Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting

I'm quite literally waiting on a phone call about kittens. Perhaps the foster mom for my hopefully-future-kitties-to-be is on vacation.

You know when things feel stagnant? And not stagnant like nothing is happening, but the kind where things are on the verge of happening and the potential for awesomeness is lingering in the air and you have nothing to do but wait for an undisclosed amount of time to see what happens? Yeah.

Kittens are one thing. The apartment downstairs is another. Our landlady is interested in having a property manager, and we're interested in paying less rent. So we've been going back and forth and our current offer of $75 less rent per month in exchange for property management is on the table. Basically, the Dude would fix small stuff for free and only charge our landlady for materials. He'd handle the garbage, shovelling, cleaning of common areas, and handle complaints from the other tenants. He'd oversee major repair issues and generally be available when needed.

Seeing as our landlady is good about paying for things, but does not enjoy coming out to the property and asks the Dude to handle these things and winds up paying him for his labour costs, this would be a deal for her. But we'll see what sort of conclusion she comes to.

And this is how I'm spending my Christmas vacation. When I was a kid or a teenager, I'd spend it hanging out with friends, watching new movies, playing with new toys or gadgets and/or glued to video games. Now I'm trying to plan a move. And of course, I'm trying to get kitties. The irritations and privileges of adult life rolled into one holiday vacation time.

I haven't been to any Boxing Day sales (Or should I say Boxing Week). That was a standby when I was a teenager. Generally speaking, I don't enjoy shopping as much as I used to, at least not in malls. The crowds fill me with dread. I can't help but remember when I was working in fast food when I was younger and had to work the week after Christmas. It's enough to give you a twisted knot in your stomach just thinking about going into a melee like that voluntarily.

Before I go, I have a picture of my ring, a better picture than the blurry Photobooth one I posted a couple months ago when I first got engaged. One of my aunts wanted a photo of it because she wouldn't see me this Christmas, and so the Dude took a good one. This ring has a story to it, which I'll tell soon.

'Tis a handy thing, having a photographer in the house.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time out

I'm home, and glad of it. Not that I don't enjoy visiting relatives, because I do, but damn if there's just no place like your own digs. We came home to a bit of a mess, but it was still a comforting sight. And sure, the neighbours had cranked up the heat to 25 C, and we felt the familiar chill as we entered our own uninsulated portion of the house to an uninspiring 15 C, but home is home.

We've been negotiating rent and responsibilities with the landlord over the holidays, so that might result in a happier living space. But even though we're still stuck in this frosty abode for awhile yet, there's nothing like having your home base back. And now that we are back 'n cozy, it's time for kittens. I haven't been able to shut up about kittens. I just don't feel 100% without feline companionship. I've set things in motion to begin an adoption, so hopefully within a couple weeks, I should have kitties, kitties, kitties. Well, two kitties.

I could talk about the actual visit back to ye olde hometown, but it was largely uneventful. The holidays are so often a whirlwind of activity and scheduling. Though I enjoyed all the visits, it would be hard to recount them without making it sound like a laundry list. I answered a lot of questions about my wedding. Mostly they were, "Where is it?" "When is it?" and, "Is there a nearby hotel?" I had answers for all three handy.

I actually fell asleep most of yesterday at the Dude's dad's place. I had an allergy pill (or two) that knocked me out, but I think I really required a mental break. Extended socialization drains me of energy.

In fact, I have written all I can, and I've been staring at the screen unable to write much of substance for some time. Off to unwind and shut off all communication.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

And so it begins, the great odyssey to our hometown to see three different family units, plus other shorter visits. Thankfully we'll have access to a car. I love being in a car with the Dude. He's a good driver, and relaxed. We're so rarely in a car together that it's actually kind of a novelty.

But for any of it to begin, we have to take the bus, which is of course the least humane way to travel during the holiday season. Or any season, but mostly Christmas eve because everyone is loaded with holiday paraphernalia, is anxious because they're worried about getting a seat, and uncomfortable because they've been in line in the cold forever. Plus, while many love this time of year, it also can bring out the worst in people.

So yeah, not totally jazzing on taking the bus. But we're leaving in five minutes, Christmas will be here any second pretty much, and so one must suck it up and make the trek. After all, we have three consecutive turkey dinners to attend. Something tells me I'll get plenty of sleep.

Merry Christmas, readership!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oil, Energy and Collapse

I tried to fall asleep last night by watching a documentary. I like documentaries, but if I'm not wide awake for them, I can sometimes fall asleep. Processing information while lying down in cozy bed can make for sleepiness. So the Dude and I threw on Collapse. He fell asleep. Lord knows how, because I found the information too riveting and horrible to fall asleep for many hours.

Okay, so this guy named Michael Ruppert is this former cop with a glowing record, who blew the whistle on the CIA selling cocaine back in the late '70s. He resigned and became an investigative journalist. The documentary is about him and his life and what he knows, but mostly about what he knows and how it's pretty much ruined his health and life.

So here's a rundown that should scare the crap out of anyone who's reasonable: We run entirely on fossil fuels (no surprise there) and we hit peak oil already, some time ago. So that means more than half of it is gone (Saudi Arabia has resorted to offshore drilling. That being the hardest, most expensive route to drilling oil, and since the country won't release how much they have in their reserves, it's safe to assume their main wells are dry). The world's population has spiked and consumption has increased. That means that the demand is now and will forever be higher than the supply... until it runs out. Which is going to be in my generation's lifetime.

There is no replacement energy source. Everything to generate every other energy source requires oil, to either build, produce or maintain. So if there is no oil to use for energy and there is no energy to build, produce or maintain other energy, then what? No, seriously, then what?

Also consider that all fields in industrial farms are ploughed with oil-consuming vehicles, are fertilized with oil byproduct chemicals (because by only growing the same crops each year-- corn-- you drain the soil of its nutrients, and chemicals are the easiest way to keep the soil fertile), and most are for corn fields to produce ethanol, and that it takes more oil energy to make ethanol than how much ethanol it actually produces... yeah.

So where does our food come from when the oil runs out? Think about that.

Also, no more plastics. No more maintenance for modern day technology that we rely on, like cell phone towers. No more oil to make materials required for more computers, cars of any kind, phones. No more oil products to build, say, nuclear power plants as a source of alternative energy.

All money used to be based on gold. How much gold was there? Well, money represented the amount of gold there was. Then money started to represent other resources, like oil. Well, as the world's supply gets used up, money stops being worth as much, doesn't it? Because it won't represent anything anymore. Money is just paper without something tangible to back it up and make it worth something. And one could get into how interest and banking further dilutes the worth of money, but let me get to my point.

The world is going to change. It doesn't look anything like it did 30 years ago, and it's going to look completely different 30 years from now in the opposite direction. We've been on an upward incline for decades, and now that the money-maker is drying up, we've begun our downward decline, and with a huge population that still needs to eat. Remember what I said about food?

Michael Ruppert predicted the 2008 crash, and has been speaking and trying to warn the government for years. No one's listened because there was still money to be made for men who will be dead by the time we run out of the black stuff.

We need a renewable energy source, and we need it yesterday. We need clean materials to build and create what we've grown to depend on. We need them soon. To be honest, I can see why this man has dedicated his life to this cause, to the detriment of his health.

Take a moment and consider what you'll do (note, not what you would do, but what you will do, because it's imminent in our future) without oil. Consider that it's responsible for your computer, cell phone, electricity, clothes, and most of what's in the grocery store. If that doesn't instill a sense of fear in your heart, I want to know what you're taking so I can have some too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas shopping

Okay, so Christmas is pretty much happening any second and I'm sort of in denial about it. No, not really, but I only have to buy one gift. One gift! And I'm not going out to do it.

I bought my aunt a Christmas ornament. We mail each other presents each year. I was going to go out and get her a Swarovski ornament for her tree, but then realized that (a) there's an online store and (b) they would ship it to her with greater speed and less muss and fuss, without me having to stand in line at the post office during the holiday season.

The Dude and I are getting each other kittens (yay!) in the new year for Christmas. It's going to be a somewhat pricey endeavour, hence the allocation of Christmas monies for the cause.

I made bracelets for the Dude's mom and stepmom. And we did a corny Christmas photo shoot for framing as a secondary gift-type thing.

My brother is all that's left. He wants toiletries or other such practical things. Easy enough. But I keep avoiding the task. It's the only gift that involved me doing anything outside the house. I keep thinking how cold and unpleasant it is out there and then I put it off. What the hell is that about? I mean, other than the obvious fact that working from home has made me grown soft.

I'm beginning to see why people who work from home get dressed. I never do, and I think it's the snuggly pyjama feeling that keeps me indoors so much, now combined with an aversion to the cold and slush. Getting dressed means you're serious about doing something with your day. Staying in PJs means fuck it.

In past years when I had more to buy, I'd go out and get everything done in one shot after careful planning about what I'd buy and where. I'd come home with a sense of accomplishment. Thanks to reduced Christmas shopping needs and the internet, that's just not happening this year.

I have a few days left to make it happen. I'll get it done. I have to, otherwise I'm a bad sister.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A step up by going down

I have a problem with moving. And by that I mean I move constantly. I've mentioned this before, probably when I moved the last time, in 2009, to this place. I keep finding a reason to pack 'er up and hit the dusty trail. Usually it's neighbour related, combined with some other issue.

