Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
Bought a house, planned a wedding, attended a bridal shower as the guest of honor, published work in an academic journal, visited Montana and Jamaica, survived back-to-back blizzards that dumped 4 feet of snow outside my home, directed a show in City A, went to a rally on the National Mall. And there are more firsts, I'm sure, but those are the ones that immediately jump to mind.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make more for next year?
My resolution for 2010 was to focus on what is important. Namely, I wanted to stay focused on my relationship with Penn and my own health and sanity and not worry too much about all of the major things I was working on and planning all year long. I'm pleased to say that I did accomplish all of the things I hoped to accomplish this year. Last year I wrote, "I want to make significant progress on my dissertation. I want to move somewhere that makes me as happy as my current home does but has more space. I want to teach my own course. I want to plan a beautiful, fun wedding." And I somehow managed to do all of those things! (Well, whether or not the wedding is beautiful and fun remains to be seen, but it is planned and that's what matters.) I'm also pleased to say that Penn and I are still happily together and considering all of the major life changes we put ourselves through this year I think we managed to get through the past twelve months with a minimal amount of snipping at each other.
After all of the major changes planned throughout this past year, my resolution in 2011 is to see everything through to fruition. I want to get married and I want to finish my dissertation. Two major things, but getting married is almost a guarantee, and I think finishing the dissertation is doable if I force myself to buckle down and do the work.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nobody I spend time with on a regular basis in my day-to-day life, but a few people I keep in touch with on Facebook had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, and I am so incredibly thankful for that.

5. What countries did you visit?
Jamaica was the only country other than the US that I visited this year. That was such a fun, relaxing vacation.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A finished dissertation, a marriage certificate with my name and Penn's name on it, a positive pregnancy test (Penn and I have talked a lot about it and we're about as sure as we can be that we'd ideally like to get pregnant in the summer or fall. Obviously we have very little control over that, other than control over when we try, but that's the game plan unless our lives change substantially in some way over the next few months

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
November 5th, the day we bought our house. Tied to that, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of walking into the house for the first time and getting an overwhelming sense that it was supposed to be ours. I had been in the basement looking around and I walked upstairs just in time to hear Penn asking the realtor, “So, what do we have to do to make an offer?” and I knew he felt the same way I did. I will also always remember the back-to-back blizzards of early February since that kind of intense snow is so unusual here and probably won’t happen many other times in my life.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Publishing a book review, teaching two college courses on my own, getting a successful review of my show, doing a pretty good job of dealing with the stress of planning the wedding and dissertating and buying a house simultaneously.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not spending enough time on the dissertation. It was always on the back burner and I worked on it only when I could find time. In 2011 everything else is going to go on the back burner instead. I read a quote that said that your dissertation will be finished six months after you decide it’s the most important thing in your life. So beginning in February of 2011, the dissertation is the most important thing in my life (other than Penn, of course).

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had that weird 24 hour bug the day after the 4th of July. I still don’t know what that was, some sort of stomach flu. Oh, and then of course there was The Great Shopping Cart Debacle of 2010. I was bruised and sore for a couple of weeks, and seven months later I still have a scar on my shoulder blade from that fiasco. We are so dumb.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The house, absolutely (it seems like this survey is set up in such a way that it becomes repetitive every year; this year it’s all about the new house, apparently).

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Penn, for putting up with me when I got worked up over stupid wedding or house details. I tried not to freak out constantly all year, but sometimes it was inevitable. He never once tried to kill me, even when I was annoyed with myself.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A couple of members of Penn's extended family are appalling and depressing. Fortunately we don't have to see either of them on a regular basis and the things they do that are so appalling don't affect us directly--people we care about, but not us--so it's (perhaps detrimentally) easy to just ignore them 99% of the time.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Buying the house, obviously. I almost had a panic attack when I saw the amount of our twenty percent down payment, but in the end I was so proud of us for being able to pay off so much of the house right away.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Picking out a wedding dress, going to Jamaica, moving into our house

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
The Black Keys "Sinister Kid" (Penn was on kick with this song for weeks back in late summer and early fall), Usher's "OMG" (this will always remind me of Jen's bachelorette party and wedding in Missoula)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
A. Happier or sadder?
Probably about the same. If anything I'm happier, definitely not sadder.
B. Thinner or fatter?
Thinner, but barely. I wanted to tone up for the wedding, but I've been dropping and then regaining the same five pounds all year. Oh well! That's why my wedding dress has a corset.
C. Richer or poorer?
Well, we own a house now but had to spend a good amount of our life savings to get it (which is what the savings were for, of course). I figure we probably broke even.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I had worked on the dissertation more often.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I wish I'd spent less time lounging around in bed in the mornings. I need to get better at getting up when Penn gets up instead of lounging in bed with a book or blogs on my phone and finally getting up an hour or two later. Unacceptable!

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I spent my first Christmas in my new house, just me and Penn alone. It was great, we ate a ton of food, opened presents, lounged around, went to a candlelight service at church. It was perfectly relaxing and a nice, low-key time to be alone together.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
Penn's friend D drove down from Philly for the night with his girlfriend J, and we're all going to go into City A to meet up with Nic and her husband and a few other friends. We're going to a Gogol Bordello concert at a club. We went to the same club for New Year's Eve two years ago and had a great time, so I'm hoping tonight will be just as fun. Also, I am NOT doing Jello shots this year. Ugh.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?
Still happily in love with the same man I've been in love with since 2008 and hoping that will never change! (Aw, cheesefest!)

23. How many one-night stands?
Zero. Always zero.

24. What was your favorite TV program(s)?
Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, 30 Rock

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate at this time last year?
I don't hate anyone. I don't think I can work up that enthusiastic of an emotion. In my opinion it takes way too much energy to hold a grudge and hate. Having said that, there is a woman in my department that annoys me so much that I have now developed what I call a zero tolerance policy toward her, meaning that I try to avoid her as much as possible and do not speak to her unless she speaks to me first. I still don't hate her, though, I just find her obnoxious. Luckily our paths don't cross often.

26. What was the best book that you've read? A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (I read that one during the week of the blizzards when we were without cable or internet,and I found it completely mesmerizing).

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Honestly, I haven't paid that much attention to music this year. I did just get Penn's old iPod Touch, though (he bought himself a Nano and is now using that instead) so I'm hoping to pay more attention so that I can download more music this year.

28. What did you want that you also ended up getting?
A house (that's the biggie, of course), my own class(es) to teach, a Kindle (I LOVE the Kindle), a really, really awesome Canon Camera

29. What did you want that you did not end up getting?
Honestly, I think I've gotten about pretty much everything I wanted this year. I'd like a few new things for the house, but that's about it.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
True Grit, definitely. It was awesome!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28 and I bought a house. We signed the papers on my birthday and then came over to the house and drank a celebratory bottle of champagne. It was one of the best days I've ever had.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Nothing. Seriously, everything is going exactly to plan. I'm unbelievably blessed.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
I get up in the morning, put on workout clothes, and then since sometimes I don't get around to working out until late in the afternoon, I pretty much wear sweats and spandex all day unless I'm going to campus to work or tutoring. I need to improve on this next year, too!

34. What kept you sane?
Penn, my basset, my journal. The usual.

35. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Jon Stewart. I don't have crush on him, I fancy his brain.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Penn and I Rallied to Restore Sanity, so I suppose it was anti-politics that stirred me the most.

