All the sleep in the world couldn't hold a candle to my most exciting news. I am once again an engaged man. Sara and I hope to be married in around a year and a half or so. Neither of us fancy a Winter wedding. Beyond coming to that agreement, we haven't set any sort of date. However, simply having reached this point is thrilling beyond words for me. I ultimately proposed to her in the familiar comfort and privacy of my apartment. Originally, I had other more involved plans which Michelle, a very good friend to both of us, managed to convince me to abandon. Ultimately, Sara indeed preferred it that way. It got the nervous bit out of the way right at the start so from that point on, we could celebrate with friends and family as an engaged couple. And we have indeed celebrated in fine style.
The congratulations came pouring in via Twitter, email, audioboo and Facebook. We thoroughly enjoyed our Japanese dinner as well as a Babylon 5 movie. It was an excellent evening. I believe it's safe to say there'll be a great many more tranquil enjoyable evenings ahead. It's so indescribably good to be with someone who appreciates and shares many of my interests. Given the financial constraints living on ODSP puts people under even when in subsidized housing, sharing interests becomes absolutely critical to sustained happiness. She liked the ring I picked. The diamonds are small and imbedded into the ring. I thought that might be less of an interference to her when she played instruments. One thing which attracted me to the ring I chose was how very different it was than the engagement rings I bought for the two women who chose to walk away from me. Sara is very different from either of them as is the deep abiding love we've found. The foundation for something truly lasting is so much better this time. It deserved something which felt unique. Sara and I are starting out with a whole lot more in common. Emotionally, we're both stable cheerful people who tend towards being grateful for what we have and making the best of circumstances. Our financial prospects and circumstances are both pretty similar too so there'll be no destructive disparity to contend with. Also, we'll have this apartment to live in. That in itself makes the footing for this latest adventure in love far more solid. Our attitudes towards religion do differ somewhat but the basics are the same. Also, what we want out of earthly marriage is the same. We're both creative people who need some alone time to work on our projects. We also deeply value our families and friends and the time we can spend with them. Neither of us expect any sort of perfection from the other. Stability, tranquility and good communication are keys to a whole lot. There's definitely going to be disagreement on things but I believe we're both mature enough to keep things in perspective.
We had a wonderful week together visiting Steve and seeing friends in Toronto. Mom and dad took us to Symposium for brunch and we had a good time with them. My parents really like Sara and are very happy for both of us. She fits in very well with my family in general.
Soon after that, Steve arrived to stay with us for a couple days. He added wonderfully to our conversation and was, as always, the good and true friend I've known him to be. During our time in Toronto, we stayed with him at his parents' place. I've known the Murgaskis since early grade school days. They've always been very thoughtful and generous people. Steve took us to some very interesting places. There was lunch at Derry Queen with Earl and Meko. As fun as it is to see their children, it was good this time to be able to have a conversation without them having to be so vigilant. We also tried out an excellent Korean restaurant. I very much enjoyed that and can now say that I've tried kim chee among other things the names of which failed to stick in my memory. We also went back to Commo Encassa where we had a delicious meal with Michelle Mcquigge. I very much wanted to revisit that particular restaurant as it featured prominently in our very first Toronto trip. The owner went well out of his way to be helpful. I hope re return every now and then. All of us enjoyed the food and atmosphere. It was really good to catch up with everyone and start life as an engaged couple in such good company.
Each of us did Christmas with our respective families. We'll work out something more together and equitable from this point on. We both had a very good Christmas. Gifts were well received and given. My nieces were very rambunctious and happy. Dan gave me a gift card to be used at Symposium Cafe. My parents got their gifts from me early. The digital download links expired sooner than I thought they would. However, all ended well and they have the adventure games I picked out for them. One of the funny moments during Steve's stay with us was when he basically let the cat out of the bag concerning my present to Sara. I knew of her need for a new headset and took time to pick out the best fit for her needs that I could. Unlike my choice of rings where I felt woefully inadequate like I was grasping at intuitive straws, this was another matter entirely. I hoped it would come as a pleasant Christmas day surprise. However, I also worried about the card I made possibly being damaged in transit. As things turned out, she was glad to start using them right away. I was also on hand to explain the card. I guess nobody else had made her a picture using Braille characters. It's funny that I've always just taken for granted that most blind people using Braille would either have made or encountered such pictures. It seemed such a natural thing to experiment with as a child.
