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.