Thursday, February 26, 2009

Something Blue

I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying the process of preparing for my wedding.

I expected to get stressed out having to make decisions and arrangements for all the details, even though we're trying to keep it simple. But it's all coming together so well and with such promise for a wonderful wedding day that every step I take along the way makes me feel happy and excited.

Only one thing prevents me from being completely overjoyed.

I've mentioned before that at my first wedding there was a lot of tension among the various factions of my fractured family. There are even some friends that don't especially get along with one another. These tensions and conflicts spoiled the day, and I am determined not to let that happen this time.

This wedding is for Ken, and for me, and for God. Anything that distracts us from the soulful purpose of the day is not welcome. Therefore we are inviting only a bare minimum from our families: my mother, my sister, and Ken's brother. Everyone else is either not invited or doesn't even know that we have a wedding date set. We'll tell them after that we eloped.

At first, when I made the decisicion to trim the guest list down to almost no one, I felt relief. But now, as I make the arrangements and see how lovely it will be, I feel sadder and sadder that I won't be sharing it with all my loved ones. They won't get to see my beautiful dress, or enjoy the music, or have a slice of cake. Now that there is something really shaping up that I could share, I feel sorry that I won't be sharing it with them.

I still stand by my decision. It would be way too complicated to bring everyone into it, not only because of their pre-existing feuds but because we're getting married in a church and I don't think my Jewish family could handle seeing me there as a Christian. Some of them know of my conversion, but it's still theoretical to them. I don't want that day to be marred by their discomfort.

The church won't be all echo-y and empty. We're inviting anyone from the congregation who wants to be there to "encourage" us, as the pastor put it. He estimated that we'd get around 50 people. Also, some of the ladies will be helping with refreshments, which is so kind of them. So the "church family" (more Christian lingo, which I personally like) will be stepping in to fill the gap left by my absent family of origin.

Have you ever faced a situation like this?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Membership and Mini Marshmallows

My memory isn’t very reliable. On Sunday, as we took our seats at church, Ken pointed to our names in the tri-fold weekly flyer. Five people, including us, were being called up to the front to be accepted as official church members.

The pastor had asked us the previous week, and we’d accepted. Then I had completely forgotten. Fortunately it wasn’t one of those Sundays when I grabbed an extra 20 minutes of sleep and then ran into church with no makeup and no contact lenses, peering out from behind thick eyeglasses. I looked presentable.

In between the singing and the preaching, we went up in front of the congregation to receive special papers of welcome signed by both pastors, and some heartfelt hugs. It was very sweet. Being members is significant in that we are a) counted as church members for statistical purposes and b) we can vote in meetings. Most important, we have symbolically been accepted into the “church family”.

It’s an exciting time to be joining this church, as it (I guess I should get used to saying “we”) we are on the verge of potential major changes. The space is used by our multi-cultural Baptist group in the mornings, and by an English-speaking Korean church in the afternoons. As it stands, the Korean church has been renting the space, but there is now talk of merging the churches. This will create an opportunity for discussions relating to leadership, theology, finances, the structure of the service, etc. It’s not guaranteed that the merger will go ahead, but it will certainly make for an interesting exploration either way.

The Baptist church is top-heavy in terms of the average age of the congregation. There are many white-haired elders, and not enough youngsters to take their place as they grow too old to perform their roles. There are quite a few families with young children, but they can’t step into the roles on the board of directors and sub-committees to run the church; they’re too busy looking after their kids. The community lacks the 20-somethings and new, still-energetic empty-nesters who could contribute time to the cause. The Korean church has many more attendees in those age groups. We need their help. I don’t know what they hope to gain from us, but there must be something.

Immediately after the service we were invited to come to the annual financial meeting, which was taking place along with a potluck lunch in the downstairs gymnasium. We hadn’t signed up or brought food, but we were assured that there would be plenty to go around.

I love the very stereotypical W.A.S.P. comfort foods that show up on the potluck buffet, along with delicacies contributed by our browner* community members of various backgrounds. Lime Jell-O with canned tangerine slices sits next to curried goat. Carrot salad with fruity, pastel-coloured mini-marshmallows on top accompanies chicken teriyaki. Potluck is the absolute best!

