Sixteen more days…

insert me here

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.

Three more weeks…

In three more weeks I’ll be sitting in a hotel hot tub with my family, laughing and joking while we wait for our morning flight. Our bags will be packed and whatever’s forgotten… well it’ll be too late to pack it now.

Today I went to Value Village with friends of mine to look for resort clothes. I didn’t have much luck. Most of the shorts were gym shorts, which are fine for the gym but hardly useful to wear to lunch. Thankfully I found a pair of shorts, two short skirts, and one sundress.

clothes for vacation

Lara kept trying to eat the sequins

So much is uncertain in my life right now. The people at CMHA keep alternating between talking about the apartment like it’s certain to be mine then telling me it’s tentative. Getting a subsidy here is tentative too. Blackie eats well usually then goes for a day without eating. The one certainty I’ve got right now is this trip.

I am so looking forward to getting away on this trip. Swimming in the ocean, lying on a beach chair, enjoying a simple but yummy meal. Singing karaoke with my sisters. It’s coming. Slowly but surely it’s coming.

And, speaking of karaoke, this is one of the songs I’m practising for the vacation. As you can tell, there’s one line that needs a bit more practise.

Our 26 hour vacation…

“Mom! Mom!! We need to get up in two hours so we should get up now, just in case!”

To say Jeremy was excited about our trip would be an understatement. I had my alarm set for 5am so they woke me at 3am. We were playing MarioKart at 5am just to keep me awake. I don’t play it any better before dawn than after. Thankfully I didn’t play any worse.

Then, finally, we left with our suitcase and bag full of food, all set for a day and a half of excitement… with only two buses and a train to get there. We got to the bus stop early, which meant we caught an earlier bus and an earlier train. Plus our train didn’t go past Union Station (in Toronto) so we had to transfer… and Union is under construction. Talk about anxiety! But we found our connecting train and then got front seats on the double decker bus…

Kathleen and Colin on the double decker GO bus

Jeremy was excited, they just don’t smile for pictures

The bus system announced it was only a 15 minute walk to Clifton Hill (the tourist trap of Niagara Falls) so we decided to save our money and walk to the hotel. Let’s just say I’m so glad Google Maps exist because we were walking the wrong way originally. But we found our hotel and it was just as elegant as we remembered.

elegance

Elegant and cheaper than the other hotels because it’s “old”… bonus!

Crowne Plaza

I bought a saver’s pack of activities back in July, which I highly recommend because it comes with WeGo bus passes (our room came with passes too). These buses took us, for free, all over the main tourist sections of the city and the buses were barely a block away.

Our first (and favourite) stop was the Whirlpool Areo Car, a gondola ride across the Niagara River whirlpool…

whirlpool areo car

Our next stop was at the butterfly conservatory. I’ve always wanted to go to one and, I think, next time I’ll go when it first opens so the place is more quiet. The crowds were too much for both Jeremy and myself but I loved the butterflies anyways.

me at the butterfly conservatory

One of my friends said I’m the friendship butterfly 🙂

Jeremy wanted to ride the boat right to the falls. It was too late (and we were too overwhelmed) on our first night but I’m glad I insisted we go first thing the following morning because they loved it!

Colin on the Hornblower cruise2

Soggy Jeremy in the middle of the falls and the mist.

Horseshoe Falls and comorant

A cormorant and Horseshoe Falls

And then we went home, hours earlier than I’d planned. I’m glad we did too because we were both exhausted and overwhelmed on the bus ride home and so happy to be back in our apartment with our own beds and kitties.

I’m glad we went. It was a lot of fun and Jeremy’s already talking about our next trip to the Falls. Next time I’ll skip the water park passes as Jeremy’s outgrown the park (although I haven’t) and use the waterpark pass money for an extra night. But not for a few more years!

rainbow

Something to look forward to…

I booked a trip back in March to visit my then boyfriend. It was an expensive trip, almost $700, but I figured it was worth it to spend ten days with him. Then we broke up and, suddenly it wasn’t worth it at all. They were non-refundable tickets, the best I can get is my taxes back.

That being said, the taxes are just over two hundred dollars and there’s a deal right now for the end of August where a night in a hotel and two days in the Niagara Fallsview water park are $200. I won’t be going to England, meeting my ex-boyfriend and former best friend. Won’t be seeing Wicked for the first time either. Instead, Jeremy and I are going to be here…

tube-tower

Palm trees and LGBTQ friendly

… and, when we’re not there, we bought an adventure pass that includes an aerial trip over the whirlpool in the Niagara River, a journey behind the falls, an excursion on the boat formerly known as Maid of the Mist, and a trip to the butterfly conservatory (plus free bus fare to these places). I’m not sure when we’re going to sleep!

So one door closed and an amazing door opened. I can’t wait to have my holiday with Jeremy! Just 29 more days to go…