Sixteen more days…

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Photo by Kate O’Rourke

It was the end of November when my Mom casually said, during an evening call, “We’re all going to Cuba. Would you like to come too?” Of course I said yes. Who turns down a week long tropical vacation with family? That being said, it didn’t feel very real. My parents were halfway across the country, we were facing who knew what restrictions with covid, and it was freaking cold and dark. It’s hard to picture warm, sandy beaches and feeling comfortable in shorts while picking out what gloves and toque to wear.

And the snow came. And the temperature plummeted. And the sun hid herself away. And reality started to jar with my feelings. Sure, it felt like nothing could ever be warm again but the plane tickets and resort accommodations had been booked and paid for. I was visiting my parents and sister a couple of weeks ago and my Mom mentioned my sister had bought her health insurance the day before. I sat on the couch, while my Mom sat beside the fire chatting about insurance and, with a few questions, I bought mine. Mom was more than a bit surprised that I’d purchased it right there, on the phone. But the days have gone since we took everything to a travel agent.

Years ago I read a biography by a woman who wrote about her childhood in Toronto during the depression. It was a memorable book and I read it a few times (although I apparently forgot to read the title). At one point she went to a pool near the beach because, when it came time to drain the pool to clean it, they let the children swim for free until the water was gone. What she remembered was all these children flailing about in a desperate search of water until they all lay tangled on the bottom of the pool. That’s how I feel, flailing about trying to figure out what to do and when. I need my passport but what if I put it into my purse now and get my purse stolen? I’m 51 years old and have never had my purse stolen but that doesn’t stop me worrying. Flip side is what if I forget it? My passport is right. in. front. of. me. What if I don’t have enough clothes? Unless they have speed eating moths in Cuba I think I’m fine. Forget the moths, will there be something for me to eat as a vegan? According to everything I’ve read there’s a bunch of restaurants, snack bars, and a buffet, I’m sure I’ll manage. What if I get my period? Okay, this one’s valid. I’m in perimenopause and my body’s currently using a roulette wheel to decide when to get things started. So I might not get it for another half year (if at all) or I might get it tomorrow. Only fate and my endometrium can say. The rest is up to planning.

I’ve got three friends coming to take care of the cats (not all at the same time). I’ve got my medications planned because they’re really freaking important. I have quiet music bought and downloaded for the plane and for stressful times. I’ve got several books bought and downloaded onto my phone. I’ve got a battery bank bought for my phone. I mean how else am I going to take 368 photos? I need the power! I’ve even got a neck pillow for the plane, which is really important because we’re getting up at 2am to leave for the airport. I don’t do 2am, exhaustion is the major trigger for my migraines, and the only pain medication I can take with my medicine is regular strength acetaminophen. I’m sure you can all see the problem here.

Cuba tipsThe last thing I’ve been planning is tips. I’ve been told by a few people that Cuba is really struggling between the 50 year old embargo and covid-19. It’s hard for them to get most products. So I’ve been picking up items for tips. This is what I’ve got. Hopefully this is enough. The Canadian bracelets in the corner are for children and the lettering book could be for a child or an adult. I was also told that many Cubans love the Toronto Blue Jays. I couldn’t find much but I did find these bumper stickers which, presumably, will stick to any hard surface.

I’ve got my countdown list to keep me occupied and the above picture to keep me calm. No wonder so many therapists and counsellors recommend visualizing a beach while relaxing. My brain will be like, “The cats are all going to die while you’re gone and you’re going to end up with permanent liver damage from eating pineapple off the buffet” then I look at that beach photo and all it can manage is, “Aww… so pretty…” Which is amazing because I really do need a shut up button for my brain sometimes. But I digress.

I think the best reminder this trip will bring is that winter is not forever. There is green grass coiled in the roots under the snow and mud. Those trees might look barren but, hidden under every branch are tiny leaves and buds simply waiting for the warmth. The vernal equinox is five days after we get back and the cats, my healthy liver, and I will all be there to enjoy it! The inevitable snowstorm we’ll get afterwards is merely a bump in the road.

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Making spirits bright…

20181212_180507-01My absolute favourite holiday is Christmas. I love the lights, the decorations, the time spent with family and friends, the music, the food, buying just the right present for someone, and wondering what’s been wrapped up for me. It is all glorious.

We are just under two weeks away from Christmas and this is the first year I’ve been behind. I usually have our tree set up in mid-November and the presents wrapped soon after that. Cards get mailed right at the end of November. But this year it’s changed. I just don’t have the oomph to do everything all at once. The tree got put up yesterday, the presents are unwrapped and I’ve only sent out half the cards. But I will get there and I’m sure the cards will be just as appreciated the week after Christmas as they would the week before. The important thing is things are getting done and it’s not draining me to exhaustion.