Of course the call went out for volunteers to help the church, and Ken and I stepped up. Apparently there are many positions to be filled, and the woman in charge wants to think about where she can use us most. She mentioned that the church is looking to train more deacons. I don’t even fully understand what a deacon is, but the title “deacon” sounds totally cool, so I’ll be looking into that. Deacon Spark – doesn’t that have a ring to it?

* I have had several friends of various or mixed ethnic backgrounds who refer to themselves as “brown”. I hope no one takes offense at the term.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Being A Zero

Earlier today, a doctor I work with approaches, and greets me with:

"Hello, little boy!"

Me: Pardon?

Her: Hello, little boy!

Me: *confusion*

Her: Your hair, it makes you look like a little boy. My son has it like that, only worse.

Me: Worse? Thanks a lot. *I laugh, trying to give the (false) impression that I am not offended.*

Me: I figured I'd go with a boyish haircut to match my boyish figure.

Her: *smiles and wanders off*

I do have a boyish figure. I can fit quite comfortably into a boys size 12, and used to occasionally buy things from the kids department when I shopped in thrift stores throughout my early 20's.

For the most part, I'm grateful for my smallness and slightness.

I can't begin to imagine the difficulties faced by those who struggle with their body weight for their entire adult lives. I try to be extremely sensitive to that issue, knowing that I've been blessed with a quick metabolism and what comes effortlessly to me is a daily challenge for others. I never sneer or make assumptions about the reasons why someone is overweight.

My shape is convenient. I can run to catch a bus without having to hang on to my bosom. I've never had to worry about crumbs in cleavage, or sore shoulders from my bra straps digging in. I would NEVER get breast implants, even if they were free and I was guaranteed a 100% successful procedure with no complications. What God gave me is more than good enough.

It's much easier for me to buy clothes today than it was 15 years ago, when I had just joined the workforce. I attribute this to the large number of people of Asian origin who have immigrated to Canada. In the last ten years I've noticed that more and more stores carry extra-small sizes. There are still some women's clothing stores in which the smallest size is too big for me, but I have plenty of choice.

Average-sized or larger women tend to assume that nothing could be better than being tiny. I've known women to resent me before I was even introduced to them, based on jealousy. They feel free to discuss my body in ways that make me feel self-conscious. I wish they wouldn't.

They wouldn't make comments about the size of a larger woman, so why do they feel that it's OK to comment on my body? I try not to get too hung up about it, but when I hear someone I work with say "I can't see whether or not she's in her office - she's so TINY!", it makes me feel uncomfortable. I mean honestly, I'm not microscopic. Nor deaf.

Despite the fact that I have some items of clothing in my closet labelled "size 0", I do exist. (Sometimes that size zero thing gives me existential angst.)

I'll never forget the day that I went shopping to buy a dress for my senior prom. I was thrilled to have an excuse to buy a beautiful, hopefully sexy dress to wear for that all-important night. I went to Eaton's department store, to the Peppertree department for young women, but I had trouble finding something that fit. I sought the sales woman's help. She advised me to go looking for a dress in the children's department.


I don't even want to talk about swimsuits. Fortunately I don't enjoy swimming, so I haven't had to face that prospect since 1996.

Anyway, my point is that the women who feel so free to discuss my size should think twice. Would they want someone discussing them in those terms? There are lots of stereotypes about overweight people that we're supposed to be sensitive to: not all large people are lazy, or eat junk food, or don't exercise. I know quite a few people who exercise regularly and eat healthy but all they can do is to maintain their weight, not lose, due to metabolic issues.

People make a lot of assumptions about me based on my size. Anyone who doesn't know me well assumes I'm a vegetarian, which I'm not. Some people assume that I'm anorexic (a big assumption - it's a serious mental illness), which I'm not. Whenever I'm in a restaurant with a friend and we both order a soda, the server invariably puts the Diet Soda in front of me and the regular one in front of my friend, even though it's the other way around.

I'm happy with my shape and size. I wouldn't trade if I could. But that doesn't make it OK for people to say whatever they want about me. I would like to be treated with the same sensitivity with which I treat others. I've never said about anyone I work with "My goodness, she's so LARGE!" even if it might be true. But I doubt they'll ever see it that way.

Here's a link to a post where you can see the bod in question.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Timing is Everything

Ken and I have been living together for seven years now. Why, you might ask, are we bothering to get married? And why now?

The breakup of my first marriage was truly traumatizing. Well, what divorce isn’t? I never realized until I went through it myself how divorce rips your guts out and leaves you, collapsed and hollow, trying to make sense of the wreckage of your life.

When I got married the first time I truly believed, with all of my heart, that I would keep my marriage vows. ‘Till death do us part, honour and cherish, the whole nine yards. And I really, truly tried. That marriage lasted for five years, and we had some good times, but in the end we could not make it work. I remember one time, at the end of another long argument, we both admitted that while we still loved one another, we also had grown to hate each other. I was losing my mind and my self in that marriage. For the sake of my survival, I couldn’t stay.

After that, the thought of remarrying seemed bizarre. If I had believed my vows with all my heart the first time, why should I trust myself any more now? We can’t see the future; can’t see all the ways in which mates will change and possibly grow apart. For a long time it was all I could do just to take one day at a time, to get out of bed, go to work and keep my apartment clean. There was no such thing as Forever anymore.

Also, I felt that I couldn’t promise anyone that I would be there for them, to support them through thick and thin. I could barely care for myself. My emotional life, for a long time, consisted primarily of sadness, despair, anger, and frustration. How could I promise to love someone for better or for worse? I was in the middle of my own worse. I didn’t believe that I had enough left to give, or that I could be resilient enough to withstand the misfortunes of another person on top of my own.

When Ken and I were still fairly new to the idea that our relationship was a serious one, he used to promise me that even if I got really sick or was crippled in a car wreck or if I lost my mind, he would still love me and care for me always. I was ashamed not to be able to return that promise. But at least I was honest. I wept and confessed that I wasn’t sure if I could do the same for him. He said “yes, you would”. He had more faith in me than I did.

The passage of time blunted the pain of my divorce. Ken had to ask me a few times, but I finally agreed to go with him to pick out an engagement ring. That was three years ago. We bought wedding bands quite soon after I started wearing my ring, but we never got around to actually picking a date.

Another part of the problem was that I didn’t want to have another wedding. I wanted to BE married, but the idea of planning a wedding completely turned me off. I’ve written about my first wedding, and how disappointing it was. I didn’t want a repeat of that experience, but the thought of going down to City Hall to sign a paper with no ceremony whatsoever seemed meaningless. I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything.

Finding my faith, and my church, has made all the difference.

First of all, now that I know God is on my side, listening to my prayers and ready to lend me all the grace that I need to get through life, I’m ready to face the scariness of making a lifelong commitment. If Ken got really sick, or went senile, it wouldn’t be easy, but I trust that I would be able to get through it with God’s grace and support. I could keep my vows. I don’t have to believe in my own strength and tenacity. Or I do, to some extent, but I also trust God to meet me halfway, or more than halfway if I need it.

Secondly, we now have a meaningful place and way to get married. Of course we will be married in our church, by the pastor whom we trust. It won’t just be an administrative exercise of signing forms and making a change to our legal status. It will be a spiritual experience, which we undertake in part because we hope that it will be pleasing to God. This is entirely different from my first wedding, which was more of a staged ritual for the benefit of our audience than it was for myself and my first husband.

I am looking forward to this wedding with more joy and less stress than that with which I anticipated the first one. Nine weeks to the big day – and I’m sure they’ll fly by.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Zaidy's Party

Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day.  For a chance to walk in the sun, I took public transit to my grandfather's 96th birthday party instead of bumming a ride or taking a cab.  The trip takes ten minutes from my door to his door by car.  I figured allowing 45 minutes for public transit would be plenty.

The stupid bus sat idling for around 25 minutes before finally closing its doors and farting off towards Bathurst St.

I arrived at my grandparents' apartment just as the family lit the candles on the birthday cake.  Just in time to sing Happy Birthday, which is the most important part of any birthday party.  I would have felt bad if I'd missed out on that.

My grandparents’ tiny, one-bedroom apartment in an assisted-living seniors' residence was cram-packed with people, furniture, and food.  My father had even brought the dog.  Chairs had been dragged from the common area into the apartment to provide enough seating for everyone, and one tiny table, supplemented by some folding TV trays, were so loaded that the rims of plates hung over the table-edges on all four sides.

