Monday, April 27, 2009

Honeymoon Abrupt Ending

I'm back!  A lawfully wedded wife, now.  And very happy with my wedding weekend.

Why am I back at the computer blogging instead of lolling around in honeymoon paradise?  It all comes down to traffic.

We had to make several trips between uptown and downtown this weekend.  It just so happened that, (the only blot on an otherwise flawless wedding plan), the city of Toronto chose this weekend to close down the only major north-south highway running through the centre of town, for spring pothole maintenance.  We took a longer route (all the way around to Dufferin and then back to Yonge again, if you're curious) to avoid the traffic backups, but unfortunately the long drive resulted in two instances of me toughing out the discomfort of a very full bladder.  I should know better.  I should have asked Ken to pull over at a coffee shop, but on Saturday I was in my wedding gown and didn't want to attract attention to myself.  On Sunday I was tired, lazy, and it was cold out, so I didn't want to leave the car.  I really should have known better.  I've put myself in this position before.

I woke up this morning at 5:00 am, whimpering in pain.  Bladder infection.  Wicked ouch.  

At least I'm super-spoiled in one respect: I work with doctors.  I watched TV with a hot pack on my abdomen until 8:30 am and then called one of the g.p.'s  at work.  He faxed a prescription for me to a local pharmacy, and Ken's already gone to pick it up.  I don't even have to leave the house to get what I need, let alone sit in a waiting room.  I am very lucky.

Anyway, the pain's not too bad at the moment.  I'm home with nothing I need to do.  Ken's here to sympathize and bring me cranberry juice.  Life could be worse.  

I want to wait until I'm feeling better before I tell you my wedding tale, so that I can bring a full measure of enthusiasm and descriptive detail to it.  I will say this:  it was pretty much perfect.  Or at least as perfect as any earthly event can hope to be.

I actually slept pretty well the night before.  Everything was all planned out for the Big Day.  I had typed out a detailed itinerary.  The flowers were already at the church, as was the cake.  My overnight case was mostly packed.  All the participants were confirmed.

The day dawned to the most gorgeous weather imaginable.  I didn't have to rush to get ready.  We left on time, and basically ticked our way through the itinerary without a single hiccup.  We were relaxed, and enjoyed the day.  

Our friends and family are amazing.  The photos will be beautiful.  The fancy hotel we stayed in did not disappoint.  All these stories and more, coming soon to this blog.


But in the meantime, owie!  I knew that would happen.  As soon as I typed "the pain isn't too bad" it started ramping up again.

If you don't want to hear any gory details, stop reading now.  

I don't get bladder infections often, but when I do, SHAZAM!  It's never mild.  It's always a wake-up-in-the-night-in-agony situation.  This one that I have right now is as "mild" as I've ever had it.  Typically I'm actually panting with pain within a few hours of the onset.

I'm really hoping that the pain doesn't get any worse, now that I can't take painkillers at all due to the stomach upset they bring on.  *fingers crossed*  

Last time this happened, a few years ago, I went to a walk-in clinic to get antibiotics.  Two hours later, after the clinic had closed, the pain ratcheted itself up into the "extreme" category.  Ken drove me to the emergency room to get a prescription for pain medicine.

I'll always remember the unkind nurse who admitted me.  She asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, where ten was the worst pain I'd ever experienced.  I thought about it, and rated it as an eight.  The pain was so bad that I was clenching my teeth and whispering a breathy "silent scream" each time I went to the bathroom.  The nurse stuck her nose up in the air and told me that that was impossible, and I shouldn't exaggerate.  "It's just a bladder infection."  I told her she could put down any number she felt was correct, but that relative to my experience of pain in the past it was 8 out of 10.  She rolled her eyes and asked me for a urine sample.

I went and tortured myself in the bathroom once again, then brought back the bottle and handed it to her.  It was the bright red colour of artificially-flavoured fruit punch.  The other nurse on duty was suitably impressed.  "Um, that would be positive for blood in the urine," she said, marking something on my chart.

SEE? I wanted to yell at the mean nurse.  Look at all that nasty blood!  Now do you believe that it hurts?

Seriously.  If they give you a relative scale by which to judge your pain, they shouldn't be surprised that they don't get the answers they want.  If I'd ever had a limb amputated without anaesthetic, my answer of how bad the pain was relative to "the worst I'd ever experienced" might have been somewhat different. 

