Let it ride

Lifestyle/Personal

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There are moments in your life that are challenging; they put you to the test and leave you tired and broken. These moments are the ones that make you. You can give up or you can push through. If you’re lucky you’ll have people in your life that motivate you, that believe in you. People who lift you up and keep you stable. If you’re smart you’ll believe them when they say that it gets better, that everything will be okay, that you’ll be fine. All you have to do is let it ride.

“And yet, anything real, anything strong, was never easy. She’d been taught from an early age that the things that mattered most were the hardest to obtain.” ― Nora Roberts

After weeks of agonizing anxiety and paralyzing self-doubt I finally feel like I’m back to my old self. Words are finally flowing; slowly but with intention. My mind is churning over new ideas for this blog, for a few side projects, and even for some new short stories. My heart is full of joy and excitement for everything that’s coming this year. Wedding plans are in full swing and I’m thinking about documenting the journey on here. I hope you’ll stay tuned. 

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

 

 

5 Simple Rules [on trb blog]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands

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You may not be seeing posts as often as you’re used to on My Pen, My Voice, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. I’ve started contributing to The Red Bow Blog and my first post went up yesterday!  Check it out here and stay tuned for another short story in Passion8 Mag, as well as, some new posts right here on My Pen, My Voice.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

What is Happy?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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I had a thought yesterday and it created another thought, which rolled into another, and then into a labyrinth of the best thoughts that could be thunk. But then the phone rang. POOF! Gone. My life has become a series of cycles; planning, researching, working, budgeting.

Apparently that is what growing up is all about. On my drive to work I often think about happiness, I look at the person in the car next to me and wonder if they’re happy. I wonder if they like their job, if they’re passionate about what they do. I imagine what their home-life, love-life, and hobbies are. I wonder, what is happy?

My happy comes in the form of moments. My niece’s smile, a perfectly written sentence, my fiance’s hand reaching for mine, a drive up north, having dinner with my family, crying over a character in a book, saying something smart or witty enough to evoke laughter from someone. My happy comes from something more than 9-5, although I do leave the office feeling accomplished and useful, my life will always be about more than that.

That is my happy. What’s yours?

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

 Goodbye Gourmet Pizza [ A Letter ]

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
  

 

On Wednesday evening, I got word that Caruso Gourmet Pizza locked its heavy black doors for good. Caruso Gourmet Pizza was many things to many people; an excuse to forgo their diet for one night, a place to relax over a cup of coffee with friends, a Friday lunchtime tradition with coworkers, and even a daily stop on the morning commute for the best cappuccino in town.

To me, Caruso’s was a second home. I first started working there at the age of sixteen, when they were located in a tiny shop on the second floor of a complex. In the ten years I worked there, I learned more about life, responsibility, and customer service than I thought possible. I made incredible friendships with coworkers and lasting relationships with the regulars.

Somewhere a long the line my bosses, Domenic and Dina Caruso, became a third set of grandparents to me. I talked to them openly about my life, my dreams, and my passions. Equally, I complained about my life, my dreams, and my passions. They always listened to me fully and gave me advice without hesitation. Dom and I spoke daily about books, writing, and even current events. He’d tell me story after story and more often than not, I’d leave for the day feeling inspired and ready to write.

In fairness, I’m not THAT special; Domenic and Dina had incredible relationships with every single one of their customers. During a busy lunch or dinner rush, they always made time to chat with a customer, or shake hands with a friend. Not to mention sending me from table to table with complimentary espressos in hand. To many, the building was much more than a place to eat;  it was a place to be among friends.

I am truly saddened by the closure of such a wonderful establishment. Caruso’s is a huge part of Bolton’s history, culture, and identity. I will miss the warmth of the ovens, the delicious pizza, and having a second place to call home.

Here’s is my heartfelt thank you to Domenic and Dina Caruso, for everything you’ve done for me personally, for everything you’ve done for this town, and for keeping the Bolton youth employed and on the right track. I wish you the best of luck and hope you can finally have some time for yourselves, you deserve it.

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

The Red Bow: Newer + Simpler

Fashion & Beauty, Giveaways, Products and Brands

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I love pretty things and this love brought me into contact with The Red Bow almost two years ago. Since then I’ve written about them several times, shopped on the website on numerous occasions, and even teamed up with them to host a giveaway or two. The mastermind behind The Red Bow is Karen Viray : a smart, passionate, kick-ass woman who has been a source of inspiration time and time again.

I connected with her recently to talk about Th Red Bow. When I asked her what her favourite pretty things are she replied: It is really difficult to choose but I love pretty books, desserts and wallpaper. On The Red Bow, I’d have to say our new macaron-shaped mini boxes. They are honestly so pretty and real looking, I love just having them on my desk or on my vanity. They are actual macaron-size and can hold small things like earrings or breath mints (or Advil, if you’re like me and keep them at your desk – it’s definitely a way prettier way of storing them lol).