37. Who did you miss?
My parents and my siblings. I always miss them the most. I miss having Kiki as a daily part of my life, too. Talking on the phone just isn't enough sometimes.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
The kids (well, "kids", they're mostly 19-21) that I worked with on my project this summer. They are good people.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
RELAX. Or, as Penn would put it, "No worries, mate." I'm still working on this, but I'm trying to learn it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"She keeps it simple
And I am thankful for her kind of lovin'
'Cause it's simple

No longer do we wonder if we're together
We're way past that
And I've already asked her
So in January we're gettin' married

She's talkin' to me with her voice
Down so low I barely hear her
But I know what she's sayin'
I understand because my heart and hers are the same
And in January we're gettin' married

And I was sick with heartache
And she was sick like Audrey Hepburn when I met her
But we would both surrender

True love is not the kind of thing you should turn down
Don't ever turn it down

I hope that I don't sound to insane when I say
There is darkness all around us
I don't feel weak but I do need sometimes for her to protect me
And reconnect me to the beauty that I'm missin'
And in January we're gettin' married

No longer does it matter what circumstances we were born in
She knows which birds are singin'
And the names of the trees where they're performin' in the mornin
And in January we're gettin' married
Come January let's get married."
-January Wedding, The Avett Brothers

Thursday, December 30, 2010

30 Things to Do Before I Turn 30

As I mentioned last year, I've decided to make a list of 30 things to do before my 30th birthday this year. I won't turn 30 until November of 2012, but I just think it makes more sense to do these lists in larger increments as I get older. Either that or I would eventually have to start filling the lists with complete minutiae. By the time I got to a "60 Things to Do Before I Turn 60" list I'd have to be accomplishing more than one task per week, and that's just ridiculous. So I have made the executive decision that the working list for the next two years is 30 Things to Do Before I Turn 30.
I found it challenging to make this year's list, mostly because of item number two. I have a feeling that becoming a parent will change my priorities entirely, so I can think of plenty of things I would like to do now but I imagine that I may laugh at this list in two years, when I anticipate life will be very different. We'll see!
Here's the list:

1. Finish the PhD (I try to leave major must-dos off this list and limit it to things I would just like to do for fun or because they will make my life easier/better, but I'm putting this one on the list because it is my #1 priority over the next couple of years.)
2. Become a parent (Actually, this one might be my #1 priority...honestly, it's sort of a toss-up. I feel like the pending occurrence of #2 will lead to the forced accomplishment of #1. I hope so, anyway, or else I'm terrified that task #1 will fall by the wayside. Not so terrified that I'm willing to put off attempting to become a parent until I've finished the dissertation, though, because ultimately my biological clock trumps all other considerations since that's the one thing I really can't control at all. I'm 28, my husband-to-be wants an entire hockey team of children, it's time to get crackin'. [Note: I am NOT on board with the hockey team idea...and I think he's joking...mostly...])
3. Convince myself that it's okay not to write a full-fledged journal entry every day. Notes of highlights and lists are better than nothing when life is busy. Print and bind the past four (wow) years of journal entries.
4. See at least ten live productions (concerts, plays, etc.)
5. "The unwillingness to give a hearing to contradictory viewpoints, or to imagine that one might learn anything from an ideological or cultural opponent, represents a departure from the best side of American popular and elite intellectual traditions."-Susan Jacoby. In the spirit of this quote, I'm going to attempt to read--with an open mind--something I'm inclined to disagree with. And I'm going to try to find at least one part of the book that I can agree with. (Yes, this was on last year's list but I really do think this is important, so I put it on the list again.)
6. Figure out a way to store my pictures that is organized and allows for easy viewing but isn't completely dependent on Facebook. (This and the next few items are things I didn't get around to last year but would still like to try to accomplish.)
7. Go on a 20+ mile-long bike ride.
8. Finish a Seasonal Reading Challenge on Goodreads. (This may be impossible, but I want to keep trying!)
9. Visit Monticello.
10. Take the Meatball to a local basset hound event.
11. Take a trip to Las Vegas with Penn.
12. Watch a Supreme Court hearing.
13. Take advantage of Restaurant Week and try at least one well-reviewed, trendy restaurant that I normally wouldn't be able to afford.
14. On a similar note, try at least 15 bars/restaurants that I have never been to before (restaurants tried on vacation when I have no choice but to try new places don't count).
15. Take a trip to Pittsburgh and see Penn's college campus.
16. Go to the local fish market.
17. Adopt a second dog.
18. Ski Taos or Telluride with Penn.
19. Get the fireplace repaired so that we can enjoy the fireplace in our den.
20. Get new chairs for the living room.
21. Remodel the pink bathroom (or at the very least paint the untiled portions of the wall a color other than their current peachy-pink).
22. Cross at least one new country off my list.
23. Cross at least one new state off my list.
24. Get myself a football jersey so I can fit in when we support Penn's favorite football team at the bar.
25. Obtain a membership to the neighborhood pool. (Apparently only 300 families can belong to the pool at one time, so basically I have to wait for someone to die or decide to sell a membership).
26. Buy or otherwise acquire three pieces of actual art for my home. (Real art, not something mass-produced)
27. Throw a party in my backyard.
28. Buy a four-door car.
29. Plant a small vegetable and/or herb garden in the backyard and attempt to grow some of my own produce.
30. Make the list of 35 Things to Do Before I'm 35.

28 Things to Do Before I Turn 28 Recap

I have been wanting to post my recap of last year's list and my new list for this year for almost 8 weeks now. I finally, FINALLY had time to do it today. It feels good to get this (admittedly self-imposed) task off my plate just in time for the new year.

So, here are the items I completed from my 28 Things to Do Before I Turn 28 list. I didn't do as well as I did with my 27 Things list, but, as you can probably tell, Penn and I have been pretty busy this year.

1. Write a book review and submit it to an academic journal. Not only did I write and submit my book review, I actually managed to get it published! It was published in October and I can now look myself up as an author in journal databases, which is pretty damn awesome.
2. Find a dentist here and make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. For real this time! I did it, and it was a good thing I did because I had a cavity. I'm being especially good and went to the dentist in both January and November this year. It's not exactly every six months, but it's better than I was doing for the past 5 or 6 years.
4. Buy a printer. So, I don't technically have a printer yet, but I put one on our wedding registry, so at least I am attempting to own a printer. That counts, right? If no one purchases it as a gift I will buy it myself.
5. Attend at least six live productions, not including concerts (classical music counts, though; I feel bad making this highbrow/lowbrow divide here but the fact is we attend concerts almost monthly but spend much less time going to plays/opera/the symphony). Things I saw: War Horse, Oliver! (both on my trip to London), Itzhak Perlman/Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (Perlman played and then conducted), The Bluest Eye, King Lear, Richard II, Henry V, Da, and Hamlet
7. Cross at least one more country off my list. Scotland, Jamaica
8. Cross at least one more state off my list (only 17 more to go!). Montana
15. Take advantage of Restaurant Week to try a well-reviewed restaurant I normally wouldn't be able to afford. Penn and I went to a local Brazilian steakhouse and it was amaaaaaazing. I know the meat was the point, but I can still taste this delicious cheesy bread we had there.
16. Go to one of the historic local jazz clubs. We tried one club for Penn's birthday and then went to a different one a few months later when I got a Groupon. Both experiences were great.
17. Read the Dark Tower series. I joked to Jon he had to read the Harry Potter series or we couldn't stay together so he retaliated by insisting I read the Dark Tower series. He's about to finish Harry Potter, so I figured I should humor him and attempt to fulfill his request. There are seven books in the series and I'm reading the last book right now. I had promised myself I would finish the series before our wedding. I'm not quite sure if I'll finish before then since I'm on page 75 of 800ish pages, but I think I'll come close. I may have to finish the last few chapters post-honeymoon (since I'm not dragging that behemoth of a book around the world with me).
19. Eat here, here, and here. I've been to the third place twice now, and the chicken place has become part of our standard restaurant rotation because it's across the street from the liquor store where we buy kegs for Penn's kegerator. Sooooooo good.
21. Buy new ski clothes so I can quit wearing the ski pants I've been wearing since the '90s, then ski at least seven times this winter. It was an awesome ski season this year. Penn and I hit the slopes practically once a week all winter. As excited as I am about New Zealand, I'm sad we'll be missing so much of the east coast's very short ski season.
23. Go here. I went with my sister when she visited in March and enjoyed it very much.
24. Buy a new comforter for the bed. I also registered for this. I registered for a duvet, actually, since I love those things. I'm hoping we're gifted it, but if not I will definitely be updating our bedding when we get home from the honeymoon. It's time for a change!
26. Take a trip to Philly and research a bar for my dad. I actually ended up doing this with my dad when he visited in April. He and my mom rented a limo and took me, Penn, and some of our friends to Philly. It turned out that the bar was not so much a bar as it was a strip club, but it was still a really fun night (I was aware that there were going to be pole dancers but thought it would be more like a burlesque bar. But no, STRIP CLUB. The women didn't get topless, but there was plenty to see. In my dad's defense, he didn't think it would be a straight up strip club when he decided to take us all there.)
28. Make the list of 30 Things to Do Before I'm 30. This was pretty much done 8 weeks ago, I just didn't have time to edit and post it until now!