For example, in the Village, they raised my rent, and I had a showdown with a neighbour in the laundry room. Guy was commandeering all four washes and four dryers for himself, and was planning on four more loads. Wouldn't let me use one. That's not why I moved, really, but it was awkward running into him on the elevator. More so because I lived on the second floor and had no business taking the elevator.

In Parkdale my neighbours were trash. C-word screaming, delinquent teenage daughter raising, smoking in the halls trash. And I just started working at home and didn't have enough space.

In Christie Pitts, The neighbour downstairs smoked in the house, and we shared air vents. So we were smelling it whenever we were home. The Dude, trying to quit the cancer sticks, was being driven out of his mind. Plus it was too cold, and then too hot, and too expensive.

Where we are now, there's the opera singer. It's also got temperature issues and the ladies downstairs act like they own the whole building, and yet neglect the duties that come with it, such as taking out the garbage.

What's all this got to do with anything? Well, they've moving out in the spring, presumably back to Australia, as they're selling off all their belongings. We've been offered dibs on their place. Why both move downstairs? Well, there's a few large bonuses.

1. The temperature is normal downstairs. When it says 21 C, it's really 21 degrees. Upstairs it's 17, but down there it's all gravy.

2. They have a yard. We have a deck that is too small for more than three people, but they have a real, honest-to-God yard. A yard in Toronto is like the promised land. We could plant vegetables and have people out for a barbeque. You can tell it jazzes me because I made two religious allusions and I'm sort of a heathen.

3. Two bedrooms. There's a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and living room on the ground floor, and in the basement there's another living space and a bedroom. I could finally have a proper office. We'd have more space for our at-home work.

4. There's a door going to the laundry room. No more going outside in January in -14 weather. Actually, I beg the Dude to do that for me, but I wouldn't have to anymore.

5. A real kitchen. We're making do in a box of a half-assed attempt at a kitchen, where the room gets so cold the butter may as well be in the fridge, and there's no space to contain non-perishables or small appliances. There's storage, and space and counters downstairs. We could live like real people.

6. The bedroom is bigger. Things are a little squeezed in this place. It'd be nice to have more room, as the Dude's stuff is kind of everywhere 'cause it's got nowhere else to go.

And the cost? $200 more a month, $100 more a piece. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Yes and no. By the time we move in and till the wedding, we'll have paid $1,400 more in rent. It's not like we can't use that right now. Also, we'd pay 20% more in utilities, which will be an extra $50 every two months. Again, not helpful when you're trying to save.

Ah, life. I'm a "bargain shopper" as it were. I don't buy into extravagance. Even when I spoil myself, I look for deals and scale back. I'm the same with my home life. I've never splurged on an apartment. This is barely a splurge either, this downstairs place, it's just better.

And the move would be ridiculous. Just call a buddy or two and move things downstairs at our leisure. Done. No truck, no loads of boxes, no deadlines, no driving around the city or worrying about stuff breaking.

This probably isn't the time to be frugal. This could be a chance at a life-changing upgrade.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas cards

I'm doing Christmas cards. In years past it was so easy. Now it's a lengthy process. It's not just the gathering of addresses either, though that has been a task of the ages (as I broke my hard drive and lost my entire address book). I write personal messages in each one. I don't enjoy only signing my name and then sending it off. I don't like the cards to speak for me. If I'm sending someone mail, surely I have got something of my own to say. But this task has grown since the Dude entered my life in a serious fashion. And now since his family will be my family, I'm sending cards to his loved ones, too.

Now, he's not leaving it all to me. He gathered all the addresses for me, bought the stamps and mailed them out. He's on his way out soon to buy some more, because 24 wasn't enough to get all our families and social circle covered. What do you get when two people from Catholic families get engaged? Gigantic Christmas card lists. And an even bigger guest list for the wedding. Dear me. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Last year I made my own. So I had to get particular about who I sent them to because I had roughly a dozen of them. Then people were bummed out not to get a card, so I had to nix that idea this year, and forevermore until I can find the time to handcraft about 30+ cards. One thing that generally spurns me on to send them at all is that people really seem to genuinely enjoy the cards. I get comments on it all the time.

And I think that says a lot about a few things in general:

One, people love getting cheerful things in the mail. Two, people feel special when you make things personal, and Three, no one ever gets handwritten anything anymore. No one sends letters. And I think that's what got me going in the first place. And what kills me is how much my penmanship has suffered. I didn't really learn to type till I was 14, and didn't have a computer in my house till I was 15. I wrote everything. And I think most people have gotten out of the habit of handwriting. One more reason it's so important to try.

If there's any time to revive old cherished forms of communication and to go out of your way to do something a little special, Christmas is the time. I never want to feel too busy to do it. I don't think I will. It makes me really happy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Traditions

I've been thinking about Christmas. I had some really nice ones when I was a kid. No sob stories here. Some people hate Christmas because of bad holiday memories from their childhood. I had a lot of fun.

My parents always warned me not to expect too much. I think perhaps when I was very young there may have been lots of presents. When I was 8, our family finances underwent some changes. Single parent households aren't typically rolling in money, but job loss can stretch things tighter.

But I never noticed fewer presents, really. I mean, there were fewer, technically, but I think what made the difference was my brother and I didn't feel our holiday was lacking. We had traditions. There was my father's family, over 20 people, packing into my grandma and granpa's post-war six-room house's living room. Exactly seven places to sit. Get up to go to the bathroom and you lost your spot. Those were fun Christmas eves.

There was Christmas eve before bed, my brother and I doing our pyjama race to see who could open their Christmas eve present first. There was waking up to a stocking in our beds and the rule of waiting till 7:00 to wake up Mom. There were always new movies and the yearly debate and squabble over which one we'd watch first.

Then breakfast. Then Grammy and Poppie's for dinner and more presents. Mom had a rule that we were only to get clothes, as they were needed. So we weren't wild over them, because kids never see the value in clothes, but we loved our family. Our closest cousins would be there and we'd play and swap stories.

Leading up to Christmas, my mom and I would go to one of her friend's for baking all kinds of holiday goodies that we'd stick in the freezer and bring out as needed: cookies, squares, cake, chocolate...

Things changed when we got older. Grammy passed. Then Grandpa five years later, and a year later my mother, and a year after that, Grandma. A lot of families fall apart after so many deaths, particularly when those deaths were of people who were like glue. But life marched on and Christmas evolved, not without sadness, but you find joy in the holidays where you can if you try.

And with the new Christmas locations to go to, different schedules and new significant others, things started to get sticky. My father played turf war over Christmas, which was needless to say a bad time for all. Did it with Thanksgiving, too. Any holidays you wished to include others or expand your repertoire of activities and visits he took as a personal affront. It doesn't make sense, so explaining it would be pointless, at least for today. So for a few years, Christmas was very unpleasant.

In the years we've been estranged, things have again grown into something cheerful and festive. And with a fiancee I've been with for four years, there's been some dividing up of holiday time to make sure we see everyone. And everyone does this. As you age, Christmas stops being about the presents and starts being about who you spend time with. I know a number of people my age still get presents, but that's dwindled for me for many years now and has almost reached nil.

There's a couple people I do exchanges with, but there's no actual "Christmas morning" type of thing in my life anymore. That part of my life has come to a close. And when I thought of how this year would be, waking up at my mother-in-law-to-be's house and eating breakfast, drinking coffee and being with the man I'm going to marry, I felt good.

And then we'll go to my aunt's (One of many aunts I always mention) for Christmas dinner and see about 25 of my relatives there. And then the next morning, it's off to the lake to see the Dude's dad and step mom. And there'll be questions about the wedding that I'll have answers to, and we'll eat festive things and sleep in and be cozy with warm drinks.

And I can look back on my mom and thank her for always making Christmas about family and tradition and the experience, and not the gifts. And traditions are important. Last year when my brother came up to spend Christmas with us after Jerry died, I laid a stocking out on his bed like our mom used to do when we were kids. In all honesty, I did it more for me than for me. You do little things to keep what and who matters alive how you can and where you can.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Type B Bride

Maybe I'm missing something, but so far planning a wedding isn't consuming too much of my time or stressing me out whatsoever. Venue's booked, dress bought, bridesmaid dresses selected, and I've got recommendations for cake and flower vendors that I'll probably go with because they sound in my price range and I've heard/seen good things. I've picked out the centrepieces and place settings I want.

I'm not on any message boards, I'm not going to any bridal shows, I'm not getting a wedding planner, I'm not on the phone all day. As soon as I see something I like that's reasonably priced, I choose it.

I have to wonder again, though, about the power of autonomy. I'm doing most of this stuff myself and on the fly (With the Dude, too, of course, for anything not pertaining to ladies fashion) and only informing people of my choices after I've made my decision, not running anything by anyone else at any time. I don't need to ask permission, I don't feel unsure, I haven't been planning or banking on this day since I was a zygote.

Is that why this feels so matter-of-fact? Does most of the stress usually come from being a perfectionist or a people pleaser? Because I'm neither of those things. I'll cut corners if it doesn't matter. I'll say no if I think it needs to happen. Colour me Type B personality. Which is so weird because in several areas of life I am rather neurotic.

