Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Year and a Half to a Wedding

The dust has settled, the vows have been spoken, and the bills have been paid. Let's reevaluate on a year and a half, shall we? (Warning. This is probably the longest post I've ever written. I apologise.)

1. The Proposal.

It's a strange thing now, looking back so far, that I am a husband because of a question I asked nearly two years ago. I have a reputation for not being reliable when it comes to organizing major events, but I must say I did a pretty good job on this one. Frankly, I'm fortunate that Denise was candid about wanting to get married from the get-go, and regularly dropped hints about what she expected.

Here's what I knew she wanted: a princess cut diamond ring (not yellow gold), the blessing of her parents, and for it to be somewhat romantic. What I wanted: a ring within my limited post-university budget, and to do it in her first year of medical school. I was also looking for a window of time where I could discretely get the ring, ask her parents, and then propose, all while in Vancouver and all under her nose. In a two year span, there was only a five day period where I could do this. How she was shocked is beyond me, not to mention the fact that I can't keep a secret for shit. A strange day, which kicked off a crazy process.

2. The Immediate Aftermath, or The Vacuum.

It was a major relief, having proposed. Denise cried and I gave myself hearty congratulations for the rest of the day, as she distracted herself with the shininess of her new bling. I had planned meticulously and executed it well. I can now look forward to a lifetime of "job well done, Mark." Awesome.

What I was not prepared for was the immediate vacuum that was created amongst everyone who cares about us. It's a natural occurance: we've barely had time to process what happened, or to even form opinions about the next step, when all parties converge and ask questions. They can hardly be blamed for wanting to know, and we can hardly be blamed for not having the answers, but it creates immediate stress, even from the most innocuous of questions. I found that temperatures rose rapidly, as ideas and motives were bounced back and forth between families and friends. Our solution? Hire a wedding planner. Besides getting us enough discounts to almost pay herself off, she provided a buffer between us and the questions, so that we could constantly say: "Don't know, go ask Candice."

"Everyone calm down. I've got this."
3. The War of Attrition.

Slowly, the dust settled, and we settled in for the long haul. Over the span of a year, we regularly knocked down major decisions: what kind of service (United is, afterall, a lovely compromise for a Catholic and an Atheist), where to have the service, where to have the reception, the colour schemes, a wedding theme, and a few more that I can't think of because Denise took care of all that. This was a period of frustrations and small joys, as we made decisions that cost us a lot of money but also helped us shape an idea of how the day was going to go down.

So glad we chose this place.
Once the framework was established, the issues got smaller and smaller, but more and more plentiful. Whether to rent tuxes or buy suits. Who to ask for readings. Making sure everyone is involved. Keeping an eye on finances. Bit by bit the wedding was coming together, and we were trying not to let it take over Denise's life, since there is a seemingly endless amount of decisions to make, and she's kind of a busy person.

4. Crescendo.

At a certain point, we got the distinct impression that things were moving well beyond our control, as things got faster and faster and louder and louder. Perhaps an apt metaphor would be that we had been pedaling up a gigantic hill, and now we were suddenly sloping down without brakes. Nothing was happening that was bad, but the process took on a life of its own, and it was like a great crescendo all around us.

I first noticed it when Denise's uncle and godfather Danny came to town several weeks before the wedding, and then others started trickling in. "Holy shit," Denise noted. "If there were a box on those sheets you fill out at the border, their reason for coming is DENISE AND MARK." It's exciting and terrifying - all these months of people talking about the wedding has suddenly become tangible; people bought tickets, rented hotel rooms, started sending you gifts. Single handedly, we were spurring the Vancouver economy. In the days before, when people began piling in, we were at full speed and it felt like no one was in control. Thank God for Candice.

On an emotional level, the build up was different. Denise had, with alarming frequency, made comments about how crazy it was that the wedding was nearly upon us. We kept getting asked if we were excited: a totally understandable and kind question, but by this point we were so involved in making this wedding happen that it was hard to imagine it as an entity separate from our everyday lives.

For me, as I noted in my wedding speech, people asked if I was nervous; also an apt question that I began to find strange. Like I told my best man right before the ceremony (who, as a newlywed, sympathized with): it was never the contract I was nervous about. I'm signing a deal to hang with Denise for an awfully long time - no problem. It's the spectacle and the attention that made me nervous. Not a big fan of the spotlight. Thankfully, most eyes would be on Denise.

