remember?

Lifestyle/Personal

217466_19104940032_3499_n

I remember a time when I felt invincible. I was in the twelfth grade (maybe even first year of university). I finally had my first kiss, been to some great parties, taken some risks by being honest with my friends, and really felt like I could do anything. I remember skipping my first class, it was English and it felt sacrilegious to do, but necessary all the same. I remember going for long drives on my lunch or spare with one of my friends; we’d blare Michael Jackson songs and sing until we couldn’t breathe.

I remember getting my heart-broken so deeply I didn’t think I would survive. I remember standing up for myself and being so unapologetic about it that I felt like a rebel (when did that stop?). I remember getting my first tattoo with my best friend by my side, simply because we could. I remember sneaking out of the house to meet a boy. I remember feeling so young that I wasn’t sure I would know what it would feel like to grow up.

I remember MSN, diaries full of scribbled emotions, and digital cameras. I remember conversations over coffee and plotting the path of our lives. I remember how real it all was; before screens were attached to our hands.

I remember all of those moments with fondness and pride. It was all so innocent that the pain didn’t actually penetrate the innermost layers near my heart. Most days I still feel glimmers of who that girl was, that happy and hopeful wallflower ready to take on the world, I’m just not quite sure what to do about it or how far she’s gone.

Maybe it’s time to send out a search party…

Xoxo,

Vanessa

Long Weekend Loving

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal
IMG_0666

Long weekends in the summer are perfect for spending time in the sunshine, reading, and partying. This weekend we celebrated Isabelle’s second birthday and attended my aunt’s wedding. Both were lovely affairs filled with laughter, love, and drinks. I cannot believe that my niece is already two-years-old. She has such and incredibly demanding personality that oozes with charisma. She’s funny and loves to make people laugh. She obsesses over music, dancing, and movies. She enjoys my stories about Princess Isabelle and her best friend Waffles. Her smile is infectious, her memory incredible.

As I watched her interact with her cousins I saw how shy she really is, how much fun she has on her own and with others. I held her hand as we stepped into the the kiddy pool and wondered when she’d get to old (or too cool) to hold her Tia’s hand. I thought about how much she’s grown in a mere two years and couldn’t help but wonder who she will become. Then I snapped myself back to the present because she’s only two and time goes by too fast to keep thinking about the future.

“Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape…”
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

The Bride’s Diary – The Guest List

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

The Bride's Diary

I’ve dreaded the guest list from the moment I said yes. I never fantasized much about my wedding but I was always under the impression that I wanted a very intimate wedding (let’s say 50 or so people). The only major problem with that is not that I’m European and as such a big wedding is expected, it is that I have a huge family. My mother’s side is fifty-three people and that’s just immediate family; aunts. uncles, and cousins.

With my intimate wedding idea out the window, Alex and I had to pick a number that would work for us both financially and mentally (he wants a small wedding too). 50 people is far too little, 100 people isn’t quite enough, and 200 is more than we could imagine. 150. That would have to be the magic number.

Thankfully our parents are supportive of this and understand why we don’t feel the need to have a huge wedding. We want to be able to enjoy our wedding and to know the person behind every hand that we shake and every cheek that we kiss.

The trouble with any guest list is that there are always people who are going to be left out or offended. Alex and I had one golden rule for the guest list: do not invite anyone we don’t see at least once a year. This means that only family and the closest friends we have are going to be invited. As of right now we have 149 people on the list and we’re pretty happy about it. We refuse to budge on the number and although the names on the list might change slightly, the number will not. Who wants strangers at their wedding anyway? I don’t.

If there’s one thing I recommend when writing up your guest list, do it with your fiancé and then have your parents put in their opinion. At the end of the day it is your wedding.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Wake The Stone Man [Book Review]

Book Reviews

9781552667217_300_464_90

In April I received a copy of the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature (2014) winner, Wake The Stone Man, from Fernwood Publishing. At first I didn’t know what to make of it, there was so much going on! But once I was ready to take it all in I became completely enveloped in the story.

Molly and Nakina meet in Fort Mckay, a small Northern town, with a mythical stone man who “watches” over the inhabitants. Nakina is Ojibwe, which translates to having a difficult time fitting in and keeping safe. She is beautiful, womanly, and strong. Molly, on the other hand, is rail thin and quietly curious. I really got into the story when I realized how similar I am to Molly. We like to read, watch, and then create — for her it’s art, for me it’s words.

Wake The Stone Man depicts a friendship that many readers can relate to; filled with fear, guilt, love, happiness, and regret. Their losses both individually and together fuel the novel and give the storyline its gumption. It is written from Molly’s point of view with honesty and integrity. Carol McDougall has written a novel ending with an epic reminder that life can indeed go wrong, but sticking around is sometimes the best thing you can do.

She reminds the reader that circumstances have a way of going full-circle and that it is important to continue to search for answers. McDougall reminds her readers that they have the strength and courage to change their own lives, and the world.

