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 

 

 

Foggy Morning Sunrise

Lifestyle/Personal

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Yesterday I was up early and enjoyed my morning drive. Since the time-change, it seems that if you’re on the road before eight you get to witness the sun rise at some point. Yesterday, magical hues of yellow, pink, purple, and blue bounced off the morning sky and expanded before me. Fog lifted slowly giving the sky a cotton candy softness that both soothed and motivated me. In that moment I felt like I could dream or do anything. Like I could learn, adapt, change, and understand how to be just as quietly beautiful as the morning sky.

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

*Posted from my Moto X

Realizations – Revelations – Growth

Lifestyle/Personal
From Pinterest

From Pinterest

The slogan for this season of Girls is nowhere to grow but up and my heart is beating in tandem with its sentiment. It’s time. My dreams don’t have to die in order for me to grow up, but they need a red marker and a heavy edit (and that’s okay). Although I’ve never been one to give up on my dreams or tell others to, I’ve realized something insanely beautiful: the moment I began making decisions based on things that were actually happening in my life (and not what I hoped would happen), my world began to change. Once I decided that it’s OKAY to not work in publishing or live downtown, my life chose a different course, one that excites me, one that I’m happy about. Writing will always be waiting for me, this blog will always be mine, but maybe, just maybe they aren’t meant to be on the top of my priority list. Maybe my heart and my head are finally ready for something new to take top-shelf.

I feel like my head is on straight since I turned twenty. All those years of questioning myself, doubting myself, and being afraid have suddenly morphed into something more welcoming. Understanding is it? I’m not sure but I am seeing my priorities clearly and they’re lined up in a way that suits my life, my goals, and my relationship not the way that society or tradition dictates.

Mid-twenties have never felt so good.

 

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Eating Alone

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

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On Saturday after work I had a hankering for a Big Mac, and a hankering fuelled by hunger is one that must be taken care of. So, on the way to my boyfriend’s house I stopped at the McDonald’s and ordered myself a Big Mac. I paid the $8.00, which I made in tips the night prior, grabbed my tray and sat down alone to eat my meal. As I slowly savoured my french fries, allowing the tremendous amount of salt to cut my tongue, I wondered why I don’t go out by myself more often. As I gorged on my meal I people-watched and made up my own conversations based on their hand movements and facial expressions. I let my eyes wander and my mind create (that is my business after all). I even thought about what other people might think about me — Wow she looks hungry – is she even breathing between bites? She looks sad, maybe she just got dumped. Maybe she got stood up. Maybe she’s in rush. 

It’s an interesting feeling when you’re able to put your phone away and be left alone with your thoughts. To watch the world go on around you as you sit perfectly still. To marinate in your own thoughts, fears, and worries and really connect with them. As of late I feel like everyone is walking around in a frozen cloud of thoughts, unable to forget them, to control them, or really sift through them and figure things out. After lunch I felt a new air of confidence about the future, the present, and taking chances.

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

 HAVE A CHALLENGING, CREATIVE, AND WONDERFUL MONDAY!

Love always,
Vanessa XX

 

A Book Review(ish) & January Blues

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

“If you live through defeat, you’re not defeated. If you are beaten but acquire wisdom, you have won. Lose yourself to improve yourself. Only when we shed all self-definition do we find who we really are.” The Tao of Wu

January always starts off a little slowly for me. I let the previous year linger in the air instead of focusing on the year ahead. I give myself a much-needed break from the blog, reading, and even writing stories. And then suddenly it hits me, I want to do everything all at once. I start tweeting again, my fingers itch to write the perfect sentence, my brain longs to learn something new, and I’ve morphed into that version of myself that I like best: the passionate go-getter ready to take a chance. The woman who is willing to lose all other versions of herself, especially the ones that do anything but empower her.

From Amazon.uk

From Amazon.uk

Usually a conversation with my best friend or my parents is all I need to get out of my funky version of January Blues but this time it was actually a book that kicked my butt into gear. A Man Called Ove is the loveliest book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s about an old man called Ove who is stuck in his ways and just wants to die. He misses his wife desperately and wants nothing more than to take his own life to be with her, the trouble is that the entire world is so incompetent that they won’t let it happen. Neighbours and stray cats meander their way into Ove’s life and he begins to feel responsible for them. How can he go off to be with his wife when men can’t reverse trailers or bleed radiators, when women don’t know how to drive, or when teenagers can’t fix their own bikes? Ove doesn’t stand for this, he believes that people should be able to do the most basic things in life, no gadgets or technology should be doing it for them. Ove’s view on how the world should be is contagious and quite hilarious if I may say so, but the most endearing part of the entire novel is how he and his useless neighbours depend on one another. This novel is about relationships, about love, and about doing the right thing no matter what. Ove’s love, determination, and selflessness inspired me, as did all of the chapters about his late wife Sonja.