Like money. It will grate at me like an itch I can't reach if I'm in my overdraft even a few dollars. If I think I may not be able to pay my credit card balance in full, I will lose sleep. I'll start walking long and foolhardy distances to avoid paying for subway tokens, and not leave the house to prevent myself from needing to spend extra money. And you'd think planning a wedding, requiring lots of monies, would send such a person as me into a nervous fit. And yet here we are.

I love watching bridal drama and meltdowns on TV: the ones who fret over their dress and can't choose even after trying on about 25, the ones who cry because they want a waffle station and it's not in the budget, or the ones who are desperate to make an entrance and think they need fireworks, dove releases and smoke machines at varying intervals.

People are nutty, some more so than others, and I don't think weddings make otherwise normal people crazy. I think they only bring out what is naturally there. For example, if at any time you think any specific day in your adult years must be 100% about you and only you, then you are probably slightly unhinged in the mental department because that's not sensible or even possible because of the unalterable fact that other people do, in fact, exist.

But it's not as though I don't have some concerns. I do. I don't have a relationship with my father, and I plan to walk myself down the aisle, as I don't care to put on a facade on what is supposed a sincere and solemn moment in my life. I don't feel it'd be appropriate, and traditions can be discarded if they don't apply. I don't wish to have to explain myself for this, but I know I will have to, and be as vague or misleading about my reasons as possible.

Another concern is the guest list. In the hope of inviting everyone who matters to us, we can't afford to issue out plus-one invites to people who are single (as in not married, engaged or cohabiting, or at the very least in a serious and long-term relationship). That would add at least an extra 20 people, forcing us to remove actual friends from attending to make way for strangers.

Also, with 18 children to invite, and seeing as inviting some and not others would not sit well with many, we're not inviting any. 18 is the size of an industrial daycare, and again, even at a reduced cost for children, it would still mean not inviting adults we really care about. Not to mention, that many children or even half that many with all or most under the age of 8 would be too much chaos.

So I'm worried that people will bring plus-ones or children anyway. Because some people do that. And of course, like all brides before me, I'm preparing myself to handle calling those who do not respond to the invitation. And if everyone else's wedding is anything to go by, I'll be doing lots of that, I'm sure.

It doesn't feel like the Dude and I have been engaged two months. I suppose time really does fly.

Monday, December 6, 2010

C'est expensive

Toronto is an expensive place to exist. Mostly due to rent and housing prices. You don't appreciate this sort of thing when you're in high school, or even when you're in college. I moved away for college, and I was shocked by rent costs in my GTA apartments. Living with roommates cost me over $400 a month.

Oh, but living with a roommate in actual Toronto was $675 a month. And then living alone was-- never mind. I once found a charming one-bedroom for $750 in the west end, a convenient two-minute walk on either end from halfway houses and a needle exchange. And I'm not being sarcastic calling this art deco place charming. It was an adorable nook of a place.

But I saw a filthy homeless ass, there were drug dealers lurking in the shadows, decrepit locals hanging outside of dingy bars, dog feces on the sidewalks and I felt very ill at ease being out past 10:00 p.m. It was the neighbourhood that was the problem, specifically the southeast end of Parkdale. Shortly before we moved out, a neighbour was shot in the leg with a shotgun. I never really regretted leaving. They say it's up-and-coming, and I'm sure it is. But I wasn't prepared to invest more of my time and sanity to wait it out.

The Dude and I fantasize about home ownership. First thing's first, of course: the wedding. We have a good handle on how we're going to pay for a decent one without going into debt. A home, though, is another beast entirely. Here we pay for rent and 1/3 of the gas and hydro bill. Home ownership means you pay 100% of all the utilities. Something breaks, it's your problem, so you need an emergency fund. You also need monies for property taxes.

And a nice Toronto home that's not soaked in cat urine or out in non-Toronto need-a-carland? Starting around $400,000 in neighbourhoods that aren't so great yet. Once they are great, toss on another 100 to 150 grand.

Condos then, yes? A two-bedroom not in a horrible area, you're looking at $250,000 minimum. But maybe only 700 square feet. And don't forget the condo fees. *Sigh*

On top of everything, the Dude is a freelancer. So only my income will really matter when pre-approving us for a mortgage, as I'm the one with the reliable job, 'cause that's how banks like to do things and they're the ones in charge.

There was a time a home cost a person a year's salary. Now they cost many, many year's salary. How is that reasonable? Well, I suppose I do get it. There's only so much land, and way more people than ever. Demand, demand, demand.

And this, my friends, is the sort of blog post you get when the writer can't fall asleep and watches a couple hours of Property Virgins on HGTV.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

28

I'm 28, and one year closer to 30. Despite the name of this blog, I don't fear 30. It'll be kinda neat in a way. I think I've spent my 20s pretty well. I've had a ton of apartments, some relationships, travel experiences. I've made and nurtured friendships and developed some hobbies. I've also done a lot of reflection on my past, as well. I've learned a lot about myself.

Basically I feel like I've made good use of my time.

My 28th birthday was exactly the sort of evening I love. It was entirely about sharing time with my friends and eating delicious food. When I was younger I used to despair over who I wasn't and what I wasn't doing. I didn't "go out". I wasn't a drinker, I never went to concerts, I didn't have a wide circle of party pals.

Turns out I don't like concerts. I really don't. I'll go to the odd one if it's easy, or if the act is truly impressive or someone really wants me to go. But I like quieter settings. I like being able to make out the lyrics to music. I need to be able to sit down. Concerts just rub me the wrong way and they always have. To be honest, they bore me. And try explaining that to most people. I enjoy music as a human being, but I never have the urge to go out of my way to experience it in more authentic and personal ways.

And drinking? I get sick from alcohol really easily. After a few drinks, I'm drunk. Anything beyond that sends me to toilet town and my night is over. So I have to nurse my drinks and turn people down who shout, "SHOTS!" or who think they're doing me a favour by placing a drink in front of me. Which of course makes nobody popular with anyone.

As for a wide circle of friends, I'm picky. I'm just plain picky. I suck at small talk and I really want to know someone if I'm going to spend time with them. I have a knack, if you want to call it that, for getting people to get super personal with me with total ease. That's where I go, and that's where people go with me pretty much all the time. I enjoy it. But you only have so much energy to nurture so many friendships. I also wonder if anyone ever regrets telling me certain things, because sometimes what I hear is pretty out there, and then never wants to see me again.

So my birthday had my friends, dear friends who I love. A couple were missing, but most of the people I really value were there. We drank, but not to excess. There actually was no music playing. Our conversation and laughter would have drowned it out anyway. And we stayed in and played Scruples, and philosophized over bizarre topics most people wouldn't touch.

They're my kind of people. This is my kind of life. The closer I get to 30, the happier I am, and the more comfortable I am with who I am. I wouldn't be a younger me for anything.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tulum

This will be my last post about Mexico. After this, I'll have covered everything. Ah, the hanging on mentally to a vacation. Escapism at its finest.

My favourite excursion was Tulum. There are some really spiffy ruins there. Now, the Dude and I didn't know this, but we could have taken the Collectivo for $6 and then paid another $6 for admission to this place. $12 each would have been awesome. But we got a bus and a guided tour. Educational and fascinating as it was, it was $33 more expensive a piece. Live and learn.

But shaking off the finances of it all, there were sights that were picturesque.

A photo barely does it justice. It was like existing inside a postcard.

My favourite part, though, was the beach.

All my life I've wanted to go swimming in warm aqua waters with amazing waves. I used to get wildly jazzed over white caps at the beach when I was a kid. But the water was always a little chilly and Ontario is not known for its sparkling water. Even Picton Beach, one of the nicest around the province with its white sand dunes, isn't amazing, just much better than its neighbours, which don't set the bar too high.

Am I a little down on Ontario lakes? Can't help it. They're large and they look nice on property, but cold, polluted water full of seaweed doesn't beg to be swam in.

So you can imagine my excitement-- no, my euphoria when I saw this:

My heart skipped a beat.
This was what I'd been hoping for.


The beach at the resort had lovely water that wasn't too cold, and was clear enough to see shimmering schools of fish passing through. But there were large man-made rocks further out to break the waves and keep the waters calm. So while it was relaxing, it wasn't dream-fulfilling.

But Tulum? Tulum was it. The water was warmer than at the resort, the waves were unbroken and full, and the sand? My god, it was soft and silky on my feet. I ran into the water and was hit by the warmest wave I'd ever felt, and it soaked me. I've been enchanted by various natural locations before and touched by villages or cities or forests. But this was like falling in love for the first time.

Some people have big dreams. I suppose I do too, but I also have a number of small ones and swimming at this beach was quite literally a dream come true. I threw myself into the waves. Some overtook me, others sucked me under and all thrilled me and filled me with joy.

Me getting hit by a delicious wave.
The woman in front followed me around and fed off my enthusiasm.

The Dude had a hard time getting a video or photo without her in it.

In the end, I still don't think I got enough time there. When the Dude said we had to go, I regressed into a child and begged for five more minutes. When that was up, I had to suck it up and go, or we'd miss our bus.

I think I was only out there for 30 minutes, but it felt like 10. I'll never forget that beach. I'll be back. I don't care if I'm old as fuck, I'll be back.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Dress

I bought my wedding dress today. I didn't plan on it at all, but it was sort of meant to be.