Anyway, ow.  It's starting in again, and I can't think of a witty way to wrap up.  So, bye!  I'm off to take my first antibiotic tablet.  Yaaaaay medicine!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Love Handles

We're here.  The day before the wedding!

Ken picked up the cake this morning.  I didn't even get to see what it looks like because it's sealed inside a box.  We opted to leave the box closed in order not to tempt Fate - any unnecessary tampering increases the chances of DROPPING THE CAKE and that is just not worth the stress.

The church lounge is set up with chairs; fresh, white tablecloths; pink napkins (from the dollar store - shhhhh, don't tell!); a sign that says "Please Sign our Guestbook" and an assortment of rainbow markers as well as black pens by the book.

We're going back out in half an hour to pick up the flowers. I can't wait to see my bouquet!  Pretty pretty!

Although I'm trying not to get too excited, in the interests of getting a good sleep tonight.  So I will distract us all with a story:

Ken and I were out window shopping around three weeks ago.  It's our go-to activity for sunny days when we want to be out and about with no clear goal in mind.

We stopped in at Le Chateau, a trendy Canadian clothing retailer.  Poking around there, we saw a very unusual garment: a mini-dress with long, belled sleeves.  The bottom of the cuffs of the dress merged back into the hem of the bottom, for a bizarre effect which make me think of "I'm a little teapot short and stout, here is my handle..." and then here is my other handle, since both arms were attached.

Ken, who loves unusual design, was completely taken by this dress.  He asked me to try it on.  Sure, why not?  There were two versions: a cream one with black polka dots, and one which was entirely covered by a giant print of a black rose.  I preferred the cream with polka-dots, but they didn't have that in my size, so I tried the other one.

When I came out of the dressing room, Ken was instantly prepared to buy the dress for me.  But I thought it was silly.  I was like, Look - I can't raise my hands above waist level without hiking up the dress!  Ken said: wear it with leggings.  It's still undignified, was my response.  He was adamant, but I was more adamant that I would never wear it.  Also, I didn't like the giant black rose.  I said that maybe if the polka-dot one was in my size I might consider it, but that wasn't the case.

So we left it at that.

Two weeks later, we passed by the same store.  Ken checked the rack to see if they had my size back in stock, but they hadn't restocked.  He inquired at the counter: would they be getting more?  The clerk didn't know.  He checked the computer and said that there was only one more polka-dot XS in the entire city of Toronto, at the Yonge and Bloor store.  So we wandered off and I forgot about the dress once again.

On Wednesday night I came home and found a bag sitting on my bed.  What the..?

He didn't.  Yes, he did!

Here I am, modeling the weirdest dress I have ever owned.  It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself!

The bonus is I figured out if I push the sleeves up to my elbows I can raise my hands up higher, so at least I'd be able to open doors, eat, and drink wearing this.  But I won't be going out in public without my thickest black leggings, just in case.  That thing is bound to hike itself up at some point.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Wedding Gift

By popular demand, this is Ken's father's wedding gift to us.  He drew it his very own self, with love.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grace in Small Things #12

1) The wedding rehearsal went smoothly.

2) My sister/maid of honour and my excellently lovable girlfriend/ringbearer met for the first time at a dinner before the rehearsal, and got along famously. I get really happy when two people I care about like each other, because I have such a history of my loved ones being at war. I like it when my circle of friends becomes more interwoven, like a fabric that knits itself together until it's warm, strong, and protective.

3) My father-in-law drew an incredible picture for Ken and I as our wedding gift. We opened it last night. It's an exquisitely detailed line drawing of two trees. Each has a separate trunk. They lean towards each other across a white background, find each other half-way up the page, and then their trunks and branches intertwine. We hung it up last night, and I fall in love with it again each time I see it.

4) We have volunteers to prepare and serve the tea and cake at our reception. A lovely woman from the congregation, to whom I'd never even been introduced, saw our wedding in the church calendar and volunteered to help set up and brew the beverages. Isn't that amazing? We were strangers to her, a she freely offered her help. Also, our good friends are acting as ushers and will also help serve refreshments. Bless their hearts. It's wonderful to be on the receiving end of all this support.

5) The final details are all falling into place. Little things like: where the church stores its tablecloths and cake servers; who has a key to the fellowship hall so the piano-player can be let in to set up his keyboard; where will my mom be able to lock up her purse during the ceremony... All these questions are answered, and therefore put to rest in my mind. I even slept through the night last night.

Friday, April 17, 2009


You know how preparing for a wedding can put a relationship in a pressure cooker? If you don't, take my word for it.

Back at the end of March, Ken and I had a difference of opinion. There were some WORDS and some hurt feelings. In the final analysis, Ken decided that I was right to be angry with him because of something he said or did - I don't even remember now - so he made me an offer I've always refused.

"Hit me!" he said. "Just give me a good smack. It'll make us both feel better, and then we'll be even again."

In the past I've always said that it was a silly idea and I couldn't possibly. But this time, I was pretty ticked off, so I went ahead and hit him. Not in the face! Good grief - do you think I'm that vicious? I pummeled his sides with the palms of my hands, smack-'em-up style, with what I estimated to be moderate force. He didn't even say "ow". There were no marks, no bruises.

A couple of days later, when he complained that his ribs hurt, I assumed that he had pulled a muscle coughing. (His asthma's been acting up in the past few weeks, possibly from pre-wedding stress.) His ribs hurt quite badly for a couple of days, and then it started to ease up, relatively speaking. I say "relatively" because he hadn't found time to get to the doctor for his asthma, and all the coughing kept re-aggravating his injury.

Last week he finally went to the doctor. And was sent immediately to the x-ray department. Although we haven't gotten the official results back yet, the doctor seemed to think that he has at least one cracked rib. Not from coughing.



When Ken told me that I had broken his ribs, I felt sick. How could it be true? I'm undeniably a featherweight weakling. My arms are so skinny that I have to get links taken out of my bracelets so they'll stay on my weeny wrists. An eight-year-old once dead-lifted me clean off my feet. A GIRL eight-year-old! I can't open jars by myself! How could I have broken Ken?

I sank to the floor and cried bitter tears of regret. How could I do this to us just before our wedding? On the day of the x-rays, because he'd been forced to contort his body to get good angles for the x-ray tech, he was in severe pain. Standing hurt. Driving hurt. Everything hurt. I freaked out. That freaked him out.

With all the stress his airways squeezed shut even more, and he launched into the worst coughing fit I'd ever heard since we both got mold-poisoning from a contaminated humidifier. In between gasping for breath and barking coughs, he moaned in pain. Every groan and wheeze was like a knife in my heart.

Neither of us slept much that night. That was Tuesday.

Since then, things have gotten a lot better all around. Ken is on stronger asthma medication, which is bringing his breathing back under control. And the pain which resulted from his contortions in the x-ray machine has diminished considerably. He's still in pain, but it's no longer excruciating.

A doctor explained to us that ribs have some weak points, and hitting them at the wrong angle can cause a break without much force. I guess we just had bad luck.

But in the final analysis, this whole fiasco has had a good result. It's brought Ken and I closer together. This is the worst thing I've ever done to him, intentional or unintentional, and he forgave me without any hesitation. In fact, his exact words were "It's not your fault. There's nothing to forgive."

Technically that might be true, but there are a lot of people who would feel justified holding a grudge even if it was entirely an accident.

On this blog I have shared the good news when Ken brings me flowers, or showers me with gifts, or cooks me a gourmet dinner. But nothing he's ever done for me or given me has been as precious a gift as this instantaneous, complete, unconditional, and unquestioned forgiveness. Even as he was doubled over in pain, almost unable to breathe, he forgave me. It's a blessing beyond compare.

Ken will still be a bit sore on our wedding day, but if we're sticking together in sickness and in health, what better way to prove it? And if anyone feels that's not a good enough excuse, I'll just tell them I had to beat him up and drug him to get him up the aisle.

In closing, consider this a warning. Obviously I'm a raging angerball, endowed with supernatural strength. So watch what you say in the comments, or I'll find out where you live and beat you up next! Grrrrrrr....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grace in Small things #11

Ceder Part Two was with my father's side of my family.

1)  I was voluntold to make charoset for the second Passover ceder.  I've never done it before.  I downloaded several recipes from the internet, and then combined them to make my own version.  It turned out so well that people actually took second helpings.  Success!

2)  My 96-year-old grandfather still has enough of his marbles intact to say the Hebrew blessing for the ceremonial wine.  He mumbled his way through it with sincere sentiment, in his gravelly/whispery old-man voice, and my heart swelled.

3)  My father's cousin, who I haven't seen in many years, was at the ceder with her husband.  She brought photos of my grandparents as a young married couple, standing with my grandmother's parents at the door of their grocery store - the family business - in 1942.  My grandmother was a pretty lady.  And her father was very dapper with his moustache, wearing a white fedora with a black band.

4)  My grandfather used to belong to a "gang" called the Anti-Snitch Cats.  They build a clubhouse in a field, but hobos took it over as a permanent residence.

5)  I bummed a ride partway home with a car full of "the kids": five of us in my generation.  I'm the oldest and the youngest of us is 23.  We turned up the radio and sang along with Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer".  Squashed shoulder-to-shoulder in the backseat with a cousin from Hamilton who I only get to see a few times a year, I felt that total comfort-among-friends that becomes rare after university, when everyone goes their separate ways and gets really busy.  Good times.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grace in Small Things #10

It's Passover!  The Passover primer posts from this blog are here and here if you need background.

1)  Last night's Ceder was the first time I'd seen my mom's side of the family since they all found out, one way or another, that I'm attending church.  I was not ostracized nor attacked.  Much to my surprise, everyone treated me the same way they usually do.  This was a huge relief, because frankly, I was nervous.

2)  Since my conversion to the Christian faith, I feel that I know God personally in a way that I never did before.  Therefore, in a bizarre twist of logic, the Jewish religion of my ancestors has actually become more rich with meaning than it ever was to me before.  Although there were many distractions, I did find a way of connecting with the spiritual meaning of last night's Ceder.  This was a welcome change from just going through the ritual motions, as I have in the past.  It does make sense.  It's the same God, right?

3)  My mom is a fantastic cook.  I arrived 2 hours before the guests to help her chop, peel, and set the table, but in the end she was the mastermind of it all.  Lucky me: I got to pack today's lunch from last night's leftovers.  I have a precious Supperware container in my fridge that's going to make today's lunch break one of the best ever.

4)  Ken washed all the dishes - from a three-course dinner for nine people!  He zipped through them with amazing speed and efficiency.  It took two people drying to keep up with him.  I think his dishwashing ability could potentially qualify as a superpower.

5)  What will we do with all the leftover matzah?  There is no shortage of suggestions in this helpful video.... ;-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ken's Driving Miracles

Ken would like me to share the stories of his recent miracles. You may wish to argue the classification "miracle", but Ken won't be dissuaded, I assure you. And where do I stand on the matter? Perhaps that will come clear in the telling.

Miracle #1

Ken is driving home at around two o'clock in the morning on a weeknight. He's been out socializing, and he has drunk at four, maybe five vodka and cranberries over the course of the evening. He's sure about the fact that he's not sober, but he's feeling lucky. He'll drive himself home. Everything will be fine.

He takes the car up the on-ramp to the Don Valley Parkway. (This highway is affectionately known as the Don Valley Parking Lot during Toronto rush hours, but at this time of night it's wide open.) Ken gets ready to accelerate, but as he rounds a corner the flashing lights of numerous police cars catch his attention. It's a R.I.D.E.* check. They wave him over.

Ken plays it cool, but inwardly he's panicking. How much did he have to drink exactly? How long has it been? Not long enough. Depending on what happens in the next few minutes they might press charges against him, impound his car, any number of horrible things.

An officer approaches the car. Asks the usual rote questions. Have you been drinking tonight, sir? Offers the Breathalyzer to blow into. Ken blows. The officer checks the readout, and an odd look crosses his face. Ken composes his face into an impassive mask, waiting for the judgement to fall. The officer turns the Breathalyzer around so that Ken can see the readout.

It says 0.00. This indicates an alcohol level of absolutely nil.

Well, says the officer, I suppose it's been some time since your last drink. Yes, I guess so, lies Ken. Then they set him free to drive his tipsy self the rest of the way home.

2:44 am - I am woken by a very excited Ken, exulting about a miracle but he'll tell me in the morning. Grrrrrnnnnnhh, I say, and fall back asleep.

The next morning, Ken tells me his story. He's all "Isn't that a great miracle?" I'm all "You drove home after how many vodka and cranberries?"

So after he has dissuaded me from strangling him, and after I have fetched the Bible and made him solemnly swear on it to never drive after more than one drink ever again, we debrief. It seems to both of us that this is a warning, direct from The Big Guy. Ken got off easy this time, but he's not going to press his luck again. He swore to it.

