I hope the apple falls a few miles from the tree.

I know that opinions are like assholes in that everybody’s got one, but after close to four years of experience, I feel fairly confident in saying that my mother-in-law has more than her fair share. This woman doesn’t just have opinions, she has Opinions, and she shares them frequently. And persistently.

Don’t get me wrong – I do like her very much. After all, she did give me a plate of cookies and a plastic, helmet-clad goldfish bobblehead toy today, both of which I desperately needed. The problem lies in the fact that she also gave me her opinions on (A) my lack of cooking skills, and (B) her desire for me to produce two grandchildren for her. Soon.

Now I know that I am no Barefoot Contessa, but I do at least know how to cook. I made tortilla soup just the other day (from scratch – it’s not like I’m bragging that I successfully maneuvered the can opener) and I’ve also been known to bake cakes, make pasta dishes, and create breakfast casseroles. I’ve just discovered that when I cook, it takes a lot of time, a lot of ingredients, and a lot of pots and pans. My dream is to create dishes that shout Food Network! while also using a maximum of one pan and costing under $10, which is virtually impossible. I remedy this quandary by either letting my husband do the cooking or eating out, with an emphasis on the latter. If I have $25 to spend on food, why on earth would I use it to buy ingredients that will take hours to assemble into a moderately palatable conglomeration, when I could just let my favorite Vietnamese/Japanese/Thai establishment feed me with little effort on my part?

My mother-in-law does not share this philosophy. Every time I am at her house, she bluntly suggests that I learn how to cook. I compliment her on the cookies she baked; she tells me that she’ll give me the recipe and that they are “so easy to make!” and that “cooking is a learning experience!” I mention that her Thanksgiving dinner was superb; she tells me that I had better start practicing so that I can soon host the family dinner. I don’t even like turkey; why the hell would I devote an entire day to the preparation of a damned bird? You want turkey, woman, then YOU make turkey. I suspect that her image of her youngest son’s family did not include him in the kitchen in a frilly apron while his wife polishes her gun and buys expensive things online. But that’s how the proverbial cookie crumbled, and I don’t see a problem.

The other thing I heard about not once, not twice, but three times at dinner tonight was her opinion that I should have at two grandchildren in the not too far distant future. First of all, I only want one child. Second, I have absolutely no intention of producing this offspring anytime in the next, oh, let’s say, ten years. Why would she ever think I would want children soon? Has she met me? I am a narcissistic, obsessively neat, career-driven teenager with a penchant for impulsive behavior and extravagant purchases. Exactly which part of me screams “I must give birth!”?

It’s not so much even the subject of the opinions that irks me. Were these opinions delivered quickly and succinctly, I would be fine. However, my mother-in-law practices the Chinese water torture method of giving advice: she continually brings the subject up over and over and over again, until I am ready to cry, cook, reproduce – anything to stop the talking.

In her defense, she makes a great broccoli cheese casserole, and her son is pretty decent.

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If the Washington Post prints it, it must be true.

Today’s Horoscope

By Holiday Mathis

Saturday, December 31, 2005; Page C12

SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). Major pampering is in your future. First, rid yourself of the nagging attitude that you don’t deserve to be treated well. Spoiling yourself (in a good way) doesn’t make you spoiled (in a bad way). That’s just ridiculous!

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I’ve decided to go shopping now, before I go broke.

I got paid today. This has happened like clockwork every 15th and 30th for the past year: the state neatly deposits a tidy sum into my bank account, I pay my bills, spend the leftovers, and count down the seconds until the next payday. This system has worked relatively well. That is, up until now. Upon seeing my paycheck’s appearance in my checking account this morning, I began to pay my bills online, moving from the ones with set amounts (cell phone, internet) to the ones with only minimum payments required (the monetary quagmire that is my credit card). I was deciding how little I could live off of until the next paycheck, when I had a stunning realization. There won’t actually be another paycheck. When you stop working for the state, they stop giving you money.

This was disturbing.

So naturally, I headed to the mall. Actually, I visited two malls – both Dulles Town Center and Fair Oaks. Truth be told, I didn’t actually buy anything; lest you think this was due to a burgeoning sense of financial conservatism, let me reassure you – I just could not find the tweed coat I was seeking or the suede heels I was pining over. I have plans to hit Tysons with my mother tomorrow.

On the bright side, if (when) my luck runs out, at least the dog by my side when I am begging on the street corner will be wearing a Coach dog collar. And I know that no matter what, I always had my priorities straight.

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You’re lucky I love you, because you’re annoying as hell.

Because I needed to be in bed extra early last night, I decided to begin installing a shelf in the bathroom at 11:00pm. I had purchased a fancy little glass shelf at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (who saw a $3M increase in revenue in 2005 as a result of my wedding registry), and decided that I simply could not go another moment without installing it in the bathroom, where it is to serve absolutely no purpose other than to hold decorative candles. So I got out my tool kit, charged my power drill (Christmas gift from Dad in 2003), and installed my shelf.

When the shelf was successfully hung, I then began the process of cleaning up the drywall dust that resulted from the holes I had drilled. It seemed logical to use the vacuum cleaner, so I retrieved it from the hall closet, much to Kobe’s dismay.

[A bit of history: Kobe abhors the vacuum, and goes on the attack the minute it comes out of the closet, alternating between shrieking loudly while hiding from it, and barking aggressively and biting at it. For some reason, he has the impression that the vacuum cleaner is after his toys, and so to keep his belongings safe, he will charge the area being vacuumed and snatch any toys/bedding of his to pile them elsewhere in the apartment. This would be adorable, except for the fact that he is also screaming like a parrot being smashed in a waffle iron while biting at the backs of my legs.]

So I dragged the vacuum into the bathroom and quickly eliminated all traces of drywall, as Kobe tried desperately to gnaw through the vacuum tube. Somehow, he pulled on the vacuum and caused it to start sucking up the bathroom rug. A horrible sound ensued, and the vacuum quickly vomited out everything it had just consumed and then some, resulting in a thick shower of dust and dog hair all over the entire floor.

If the dog wasn’t so damn cute, I’d have thrown him off the balcony years ago.

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As I am marinating in bed, Caitlin calls me to discuss my recent liberation from gainful employment. We move on to discussing New Year’s plans (mine=none) and she invites me down to her beach house in South Carolina. She tells me that there are places to swim, hot tub, ride horses, etc. and it’s all sounding quite dandy, and then she throws in that we could also go coon hunting.

Coon hunting.

Now let’s examine Caitlin. She is sophisticated, intelligent, well-groomed, obsessed with oral hygiene, and generally a very cultured person. I am trying to picture her traipsing through the forest in a scene straight out of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” but it’s just not working. Perhaps it’s the denim overalls or the unwieldy axe that are causing the difficulty.

So I tell her I’ll think about it and get back to her, and I wish her a nice day at work. She ends the conversation with, “Have a nice day munching candy in bed.”

When you put it that way, somehow it just sounds wrong. I think I’ll get up now.

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