would regularly dawn a pirate costume and freak customers out. There was a book swap shelf in the corner of the cafĂ© (take a book/leave a book) and every day was a party.

Sharon and Barry are still there. They display and sell local glass art and still have the best coffee around. If you’re in the area check them out, it’s well worth it.

The town of Depoe Bay is also an amazing little place. One of those areas that runs on tourists and then turns into the most amazing and close knit community when the tourists go home. Candy shops, great seafood, whale viewing, and lots of places to park and stay (many for free). So if you're in the area, check it out.

Haven Book Review

By Justin Kemppainen

“In the city of Haven, the dreams of the Citizens have been realized in the Separation project. No longer will people of good stature and breeding be required to interact with the working class, the filthy and disease-ridden rejects that fill the streets. No longer will real people have to suffer junkies, criminals, and thieves. Instead, a cleaner and purer world has been crafted to suit your every need. The best part? Well, all those undesirables had to be worth something, after all. Why not just use them? Give them a short re-education and make them docile workers. Yet in these dark slums beneath the city of Haven, things are being set in motion. Plans are being carried out, forces are being gathered. The powerful and reclusive slumlord, Elijah, starts a chain of events which will swallow everyone in the city - Citizen and undesirable alike.” –Editorial Review from Amazon.com

When I got my new Kindle I was searching around for free amazon.com books to test out my new toy. I wanted some fluff, something to read under a maple tree in the grass on those sunny summer days, and this book looked like it fit the bill. With low expectations I began reading (it is free after all). To my surprise I found that Kemppainen had put some thought into this story. It’s fast paced and interesting, a book you don’t want to put down because there’s never a slow spot. He develops caricatures that I cared about and a world that was a mixture of his suggestions and my assumptions. This is one of those stories where you see the action in your head as you read and wonder afterwards whether Kemppainen told you the building looked like that or if you put it together yourself. He never gets lost in the details but focuses his attention right where it needs to be, giving us just enough rope.

Not only is the story fast paced but it is multidimensional. This isn’t just the story of one caricature but the interwoven stories of many residing within a world which takes on its own life and feel as we see it through different lenses. Kemppainen also manages to give us some mystery. Throughout the book I knew something was missing, it’s just around the corner and I turned each page hoping to find it in the next paragraph. Like any good mystery we aren’t just strung along until the last page but given crumbs that lead us to the author’s pay off. 

This is not Isaac Asimov, with his deep and complex worlds which challenge today’s social orders. It is a fun and exciting futuristic (but not space shippy) read that walks the narrow line between light reading and good old fashioned fun. There are books that you read because they are classics and expand your mind and then there are books you read because they make you feel good. This is a fun feel good book.

June 27, 2011

Old Shoes

They've seen better days
My right knee hurts. Ever since Luke kicked me during a soccer game in third grade my kneecap aches in low pressure and gets worse every year. I’ve accepted that discomfort, but this is something new. Maybe it’s from sleeping more curled than usual or maybe it’s from my shoes, but the back of my knee has been stiffening up and twinging throughout the day, low pressure or not. Because my living situation will not be changing any time soon I’ve decided it’s my shoes, a pair of sandals that I have worn into the ground. Over the weekend I picked up some supper cheap cute (but totally non practical) sandals in NH. Now I need something functional (and preferably flatish). The problem is that I'm cheap and when shopping for shoes (and bikes and cheese) you get what you pay for.

Miss Me $24.95
For some reason the super thin sole seems to be in fashion this year. What's the difference between this and bare feet? No support and no tread. If it rains I'll go butt over teakettle and probably injure my knee even more. I don't need height (I'm 5'10") but this doesn't seem anymore practical that stilettos.

So the search is on for the perfect pair of  (inexpensive, cute, practical, and well made) shoes. Any suggestions? Does anyone out there like these flat soled jobbies? Maybe I'm not giving them a chance. I got payed on Friday and, in topical fashion, have found twenty things that I need to spend my money on. Of all of those things shoes seem to be the most justifiable, so I'm starting here.

June 26, 2011

Odiorne Point

I just arrived back in Massachusetts and I feel totally drained; there’s a very good chance that I’ll be asleep within the hour. I had a great few days with my friends and their kids but wow, that’s more socialization than I normally get in a month.