“…I decided goodnuff wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted out. I kept thinking about that girl I’d seen trying to escape over the fence of the residential school. I figured she wanted out too.” (11)

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

SYNOPSIS

Set in a small northern town, under the mythical shadow of the Sleeping Giant, Wake the Stone Man follows the complicated friendship of two girls coming of age in the 1960s. Molly meets Nakina, who is Ojibwe and a survivor of the residential school system, in high school, and they form a strong friendship. As the bond between them grows, Molly, who is not native, finds herself a silent witness to the racism and abuse her friend must face each day.

In this time of political awakening, Molly turns to her camera to try to make sense of the intolerance she sees in the world around her. Her photos become a way to freeze time and observe the complex human politics of her hometown. Her search for understanding uncovers some hard truths about Nakina’s past and leaves Molly with a growing sense of guilt over her own silence.

When personal tragedy tears them apart, Molly must travel a long hard road in search of forgiveness and friendship.

Into the Fire, No Burns to Report [A Narrative]

Fiction
From Beautiful Decay .com

From BeautifulDecay.com

He woke, his chest made of flames, burning into his heart. Smoke swam up his throat, choking him until he let it out. He was a dragon made up of fear. Nerves. Fear. Anxiety. They caused this paralyzing fire that interrupted his dreams, his sleep, his every waking hour. It hadn’t always been this way, when youth and innocence were on his side, Sylvester was feared nothing. Before the heartaches and senseless blunders, before his girlfriend’s abortion, and epic failures, Sylvester LIVED. He allowed and even enjoyed getting thrown into the fire, flames of all kinds. He tried anything he could and never looked back. His answer was always YES. Before, he jumped into the fire with both feet and came out with no burns to report. He relished in the notion that he was a survivor and that the fire could fuel him.

That was before, before his parents’ divorce, before his professor tried to touch him, before he saw the effects of chemotherapy, before school became difficult and failure a constant. Before he got fired for the first time, before his effort began to yield no results of success. Before it all seemed pointless.

Now, he’s burning on the inside, in a senseless, restless sedation.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

When Yesterday Disappears

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

…My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment…
Lisa Genova, Still Alice

I recently finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova, and while I gave the novel five stars I must admit that it left me feeling uneasy. I have very forgetful days, I am not good with remembering names or recalling memories on the drop of a dime. Sometimes I even forget what I’ve written in blog posts or key moments in stories I’ve written. I’ve spent days looking at my Timehop app while thinking I tweeted that? I wrote that? I do not remember taking that photo. I’m sure this is normal, we all forget things and with our dependence on technology, it’s no wonder we can’t retain information in the same way that we (or I ) used to.

I’ve mentioned numerous times that I write to forget. I write to let moments slip away, bad and good. I let the words, memories, dreams, and fears pour onto the page without giving them a second thought, and rarely looking back on them. Maybe I’ve been doing it all wrong. Maybe I should be writing to help me remember how I’ve felt, what I’ve done, who I’ve hurt, who I’ve been hurt by. Life goes by too quickly for everything to leave a mark but that doesn’t mean that I should brush them off or forget purposely.

What if my tomorrows were distinctly numbered or I couldn’t control the loss of my memories? Yesterday is gone but not forgotten. Today is being lived, honored, and recorded the best way I know how. Tomorrow is an unknown constant that I’ve taken for granted. It’s time to remember yesterday and take back tomorrow, and what better time to start than a new month?

882ca07c1ab687bcd2b52593b07cfd0c

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

That Time I Met Noreen Flanagan [10k Coffees Meet up]

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
unnamed

Yesterday I was part of a lucky group of three that got to sit down for coffee with Noreen Flanagan, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Canada. The group-chat was set up by Ten Thousand Coffees, a website I am currently obsessed with. For an hour, myself and two talented photographers got to bounce questions off of one of the most successful women I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

Noreen Flanagan greeted us in a warm and friendly manner, she had a look in her eyes that resembled quiet excitement. She was genuinely pleased to spend time with us, she even brought cookies. The four of us sat down with tea and coffee, and chatted about the publishing industry from both a writer’s and a photographer’s standpoint. Noreen gave us honest and whimsical answers — she’s a storyteller in her own right. She told us the blunt facts, gave us several suggestions, and even made us laugh. Sitting there, I felt like I was catching up with a co-worker or discussing future projects with a mentor. I’ve listed some of her advice below, but what I took most from coffee with Noreen was: Creativity and passion are key to landing any job. No matter how you communicate with people (media, writing, photography), FIND YOUR VOICE and be yourself. Dare to be different. Don’t be afraid.