I woke up this morning, my day off, and had nothing to do. So I thought I'd be productive. I'd chosen a wedding dress from an online store and had planned to buy it. After custom fitting and shipping, it'd come to $300. And being a pro online shopper and all, I saw nothing amiss with this.

But you tell enough people your plan and you wind up second guessing yourself. So I figured I'd try on some silhouettes to make sure I was making the right choice. I went to a discount place that had no selection and poor assistance and I tried on two dresses. Mostly it was to feel like I didn't waste my trip. They didn't work out.

I recalled a few bridal shops I was aware of in the city; I'd been noting them for a few months time now for just such an occasion. So off to Spadina I went, knowing there were at least a couple non-ritzy places that likely would welcome a walk-in.

Let me tell you something about bridal gown shopping. It's a weird way to spend a Monday afternoon. Most people go with at least a friend or two, a bridesmaid or their mom. I was alone. Now, I didn't ask anyone and this was on the fly, so that makes sense. And I have no mom and all three of my bridesmaids are in other cities, minus McPal (the fourth attendant and a bridesman, as it were), who is in town, but who would not have been free on a workday.

I never asked anyone, or even alluded to this shopping trip as a group activity. I have a few reasons for this. Some are practical and others are emotional and rooted a little more deeply in my psyche than I'm completely comfortable with.

Practicality wise, when it's just me, I can make a trip quick and efficient. I don't need to wait on anyone. I also don't need to consider anyone's feelings or tastes about the dress. I can just go with my own instincts and hunches, passing over whatever I feel like passing over.

Emotionally, I can't shake some conflicted feelings I have about planning my wedding. I think not having my mom to call about it is getting to me a bit. She's the one who'd be the most excited about it. Our friends are jazzed for us, and our families are happy for us. I'm happy, Dude's happy and all is well. I'm just feeling a flattened affect with the whole thing, that unclaimed-daughter emotion I get sometimes.

Way inside me was the feeling that since my mom couldn't be there, I didn't want anyone. It would only draw attention to the fact she was missing. Going it alone was easier. Back in college a classmate talked to me about his family's philosophy. They were Chinese and had a collectivist culture viewpoint that pleased me. They see the family as a bunch of chopsticks. The more that stick together, they harder they are to break. I remember hearing that and thinking, I am a single chopstick. I'm a metal chopstick, but I'm on my own

It's not like I have no family at all. I do. But I've been on my own in many ways for quite some time. Though no one has ever made me feel this way, I've never been able to shake the burdensome feeling I'm intruding on other families when I get too close to my aunts. My aunts are my surrogates, but they all have their own children. I never forget that.

So entering this bridal store solo had me feeling ambivalent. Despite not arranging or even trying to arrange a group of people to come with me, I felt a sense of loss and loneliness about the whole thing. But it still felt right, as right as it would under the circumstances.

I saw this one dress. It was beautiful, and completely not what I had been looking for. But it drew me in and I asked to try it on. I then picked two more, both empire waists with the sort of fabric I like, swishy and floaty. The lady had me try those ones on first. One was cute, the other not for me.

Then the dress. The sales woman helped me do it up, as it required help. And as she was fastening everything, she told me she had a feeling about this one, that she wanted to save it for last and that though she didn't normally do the full strapping-in for a try-on, she wanted me to see the full effect.

And I did, and my eyes welled up and I knew I'd accidentally stumbled upon my wedding dress. I only wanted an idea of good fits, but this was it. And while it was not $300, it was under $800 after tax. That was still affordable. I couldn't believe my good luck.

In this place I tried on three dresses. I made my choice. Gut instincts, no hesitations. And I reaped the few benefits of being a lone chopstick. I don't know anyone else who has the total autonomy that I do. Easy as that, I made my choice, confident in my ability to please myself, and with no one else's feelings to consider, I made my deposit and left.

I'd been waiting for this for awhile. All of my happiest moments make me a little sad. It's just how it is. Getting married is the hardest yet because it's the biggest mother-daughter thing I'm missing thus far. The only thing that will be harder is getting pregnant and giving birth.

Most people won't tell you this, but I will, and not because I'm dark or pessimistic. Rather I'm a realist and I think it's shallow to pretend it's not true. When you truly love somebody and they die, you never really get over it. You can find happiness again and you can enjoy your life. You'll cope and move forward. But nothing of real importance will ever make you fully joyful again because there will be that missing piece and it's never coming back. You learn to live with the ache.

Today the ache spoke, and I heard it. You let it say it's piece, you cry and then you reach into your inner resources and you get on with things and recall how beautiful the dress is. You play in your head how things would go if she were alive and what she'd say and how happy she'd be for you. It's like a fake memory you get to create. It's all you get, but that's okay. You're okay. That small moment in your life is passed now.

I'm okay.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coba

I'd like to talk about my excursions in Mexico. The Dude and I dropped nearly $200 a piece on leaving the resort for awesomeness and adventure. The first one was a trip to Coba, where there is this massive ancient monument, dangerous as all Jebus heck to climb and even more nerve-racking to get down from. My uncle and my younger cousin went along too.

Oh yes. Uneven steep steps and no rails.

I climbed up those steps, if they can be called that, the way a toddler would scale the stairs at the Scotiabank Theatre. Practically on my hands and knees, I trudged up, looking up occasionally and whimpering that I had so much more ground to cover. I also had a shoulder beach bag with me, which hindered my progress and gave me an edge of fear for my life as I escaped tripping over it multiple times en route.

The tour guide had said, "At your own risk you go up. I wash my hands."

But when I got to the top... wow. Dude. What a view.

Seeing this at the top filled me
with so much joy and accomplishment.

Everyone got there ahead of me. We marvelled at the sight for awhile, and the climb up was worth it. However, going down was... rough. Yeah, it was a bit of a journey. I went down on my rump, not in an incompetent skiing way, but with slow purposeful movements, designed to keep my sorry ass alive. Each step was as high as my knee and about the depth of my foot. Width was my only advantage, and those coming up and down went around me. I stayed close to the rope in the middle, in case of dire need. Good thing I don't get vertigo.

I really don't think these pictures truly capture
the magnitude of this place.
I don't think that's possible.

After the ruins, we ate at a Mayan restaurant. Good food. There was this chicken that was wrapped in banana leaves, which had been cooked in the ground. It was pretty tender, juicy, spicy and full of heaven and rainbows. Eating real Mexican food for the first time made me realize how diluted our Northern version is. Which is kind of a bummer because the Northern version is all there is up here.

We ended the day by going to a cenote. It wasn't a cave type, which at first bummed me out, but actually is kind of for the best. To go swimming we needed to wear life jackets. At first I scoffed, but when I realized there was no shallow water, I was grateful everyone needed to wear one, and not just me. 'Cause I
really needed one. My cousin and I took a dip.


The water was like crystal.

Growing up in Ontario, I've never seen water like this. Discoloured, sure, but due to pollution, not nature. It was essentially a huge mineral bath. When I got out, I felt amazing. Part of it was no doubt the refreshing swim, but it was more than that. I was energized and I just felt... great. My cousin agreed. It was hard to explain the difference we felt, only that we felt better.

And yet this wasn't my favourite excursion. That came the next day. The Dude hasn't loaded up the pictures yet, so I'll wait to get into it.

My uncle was lamenting he was out of shape after resting from our jaunt up the mountain of steps. Way I figure, if you can climb that thing at all, you're in reasonable shape. Also, pretty sure I worked off some of my vacation snacking and drinking. Validation plus justification plus
undeniable exercise. Worth every penny.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Family Vacation

So one of the best parts about Mexico was seeing my family again. I see my father's side a few times throughout the year, but the few people that comprise my late mother's side live across the country. I'm lucky to see them once a year, and it takes over five hours and $500 to make it happen.

I grew up with my two cousins and usually no more than two days would pass without me seeing them. They were more than cousins, they were closer to siblings. My oldest cousin has been like a sister to me, complete with her hand-me-downs, me bugging her and driving her crazy and looking up to her as she hit life's milestones ahead of me. My youngest was like a little brother who drove me less crazy than the one I had. He and I would exclaim, "Harold!" "Martha!" and then embrace in a dramatic hug.

We went on small vacations together. My aunt was like a second mother. She was over at my house growing up all the time. No one needed an invitation. We dropped in on each other constantly. Sleepovers were frequent.

So when the Dude and I checked in, we had hours to wait until our room was ready. We munched on some burgers from the snack bar and waited in the lobby. I didn't know what time they'd arrive and I was antsy to see them.

You can imagine my joy when we found them. Sometimes you don't let yourself think about how much you miss someone until you know you're going to see them any minute. Then your heart starts to dance and time slows down and that first hug fills you with what you've been missing, in my case, for a year and a half.

I'll wax poetic about the food, locations, the room and wedding, but today it's about family. Attending the wedding was sweet and something I've been looking forward to my whole life. Next time I'll see them will probably be for my wedding. I've always been right behind my cousin, and I'm glad she married first. I wouldn't have it any other way. It sort had been a rhyme and rhythm growing up and watching her marry her husband felt right.

I get married in a year. One more reason to look forward to it is I'll see my family again. I used to get bummed out about living far from my brother, and my cousins. Growing up alongside them gave me some of the best childhood memories I could have asked for. I know my children won't know theirs in that same way. It won't be the same. But looking around I've realized that our closeness was special and atypical. It can't be reproduced again for my own family someday.

I've never been good at letting go of the past. But I think in times like these, that's a good thing. The only thing that was missing was my brother. He couldn't make it and without him there, our quartet was incomplete. Again, I'll wait for my wedding for that to happen. It won't be the same, but it'll be sweet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home from happiness

I'm back from my vacation. It was phenomenal. So good was it, in fact, that I'm actually kind of bummed to be home. I think I could have stayed another full week, you know, if I had the money to pay for it plus some more excursions, the time off, and so forth. But yeah, waking up in my own bed, while a comfier model than the one the Dude and I have been sleeping on in Mexico, was kind of a bummer when we couldn't get up and walk to a ready-made breakfast.

Being spoiled is lovely sometimes. I ate a lot, I really did. Normally I try to watch my portions better. I'm nearly 28 and I don't want to be flubby as my metabolism slows down. But I could not help myself in the face of deliciousness. There were several days I just threw caution to the Riviera wind and figured to hell with my waist circumference.

I spent a couple afternoons on the beach in my red retro one-piece watching the waves, reading a book on a lounge chair under a grass umbrella and drinking pina coladas and coco bananas. I spent evenings with my family: my aunt and uncle and one of my cousins. The other, who was getting married, was far more busy. She had not only family there, but a large slew of friends. We had some time together getting ready for her wedding, but mostly her time was spread amongst over a dozen other people. I can't imagine how tired she must be, but lucky for her she's got another week there with her new husband.

I have a lot to tell, I really do. I have photos to share, and specific things to recount. I'll get to them in the next couple posts. For now, I need to think about getting some food into me. I kind of got out of the habit of planning ahead for meals this past week, so breakfast needs my full attention. Probably there's no scrambled eggs, pancakes with maple syrup and sliced melons waiting for me in my kitchen today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitteny goodness

It's taking a lot of willpower not to adopt kittens. I miss Smokey so much and I want kitties in the house again. The lack of responsibility, I'll admit, is pleasant, but my cats were always worth it to me to have to buy their supplies, pay for vet visits, change litter and, in the end, give insulin injections.

My favourite thing was lounging in bed or on the couch with the Dude and the cats, and I'd feel like a happy little family. All my nurturing instincts are goin' nowheres. I want something fuzzy to cuddle.

But like I said, willpower. That and common sense. When we get home from Mexico (OMG leaving Sunday morning, w00t!!1) I am going to order my wedding dress, which means not having enough monies offhand to stock up on new kitten thingies. And then when we go to our hometown for Christmas, we'll stay for several days instead of rushing home early. It'll be the first time that's even possible for me since I was 20, when I first got my cats under my care alone. So of the few new advantages to not having a pet, it'd be stupid not to enjoy them.

But that doesn't mean I don't yearn for a furry meowing ball of joy to snuggle. Oh, I do.

I am aware I'm not over my Smokey. I still sometimes cry about him. It's only been a little over two weeks and I'm still adjusting. I keep expecting to see the litter box or the water dish and it still makes me sad when I remember they're not there.

I want to get cats that I'll be ready to appreciate for who they are, and not as replacements. I take pet ownership very seriously. So I'm not ready. And I'll continue to stifle my desires in the interest of being sensible. That doesn't mean I haven't been fawning over kitten adoption photos online, though. I'm sensible, not dead.

I likely won't post again till I get home from my trip. I intent to stay off the internet all week, otherwise I don't think it'll be much of a vacation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mexico awaits

I started travelling when I turned 21. Nothing too wild, but it was something I made a priority. Some people like to stay on top of the latest gadgets and electronics, others like to buy clothes or shoes, some like to have an active night life, and there are those that like to pour money into their home. I like to go places.

When I was 21 I left the country for the first time and spent four days in New York City. A few months later I went to Cuba. Then after my internship and graduation I planned a three-week backpacking trip to the UK. The next year I went through the Maritimes with a guy who was my boyfriend at the time. Later on we went to the Dominican Republic.

I started visiting my family in Vancouver every Easter. I've visited friends in California twice. I took a tour through Ireland in 2007. My family started asking me, "So where are you going this year?" I had plans to go to Italy, but life kept getting in the way. It's still on my to-do list, but it's more of a distant plan.

Actually, it'd be lovely to go to Italy on our honeymoon. But I don't think we'll be doing that. We're paying for our wedding, and then we'll be saving for a new home. This trip in many ways is the trip for us.

It's one of those getting-older priority-change deals. Travelling makes me happy and excited, yes. But my life isn't about where I'll go next. I've planted my roots. My life is about my day-to-day happiness: my relationship, my friends, my creative fulfillment, and my home. So I'm no longer investing much into seeing new places. That would get in the way of meeting my milestones and reaching my goals. I'm not a kid anymore. I guess I don't feel like one either because I'm not sad over this change.

Having said that, though, I'm going to enjoy this Mexico trip for all it's worth.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hermit Power

Okay, want to know something funny? I just realized I haven't left the house in six days, today being day six. It's still early, so I could end this madness, but I'm kind of pleased with myself about it. I just told the Dude, who hadn't noticed I've stayed in, and he snickered and called me his little hermit. I'm glad he understands me.

Now, usually I go for a few days in a row where I don't bother going out, but six is really quite extraordinary. I looked through my calendar and suddenly things started making a lot of sense.

Oct. 20th, we went to McPal's and his boyfriend's for dinner. The next day we went out with the Dude's parents. The day after that we went to his brother's wedding. The day after that was McPal's Halloween party. The day after that I got sick and realized Smokey was getting ready to die. The next day we went to see a wedding venue. The day after my maid of honour came up and I went out with her. The next day we went out to make a deposit on the venue and then we had to make an emergency trip to put Smokey to sleep. The next day McPal and his boyfriend came over with wine and cheesecake, and finally the next day we went swimming at Buddy B's girlfriend's place.

Yeah. Minus my beloved pet dying, I was happy to spend all that time with everyone. But hot damn if the introvert in me is not on strike from society, taking a little private time to grieve my cat and overall recuperating from the cold that wouldn't quit.

The Dude's company keeps me from being one of those nutty types who starts to deteriorate while keeping away from civilization. But I've needed this time oh so badly. Some people would have gotten cabin fever by now. I've personally never really gotten too stir crazy before.

And considering we're about to go to Mexico for a week with my family in nine days, all this quiet time is probably for the best.

People who don't understand introversion sometimes misinterpret holing away and enjoying solitude as a dislike of people or shyness. I feel neither of those things. I'm not very shy at all, in my natural state, and I love people. Having fun with others simply wears me out and leaves me drained, like a battery in a digital camera, where the hardware is in good working order and is great at parties, but good luck taking one more picture without the camera dying on you before you recharge the batteries. Or something like that.

I have to leave the house tomorrow. I need to pick up ingredients for a quiche to bring to a potluck on Saturday after work. But until then, I'm going to lounge in my robe and play on the internet. Oh yeah.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In the days after

You know you have an amazing group of friends in your life when your beloved cat dies and you're sent numerous messages, texts, emails and offers to spend time together. I feel lonely without Smokey, but I'd feel a lot worse if it were not for all the lovely people I've made friends with over the years.

My good friend (And maid of honour) was over the night before Smokey passed. She's allergic to cats, but still got next to my little kitty and gave him some love. He accepted it and went back to sleep. She helped take my mind of him and we talked about wedding stuff, her being from out of town, so this was an opportunity to show her my ideas.

The day after he passed, McPal and his boyfriend came over with wine and homemade pumpkin cheesecake. McPal then served, even as the guest. We raised a glass to Smokey. Buddy B's girlfriend invited us over the next day to swim at her place and afterwards we ate and watched Halloweeny movies. My understanding pet-loving boss gave me a last-minute day off to mourn Smokey.

The Dude, throughout all of this, has been helpful and caring, even though it's his loss too. He cleared away all of Smokey's things so I wouldn't have to walk into a room and see them. He's been handy with all the hugs I want. I can and do talk to him about missing Smokey whenever I feel the need.

I've been so well taken care of by everyone, so well, in fact, that a cold I developed Sunday has not had the chance to resolve itself yet because I've been so social instead of holing up to recuperate. Throw in some stress and there you go. Saturday evening I was rickety and haggard, wondering why the Dude had overcome the worst of his cold, but mine was still raging in hackland. All the same, time with friends was time well spent.

I'm on the mend now. Other than a Halloween photoshoot yesterday, I've been taking it easy, staying warm and drinking fluids. And now I have a new Miss Manners to read. Oh yes. I'm a fan of hers and all her teachings. Her writing fills me with joy. I've held off buying her wedding and child rearing books because this way I have new things to read as I hit milestones, rather than absorbing all her awesomeness in one giant binge. T'was my maid of honour's idea and now I'm super happy I listened. So that's how I'm going to spend my day.

Only thing that would make this better is a fat happy cat snuggled in my arms while I read.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Goodbye, Smokey

He's gone.