There was a surfeit of goodies. Lemon pie, marble cake, two types of cookies, potato chips, several boxes of chocolate bonbons, ice cream, rice dream, and on and on. My grandmother was dispensing tea all around, and plastic tumblers of sparkling water. There was a festive busy-ness in the air. Various conversations split and merged. My grandfather, more lucid than I’ve seen him in a while, cracked jokes that had the whole room laughing. We held on to the backs of chairs as we crawled over other chairs to reach the people we hadn’t hugged yet. The dog trotted here and there with her tail a-waggle, snuffling at the rug for crumbs.

It was good to see the family together, having a good time. That apartment must get awfully quiet when it’s just my grandparents at home. My grandfather, I’m told, sleeps a lot. And when he’s awake, he’s not able to hold much of a conversation. He repeats a few phrases, and the same questions, over and over. It’s sweet when he tells us for the hundredth time that he can’t decide if my grandmother is a honey bunny or a lovey dovey, but I know that she craves more conversational variety.

After a couple of hours it was time for everyone to get back into their cars and drive home – which for one cousin is as far as Peterborough. Leftovers were packed away and the extra chairs were dragged back out into the hall. I patted my grandfather’s soft, snowy hair, and kissed his cheek. His brilliantly blue eyes held each of us as he said goodbye, and told us how proud he is of us, and how much joy we bring to him. He tells it in Yiddish – shepping nachas is what he calls it (where the “ch” is that throat-clearing sound that doesn’t exist in English).

What a man. Ninety-six! If I’m to take after him, I’d better save up a lot of money for my retirement. It’s going to have to last a long time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Driving a Hard Bargain

Scene: a family-owned local business.  Ken finds his item and puts it on the counter.  There are two guys working there, both in their mid-to-late 20's.  One is working the cash register, the other is nearby, just hanging out.

Guy at the cash:  Hey, Trev, is this on sale?

Trev (the hanging out guy):  It should be.  Everything from that section is on sale.

Cash guy:  How much discount?

Trev:  *shrugs*  Thirty percent?

Cash guy:  That sounds about right.  *To Ken* Does that sound good to you?

Ken: *sensing an opportunity*  How about forty percent?

Cash guy and Trev glance at each other indecisively.

Ken:  How about this?  If I can beat you at Rock, Paper, Scissors, I get forty percent off.  If I lose, I'll take thirty.

Trev: *thinks for a moment* *nods*  OK, it's a deal.

Ken and Trev set themselves up face to face over the counter, and deterimine the rules (on the count of three, or after three?  After three.)

One!  Two!  Three!  Go!

Ken loses.  He grins, shakes his head, and accepts the thirty percent discount.   "Next time!" he says.

See what a good policy that store has?  You can bet that they'll be getting our repeat business.  They also told us their policy for one particularly popular item: if you can tell them an entertaining or unusual story, they'll give you ten percent off.  How can you not love this store?

And now, to another topic entirely.

I rarely post links to music, because it's one of those intensely personal things, where a song that rings your bell will leave me flat, and vice versa.  But I really like this song that a friend introduced me to, and it's relatively unknown.  Some of you might like it too.  I hope so.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Manic Monday

Ken and I are finally going to get married, officially, legally, on April 25. We've been meaning to get around to it for around 4 years now. Last year, after our wedding bands had been sitting in the sock drawer for many months, we decided to just go ahead and start wearing them. And started calling each other "my husband" and "my wife". But it's not the same as being actually married.

Ken and I have never had an anniversary. We segued very gradually into our relationship. I've always regretted that, because we have a lot to celebrate - we just didn't have a date.

So now we're planning the world's smallest wedding: just the two of us, our pastor, and my mum and my sister as our witnesses. I'll get myself a new dress and a pretty bouquet. We'll have a professional photographer do some portraits. We'll probably go for a fancy dinner that evening, and a little day-trip honeymoon on the Sunday. And that's really all that either of us want.

My first wedding was more traditional: 50 guests, white gown and veil, etc. But it was a flop. The rabbi was drunk when he performed the ceremony, offending many of the guests and causing my maid of honour to flee the room with a massive attack of giggles. Various branches of fractured families (both mine and his) could not relax and enjoy the day together. In fact, more than half of my family members made excuses to leave early. There were so few people left by the time we got around to cutting the cake that the dancing part didn't even happen. I went home and cried.

