Friday, May 30, 2014

Living on Tulsa time

It's really odd to be back in Tulsa.

The wedding is Saturday, but I flew in on Thursday evening. There's a couple of things I need to take care of stateside, so I figured I'd take the extra day for some errands.

I drove past the campus on my way in from the airport. It was unbelievably surreal. It felt like there's still a part of me home there, but the rest of me is settled so happily in Vancouver. It felt like 100 years since I'd been there last. Graduation feels like a long distant memory.

I've traveled thousands of miles and moved my life to a new country since then.

That's crazy.

It's crazy, right?

Who does that? Who just moves to a new country IMMEDIATELY after graduating college. Not even taking time to breathe or adjust. Simply high-tailing it out of there.

Things are slower in Tulsa. The world is a little smaller there. It's a great college town and a great place to raise kids. It's a place many people I know are happy to live the rest of their lives. It's one of the largest cities in the States, believe it or not. Still growing, with a vibrant music scene and more young adults every day. But it's definitely slower. It's a life that allows for vacations and family time. It's a nice life.

It's calming to be back, if only for a few days.

Wedding bells

Ross and Britelle got married!!! It was beautiful, romantic, wonderful, and overwhelmingly happy!

It was great to be there for the big day! Britelle looked absolutely stunning in her dress, and Ross and the groomsmen looked dashing in their suits. The dresses Britelle picked out for her bridesmaids flattered each of them very nicely. The moms on both sides were positively beaming, and everyone seemed to get along just fine.

They had these adorable pint-sized jam jars with little purple birds, their names, and the date printed on them. They each had Hershey's hugs and kisses in them, and were presented in a big apple basket with a label instructing each of us to share hugs and kisses! It was precious.

The two are pretty well traveled, and had family and friends coming from all across the world, so they used an amazing world atlas as their guest book! Max and I found the page with Vancouver and signed our names! It was really fun to be able to sign somewhere out of the country (if only by 30 minutes!). 

The church they held the ceremony in was positively gorgeous! Huge stained glass windows depicting several Biblical stories. A large front altar with choir rows. It was stunning. They offered communion to all the guests, which I thought was really special. The bride and groom stayed at the front, so all the guests came up and took communion along side them. It was amazing. The song choices were beautiful. They had friends from the orchestra playing most of the music, with a trumpet piece from one of our friends, Keysto, for their recessional. The whole things was incredible. I cried! Max didn't cry, but couldn't stop smiling! 

The whole thing was simply unbelievable! I'm so happy for the delightful couple! Their relationship is really a blessing to this world and an incredible inspiration to those of us lucky enough to know them. Their love has withstood the tests of time and distance, and has only grown stronger. They love truly and honestly, and I know they will do great things together.

Memorial Day

Not a holiday in Canada... But we did celebrate Victoria Day here the Monday before! So, you know, there's that.

Memorial Day is a holiday I only recently understood. I always paused for a moment to remember and appreciate in years past. Yet now I remember my brother. I bemoan our loss and I say thank you for all the brave men and women who have volunteered to fight the battles our country chooses to enter.

The funny thing about grieving is that it's always changing. Some anniversaries need to spent with others and some need to be spent alone. For this Memorial Day, I enjoyed being in Dallas with my family. It was nice to spend it with my parents, working on things for the wedding. Focusing on something positive on a rough day can make the day easier to endure.

Dates like the actual anniversary of his death are ones I need to spent alone. Take the day to myself, see a few movies, devour a pint of ice cream, and take some time on the couch.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Popcorn please

When we went to see Godzilla, Max had a very amazing interaction with the kind woman working concessions.

First of all, Max and Jake had decided to split a popcorn for us all to share. I had picked up a water bottle and an apple juice so I set them on the counter so I wouldn’t have to hold them. Jake looks at me and with a completely straight face asks “do I know you?” The kind woman muttered something about serving all customers if we would wait patiently in line. I became surprisingly flustered, even though I knew he was joking. The woman’s reaction was what really sent me spinning. A few moments later I interjected with “I really do know him!” She gave us all a weird look and sort of shrugged. Her faces said “I do not get paid enough for weird shit like this.”

Alright, so we’re all caught up of what had happened before. Kind woman already thinks we’re all crazy. Jake isn’t paying attention anymore. It’s a 10 something showing so it’s sort of late already.

Now. For the real part of this story. The theatre had collection cups, one of which had some of the different M&M characters on it. Max wanted that cup. He was going to have that cup.

He approached the woman who was already in love with all three of us and said he’d like to order one of whatever gets him that cup. She said yeah that’s fine, would you like any popcorn.

This is where Max breaks down.

I ordered the souveneir cup with popcorn.

Blank stares from our favorite worker at the movie theatre.

I want the cup.

More blank stares.

This is where I step in.

Max, popcorn is not served in the cup.

What?

Can we get the cup with root beer in it and a medium sized popcorn?

This was a language she could understand. This was something she could deliver for us.


Max asked me if we were still getting the cup. 

Take flight

This flight attendant has it out for me.

I have no idea why. I boarded the plane in an orderly fashion, didn’t hold up the line, quickly and manageably stowed my items in the overhead bin and pulled out my tablet. Yet she keeps making faces at me.

It might just be her face. You can never be sure with flight attendants. Some of them just have this look about them like they hate all people and all things but they do this anyway, so you’d better just put up with it. It’ll be easier on everyone that way.

Thankfully she’s the first class attendant, so I don’t have to actually deal with her. Not that I would antagonize her or anything! I actually try really hard to be nice to all strangers. You never know what kind of day or week someone’s having, and as someone who has had some really crappy days and weeks, a smile is a lot easier to deal with than a jerk. Hell, a smile from a stranger can even brighten one of your darkest days if it’s just the right smile.

Anyway, I’m sitting in that first row right behind first class. I never realized how tough a place this was to sit. You get to see, hear, and smell all of the goodies but you have no direct access. Then the cranky flight attendant comes and closes the MESH CURTAIN. How is this supposed to help? I can STILL see, hear, and smell everything, now there’s just a rude piece of see through fabric between the two sections. I really want one of those blankets. It’s unreasonably cold on this plane and a blanket would just be a nice touch. I usually travel with a pillow and a blanket, but since we’re trying to bring the cats on the way back, I tried to pack as light as possible. This has just left me cold and almost as cranky as cranky flight attendant.