Oh so pretty. On a related note, that is not our child.

5. The Day.

This section really should be written by Denise, but no dice - her life is an endless stream of studying. For me, the wedding day was not quite what I expected: a lot of hurry up and wait. I woke and was immediately nervous, I guess finally succumbing to the anxiety that others had been asking me about. It was a quiet morning, and I got dressed slowly, had a nice breakfast, and took the bus downtown while listening to music, which calmed my nerves considerably. Until 2pm, it was really a lot of waiting around in rooms until I had to do something, like pose for photos or keep my groomsmen from running all over the city.

We arrived at the church at 1:30, and Candice informed me that I could stay out and shmooz or hide in the waiting room next to the altar. I told her I'd hide. That room could have a novel written about it. There was nothing in it of importance, but I could picture, day in day out, grooms pacing nervously in there, staring at a single phone on the table, waiting for it to ring. My groomsmen joked with each other, and my best man tried to make me laugh, but I kept mostly silent, getting up to check my hair from time to time, or fix my annoying collar, which had a stubborn dent in it. The phone rang, ten minutes late, and the minister calmly asked me to follow her. My best man said, "Hey she's here. Guess she likes you."

Thankfully it wasn't long until lovely women began walking slowly down a long red carpet, and so 200 gazes were not long looking at me. The music played and they all looked lovely, and my heart warmed to see my niece Kaely walk down all cute towards me - I had to resist giving her a hug at that moment. Then in came Denise with her parents, and of course she was beautiful, and I immediately calmed down.

Everything from that moment on became blissfully out of our control. I had trouble with where to look: no one can look into another person's eyes for 30 minutes straight. It's too intense. So my eyes wandered and I found myself accidentally staring at Denise's breasts more often than not, and so I had to find other things to glance at while I listened and sometimes spoke. I also found it hard to resist whispering to Denise, though we sometimes cheated (we both find seriousness hard to handle, and our instinct is to crack jokes). Somehow we made it through okay, and then we were giving hugs and shaking hands to dozens of people, and about a quarter of the time one of us had no idea whom we were speaking to.

Incriminating evidence of my wandering gaze.
The photos afterwards went well but we were tired and hungry and unsure of what to do with ourselves all of a sudden. It was a great relief to sit down at dinner and eat some food and drink some wine. The party was under way and the speeches were starting, and I was in a joyful mood. There was a sudden release from months of responsibility. I had a wife and there was nothing left to do but enjoy being around so many people that I loved. Candice, by the way, secretly recorded the speeches into mp3 files, which we'd be happy to share with anyone who wanted a copy.

The day could not have been lovelier.  I'm glad I got to dance and that I didn't get too drunk and that I shmoozed appropriately.

Weddings have a way of making people reevaluate their lives. In a day I reconnected with dozens of old family members and friends from around the world. We are responsible for at least one relationship starting that night, for rumours of another's engagement, and for an eager girlfriend aggressively catching the bouquet.

Our wedding planner hurried us out before the party died down, and we found ourselves walking the block and half, quietly and exhausted, to our hotel room across the street. We had a posh little room with a gorgeous view of the mountains, and it wasn't long until we fell into a deep sleep.

6. The Day After.

We woke up and realized that we had spent countless hours preparing for Saturday, but not a minute preparing for Sunday.

We had no change of clothes. 

My sister called to see if we wanted to have a family breakfast, and we informed her that we couldn't make it because all Denise had to wear was a wedding dress (though we probably would have gotten a free meal out of it). Jocelyn, in customary super hero fashion, scrounged up clothing from my mother, my brother, and my sister in law, and met us at the hotel room. Our concierge laughed at us when we explained our predicament. "Never seen that before," he said, astounding us. When we arrived at breakfast, Denise was wearing maternity pants and a faded UBC shirt, and I tuxedo pants and dress shoes with an Abercrombie and Fitch green t-shirt. It was a lovely meal.

We stumbled from event to event that day, wandering almost in a daze, surveying the wreckage of everything around us. Our place was a mess. Our clothes needed washing. We were exhausted, mentally and physically. And we felt wonderful, a delightful mixture of deflation and relief: we'd done it, and done it well.