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.” 
― Fredrik BackmanA Man Called Ove

In A Man Called Ove, and my own life, time is of the essence. And even though I’m not quite sure where 2015 will lead me, I vow to rock the crap out of it, to say yes, and to simply live.

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Connecting Moments [A NARRATIVE]

Fiction
From Pinterest

From Pinterest

Connecting Moments

Written by Vanessa Grillone on December 21 

When I awoke on Christmas morning, I pulled the black covers over my head and marinated in the stillness of the house. I breathed heavily, inhaling the stench of my own morning breath, bouncing off the covers and onto my face. I thought about my friend who had gotten engaged the night before. While she and her boyfriend of ten years skated hand-in-hand in the park, he faked a fall. Just as is started to snow, she leaned over to help him up. He got to his knee and pulled out the ring. I was there and it was magical, filled with kisses, hugs, tears, and giant snowflakes stuck on our faces. It made sense, it felt right. They were in love, they both had great careers, and they were old enough to know that their kind of love happens only once.

I thought about my other friend, living in Brooklyn, following her dreams. She’s living alone in a tiny apartment, trying desperately to become the well-known photographer she deserves to be. We had Skyped a few nights ago, she was on the brink of tears, sipping spiked coffee out of a chipped mug. She cried over the hours of work she did for free, over her rude boss (she is currently assisting one of the top magazine photographers in New York), over how lonely she felt, over how unhappy she was. She could barely pay the bills and had to ask her parents for money, which they happily gave her. She had always been independent but now she was alone and that was an intensely different thing. I did my best to make her laugh, to tell her that I’m just as alone as she feels, that I miss her and think about her all of the time. I reminded her that she is literally living the dream she talked about while we were in high school. I told her to go out and make friends, to get a part-time job at a pub and stop hiding from her new life. I told her that I envied her bravery and that if she gave it a chance, she could fall in love with Brooklyn.

I thought about my sister. The new(ish) mom with another one in the oven. I remembered how frightened she was when she found out she was pregnant for the first time. It was an accident, she told me. She wasn’t ready, she pleaded. She wouldn’t be a good mom and her boyfriend acted like a kid himself. She was inextricably wrong. My beautiful nephew was born and my sister and her now husband grew up and grew together. They became the parents they never thought they could be. They became the parents I knew they would become; loving, honest, and completely fair. They fell in love again and with the beginning of their own little family came a new chapter in all of our lives. My sister became a more thoughtful person, a more generous member of the human race.

My mind wandered to my parents and how much they’d given my siblings and I. Food on the table, hot water spewing from the faucets, an education, and love — things taken for granted in today’s society. I reminisced on all of the stories they told me, from the moment they met to the strict rules my mom’s parents had, to their wedding and financial scares. From their best moments to their worst. I thought about all of the sacrifices they made that I didn’t understand until recently. I contemplated on how many hours my father spent at the office and how he felt about missing some of our biggest moments. I wondered if he had regrets, the distant look in his eyes at the dinner table and the sad twinkling smile he gives to his grandson make me think that he does.

Just as I heard the front door open downstairs and let the smell of coffee enter my brain, I thought about myself and my future. I’d been complaining and crying over my lack of career, about allowing my life to become stagnant. I had suddenly, at the age of 27, become afraid of life. Afraid of applying to jobs because I might get rejected, afraid of taking the next step with my boyfriend, and agonizingly afraid that I made the wrong choice to follow my dreams. It’s interesting that when you look at someone else’s life you can bring clarity to their various moments, you can see how things are connected and appreciate them, but you can’t do it to your own.

I walked down the stairs on Christmas morning and picked up my nephew, who had been calling my name at the bottom of the stairs, I chose to appreciate that moment. I chose to understand that whatever happens next, that moment was important. And suddenly the idea of a new year and new opportunities filled me with excitement rather than the paralyzing fear I had gotten used to.

Vanessa Xo

*Connecting Moments is a work of fiction*

 

El Camino Bracelets — How one young Canadian turned her passion into a business

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands
Photo taken by Candace Kellough

Photo taken by Candace Kellough

Imagine walking up the Costa Brava, Spain with a heavy backpack on your back, a skateboard in your arm, and the love of your life by you side. You’ve just walked 15 miles, up and back down mountains, and are ready to call it a day.