When I heard that The Red Bow was getting a facelift and a complete relaunch my excitement was taken to the next level. When I asked Karen why she decided to change things around she told me that since she wants to keep The Red Bow a small business, she thought it would be best to make it as uncomplicated as possible. Simplifying the website and narrowing down the products to better reflect who she is will not only give her time to connect with her customers in a personal way, but it will also help her manage life/work and everything else in a more sane and (healthy?) way. It also gives her the time she needs to keep up her hand-written notes and personal wrapping for her customers.

That, that right there is why I’ve continued to be a huge fan of The Red Bow AND Karen. She says, I see The Red Bow as more of a community, rather than just another dime-a-dozen online shoppe selling similar things as everyone else. I want to grow the trb community with more online engagement, collaborations, blog content, local events and charity outreach.

The store will include three simple sections: PRETTY ACCESSORIES (statement pieces, old favourites, and new goodies), PRETTY BEAUTY (yummy fragrances and the very best Korean beauty products), and PRETTY HOME (art prints, stationery, journals, and even home decor accessories). I have earrings, a clutch, a bracelet, notebooks, art prints, and an iPhone case from The Red Bow and cannot wait to see all of the new products they have in stock. Karen is super excited to share some NEW favourite things with her customers too. Karen divulges that she’s MOST excited about the pretty beauty section, since beauty, make-up and skin care have always been an obsession hers. The newest products that the red bow will be carrying is a small selection of my favourite, and a few cult favourite, beauty products from Asia, she says. I for one cannot wait to get my hands on some of these products!

As for the future of The Red Bow, Karen says; I definitely look forward to seeing how it will transform in the next 5 years. Small businesses grow, just as the people behind them grow as well.  It’s a creative synergy. I couldn’t agree more! I was given a sneak peek of the new site – which will officially launch on June 1st, 2015 – and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it. Everything Karen set out to accomplish with the relaunch has been brought into fruition and I cannot wait for other lovers of pretty things to check it out!

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

A Robot in the Garden [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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I read the loveliest book from Penguin Random House this past weekend. A Robot in the Garden is a coming-of-age story about finding love in the unlikeliest of place. It’s about self-love and self-worth, about grieving and forgiveness. It’s about taking chances and doing what is right, regardless of the risks involved.

For floundering 34-year-old Ben Chambers the answer is obvious: find out where it came from and take it there to be fixed, even if it means risking his marriage in the process. Determined to achieve something for once in his life, Ben embarks on a journey that takes him and the endearing robot, Tang, to the far side of the globe…and back again. Together they will discover that friendship can rise up under the strangest circumstances, and that Artificial Intelligence can teach a man what it is to be human. 

WHY I LOVED A ROBOT IN THE GARDEN 

  • There is so much beauty in it, from the cover to the characters to the words
  • It’s been a while since I picked up a book and got the warm-and-fuzzies with every page I turned (I haven’t cried this much over a book since The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)
  • I could tell that Deborah Install LOVED writing this book, you could feel her passion for the written word and the basic human condition in every single sentence
  • It made me feel good about life
  • It is essentially about finding love and creating your own happiness, and I love love.

Here was a robot who didn’t understand the concept of ‘why’, who struggled with the idea of motivations…But of all the complex human emotions he could have settled on, he seemed to understand love. (page 168 of the ARC)

Look out for A Robot in the Garden in June! 

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better [Book Review and Author Interview]

Book Reviews

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I was approached by Red Deer Press and asked if I wanted to reviews a book by Toronto Writer and Comedian Monica Heisey. Before reading the synopsis of the book I had to pause and Google her name. I’d recognized her name from somewhere, and that somewhere was She Does the City. Monica wrote one of my favourite column the Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide, so obviously I had to get a copy of her book in my hands.

I Can’t Believe it’s Not Better: A Woman’s Guide to Coping With Life was witty, ironic, sarcastic, and hilarious. I had no doubt that Monica was a terrific writer, but there’s something about the way she strings together thoughts and tells her stories that is unique and utterly brilliant. Her book reminded me of Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham but funnier and even less-filtered. It’s one of those books that you just have to read – so read it already!

Red Deer Press sent a few of my cheesiest-blogger questions to Monica as an interview of sorts, here’s what she had to say. Enjoy!

From: She Does the City

From: She Does the City

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing forever, basically. As a kid I used to write short stories and plays and make my sisters act them out with me. I was kind of a classic word nerd, I worked at my student newspaper and then started a blog when I moved to London in 2010. The blog was all I had as writing samples when I applied for an internship at VICE at year or so later. 

What are your writing rituals?

I don’t know that I have any sure-fire rituals to get things started. I deal with all my emails and admin stuff first, so that I’m not distracted by it throughout the day. I try to make sure I’m not hungry, and I like to be somewhere with good natural light. I feel the most like a Successful Writer when I get up before 9:30 and take a little while to make a nice breakfast and good cup of tea before sitting down to start work.

What was your favourite section to write in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better?