That night we decided to open the wedding presents which had accumulated at Denise's parents' place. Our friend Caitlyn wrote down in an excel spreadsheet everything we had received while we opened them. We're still working out the process of sending thank you cards, and believe me, they're coming. In all the process of planning, and the day of, I never came as close to crying as that night. The sudden realization of how tired I was, and the overwhelming gratitude to everyone who gave anything to us to make sure we started our marriage properly almost brought me to tears. The entire time I tried not to count on receiving gifts, since it was such an uncontrollable factor, and because I was not prepared I was blown away by the generosity of our family and friends.

More happy news came in the next day, as we got an invoice from the Convention Center with the final tally. Our predictions were wild guesses. Denise and her father thought that we had collectively drank more than we had thought, and so the bill would be way higher than the original estimate. As for me, I assumed we would have to pay a little extra, but not too much. In the end? We got a nice refund!

So, this is officially the only time I will ever say this: Thank you to my entire family for not getting too shmammered.

Some facts and figures? Okay. As a group, we consumed:

-70 bottles of wine
-65 extra glasses of wine
-35 bottles of water
-100 soft drinks
-150 beers
-392 shots (you boozers you! so proud)

On average, everyone had two glasses of wine, one beer, and almost three shots. We honestly planned for far more. I'm not sure if I'm proud or ashamed, people.

7. Thoughts on Marriage so far.

Evidently, we're new to this, but not much has changed. It's constantly in the back of your mind though. I told Denise that it was like playing solo on Mario Kart 64: when you go the second time, you see your little ghost next to you to compare how you're doing now. Everything we do is the same, but cast in a different light. Everything I do, I wonder if we'll keep doing forever.

The biggest difference thus far is, honestly, wearing a wedding ring. With the exception of watches, I haven't worn jewellery in my life. I find myself fiddling with it, playing with it, while at the same time feeling extremely protective of it. I used to find it silly, the extreme lengths people would go to to retrieve lost rings. Now I get it.

So that's it. We're hitched. If you've made it this far in the post, you're a patient person. It's still a strange thing, having a wife, but I'm growing very quickly used to it. She's pretty cool.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our Triumphant Return to Canada, or Five Ways We've Both Changed

So….as a few of you have pointed out to me, I have kind of been lacking on the blog so far this year.  Well, fear not!  This entry (hopefully) marks my triumphant return to blogging!!!  Mark suggested we each write about all the ways we’ve changed since leaving Canada back in August of 2010.   Seems like a nice sentiment, so here it goes. My list is first, and Mark's is below.

1. I’m half a doctor

As indicated by our first blog, Sixteen Months, medical school so far has been shenanigans.  Lots of stress, lots of reward.  This past semester (i.e., the semester where I didn’t write on the blog at all) was WAY different from semesters 1 – 4 on Dominica.  It involved me getting a lot more time with patients, including doing my first pelvic exam and my first emergency room shift.  The next hurdle is this beast of a test called the USMLE Step 1.  It is an 8 hour exam that tests me on everything I have (theoretically) learned since starting medical school.  

8 HOURS!?!?!?!?

I was originally scheduled to take it on May 7th, but, I decided to move it to after the wedding since I wasn’t done studying by the May 7th date.  This sounds dramatic, but most kids in my class are taking the test in June, or even July.  It is the single most important test of my entire life (except maybe eventually for my boards), so I want to make sure I do it right.  Once that exam is done, I will have the summer off!  No studying.  No classes.   Nothing.  Just legit hanging out in Vancouver in our sweet Kitsilano apartment.  Come September, I will be back in the hospitals doing rotations, and by May 2014, I will be graduating.   Hopefully the next 2 years fly by as fast as the last 2!

2. I’ve pretty much settled on a specialty I was never even considering before starting med school.

When I went into med school, I wanted to be a pediatrician.  Or a family doctor.  In my 4th semester on Dominica, we were studying the female reproductive system, and I found it fascinating.  I’m not going to get into all the geeky things about it that I like, but suffice it to say that by the time that semester was over and we were flying back to Canada for Christmas, ObGyn (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as in pregnant women and non-pregnant women) was DEFINITELY a contender.  Fast forward 4 months and I am in love with the specialty.  

During 5th, I did my first pelvic exam and pap smear on a real patient. Although I’m sure a lot of you just cringed reading that, I have to say that it was actually one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I am so thankful that I live in a country that acknowledges women’s health issues.  A simple 10 minute exam has the potential to save a woman’s life, or at the very least improve the quality of it.  Why wouldn’t I want to do that every day?  A few weeks after that, I got to deliver a baby.  A robot baby.  From a robot mom with volume control settings.  With a robot placenta.  That experience pretty much sealed the deal for me and I was sold on ObGyn.

A beautiful healthy baby robot.

3. I’m married (almost)

I am getting married in 7 days, 13 hours and 52 minutes from when I’m writing this.  It’s insane.  I thought I was super organized and on top of things, but I think that no matter how prepared you think you are, the 2 weeks before a wedding are a gong show.  I have so many little things left to do.  And I don’t mean little as in unimportant, I mean little as in testing my fine motor skills, like the 165 place cards I just stamped and wrote out.  I know (hope?) that it will all be worth it in the end.  I know that my wedding planner has my back, so here’s hoping it’s the most awesome wedding ever in the history of life.  I have definitely had a few “oh my God holy shit what the what make time slow down” moments this week.  Like when I went for my last wedding dress fitting.  Or when Mark and I wrote our vows.  Or picking out a dress for my bachelorette party.  I am DEFINITELY looking forward to hitting up our Denny’s at 2am after our wedding and just being able to relax.



4. I have discovered an exercise class that I LOVE.

Like, seriously love.  Like get-up-at-5am-to-go-work-out love.  It’s called Pure Barre.  It’s like a ballet class on steroids.  It involves a lot of squats and a lot of sit ups and lots of pointed toes.  I usually hate group exercise classes, but I adore this one.  The music is always awesome, and every class is different, so I never get bored.  All the instructors are great and none of the girls in the class are bitchy.  It’s  fantastic.   There is a Pure Barre studio in Vancouver, but, of course since it’s in Vancouver, it costs 1398320x more than it did in Michigan.  Mark insists that I start going anyway.  The classes were super helpful for my back pain and sleeping problems while we were in the States, so I might just bite the financial bullet.  Anywho, if any of you are looking for a new workout, Pure Barre.  Check it out.

A little bit of this....
And a little bit of this....

And maybe one day I'll be able to do this.....

5. I’ve discovered that living is America is sometimes pretty freakin’ awesome...but I'd still rather be in Vancouver....

I was seriously terrified to live in the States. But…you know what I DO like???  24 hour grocery stores.  Free shipping from my favourite online stores.  Cheap cheap groceries.  Netflix USA.  The best burger of my life.  Sure, the things I ended up liking may be of the superficial variety, but I loved Chicago, and I’ve always loved Las Vegas and New York.  So who knows, maybe we’ll have a future there at some point.  But for right now, I am super happy to be back in Vancouver, surrounded by all my fellow Starbucks drinking, Lululemon wearing, organic-locally-grown-free-trade eating  Vancouverites.  But I still hate the Canucks.

As if this isn't the prettiest city in the whole freakin' world....


Tip of the hat to my almost-wife for getting it together to write in the blog. She's a busy lady and I've been bugging her for months to write something, and she's kind of got a lot on her plate these days, so it's impressive. Well done.

As for how I've changed, my experiences in the last two years have obviously differed quite a bit from Denise's, and most of them have been chronicled here or in Sixteen Months in Dominica. Regardless, here are the greatest hits:

1. I now eat meat.

When I left for Dominica two years ago, I was a pseudo-vegetarian rocking a diet I'd had for almost a decade. Though I'd already had my misgivings about vegetarianism at the time, at some point I acknowledged that the diet no longer made sense to me. Since then I've been rediscovering a lot of different meals that I hadn't had since puberty. What I've found? I love chicken wings as hot as they come, I can live without beef for weeks until I suddenly want a steak, ham has a strong and pleasant nostalgic value for me, and turkey bacon is better than regular bacon.

 This was a piece of meat that was labelled as a turkey leg but tasted like ham. When I asked for clarification from the waiter, more out of curiosity in case I happened to be Jewish or a Muslim, he disappeared for a few minutes, and came back with the following explanation: "It's not ham, but it's also not turkey. The chef wasn't sure." One thing was certain: it was delicious.