C's favorite fish
Yesterday I took the boys to Odiorne State Park in Rye New Hampshire. If you’re passing through the state and fail to stop at this awesome piece of history, you’re trip is practically wasted. The park was used as a fort in WWII and a bunker was built on the property and disguised as a hill. There are now cannon shells on display as well as miles of hiking trails right on the ocean. The boys and I did some rock hopping to look at tidal pools, picked up some trash (our drop of daily karma), played on the playground, and visited the Seacoast Science Center. I use to the come here when I was a kid but they’ve added tons of stuff, like a replica of the Coast Guard’s boat that kids can steer, lots of interactive exhibits, indoor tidal pools where people can touch starfish and sea urchins, and many many aquariums of local fish. There’s even a piece of a shipwreck! It was a lot of fun, but by the end of the day we were all exhausted. Despite this they still had me up at 6am, which worked well. My father’s birthday is today and I got to swing by their house on the way back to Mass and have birthday breakfast with the folks, the dogs, the cat (the sheep, the chickens…).
The Coast Guard Boat
Oh! I got to meet my father’s new puppy, Freya; a pure bred German Shepard. He’s been searching for one for years and found her a few states away. She’s beautiful, hyper, toothy, and very fluffy. I want one. 

I can't  believe tomorrow's Monday. I got a paycheck so I'm feeling less broke but I have so  much homework to do! Hope everyone had a great weekend.

June 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Pancakes

Day two in New Hampshire and the kids let me sleep in until 7am, which is unheard of. We made chocolate pancakes with peanut butter maple syrup which even the six year old, who hates pancakes, enjoyed. A friend from way back owned a restaurant and use to put a similar syrup on banana pancakes, so I've been trying to duplicate it ever since.

While I was making dinner last night I missed a call from my father. Because the guy who's inspecting my car is a friend of his I called dad right back and asked, expectantly, how much it was going to cost me to pass this year. David (the mechanic) told my father that he wasn't going to charge a college student who lived in their car and I could pay him when I graduated. It's times like these that I miss my small town. 

So I picked the go go gadget car up, good for another year. M (the six year old) and I went to  an archery rang to check out lessons as someone got him a toy bow and arrow and he wanted to try a real one. $25 for a half hour one-on-one lesson and they provide the equipment. Not bad so we decided that would be my graduation-from-first-grade present to him.

Julie's home cooked chicken and potatoes for dinner (a rare luxury for me) along with an evening of Yahtzee, Captain and cokes, and real TV. Tomorrow is my last full day in New Hampshire and then it's back to the backseat.

June 23, 2011

Good Morning NH

We're going to call the boys M and C, just because they're little...

Thursday morning and I feel very lazy not working today. I drove to New Hampshire after work yesterday. Because of the rain and a series of accidents it took me three hours to get up here.

A Rainy Drive

The minute you pass into New Hampshire there is a big sign saying “Drive courteously: It’s the New Hampshire Way!” This is less of a statement and more of a warning to Massachusetts drivers entering the state. Julie (the best buddy ever!) picked me up at my parent’s house who in turn had picked me up at my mechanic’s. Then a few beers, some Weeds (awesome show), and a pull out couch. This morning the six year old woke me up at 6:15am to watch Wipeout and Spongbob. It’s now 7am and I’ve been searching for the coffee for half an hour with no luck...
Julie keeps a coffee cup just for me

Mike's up and has made coffee! They're keeping it in the fridge now. It's raining and M (the six year old) is feeding me cookie crisp cereal trying to get me to be productive. He keeps asking what fun thing we're going to do today. sleeeeep.

$40 left in the bank account and the paycheck doesn't come until tomorrow. If the car gets inspected today but I don't pick it up until Friday then there should be enough in the bank to cover it, baring any major repairs... The four year old just beat me at some sort of video game. What ever happened to the good old Mario Brothers games of the early 90's?

The Proud Family
Wow, just ran around the house with the kids cleaning.  Threatened to vacuum up toys and they worked like lightening! Should have thought of that years ago. They even cleaned their rooms and M (6) helped C (4) fold laundry and showed him which drawers to put clothes in. I am really liking this age!

Getting ready to leave for the school for C's preschool graduation ceremony! 

Wow, so much cuteness in one auditorium! Julie cried as did the teachers. It was pretty awesome. C even sang a song on stage. I spent the after party trying to convince the six year old to get me a brownie, but the best he could scrounge was a hoho. Now we're home and thinking about dinner. I think the boys and I will attempt pizza from scratch...

June 21, 2011

Making Plans

This afternoon I am feeling much more optimistic (and less punch drunk) than I was yesterday. I tried to set up an appointment with the Dean of Students, but she’s going to be out for the next week. When I talked to the folks last night my father’s response was “stick to your guns!” and my mother’s was “oh my!”