This is going to sound really cheesy but all of it was really fun! It felt kind of surreal to be doing it in the first place, and I was writing about things that make me and my friends laugh, so I just tried to approach every section like I was having a conversation with my best friends. That made it pretty enjoyable. Obviously, there were an equal amount of nights where I was like “WHAT IS ANY OF THIS” and wanted to throw my computer out the window, but those experiences were spread evenly across the multiple sections too. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? (Or bloggers like myself who want their voice heard)

If you’re writing for free, write for yourself. My early blog was something I wrote to amuse myself, and it really allowed me to develop my own voice and interests. I think knowing who you are and what you have to contribute or say is crucial for anyone hoping to be heard. Why should people listen to you? About what topics? That’s stuff you can figure out in the early days, before you have to deal with the house style of individual publications or assignments or whatever. 

You’re clearly a traveller – where are you headed next?

I’m going back to London to do some comedy. It’s festival season soon and the big music festivals usually have comedy stages with great acts. I’m on a littttttle stage off to the side in a forest, I think it’s going to be pretty magical. After that I think my husband and I are going to Iceland for our honeymoon. 

Have you ever regretted publishing (in print or online) anything that you’ve written?

Oh, some stuff I wrote as a teenager or early-twentysomething makes me cringe, but I figure it’s going to be like that forever. I’ll look back at 30 on the stuff I wrote this year and be like “girl, no.” So I try not to regret any of it and just look at it as part of the process of getting better. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on getting VICE’s new women’s-focused project, Broadly, ready for launch! It’s going to be so exciting, and the quality of the work we’ve got so far is just blowing my mind. I’m also getting ready to move to New York to work there full-time. 

Who are your favourite writers?

I feel so spoiled by the Internet. I have so many favourite writers. I think Anna Fitzpatrick and Haley Mlotek from the Hairpin are just unbelievably smart, funny geniuses. Jazmine Hughes (formerly of The Hairpin, now of the NYT magazine) is amazing too. I love reading Julieanne Smolinski’s stuff, and Leah Finnegan is just so great, ooh and Josh Gondelman, and and and andddddd… I read a lot. For less contemporary writers who make me laugh, I love Nora Ephron (always), Fran Lebowitz, Charles Dickens, and P.G. Wodehouse.  

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Oh god, I really feel like I’ve regressed past the point of hireability in any kind of “real” job. I really enjoyed working at a cafe when I was in London. My friend Emily and I have a longstanding probably-never-gonna-happen dream of opening a little coffeeshop that’s very cool about flexible schedules so the servers can nurture their passions on the side. Flexible part-time work is vital to emerging artists. 

When writer’s block hits, what do you do?

When I feel blocked I like to really Lean In. I find I work pretty well under a deadline, so if I’m procrastinating and have room to do so, I’ll take the day off and go for a walk or meet some friends for a drink. If I don’t have time to be blocked, I find I’m generally not blocked. 

Monica will be doing a signing at Indigo Bay & Bloor on May 27th at 7pm!

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Without Writing I am…

Uncategorized

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Whether you’ve noticed or not, it’s been 10 days since I’ve posted anything new on my blog. It’s not that I haven’t been writing (because without writing I am not myself) it’s that I haven’t felt like sharing. Every blogger I knew goes through this, moments of self-doubt or fear that they’re sharing too much. Moments where they feel as though they’d rather be doing something else. Moments where they contemplate the point of their blog’s existence.

Recently I’ve been having trouble relating to my blog and the person who created it. I’ve wondered whether or not my last post really should have been on December 31st, 2014, but then I realized that my lack of blog posts has nothing to do with who I am as a person or writer, and everything to do with the fact that I have more going on in my life now than I once did. I’m currently learning loads in my new role as Customer Service Coordinator at Serrano Imports, I’m taking a social media marketing course at George Brown, I’m trying to stay fit and healthy, and…this past weekend I got engaged!!

So if my posts come few and far between for the next little while, you know why.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

The Bus Stop [A Narrative]

Fiction
From the Madai Website

From the Madai Website

She stands at the bus stop on a busy, yet small, highway on the first warm day of Spring. Her auburn hair is neatly curled, recently cropped short at the nape of her neck. She looks at her freshly painted red nails, walks her index finger up her chest to finger her pearls delicately. She catches her reflection in the bus shelter and grimaces at her dress; what once tickled her figure and hugged her in all of the right places now stretches around her mushy flesh.

When she takes her seat on the bus, she knows that she is over-dressed compared to the early-morning commuters. She cares but not enough to run off the bus and head home; in thirty minutes she’ll be sitting under the sun on the lush grass, talking to the man she loves most.

He won’t care about her weight gain; men never notice petty things like that. He’ll watch her strut toward him in his favourite black dress of hers and suddenly space and time will have no meaning. She is his happiness. Sitting on the bus, wearing the pearls he gave to her for her 30th birthday, she is anxious to see him. Little does she know that he already sees her and she is his beautiful, glowing widow.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo