Bursting the Bubble [Week 4]

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble

It wasn’t until I purchased my second Metro Pass that I realized I’m almost a month into my 12-week internship. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?! The weeks are literally flying by! The good news is that I still love it, I’ve haven’t gotten over the sincere calm I feel when I’m on the subway, or the excitement that flutters in my heart as I walk toward my building, or the spring in my step when I hear the church bells ring – people told me that all of that gets old pretty quickly, I’m glad they’re wrong so far. I am thoroughly enjoying every minute.

THIS week I’ve been mesmerized by Paul Auster’s memoir Winter Journal, where he gives a sensory account of his life –

…put aside your stories for now and try to examine what it has felt like to live inside this body from the first day you can remember being alive until this one. A catalogue of sensory data.” Page 1

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This memoir made me think about my childhood and made me wonder about the memories I could conjure up if I sat down and really thought it out. I spent an entire subway ride home in this contemplative state, probably making odd faces as the past resurfaced. Is it odd that my memories are few and far between? I don’t remember anything before the age of 4 (or is it 5?). I remember the first house we lived in (where I was born, not conceived in case you were wondering), my old friends, the musty smell of our huge basement, the blue toy room we spent our days playing in, and the kitchen (also in the basement) that never seemed to be used. I remember our court being very quiet – I remember a wiener dog running around on our patch of grass.

Most vividly, and perhaps only because it pertains to this week, I remember my father taking us all to a Jays game. My brother wasn’t born yet, I wore my favourite red dress with small white polka dots, the dome was open and the sun was blistering hot. We took the subway down, an adventure in and of itself, and I remember seeing people sleeping in the middle of the floor, some sitting up and holding signs, some playing instruments, most begging for money. I remember being afraid of these dirty, loud people (give me a break I was 6). Then I remember my dad, throwing coins into whatever hat, cup, or case sat in front of them. I remember him handing cigarettes to a man when he ran out of change. I remember some of them saying thank you, over and over again. I don’t remember thinking much of it while watching the game but my dad’s small form of generosity stuck with me long after that.

It would be silly to pretend that I haven’t noticed people sitting on the streets since I’ve started interning downtown. I spend a lot of time on my lunch walking around and of the many homeless people I have walked by, I only helped out one of them. Why? In truth, I tend to get distracted when I go for walks — I’m busy taking pictures or admiring buildings. Other times I try to walk by as quickly as possible since I never have change on me (that sounds horrible). BUT the other day I made eye contact with the lady who sits outside the nearest Tim’s and as she wished me good day, I found myself asking her if she wanted a coffee. She replied yes-please-thank-you-so-much. So, I bought her a coffee and a muffin, handed it to her, smiled and walked off.

Only as I walked away did I realize that this woman held a genuine kind of gratitude in her eyes. Her hair was ashen with dust, her teeth yellow and chipped, but her eyes were filled with thanks and life.

Moral(s) of my story: be generous like your father (and mother).

The smallest gestures go a long way.

You can see so much if you just OPEN YOUR EYES; if you slow down a little.

Isn’t that what new experiences are about? Isn’t that the only way to burst your bubble?

By looking, seeing, and paying attention.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Subway Rides and DNA

Book Reviews, Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

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A father (mid-fifties) and son (maybe 18?) walk side by side through the underground pass leading to Wilson subway station. I’m a few paces behind, not really paying attention when suddenly I’m startled by how similar this father-son team is. They are the exact same height, not even an inch off, they are slouching at the same angle, their hands are in their pockets with elbows protruding forcefully outward (not sitting naturally). Their walk is the same, heel-toe-heel-toe, and their steps are in perfect unison.

Normally, I wouldn’t notice this kind of thing but I think The Juggler’s Children might have something to do with it. It’s got me thinking a lot about heritage, DNA, family, ancestors. Do my mother and I have similar mannerisms? How much is my brother like my father? How about my sister? What genes will my niece get? How much do I really look like my father? My Nonna? My great-great-great Avoa? Am I Portuguese and Italian or is there some other nationality hiding in the mix?

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What family secrets are hiding in documents, in DNA, in diaries, in memories? Are there any?

What is the story behind the Grillones? The Camachos? What do they have to do with me? How can I find out?

…another subway ride, another thought

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

The SPARK

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I’m getting so into The Spark that I might finish it today (full review to come in April). It makes me think about how my parents, family, and friends have nurtured my passions (reading/writing). I remember the excitement I felt when my mom took me to the local library for the first time. We had just moved to Bolton and I was a shy, soft-spoken seven-year-old. I remember getting to sign my name on that flimsy, barely laminated yellow card. My very own library card. A card that represented my love of reading. A card that meant I could take out whatever book I wanted and keep it for a few weeks. My parents took me to the library as often as I needed to. As an added convenience the library was attached to the hockey arena so I would run in there every everytime my brother had a hockey game. I ALWAYS brought a book to my brother’s game (or wherever I went,really). For some odd reason the players needed to arrive a few hours before the game actually started, which meant I got to sit by myself, sip a hot chocolate, let my face numb from the cold, and float off into another world, another book. My parents never forced me to stop reading, as long as I was with them during the game, they let me be.