My family members who left early last time won't even be informed of this wedding until after the fact. So far as they'll know, we eloped. They'll probably be righteously offended by the situation, but I don't care. They'll have plenty of chances to be snarky and divisive at many other family gatherings. Never again at a wedding of mine.

On Monday Ken and I went to pick up a marriage license. We live within a 15-minute walk of our municipal city hall, so we figured it would be a snap. I had all my papers prepared the night before, checked and double-checked against the requirements listed on the government's Service Ontario website.

I was NOT impressed to discover that the website was wrong. The clerk asked to see a divorce certificate. I showed him a Final Judgement of divorce, which was supposedly allowable. But, not so. I had everything else. My birth certificate, two change of name certificates... I thought I had gotten a divorce certificate back in 2003, but there were no odd-shaped pieces of fancy paper, covered in squiggles and watermarks like my other certificates. Just some random 81/2 x 11 papers floating around in my "Divorce Stuff" envelope.

Suddenly this pleasant task that should have taken 30 minutes on my way to work had turned into a red tape nightmare. The clerk told me I had to go downtown to the Family Law Courts to get a divorce certificate, and then I could come back uptown to get the marriage license. Ugh. Fine.

So, Ken and I got on a train and went down to the courthouse, which took us close to an hour. We rode a crowded elevator to the 10th floor, at which point I started having some seriously stressful flashbacks of being there for my divorce proceedings many years ago. Sweating and stressed out, I waited for my turn to speak to a clerk. Finally I was called up to the counter. I pulled out my envelope and started yanking everything out in search of the Final Judgement, while I told the clerk I needed a divorce certificate.

One long, pink, manicured nail came down on one of the other papers that had drifted out of my envelope.

"This," she said, "is a divorce certificate."

I looked. On this otherwise non-descript sheet of white copy paper, there was a heading in Times Roman stating "Divorce Certificate".

"You're kidding me," I said.

"No. You don't want another one, do you?"

I smacked my right hand over my eyes and took a moment to process this information. Indeed, I had had the stupid certificate all along. What fooled me was that it looked nothing like the other certificates. Birth, Marriage, Change of Name - they're all as fancy and impossible to forge as banknotes. But the Divorce Certificate... anyone could mock one of those up with a black and white inkjet printer. The only "official" bit was a red stamp that left a raised impression on the paper. I had completely overlooked it.

I gathered up my papers and shuffled back to where Ken was waiting. I said:

"I don't think you're going to want to marry me anymore."

I explained that I had had the paper the whole time, and that our trip downtown had been a wild goose chase. I apologized profusely for wasting his time. Of course he forgave me, and said many soothing things.

At that point we took a break for lunch, which helped get me back to a more normal state of mind. Then we took the train back uptown and FINALLY got the freaking marriage license.

Well, something had to go wrong. That's just how things go. Now hopefully we've gotten it out of the way, and we'll have a perfect wedding.

That evening, after work, Ken was home waiting for me with a homecooked meal and two vases filled with beautiful flowers. My favourites are the pale pink roses with baby's breath. I'm looking forward to our wedding. He's already the best husband I could ask for.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Viola Incident

First, a brief aside: I spoke to a doctor whom I work with, and he was not concerned by any of my bothersome symptoms. Also, cough syrup works - why didn't I get some sooner? So, generally, I'm not feeling as fretful as I was. And now, a story.

Have you seen Mr. Holland's Opus? Mr. Holland was my high school music teacher. The premise: a super-committed music teacher pours his heart and energy into a group of awkward, rebellious high-school kids, bringing them together to make glorious music, and changing lives in the process.

My Mr. Holland was called Mr. Ford. He worked long hours, starting rehearsals early, teaching classes all day, and then running more rehearsals well into the evening. He looked after the junior strings, the senior strings, chamber groups for the advanced students, and the school orchestra.

Mr. Ford and his band leader counterpart had spent 20 years building up a reputation for the best high school music program in Toronto. Good old NTCI swept the Kiwanis competition without fail every year. Parents from all over the Greater Toronto Area shipped their kids in to participate. The orchestra was over 100 bodies strong; and in preparation for the spring concert, Maytime Melodies, Mr. Ford also conducted a chorus of 300 voices.