So, that's 15 of 28 things. More than half! Not bad considering everything else I had to juggle all year long. Let's hope I'm even more successful with 30 Things Before 30.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Wrap-Up

Penn and I are watching Lord of the Rings on TV right now and it is making me SO EXCITED to be in New Zealand. It looks so magnificently beautiful. Two more weeks and we'll be there! Penn has been in charge of planning the itinerary and it looks like he has put together a great trip: hot springs, cave tubing, speed boating, fishing, exploring Milford Sound, bungee jumping (look at YouTube videos of the Nevis bungee in Queenstown; that's what we're going to do...if I don't pass out in terror before I can jump, which is entirely possible).

Anyway, Merry Christmas! This year was the first year of my life that I didn't spend Christmas with my family. Since we needed to save Penn's vacation days for the honeymoon he couldn't travel to be with my family, and I couldn't imagine doing Christmas without him, so I stayed here, too. I thought it was going to make me really sad, but actually, it didn't. I had a really great Christmas. Penn and I decided to celebrate alone, just the two of us. We went up to his family at Thanksgiving and we'll see them again at the wedding in a couple of weeks. Plus Penn's mom came down last weekend and did early Christmas with us (she got Penn a deep fryer for Christmas, you can imagine how excited he was about that!). So, since we have seen his family recently we didn't feel obligated to drive the two hours to see them. Also, we liked the idea of starting our own traditions in our new home, so that's what we did. Last night I carried on my family's usual tradition of Christmas Eve fondue. I did the meat fondue (which is easy: get a really good quality steak, chop it up into bite-sized pieces, skewer it and stick it in corn oil to cook) and I got Grandma's recipe for the cheese fondue, too. It came out perfectly. It was wonderful having my kitchen smell exactly like Grandma's kitchen, and very comforting to realize that I can carry on her tradition and someday pass it along to yet another generation. After dinner Penn and I went to the late-night Christmas Eve service at church. I had always wanted to do that, but growing up it was never part of our tradition because we always went to my grandparents' house instead. The church service was really nice. There was a soprano soloist with an amazing voice who sang a couple of Christmas numbers, and we sang Christmas carols, including "Silent Night" by candle light at the end. I enjoyed it.
This morning when Penn and I woke up it was snowing! The snow was just flurries and it didn't stick, but it added to the Christmas atmosphere as we ate our cinnamon rolls and opened Christmas presents that my parents sent us. My parents and grandparents were way too generous, as usual. They gave us some money to use for the honeymoon--hooray!--and the best gift from Mom and Dad was Kindles for both of us. We've both spent a large part of today playing with our new gadgets. I think Penn has downloaded something like 40 books already (mostly public domain classics)!!
I spent part of the afternoon in the kitchen making us a Christmas feast. I told Penn several weeks ago that I would make him whatever he wanted for Christmas dinner, and he requested a pork knuckle. Yes, a PORK KNUCKLE. Apparently he ate one in the Czech Republic and loved it, and he wanted me to see if I could recreate it. So I embarked on a culinary adventure that began at an Amish farmers market and ended with ham shanks simmering on my stove for three hours this afternoon. I also made mashed potatoes, my mom's cheesy squash casserole, a salad with my other grandma's salad dressing, crescent rolls, and a cheeseball. I figured it was a wise idea to make plenty of sure-to-be-delicious side dishes just in case the schweinsaxe was a bust. Luckily it came out pretty good. It did get slightly smokier than I expected, and it turns out that as far as meat goes it's just a bit too fatty for me to completely enjoy, but Penn really liked it and I was happy tasting a few bites and then loading up on squash and potatoes. Yay successful Christmas feast! While our meal was cooking we went over to our neighbors' house for a while. They have a daughter slightly younger than us with cerebral palsy ("among other things," according to my neighbor). Normally the daughter lives in a group home in a nearby town, but she was home for the day so my neighbor wanted us to come over so her daughter could meet our dog. So we went over and had a glass of wine and introduced our Meatball to their daughter. I was so proud of my hound. The woman is in her early twenties but she can't really talk and she has the mental capacity and interests of a five- or six-year-old child, which meant she didn't entirely understand how to be gentle with the dog. We were all trying to help her be careful with him, but she would sometimes tug on his leash and grab at his ears and I kept having to boost him up onto his hind legs so that she could reach him from her wheelchair to pet him. And my dog was so incredibly sweet and patient. He let himself be poked and prodded and yanked around and he didn't so much as yelp. And it was so fun to see the daughter's eyes light up and hear her laughter as she played with Meatball. I was humbled, and incredibly grateful for my own healthy life, and so proud of my sweet dog.
All in all it was a great Christmas. I do miss my family, but I'm hoping we'll be with them again next year, and for now I am more than satisfied to be here. We're supposed to get hit with a snowstorm tonight and tomorrow, so I'm hoping to spend the day hunkered down with leftovers and books. Right now there's a slice of my neighbor's pumpkin pie with alcohol-spiked whipped cream calling my name, so I'm off.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

21 Days

Three weeks from right now I'll be a married woman. A married woman who will hopefully be taking full advantage of the honeymoon suite at the reception hotel with her husband (which, let's be honest, probably means sleeping because we will be exhausted and we have to fly 30 hours the next day(s) [My mom was so buzzed and exhausted on her wedding night that she fell asleep before, uh, the marriage could be consumated, a fact my dad still brings up teasingly almost 30 years later. I'm going to do my best not to follow in her footsteps on that one!]).

I have an urge to write a contemplative post on the verge of this major life change, but my life has been such a whirlwind lately that I haven't had time to sit down and get my thoughts in enough order for a proper post. Honestly, this entire year has been a whirlwind. The last time I remember feeling like I had time to truly relax without places to be or tasks hanging over my head was on our trip to Jamaica. That was seven months ago! And that trip was only a few days long. Since that time I have been going non-stop: heading up a major summer project, dog-sitting and living at someone else's house for almost a month, teaching summer school, prepping and teaching a fall course, accepting every private tutoring job that came my way, hosting house guests for my bridal shower and various other random weekend events, house hunting and buying a house, taking trips for weddings and conferences, planning the wedding, working on the dissertation when I can squeeze it in. The three-week honeymoon is MUCH NEEDED.
I started working on my 30 Things to do Before I Turn 30 list way back on my birthday six weeks ago and haven't even managed to post that yet. I hope to get it up eventually, but maintaining this blog is at the very bottom of my to-do list. When I don't have any sort of regular routine (and I really haven't for months now) it's the last thing to get done. One of these days when there aren't so many (admittedly pretty awesome) special events going on in my life I'll be able to keep up with this thing again. I hope.

Which brings me to one of the reasons I'm most excited about my wedding: I am excited for life to have a regular life again. I have loved my year of being a bride-to-be, but I'm ready for everything to go back to normal. And that's ultimately how I feel about marrying Penn. It feels like the most perfectly normal, absolutely right thing to do. I feel great excitement for the wedding day. I'm almost bursting with anticipation these days (especially since it's the Christmas season; there is a natural feeling of anticipation in the air anyway that compounds my feeling). I like imagining what it's going to be like to have all of our friends and family members from different times and aspects of our lives together in one place for one crazy day. I keep trying to remind myself that all of this, all of the giddiness and stress and hopefulness and joy that has gone into planning this wedding, will happen only once in my life and I need to savor the feelings and not attempt to rush through them to the next step. But the truth is that the reason I'm excited for the wedding is not so much for the wedding itself, but because when it is over Penn will be my husband. We will be formally bonded together for life. I can't think of someone I would rather face life's challenges with, and I can't think of someone who could better help me appreciate its joys than Penn.
I can't wait to put on that dress and veil and stand at the altar of our church and promise Penn and 100 other people that I will be faithful to him until death. I can't wait to eat mashed potatoes in a martini glass and drink and dance and laugh and pose for hundreds of pictures. I can't wait to explore New Zealand and lounge on the beach in Fiji. But, mostly, I can't wait to come home and finally, officially be Mrs. _______, with all the domesticity and normality that entails. I want to continue to fix up our house and cook dinners and go to our jobs and make budgets and take road trips and walk the dog and have babies and cuddle them and yell at them and walk them to school and cry at their graduations and weddings and watch the seasons change through the picture window in the living room and grow old with my husband. I don't need anything more than that. That life is the most spectacular life I can imagine, and I can't wait to start living it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Future of America

I'm proctoring an SAT practice exam right now for my parttime tutoring job. I just finished grading my students' essays. Here are some of the things these high school juniors apparently believe, judging by the examples they provided in their essays:

1. Romeo and Juliet were not allowed to get married to each other, and so to punish their families they killed each other.

2. There is a European nation. Just one (and no, that wasn't just the kid leaving off a critical s in his rush to finish the essay, he repeated the phrase "the nation of Europe" many times).

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Gave his "I Have a Dream" speech during the Civil War.

4. Barack Obama faces racism due to his race. (As opposed to racism based on his...yeah.)

5. "100 years ago people used to wear colorful clothing in America known as the "hippies" era. They danced to jazz and rebelled against social norms." (Wrong, and then wrong again.Also, oh my god, sentence structure!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Next Time

The next time I come to Seattle, I really want Penn to come with me. I've been here twice now without him, and I know he would love it here. I really like it here, too. This is my second trip to Seattle and I'm now convinced that this is one of my favorite US cities. I took a little bit of time today to walk down to Pike Place Market, where I sampled a bunch of food and bought apples, fancy flavored pasta (I got some for my sister, too, since we had fun picking out our favorite flavors last time we were here), and a treat for my meatatarian almost-husband. I treated myself to a nice dinner at an oyster bar/seafood restaurant tonight, and now I'm back in my hotel room. My room is amazing. I named my own price for a 4-star hotel on Priceline and I couldn't believe my luck when I got here. I'm on the 39th floor of the hotel and my room has an enormous floor-to-ceiling window with a spectacular view: the Space Needle is framed right in the center of the window and if I look to my left I can see the Puget Sound. Every night it has been exciting to come back to my room. I put on the hotel robe and climb into my super-soft bed and read myself to sleep taking occasional breaks to stare out my window at the glowing Space Needle. It has been nice having this beautiful view because even though I didn't have much downtime to explore the city on this whirlwind trip I get to feel like I'm a part of it every night.
Next time I come back here I'm coming back with no agenda. I want to soak up the city on my own time. And there will be a next time, I'm determined. I want to see as much of the world as possible in my lifetime, but there's something to be said for going back time and again to places that really click for you, and I think Seattle is one of those places for me.


This has been a successful conference so far. I went to my session yesterday and was told that the things I am exploring in my research are "fascinating." A well-known scholar in my field approached me and said he'd like to talk more about what I'm doing! And my advisor, who was part of the session also, approached me afterward and said he'd heard good things about my paper and that it was well-received. This all feels really good since this is my dissertation research and I'm obviously invested in it. Unfortunately I didn't get much critical feedback that I can actually put into action, but I'm satisfied with knowing I've sparked interest. I also had a really bizarre experience at the conference yesterday when someone noticed my name tag and said, "Oh, you went to[ School Where I Got my MA]!" I said, Yes, I did. How do you know that?" and she said "I'm working on my MA there now and they talk about you in our classes." I was like, "What? Seriously? Why?!" She laughed and explained that one of my professors is still using a paper I wrote in 2005 as an ideal version of how to complete the assignment, and that in general they talk about me because I bucked the usual trend of the department and instead of going on to the local state school for a PHD I got out of the state all together and went to a higher tier school. I can't believe I'm being held up as an example of how to succeed. Especially at this point, when I feel so behind on my dissertation process. It's flattering, for sure. It's beyond flattering. It also adds pressure, though, to know that not only do Penn and I (and to a certain extent the rest of my family) care that I finish, people at both of my old universities have staked some sort of bragging rights on me as well. It's things like this that make me question my path, just a little bit. Despite my self doubt about my work, I wonder if maybe I do, in fact, have the skills to make a splash in this field, and I wonder what I'll be losing if I do walk at least partially away from it (and I know in my heart that's what I want to do, I can't reconcile parenting with the work it takes to be one of the academic bigshots, and just by marrying Penn and not being willing to move anywhere in the country I've severely limited my career opportunities). Then again, the fact that I'm willing to turn from the path at all means that maybe academic overload isn't the life for me, and the not-so-confident part of myself thinks that maybe I'll ultimately be more comfortable always wondering what I could have done with an intense research career instead of actually trying it, burning out, and ultimately disappointing myself.
And maybe there is some way to balance the sort of active, involved family life I crave with an academically rigorous lifestyle, but I've yet to see that play out for anyone in real life.
It shouldn't be an either/or proposition, but it is. Compromise happens somewhere, and I think for me the compromise will be the career trajectory. Will I have a career? Yes. Will it be what it could have been if I didn't choose Penn and a family, or if I decided to put career above those things. No, obviously not. And this is nothing brilliant to be talking about, just the plight of most middle and upper class, educated women in the US in the twenty first century. It's just frustrating to know how complicit I will be in continuing the cycle.
Blah. Back to the conference!
Edited to add: I find it funny that when I originally posted this at 9:30 this morning the fact that I was typing on my Blackberry caused me to typo "Success" as "Sucess" in the title. Maybe that's telling?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Not surprisingly, buying a house and moving really shook up the routine for a couple of weeks (not that I've had much of a routine this fall...or really this entire year anyway!). I had to drop the ball on a lot of things, particularly from last Thursday through Monday, when we had no internet access at either the old place of the new place. I basically gave myself permission to focus only on moving. The bad news is that I now have two weeks of grading to do and I haven't touched my dissertation in close to a month. Gah. The good news is that this was somehow the easiest move I've ever had, despite the fact that it was the biggest one in terms of the sheer amount of stuff we had to move. It definitely helped that both Penn and I were able to work together to get everything packed. We also had so many friends help. Two of Penn's friends from his hometown spent Thursday and Friday of last week helping us get the house move-in ready. They helped Penn with a ton of yardwork (including chainsawing down a dead tree that was three times as tall as the house; I was at work while they did that, thank god, because I would have been obnoxiously nervous if I had to watch them do it. It could have landed on the house!) and they hung my blinds and curtains and did some other random tasks around the house. It was hugely helpful. Then on the day we moved in we had half a dozen people show up to help (loading up took three hours but we unpacked the U Haul in half an hour flat!), and Penn's good friend and his girlfriend stayed with us on Saturday night and helped us unpack, so by Sunday afternoon the job of organizing the house was more than halfway done. It's amazing to have such kind friends, since all they got in return were a few meals and beer. I feel very blessed. I managed to get most everything else under control over the course of this week, and now I just need to unpack our enormous book collection and get our "art" (we have very little actual art) and decorative touches into place.And Penn has taken care of most of the minor repairs that needed to be done and he has the yard in good shape (and because he chopped down that huge tree we have years worth of firewood. Seriously, YEARS.)
It feels amazing to finally be in our house. I can see why home ownership is so seductive. Don't like something? You can change it! And there are other, less tangible emotions that come from having the house now. Penn told me the other night that he couldn't believe he was sitting on the couch in his own house with his soon-to-be-wife, and he didn't need to say more than that because I knew what he meant. There's a great confidence that comes from owning a house together, to planting our roots in the same place and making it ours. I spent most of my teens and twenties feeling like I was biding my time, having fun but ultimately waiting to get to where I am now. I was always just so curious about who I would marry and where I would live and how we would make a living. And now, barring a life-changing disaster, I know the answers to those questions. For someone like me who craves stability and security more than anything else, tying myself to Penn and this house is, paradoxically, liberating. It's frightening, too, because I sometimes have a sense that having received what I always wanted means it can only go downhill from here. I suppose I can only hope that we continue to work hard together and be lucky.
I love the house. I love seeing my dog snuffling around his big backyard, I love using all of my counterspace to prep meals, I love simply walking down one flight of stairs to do laundry and not having to worry about whether or not I have quarters to pay for it, I love the wood floors, I love finally living somewhere with a proper hallway again. I love imagining what it will be like to finish my dissertation in my new office. Even more than that, I love imagining what it will be like to bring our first child through the front door and tell him or her that this is home. I hope I get to do those things.
Anyway, I'm on a shuttle headed to the airport for a conference and we're almost there, so I have to go. I have my own hotel room in Seattle and some other posts brewing, so there may be more to come soon, for a change.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We Got The House!

