Saturday, June 18, 2011

Inaugural $h*t my Mother-in-Law Says Post

Penn's mother is an interesting character. She has had a rather topsy-turvy life and, as a result, she has developed some very strong opinions. Strong and, um, unusual opinions. Opinions that she likes to pass along to Penn and now to me, oftentimes to our complete bafflement and bemusement. In other words, she is the queen of giving advice or providing examples that make Penn and I go, "Who says that!?!?" later on when we've hung up the phone or are on our way home in the car. I try to attribute positive intentions to her sometimes-bizarre reactions and advice. I think she was disappointed many, many times in life and doesn't want us to get our hopes up only to have them crushed. That's what I tell myself, anyway.

In addition to these well-intentioned but (in our opinion) usually misguided pieces of advice, she also has a tendency to look on the dark side. She's the definition of a glass half-empty person. I can't think of a single time when we told her a good thing and she simply had a happy reaction. She ALWAYS has to look for the most negative possibility. Always. Remember the time I wrote about driving across a creek and my mom's reaction ("Oh, a river!") contrasted with Penn's mom's reaction ("All I see is mud.")? Yeah. She has a tendency to immediately assume the worst and then tell us about how bad it could be. Penn's mom is a textbook pessimist, to the point that it is comical.

I'm not writing this to bitch about my mother-in-law. In fact, you should know that I like her a lot, even though our personalities are very different. No, I'm writing this because some of the stuff she says is just too good NOT to document.
So today I'm beginning what I anticipate will be an ongoing series: $h*t my Mother-in-Law Says. Feel free to laugh along (or perhaps wonder whether such things are really appropriate things to say to your son and daughter-in-law; offended is not the correct attitude because we take it all with a grain of salt, but feel free to think, "Really?!" We do!).
P.S.-This game is going to make family gatherings so much fun!
P.P.S.-Many of these are conversations that took place between Penn and his mother, so I was not actually present at the time. She doesn't say all of these wacky things in front of me...yet.

Five minutes into my first conversation EVER with my mother-in-law-t0-be:
Penn's Mom: I've been married three times. The first time I was too young. The second time it was really good...until it wasn't. And the third time, well, we've been married twelve years and it has been hard the entire time. At this point I'm basically just hoping to outlive him."
Me: Oh. Well...okay.

Her reaction to the engagement:
Penn: I'm going to ask *A* to marry me!
Penn's Mom: Is she pregnant?
[I know she genuinely likes me and she seems quite happy about our marriage. Do you see what I mean about pessimistic?!]

Wedding planning:
"Everyone buys you gifts the first time. The second time most people don't bother to get you anything. The third time you get married, nobody even comes."

"Nobody is going to eat any of these things." [Initial reaction to the rehearsal dinner menu. Incidentally, people ate ALL of those things.]

"So what are you going to do with all of these books when nobody takes them home?" [We used books as table decorations/wedding favors. They were all taken home by our guests on the night of the wedding and I am happy to report that we received tons of compliments on the idea. Friends have since started a book club based on the books we gave to our wedding guests.]

Home Buying:
Penn: We close on the house tomorrow! I bought a bottle of champagne and we plan to go over to the house and drink it after closing.
Penn's Mom: Well, THAT's going to backfire!

Penn: It's *A*'s birthday tomorrow so after we sign the papers for the house I'm taking her out for a nice dinner.
Penn's Mom: So you're taking her to McDonald's, right?
Penn: No. Why would I do that?
Penn's Mom: Because you don't have any money. You're broke from buying a house.
[Uh, okay. If you say so.]

Penn: *A* put most of her savings into buying the house, too.
Penn's Mom: Wow, she must be really invested in this relationship! She's not just going to back out at the drop of a hat.
[You know, because GETTING MARRIED doesn't imply a certain level of investment!]

Miscellaneous life advice, orders, and conversations:
Me: I'm really glad everything is okay and Penn's healthy.
Penn's Mom: Yeah, you don't want to get tied to someone who is sick.
Me: No, it's not that. If he did get really sick that wouldn't change anything between us.
Penn's Mom: You say that now, but let me tell you, if he really was sick that would change everything and you might think you could make it work but you couldn't. You would be better off not getting stuck with that in the first place.

"Grandma isn't doing well. You need to take the time to come and see her before it's too late. Don't call me unless you're volunteering." [From an e-mail sent to the entire family]

Penn's Mom: She's such a backstabber. She walked in and sat next to me at the meeting as if she was my best friend. She was acting chatty like she's my best buddy. And then she wanted to eat lunch together.
Penn: You know, Mom, it is possible she actually likes you and isn't just pretending.
Penn's Mom: Oh god, I hope not!