Miracle #2

Ken and I are driving around on Saturday, doing some errands. Randomly, in the middle of the day, the right-hand turn signal stops working. The clicker sounds different, so we can both tell something is wrong. Ken makes a mental note to fix it as soon as possible, but in the meantime we continue with our day.

We stay out for dinner, and head home after dark. Once again, we're driving on the DVP. Ken's behind the wheel, as usual.

Just as randomly as it stopped working, the right-hand turn signal starts working again.

Five minutes later, a white Acura gets in front of our car and sits there. There's not much space between the two cars. I know it's dangerous based on the speed we're travelling. Ken signals to change lanes, and then moves over. The Acura moves over to and stays right in front of us. Ken switches back and the Acura cuts us off again.

We stay stuck behind the Acura, boxed in by other cars, for enough time to really get Ken's blood boiling. Finally a space opens up to our right: a new lane with no other cars in it all the way to our turn-off. Ken swerves into the lane and floors the accelerator. The pack of cars we were stuck in fades to a speck in the rearview mirror within moments. Shortly thereafter, Ken brakes hard to slow for a red light at the end of the off-ramp.

A car pulls up beside us. It's an O.P.P. cruiser (that's the Ontario Provincial Police), with the lights flashing. He waves us over to the side of the road.

Ken pulls over. We sit very quietly as we wait the obligatory stomach-churning five minutes for the officer to run a check on our plates. I have never been in a pulled-over car before. I will learn later that Ken knew he had accelerated up to 140 Km/h in a 90 Km/h zone. At 50 Km/h over the speed limit, he could be charged with speed racing and lose his license permanently.

"I shouldn't have gotten frustrated," he says to himself. "I shouldn't have let that guy tick me off."

Finally the officer comes over to the car for a chat. Ken explains the situation and admits that he shouldn't have acted out his frustration. Once again, he looks cool as a cucumber, and suitably contrite. On the inside, he's freaking out. He's ready for them to throw the book at him.

The officer is a nice guy. He says that he's just concerned for our safety. It's Saturday night, there are drunks on the road, and there's also a wind warning making it harder for people to control their cars. "One little slip at that speed, or someone gets into your lane..." he shakes his head. I guess he's seen the worst before.

"I'm not going to give you a ticket tonight," he says. "Just drive safely." Ken doesn't need to be told twice. The officer pulls out with his lights on and blocks a lane of traffic so that we can merge safely. Then we're on our way. The worst speeding offense possible under the law, and we got off with a warning.

Not only that, but the turn signal was working. We could have gotten a ticket for that too.

"Wow." says Ken. "Wow!"

All the way home, at intervals he would start shaking his head, smiling, and saying "Wow" over and over again. We got home. He parked. "Wow," he said as we got out of the car. Back in our house, as he was taking off his shoes: "Wow." As I got ready to go to bed, I could hear him muttering "Wow" to himself still.

We debriefed, and figured again that this was a message from Above warning Ken to stay safe. "I will not speed like that again," he promised. "I've learned my lesson. I won't expect a miracle every time."

*Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grace in Small Things #9

1) I am the proud owner of a gently used Yamaha "Silent Strings" electric violin.

2) Although the strings are nowhere near silent, even without an amplifier, it's still a lot quieter than a hollow-body violin. I can practice in my little condo without feeling horribly guilty about the torture I'm inflicting on my neighbours. Even totally in-tune practicing can be very irritating to listen to. How many times would you like to hear the G major scale through your living room wall? Five times? Ten? How about G minor harmonic? Now how about some arpeggios? Tired of it yet? Yeah, I thought so.

3) I remember quite a lot of my technique from high school, and some of my sight-reading skills are still functioning. I'll have to strengthen my body; re-teach my fingers where to land on the fingerboard; remember to keep the bow perpendicular to the line of the strings; etc. But it's nowhere near as frustrating as starting totally from scratch.

4) I already practiced twice and no one made a noise complaint to the police. Nor did my neighbours spray-paint "SHUT UP!" on my front door. It's good that there are other musicians living and practicing within faint earshot: a recorder, a piano, and another violin. The other violinist is better than me, but that just gives me motivation to catch up.

5) I love practicing. Even playing scales. The violin is a challenge that absorbs all of my attention. It's physically demanding; it requires that I listen closely and adjust constantly; involves timing, pitch, sight-reading, and balance. When a million things are swirling around my brain and I can't gear down, playing the violin forces me to forget about everything except the moment that I'm standing in. You could almost call it meditation. A very noisy meditation.