Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nearly Time to Get Married

Hello everyone. It's been over a quarter of a year since I last posted to this blog. Life has been anything but uneventful. Marriage is less than two weeks away now. Sara will officially be moving in on June 1. However, she has essentially been living here for a week. The paper work still remains to be done. I don't think I'm the only one to have life go somewhat chaotic just before marriage and trust there's enough leeway in the system to come with that reality. I'll feel a whole lot better once all the official stuff has been taken care of. Both ODSP and Peel Housing are struggling with case overload and it's not like we've sprung our plans to get married on anyone. We've given lots of notice and I trust that counts for something. It's an odd transitory period where nothing is happening quite like I expect it to.

I am on the whole incredibly thankful for this place and the life I've lead here as a bachelor. It has been peaceful and secure. As much as I've found tranquility, self-acceptance, friendship and peace living alone here on Aquitaine Avenue, I've also found periods of isolation and stagnation. My creativity and motivation have both suffered. I've wrestled alone against the demons of lack of extrinsic reward for work,  and the ever-present dangers of consumerism and boredom. Those demons are still very much with me, but I'm no longer alone. Changes are coming thick and fast these days.

One thing which sadly hasn't changed is my balcony. It has been in need of repair since work was interrupted by Snow at the end of last Autumn. There have already been countless days I would have spent mostly out there if I could have. There's no word yet on when that'll get done. Very frustrating indeed. Thankfully, there's Lake Aquitaine to walk around. I'll try to get used to taking my laptop out there and make use of one of the benches which have made such good landmarks on my walks. The batteries aren't nearly as good as they once were but I should still get a good three hours from the large one especially with the wifi off. I may also look into getting a blue tooth keyboard for my iPHONE and see how that goes. Not nearly as nice as my laptop plugged into an extension cord with very fast abundant Internet on the balcony sheltered from the sun. However, the only alternatives are indoors on a couch with the air conditioning blasting right at me, or else at my desk in an area of the apartment which can get quite uncomfortably hot. You never fully appreciate something until you no longer have it. there's some real truth in those words.

Events are sweeping me along into this new chapter of life far more quickly than I expected. This coming Sunday will be my last day attending the Meadow vale Christian Reformed Church. The Sunday after this one, I'll be getting married. After that, I'll be attending Sara's church regularly. Life goes on. It'll be bitter-sweet saying a fond farewell to the congregation who has been there for me these past years. They've been instrumental in my recovery and growth as a man. From just after I turned away from the worst sense of stagnation and hopelessness I've ever experienced, they've been there to help me build an adult life that is extraordinary and well worth living. Unable to find work voluntary or otherwise, they were my roots and place in this community beyond my family. The one place in the world who reached out to meet me halfway and where I knew I made at least some difference. Over the years, the cast of characters has changed. Key people who became more than just Sunday acquaintances have long since moved on. Like a Rock in a changing world Pastor Sam remains as a consummate leader and one of the best role models of what Christ wanted in God's Christians I've ever encountered. Through good fellowship, Pastor Sam's excellent sermons and some wonderful music, they've blessed me with a keen sense of God's love, joy and mercy which I'll carry to my grave. I'm coming away having made some friendships and connections which will survive this parting of ways. A nice change from prior church attachments. Two of these hopefully life-long friends will attend my wedding and reception. Perhaps, others will attend the wedding itself despite the distance and not being able to join us for dinner.

Wedding plans are quite in hand and things have been largely free of ongoing stress in that quarter. Sadly though, a number of people who I would dearly love to have attended can't be there. I found my lovely Sara years too late for my grandmother to have attended in person. She has passed away a little over a month ago now. I was unable to visit her during her unfortunate mental decline towards the end of her life. She really didn't want to become old and dependent on others. My last memories of her are from before she could no longer travel and live in her own apartment. In a sad sort of way, due to this geographically enforced distance, my memories of her are like she would have wanted everyone else's to be. She died in relative comfort during the night. There was something truly surreal about finding out she had passed away as Mom and I approached a store where I picked out my wedding suit. It felt like her passing was just sort of pushed past rather than really dealt with. She never wanted a funeral as such. However, there was a small ceremony in Winnipeg attended by relatives who live there. I'm glad she learned that I had found Sara and intended to marry her. I'm not certain how long that stuck in her mind, but she knew it for a while and wished me well. She has also visited my apartment here and seen how I've managed. I have all sorts of good memories of her going as far back into childhood as I have any memories at all. The only real closure I've found is that her confusion and mental suffering is at an end. If the God we both believe in is nothing to a figment of collective imagination, she is at least beyond misery. If I'm right in believing there is truth at the core of Christianity, then she now has a peace and clarity of perception we can't even conceive of in this world. As mom said, she'll be at my second wedding in spirit.