The prerecorded welcome to the flight shpeal came on and told us that we would be free to retrieve items from the overhead bin. I, along with several other passengers, took that as an indication that we could do so NOW. No. This was not the case. I glanced over and cranky pants was trying to burn holes through me with her eyes, the intercom phone in her hand. “Ladies and gentlemen, the seatbelt sign is still on. This means you must remain seated. We have NOT reached our cruising altitude. The captain will turn off the seatbelt sign when we HAVE reached cruising altitude.” I believe that’s what she actually said. What I heard was “Sit your butt down. This is not the day for this shit and you need to put your ass back in that chair before I throw it off this plane.” I returned to my seat without making further eye contact with cranky pants. This was when she came to section me off from the rest of the civilized group of passengers.


Well. At least I have headphones.

This land is your land

I’m flying back to the states today. Barely here a week and already on my way back south. Max made the comment, and I completely know where he’s coming from, that it feels as though we were only visiting Jake in Vancouver, and now we’re heading home, back to the real world.

This certainly still feels like something out of a fairy tale. I always wanted to study abroad as a college kid. I never got around to it, but even that wouldn’t have been as real as this. Only it lacks the real feeling. We’re spending money to make it happen. Our names are on the lease. We’ve put in time and energy into decorating the apartment and making it feel like home. We’ve attained visas and paid electric bills. But there’s just something odd about the whole thing. Inexplicably odd.

It’s one of the things you grow up talking about, with the deep seeded expectation that no one you know will actually make it happen. Moving to a different country goes against all the family values growing up in the south teaches you. Leaving your family behind, choosing a country other than the US, it’s all taboo. Everyone talks about how cool it would be, moving somewhere else. Being the foreign twenty something. Exploring a new city off on your own, getting to know its secrets and its treasures. Becoming a native. You all know it won’t happen. No one has that kind of courage or defiance toward their family. We’re all expected to graduate and move into one of the hip townhomes just across the highway so our moms can bring house gifts and baked lasagnas on Sunday.

But we’re doing it. We’re in the foreign country. We’re finding cool new restaurants and making friends. We’ve broken out of the norm and set out on our own. It’s overwhelming and it’s thrilling. It still doesn’t feel real. I still lose my breath every morning at the sheer sight out the window. The mountains and the huge city and the ocean. It’s unbelievable. This can’t be our life. This can’t be our next step after Tulsa. How did this come to pass and how on earth are we going to get away with it continuing?


This is ours. Wow.