He was a formidable man. He had to be. Can you imagine being in charge of an auditorium containing over 400 teenagers? Holding their attention and respect? Trying to fine tune the timing of the oboes or the tuning of the second violins, (third desk back), while keeping the other 397 students quiet and attentive?

He knew he had to rule with an iron fist or we wouldn't respect him, so he cultivated an ogre's reputation.

Mr. Ford wasn't a tough guy physically. He didn't have abs of steel. He let it be widely known among the students that he would accept bribes during exam time, and what he wanted was buttertarts. Not that he would pass you if you didn't deserve it, but he wouldn't say no to a buttertart to remedy the pain of screechy, out-of-tune exam solos.

Maytime Melodies rehearsals ran from 6 pm to 9 pm once weekly. When calling us to order at the beginning of the evening, Mr. Ford would stand at the end of a catwalk that ran from the edge of the stage through the middle of the chorus pit. His golf shirt would be tucked in and his hair smoothed back. He would bark a few threatening words at us, sometimes in a good-natured way, sometimes not, depending on what the day had dealt him. Then we'd get down to business.

As we worked, his appearance gradually changed. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead and temples. His hair began to curl and stand out from his head. Then, when his conducting got wild enough, his golf shirt would start to untuck itself. By the time we were halfway through a rehearsal he wore visible perspiration stains. Without a restraining shealth of fabric, his belly wobbled up and down with his arms as he conducted.

Anything less than perfect wasn't good enough for him. Clunking along out of tune and out of sync like any old high school music group was unacceptable. He'd stop the rehearsal and work his way through potential suspects until he found the source of a wrong note, thoroughly embarassing the guilty party in the process. If we had to work for two hours on one 8-bar segment to get it perfect, that's what we'd do. And it was worth it. We were, in the end, almost perfect.

Everyone who came to see Maytime Melodies said the music brought tears to their eyes, it was so beautiful.

Sometimes Mr. Ford got frustrated, as you can imagine. The greatest sin in his book was apathy - not caring, not trying. He wore himself out giving 200% to us. If we gave less than 100% in return, we could expect serious trouble, and rightly so. We all lived in fear of his rare but terrifying rage.

One night we were in the middle of a long rehearsal. Mr. Ford was in full swing. We couldn't seem to please him. As the evening wore on, he found more and more wrong notes, rushed tempos, and inattentive students. We could see his fuse burning shorter and shorter. But you know teenagers. They just have to be mouthy and stupid sometimes.

The two lead viola players were chatting with each other while Mr. Ford was trying to instruct us. He gave them a warning, but for their own reasons, they disregarded him. He gave them another warning, but I guess they didn't like living much, because a few minutes later they were back at it again.

Mr. Ford spotted them at it a third time, and turned crimson with rage. He strode down the catwalk to the stage, yelling at them the whole way. I don't remember what he said. What I remember is the silence in the rest of the auditorium. We were all paralyzed, glued to our seats, terrified of attracting any of that rage to ourselves.

There was a heated exchanged as the lead violist tried to defend himself. And then, the unthinkable. Mr. Ford grabbed the instrument from the lead violist's hand, and, still yelling, shook it in his face. As we all looked on in disbelief, he turned to face the auditorium. He cranked his arm back. And then he HURLED that viola with all his might.

Slow motion. 400-plus faces tipped in unison to follow the arc of the viola as it flipped end-over-end, its varnish flashing in the lights. Then SMASH! A horrible splintering as the instrument crashed into the empty seats at the back.


Mr. Ford wiped his brow, and returned to his place at the end of the catwalk. You could have heard a pin drop. "From the 16th bar," he said. The chorus sat up straight. Flutes were lifted to lips. Violins were clamped under chins. He raised his hands. He brought his hands down. We played perfectly. We sang perfectly. No one so much as cleared their throat.

Ten minutes into this, Mr. Ford started to smirk visibly. Then snicker. He caught the eye of the lead violist, who'd been left sitting empty-handed, and the violist cracked a smile. Then the violist's stand partner started giggling. And finally they all collapsed in gales of laughter.

Yup, he got us. It was a practical joke executed with a crappy old viola that wouldn't stay in tune anymore and was destined for the garbage anyway. Nice one, Mr. Ford.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Apple a Day

I'm resisting the urge to make a doctor appointment.