When I woke up this morning I could recognize the overnight vandwellers in the parking spaces next to me. There’s a guy in a blue pickup with a cap on the back and curtains over his front windows. There’s a woman with an old white fifteen passenger van. We don’t talk to each other, we just kind of signal acceptance with proximity.

After work tomorrow I’m heading up to New Hampshire, my birth state, to attend the preschool graduation of my nephew. He’s not really my nephew, just the son of friends I’ve known since before they were Mrs and Mr, much less mom and dad. We have a wonderful deal worked out. They put up with my foolishness, let me crash on their couch, let me borrow their children (which legitimizes my own childish behavior) and in return… I’m not really sure what they get in return but the deal’s great from my side of the fence. Oh! I let them sleep in for a bit in the morning because their six year old wakes ME up at five instead of them. That’s a perk, right? I’m trying to teach him to start the coffee pot. Anyway, I have all sorts of stuff planned for the time I’m up there including a car inspection (the car’s registered in NH) and meeting my father’s new puppy, Freya. Best of all (well, maybe not best, but really great) is that I get to visit the ocean. I’m not sure if anyone else gets this but you can feel when you get too far from the ocean and the salt and the tides. I’m not talking about anything weird or mystic, it’s just like a hole in your stomach that I think you’re prone too if you grew up near a lot of water and find yourself cut off from it. So I’m going to go walk the rocks and dip my toes in the limited New Hampshire coast line.

That’s it on my end; a beautiful day, a hectic week ahead, a hectic week behind. And my coworker says it’s the first day of summer! Happy longest day of the year.

June 20, 2011

Verbal Jousting

Two posts in one day! This is what caffeine and angst will do. In response to my email this morning the Assistant Dean wrote this:

Hi again-

You'll notice that on page 2 the first sentence states: "The following Parking Regulations...", and NOT 'sleeping' or 'living' regulations.  By it's very definition 'parking' is just that.  Not something else.

On page 5, letter E: "All vehicles using University facilities, other than pay-parking facilities, Monday through Friday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m....", thus the designation of when these lots are in use.

Finally, on p. 8 there are overnight lots, but these lots are available only to employees, graduate students, or commuting students who are conducting business overnight... not those who are living/sleeping on campus.

As I've stated, we can not guarantee a person's safety if they are sleeping in their car on campus.  This isn't realistic.

I hope this is clear.

My response (not too snarky, I hope)?

Thanks for the info [S]. Just so you're aware
  1. "Parking regulations" are the same thing that any RV park has which doesn't distinguish between living and parking.
  2. Lot 11 is an overnight parking lot which students may park in overnight (according to parking services). The sign states that a permit is required between the hours of 7am and 5pm.
  3. Page 8 item #2 doesn't state anything about conducting business overnight, it simply states that overnight permits are available in certain areas (lot 11 being one of them).

I absolutely understand why a university would not want students sleeping overnight in their parking lots and because of this I made sure to thoroughly research the policies of [the college] before beginning. There are no rules that state this action is not permitted but, in future, it seems like something the University may want to put in writing.

Thanks for taking the time to deal with this.

Their response? The Dean of Students (this guy's boss) now wants to meet with me. I'm pretty stubborn and really have nothing better to do than deal with this, which is good, because it seems like it may take a while.

The Battle Rages On

Welcome to the latest edition of my life: the never ending search for a parking space all my own. If you are not caught up on the latest craziness, you should definitely read the past week of posts, so much has happened!

Friday evening the Assistant Dean of Students sent me an email saying “unfortunately you will not be able to live in your car on campus any longer.” I’m not happy about it but I found a mall that seems to be pretty safe and have been sleeping there this weekend. I understand why they would not want people sleeping in the parking lot; can you imagine a bunch of 18 year-olds in RVs with a keggerator? So, in response to his email I wrote 
Thanks for looking into this for me and getting an answer so quickly... Could you send me the rule that states [that I can’t live on campus] so I have something to show the state later on (or you can just tell me where to find it)?
Honestly, I don’t need proof for anyone, but I really wanted to know how I had missed such a specific rule after all my research. Who knows, maybe there was a whole rule book I didn’t know existed! What do you think I got back? Go on, guess. I bet most of you saw it coming.
There is no 'rule' per se... It’s a practice of the University that no one is allowed to sleep in their car while on campus. 
I wasn't really sure how to respond to this. I didn't want to sound belligerent but come on, you've got no rule and I still have to leave? I tried to sound as non confrontational as possible when I wrote back this morning.
I guess I'm confused. If I'm being told to move then there must be some sort of rule or policy to back it up. Are you able to send me anything official that says I can't live in my car while on campus?
So here we go, get ready for some rough waters people. Before anyone asks: yes, I could just drop this and live at the mall. The points are that  1) if I get kicked out of the mall I have nowhere to go, 2) My car should not be driven so I want to park it, leave it, and bike and 3) I'm ticked off now and after a month of them making my life difficult I'm feeling vengeful. Immature, I know, but I feel it's warranted.