Vancouver vs. Dallas #1

One of the coolest things so far are all the differences between the States and Canada. Here's the things I've noticed first and foremost.
1.    Starbucks First of all, the place to be here is Tim Horton's, not Starbucks. Starbucks can still be found on every corner, really more corners than in Dallas, sometimes multiple stores on one corner. The reason it's on this list, though, is that the Starbucks here are oddly "do-it-yourself-ish." Only at the airport have I been handed a cup with a lid on it. Want a coffee collar to protect your hands, better ask for it. The little green stoppers are more readily available than they are in the states. It's just a little odd.
2.    National Language(s) The States don't have a national language. Canada has two. This mean French and English translations are on almost every public sign, product and good. On top of that, we live in an area with a large Asian population, so things are frequently triple listed. In the Costco, they have all boxes stacked in two columns, one with the French labels facing out and on with the English labels visible. It's beautiful in a way. A real mixing of cultures. I've often marveled at the way the States refuse to declare a national language. When they were first being settled with the motto and heart of a melting pot, it made sense. Since then English has become the unofficial official language, causing great heartbreak and strife among some of our people. Particularly in the southern most states where Spanish is a very common language. I've heard and seen a lot of "learn to speak our language" type statements. These infuriate me. The nation hasn't declared anything to be "our language," so how do you call yourself a patriot of this great country when you are rude to those whom your country welcomed. The States have long touted themselves as a haven for all. Even when they first settled, this wasn't true. Canada seems to have actually been able to embody this mentality as a governing body and as a society. I wrote about a really gorgeous observation from a gentleman we encountered in this post. For as much grief as I might have even once given USA's hat, the people of America have some things they could easily stand to learn from the people in Canada.
3.    Left turns Dallas has an overabundance of left turn only lanes. Tulsa has a few, with a spike from what I was used to in protected right turn lanes. Vancouver also has a large number of left turn lanes. The kicker is, these lanes frequently don't come with a left turn arrow. What I've seen this result in is cars just turning left after the light turns yellow, and the opposite lanes having to wait while their light turns green to ensure they don't t-bone anyone. It's terrifying. Usually only two cars try to make it through, but I've seen a bus pull this maneuver!! Seriously dangerous stuff!
4.    Flashing green lights Lord have mercy. I have no idea whose idea this was, but I would like to kick them in the pants. If a traffic intersection is "pedestrian controlled," the green light will flash. This means that pedestrians using the walk buttons can cause the light to change at a moment's notice. I think. I'm not actually sure. But I get really antsy when driving through a series of them. Because Wikipedia covers everything under the sun, here's an article on Pedestrian Crossing. Enjoy it as much as I did.
5.    Stopping where cars should stop This is a VERY pedestrian city. The only place I've driven so far was to the PetSmart because I wasn't sure how much I would be getting. The beautiful wonderful amazing TransLink train system and walking are the primary ways to get around. I even took the train to the airport htis morning. It's just the way to do it. In light of this fact, the cars behave the way they should around pedestrians. Drivers stop BEFORE the crosswalk!! It's an unbelievably novel idea. Absolutely insane, really. Practically archaic. Yet I have seen drivers throw their car into reverse and back up if they stopped in the crosswalk. It's a truly heavenly sight for ye olde pedestrian.
6.    TransLink trains have no operators Everything is run automatically! It’s 2 parts terrifying and 8 parts amazing. The trains run constantly. I’ve never looked up a schedule, because even if I approach the platform when the train is leaving, I know it will be less than five minutes until the next one arrives. It’s a really awesome system. The one thing I would recommend is installing an actual turnstile system. Right now they don’t have a way of checking that you actually purchased tour train ticket. Apparently they’re in beta testing for an electronic system. We’ll see what comes of this during our time here.
7.    Bike lanes Ok, so I heard from many sources that Vancouver would be the most bike-able city in the world. I think the city planners put a great deal of effort into making it so, but in the end, the cars and foot pedestrians will always win. There are bike lanes in place, marked by green strips on the roadway. They are supposed to yield to pedestrians. They don't. They are supposed to still follow all traffic laws. They don't. I think the problem boils down to the few people who DO bicycle around town. They do so with such disregard to all others that it makes it dangerous for the average rider like myself to attempt to join them. I will stick to walking, and I'm just fine with this. It's a beautiful city and I don't have anywhere to be in a hurry.
8.    Driveways Homes don't have front driveways!!! It's absolutely confounding to me!!! Neighborhood streets are all sidewalk and no driveway. Alleys and street parking are what it’s all about here. It makes for a really cute neighborhood street, but it makes it tough when you made a wrong turn and need to pull a u-ey.
9.    Street buses They’re electric. Downtown and neighborhood streets are blanketed by an intricate network of electric cables. They are familiar to me for trolleys in cities like Dallas and San Francisco. Pure electric buses are a little odd to me though. Surely they have backup systems… we’ll see. I haven’t had to ride a street bus yet. Further investigation is clearly required.
10. Units This one’s a little more obvious, and we knew we were walking into it. Still it catches me off guard on a regular basis. Celsius vs Fahrenheit and Kilometers vs Miles. Kilometers and miles are fairly easy to deal with. One kilometer is about 2/3s of a mile, plus we really only need that when we’re driving, and our car has both on the speedometer. On that note, though, Canadians drive sooo slowly! Our parking garage has a 10 km/hr speed limit. That’s like 7 mph! That’s nothing! The highways are typically between 80 and 100 km/hr, which is roughly 45 and 65 mph. It’s tough for this Dallas girl. The temperature units are much more difficult. I was telling someone that Dallas reached 115 degrees on a regular basis in the summer. The look I got was indescribable. I quickly realized my mistake and amended my statement with Fahrenheit. I know there’s a formula for conversions, but it’s not exactly the quickest thing in the world. So far I just have my phone weather app report the temps to me in Fahrenheit, and we’ll go from there.
11. The accent Oh it’s a beautiful one! Every time I hear “sorry” and “Mazda” pronounced with much longer vowel sounds than are used in the States, especially in the South, I lose my shit. On the flip side of that, I became so accustomed to the accents of international students at TU that I’m just as floored when someone appearing to be of foreign decent speaks with a flawless Canadian accent. That’s one of the biggest negative things I gained while at TU. The school consistently tried to improve the interactions and impressions between the nationals and internationals, but it never got very far. I’d like to say I was never rude to anyone of international origin on campus, but I will also say I never went out of my way to befriend anyone from the same group. Also, here's a YouTube video of a fabulous (in every sense of the word) gal teaching people to "speak Canadian."
12. Conservative banking America tried to tell the rest of the world that their democratic approach to government and banking is the best in the world. Wrong. Canada’s is. Their economy is right on par with that of the States’. The exchange rate between Canadian dollars and US dollars fluctuates in favor every week. They have a strong workforce and a healthy economy, based on everything from industry and farming to technology and business. I’m quite excited to look for a job here. The market is healthy and I’m decently marketable. This difference became most apparent to us when we applied for our bank account. First of all, US credit doesn’t transfer in any way to Canadian credit scores. They saw the negative influences the lending market was having on the validity of our credit scores and decided to stay true to theirs. As a result of this, they pulled our US credit score to be able to recommend us for a checking account, but this did not establish any sort of credit record or score for us in Canada. We will have to get a Canadian credit card in order to start building up our credit here. They are also large, enormous, overwhelming users of the built in chip in credit and debit cards. I remember a few years back when the States tried to implement this same program, and it failed quite splendidly. Scammers were bumping up against purses and wallets, people were hesitant to use them, and they weren’t even national installed. In Vancouver it’s practically the only way to go. Retailers will still let you scan a card, but they look at you a little funny. The card readers here are also slightly different. They’re mobile, so waiters bring it right to your table, retailers don’t have it mounted to the counter, and it has multiple ways of use. There’s the typical swipe ability on the side of the machine. It also has a slot more like an ATM on the bottom of it. Then it also allows for tapping with the chip on the top of the machine. Debit cards are true debit cards, and cannot be swiped like a credit card. There is no option to use it without your PIN number. PIN numbers can also be any length between 4 and 20 or something like that. They recommended we choose a 4 digit PIN if we wanted to use the card in the states, as it’s the only length they recognize. It’s really one of the starkest differences.
13. College Don’t tell anyone you went to college. It does not mean what you think it means. In Vancouver, Colleges are all trade schools. It’s the Tulsa Welding School and the Art Institute. Still reputable schools teaching excellent abilities, but not the four-year higher learning institution I paid good money to attend.

Well 13 isn’t the best number for a list of items… I guess I could break a few things up to get to 15, but is it really worth it? Probably not.

I hope to continue with these lists as we run into more fascinatingly different things about Canada!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Picture Session

These are long overdue, but I wanted to wait until the apartment was a little more put together.

This is the view from the bedroom!! You can see the ocean and the mountains from here, as well as some of the other buildings in our complex.


Here's the kitchen and living room!



This is the little bonus room with the pantry and Max's study space! Plus the view from that window!



This is the crown jewel, the view from the balcony!!


Home alone

Our dear friends Ross and Britelle are getting married this weekend!!!! Max left this morning to hang out with the guy folk before the big "I do." His flight left at 8:55 am this morning, so as we have learned, we left the apartment at 5:15 to get to the airport, through security, and through customs in time! I went with him to the train station. The station right next to us doesn't start running until closer to 5:45 am, so we just took the 10 minute walk over to the station where he would pick up the line straight to the airport. I got Starbucks and Maxwell got on the train.