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After I watched Matilda and read the book, my mom embraced my obsession with this girl. A girl who needed the written word to feel at home. A girl that I related to very much. She let me dress like Matilda and cut my hair like her, she even bought all sorts of ribbons to put in my hair. She still brought me to the library and let me watch Matilda on repeat.

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When I started writing stories and poems of my own, my parents bought me countless notebooks and diaries, never forcing me to share them. When I felt confident enough to share my thoughts, they loved every single word I wrote. My dad and I would even come up with stories together and write ‘screenplays’ — we still brainstorm my future novels together but now it’s over a glass of wine as oppose to a glass of milk.

I don’t know if they saw a spark in me but they certainly allowed me to follow my passion. Sure, they made me do things that I HAD to do, like socialize and make friends, but they always let me carry a book with me. They always let me write or read whenever I was finished doing something I had to do.

“Jake had as much time to do things that were important to him as he had to do the things that were important to other people, to me, or to the school…He did have to get through the day, but he didn’t have to change who he was to do it” (The Spark Page 106).

My parents still encourage me. They ask about the books I’m reading, about the agent who rejected me, about the blog post I wrote, or about the novel I want to start working on. Their support has made a world of difference, it’s helped me believe in myself.

They were the spark.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

The Greatest Gift I hope to Give…

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

You may have heard that my sister is pregnant. I’m going to have a little niece or nephew in a few short months and I’m terrified, excited, nervous, and ecstatic about becoming an aunt. I think often about the kind of aunt I want to be, what I want to teach my niece or nephew, what gifts I hope to give them. Of course I immediately thought, I want to be the coolest aunt ever! But that isn’t really me — I’m not the “cool aunt”. I eat healthy food, I love books, I think bedtime should be strictly followed etc. etc. So I’ll leave the whole being cool business to my brother.

So, what kind of aunt will I be? Yesterday while watching The Secret Garden I discovered exactly what kind of aunt I aspire to be. I want to be the kind of aunt that helps her niece or nephew believe in magic, to create it, to find it. I want to write stories for them and I want to encourage them to write stories with me. I want to share with them the best part of not growing up, of being a little weird. I want to be the kind of aunt who encourages all of their passions and who will find other ways to inspire them if reading just isn’t their thing.

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“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.” ― Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden

Any tips for this new aunt?? Leave them in the comments 🙂

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Categories, Lifestyle/Personal

Pictures are worth a thousand words, a hundred tears, a million smiles, and if you’re lucky, only a couple of frowns. In attempt to find pictures to post on Instagram for THROWBACK THURSDAY, I scrolled through photos of places I’ve been, people I’ve traveled with, family events, birthdays, candid photos, and suddenly I was hit with a burst of nostalgia that I’ve never felt before. My eyes filled with water, I tasted salt on my lips.

 So much time has passed. So many years have flown by. Everything is always happening so fast.

Where does time go?!

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Every moment, every decision, every mistake I’ve made has led to this — right now. I don’t think I’ve appreciated all of the great experiences I’ve had, even the crappy ones are worth remembering.

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I felt short of breath.

I was drowning in the past,

but in the best possible way.

I really didn’t mind at all.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Back to Basics — Again.

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

Last year I entered My Pen, My Voice in the Writer’s Digest 20th Annual Self-Published Book Awards contest. Although I didn’t win, I thought the comments from the judges were worth posting. It was incredible to get some feedback on a book I published in 2011 and it made me wonder why I haven’t really written  poetry since. Poetry was my go-to outlet. I started “really” writing when I was twelve-years-old and it was always in the form of poetry. In fact my book is 90% poetry, written between the ages of twelve and eighteen.

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I think I’d like to get back to basics, study a bit of poetry, write more poetry again. The best way to write poetry is to start reading it again and so I ask you, what is your favourite poetry anthology? Who is your favourite poet? Where do I begin? Let me know in the comments 🙂

… it’s back to basics for me… again

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

My dreams were HUGE at the age of Thirteen…

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

In 2002 my class made time capsule ornaments. I had forgotten all about said ornament until my mom decided to clean out the Christmas decorations. I was going to just let it be, hang onto it for a few more years, but the yellowed paper, so neatly rolled up, surrounded by confetti and cotton wanted to be read (as all notes do).

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My cheeks reddened as the memory of this little scribble slapped me square on the face. I read it out loud to my Mom, then handed it to her so she could read it herself. Mom smiled and laughed, as if she knew exactly what was written on that sheet the whole time. At first I was going to throw it away, what need do I have for this scrap paper? But then I decided to tape it into my most recent diary as a reminder. At the age of thirteen (TEN YEARS AGO), I wanted to be in a movie, I wanted to be famous. I had big dreams and an even bigger imagination apparently…

I should probably let you know that I was NOT in the third instalment of Harry Potter — although my British accent isn’t too bad — nor am I famous. My dreams have changed and sometimes I find that with the ignorance of childhood clearly behind me, I give up on dreaming bigger or hanging onto the dreams that I already have. I become a little negative and I put myself down — the same way I put my thirteen-year-old self down after reading the capsule. Aloud I stated “Oh my god, what a loser I was!”