He couldn't hold out until Friday. We were sure he wouldn't last the night. He was unable to stand, he was unresponsive and his eyes wouldn't close when he passed into sleep. I held him for a long while on the couch. He melted into my arms and breathed slow breaths and I could feel his little heart beating. He was so skinny.

We knew we had to put him down tonight. He couldn't get to the litter anymore, he could no longer stand up to drink. He was not going to enjoy his last day alive at that rate. So we took him to the emergency vet clinic. We got there around 10:00.

Crying in a strange reception area, giving your information so strangers can end your cat's life is a terrible experience. Watching people watch you, sobbing while you say your phone number, confirming this is your final decision.

I walked into the room where the Dude and Smokey were waiting for me. Smokey was being examined and when it was over, he laid down and in an awkward position managed to rest his head on the Dude's arm. Then he relaxed and stayed that way till the end.

The Dude and I held Smokey and pet him, telling him he was a good boy. He was barely conscious, not really struggling to live, not really fighting death. He seemed peaceful as we waited. When the time came, I could barely notice as his life slipped away, he was so far gone already.

He kind of looked like he was smiling when we left. That's my Smokey.

I know I'll cope and move on. But something in me already knows I'll never fully stop missing him. He was my friend.


Smokey's Last Dance

If I believed in jinxing myself, I would not have written this last post about Smokey. He's dying. My old Smokey is on his way out. He's 17 and a half and he's showing all the signs. He's stopped eating, he's restless, losing mobility fast and he's less interested in attention and increasingly reclusive.

It started a couple days ago. I made the decision to not treat his symptoms or take him to the vet. He's old, too old for advanced medical attention. He's 86 in cat years and I wanted him to relax at home instead of being dragged out in the noisy street in a cat carrier to be needled and handled somewhere he doesn't like. He hasn't been in pain, from the looks of it. I'm the one who seems to be hurting.

But the Dude and I made an appointment for Friday for euthanasia. Smokey's ability to walk is failing him at a rate I can't let continue. It's heartbreaking to watch. I've been picking him up and putting him where he seems to want to go: near his water, close to the litter box, somewhere cozy. He's been crawling around this afternoon.

He's been quiet, eerily so, and yet still finds the strength to mew for ice cubes for his water dish. I love him so much.

He seemed interested in being on the couch with us, so the Dude picked him up and put him on the blanket beside me. He stretched out and rested his head on my leg. This cat has been everything I'd want in a pet. I don't want to do without him. I knew this day would come, but I never wanted to really think about it.

If you're reading this, next time you have a drink, raise a quiet glass for Smokey. I don't pray, and I wouldn't ask to keep him in one's prayers. But if it would be alright with you, toast him for me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Patry Hardy, Sicky Icky

I'm sick. The Dude's brother's wedding is done, the Halloween party is over and I've contracted a sore throat bug that's been going around and I can barely swallow. Dude's out getting me some Buckley's in the chill and rain as I write this. God love 'em.

This weekend really kicked my ass, whilst kicking some ass in general. The wedding was a pretty attractive and delicious affair, which every wedding should be if it can be managed. I always get a little teary-eyed during the vows or the dance. Usually only if I have faith in the union. And since I do for this one, I got a little misty while the officiant was reading off the vows and seeing the bride smile at the groom. I love love.

I couldn't help but think of my own upcoming nuptials, though it's a year away. And when the wedding was over I thought of the "now what" part. They're going to continue work on their house and everyone is going to be curious about potential children. Marriage always seems to lead in that direction. Few people get married without wanting kids, and in fact I think a lot of couple choose marriage because they want children and don't want to procreate outside of marriage. I've heard a number of people ask why get married if you're not going to have kids? But some couples just want to be together for life, and share everything sans children. And those marriages charm me in different but equally nice ways.

Honestly, I can see the appeal, too. I think I would regret not having children. I want the joy and challenge of raising them. But I'm not a baby person. Oh, I like babies the way an average human being does. And babies born to people I care about give me a happy feeling. But I don't really respond to them the way I do to kids. Kids, I like. Hell, I feel like I'm on their wavelength sometimes. Kids and I tend to get along.

If I had to adopt in order to be a parent, I'd want to bypass the baby part. I think only my raging maternal post-delivery hormones could induce me to fall in love with and happily care for an infant. But a 3-year-old kid? That would be more my speed.

But here I am digressing from my weekend. McPal and his boyfriend's Halloween party was the very next day and I was the queen of hearts. I kinda spent a little more than usual on my costume this year and I lucked out when a makeup artist friend of mine offered to do my makeup. These two things won me the best costume prize! w00t! It's a big chocolate ball of happiness. When I'm feeling better, I'll dig in and gain 4.2 pounds.

The party itself was bitchin'. What a good time. I love people who dress up. Though I'm sick and don't want to go anywhere or do anything, I'm still kinda bummed it's over.

Ooh, the Dude is back. Time for some relief from my achy sufferings.


Me and the Dude at the party.
I hope I need not point out that is a mask.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

100

I've been hunting down venues for la wedding. It's been only a week, but I'm far too much of a planner to sit on my hands and twiddle my thumbs (Ha! Doesn't that sound terrible?) Anyway, I want to set a date, which requires a venue booked on a date, which will tell us something significant about how much of our budget is sucked up. And since everyone else on Earth plans this stuff a year in advance, I have to as well.

Our first appointment is this Saturday. Knowing us, if the price is right and we like it, we're not going to look around. We didn't do an extensive search for any of our apartments, so I doubt we'll do it with a place that is for 1 day instead of a minimum of 365 days. Affordability + availability + reasonably attractive = The Spot.

It's looking like November. First it was September, then October, and now screw it. November. It's the off season so it's cheaper, and it gives us a full year to plan and save. The guest list is also huge. At least it's huge to me. It wouldn't be huge for, say, an Italian wedding. But 100 people is pretty dang big to me. My dad's family is over 30 people, the Dude's immediate family after remarriages is around 20, plus his mother's and father's families, plus mine, and our friends. Yeah.

And this 100 number is without plus ones for singles and no kids. Otherwise we'd be looking at 130 or more and then we wouldn't be able to afford a wedding that big.

I know it's going to bother some people. Parents who want to bring their kids will be unhappy and probably won't come. I can respect a decision not to come because finding child care may be too difficult, but it's the displeasure I don't want to see. And the singles who can't bring a date may be irritated with me. But including their dates would require me to remove people I actually know from the guest list to keep the numbers affordable, and inviting strangers over loved ones is not something I'm prepared to do.

It begins. I'm too meticulous a person in this sort of way for it not to begin.

Man, wasn't this post boring? My apologies.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Night After

I am riding the waves of one of the more epic hangovers I've had in some time. I went to a bachelorette party for my sister-in-law to be. I've never actually been to one before, as I have very few friends who are married. I usually cut myself off at two units of alcohol in a night out. Why? Because that's usually enough to get me to drunk town, but not enough to buy me a ticket on the porcelain express.

Well, I had eight units last night. And somehow, some way (I'm thinking all the food, a drinking break for two hours and some reasonable pacing) I didn't get sick. Oh, I'm feeling sick now, but I managed to hold my dignity last night, or at least most of it. The Dude and his father, en route home from the respective bachelor party, picked me up and propped me up and got me home, having a good laugh at my expense.

We're talking four glasses of wine, a champagne toast, a screwdriver, vodka lemon shot and a gin and tonic I was told was water before I took I giant swig of it.

I'm getting too old for this. And yet this is a record amount of les bouze for me. God, I could go for some bacon right now. The Dude, his dad and step brothers are out at boys brunch, probably recapping their evening, which sounded like it covered all the bases. I was promised a greasy meal when Dude gets home. My stomach is begging for something fried.

I had fun. I'm paying for it. But I had fun. And the bride's friends are great.

*Rumble* Oh, the pain... Bring me bacon!

Friday, October 15, 2010

So Old

My cat is so old. He's so old that he has a specific way he likes his water. He's so old that after he uses the litter box, he cries and howls for me to bury it for him. He's so old his meow has turned into a rolling grumble, and he's missing five teeth, giving him a slightly gummy appearance.

He's cuddling me now. He'd be in bed cuddling the Dude, but he only does that if I'm in bed too. He's 17.5 years old. He's a creature of habit and he likes things the way he likes them.

He's actually a pretty big inconvenience. I have to make plans around being home for him, I can't go overnight with the Dude anywhere without accommodating his needs, and more frequently as the years go by his stream is not true when he uses the box.

And the thought of doing without him breaks my heart. Most cats don't live this long. Many do, but most don't. And most people nearing their 28th year don't have their childhood pets still living, never mind in their exclusive care. Smokey is my buddy, and a sort of lifeline to a life long past and gone. He just sighed in my arms while I wrote that. What a guy.

I'm still paying off his $1,400+ dentistry bill from the summer, from when I had to choose between putting him down or removing his ruined teeth to end his misery. Now I have more reason than ever to get it paid off, so I can incur other life choice debt. I wonder if he'll be around next fall. His hips are getting stiff, he's so feeble that if I cuddle him in a certain position he no longer can squirm out with ease, and of course there is his diabetes.

When I first got Smokey and Jerry when I was 10, I used to have nightmares about them getting old. Now it's here. It's not as sad as I thought it would be, but it is still a bummer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Le Planning, she begins

So now it's the aftermath of the initial engagement shebang stuff. Friends and family were called, texted and told in person and the almighty Facebook status was changed when we were done. All wanted to know when and where. Namely, family wanted to know if we'd be doing it in our mutual hometown.

It's a reasonable question, but it's not going to happen. I'm not planning a wedding in another city. No dice! I'm also not going to be planning a budget-blowing extravaganza.

The Dude and I hammered out a guest list and budget this evening. Budget aside, we're looking at 105 people-- no kids. Yeah. I know. But that would be an extra 17 guests and I think that many small ones running around, most of them under 6 years old, would prevent me and others from being able to relax and have fun. My family tends to be paralyzed with inactivity when the little ones are around, so I don't think that would be a good time for anybody.

A number of people might wind up staying home, but we would understand. You can't expect parents of youngin's to be available to do everything. Though I'm not looking forward to having to explain to some disappointed parents that we can't accommodate their kids. Cross that kinder bridge when we get to it.

This blog is adding yet another holy-crap-I'm-getting-old factor to it now, but not something I want to take over the entire thing. There's only so many things of interest you can wax poetic on about wedding planning and there's 11 months to go. So I'll be keeping it mixed up, and having posts that have nothing to do with wedding anything. I have about zero interest in becoming a Bride. Yeah, see I capitalized the "B", as in the word "bride" becomes a title and hence an identity. Not me. I be a small-b bride, yo. Hell, I've already found a wedding dress under $200 I want to order online.

I know a lot of women turn planning a wedding into a hobby, and then when it's over they have little left to do and then they feel like, "now what?" There is actually a term about getting the blues about it. I don't know it offhand, and I don't want to know. I don't want to invest too much of who I am or my energy into a one-time party. I think the Dude and I spend our time better when we discuss what sort of marriage we'll have or how we'll raise our children or manage our finances.

So, here's me being all adult 'n stuff. If I keep this up, I may have to start regressing. I still have my stuffed goose around here somewhere. But that's a story for another day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Four Years

Yesterday was a four-year anniversary for the Dude and I. It was a pretty good day. I had to work, but that was normal. He came home with flowers for the first time. I love getting flowers. He once tried to get me a bouquet back in 2007 when he was visiting me (we lived in different cities until 2008). I was walking home from work (an hour's journey at the time), stopped to get a chocolate bar, ate it on a bench and saw him walk past.

So I decided to follow him for kicks. Then I sped up quietly. Then I scared the bejesus out of him, grabbing him from behind and screaming. The jig was up and we went back to my place, flower free. Somehow didn't seem quite so romantic to buy some after that. So getting the flowers yesterday was lovely.

We went out to dinner at this nice Italian place in the Art & Design District. But before we got there something unusual happened at Bathurst Station. As we were going up the escalator, this meth addict lady ahead of me blacked out. And then she fell back on me, nearly taking me down with her. So I caught her, got her upright and gave her a guiding shove off the moving stairs.

She was grateful, high and completely disoriented. I was shaking like a leaf. I normally don't have my wits about me, so frankly it's pretty lucky I was alert at the moment. I mean, can you imaging taking a spill down the up escalator? Hell, you'd never run out of stairs to tumble down. What a nightmare. Surprisingly, I forgot about it over dinner. In Toronto, weird and alarming shit happens all the time and you move on pretty fast.

After our dinner we head out to McPal's and his boyfriend's new coach house. My God, what a charming little place. I had house envy, but the good kind where you're happy about it. And the cool thing is that now we're neighbours-ish, like a 20-30 min walk away. Yay!

So we left and went for a bit of a walk and when we passed through a park, my feet needed rest so we parked ourselves on a bench. And the Dude proposed to me. So now we're engaged. Wild, eh?

Awhile back when we talked about rings, originally I wanted a sapphire. But increasingly, I wanted to wear my mother's/grandmother's ring which has been sitting in my jewellery box for years. It didn't fit and being a diamond cluster, it was too fancy for casual wear. And the fact I never had a reason to resize it, never mind wear it, always kind of bummed me out. It's so sentimental to me and incredibly beautiful and I could never wear it.

So I retracted my sapphire request and gave the Dude my ring, and asked that when he was ready to have it resized because that was the one I wanted. He asked if he could engrave it and I said yes. It's not the typical procedure, but everything about it felt right. And as a bonus, it was economical, so we can have more money to put towards our wedding.

So there we were on the park bench and within seconds things had suddenly changed while staying the same. Made me realize that we've been engaged for a year or so already, only now we were ready to plan and we could tell people about it. And it's not like it was a secret. We talked about it to whoever asked. We talked about it together a lot, researched a few venues, and we've been planning our marriage, financial and child-rearing plans for a long time. But, I don't know, it was still on the backburner. The Dude's been building up his business and life has been presenting us with some other priorities.

So odd that we're now ready to get this show on the road. Part of me already feels married to him whereas the practical and logical side of me always reminded me I was not. I've contacted a bulk of my friends, and some family out West and now we're going to our hometown to spend Thanksgiving with my family. They'll ask all kinds of questions, as is their way. I enjoy the inquisitiveness; I'm used to it and I know it means they care. The Dude is less accustomed to it, so good luck to him. Heh.

I took a random lame laptop photo of the ring for those who are curious:

Yeah, you can't really see anything.
It looks like a flower, I swear.


And now the saving, planning and preparations begin. Basically, to formalize what we've been doing for years now and make it official in front of loved ones. It's funny. I'm happy about it in a calm way. I'm not energetic and excited. But that's the way the Dude makes me feel in general. Calm and content, not nervous or jittery. I guess it just feels natural. And that's a pleasant feeling.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sugar Coated

I never enjoyed hockey as a kid, but it's hard to grow up in this country without developing at least an appreciation for it. And I have. I like hockey, specifically, I like the Leafs. My mother would be proud. My brother, to my father's chagrin, also loves the Leafs. But that's what happens when your son is raised by a Leafs fan.

It's also a sign that winter is coming. Fall in the past always felt like a transition and a blip, kind of like spring feels now. Summer with its blistering, humid heat and winter with its bitter, biting chill seem to be the main events. And I like fall. I like the colours and the cooler air and the food. I love Halloween. But when you grow up wearing snow suits under your costumes and trick or treating in the snow, it's hard to look at the following November as part of the fall season, but now climate change means not seeing any snow until December. And I have mixed feelings about it because it means more lovely fall.

It also means selecting a new winter coat. I've worn the same one for three years, a combination of laziness, frugality, and being very selective, the last one being a newer aspect of my coat shopping. It was frugality in my teens. My mom didn't have a lot of money, and I liked to blow my own money on nonsense. I wore the same damn coat grades 8 through 11. It was Northern Reflections, basic forest green and it was durable, man. That thing really went the distance. I only got rid of it because kids in school were starting to comment on it. You know, teenagers.

Then I wore a coat I loathed and that did nothing for me for about, oh, four or five years. It was gray, shapeless, unfeminine and not terribly cozy. It was bought at a skater-type place when I was still unsuccessfully trying to figuring out my style. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then I got a sherpa style coat that was so popular in 2003, which was replaced shortly thereafter by a charming red wool coat with toggles.

Oh, that coat... It was a nice little number. Until one fall evening I drank some tequila in the Beaches and on the streetcar ride home I lost my dignity all over it. The Dude woke me up early after I had dozed off en route home. I asked if we were home yet and he said no, we were still 10 minutes away. Then I knew I was going to vomit. So rang went the bell and we waited by the doors. The driver inched and inched closer to the optimal place to stop while the Dude hollered to him to open the doors, for the love of God.

The driver without the love of God or perhaps just minus good sense kept jerking the streetcar forward by inches and left the doors closed. The Dude's warning of you'll be sorry was quickly followed by a cascade of my evening's activities bursting out of my face. The coat was covered in my shame and when we finally piled home we wrapped it up in a bag, where I refused to deal with it for weeks. Coats aren't salvageable after marinating in puke, so that was the end of that.

And since I "retired" that one, I've been wearing a white woolen Guess coat. And it's looking like total ass. It's pilled, buttons have fallen off and I'm just plain sick of it. So here are my current options for winter coat happiness:


This isn't much of an option, as it's way, way too long for me.
But it's super pretty, so up it goes.
It's what I'd get if I were 5'10".



This is just like the coat I lost, only it's a little cuter
and in the back are some spiffy details.




I'm very fond of this one: the colour, the pattern, the buttons.
It's really mod and the empire waist is perfect.



But this current little retro number has won my heart.
It's sold out, but if and when it returns, it's mine!
And if not, I'll get the one above it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

La Baker

Yesterday I fulfilled a small ambition I've had for years. I went to a cake baking class, step one of learning how to do cake design. I now know about a dozen things about cake baking that I didn't know before. Plus I came home with recipes, and some new tools. Wheee!

I made a bitchin' little vanilla buttercream cake. It was bakery good. I feel like I got my money's worth for the class, which was a prerequisite for the decorating. I can now make a tasty bakery-style cake prepped for fondant frosting. I'm pretty jazzed about that. Unfortunately, I now have 3/4 of a cake in my fridge and not enough mouths to eat it before it goes south.