2. I got engaged.

Denise summed up the experience nicely up top. It's been a crazy time, being engaged. From the second I proposed, it's been a roller coaster ride of stress, money, negotiations, and the occasional bout of excitement. When our roommate Ned got engaged and asked for advice, I told him, "Weddings are about pissing off as few people as you can." A few days later he was freaking out and he said, "I thought you were joking. You should have told me you were serious."

For as stressful as the process has been, there have been moments where it becomes clear why this is such an important custom. It feels like it has brought my family closer together, as they're all invested in making sure Denise and I start off our marriage right. It tests the mettle of my relationship with Denise, as we figure out what we want, what we're happy to cave on, and as it makes us consider what we want in our own future. I have no doubt that we're stronger for it, and I find myself excited to see my loved ones all in one place, spend the day celebrating, and finally being about to call Denise my wife.

Definitely my favourite picture of us. I didn't know what to do for much of the photo shoot so I just tried to make Denise laugh. I expect the wedding will be much of the same.

3. I'm rather fond of writing.

As many of you are no doubt already annoyed by, this should come as no surprise: I like to write. When we left Canada, I was nearly done the first draft of Losing Dominion. Since then I have published it and sold nearly a hundred copies, thanks to the help of my sister. Denise and I started a travel blog which turned into our current website, and it proved to be a fun way to update our friends and family. I wrote a second book, which I hope to publish in the coming months. Finally, with pride, I began the Of Our Parents project, which will hopefully continue beyond the end of the year if, fingers crossed, others start writing for the website as well.

4. My perception of my career path has changed.

One of the things they taught us in Education was that, if we have an image of where we'll be in five years, forget it: teaching takes you all over the map. This has turned out to be true for me. I've discovered a lot about my own style that I didn't know, and I expect to keep learning for quite a while. I enjoy teaching the very young ages much more than I thought I would, and I do a great job of it. I'm not as driven to hurry into public schools, and am currently happy to be working for a small teaching center. I'm interested to see what I'll think about the profession in two years time, and what kind of a teacher I'll be then.

5. I have a wealth of experiences behind me.

My brother Greg recently noted that between the ages of 23 and 26, you mature like crazy. I'd have to agree. Something about the last couple of years has aged me, in a deeply pleasant way. I've met some amazing friends that I'll have for years to come, not to mention couches to crash on in Ontario, Kansas, Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky, and many more. I've created a business from the ground up. I've walked along a quiet Caribbean beach to get to work. I've logged more hours in the air than I care to count. I've seen much of the world, and have a thirst to see more. I've learned to be far more assertive when it comes to what I want. I've learned to value and maintain the friendships that are important to me. And, perhaps mostly importantly, I've discovered that I can grow some decent, if patchy, facial hair. It's been a crazy couple of years.

Look at that beautiful beard.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Scratch 'em off the list.

To my great relief, I finished two important goals this week. One of them was long term and, by happy circumstance, I happened to stumble upon. Another was an short term goal that I'm extremely relieved to have resolved.

The first was to find a comprehensive history of the Bible. This has been frustrating me for a long time, because it doesn't sound like it should be this difficult, but it has been: there are several histories of Christianity (giant tomes that would take my entire life to read), and there are plenty of religiously-inspired texts about the Bible that cited the Bible itself. But an (at least moderately) secular account of how the Bible was put together has been surprisingly elusive. Thankfully, I found it this week at Barnes and Noble, on sale as I walked out the door.

It's really quite charming. It's a coffee table book with large and fascinating illustrations, concise chapters that outline clear stages of the Bible's history, and little pouches where you can pull out large images of important historical finds, like high-resolution scans of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most importantly, it points me in the direction of good sources for further study. For anyone interested in learning how the Bible got put together, this is a good start.

Finding a book like this has been on my plate for some time - I had almost given up the search. Among my other super long-term goals: a similar book about the creation of the U.S. constitution (also curiously difficult to find: lots of books about U.S. History, and about the Revolutionary War, and about the Declaration of Independence, but not so much about the process of creating the most important legal document in the world), and the perfect watch (found something pretty close with Longines, but it costs about 1000$). The search goes on.


The second thing to scratch off the list: I got a freaking job. This was a gigantic relief. I have spent the last three months inundating the Vancouver job market with my resume, and only got one disappointing nibble. In the end, thanks to sending my old boss an email a few months back, I now have a position at my old work place, Little Mountain Learning Academy. I loved my job then, a position I had before leaving for Dominica, and I'm pumped to get back to it now. Sitting around unemployed for four months, with no response to what I considered a pretty sexy resume, eats away at a man's confidence. It'll be good to get back to work, especially since it's in a classroom setting. It does, however, complicate honeymoon plans. We'll figure that one out soon enough.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Last Weeks in the USA

I've tried to avoid, for the most part, turning this blog into having a "check out how awesome stuff is in America" theme, but this may be the last couple of weeks that I live in the US for a long time, and there has been a long list of little observations piling up. After Denise writes the USMLE (it approaches rapidly), we'll be back in Canada, likely permanently for me. And for those fans of ours who are wondering: at some point Denise will write a blog post, but if she writes one before her test, it will probably just be gibberish mixed with screaming.

So here goes:

1. Americans really do make a good burger.

When Denise and I were (not so) secretely in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, I had a burger at Earls. It tasted like cardboard. Americans take burgers seriously, and I've been enjoying the forbidden fruit that is not fully-cooked meat (for my American friends: in Canada you can only eat burgers well-done. Medium is not an option). A friend of mine is moving to Saginaw soon, and he asked me to show him the town. There's really only one place worth noting that can't be found with a quick google search, and that is the restaurant Savoy.

I'm relatively new to the meat-eating scene, but the burgers here aren't just good: they're a giant leap better than the second best burger I've ever had (that would be a delightful burger from Buffalo Wild Wings: two patties with cheese, and wedged in between are strips of sirloin. So delicious, and high in fiber). I don't know what these guys at Savoy are doing, but I'm going to miss it when I go back to Canada. I guess I'll just have to make up for it with top-of-the-line, cheap-as-hell sushi.

2. These movie theaters are wiggedy-wack.

One of the things we were looking forward to most, coming from Dominica, was going to actual movies - and it hasn't disappointed. There are some strange things going on, though. A few days ago we went to go see 21 Jump Street, with about five minutes before showtime, and they informed us that they weren't showing it that night - despite advertising it online and in the building - because another movie had more demand. So they just changed what that room was showing. So we just went home. What is this? We weren't so much angry as baffled. Didn't know you could do that.

Also, the theater sells chocolate covered bits of cookie dough. Think about that.


3. You can't drink in strip-clubs.

Not going to go any deeper into this one. Just consider how awkward that would be.

4. Swearing Cussing

I have to watch my mouth here - partly because people are far more sensitive to swear words, and also because I assume everyone has a gun, so let's not offend. The word that Americans use which I'd like to see in Canada (besides y'all): cuss. Don't be cussin'. What a lovely word.

5. The "Oh Shit" lane

This took us a while to get used to, and at first I hated it, but now I appreciate it: Michigan roads have five lanes: two one way, two another way, and one that can go either way. They call it the "Oh Shit" lane.

Here's how it works: if you're driving and you need to turn left, or if you're turning left onto the major road, you scoot over into the "Oh Shit" lane to get out of the way of traffic. The advantage is that it keeps traffic going at a good pace, the disadvantage is that anyone can get into the "Oh Shit" lane from either side at any time, and we have seen a few close calls where two cars tried to get in the middle lane from opposite sides at the same time. Now that I've got the hang of it, I appreciate it, though it's still terrifying.

6. Grocery stores

Our food bills are laughable. Absolutely everything is super cheap, so a 200$ shop for groceries really costs about 120$, and then the tax is only about half. It's easy to see how appealing that is (though I'd gladly trade a higher tax rate for guaranteed health care any time). That will be a shock when we moved back to Canada.

See y'all soon: wish Denise enough luck and maybe she'll show her pretty face on the blog.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Schedule (Shedule?)

So Denise has wrapped up her fifth semester, and it is a far different feeling from every other semester she's completed. Fifth has been like a waiting room, having finished the grueling Dominica leg of the degree, and waiting for the grueling rotations that take up the next two years. Really, this semester felt like a formality, a distraction for what the real prize is: the USMLE test. Denise has scheduled hers for a month from now. Right now, we're waiting in YVR, having successfully navigated through customs with far less hassle than last time.