This city speaks right to my heart. That sounds cheesy, I know, but I'm just in love with it. At 5 in the morning the sun is already up and the birds are singing beautifully. Everything smell fresh, there's a light breeze that sweeps across everything and fills you with a light of hope for this day and every day. The people work and live as a holistic community to fill every need, every niche. The view itself from our apartment sets within me a fire for this life.

That leaves me home for a few days with just Netflix and Jake (when he's not at class). Once I got back this morning, I slept for another couple of hours. Once I re-arose from the deepest of slumbers, I rustled up my Hulu queue to see what was new in the world. The Bachelorette has started, which is super exciting!

This has been exactly the new chapter I needed in my life. It seems a world away from Tulsa, and in many ways it is. It's rooted in the same world I grew up in, but it's different enough in the most perfect ways. I find the atmosphere here infectious. There's an attitude a big city possesses, though the one Vancouver gives off is one of compassion, dreams, innovation. I'm not sure I'll ever find all the right words to describe it here. It's still such a beautiful dream.

It's finished!!

Almost!!

We have two boxes left! One has photographs and things to be placed on the wall. The other has board games and puzzles, which are the only things left that I have no place for.... I will have to figure that one out this week...

Max was a real hero for me today. He took apart Jake's entertainment center and set up everything on ours. He assembled the two new DVD shelving units and I unpacked all of the cases. Having them all displayed with extra space makes it seem like there are far fewer than the three boxes it took to pack them. He helped me move the reclining chair to the other side of the living room. He put together the lamp with shelved to put in the bedroom and moved the floor lamp he and his dad made into the living room. He helped me move furniture around as we got everything to fit. He assembled the extra large glass front shelving unit which we hoped to wall mount. With the metal studs we found the other day though, this unit has now become the coffee table, and the coffee table has moved outside, soon to be accompanied by two chairs. We have all of our knickknacks on display and all of our books on shelves.

We finally decided it was time to get some groceries. Costco is still terrifying, so we tried out the T&T Supermarket across the way near the Starbucks I like. Turns out, it's an Asian food market. Lots of pig feet, whole chicken, and live food. Nothing against that food, it's just not for Max and I. We rounded up some essentials, milk, butter, eggs, bread, and found our way back home. We still have some learning to do regarding downtown grocery shopping. The bread was fairly squished by the time we got home, and a mountain or stairs with a gallon of milk is not an easy thing. We will navigate this eventually, but today was not our day.

It was the day for wedding invitations however!! We got a rough draft emailed to us from the amazing and talented Heather Dickie! We'd requested something with a hint of the infinity symbol, as it means so much to our relationship, and she delivered flawlessly! The yellow and grey is still the most beautiful thing I've seen and I'm so excited to finally mail these out to the people we love.

Japadog

What is a Japadog? That's an excellent question. As near as we can tell, a Japanese restaurant took everything on their menu and said to themselves, "what if we served all of these only on hot dog buns?!?!!!!" and just went with it. Oh yes, everything on the menu. They also sell actual hot dogs in hot dog buns, but mostly, the other Japanese food. The best item on their menu which went into a hot dog bun is the ice cream. The bun is toasted with some sort of sugar coating that makes it a lot better than it sounds. They have a very wide range of flavors. Max had a mango, and said it was amazingly, if not bewilderingly, delicious.

Other than that it was a very nice relaxing day! We finally got the kitchen unpacked and worked through the last of the bedroom odds and ends. The place is finally starting to come together. It still feels like mostly boxes. We're reaching the point in the unpacking where we just seem like really messy people instead of people who just showed up. Jake is very graciously putting up with it all of it, even coming home to miscellaneous pieces of furniture that we've placed into his room, hoping he will make them magically disappear.

Whelp, as exciting as the Japadog adventure was, that's pretty much it for the day.

GODZILLA

The first real day in Vancouver!

I guess technically that was yesterday, but it just didn't feel like a real day. The dads were still here so it was still kind of chaotic. Plus we spent 6 hours on an adventure to the states and back.

It was project day!! We'd ordered a closet organization system from the Container Store and had that to set up. This was a true adventure. There was an existing closet organization set up that was really underwhelming and no where near as functional. Taking that down was pretty straightforward. Then we looked at the assembly for the one we'd bought. It required a power drill to make holes in the drywall and drill into the studs in order to properly anchor the entire system. We did not have a power drill. One of every kind of ratchet and screwdriver, yes. Power drill, no. We figured the Costco nearby might have one. We navigated our way there and tried to enter the store, like normal people. A very kind employee informed us that membership is required for entry, and we could attain said membership around by the exit door. I inquired as to whether or not we could do our shopping and then get our membership. No. We're now members at Costco. Looking for a power drill proved more difficult. This location has evidently stopped selling power drills. Since we don't have a Canadian phone plan yet, we had no tools to look up a new store. Traipsing back to the apartment, the thought occurred that a Canadian phone plan might not be a bad idea. A Home Depot was located only a couple of train stops away, and we set out towards the urban store. Quite quickly we found a power drill, bits for it, and a stud finder.

After we returned from that adventure, we quickly realized we didn't have a battery for the stud finder.... The best laid plans, huh? We figured out where the studs were eventually, and then worked around that for this project. It took some finagling as the closet is about half a foot smaller than what we'd initially thought, but we got all the pieces in there and then a majority of the clothes.

We got the bookshelves for the pantry put together really quickly. They fit PERFECTLY in the bonus room. Then there's still plenty of space for Max's desk and study area. That room is amazing!

The adventure to Home Depot and just navigating in the bedroom to unpack took up a massive amount of the day. Once Jake was done with his project work at school, he headed back to the apartment. We wanted to go out and do something fun since it was our first Saturday night in town. We opted for a fudge shop which Jake promised to be amazing and then seeing the movie Godzilla, since it was opening night. Turns out, the fudge place was a Rocky Mountain Chocolate. Still amazing fudge, but nothing I haven't seen before.... The movie was amazing!!! I've never really seen anything related to Godzilla before, but this movie really knocked it out of the park for me. It was a 10 something pm showing, so it was straight to bed for me! The guys are up playing video games. It's nice to see Max and Jake having so much fun together.

To wrap up this post, a commentary on the beautiful place we now call home, from one of its natives:

There was a popular phone retailer next door to the Home Depot, so we stopped in and set up our account. It makes more sense to pay for the phone line and an international plan than to pay for the roaming fees on an American phone. The salesman was unbelievably nice and put up with our questions about Vancouver. He told us that race isn't really of concern here. I've also found this to be true so far. Folks of every color, height, age, and gender mix and mingle in this buzzing city, always friendly toward each other, no matter if you're a friend or a stranger. This is quite a change coming up from the states. It's not that racism is a rampant infection we can't fight off, but I'd say it certainly still lingers in our society, like a scar from an age old injury. Here there's not even a scar. It's as if racism never even saw the light of day. People came and created the city from every corner of this earth, and together they continue to evolve the city, its culture, and its makeup.

There and back again

Waking up in Vancouver was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

It's real. We're here and we're moved in and this place is ours and we've started this unbelievable adventure. We've been dreaming of this for months now. Every morning, hoping to magically wake up in this city. It finally happened.

We met the dads in the lobby of the apartment building and headed to Medina Cafe. It's a little overpriced, but very delicious. They specialize in waffles with fancy syrups and dipping sauces. They won't scramble eggs, but they'll cook them any other way you want them. They make really good morning potatoes. Fancy coffee and hot chocolate was a specialty I enjoyed to a particularly high degree. You walk up to the front door and it looks like a tiny cafe that only seats 25, tops. Then they tell you that they will seat your party of four in about 15 minutes. Mysteriously, they lead you around to the back door which leads to a hallway which is clearly the entrance to a group of apartments. You pass through the hallway and around another corner and enter into a gorgeous back room with beautiful wooden floors, exposed beams, and huge windows letting in the city and the sunshine.

The apartment is a complete mess, and the dads did their best to help with some shelf assembly and mild unpacking. Max and I had an appointment to open a joint Canadian checking account. Oh, I'm sorry, chequing account with cheques. Because Canada.

Our appointment ran a little long which meant the dads were now on their own to get to the airport. Their flight left at 2:05 pm, and they left the apartment around noon. By train the airport is about 30 minutes away. We figured this would be plenty of time for them to get there. We were able to jump on a couple of trains and meet up with the dads to say our goodbyes.

Well... What we thought were goodbyes.

An hour or so later we get a call saying they're on their way back to the apartment because they missed their flight. Apparently you have to be at the airport to check in at least two hours before an international flight. There's only two flights from Vancouver to DFW each day, and the other leaves at 8:30 in the morning. This meant they were Canada bound for the night.

Well... We thought that's what it meant.

Instead, they'd booked flights out of Seattle back to Texas. This was the much, much, MUCH, cheaper option and it allowed them to pass through customs at the border we'd crossed earlier instead of at the airport. But, it meant Max and I would be making an unplanned Seattle round trip this evening. Seattle is a good 2 1/2 hours from the apartment, with optimal traffic. It was about 3:30 when we got on the road, which meant we were not going to be hitting ideal traffic. It was a fun trip though. We stopped at a Denny's Diner in Bellingham for some food. The dads had missed lunch since they went straight from lunch to the airport. We found them a hotel that was across from the airport and offered a free shuttle every 15 minutes starting at 4:45 am. Their flight was at 9, so that was plenty of time. It was great to have a formal goodbye with the dads, not just a hug and run on the train.

So with that, it is late, and goodnight.

Thank goodness for elevators

We moved in!!! We moved in to the place! We got to the apartment and moved everything in and we're here and it's the best!!!!

Customs was a hell of an adventure! We had to speak to the booth officer about the two vehicles and our purpose in Canada. Then we had to park and go into the actual border office to file for our paperwork. My dad had some mild disagreement with the customs officer, so his bag was pulled from the car and searched while Max and I discussed our paperwork with another officer. The goal was to file for a student permit for Max, and get my work permit from that paperwork. We were worried it would be too early for his student documents since his program doesn't start until September, but were going to give it a try anyway. Since we'll be exiting and reentering the country several times between now and then, refiling for paperwork won't be too much of an issue.

Turns out our worries came to pass, and since we didn't have any documentation of a common law marriage, we were both issued a visitors permit. In August when we reenter after the wedding, he'll be able to get his student permit and then I'll hopefully either have a promise of a job, but I'll get my work permit either way with our marriage license.

With our paperwork in tow, we proceeded through the border and into southern Vancouver!!! It's unimaginably gorgeous and the air is amazing! The weather should top out around 85 degrees F, which is just insane to two Texas natives. There's still folks in the city who think a 90 degree day is unbearable. We wound our way along highway 99 through the southern suburbs of the city. There are rivers and ocean views and mountains on the border. So far it seems like the perfect city!

We navigated our way to the apartment building, we're in a set of four that all open on a courtyard with entrances to our underground parking. We're steps from one of the rail stations. The train system is TransLink, with multiple stops just downtown, several of them in reasonable walking distance from the place. There's Starbucks, Tim Hortons, grocery stores, London Drug, and amazing restaurants all in a 10 minute radius!!!

We talked to the concierge about where to park our car and the U-Haul while we waited for the movers and Jake to arrive. Jake arrived from VFS really quickly and walked us up to the place. The views are to die for. We face east across the city and can see all the way to the mountains. We have floor to ceiling windows along the whole wall with several window sections that open to let in the air. There's no central air since the city is usually so cool. It made for a warm afternoon of moving. We unpacked Max's car and brought everything upstairs. Jake left to go back to classes. The movers weren't coming until later, so the rest of us went out for lunch. There was a cute place called Moxie's just across the street so we headed there.

Hurried on our way back so we wouldn't miss the movers. Of course, we did miss the movers. The initial booking with the movers was from noon to three. We found out we had to book the freight elevator, which could only be done from nine to noon or from one to four. Since we would still be in border crossing at nine, we opted for the one to four slot. When I called the movers back, they assured me that they had adjusted the reservation and would be at the apartment at one pm to move us in. Yet I had voice mails to tell me they arrived at noon, waited for an hour, and left. :| ... Through a series of phone calls which went better than I could have ever imagined, we were told the movers would be back in 10 minutes and that we would still have three hours. The elevator, however, was still only reserved until four pm.

Those movers who showed up were powerful wizards wielding only the most impressive skills. We had to station ourselves across the tower, dads helping to unload the U-Haul, Max operating the elevator to get the movers up and down, and myself in the apartment to direct the boxes and furniture. It was almost 1:45 when we started, so everyone was on a time crunch. The apartment was slightly smaller than I had anticipated, so there was some delicate negotiating of furniture which needed to happen. The boxes quickly filled up every single inch of space. The queen bed we took from Max's parents barely squeezed into the main bedroom. Thankfully we still had room for our nice dressers and a floor lamp on the far side of the bed.

Couches. Oh boy. We have two couches now, one a full-sized, and one an odd shaped love seat. The smaller couch belongs to my dad's family. It was his mom's, and then he took it after he left home, and then he gifted it to me when I got my first apartment. I had it recovered in a darling blue and white plaid. It looks like a wimpy little couch. Many a friend has tried to lift it. Yet it is a pure beast. It's made of solid steel (ok, solid wood) and has the most framing I've ever seen in a couch. It isn't a hideaway bed, but might as well have been since it weighs so much. The movers handled this one beautifully. They brought it up first, however, which means it had to stand on end in the corner of the living room so they could bring the other couch and the rest of the living room furniture in. This brings us to the other couch. It's eight feet long with a tall back and deep seating. Our walls are about 8 1/2 feet tall... Then you take door frames, entry hallways, and light fixtures into account. We were all whispering silent prayers that this couch would magically appear in the apartment. The movers made it into the elevator with the couch. The movers made it all the way down the hallway with the couch. The movers needed us to disassemble the automatic closing latch on the door. Then the incredibly talented pair of movers from heaven brought that couch into the apartment and placed it in the living room like the true champions they are. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

The security guard came around at 4:00 pm on the dot. We had the last mattress in the elevator, and the only other piece was the big dresser. Thankfully he let us hurry up with the dresser while he did the ending inspection of the hallway to make sure we hadn't put holes into any of the walls.

It was a long day. That I know for sure. When the movers left, we all sat down on different parts of furniture and released a synchronized exhale. We had made it. We had arrived and unpacked and everything fit in the apartment. We didn't know how to get back to the front door through the forest of boxes, but at least all those boxes were in the confines of the apartment.

After everyone regained consciousness, we regretfully resigned to the fact that we still had a few obligations. We mustered up the energy and made our way downstairs. We had to return the darned U-Haul and then find some type of food. The U-Haul return location was just outside of downtown, so it didn't take too long. We said goodbye to Genghis and hurried into the car where seats that have suspension and doors that actually close. We managed to find a really good pizza place a few blocks away. Fatih's pizza is right in the middle of several other pizza places but smelled the best! They sell pizza by the HUGE slice. Two slices and a drink for only $4.50, which is one of the cheapest places we've seen around so far. The pizza was excellent and we sat outside on the patio to enjoy the breeze and the views.

It's been a good day.

LAST DAY OF DRIVING

OHMYGOSH WE'RE SO CLOSE AND WE'RE GOING TO BE IN VANCOUVER AND I CAN'T WAIT IT'S GOING TO BE AWESOME!!!

It was a good day of driving. We hit the end of the Rockies and then the Cascades, but the Cascades are much less trying. 




We thought we were driving through Seattle when we came out on the other side of the Cascades.... The extreme lack of a Space Needle should have been a bigger hint. Then wen looked at a map, and realized we were moving through Bellevue, not Seattle...

That's ok, it was still pretty.

Speaking of which, the hotel we're staying in tonight is AMAZING!!! We're staying in the Springhill Suites in Bellingham, Washington. It's only about 30 minutes south of the border which makes tomorrow the easiest driving day so far. The hotel has a desk area, a rain shower head, beautiful beds and an amazing breakfast spread!!

The anxiousness I had the day we left had evaporated. We're so close now it's finally becoming real. The sheer excitement of starting a new chapter has overwhelmed all my other senses. We're moving to another country to start out on this grand adventure. Max is chasing his dream, which is an unbelievable thing to witness. I'm so proud of him for having the courage to make this happen. He didn't let anything stand in his way to get here, just blazed on ahead toward this incredible goal. I'm going to sort out the job I want and rock my way through a company. We'll get married and become a whole new little family. We'll get to know the amazing city of Vancouver and fall madly in love with it.

I can't wait.

Across Wyoming and Montana


So close and yet still so far. This was the longest day of driving, which put us well across the country and much closer to Vancouver. It's still only Tuesday, with two more days to go, but we're well into the Rockies!

It was a rough day, though. Up and down the mountain slopes with an overstuffed U-Haul and a packed car with two bicycles mounted on the back. 10 1/2 hours of drive time, broken up with stops for food and gas made everyone a little grumpy. We left Rapid City at 8 am and didn't arrive in Missoula until after 10 pm.

At least Montana and Wyoming are beautiful states! The sky was bright and blue, stretched as far as the eye can see. There were gorgeous rivers, waterfalls, and fields of farming. We switched around this day. I got to drive the truck, which was quite an experience!

















We're so close! Only 8 hours of driving tomorrow, and then crossing the border on Thursday!!!! 

To Rapid City!!

First real day of driving! We made it to St. Joseph's without any problem last night. The roads had been a little rainy, but nothing we couldn't handle. Max and I took the car and the dads took the trailer.

Today was longer. Max and Norm went in the truck and I was in the car with my dad. I slept through a good part of it.

We stopped in Sioux Falls for lunch, then pressed on. We didn't hardly notice passing through Omaha. We went around the east, on the Iowa side. We were in Iowa for a lot of the day. Moving on I-29 was slower than on I-90. After lunch, we took off across South Dakota.