It's now Wednesday, January 8th. I'm in the living room of the house Sara and her parents now live in. It's my first time here. I can appreciate why it took Rockie time to adjust. Originally, he couldn't tell which floor Sara had called him from. It's a single-story very open plan house with a basement. This trip has done a great deal to reduce my sense of the unknown regarding both Sara's family and the Orthodox church she attends. On the home front, we've had several meals and a few evenings together during which to converse and get a game of Trivial Pursuit in. Haven't played that in ages. I've felt pretty comfortable around them since the first meeting but certainly feel good that we've gotten to touch base more. Despite very icy cold conditions, they've been working quite a bit. Sara and I spent a good deal of time here indoors when church events weren't happening. I introduced her to Calculating God, a favourite Robert J. Sawyer book. Each of us have acquired some new books over this period largely due to the podcasts and shows we jointly listened to. Due to the Orthodox Christmas season, she also had some work to do for her church.
Sara's faith experience is a very different one to my own. The people of her church are just as welcoming and seem pretty cheerful on the whole. The church itself is somewhat smaller and people tend to stand most of the time during services. That definitely takes some getting used to. Thankfully, despite being done in what I'm told is a more Russian style, things are all in English. This includes the innumerable prayers, singing parts, and chants. I have yet to hear anything I'd think of as a proper hymn. People sing things which strike me more as short passages, refrains and litanies. The overall impression is one of somewhat rigidly scripted interactivity. There's a tremendous amount of repetition. I find that somewhat jarring and less useful in terms of my own walk with God. Other than very brief sermons in comparison to what I'm used to, I don't get the sense that there's much in the way of commentary and thought from week to week about how life should be lived with God. That, as I understand it, is something left more to individuals. Resources are provided to support such spiritual development in abundance. There's a calendar and devotions, various fasts and feasts, prayers for various days, etc. All of this would certainly lead to a life in which one was extremely conscious of God, the church, and those who have tried to follow God's path in earlier times. I'll be honest here though. Most of what the Orthodox people put themselves through strikes me as needless overkill. I don't feel the least bit personally convicted due to my not having done any of this. Nor would I consider members of other faiths condemned in God's eyes for a less overly rigorous approach to worship. God wants us to be friends with him, not ritualistic robots jumping through endless thousand-year-old hoops. The whole Orthodox approach seems too much based upon the fear of God and of change itself. These are, of course, only initial impressions. I would have been far more hesitant to delve deeper into a relationship with God had I encountered an Orthodox church rather than a Reformed one right off the bat. The first church visit would have frankly sent me packing quite smug and secure in the knowledge that I had thereby avoided a lot of what would have struck me as ridiculously inflexible requirements. Due to my faith experience so far, I can at least appreciate that we all worship the same holy trinity simply taking very different approaches to reach the same sort of healthy transformation of the soul. Their methods clearly help them feel more spiritually in tune. However, they simply don't speak to my sense of what's actually called for in this time.
Contrary to what I might initially have presumed based on my impressions of Orthodox church life so far, the people have proven to be quite interesting, tolerant of people who disagree with them, unfailingly kind, and appreciative of worldly culture and creations. Conversation after the services was interesting and lively. You get a clear sense of a healthy small connected community. Because I've gotten to know Sara so well, I can more easily approach the idea of such a radical eventual change to my church life. All the ritual and such which sets off some gentle alarm bells for me really helps give Sara a strong sense of belonging both to God and to her congregation. I can understand the attraction of so much sculpted routine even if I don't share it. It builds a strong sense of community and shared experience markedly different from everyday life. Sara is deeply respected and valued both for her considerable gifts and her dedication to living a Christian life. She also takes the time to think about why she does things and what she believes. She really gets into the details of stuff. Using an old Braille note taker, she is able to have notes with her in the church which she can review silently leaving her ears free to focus on what happens around her. It was a real treat to be standing right next to Sara and hear her completely in her element going full tilt. She does a truly splendid job and her congregation deeply values her efforts.