This is really the part of the degree where Ross students start splintering all over the continent. They have the freedom to schedule and reschedule their USMLE as they see fit, although generally, the sooner they write it the better it is for their careers. The score they get on that test, along with the timing of when it is written, largely determines where they spend years three and four of their MD. It's a big deal.

This semester has been surprising in that Denise has suddenly honed her plans. There's been a few debates about what career she'll end up with, but she seems pretty confident that she wants OB/GYN. For those of you who are unclear, that means vaginas and babies.

This is among the creepier photos I've ever posted.

So, without further ado, here is an extremely tentative schedule for our lives over the next two years:

1. Denise will write the USMLE on May 7th (there's a possibility she'll push it back). It will be the most important test she's ever taken in her life.
2. While waiting for the marks, we gon go get hitched on May 26th. She should get her scores a few days later. Let's call this The Most Emotional Week Ever.
3. Based on whatever job I can get over the summer, we'll be hanging around Vancouver until August, or possibly moving to Toronto in July.
4. Assuming Denise does well on the USMLE, she'll likely begin what's called a "Track" program in Saginaw in September. Over the next two years, she has to get practical experience in a lot of different fields, and then has a few months of time to concentrate on electives, where she can focus more on areas she's interested in. For the rotations she has to take, she's trying to do them all in one hospital over one year in Saginaw, which would cut down on stress quite a lot and would be good for her career. Her electives will be a mix of Saginaw and most likely Canadian hospitals as she tries to network like mad north of the border. The more she shows her lovely face, the more likely they'll offer her a lovely job.
5. Assuming (and assuming and assuming) I won't be able to get a work permit in Michigan next year, I'll be living in either in Toronto or Vancouver, where I have family and friends, so that I can work and visit Denise as often as possible. Not ideal for newlyweds, but it seems that the USA is renowned for disrespecting the sanctity of marriage.
6. After that it's hard to predict where we'll be/ what she'll be doing, but if all goes according to plan, she'll knock down her rotations in an awesome, professional, and sexy manner, and get to graduate in New York in May 2014. That's when we'll all take a deep breath and sigh in relief, and then she'll get to be all doctory and stuff.

So that's where we're at. One of the downsides of this program is that it's hard to plan for very long (which adds unexpected costs of its own). Strangely, it's also an upside, since we've been bouncing around the continent experiencing some pretty nutso things. Plus she certainly has a fire lit under her ass.

Monday, April 9, 2012


It’s the greatest time of the year, even if neither the Leafs nor the Jets are involved: the NHL playoffs. As I do every year, and fail miserably at it, I hereby make a few predictions.

Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
Runner up: Vancouver Canucks
Dark Horse: Nashville Predators
Who will disappoint: New York Rangers
Who might surprise: Los Angeles or Ottawa

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

This one’s a little baffling, inasmuch as I hate the Senators and they haven’t done anything I’ve predicted of them all year. I think the Sens will give Rangers a bit of a shock here and there, as they have all year long with teams who underestimated them, but ultimately the Rangers should take it.

Rangers in seven

Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals

The only reason why Boston might lose is because they could have the Stanley Cup Hangover, though I suspect fatigue won’t show until later rounds. This shouldn’t be a difficulty.

Boston in four

Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils

File this under the “I Could Give a Shit” category. I’ll cheer for Florida because they haven’t been to the playoffs in forever, and because I don’t like the Devils, but Florida just isn't as good as New Jersey.

Devils in four.

Philadelphia Flyers vs Pittsburgh Penguins

This might be the best series of the entire playoffs. Holy these two teams hate each other and they’re both fantastic. Will definitely be keeping an eye on this. Ultimately, I think a hungry Sidney Crosby puts them over the top, plus Flyers goaltending is suspect.

Pittsburgh in six

Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings

This, besides the Senators series, has the largest potential to be an upset, I think. I don’t know why LA isn’t better than they are: they have unreal goaltending, good defense, and a forward group that should score more than it does. That being said, there’s a reason Vancouver almost won the Cup last year, and why they won the President’s Trophy this year. Let us hope that Canucks fans keep calm, and avoid blaming the referees for everything ever.

Canucks in five.

