Tuesday, November 30, 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


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.