Every so often in my walk with God, I'll encounter people who just seem to be in precisely the right place at the right time. A friendly small business owner whose good cheer was tinged with a quiet gloomy sense of a wonderful yet fallen world was an early mentor of mine. I still miss his friendship. We parted on excellent terms but his deep involvement with his own church and doubtless engaging with others as he did with me keeps him very busy. A very knowledgeable female pastor was there to keep me interested in God while my first marriage and what felt like my whole adult life crumbled to dust. Given my prior comfort with agnosticism, that was no small accomplishment. In my current church, there are numerous people who stand out similarly in different capacities. Pastor Sam is a clear case in point. You couldn't find a better pastoral voice if you tried. He's exactly the kind of man who illustrates how and why Christianity is still very useful and relevant in today's world. It's apparently his 20th year at the Meadow vale Christian Reformed Church. He was exactly the spiritual leader I needed to help me recover from when Janene broke off our engagement.
I've often remarked at how belonging to the same church since childhood would give you a strong sense of community and could improve one's prospects of finding a soul mate due to that extensive shared experience and history. Despite feeling very comfortable in the reformed church I presently attend, I'm not nearly as deeply embedded in it as I would be had I grown up in the community. I don't know all the right responses, don't sing the hymns, didn't go to missions, youth groups or school with any of them, etc. Coming in as an adult, there's always that sense of distance and a lack of shared history. We just don't really have the experientially common ground to properly take each other's measure. This makes the thought of eventually switching to a very different church community where I will likely feel even more distant paradoxically easier to contemplate. My own walk with God has always been a different and deeply internal one. It manifests itself in all sorts of decisions where other people might not necessarily realize that my belief in God had any bearing on a given situation. Ongoing reflection, observation and relationship are at the core of my experience.
Today, Sara's at a funeral. Never having met the man being laid to rest, I didn't feel comfortable attending as a kind of sociological observer. I'm sitting in the living room using my laptop's battery for once and working on this blog entry. I return to my apartment tomorrow afternoon. As much as \I enjoyed this visit, I look forward to picking up this hopefully final year of bachelorhood in earnest. The first order of business will be cleaning up the apartment and doing some laundry. At some point, I'll be getting my new iPHONE. I keenly anticipate that. I have a whole lot to reflect on over these next quiet days. A whole lot of exposure and experience has been packed into a relatively short time.
It's now Saturday afternoon on January 18th. I've been working on this entry off and on for around a month as life events piled up in wonderful profusion. The novelty of the year being 2014 is finally beginning to subside into normalcy. For me, the next couple of years will be a time of preparation and transition. Even after marriage, I would still count the first married year as part of that more fluid period where life rhythms and priorities are shared and established together. In a way, this past while has been a fitting and fond farewell to the largely contented single life I eventually managed to put together for myself. I let go of my customary financial discipline and simply let enjoyment of the beginning of what I fervently hope will be a life-long journey together take precedence. These past weeks have been exceptionally enjoyable ones starting life as an engaged couple. We've had relaxing days and stimulating ones with friends and family. Things change once you're engaged even if no day of marriage has been settled upon. Priorities change. As a single person, it doesn't matter quite as much if you overspend on books here and there. That's one area where I really have to start using wish lists more rather than just buying books right away. The same goes for music now that I've spent the iTUNES gift money I received. The focus naturally shifts to solidifying our relationship and saving money for a less solitary future. There are still important people in Sara's life who I have yet to be introduced to. Having money for such excursions is definitely more of a priority when you're one half of a couple. A lot of expenses including a missed Rogers bill, renewing apartment insurance, holiday gifts and groceries, the ring, accessories for my new iPHONE, etc, have mounted all at once placing me in a much tighter financial position than I'm accustomed to being in. My parents have been very helpful in that department but it will still take two or three months of very careful restraint to return to a more comfortable and familiar debt-free place. The basics are covered. Food, shelter, Internet and phone. It's those smaller impulse buys of books and tunes that I need to curtail almost completely over the next while. The same goes for snack foods. Also, I simply won't be ordering dinners from Justeat or Swiss Chalet for myself nearly as often as I used to. I'd much rather have that money to spend on such things when I'm with friends or have guests. Thankfully, I'm starting that journey from a position of having plenty to keep me mentally stimulated. This is especially true when it comes to books. I have assembled a magnificent digital pile of food for the mind. It should stand me in excellent stead whether I'm travelling lite with just my iPHONE or am at home on the couch using my laptop.