Neither of my uncles or aunts are able to attend the wedding. Thankfully, this is due to far less traumatic reasons than death. Other commitments and expenses have gotten in the way but I can still look forward to seeing them again in the future. All in all, my family contingent is around five people less than it might ideally have been. My brother is training to be a fire fighter and this will make it necessary for him to miss the actual wedding. However, he'll hopefully be able to attend the reception and dinner. The rest of his family will be there. I hope my nieces aren't bored stiff.

On the other side of the coin, most of my really close friends as well as some long-standing friends of my family will be there. That's a tremendous comfort. They've all helped me become the man I am and find the sense of purpose and belonging I've come to treasure. Mark and Wendy will be there. So will Steve Murgaski and Michelle Mcquigge. Steve has been a very close friend since childhood. The day would be fundamentally flawed were he not present. Michelle  got Sara and I talking again after over two decades. She has been a wonderful friend ever since she stumbled upon my blog a number of years ago. Carine and Richie will be there as our combination guests and photographers. Shirley, Rose and Joseph will also be there.

The suits, dresses and rings are purchased. My suit fits well and is quite comfortable to wear. I don't think I'll ever be all that comfortable with the idea of wearing a suit though. Standing in a thousand dollars worth of clothing that can certainly be used again but was essentially bought for one very special occasion is just always going to seem quite preposterous to me. Perhaps, once I've finished writing my book and am giving a lecture on accessible games somewhere, dressing up won't seem quite so pretentious. I don't expect so though. I've simply met one too many people judged harshly and tossed aside for their physical appearance when their good character earned them far better treatment than they received. The ring is something whose purpose is more easy to grasp. Rarely have I felt so out of my depth than when standing in a jewelry store helping to pick the rings out. However, the basic message of a wedding ring is very clear and simple. Something I can more readily appreciate.

Sara's new guide dog Aladdin has been an interesting somewhat chaotic addition to life. He's a playful two-year-old black lab who puts pretty much everything in his mouth. That has included electronics like the old Olympus 420 digital recorder I spent a good chunk of my 40th birthday hunting madly for. Gosh! So much has happened since I posted those Journeys of the Mind lectures. Trying to pick out the important stuff which should have gotten its own blog entry is a truly ludicrous exercise at this point. There have been some remarkable movies, podcasts and books lately. I really enjoyed Interstellar despite needing headphones to make out some of the dialogue. that movie tackled issues like climate change and family in a very interesting way. My favourite podcasts have been up to their usual snuff. It all tends to run together in my memory after a while. I keep saying that I'll try to do better in future and I always mean it. One of these times, it'll actually happen and you'll see more frequent shorter updates.

Anyhow, back to Aladdin; He has had to get used to Sara's parents' home and now must learn to think of my apartment as his home. Sara is attempting to instill some discipline and boundaries for him. While Aladdin seems to keep Sara quite safe, he is often distracted by the dogs, people and other animals near Lake Aquitaine. He sometimes grips your hand with his mouth. That seems a more accurate description than to say that he bites. There's absolutely no meanness in him. he loves getting attention from people. Apparently, grabbing and masticating things is simply part of a lab's nature. My desk and shelving are both stupendously ill-suited to having a young dog. At the very least, I think a new desk with drawers I can close is warranted. This desk has served me very well despite a wheel broken off during my move here. It still has my old Compuserve user number and password in faded Braille on its surface. I've had it for ages. Now though, I have no need of its length and open shelving which has proved so inviting to Aladdin's playful inquisitiveness. I've had to find inconvenient places for nearly everything that used to be so handy on those extensive open shelves. There's enough room on my left and right for him to stealthily approach and have his head grabbing and pushing at things on the wide open shelf beneath. Especially if I'm wearing headphones so Sara and I have some privacy, you can be completely unaware what he's doing until something falls onto the floor. He pulled a roll of dynatape out of my Braille labeller. Nothing is too inanimate to be safely uninteresting. I've stuffed all I can into the small drawer in my credenza. This again features a lot of open storage space easily accessed by inquisitive paws or snout.