June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Guess what? Its Father’s Day, and I figured that if anyone deserves mention on this blog, it’s one of the pair who put up with me on a regular basis. 90% of our conversations start with a question, like:

Me: Sooo, hypothetically, if my car were clicking when I went around corners, what would you say the problem could be?
Dad: *Groan*. Silence. *Sigh*. Um…


Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is the [Starter, ball joint, e brake, muffler…insert expensive car part here]?

Sometimes the answer is very involved, like walking me through a shorting coil. Sometimes the answer is very simple, like “stop being a bonehead.” Either way, he always answers, which is nice. I even hear that he’s been keeping his cell on at night, just in case one of my popo adventures goes south. At almost 30 it’s nice to have an on call tow truck/life coach/mechanic/guru. So Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there: Thanks for putting up with all our crazy shenanigans.

June 18, 2011

A Taste Of The Town

Breaking from my usual Saturday routine, California Clare came to visit and we went to a "town tasting" in the park. All the restaurants and bars in the area had booths and served their five or so best dishes. Clare had some sort of Thia dumpling and I had curry and ices chi tea (delightful). It was really fun and very cheap, plus the farmer's market was going on next door at the same time, so we got to peruse some great maple syrup businesses and a farm that specialized in goat cheese. California Clare got to try maple cream (also known as maple butter) for the first time and the woman said that maple syrup was a healthier sweetener than honey! As a registered beekeeper (one of my many random bits of knowledge) I am skeptical. As far as I am concerned, honey is the miracle food.

Vendors peddle their crack-like tasties to adoring fans

In other news, I spend the night at the mall and wasn't hassled once. There were some RVs and  quite a few cars that hadn't moved by 6am. I have decided that if I will be living in such a public space I need to get more incognito. I bought four more feet of that black not-really-neoprene fabric to go over the back window. I don't remember if I mentioned it (and I'm too lazy to go back and check) but the Velcro is sticking to the window really well. It is not, however, sticking to the neoprene in the heat... Duck Tape, WD40 AND Superglue. Any do-it-yourselfer's emergency kit.

Kindle Review

In the midst of everything else that’s going on my Kindle arrived yesterday and I owe the vehicle dwelling community a product review. 

From earlier posts you may have gathered that 1) I read a lot but no longer have room to store books and 2) spend a lot of money on text books each semester. I looked into an ereader as a way to solve both of these problems. The Kindle stores a ton of books, lets me book mark, highlight, and make notes (great for school) plus ebooks are often ½ the price of a normal text book. Any older books like Pride and Prejudice or Dante are free. An added bonus is that they’re trying some “experimental" stuff that’s included.
  • Web Browser
    • Surf the web and the battery life is something like 40 hours so it will be going long after the laptop has died. I had some reservations about its ability because I’d heard it was basically for text, not pictures, but I haven’t had a problem yet.
  • MP3 Player
    • Plays your music even while you read
  • Text-to-Speech
    • The Kindle reads to YOU (yeah, I know) 
So far this thing is super awesome: light weight, the size of my daily planner, and very easy to read. You can even adjust the size of the text (a big plus for me).My whole library is in one book which makes my life much easier and less cluttered. 

Now for the less positives:
  1. I'm having trouble getting an internet signal in some places that my laptop is fine. I was worried that this meant I couldn't download books right away but the Kindle comes with a USB drive and I can load books from Amazon onto it and transfer them over. Not too bad.
  2. Who among us doesn't love the feel of a real book? There's something about lying in the grass with a paperback that you just can't get from a electronic device and I will miss it. I was surprised at how text like the Kindle actually is, the screen is much more like a book page than a computer monitor. Still...
My Purchase:

  • Kindle $114
    • I got the version with adds for about $15 less than the one without. I thought they would be an issue but they’re barley noticed until the reader is in sleep mode.
  • Cover $23 
    • If I’m going to do it, I’m doing it right. Black leather, really tough, protects my investment.
Let me know if you have questions or comments about the Kindle or another ereader, I'm interested to see who uses them and how they are long term.