There are also many changes of habit to contemplate. Time spent with each other is slowly becoming less like a vacation as we allow aspects of our respective ongoing commitments to intrude more into our time together. Admittedly, Sara has done more of that than I have to this point. I guess I've simply been captivated by the wonder and joy of being in love. Now that we're sure of wanting to make the commitment of marriage, all sorts of conscious and subconscious changes will happen. As a single bachelor, I've tended to let things slide. This includes everything from skipped meals when I'm having a good creativity day to neglecting to shave in the near certainty that I wouldn't be getting together with people for several days. Dishes pile up in the sink. The vacuum cleaning is left for tomorrow or, ... whenever. As part of a married couple, prior experience has shown me that better habits do take hold out of necessity. Marriage adds more people to life who approach you as friends or relations to your partner. That makes a difference. You care for and about your soul mate. As a consequence of that, you end up taking better care of yourself too. It's a different sort of mental life space. Going through this preparation stave for the third and hopefully final time, I find I'm walking a tightrope between trying to learn from my experience and simply letting this relationship follow its own path. I have a tendency to over-analyze everything and have to be careful not to ever let that remove me from the present experience. I think I've done well at that so far. I think it'll actually become less of a factor once we're married since I've only had one of those and it took place in very different conditions.
I'm very much enjoying my new iPHONE 5S. It's a tremendous upgrade from the iPHONE 4 which has served me these past three years. It will now serve my father. Due to his iPAD experience, things have gone quite well so far. It's basically just a smaller iPAD with phone capabilities and GPS. One thing we just discovered today was that he never learned to close apps. All of the games my nieces played on his iPAD have been open in the background. The book I read while learning my iPHONE went through the app switcher and how to close apps you weren't currently using. Voiceover also gave instructions on how to close apps whenever I was in the switcher. No such hints are given sighted users apparently. You'd need to have read the user guide I suppose. It makes me wonder how many people who have complained about the battery life of iPHONES and iPADS simply haven't been closing the apps they're finished using. I keep hearing how less people read manuals before starting to use a product. With something like this situation, you'd think Apple would have found a way to make it visually obvious how to close apps and that you ought not to leave them all open.
It's very early on Sunday morning now. I went to bed feeling very tired at around ten last night. I've been having itchy eyes and a slightly stuffy nose this past while. That combined with the tiredness makes me wonder if I'm perhaps fighting something off. If I am, I can't complain too much about my lot in life given the wonderful time I've had these past weeks. Eventually, the ride ends and one has to metaphorically pay the piper. I'll be off to church in around seven hours or so. These early rises sure fiddle with one's sense of a proper day. I may perhaps get a couple hours more sleep but I'm somewhat doubtful of this. I'm feeling wide awake and not stuffy in the least.
There have been so many smaller enjoyments and life experiences which really deserved their own blog entries over this past half year. While I've captured many of these in audio boos, this blog has languished. Rectifying this will be one of this year's higher priority objectives. Expect to see at least one entry per month. Hopefully, there'll be far more shorter entries than that. These entries will hopefully be more specific to individual experiences or topics as opposed to these large sprawling postings. I'm also hopeful of making far more progress with Land of Trivia than I have so far. It has also suffered a lack of attention. I'm still searching for a more cohesive objective. Once I find that, substantial progress ought to be easier to achieve.