The final loan approval came through yesterday and the closing has been scheduled. We're doing a walk-through of the house on Friday at 10:45 and then we go to the title company to sign all of the paperwork and get the keys right after that. Friday also happens to be my birthday, so as soon as we get the keys we're heading to the house with a bottle of champagne for a double celebration. I can't wait!
There was one last tiny hitch, of course. The current owner asked to be able to rent the house back from us for six extra days. So, basically, we would go to closing and get the keys and ownership papers but then the batty old lady who is living there now would pay us rent and keep living there until next Wednesday. At first Penn and I were like, "Okay, maybe." It would mess up some of our plans--we were really hoping to start doing yard work and cleaning the interior of the house this weekend--but we would have dealt with it. But then we realized some things:
A) They (the seller and her lawyers/guardians--I'm not entirely kidding when I call her batty, she legally has mental issues) were the ones that pushed for an early closing to begin with. We had initially suggested November 22nd as a closing date and when we were counter-offering back and forth at the beginning the sellers said we had to close by the end of October. So the 5th was a compromise, more on our end than on theirs, which made it really obnoxious when they were like, "Hey, we know we really rushed this closing process and made it harder on you guys and your team of inspectors/assessors/lenders, but now that we managed to miraculously meet our agreed upon closing date, can we please stay an extra week?"
B) The sellers were trying to act like it was our fault that they aren't prepared to move out by Friday because they supposedly didn't know if our financing was going to come through. What a bunch of bull. The seller's agent looked at our finances very early on in the process and figured they were fine. That's why they accepted our offer in the first place. Other things could have fallen through, but our financing was always relatively secure. And, just to be on the safe side, don't you think you would get your ducks in a row and be prepared to move if the financing did go through? They have known for almost a month that closing was going to be on the 5th; that's plenty of time to prepare. We don't have a lot of patience for sob stories at this point.
C) We would only make $200 to let her stay the extra days. That money would just get shaved off our closing costs and it's a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of the house. Not worth it!
D) The only "safeguard" we had in the rental contract was that if she refused to leave after six days the daily rent would double. It would double from a whopping $33 to $66, still way cheaper than a hotel or rental apartment or nursing home room. So it seemed frighteningly likely that she might continue to say she wasn't ready to move indefinitely, and then we would be stuck paying lawyer's fees to get a crazy old woman evicted from our house. NOT WORTH IT.
E) We have a contract with the closing date on it, they don't have a leg to stand on. We get OUR HOUSE on Friday.

I can't wait to move all of our stuff over next weekend and start getting settled. And I'll try not to talk about it constantly because I know house stuff is really, really boring. But, really, it's home repairs/furnishing or wedding planning that is on my mind 90% of the time these days. I don't blame you for not finding it all as fascinating and exciting as I do, but if that's the case I suggest that maybe you try back here in February when I'll be on to other topics.

Speaking of other topics, I went to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity last weekend, and it was awesome. It was so uplifting to be around other people demonstrating tolerance, open-mindedness, and reason (and very witty senses of humor!). It wasn't about how we lefty academic east coast elite liberals are right and tea partiers and the Christian Right are wrong (although admittedly a lot of signs played on insani"tea"). Instead it was all about just listening to each other, seeking out the facts wherever possible, and avoiding the fear-mongering and bluster that is such a part of mediated politics these days. "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing," Stewart said in the rally's closing speech. He also reminded us that "We live in hard times, not end times." It felt wonderful to be standing on the Mall with a hundred thousand plus people who seem to understand that. The results of yesterday's election were not encouraging to me. It's obvious that the majority of voting America has fallen prey to the knee-jerk reaction. But you know, the government is a self-regulating system. I'm confident that the Republicans won't really get anywhere, either, and that two years from now we'll likely see another sea change. But you know, if they do get us out of this recession I'll be pleased, not pouty. That's the thing: it's politics, not a freaking football game where my side has to "win." I wish there was more rational, critical thought and less anti-intellectualism in this country. But being at the rally on Saturday did manage to convince me that "my people" are out there in droves and that perhaps I don't need to move to Denmark.
Which is a good thing, since we just bought a freaking HOUSE. We're stuck here for a long time now, like it or not!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trying to be Patient

I celebrated Halloween yesterday by waking up with Quasimodo Face. I had a terrible allergy attack late Saturday night and I decided to just take a pill and sleep it off. As it turns out, going to sleep when your left eye is all red and teary and puffed up is not a good idea. When I woke up in the morning I felt better, but it looked like someone had punched me in the face. My left eye had an enormous puffy fluid bag under it and it was still blood red. And of course I had to be at the tutoring company office at 9 AM to proctor a practice exam for half a dozen students. I have no idea what they were thinking when they saw my puffy face, but they were all polite enough not to say anything about it. It was only later that I realized I could totally have gotten away with wearing an eye patch and pretending it was all part of my pre-planned pirate Halloween costume. Not that I actually have a pirate-style eye patch just lying around the apartment. Oh well.

So, about the house. We're supposed to go to closing and get the keys on Friday, four days from now. Four days out and I STILL don't feel completely confident that we're actually going to get to buy this house. I feel like maybe if we're lucky we'll get to buy it eventually, but I have zero faith that it will actually happen on Friday. Much of our mutual funds and stocks have been sold and some of our relatives very generously gave us our wedding gift money early so that we could amass the money for the down payment (20% of the cost of a house is a frighteningly large amount of money. I can't even look at our savings account balance right now because it's giving me heart palpitations). The loan package has been sent to the underwriters for final approval. We had a scare last weekend when suddenly a required termite inspection spiraled into two days of phone calls about whether or not we would need a structural engineering report as well ($500) and a termite treatment ($800) despite the fact that the termite inspection turned up exactly one spot of termite damage that was obviously from a very long time ago and the home inspector says the house is clearly structurally sound. Luckily I think that issue has been taken care of and the current home owners are taking care of the (made-up, in my opinion) termite issue. We have a stack of documents three inches tall that we have e-mailed to the lender. Obviously they are just trying to cover all of the bases, but I sometimes feel like everyone is going above and beyond what is actually necessary.
We've jumped the inspection and assessment hurdles and tracked down all of the documents the lender needs to see, but I still feel like something could go wrong at the 11th hour. I think it's because every other day we get a phone call saying, "Oh, by the way, we also need you to fax us [fill in obscure financial document here]," so I have no faith that those phone calls will magically stop this week. Buying a house is definitely one of the most stressful things I have ever done. It's exciting, but the process could not possibly be more difficult. It is not streamlined AT ALL. Also, you have no choice but to be completely invested in the process financially, and it's almost impossible not to get invested emotionally. The stakes are so high, and even if you are very organized and you read every bit of fine print on every single piece of paper that crosses your path and even if your realtor is good at explaining things, you still feel like the process is out of your control. Honestly, I'm not sure I want to do this ever again. I think that ultimately having a house will be worth the trouble. Having that investment property--not to mention having a home to live in and enjoy--seems worth some initial frustration. But I think that I'm going to need at least a decade to recover before attempting to do this again. And if we don't actually get this house? Well, hell, if we have to go all the way back to square one right now I'll seriously reconsider the perks of being a renter.

Let's see, other things...last weekend our best friends from here got married in the bride's hometown in Texas so Penn and I flew out to the wedding. Watching them get married was wonderful because I like both the bride and groom so much, and the reception was so much fun. There were margaritas and a mariachi band at the cocktail hour and yummy food stations and of course there was plenty of dancing. At one point I looked over and the bride was drinking a Strongbow in a can and it really felt just like any other night out partying in the city, except that she was in a white wedding dress and he was in a tux. I'm really, really happy for them. I just love when my friends find someone they love enough to marry, and I particularly loved it in this case because Penn and I have been equally friendly with both the bride and the groom for a while now and they're both very funny, kind, good people. Being at their wedding was also exciting for a different reason, though, because they got engaged just three weeks before Penn and I did, and this whole year I've been using their wedding planning as sort of a measure of where we should be in terms of our planning. And now that they are married, the next wedding I go to will be my own! We only have 10 weeks left to finish planning!