Tips from Noreen Flanagan 

  • Ensure a concise 360 degree pitch. Show that you understand how the story will work in the book, on the iPad, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
  • When you apply for a job that you really want, find a human to talk to. A lot of times the first round of HR is done by a computer, if you don’t fit all of the criteria no one will even see your resume.
  • The six words of the subject of your email are the most important words you will ever write. Use these to get your potential editor’s attention and ensure that you’re contacting the right editor.
  • When you go for an interview create a narrative about yourself, something your interviewer will remember, but don’t lie. Come prepared with loads of questions and practice interviews with family members or friends.
  • Practice your phone manners, it really is a lost art.
  • If you’re trying to be a freelance writer, get a full-time job. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pay the bills.
  • Learn more about SEO, Google Analytics, and videography, they’re the way of the future.
Embrace the butterflies, what’s life without them?
 – Noreen Flanagan

– Vanessa

A HUGE thank you to Noreen for taking time out of her day to let a few aspiring writers and photographers pick her brain! An even greater thank you to Grace from Ten Thousand Coffees for making it all possible. Your website is a true gift for young people with big dreams! Oh and thank you to the older gentleman who was leaving the public parking lot and gave me his parking ticket so that I didn’t have to purchase my own ❤ !

Virgin [Book Review]

Book Reviews

9780425276310H

I think I have found the ultimate beach read — and we still have a few good weeks of summer left so I’d say I’ve found it just in time. Virgin is a novel about a twenty-one-year old woman with her v-card fully intact. She’s had some pretty embarrassing sexual experiences and doesn’t really understand what to do with her pubes. Her name is Ellie and she’s just like us, you know the us we were before we lost our virginity, before we learned about what sex is and how to do it. Before we learned what a Brazilian is or what the acceptable skin- -to-pube ratio is for our downstairs. It brings you back to a time when all of our friends had “done it” and we were left on the outskirts, with fantasies clouding our minds, no boyfriend in reach and wondering when it would finally be our turn.

Radhika Sanghani — the twenty-three year old author — did a great job nailing (no pun intended) all of the insecurities young women go through when it comes to sex. Virgin is one of the funniest novels I’ve read all year. It’s sexy, witty, sassy, and incredibly real, you feel like you’re having a conversation with one of your girlfriends that entire time you’re reading. The characters are totally relatable and you might even be forced to remember some of your sexual fumbles/mistakes/indiscretions as you read about Ellie’s.

I’ll admit that this book won’t end up on my TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2014 list but it is extremely well-written and I love the honesty found within the pages. The author is screaming universal truths and I think that even though it is fiction, a lot of young woman can take away something from this novel, whether it’s a simple few hours of laughter or the knowledge that they are not alone in the futile attempts made to understand love, sex, and your own vagina.

So whoever you are, whether you lost your virginity twenty years ago or you still have it, just accept it. Embrace any STDs you may or may not have, along with the regrets, the disastrous stories, the heartbreak, the pain and the regret. Because if it weren’t for all of this stuff, life would be pretty dull.

-Vanessa

– Quote from page 294 of Virgin

 

Living, Trying, Thriving, Phil-osophizing.

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal, Toronto Adventures

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 7.54.44 AM

It’s time to regroup.

The new position didn’t work out as planned and that’s okay.

It’s time to make some lemons or lemonade.

[line]

I’m currently reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington and although you’ll have to wait until the end of March to read my review, I’m getting so much out of this book that I’m gushing with ideas. It is EXACTLY the book I needed to read this week. When life gets you down you have to sit back and evaluate what you’re doing, your choices, your markers of success, and how you spend your time (and by you and your I mean I, me and my).

Unknown

Have I ever talked to you about my sister? I’m sure I’ve gushed about her and how cute my niece is but I don’t think I’ve ever talked at length about her, or my brother. Since the birth of my niece, my sister has become the least selfish person I know — not just with her daughter but with others. She’s taken up this new venture where she’ll send a note to someone that she normally wouldn’t, someone she doesn’t see often, someone that will be really surprised by said note. Nothing is planned, there isn’t a list of people, she just does it when she feels like it, she does it to make someone else’s day.

And my little brother, that giant of an almost-eighteen-year-old, he just returned from Ireland and England, and brought back some very thoughtful gifts. We fight often but the more I sit back and think, the more I realize how much he does for me and for others. He’s super sweet when it comes to his girlfriend and just as thoughtful and understanding when it comes to the family.

photo-2…And then there’s me. Constantly consumed by what I have to do, where I have to go, what I should tweet, who liked my photo, how long it’ll take me to do this or that, rarely stopping to think for a moment about the other people in my house. Barely sleeping and hardly breathing over things I can’t control. Is it middle-child-syndrome or am I just over-thinking about the wrong things? If I put even a fraction of time into hanging out with my family or going for a coffee with a friend or simply relaxing, as I do with planning posts for my blog or looking for jobs or dwelling on my future, I would be much much happier.

So, it’s time to regroup.

It’s time to start again with a different set of ideals and with a different approach to life.

Stay tuned.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Phil’s-osophy Photo from: Facebook