This kind of unpredictability is precisely why I never wanted a guide dog, child or pet myself. You have to think six steps ahead all the frigging time. Right now, as Aladdin gets through what Sara calls his puppy brain phase and we try to build whatever normal life is going to look like from now on, this place just doesn't feel as tranquil.

Technology has at last rendered my OCR scanner obsolete. This used to take up a good chunk of my desk surface. Now, I can just lay a sheet out on the desk and snap a picture of it using my iPHONE. That capability still strikes me as miraculous even though I've had the KNFB reader app for months now. The printer is wireless so there's no longer any real need for most of my equipment to be on a long desk. I find it strange to think I could happily have passed years on my own with no great desire for much in the way of new furnishings. Now, I wish I had anticipated the consequences and changed it ages ago. You need to catch a dog right in the act of doing something even to have the ghost of a chance of teaching him that you'd rather he not do that thing. Thank God he doesn't seem to go after charging cables. There's almost no point having a garbage can near my desk now. He'll dig out anything you would likely put in there.

While having a higher desk with drawers will help minimize dog damage to things I want to keep safe yet handy, there are other aspects of having a new guide dog around which are less easy to mitigate. Poor Sara has to contend with everything from outdoor distractions in a very stimulating environment near Lake Aquitaine to some unfortunate bladder accidents. One of these happened in the elevator as we were heading down. Had he waited mere moments, all might have been well. The people in the elevator and the building staff were all wonderful about it. That's another reason I feel very blessed having ended up in this building. 'All of the staff I've encountered will go that extra mile when necessary. I've never had the sense of being a bur don on them unlike friends of mine in other buildings. All I really have to do personally is keep from unintentionally confusing the issue of who's in charge by being too friendly with Aladdin. It'll take a while for the relationship to really jell properly. He's had to cope with as much change as we have. I find it impossible to remain annoyed with him for longer than thirty seconds or so. I'm also forward-thinking enough to realize that he'll likely lead us to more positive adventures as a couple once he really matures.

As unsettling as it has sometimes been, hearing Sara and Aladdin start to lay down the rules for relating and living here has been fascinating. So many presumptions of mine have proved wrong. Aladdin has a metal crate large enough for him to turn around in. He actually seems happy to be left in there and goes to it often. The crate isn't perceived as any sort of punishment or torture. it's more like his small house where he feels safe. He can barf up something like apiece of leash leather and not feel bad or anything. He'd had to go through a period of being on leash constantly but that's over now and seems to have settled him down. He seems to have a very good internal clock. Around five or six, he starts getting that little bit more excited when Sara makes a move. He almost never barks and can be utterly silent for long stretches of time. At other points, he races madly around the apartment without hitting anything at all with head or tail although I expect him to bump his poor big head any minute. He sort of snuffles when excitedly playing with his kong toy. He'll bring it right up to you and push it into your hand as if to show off that he has it. Like other dogs I've known, he gives off those cute dog sighs when he's bored. He also sort of grown-growls as he relaxes or presumably shifts into a comfortable position of repose.

Apparently, Apple will be hosting its next big event a day after we get married. iOS9 will likely be revealed in some detail. Sara and I should be good for at least a couple more iOS upgrades with our 5S iPHONES. Adding further encouragement of this estimation of mine, rumour has it that the next iOS will focus on quality control and running better on older devices. All of which bodes well for my own experience as well as those who I am trying to help. I also hope we'll soon hear when the next iTUNES festival will take place. I really enjoyed the last one. I'm subscribed to the Apple Keynotes podcast and will avail myself of that after Sara and I are back from any celebrations after our marriage. I think we'll be pleasantly occupied in our own celebrating for at least a few days.

Sadly, one of the people who I help, Michelle, has decided to give up on her iPHONE for the present. I feel bad about that considering how much they cost. "With her iPAD, she'll at least still be able to use the apps and music she has purchased. It's very hard to determine how much her reasons are due to actual problems or simply different expectations or misperceptions. Her assumptions and desires can be hard to dig out or anticipate particularly when they involve visual appearance of things like Facebook. Thankfully, she's at last eligible for ADP funding and can get a computer and software which I fervently hope will give her less trouble than her old one. It was the very first computer I've ever felt which had suffered physical catastrophic damage. The laptop monitor shorted out or something and a chunk of the back blew off.