It has turned out to be a hectic year, for sure. But I've realized recently that despite sometimes feeling stressed out I'm nowhere near my perceived breaking point, and that Penn and I are actually handling this year's changes together really well. He's a great partner for me, and although I'm excited about the wedding I'm most excited about the marriage and all that we'll face together once the wedding is over.

Monday, October 11, 2010

So Far So Good

We had the home inspection today. The house is almost fifty years old, so there are some things that we need to fix, but the vast majority of it is relatively minor stuff that we can handle on our own. The biggest project is the windows, all of which need to eventually be replaced (the house was built in '66 and the storm windows seemingly date from the same year). We have a typed list an entire page long of things we want/need to do relatively soon (cut down a pine tree that is planted way too close to the house, buy covers for the light switches since apparently they all went missing when the house was painted, purchase some area rugs, put up window treatments so that I can close the blinds and prance nude around my living room if I feel like it) and things we'd like to do eventually (re-tile the bathrooms, build an awesome deck off the dining room). I'm sure the novelty of home ownership will wear off rapidly, but for now it's fun to look at the list and prioritize the projects and think about how we're going to make this house feel like ours. So, yes, I feel relatively confident now that we will actually get the house. I know there's still a chance that something could go wrong with the financing somehow, but everyone from Penn to the realtor to the loan originator herself has told me that's unlikely. Now Penn and I just sit and wait to be told that everything is good with the assessment. We go to settlement in 25 days!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unrelated Things I Suddenly Need to Post Somewhere

1. We have a ratified contract on a house. We're getting it inspected on Monday, and I'm not talking about it any more until we have had the inspection, because until that has happens the situation still feels very precarious to me.

2. I'm writing a paper for next month's conference. It's due to my working group tonight. I have so much else on my mind at the moment that it's really hard to force myself to care and turn out a quality product. I said to Penn last night, "Why does this even really matter? I only wanted to go to this conference so I could apply for a travel grant to add to my resume. I got the travel grant, so my mission is already accomplished. If I don't decide to get a job right out of school, or if I can't get a job right out of school, I probably won't go back to this conference for at least five years. Probably most of the important people in the group who will read this paper will be dead by then, so if this paper is awful, who cares?" (Penn pointed out that this is a terrible attitude to have toward my work; I responded that, seriously, there are a bunch of ancient men in the group so I sort of have a point.)

3. Marrying into Penn's family is great, but there are occasional bumps in the road. We're trying to plan the menu for the rehearsal dinner. Penn made the mistake of sending the restaurant's rough draft version to his mother for feedback. Her response was that we should consider our guest's palates and that "lots of people will turn up their nose" to the items. Which would make you think that we're offering the guests, like, cow tongue and seaweed-wrapped octopus, right? But do you know what's on the rough draft menu? A pot pie made with lamb. Pork loin. Fried fish. Carrots. French fries. Spinach artichoke dip. The most unusual item on the menu is butternut squash soup, which I suppose isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's not exactly exotic. And, admittedly, because the restaurant is a British pub they describe one side item as "mushy peas," which is charmingly British but not very appetizing. (I actually meant to warn Penn to just change that item to "peas" before he sent it on to his mom.) Still, we purposely picked a restaurant that wasn't "out there," knowing that some of Penn's relatives aren't particularly adventurous. I thought we'd struck a great balance between sophisticated and relaxed, and the restaurant is chef-driven (which will please my family) but serves basic British pub fare (which will please Penn's). We're trying, in other words. We know that Penn is sort of the black sheep of his family, in the sense that he has a tendency to be more open-minded and adventurous, but sometimes I forget exactly how carefully we have to tread when running new ideas by his family. My fear is that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of things I think are perfectly normal but that will utterly shock Penn's family as they come to light. It's all about baby-steps, I guess. We'll add roasted chicken to the menu (that's completely innocuous, right?). I'll try to remember that not everyone was raised by a restaraunteur. Compromise. (Also, I know Penn is occasionally just as baffled by my family, so it all evens out.)

4. Our wedding invitations just arrived! I'm going to go open the box and make sure they printed correctly. Hooray!

Friday, October 1, 2010

My pledge

September was a very busy month. There were things that were great about the month. Notably, Penn's sister-in-law and mother threw me a lovely bridal shower and my mom and sister and aunt came to visit for it and Kiki came to visit, too, and it was really fun having family and friends from different segments of my life together. It was a good preview of what's to come at the wedding--the wedding which is now less than 100 days away! I'd never even been to a bridal shower before, so I didn't know what to expect, but of course it was fun to drink punch and eat yummy snacks and play goofy shower games. And getting gifts wasn't bad, either! The shower had a kitchen theme so I received some awesome gadgets. I've been cooking and baking up a storm this month (partially because it feels like the only thing I do these days that has immediately tangible results, but also because I have stoneware baking dishes! And fancy knives! And a food processor! And don't tell me it's bad luck to use shower gifts before the wedding; we all agreed at the shower that it was fine to use them and I don't want to hear otherwise!). Incidentally, my very favorite shower gift wasn't a gadget, but a dishtowel my grandmother embroidered with the Witches' Stew recipe from Macbeth. I love my grandma so much.

There were some other fun things, too. Nicole had her bachelorette party (her wedding is only three weeks away!). As part of her bachelorette festivities we went to a drag show. Three days later I was checking my budget on Mint, which automatically labels and categorizes my debit card purchases, and I guess it didn't know exactly what to do with the drag club because it labeled the cover charge "Education." I guess it was an education of sorts! I'd only been to one drag show before, and that was when I was in St. Petersburg so the whole thing was in Russian and much of it was lost on me. It was fun to go to one here in the states where I could actually understand the jokes and the music.
There were other fun times and I mostly maintained my usual sunny disposition, but I have to be completely honest here and say that last month was stressful. I was happy to change the page to October today. I think a combination of things is making me stressed:
  1. I'm teaching a class at the university and I'm also doing a ton of tutoring for high school students because it's fall testing season. Because the tutoring doesn't come with a set schedule, I haven't been able to get into a good routine this fall. Also, I have several private students right now and there's a certain amount of brain space devoted to keeping track of their hours and calling them to schedule sessions, and although I love the extra money I get from private tutoring I find the logistics obnoxious. It would be great if this was my only job, but it's not. I could say no to some of these classes, but we really need the money right now for the honeymoon and because...
  2. We're buying a house. Or at least, we're trying to buy a house. Again. We've gone back and forth on this all year long. Earlier in the year we got all the way through the pre-approval process for a loan but then realized we couldn't actually qualify to get the loan for a couple of very tiny, infuriating reasons. We tried once more through a second company, got frustrated, and gave up for a season or two. Then suddenly at the beginning of this month Penn decided he was interested in starting the process again. We went through the pre-approval process again and have magically been pre-approved for way more money than we were in the winter (ah, the mysteries of home financing. And to think that this is the process post-crash with a focus on transparency? What must it have been like before?!) Now we've reached the stage of actually looking at houses with a realtor, and although I'm terribly excited about owning a house I know that part of my anxiety this month comes from not knowing where we'll be living a few months from now. There's also that whole looming mortgage thing, which sometimes makes me break out in a cold sweat even though logically I know we can definitely afford a house. I wouldn't be on board with this plan otherwise. It's just the biggest thing I'll ever buy so I can't take it lightly. Then there are the logistics of finding time in my schedule to house hunt. We went out for four hours last weekend and will look at a dozen more houses this weekend.
  3. Wedding planning. Here's the thing: I enjoy making decisions about the wedding. I've liked picking the dress and the flowers and the menu and the invitations. I HATE trying to get in touch with vendors, though. Why can't anyone ever call me back or, better yet, actually answer the phone the first time I call? And you might tell me, "Just pick a different vendor if they don't answer your calls," but this is a problem across the board in every part of the wedding industry I've dealt with during the planning process. Apparently everyone isn't glued to their cell phones at all times. The nerve. It is just really frustrating when I have an "easy" task on my to-do list like "Set up cake tasting" and then I can't reach a human being to actually accomplish the task. It leaves me feeling like there are still loose ends to tie up every day, and I hate that feeling.
  4. The dissertation. It's just there, looming in the background. I haven't had time to work on it (see above re: wedding planning, house hunting, teaching 25 hours a week) and I know that it's the thing that is stressing me out most of all.
Those are the big things. That doesn't count the committees I serve on, the editing projects I do, the fact that I volunteered to make 8 dozen cookies for church on Sunday...Last week I was in the middle of prepping a lecture when suddenly the power went out and I lost my internet connection, and in losing the internet connection I just lost it, period. I ended up in bed sobbing because I suddenly felt like I was unable to accomplish anything--not just that night, but ever. Thank god for Penn. He told me exactly what I already know when I am being logical: that the airline can keep changing our flight times but we'll get to New Zealand and back somehow and we'll have an awesome honeymooon. That we'll buy a house and move in November or December or after the honeymoon, but either way we will eventually have a house and we'll feel settled again. That we'll be married in January even if nobody comes and the florist never returns another phone call. That I will be able to finish the dissertation eventually, even if it doesn't happen until after my funding runs out.
I love Penn, and he has inspired me to take some pressure off myself about the dissertation. I have been putting so much pressure on myself to finish this school year, or at least come close to finishing. That's just not reasonable, though. I'm trying to buy a house (Penn is thankfully doing most of the work on that, but I still have to look at houses and do research). I'm planning a wedding almost entirely by myself. We're taking a trip to the other side of the world for three weeks. I'm teaching a class that I'm prepping from scratch, and I'm taking on as much extra tutoring work as I can to save up money for said house. I'm not superwoman. Penn pointed out that maybe becoming a wife and a homeowner is enough change for one school year, and that I'm not letting anyone down if I don't finish this program in May. There are many ways to finish the dissertation in the summer or (more likely) in the fall. I'm panicking about a self-imposed deadline, and I need to stop worrying that my world will explode if I don't meet it.
My goal for October is to relax and to stop wishing this time away. I'm just so eager to get to the next step. I'm ready for my legal status to match the level of commitment I have always felt with Penn. I'm ready to take an extended vacation. I'm ready to take the leap and become a homeowner. I'm ready to take an even bigger leap and become a mother. I'm ready to have a PhD so I can move on to whatever the next step is going to be. I'm not good at these transition periods. Look back through this blog and you'll see half a dozen posts just like this one where I harp on about my anxieties about an upcoming life change. I think it's time I worked on embracing the transition, though. After all, my life is not on pause until I'm Mrs./Dr. My life is happening right now, and although I don't tick everything off of my to-do list every day it's still a damn good life and I need to enjoy every second of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Penn: So I guess there should be a mother/son dance at the wedding since you're doing the father/daughter dance?
Me: Yeah, probably.
Penn: I think my mom would like that.
Me: So what will you dance to?
Penn: I don't know. The DJ sent me a list of songs people use often but they're all really cheesy and terrible. And I don't want to dance to a love song with my mom.
Me: Well, the song I'm dancing to with my dad is probably intended to be a love song.*
Penn: But it's not too cheesy, and parts of it could be about a daughter.
Me: Do you have any songs you remember dancing to with your mom when you were little? Or songs she sang to you?
Penn: No, not really.
Me: Or a song that is particularly meaningful or symbolic to you?
Penn: I guess we could dance to Little Drummer Boy.