The irritating bronchitis is still sapping my energy. Also, in the past two weeks I have had three episodes of seeing strobing, crescent-shaped lights or patches of static. These visual disturbances hang around for around 25 minutes from the buildup to when I can finally see normally again. This, as you can imagine, is not very helpful when I'm trying to work. I need to be able to READ THINGS. And see people. You know, the basics.

I checked with Dr. Google, and found that the most likely cause is something called acephalgic migraine, which means you get a migraine aura without any headache. That's not too bad, compared to what people with actual, serious migraines go through. I couldn't see any mention of treatments. I think it's one of those "just live with it" things.

Then again, there's a minute chance that it could be an indication of something more serious.

So, do I bother going to my doctor? Take a whole half-day off work to sit in his waiting room for an hour so I can talk to him for five minutes? He'll probably tell me that I should get more rest, and take an expectorant for the bronchitis. Then he'll tell me that the migraine thing isn't anything to worry about and I should just make sure to stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet. Then I'll leave feeling like I totally wasted my time.

Of course, if I don't go, there's that one in a million chance that I'll be sorry I didn't. As my good friend Logan pointed out, always there to reassure me, it could be a tumor pressing on my optic nerve or something. Seriously, someone I work with has a sister going through chemotherapy for that exact problem. It happens!

I would say that 85% of the time when I've consulted with doctors they've been completely unable to help me (or at least unwilling to investigate my complaints further). For example, I used to suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My doctor said "live with it". Then I got a naturopath, and the naturopath cured me. Take THAT, allopathic medicine!

I suppose I could go see my naturopath... but he's in my old neighbourhood where I lived 13 years ago, and it's a huge pain in the butt to take public transit all the way to his office. Especially when I'm still so fatigued all the time. I'm too tired to get help for being tired - does that make sense?


Monday, February 2, 2009


I love my library.  Not my own personal library, but the one down the street: the biggest lending library in the city of Toronto.  Six floors of booky goodness, all free for the taking.

Every once in a while I like to stop in and browse randomly through the shelves, picking up books that I wouldn't give the time of day in a bookstore.  A book on the history of clocks, copyright 1963.  Magazines about the science of agriculture.  Random volumes of poetry.  I get absorbed in the most unlikely subjects.  

I picked up a volume called "Dropped Threads", a collection of essays by women writers.  The common theme was Things In Life that they had Not Been Adequately Prepared For by school or their upbringing.  One woman wrote eloquently of being awake at 4:30 in the morning, not knowing how much longer she would have to spend with her husband, who had been slowly, incrementally dying of (living with?) kidney failure for the past ten years.  How could anything prepare you for that?

Some of the essays fell completely flat.  I read the first few paragraphs, then skimmed the rest.  One woman wrote about her hips, how they budded as the first sign of her womanhood; how she struggled with the aesthetics of having big hips; how she fell and broke her hip and how this symbolic brokenness went down through all the other layers of symbolic hip-related feminine blah blah blah and for Pete's sake - who cares?  

I don't mean to be cruel to women who struggle with their hips.  It wasn't the content that bugged me, it was the tone.  A very adolescent angst-y, melodramatic, overreaching-with-all-the-heavily-interlaced-symbolism tone.  Trying way too hard to make more of the story than there was.  

It was what it was.  If that wasn't enough, don't bother writing about it.

I did enjoy the essays that told genuine, enlightening stories of events that women had been unprepared for in their lives.   Like the woman writing at the age of 36 (my age) of her two abortions.  She had one when she was 23 and one at 29.  She hadn't been sure about the second one, but went ahead because she was frightened of being a single mother.  As she wrote, she was still single, and feared she might have missed her chances to experience motherhood.  What can you even say about that?

I believe the thing I was least adequately prepared for in a specific way in my life was one particular aspect of menstruation.  I assumed each period only lasted one day.  I don't know where I got the idea, but advertising wasn't as explicit back then as it is now.  There was no talk of light days and heavy days and overnight pads.  No one, not even the sex ed teacher, mentioned duration, so I imagine that it started when you woke up in the morning and was done by bedtime.

Wouldn't that be nice?

What were you least prepared for in your life?  Option a) answer in the comments.  Option b) this is the topic for your next blog post.