How RUDE is that, Vanessa? Jeeze, how about an apology?!

I kept this capsule as an apology to my thirteen-year-old self and as a gift to twenty-three-year-old me. It will forever remind me of how hopeful I was and how big I can let myself dream.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Board Games FTW!

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands

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Although my favourite pastimes include reading, writing, and blogging, I’ve been taking some time to do other things during the holidays. Most importantly spending time with my family, as well as the bf’s family. The other night at the bf’s aunt’s house we decided to play a few board games and we started with (the surprisingly challenging) Scrabble.

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I don’t remember being a board game lover as a kid, except for DREAM PHONE…

 

…but after a few rounds of Scrabble and an intense game of Snakes & Ladders, I developed a new appreciation for them and their ability to create some family bonding time. I enjoyed our board game night so much that last night we had an Oscar Trivia night over coffee/wine with my parents, and today we purchased a few games for New Year’s Eve.

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I know that nothing brings a family together like a great meal but I think board games have the ability to do the same – add in a little wine and you’ve got the most wonderful evening ahead. THAT is how I plan on spending my New Year’s Eve, celebrating 2012 and ringing in 2013 surrounded by my family, my boyfriend, great food, a few glasses of wine, and playing board games to my heart’s content.

I’m hoping that after the winding-down of twenty-twelve, I will be able to look forward to the new year. I feel as though I’m just waiting for a reason to try something new, to send out short stories to magazines, to find the job of my dreams, to travel, to change around this blog, to take some writing classes – ya know, to get started on all of my resolutions.

As this year comes to an end I will spend the next few days reflecting, remembering, and rejoicing in the year I just had. I’m going to scoop up all of those memories and promises I made to myself and act on them.

Love Always 
Vanessa Xo 

Christmas is Magical

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

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Christmas circa 1995. My sister and I walked tentatively down the stairs and into the family room only to notice a THIRD stocking and a letter from THE Santa Claus. Mom read the letter aloud and instantly I began to cry, I was going to have a baby brother or sister. You probably thought I cried because I was overjoyed. No, no. I was pissed off that after seven years of being the baby of the family I would be downgraded to middle-child status! Seriously, we have this documented on videotape and it’s not one of my proudest moments, in fact I feel kind of badly about it.

After reading the letter several times over, I felt comforted and (eventually) I felt excited for the new addition to the family. But just to be clear – Joseph, you are the little brother I didn’t know I wanted and our family would not be complete without you. For me, Christmas has always been synonymous with this letter, with Santa telling me that Mom wasn’t just fat but pregnant, with the prospect of new additions to the family 😉 , with love, and with magic. Christmas always reminds me of this letter, of the hope that floated up in my heart knowing that Santa wrote a letter addressed to me and my sister.

We finally got a letter back from Santa and it was magical. 

Love Always 
Vanessa Xo

What’s so cool about being NORMAL anyway!?

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

This morning I finished reading an ARC of John Boyne’s The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket, and I’m left wondering what is so cool about being normal anyway?!

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Barnaby Brocket was born into a very normal family, with a very normal mother, father, sister, brother, and dog. The only thing that isn’t quite normal is that Barnaby…well he kind of floats. He can’t keep his feet on the ground, only a knapsack filled with sand can keep them firmly planted. One day the most terrible thing happens – Barnaby finds himself floating higher and higher into the clouds, drifting far away from home. Ironically this terrible incident leads him on the most wonderful adventure of his young life.

Barnaby travels to many different places and meets many people who are just as special as he is. Barnaby learns many lessons on his travels – my favourite one goes something like this;

“…just because your version of normal isn’t the same as someone else’s version doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.” (92)

He also learns that life has so many wonderful sights and experiences to offer that there’s no point in paying attention to horrible people or rude comments. I find that lesson to be terribly important. Bullying is such a huge problem these days and its roots are found in not accepting people because they are different. Although this book isn’t on sale until January 8th, I highly recommend it as a gift for any youngster in your life. The earlier children are taught how amazing it is to be different, the better chance we have of accepting these differences, as well as ourselves.

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Barnaby’s story truly warmed my heart (thanks for sending it over Lindsey :)). The illustrations in this book are wonderful and give it a very Rohald Dahl-like feel. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket is a great book for kids and adults alike – it’s a sweet read with a terrific message AND it’s funny! What a fantastic combo ;).

Love Always
Vanessa Xo
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Synopsis (from the Random House of Canada Limited website)
A tale of acceptance from the bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
 
Barnaby Brocket is an ordinary eight-year-old boy in most ways, but he was born different in one important way: he floats. Unlike everyone else, Barnaby does not obey the law of gravity. His parents, who have a fear of being noticed, want desperately for Barnaby to be normal, but he can’t help who he is. And when the unthinkable happens, Barnaby finds himself on a journey that takes him all over the world. Drifting from Brazil to New York, from Canada to Ireland, and even to space, the floating boy meets all sorts of different people—and discovers who he really is along the way.
 
This whimsical novel will delight middle-graders, while readers of all ages will find themselves questioning what it means to be “normal.”