He wasn't kidding! He was being completely sincere. "Come, they told me, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." How would you possibly dance to that? Oh, I love Penn. A couple of nights later we were back on the subject again, and this time he said, "I was thinking that we could dance to Bohemian Rhapsody since it stars with 'Mama,' but then I realized the next words are 'Just killed a man.' So that won't work."

I suppose the first step of this decision-making process should be to teach Penn what constitutes a good song for partner dancing, huh?

*The Way You Look Tonight, the Michael Buble version. Oddly enough, that was the first song that popped into my head when I was thinking about dancing with my dad at the wedding (we used to dance to it sometimes when I was little). I figured we'd do the Frank Sinatra standard, but I hadn't run the idea by him yet. Then couple of months ago he text messaged me out of the blue and said he thought the Michael Buble song would be perfect, and so that's that!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just the Latest

I taught my first fall semester class yesterday. I'm teaching 23 students and the prof who teaches the other section of the exact same course only has 6. I'm trying not to be too bitter about that, but seriously, someone should have capped the classes differently if they knew that only 30 students needed to take the course (and someone DID know that, because it's a class for new majors and they know how many majors are in our department). If 25 students are allowed into each class, of course they're going to fill up the one at noon instead of the one at nine in the morning. Having said that, I think it's all going to work out okay. I carpool with the person who teaches the morning class so that will give me three hours in my office each morning to do whatever prep needs to be done for the day, and I'm determined to do any grading on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons. I don't mind if two entire days each week get eaten up by teaching provided that the other 3 work days can be devoted to dissertation work. I really do enjoy teaching and am glad to be back in the classroom this year after two years of office/research assistant work. Some of the students looked like deer in the headlights when I passed out the syllabus, but I tried to make it clear to them that it contains all of their assignments, in detail, for the entire semester, so it looks more intense than it actually is. I hope this semester goes well and I have good kids. I really don't have time for student drama this semester on top of everything else I'm trying to finish.

I had another wedding dream last night. In the dream we were at the hotel post-wedding ceremony and were getting ready to do our "grand entrance" into the ballroom. The wedding coordinator had already sent the bridal party into the room when I noticed Penn was missing. I was asking everyone, "Where's my husband?" and at first no one could find him. Everyone was like, "He's probably in the bathroom," and I was like, "Typical. He always picks the least convenient time to do that." I peeked into the ballroom and saw everyone standing up waiting expectantly for us. The DJ was killing time by playing that "How Bizarre" song that was popular when I was in high school, and I was like, "Oh god, this is humiliating." Finally Penn strolled back into the corridor where I was waiting, but he wasn't wearing his tux anymore. Instead he was wearing his tuxedo pants with this brown and blue striped polo shirt that he wears at least once a week (unless I hide it in the bottom of the drawer). The shirt was all wrinkled; he basically looked as schlumpy as Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. I was like, "What in the world?! Why did you change clothes?" and he said, "Why does it matter? The wedding is over." I said, "No it's not! We still have to do our first dance and do the toasts and cut the cake. And while that happens I'm going to be wearing this sparkling wedding dress and you're going to be wearing THAT?!" He was like, "I don't see why it matters," and I was like, "Think of the pictures! They'll look ridiculous!" and he said, "Fine, I'll change back into the tux," and I said, "No, it's too late, everyone is waiting for us in there," and he was like, "No, I'm putting the tie back on," and I was like, "Never mind, we have to go in there like this. I can't believe you did that!" Then I woke up, thankfully, because the dream was really stressing me out. I told Penn about it as he was getting dressed for work and he admitted that he can actually see himself doing exactly that. It really was very in character. I'm pretty sure he won't actually be removing his tux entirely to change into a comfy shirt, but I'm willing to bet that the tie and jacket stay on only through our first dance. And that's okay.
Speaking of which, Nicole and I are making the men go to a dance lesson with us in a couple of weeks. She and her fiance are getting married next month so this is our last chance to follow through on the threat we've been making for months to force them to go to the free dance lesson we got a coupon for at the bridal show. I was going to just tell Penn our outing was a surprise, but that would actually be a terrible surprise for him and I don't want to be mean. Instead, we've promised the guys that we can go for wings and beer first. It won't placate them entirely, but it's a decent compromise.
Also, I'm going to the store today to start putting things on our wedding registry. Penn registered for some tools (maybe not the norm, but I think the point of the registry is to request items for your home and tools will definitely help us with the home upkeep). He told me, however, that he does not care at all whatsoever about dishes, towels, bedding, or kitchen gear. He also said he trusts me and I have good taste, so I can just go and pick out whatever I want. I was told "no pastels" and "no flowers unless they're in manly colors," and other than that I can have my pick. I realize we won't get everything off our registry--or even half of it--but I'm looking forward to picking out some things in a "This is stuff I'd like to have someday" sort of way. It will at least give me some idea of the general direction in which I'm going with kitchen/bathroom/bedroom.
In short, despite the anxiety dreams there are some very fun parts to wedding planning. I wish there was a fun part to dissertation writing. I'd be making much faster progress if that were the case.
The dog is begging to go out, so I guess I'm going for a walk in the 90 degree heat. Fall can't get here fast enough.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Turning Over a New Leaf

I'm afraid 2010 is going to prove to be the year I failed utterly and completely at blogging. I'm not going to ditch the blog entirely because I do feel inspired to write posts once in a while (much, much more often than I actually get around to writing them, nowadays), but I do feel a bit sheepish because the last time I wrote anything was at the beginning of the month and it's now less than a week until September.
The past week has been rough going. For some reason I am not dealing well with the transition from summer to back-to-school this year. Everything was annoying me. Here's the short list of people I temporarily wanted to throttle last week:
1. The other members of the editorial team for the website I kindly help to edit for a professional organization. Please don't launch the website unless you're relatively positive you really have gotten all of the kinks out, especially when one of the kinks is all of the e-mail sent to any contact on the site--ALL OF IT--coming to my inbox instead. Also, if you have told me that the deadline for finishing a particular project is "Immediately once the website is launched," then I would like some warning about when it's actually going to launch, as opposed to just receiving the same e-mail that the rest of the 2,000 members in the organization received the day it went live. That took some scrambling.
2. Students registering for my fall class. There are two sections of the exact same class. I'm so glad that 20 of you decided to register for my section, leaving my colleague with only 5 students. And I'm sorry, but if my class fills up before the first day of school you are out of luck. Why in the world would I let you oversubscribe my course and become my 26th student when the exact same course is being held a mere three hours earlier and only has 5 students in it?
3. My friend's 4-year-old. Aw hell no, child, you do not throw a food wrapper on the floor and respond to my polite request to put it in the trashcan with, "YOU do it." Count your blessings that I am only the baby-sitter so all I could do was give you my meanest look and my sternest, "No, YOU opened it so YOU do it."

Other things were annoying me, too, but I've actually been in a good mood for the past couple of days and rehashing the list will just remind me of why I was so annoyed in the first place last week. I think I'd rather just let it all go and move on. I was so obnoxious last week. I cried out of frustration two nights in a row recently, both times over absurd things. The one night I was sobbing on Penn's shoulder because I was worried about how having a baby might make us the kind of dreary, hopeless, dragging-through-life-with-just-the-bare-necessities-never-trying-new-things-or-having-fun kind of people I never want to be, and suddenly in the back of my mind I was like, "Wow, this is a really irrational thing to be worrying about. Crap, what if this is a hormone thing and I'm already pregnant?!?!" Luckily that fear was averted the next day (but, um, yes, I guess it was a hormone thing!). Anyway, I think the brief bout with moodiness has passed.

Now I just need to convince myself that I'm excited about the school year starting. For the most part, that's true. I'm excited to teach my fall class (hooray for teaching my own course two terms in a row!), I'm excited about having time to devote to my dissertation instead of to summer projects, I'm excited about all the fall activities coming up and the fact that every week brings me closer to the wedding and a three-week honeymoon.

I also need to convince myself that, even though I'm not as on-track with my dissertation as I hoped to be at this point, I have done a lot of other important, career-building things. I think part of my grumpiness lately comes from the fact that it has been almost a year since I took my comprehensive exams and I feel like I haven't advanced at all since that time. That's not true at all, though. In the past year I went to London to do research for my department and helped to lay the foundation for a study abroad program, I completed a bunch of the requirements toward a university teacher certification that's going to look awesome on the resume, I wrote a book review that is being published next month (!), I wrote and defended my dissertation prospectus, I directed a show, I created and taught a summer course, I was invited to present a paper at an upcoming conference, I became the assistant editor of two publications and a website. That's not bad for a year's work, and that's not including the fact that I've been planning a wedding and holding down my part-time tutoring job in addition to my university job.
I need to stop comparing myself to other academics. I need to start giving myself more credit for the things I have accomplished so far. I need to give myself permission to work at a reasonable pace and give myself credit for each step I take in the right direction, knowing that I will finish this degree eventually. And I need to remind myself that the goals I initially thought I had when I started this degree have changed. It's not just me in the picture anymore. I'm not discounting the importance of finishing the program, but I'm factoring different priorities now, too. But that's a whole 'nother post.

P.S.-In all the frustration of last week I did have one really big highlight: my wedding dress was delivered to the bridal shop and I had my first fitting! I hadn't seen the dress in the shade I ordered (I tried it on in true white and ordered it in "pearl"), so it was so exciting getting to see and try on my actual dress. I love it! And it doesn't even need alterations, just hemming and a bustle. While I was there I also bought my veil. It was the second one I put on and the instant I did I was like, "Yes, that's it! That's exactly how I want to look." I get to go for another fitting in two months and I already can't wait for that, much less wait for the day I get to put it on and walk down the aisle.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Over the weekend I went to Montana for Jen's wedding. (You know, Jen, the one I was hiking with last year when her boyfriend proposed.) Anyway, Jen's boyfriend is now her husband, and I'm so happy for both of them.
Jen's was the first wedding I had been to since Penn and I got engaged in November, and it felt different than any other wedding I'd ever been to because the whole time I was there I kept thinking, "Eeeee! That's going to be me in five months!" When I met up with Jen when I got to Missoula on Wednesday the very first thing she said when I got into the car was, "DON'T DO IT. DON'T HAVE A WEDDING. EVERYONE IS DRIVING ME INSANE." The poor girl. We went to have lunch at a local river park where food vendors set up stands and then we hit some of the local boutiques and then went to a bar to have a beer, and during the four hours we were together her phone rang approximately every seven minutes. People were calling to ask about the plans for the bachelorette party that night and texting to say they had arrived at the airport and calling to get phone numbers for other people coming to town and calling to ask whether or not it was time to start working on salads for the rehearsal dinner yet or if it should wait for later and on and on and on. Frankly, after watching her text and talk on the phone all afternoon I was going insane, too. I forced her to turn it off for forty minutes while we had our beer just so she could get a break.
Anyway, lesson learned: delegate! After watching everyone drive Jen crazy with questions I decided I'm doing one of two things:
1. Give a couple of friends every single detail I can possibly think of and let them be the contact people for the two days before the wedding. At the very least they can serve as call screeners, answering the questions they can and only directing people to me or Penn when needed.
2. Go all Bridezilla-style and give all of the guests a printed itinerary for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with every detail I can think of, which should hopefully cut down on some of the "What am I supposed to wear tonight?" type of questions that Jen kept having to field.
I realize I'm going to get bombarded with questions and calls no matter what. I also realize that in one weekend there is no way I'm going to be able to spend true quality time with all of our guests (or any of them, probably). Still, I'd like to be able to have conversations with the people I'm actually with at the moment without having to answer my phone every three minutes.

When I wasn't picking up useful wedding tips [any song that was played at house parties when we were in college 5-10 years ago still makes everyone crowd the dance floor; tell the DJ exactly who is supposed to give toasts and don't let him just randomly pass the mic around] I was just enjoying myself. I went out to Montana by myself since Penn is saving up vacation days for our honeymoon and couldn't take three days off work. Before I left Penn asked me if I was worried about going to a wedding by myself where I wouldn't know anyone except the bride and groom but I said, "Nah, I'll be fine. I can be outgoing when I need to be!" It turned out that I was right and I had nothing to worry about at all. All of Jen's girlfriends from Montana was great: laid back, friendly, chatty, funny. They took me into the circle right away and by the second day of my trip I felt like I'd known them forever. I ended up sharing my hotel room for a couple of nights with one of Jen's work friends who had flown in from California, and she and I hit it off right away, too. I had planned to stay at the hotel by myself all four nights, but Jen's house was so busy that her friend felt like she was imposing by staying there, so I offered my second bed to her. It ended up being nice having company for two nights (and having someone to share the hotel bill with didn't hurt!).
In addition to the wedding itself--which was a blast, I danced all night long--I went to Jen's bachelorette party, I jogged along the Clark Fork river trails, I hiked the "M" (the peak near the University of Montana and I hiked it twice in a row because I'm a beast!), I took advantage of the fact that there's no sales tax in Montana and I hit some of the cute boutiques and bought a couple of dresses and a pair of sunglasses, and I went river rafting with Jen and her husband and a bunch of friends who had been at the wedding. Missoula is beautiful. It reminded me of Idaho (which I visited as a kid) and it made me miss my family's house in the Rockies.
Overall it was a relaxing, enjoyable weekend. It's too bad that Penn had to miss out on it because I think he would have had a great time, too. Still, it's nice to know I can hack it on my own and have a really good time meeting new people, even without the "other half" I'm growing accustomed to having around most of the time.