That's a rough trip. South Dakota really is just a wasteland. The black hills are sort of cool... Nothing really overshadows the massive emptiness.

There's... that's.... really it....








Monday, May 19, 2014

Extreme Tetris

We moved out of the Tulsa apartment on Sunday, May 11th, 2014.

Family started showing up around 8:30. Max's parents brought bagels and the U-Haul. My mom came for the kittens. She helped us wrangle them, gave hugs, and then said goodbye. The movers showed up exactly at 9 am, which was incredible. There were now 12 people in and out of the 750 square foot apartment. This was... a few...

Max's brothers and mom stayed largely downstairs at the picnic table between two of the buildings. The two dads helped carry some things and tie down the additions into the U-Haul. The two movers were absolutely incredible! They packed that truck from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. When they first arrived, I asked if they though everything would fit. They were unsure and didn't want to make any promises. The Burgess clan had reserved an additional 5' x 8' trailer for us just in case things got out of control.

The first thing the movers had to do was unload everything that came up from Frisco. This included a couch, two headboard sets, a queen mattress set, a bookshelf, a box with some goodies in it, a lamp stand, and a reclining chair in two pieces. Then there was everything Max and I already owned. Which is a lot. I mean, a ton of stuff.

Three hours went by of running up and down the stairs, trying to make sure we packed everything, trying not to freak out when we had to repack another area of the truck. For me there were a few really tough moments.

We bought a big scratching post for our kittens when we brought Amelia home. She loved the hell out of it. Loki also went crazy for it. They loved racing up and down the thing, chasing each other off and playing king of the hill. It's the only scratching post we have that Amelia will use. It's been a huge part of their home. It wouldn't fit in the truck. It took up too much space that we needed for boxes and other things. Everyone started to say that we should just leave it in a dumpster instead of taking it. As a kid who moved around a lot, I know the value of always having a bit of home with you. I wanted this to be the anchor piece for the kittens. Something familiar to have in the new city. It broke my heart to take it out of the truck. Thankfully, my parents were able to take it to their house, so it's not gone at least. It's still tough on me that I wasn't able to bring that along for them.

At the very end, seeing the completely empty apartment freaked me out. I had spent so much time down in the trenches of planning the move that the actual fact of leaving the country hadn't sunk in yet. Now all of our stuff was packed and there was nothing we could do to stop it. All of our friends were gone, we only know a single person in Vancouver, and I've never even been to the city. I'd wanted out of Tulsa for a long time, but now it was real and I was in full on panic. I know we are doing the right thing. It's just tough to leave everything you know behind.

Everything fit in the U-haul. By some miracle of miracles, we didn't need the 5' x 8'. Max's car was more loaded than I would have preferred, but I think the drive will still go fine. We'll just have to walk to dinners or send two people out to bring food back.

Here goes nothing.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Then the party started

After the graduation ceremony, we had to meet up with our family. This was the trickiest part of the day. They released the graduates in no semblance of order. We bled onto the plaza outside of the stadium, some people doing that incredible thing where they stop in the doorway because, hell, they've made it mostly outside. We'd made plans with our friends to meet in the lobby of the music building, which is just far enough away to be out of the chaos, but close enough to not make older relatives super cranky. We'd of course forgotten about our own families though.

Girls with no pockets begin producing phones, hats, jackets, banners. I mean, I know where a girl with no pockets stores her carry on items, but some of these were extreme! I had nothing to produce but a cell phone, and I'd requested Max store it in his actual pockets since guys really got the better end of that exchange. I had messages from parents directing me down to the base of the gym. Great! I knew exactly where that was! Getting there was the tricky part. Fighting through streams and hoards of families, winding up in a lot of family photos, pissing off lots of grandmas. All in a days work, really. But it certainly is tough work. 

Eventually we spotted our family and made quick work of shoving people out of the way to get there. Parents were snapping pictures and shouting about "now this relative, no not your uncle, your cousin." My parents were hosting an "open house" lunch/party for the two of us. It started at 1 pm, and since I'd believed the ceremony would be done by 10:30, I was mildly overwhelmed to think of all the goodbyes I now had to cram into the time between noon and 1! We traipsed over to the bell tower once again for some pictures ringing the bell in our full regalia. Then it was back over to the music building to get the group shots with those who we spent most of the last four years with. Thankfully everyone was still there! We did photo after photo and hug after hug.

There's really no accurate way to describe the feeling of graduating college and leaving all your friends. You feel elated because the four years of hard work are finally over and you're (hopefully) starting a grand new adventure in your life, be it job, more school, or a travelling adventure. Fear, because of the exact same reason. This is the first time you'll really have to fend for yourself. Sure, sure, you were "on your own" in college. But there was a cafeteria, very few, if any, bills. You were even with all of your friends, so you were all "on your own" together. It's the last time in your life where you will be surrounded by people who are in the same season of life as you. That shit's scary. Then you have to walk away from these great friends you made. Goodbyes are never easy, especially with friendships made so quickly and so meaningful.

Once we wrapped up the goodbyes, Max and I headed to a local hotel to meet up with our families. The parents were throwing us a party/open house sort of deal. They'd booked one of the big rooms, ordered from Rib Crib, and decorated like nobody's business. Ross and Britelle brought their families, which made it even better! Charlie compiled a slideshow of tiny Maxwell and I from pictures provided by the moms. Sadly, the hotel lied about it's technology, so we viewed it on his laptop instead of projecting it. Still it blew our socks off! They'll continue to search for and add the most embarrassing pictures to have at the wedding, which will be amazing.

After the lunch was over, Max and I headed back to the apartment. His brothers went with him, and I brought Julie back with me. Everybody met our delightful kittens! Loki is finally bigger than Amelia! She topped out around 8 1/2 lbs and Loki finally made it up to about 11 1/2! The funniest part was that Max and I had no idea he was so big until the vet weighed him! It was nice for the kittens to get to meet everyone before we moved.

I had dinner with my dad's family. I took them downtown to Elote for some puffy tacos! Then we went over to Mod's for gelato. It was really great to spend some time with dad's family. They haven't all been together since Matthew's funeral, so it was amazing to gather on a positive note.