San Jose Sharks vs St. Louis Blues

Also filed under the “Don’t Care” category. St. Louis has had an unbelievable run, and their goaltending is remarkable, but I wonder how that will translate to the playoffs. I’m gonna go with San Jose’s experience here, even though they limped into the playoffs. Last year they played with heart, though they were outmatched by the Canucks.

San Jose in seven.

Phoenix Coyotes vs Chicago Blackhawks

Don’t know much about Coyotes, other than their goalie is pretty good. Chicago is an exciting team to watch, but their goaltending ain’t great, and hopefully Toews can come back to help them out.

Chicago in six

Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings

The second best series of the first round, after Flyers-Penguins. Lots of great narratives here, the up and coming Nashville who’re hungry to win, and Detroit who just never stop winning ever, even though they have an average age of 45 or something. Should be great hockey, but I think Nashville is too talented and focused for Detroit to overcome.

Nashville in six.

So there we have it. I’m wrong more often than I’m right, but who cares. PLAYOFFS!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On Hockeydom.

Ah, that time of year again. The hockey season is winding down, my Leafs are once again very much on the outside looking in, and I have to find other teams to cheer for in the upcoming playoffs. A fine time to reflect on the year. You can look forward to some playoff predictions in another week or so.

1. You Can Play Campaign

Before getting into the actual hockey stuff, this project is remarkable. There's been a growing amount of press about homophobia in the NHL, and it's great to see players step up and say they would support a gay player if he came out. Statistically, there are surely gay hockey players, and like Brian Burke has said in interviews, it's not going to be as hard as they think to come out. Check out Great stuff.

2. State of the Leafs

Oh boy. My family has been commenting lately that my knowledge of the Leafs, and of the NHL in general, has increased a great deal over the past two or three years (probably thanks to the free time I've had). This year has been both the most exciting (for the first half) and severely disappointing (for the second half) season in my memory. And I'm only going to say this once, because a lot of my friends hate the Leafs (though I don't know why), and I doubt I'll garner much sympathy:

Being a Leafs fan sucks. No other team has put their fanbase through so much shit.

That being said, I'm patient and generally happy with the direction of the team. Hope springs eternal in Toronto, and I'm not saying we're about to make a run for the Cup, but there's a reason this team was so successful at the beginning of the year. I'll take the lottery pick, find a decent veteran goalie, a few tweaks, and go from there. The team is young, it's got a good core, and young depth is being piled up at all positions. We're getting there, but this year was hard, because the team showed so much promise and then failed so spectacularly. As ever: ugh.

Someone photoshopped this to make the beach ball look like a puck.
3. State of the Jets

Oh right, my other other team. This year has provided me with some clarity on how I feel about the Jets. Initially, I thought they would be like a second son of mine, and I would love both teams equally. Not so, it seems. I'm fond of the Jets, but not in the same way. The Leafs to me are like having a brother or sister who just can't get their shit together: you'll love them no matter what they do, but sometimes you just want to fight them. The Jets to me are more like a young cousin that you keep an eye on, and hope they're successful in life.

I had the pleasure of going to a Jets game this year, and that building is nutso crazy. There's an energy there that comes from having a fanbase that aren't there because the corporations they work for gave them tickets: they're loud and often obnoxious, and usually fun. It's clear why the Jets' home record is so good: when I was there they got a standing ovation for just coming on the ice. They get that every time. That would motivate anyone.

I think the downside of this is that their position in the standings is inflated. They're not as good a team as they would be in Atlanta, and I worry that this will keep them stuck in neutral, forever competing for a playoff spot but never making it, and missing out on the high draft picks that are essential to stock a decent team, especially if they can't break the bank on free agents. The good news is that in goal and in defense they're pretty set. Up front they need a lot of work, pretty much everyone could go besides Kane, and that'll take time. They're in good hands, but I'm disappointed that they won't get a better draft pick than they otherwise could have.

4. Saginaw Spirit

Going to games here is awesome. Right now they just beat the Sarnia Sting in Round One of the playoffs, which had two players who should go very high in the draft (Yakupov will almost certainly go #1, and Galchenyuk shouldn't be too far behind, hopefully with the Leafs). The series went back and forth, but the Spirit were clearly the better team. Denise and I went to every game in Saginaw, and we'll keep going in the next round if we can, whomever they play. We're having a tough time, vacillating between cheering for our local team or their Canadian opponent. Tough call.