Penn: We won a trip to Jamaica!
Penn's Mom: That's definitely a scam. It's going to be a time share thing.
Penn: No, it's not, there's no catch. We asked. It's really a free trip.
Penn's Mom: Well, you'll have to pay for something.
Penn: We don't. Everything is included.
Penn's Mom: You'll have to pay for your drinks at least.
Penn: No, we don't. It's all-inclusive.
Penn's Mom: They'll find some way to suck money out of you.
Penn: I told you, we looked into it. It's FREE.
Penn's Mom: No way. There is no way it can be free. They're going to charge you for at least one night.
Penn: Mom, it's a FREE. VACATION.
Penn's Mom: You'll think it's free until you get home, and then you'll get some kind of bill. There's no such thing as a free trip.
Penn: I won it at a travel expo. We did a bunch of research into it to make sure it's not a scam. We just got really lucky.
Penn's Mom: Well, I wouldn't trust that if I were you.
Penn: We trust it, we're going next month.
Penn's Mom: ...Well...even if it does end up being free, when you get there you're going to be bothered by people on the beach trying to sell you stuff!
Penn: Bye Mom.
[Ultimate result: We took a trip to Jamaica last year. It really was free. A year later Penn's Mom is still waiting for God to smite us dead because we've already used up all of our good fortune in life.]

Penn's Mom: I wouldn't go bungee jumping if I was you.
Penn: It will be fun. It's safe. They've had over a million people jump and no one has ever died.
Penn's Mom: That doesn't mean you couldn't be the first.
Penn: I'm not going to be the first person to die on the bungee jump in New Zealand.
Penn's Mom: But you could be.

Penn: *A* is going to have her rehearsals in our backyard.
Penn's Mom: Psh. That's going to run up your water bill, having all of those people hanging out at your house using your toilets all summer.
[This one kills me. Who even thinks about something like that?! Also, I don't know where Penn's mother got the idea that we are very poor and just scraping by, but for whatever reason she persists in believing this.]

Pregnancy [This category is going to get even more ridiculous somehow, I just know it]:
Penn's Mom: Is *A* pregnant yet?
Penn: No.
Penn's Mom: Well, what is taking so long?!
Penn: It hasn't been that long. Don't worry, I will tell you when she's pregnant. She's not pregnant.
Penn's Mom: She sure looked pregnant in your Outer Banks pictures.
Penn: What are you saying? That she looks fat?!
Penn's Mom: No, not that. She just has a look in her eyes. Women can recognize when another woman is pregnant. It's a certain gleam in her eyes. She has that look.
Penn: She's not pregnant yet.
Penn's Mom: Well, then I guess it's just the look of a woman who is being good and fucked.
[Oh. my. god. This one takes the cake so far for being SO INCREDIBLY INAPPROPRIATE. She's talking about her own son's sex life! What the?!?!?!?! Also, assuming I'd been trying to get pregnant since the honeymoon--which is NOT the case--I hardly think six months is "taking so long."]

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, June 3, 2011

And Juuuuuuuune

Life goes on, keeping up a hectic but manageable pace. Everything has felt more pleasant lately. The stuff with Penn's sister is still a mess but, to use a weak analogy, it's no longer like a storm overhead but rather a thundercloud on the horizon. At least, that's the case for me. I think it's healthier that way. I needed some distance, I needed to get back to my normal life and stop obsessing about the life of someone whom I can't control or help. For Penn it seems to come and go in waves, but he also seems to have found some healthy distance, too, so that's good.