I also realized something about my current place. I need a bigger home. More to the point, I need a bigger kitchen. Looking about the little box that constitutes my current kitchen, it's totally impossible to make cakes in there, not with the kind of room and appliances I'd need. And I have to bring a prepped cake to the decoration class, which I've made at home. And we're 12 months away from being able to move anywhere. *Sigh*

But it was still a step in the right direction. I learned I love baking cakes. I already knew that (I love baking in general), but working with kitchen mixers and palate knives really brought it to another level. Cooking = meh. Baking = yay!

I miss the kitchen in the house I grew up in. It wasn't anything special, really. The house was not very big. The kitchen was a small-medium size with a regular electric stove/oven and a small double sink. There was enough counter space for a dish rack, microwave, hand blender and a little empty surface area. There was a country-styled kitchen table, long and rectangular. I used to make cakes and cookies then, and it was enough space for me. It's to this day the biggest kitchen I've ever had at my disposal. It was also cozy and charming.

I've made the mistake of not making my household kitchens a priority. When I was first living alone, my bedroom was the most important, the bigger the better. I was still mentally stuck with teenager concerns. Then it was location, and then closets. The next place I live, I'll be thinking Kitchen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cute Town

Hellllo, October!

I love me some good October, I really do. I love pumpkins, Thanksgiving and Halloween. And it's also the month the Dude and I celebrate our anniversary. Four years now. T'is a record relationship length for us both.

We got our Halloween costumes ready to go. I'll be the Queen of Hearts and he'll be the White Rabbit, only a psychotic version. I really went all out this year. I couldn't help it. I really love dressing up in costume and you pretty much only get to do it once a year. I've always tried to be a little frugal about it: re-using costumes, buying only what's on sale, throwing things together with what I have lying around the house... but I wanted to for once give into my id and blow some cash on a fully accessorized shebang of fun.

So that meant not just a costume, but the accompanying petticoat to give the skirt flounce, and customized socks with playing card clubs on them. I'm not saying how much I spent on all of this after tax and shipping. But I'm going to look effing fantastic.

Since high school ended I've been haphazard about Hallowe'en most years. I bought a cheapo nurse costume second year and wore it twice in a row to Halloween pub night. Then it ripped. I think I skipped the following year. And then after that I was a police officer. The costume fit terribly, but a few pins here and there and it did the job. Then some more nothing.

Bo-ring, right? Things got more interesting with Rainbow Brite. I had some good fun with that, though it was a lesson to pay more attention to the way my body actually looks, as the torso on that dress was a lengthy nightmare on me. Whoever has the body to fill out that costume the way it's meant to, you have my congratulations, but that person is not me.

Then came my favourite to date: the bumblebee. It was actually a "sexy bumble bee", but on me it was not, the way most things are not sexy on me. And I don't mean this in a disparaging sort of way, it's just a fact. I really have to go out of my way to appear "sexy". I'm short as hell, petite everywhere and I have a very innocent look about my face and a juvenile voice. Hence, a short skirt ain't that short on me, and with no cleavage and my childlike looks, what was sexy and adult is suddenly cute and adorable.

It'd bother me, except that means I can get away with a lot more without looking like a skank. And that's what will happen for the Queen of Hearts. I know. I've tried it on. Cute Town, here I come.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sent/Unsent

I recently heard Unsent by Alanis Morissette again for the first time in years. For those in the know, it's a song of short letters to her ex-boyfriends. I loved that song when I first heard it, though I had fewer experiences under my belt to appreciate it fully. Wait, fewer? In 1998, when that song came out, I had practically none. I mentally padded my history by considering unrequited crushes as some sort of past romantic life under the justification that my singular feelings counting for something. Ah, yes. The delusions of teenagers.

I'm just about finished reading I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner. Now there is a woman with so much experience a song would never do. The book is truly necessary. And damn if it's not a funny book that delights and horrifies me with its witty turns and shocking anecdotes. And that's funny because despite having a wildly different (read less promiscuous, more serially monogamous) romantic history, it's like reading someone whose mind is similar to my own, if my own mind were wired for plenty of experimental sex with men I don't know very well. And I like that. Unbridled and loosely restrained sexuality is very fascinating to me, being a more cautious type of person, myself.

What sorts of things would I tell my exes now? In some cases, I'm still in touch. In others, I wouldn't know where to begin to look. They could be dead for all I know, or in South America, living off lottery wins, or in a cult, or prison or down the street.

The very first boyfriend I ever had was when I was 16. He was... many things, one of which was wrong for me in every single way. I was quite desperate at that time to date a boy, beginning to fear there was something wrong with me. Looking back, I was untouchable at school. Untouchable as in Not To Be Touched. At first there were some guys who found me attractive, but that became a thing of the distant past by the time grade 10 hit. Some people thought I was gay, others found me unfeminine, and everyone thought I was weird.

This guy lived around my neighbourhood, so was unaware of my undateableness. He showed up in the winter at my doorstep without shoes to prove how excited he was to come see me. He was not much of a catch, sad as it is to say. He was not very good looking, nor was he very bright. He seemed to mean well and liked me a good deal, which at the time was enough for me. But he was also socially awkward, smoked constantly and had crass manners. It lasted less than two months. He lied a lot, to me and about me, and misjudged my level self esteem; he thought making fun of me would make me insecure enough to stay. Rather, it made ending things super easy for me.

I was so utterly embarrassed over my association with this character, that I had anxiety of anyone from my school ever meeting him, knowing of him and learning I dated him. But he served an important purpose in my life. I was much happier being sans boyfriend and the inner stigma I carried of never having been wanted or dated was gone.

After him was another neighbourhood boy, a good-looking, tall, kind, intelligent sort of person who was leaps and bounds a better choice than the first poor sap. But having learned how much happier I was being alone than with someone I wasn't into, his superior credentials didn't lure me in longer than a couple weeks. We shared a ridiculously funny kiss, broke up, stayed friends and I have him on Facebook. He's a really decent person. Too bad I hadn't dated him first; I could've avoided dating the other one.

I then dated an adorable boy I met at an anime convention. For a geek like myself, it was pretty much a dream come true. And he turned out to be gay and our relationship was the push he apparently needed to come out of the closet. I'm very happy to have been a part of that for him now, but at the time I was not as jazzed. I wish I knew what became of him. I haven't given him a lot of thought, but I'd still like to know if he's happy, dating anyone special, or a teacher like he planned on being. He was the first boy who ever dumped me, and it's a valuable thing to happen at some point because then you learn you'll get over it and that's a good lesson you happily cannot unknow.

I then entered my first long-term relationship, with B, the kind where you make future plans, meet each other's families and generally are happy. Except for the complete lack of romantic passion. But it's amazing what friendship, comfort, security and trust will do to keep two people together. This guy was a number of firsts for me. We were living together for the last year of our 3.5 year stint. We rarely fought, we communicated well and we genuinely liked each other. But we were like roommates.

I'd ended things before, but nothing so monumental as this. I had realized we were only friends wrongly titled boyfriend and girlfriend. I wanted an actual friendship and knew it was possible I would not get one. Luckily, he wanted the same thing. Not that it wasn't a process, or that a switch was flipped and things were hunky dory. But six years after the fact he's my buddy. Actually, he and the Dude are buddies and hang out; Dude sees B more often than I do.

Shortly after this relationship ended I met this attractive paraplegic, who in many ways was actually more wrong for me than B was. But what I had perceived as missing with B (Passion) was there with wheels, so I dove in. Now, this was another first for me. I'd fallen in love and was all high with the euphoria from it. But when the person you're in love with is wildly different from the sort of person you can be happy with, even if he loves you back, you're basically existing within a cocoon that has an expiration date.

And I learned a ton about myself and what sort of man I needed. This two-year relationship was a pivotal one for me in many ways. I was with someone who couldn't be on time for anything, whether it was dinner, family gatherings, funerals, didn't matter. He was 100% honest, which was awesome until it extended to things that were unnecessary and started to hurt my feelings. He was incredibly generous, very funny and warm. But he was a procrastinator, an idealist, a dreamer, and seemingly afraid of conflicts. We also wanted different things out of life, in the present, in the near future and in the distant future.

Something about him brought out all my neurosis. I became withdrawn as well. I kind of felt like I was a part of The Mr. X Show sometimes. I also knew in my heart he didn't really understand me, and moreover wished I was a different kind of person, which only made me more anxious and unhappy.

He ended it, I saw it coming and more or less severed contact. He wasn't a bad guy, not at all. Just bad for me. And then I found the Dude. He's punctual, and my friend. He drives me crazy when he brings things home he finds on the side of the road, but we communicate well. And there's passion and comfort and shared desires and goals.

#1, I'm sorry I went out with you, but I hope your life is going well. I don't really ever want to see you again, though. We didn't have anything special.
#2, Sorry I didn't give you more of a chance, but only because it probably hurt your feelings, not because it could have worked out. I'm glad we're on good terms.
#3, Where are you? What happened to you? Damn, I'm curious. I hope you're super happy. I wish I knew what you were up to.
B, I'll probably see you soon enough. Glad we're friends. I have nothing left unsaid with you. I think you're great.
My last ex, I probably have the most complex feelings towards you out of all them. I'm glad we were together, I'm glad we're not together now, and I hope you find or found what you're looking for.
Dude, I love you, you crazy bastard.
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