20181212_180552-01-1I am looking so forward to this Christmas, my grandson’s very first. He loves lights and I can’t wait to see his expression when he’s faced with the tree. And Kait loves cinnamon rolls, something I’m determined to bake for breakfast. I have a simple, vegan recipe and, if I give myself an hour, I should get them all done and ready for breakfast and stocking opening.

Every time Kait is asked for a present suggestion for her, she replies with a gift for the baby, which makes it really hard to shop for her. Luckily I’ve found something she should enjoy. The same with Colin who has so much stuff, it’s hard to figure out where he’d put any more.

20181211_161618One of my oldest friends got me a present for the tree this year, a little silver spoon with the words “Grandbaby’s First Christmas 2018”. It was totally unexpected and totally perfect. She gave Kait some absolutely adorable clothes too, all in larger sizes, which is good because the grandbaby is a big baby.

I am looking forward to a holiday filled with family, from Kait and her family in the morning, to everyone at my parents’ house in the evening. It gets crowded and a bit overwhelming but it’s still fun.

My wish for all of you is that you have an amazing holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate, and a fantastic new year!

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The best Christmas present ever…

“You’re coming. You’re not being left behind this year.”

I’d been sitting at my parents’ dining room table, listening to the discussion about the next tropical vacation and where it should be held. Mexico? Cuba? Dominican Republic? The discussion was quite lively. I listened with one ear, knowing this was yet another trip I couldn’t afford. In the past two years my family’s been to Sri Lanka, Cuba, a Caribbean cruise, and the Dominican Republic so I’ve gotten used to listening. And then my Mom made her comment to me. It was going to be my Christmas present. Wow! What a present!

It’s a hot October day here, like shorts weather hot, so it feels weird to be discussing Christmas, let alone a holiday that won’t take place until March. But I’ve never been to the Caribbean before so I’m pretty excited. I can’t believe I’m going to be here in five short months…

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Of course I’ve got worries, I wouldn’t have anxiety if I didn’t. The two realistic ones are, will I get my period on the vacation and will they have vegan food. The period one will have to wait until I see my gynecologist at the end of the month. I want to see if I can take the birth control pill for a couple of months to stop my period. Because there’s not much more that could wreck the vacation except for a “you can’t go into the water” period. And I’ll have to contact the resort closer to March about the vegan foods. Their site says they accommodate “special diets” so that looks promising.

And meanwhile I look at the pictures and can’t wait to swim in the ocean. There’s got to be so many fish by those reefs! And I have to find this waterfall…

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And now to wait. Hopefully five months won’t go by too slowly!

Two different types of people…

There are two different types of people in this world; those who plan for holidays early and those who say “Why are you buying presents so soon?”… right up until they change their mantra to, “OMG I can’t believe the holiday came so quickly! I barely have enough time to shop!”

I’m firmly in the first category.

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A few of the presents I’ve bought already

At this point I have several presents for Colin, a present for Kait, a present for the little sproglet, presents for both my nieces and one of my nephews, my Mom’s gift, and I know what I’m getting for Kait’s boyfriend. Phew! And almost every single person I mention this to is shocked because it’s so early. Why would I buy presents this soon? Like gifts have an expiration date.

Then there’s the people in my group who give me a knowing nod and smile, one that says, “You’re not alone. I have bags in the closet too.” I like talking to these people. They know the thrill of finding the perfect gift at an amazing price then tucking it away for four months.

My absolute favourite stores to shop at are Dollarama and Marshalls. Dollarama gets some amazing stuff, like that word art picture above, which was originally from Hallmark for $19.95. I love wandering the aisles in search of treasures and am thrilled to pieces when I find one. Marshalls is my favourite place for birthday cards and unique gifts. I already have the sproglet’s 2nd birthday card from there and he hasn’t even been born yet. But it was so cute!

So the earth will continue to spin and I’ll continue to buy presents months in advance. And people will continue to criticize because it’s “too soon”. And I will sit in my swing chair in December, sipping a mug of hot chocolate and thinking about all the people struggling their way through the crowds in search of the perfect gifts, and will decide that my way is a pretty good choice.

Christmas Eve…

It’s quiet at home. I’ve packed the stocking stuffers, presents, and clothes… and made the filling for tonight’s vegetable pie. The cats have extra food and water and Lucky the frog’s been fed. I’ll feed him again before we go… he’ll eat at any and all times (anyone who’s had an African clawed frog will know what I mean).

Jeremy’s downstairs washing their laundry while Emma’s chatting online and sending me cat videos (which is still pretty quiet).

Christmas is my absolute favourite holiday and this one is shaping up to be amazing; three days filled with family and friends. I hope everyone here is having a wonderful weekend, whether they’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or a holiday that’s already past (or nothing at all). No matter what it is, I hope it’s fabulous. And, remember, if your family is unsupportive, that’s a reflection on them NOT on you. You are still amazing, worthwhile, and deserving of happiness and joy!

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