I got some fantastic news last week. This past semester was supposed to be my last of funding. I can't even begin to fathom how quickly the time has flown by recently, but somehow I have already been at University Land for four years and so my funding is officially up. Earlier this semester, one of my fellow PhD candidates and I co-wrote a letter asking for an additional semester of funding because A) there is a precedent for providing an additional year of funding when needed and B) that additional year of funding is pretty much ALWAYS needed, which is why as of last year they now automatically give incoming students a five-year contract instead of a four-year one. Turns out, not surprisingly, that it's pretty close to impossible to write and defend a dissertation in just one year. Anyway, while there is a precedent for giving additional funding, they certainly don't provide it to everyone, but I really did feel like I was deserving because I aced my coursework and met all of my other benchmarks on time and I really think with one more semester of funding I can finish the dissertation. So we wrote the letter and hoped for the best and, amazingly enough, we pretty much got it! We've been promised assistantships for the fall semester (I'll be teaching a course and editing an academic journal, as I did this past year), and--get this--fellowships for the spring semester! Next spring I'm going to be paid to stay home and finish up my dissertation! I am beyond thrilled about that! There's always the chance that everything could fall through when the official budget is handed down at the beginning of the fiscal year in July, but for now everything is looking really, really good financially. Sigh of relief! (For the record, Penn and I have been saving money for months and we were prepared for me to not have a job in the fall, much less in the spring. We were going to get by on his salary, savings, and my tutoring and freelance work until his promotion and raise in the spring. It would have been tight, but doable. Now, though, it appears that we won't have to pinch our pennies nearly as much. Hooray!)
I now feel extremely compelled to finish my dissertation for graduation in May of next year. I can't let my department down when they have given me this generous additional offer. I plug away at the dissertation every week. I'm about 1/3rd of the way to my goal of having two chapters finished by sometime in July. I figure if I can finish two chapters by July I'll be well on my way to having the whole thing basically done by December. That's my goal right now: finish the bulk of the writing by December, defend as early as possible in the spring semester. I really, really hope my plan works out. I'm worried because my summer is about to ramp up as I begin two major projects, one of which will take me to Scotland for ten days in August. Still, I'm finally feeling inspired about my project again and eager to just be finished with this degree already.

Let's see, other news..."Lurch", the new dog, is still wonderful. I can't believe I waited so long to have two dogs. They are great companions to one another and I love watching them galump around together.
I had a nice Memorial Day weekend. Penn and I took a day trip with another couple to visit some local caverns (breathtaking!) and then hike in a national park. The scenery on the hike was beautiful, but the hike nearly ended up a debacle. Our friend who planned it had sold us on "an easy three to five mile hike." So that's what I prepared for. I was in sneakers rather than hiking boots--not that I own hiking boots, mind you, but I would have purchased some if I had been warned we were doing serious hiking--I ate a PB&J before we set off but brought along only one apple and one protein bar (Penn only had beef jerky), and Penn and I each had only one water bottle. First of all, we looked more closely at the map before we set out and realized that the "three to five mile hike" was going to be more like a "seven to nine mile hike." We decided to set out anyway, though, figuring if we kept up a reasonable pace we could walk that distance by nightfall, even though it was already 2:00 in the afternoon. Ten minutes into our hike we got caught in a sudden downpour. We considered walking back to the car at that point and waiting it out, but we figured (correctly, thankfully) that it would be a passing shower and that the day would probably be clear afterward. That was really the last luck we had. Forty-five minutes later we made it to the first of several waterfalls and as we were admiring it Penn realized that one of our water bottles had leaked all over our backpack and was now empty. So we were down to just one water bottle between us with more than half of the hike left to go. Then everything just took so much longer than we anticipated. The path was very rocky so the going was slow on the downhill, and then the path back to our car was uphill and it was never-ending. Seriously, the last three miles of that hike were the definition of demoralizing. We were just climbing up and up and up this switchback path. All of us were basically just trudging along at that point, puffing and panting and trying not to pay attention to various aches and pains in our bodies. I know the only reason I kept dragging myself along was because I was with three other people and didn't want to seem like the out-of-shape loser. Of course, it turns out everyone else was doing the exact same thing, but peer pressure had a positive effect. We just kept walking and walking, driven by the fact that we really, really wanted to make it back to our car before it got dark and bears* came out. I was having visions of us being in the forest after nightfall, trying to get out by just the light of my cell phone (which I had accidentally left in our backpack for the hike). We eventually did make it out and back to our car, but not before I said to Penn, "When did this hike turn into a death march?!" As it turns out, none of us are out of shape losers. As we drove home that night I looked up our hike on my phone and it was described as a "strenuous downhill climb," only we walked UP that "strenuous downhill," which I think gives me the right to officially describe our hike as "really fucking strenuous." I do feel really accomplished for having made it through!
We also celebrated Memorial Day by going to a baseball game with another couple. It was a million degrees outside. I think I ended up spending $16 on bottled waters to get through the game.
Huh, I realize that neither the hike nor the baseball game actually sound all that pleasant in writing. But it was a fun weekend, I swear!

Sunday we're heading to the Outer Banks to spend a week vacationing with my family. Penn and I rented the house for everyone as a thank you to my parents for paying for our wedding reception. Hopefully it will be a fun trip. I'm so excited to see everyone!

*We saw a bear on the drive home! Two bears, actually, a mama and her cub, sitting right in the middle of the road! Our friend who was driving had to swerve to keep from hitting them and came within about two feet of doing just that. I had never seen a bear in the wild before, much less one that big. It was amazing. I'm just so glad we saw them from our car and not while we were out in the open on our hike.