On the surprising other side of the coin, Gerry is doing quite a lot better with his iPHONE than I had any reason to expect. Mastering the device is a long and slow process but being totally blind, he just needs to worry about Voiceover. It's more complicated for Michelle since she wants to use her vision as well as Voiceover. Gerry has shown remarkable patience and fortitude here. As he gets the hang of more aspects of what his iPHONE is capable of doing, those efforts will be well rewarded.

I have at last upgraded to a larger Internet package. Sara and I both use the web for quite a bit and I think we'd have often paid for going over my former 60-gb data cap. Now, we've got 200 gb per month which should be more than enough for us. The new cable modem now does double duty as our router. I've turned off the network my trusty time capsule has long provided. It is, of course, still easy to access the files on it provided you have the password and Airport software. We've gotten our first jointly ordered groceries. This next month is going to be quite unique with the wedding, getting the move all done, doubtless seeing friends, and other stuff. A tad hard to really plan for. We just have to take things as they come for the next while.

Creatively speaking, I haven't gotten a whole lot done. The book proceeds in dribs and drabs. There'll be stretches of Summer where I think that'll change as the rest of life settles into the new "normal". For now, my priorities are starting the marriage and life here together well. There are also friends who haven't been seen or spoken with in a while. Over the May long weekend, we got to see Mark and Wendy. It was really good to catch up with them. I'm very glad they'll be able to attend the wedding. I didn't get to any fireworks. Sara had just unofficially moved in and Aladdin hadn't even begun to really settle. Hopefully, we'll be spending Canada day with family and friends. If not, Sara and I can catch the fireworks around the lake. Sara doesn't seem as keen on it not wanting to do something which might hurt Aladdin's ears. However, attending such festivities are an important opportunity for meeting local people at a time when they're not in an infernal rush and may be inclined to chat. Doing that for the first time on my own was a real milestone and I didn't get married in order to keep doing these sorts of things alone. Especially when we'll be attending a non-local church, you have to take opportunities to be a part of the local community. I volunteered at the Peel Multicultural Centre due to just such a chance meeting while walking around the lake. That's also how I first met Shirley.

The groceries have served us well this past week. We got everything we ordered. I think we'll be pretty good food-wise until the tail end of June. Things have certainly taken on a different feel lately. We're really starting to share daily life. So far, it's all going well. Not that kind of dreamy perfection books would have people believe in. Too much change is happening to both of us for that to be the case. We're able to come up with the compromises and good communication needed to have things go smoothly. On hot days like we've had, there have been many occasions where I'd have deeply enjoyed eating a Drumstick or other ice cream treat. We decided not to get those thinking we'd have enough special foods to eat this month. We'll really have to start watching our pennies a whole lot more than I'm used to doing while we figure out how the larger financial picture will shape up.

At this late stage, I think it's safe to say I won't be having a bachelor party. Nobody can really afford one these days. Adam's gone through some rough times and has plenty to do for me on the actual day as best man. I'd rather put money towards celebrating with friends as a married couple. Besides, I've had the experience prior to my last marriage. We've all got to prioritize these days. I'm hoping for at least one fun trip into Toronto to see Steve, Meko, Earle and company. There'll be other visits with Michelle and Gerry and hopefully, Angela and Tony. I haven't seen Ange or Tony in far to long although I've managed to help a little from a distance.

Both of us keenly look forward to being married. We aren't having any sort of honeymoon. We'll be getting all the paperwork sorted on the 10th with ODSP to merge our files into one. This process will then allow Peel Housing to set the rent and officially add Sara to the lease on the apartment. She will then be transformed in the eyes of officialdom from guest to lady of the lake. I have a dentist appointment and hearing test in the not too distant future. There'll be furniture decisions to be made once we know what assets we've got after the wedding. Extraordinary lives need a proper haven after all. Extravagant travel may be beyond our means but a comfortable apartment can be managed. One that is welcoming to guests and allows us to pursue our creative endeavours. Thanks to previous investments and our wonderfully supportive families, there are merely finishing touches remaining to be contemplated. Even if my balcony remains off limits, I look forward to a very special Summer spent in the best of good company.