It's Monday. I got a very good sleep last night, the first in quite a while. There's no stuffy nose and my eyes are only very slightly uncomfortable. I go long stretches without noticing it at all. A nice change from a week ago. I'm not the only one fighting off this sort of thing. A number of friends, family and Twitter followers seem to be suffering similarly. Dad is getting used to my old iPHONE. It's been a pretty smooth process. Since he's not on a contract and doesn't want cellular data, it's a very inexpensive and powerful phone which will be put to occasional use. I've been using Siri more on my new phone and liking it very much. Papa Sangre II is also now playable for me. I couldn't use it on my old phone. It's a pretty incredible audio game. I'm very impressed with the user interface and game mechanics. Can't wait to see what Something Else comes up with next. There's still plenty to learn about and try on the new phone. I'll likely be discovering new and easier methods to accomplish things for months.
As this new year gets underway, I'm feeling very positive and hopeful. Having a credit card debt is a bit of an unwelcome novelty for me. However, I'm pretty confident that it won't take too long to pay it off. Winter slows things down when it comes to social life expenses. In other areas, I'm pretty well stocked and should be able to keep grocery expenses down over the next while. I've also recently succeeded in getting Qcast, my favourite podcast player, up and running on my desktop again. Additionally, I've figured out a setting change in the speaker configuration which seems to have improved overall how sound is handled. As fond as I am of my laptop, I feel good that I've figured out how to get a more satisfactory experience from my Mac. There are at least a couple of years before I'm eligible for upgrading my equipment and I like to go longer between upgrades if at all possible. I've been experimenting with NVDA and System Access. At the moment though, I need Jaws to use Jarte, my favourite word processing program. There are numerous other things where Jaws works better than my other two screen readers. However, work is constantly being done to improve each of them so I don't expect that situation to last too long. Uninstalling and then re-installing Jaws seems to have improved its performance so I've gained through my explorations despite having to conclude that Jaws is still a very necessary part of my digital arsenal.
I just did my first mission of Zombies Run for this year. Thankfully, I didn't have to start all over again. That holster on my Otterbox Defender case is actually pretty useful for when you're working out in a familiar environment. I just wouldn't trust it for travelling with. It's just too easy to imagine my iPHONE getting grabbed or snagged on some bush while walking around the lake and popping free of the holster. There's also Carine's experience of having her holster actually break. Recently, Earle had his phone actually stolen in his own building. I wish all the bad fortune in the world upon the miscreant who did that. These devices are so personal and so very useful to blind people. I hope the police are able to help recover the phone or at least rid the neighbourhood of one really heartless thief. Earle's done so much to share his knowledge and test apps for accessibility. I think of all that when I think of him. All the thief saw was easy money. There are some people who really make me question my normally compassionate stance. Thankfully, a friend was able to provide and inferior model for his use but I hope he beets the odds and gets his own back. I've only had my new phone for less than a week and I'd already hate to have to go back to my older one. One thing's for sure. I've enabled all the security features. I'm pretty sure Earle had them enabled too though. The Touch id is working very well for me and I have mine set to erase all info if ten failed access checks happen.
People often say that I live in a safer area here in Mississauga. I certainly have felt largely sage here. During my three years in this building, I've heard only one situation which might have turned violent had it continued. A man was dumped by his girlfriend and somewhat lost his cool in verbally spectacular fashion. I was ever so glad to be seven floors up on my balcony. Still, I only go out when at my most alert and don't take that safety for granted. Earle's building is somewhat larger than mine but I'd bet he's at least as well-known there as I am here. Most people seem to know my first name and will offer greetings or occasional casual conversation. Going much beyond that point seems to be asking a lot. Some friends who live in buildings owned by subsidized housing agencies have said that they feel that it's easier to find and maintain friends since everyone's facing similar circumstances. You don't have the gulf that comes when everyone around you has found their way into that ultra-busy successful consumer groove. The law has more of a hold on what people are willing to do since they have much more to lose in the first place, or so goes theory. As much as solitude has hurt over the years, I have been spared from the kind of victimization some friends have endured. To me, that now seems a fairly acceptable trade. Five years ago, I would likely have come to the opposite conclusion. What a stupendous difference half a decade can make in one's outlook.