When I got back with Max's brothers, they were at El Guapo's wrapping up dinner. We wandered around looking for a calm place for drinks, but wound up just back at the hotel to play some Avalon.

Having such a joyous celebration with family and friends was just what I needed. It's been a lot of heart break for a while, it was time for an uptake. This is a new chapter of our life. A new beginning. A huge adventure. Let's get the party started.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Graduation!!!!

On Saturday, May 10th, 2014, Max & Cathy graduated from the University of Tulsa!!!

The weirdest part was no one told us anything about how to do it.

Cathy thought that the ceremony began at 9 am. Wrong.

Cathy thought the ceremony would be over by 10:30 am. Wrong.

Luckily we still somehow graduated. We showed up at 9 am and were shuffled into a room. After asking around to friends, we determined that there was a table to find. This table would provide us with a note card. On that card would be our name. This card was the success to graduating. It was this card that you would hand to someone, who would hand it to someone, who would hand it to someone who would read your name out to the audience, so you could walk across the stage. 

We managed to make that happen. There was a notation on Cathy's card indicating her Cum Laude honor. Max wanted to take a red pen and add "Optimas Prime" to the beginning of her honors...

We then milled around talking to friends. We got in line with Ross, Corey, Grant, and Weston for the graduation processional. Since everyone had magical note cards, you could sit wherever you saw fit. Everyone was then instructed to form two lines for each college. We were in the practice basketball gym. There was not space for us to form two lines for each college. We proceeded to form two amoebas for each college. It seemed to sit just fine with the mysterious people guiding the day's ceremonies. 

We're not sure when it all actually started, but all of a sudden the gym was less full. Since there was no panic indicating a mass alien invasion, this hinted at the option that the processional had started. Soon enough our "line" began to move. There was scrambling, hooting, and hollering as we made our way through the underground of the gym  and then stumbled into the gymnasium. There was no warning, no "best faces!" just all of a sudden, a gym! 

There were almost enough seats for everyone as the colleges wound through the rows. PhD candidates on the first row, then Masters, then the undergrads began. The Arts & Sciences, then the ENS, then the Business College. They worked from back to front though for the stage-walking portion of the morning.

Cathy - I honestly don't even remember walking across the stage. I handed my name card over and focused on not heading up the stage until I heard said name being read. There were two hands to shake and then a photographer. I tried to ask him a question and was shushed off the stage. Then there was another photographer! And he agreed to take a picture of Max and I together! 

First there were all the speakers. The President, Steadman Upham had several words to say. The chaplain said a blessing of some sorts. Then the commencement speaker came to the podium. He graduated from TU with his law degree while Cathy's mom also attended. He then served as a federal judge in the Oklahoma courts for several years. He wasn't the worst speaker in the world. He made some excellent jokes and convinced us that we're all helpless when it comes to the job market. Typical stuff for this day and age. The worst was really the student president. She brought up the fact that though there are 8 billion living people on the planet, there are infinite more dead people just hanging around. She reminded us that we are incredibly insignificant, but should keep on keeping on anyway. It was heart warming, really.

Ooooooo Friday

Kind of a long day. Max's parents came into town last night, and mine where heading into town later in the afternoon.

Carol and Norm messaged me to ask if they could come help pack. All I had left was the kitchen, but it still seemed drastically overwhelming. Plus I had 8 am lunch with an old friend and then 10 am workout with Britelle, so I was a little tight on time. Breakfast was amazing! It's so great to have good moments with great friends. Carol and Norm showed up just as I got back from downtown. They packed like champions, finding the odds and slightly bigger ends that didn't have a home box yet (our printer...).

Workout was really good. I've thoroughly enjoyed having gym time 3 days a week. I've never been an athletic person, but working out with a partner in a directed manner specifically for my body has been amazing. It was sadly our last workout. There were no actual tears, but we got to pick the exercises! We did bench presses, and I pressed 65 lbs! Then we did sled work outside for the first time. We did just regular drags with about 60 lbs on them, then backwards jump/pull things which are impractical to describe without visuals. The final thing we did was flip the largest tire in the gym!! It weighs 263 lbs and we each flipped it 6 times on our own!

Max was back from a quasi-final when I got home. His parents had finished packing up the kitchen, which was a huge relief for me. It gave us time to relax a little before things got too crazy.

My parents, Matt and Bev, showed up with my Aunt around 3. They spent some time with us and the kittens. We all looked through the engagement pictures we had taken the weekend before. Then they went out to their hotel.

Max was having dinner with his family at 5:30, and mine was doing dinner at 7. Thankfully, Max and I were not intended to be at each dinner.

My mom's family and dad's family met up at Ruby Tuesday's for a graduation dinner. I split the table, with my mom's to the left and dad's to the right. Aunt Lydia, Aunt Michal, Uncle David, Aunt Rhonda, Grandmother, and Grandfather were all there, as well as my Uncle Mark and Aunt Peg and Aunt Kim and Uncle Ed. My parents gave me a beautiful diploma frame and my class ring! Jostens messed up on the rings for the entire school, putting the wrong stone in the middle. It's supposed to be a deeper sapphire, but they put in a light blue stone. I also accidentally filled out the form wrong, asking for "MS" on the side instead of "BS!" So we'll see if I can get it redone correctly... Hopefully more to come on that later!!

The best gift of the night was from Dad. He gave me a leather portfolio with "ICDI" embossed on the front. When I was little, that was my mantra - "Daddy, I can do it." It was just what I needed. A reminder and vote of confidence from my father that I can do anything I set my mind to. I'm starting to get a little anxious about moving to Vancouver, and this was a great reminder of the courage I had as a small child.

I had to leave that dinner early in order to meet Max's Nana for dessert. It was a blessing to meet her as she will not be able to attend the wedding. It was also Hillary's birthday! So our cake was a combination celebration! The most exciting part is that Hillary and Charlie are expecting a little girl!! She's due a couple weeks after the wedding, so hopefully everything will go smoothly and the baby will be on time!!