It's now Tuesday morning. The water is shut off in my building for repairs of some aquatic sort. I'm nicely stocked up with water even if something went terribly wrong and we didn't get water back for several days. That's never happened during the years I've lived here. They keep this place very well. I've gotten my apartment queries answered by my contact at Peel housing. It looks like I need not worry about signing a lease each year like I thought I'd have to. That's nice to know. I asked about the procedure we'd have to go through when Sara and I reach the stage where we're ready to live here together. There's not much of one at all. We just need to meet with both our ODSP workers and Peel Housing and make sure the paperwork is all done prior to the move. There shouldn't be any problem at all. I was pretty certain that would be the case but it's good to hear it from an official source. We should be pretty much able to set our own pace.
I caught part of a discussion on Ontario Today, a talkshow on CBC Radio1. It was all about how something like half the work force in Toronto was in temporary contract work. I've been hearing more and more alarm expressed about what this profound lack of job security is doing to communities and society. It definitely worries me these days. People who work temporary jobs are less likely to complain since they then simply won't be offered another contract. It's an employer's makret where there's always someone else despirate enough to put up with being taken advantage of and keep quiet about it. Also, there's apparently no protection or garantee of receiving payment one is owed after a work contract expires. Very scary. I heard people talk about how that uncertaintly stops them from getting married, buying a home, moving away from their parents and starting families. I have time to listen, but does anyone in power who could actually make any kind of difference? It feels more and more like everything I once deeply valued as being part of the Canadian identity has eroded and is in danger of crumbling away in favour of short-term greed. Apparently, other countries have instituted legislation and measures which make job insecurity not such a terrible thing. I hope the paranoia of socialist ideas felt by our large neighbour to the south doesn't scare us away from implementing some. I don't believe we've passed a point of no return but I think we're on a slippery slope to such a precipice. All I can try to do is be there for the people who I've come to know. I can appreciate them and try to make them aware of their priceless human value. If we can rekindle a more outward sort of public consciousness, I still have enough hope and optimistic imagination left in me to envision radical positive change taking place within my lifetime. The building blocks of decency are all over the place. The just get buried in the daily scramble to keep afloat.
Today, I've begun to help with the newsletter put out by Disability Concerns Canada for church advocates. Over the next while, I'll be walking that tightrope of doing the most I can for my current church and denomination keeping in mind the eventual certainty of moving onto a whole new faith community. I don't want to be so intrenched that my leaving does any brief damage when that point comes. On the other hand, I'd like to avoid going through a large swath of time where I'm not doing anything for my church. The church has given me a community where my talents are put to use and appreciated. I've felt very valued there as a member despite not being able to contribute much financially. Unlike other spheres of society, the church is very good at respecting and recognizing other forms of contribution. Unlike the working and secular volunteer sectors, people in church seem more willing to put in some extra effort, such as getting me where I'm needed, so that my abilities can actually come into play.
Perhaps, new possibilities for community involvement will become available as married life turns from heart-felt wish into actual reality. Maybe, some bit of writing I let loose or someone I manage to help in some small way will connect the dots to a meaningful new adventure I can't even imagine now. Stranger things have happened. Slowly, the building blocks just keep on clicking into place. They come from new technology, new ideas from books and conversations, from the splendid music I've been able to obtain, from experiences shared with friends and family. As long as I keep myself ready and willing to give back, God sees to it that I'm able to in endlessly surprising ways. While nobody will ever convince me that one branch of Christianity has somehow gotten things all right, my journey up from spiritual bottom has firmly convinced me that there is a very real, merciful, loving God.