You find the perfect spot to set up your tent, have a snack (most likely something to do with peanut butter), and start bouncing ideas off one another. Just as the sun is about to set you come up with an idea that will transform you from wanderer to entrepreneur.

Candace Kellough and Tom Lane were backpacking from Barcelona to Monaco when they came up with El Camino Bracelets, a unisex bracelet for travelers. With the idea fresh in their minds and the knowledge that there wasn’t a product out there like the one they wanted to launch, they hopped on a train back to Barcelona and flew to England. There, they lived, worked, and saved for the start-up of their business.

El Camino bracelets represent your story and your journey around the world, according to the website. One bracelet easily replaces all of those knickknacks and dust collectors that many travelers accumulate while traveling. You can see every place you’ve travelled just by looking at your wrist.

Click on photo for original link.

Click on photo for original link.

“It takes about 20 minutes to make a single and about 30 minutes for a double,” said Kellough. “And of course, lots and lots of love goes into each El Camino. We’ve become quite attached to them and are always very curious where in the world they are going to end up.”

So far, El Camino bracelets have traveled to Canada, USA, Mexico, Ireland, all of the UK,

France, and Spain, she says.

Kellough and Lane make each bracelet by hand, and say they are proud of it. They keep everything local, says Kellough, and like knowing where all of their products are coming from. This is the basis of their business and something they want to hold onto as their company grows.

“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing and stay true to our roots. We want to expand organically by word of mouth and people spreading their love for everything we make,” Kellough said.

The bracelets can be double or single and are made from four high-strength woven cords available in black, turquoise, chestnut brown, red, steel blue, forest green or purple.

Each bracelet comes with a first ‘step’, which is stainless steel and engraved with El Camino. In order to start saving memories, you need to purchase what they call ‘steps’. They are engraved with the names of countries on them, with over 240 to choose from.

There are also ‘small steps’ which cover popular places that aren’t countries, like New York or Hawaii.  Next are the colourful ‘regional steps,’ which add a little excitement to your wrist and your travel story. Each ‘region’ is handmade in England and then sandblasted with the El Camino logo.

Finally, you can space out your steps and regions by adding wooden spacers, which are laser cut and made from mahogany or oak.

It’s a souvenir for travelers, by travelers.

Lane and Kellogg -- Photo from Candace Kellough

Lane and Kellogg — Photo from Candace Kellough

A native of Caledon, Ontario, Kellough says she became obsessed with traveling in her last year of university. She studied abroad in Alicante, Spain and says that teachers are so laid back when studying abroad.  They understand that the students are there to travel, learn, and experience new things. Being able to hop on a plane or train for a few hours and be engulfed by a different language and culture was exciting.

“I met so many people and experienced so much,” she said. “I realized that there is so much to see and do. After living in Alicante, I knew that there was no way I was ever going to be able to settle in one place for a long time.”

After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier’s business program, she worked two jobs and saved enough money to head to Europe. She spent some time backpacking, and eventually settled in Barcelona for a year and a half.

But Kellough’s Canadian blood missed the snow. Her next move found her in a tiny ski town in the French Alps, where she worked and snowboarded. It was there that she met Tom Lane, future business partner and beau, and fellow gypsy soul.

It was his messy hair that first caught her eye, says Kellough. They hit it off and soon were inseparable. The pair woke early to ski or snowboard, went to work, and met up after. Their days were long, and sleep was nonexistent, but it was worth it in the end.

When Kellough and Lane met, Lane was already in his fifth season in Meribel. Born in England, he spent his summers in Ibiza and his winters in France. He has been traveling for ten years, and both Kellough and Lane say it’s in his blood. His travels were originally limited to England, but that changed in when he decided to move to Spain.

Part of what drives their shared passion for travel is a thirst for new experiences.  Both of the young entrepreneurs admit that they get bored easily. They like to meet new people and try new things, and say travel is the best way to do that.

Since the start up of El Camino, though, Kellough says her lifestyle has done a complete 360.  There isn’t much time to bounce from country to country these days. The pair went from traveling ‘gypsies’ to working twelve-hour-days, every single day, she says.

They don’t mind though – they’re doing something they love, and are seeing the results of their hard work. They’re overwhelmed with such positive feedback and repeat orders. And with the job market the way it is in Canada, Kellough says she would still have gone the entrepreneurial route if she remained here.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. It’s been in the back of my mind since I was young, I just never knew what that thing was going to go be or where it was going to happen” she says.

Working out of ‘The Treehouse,’ Kellough and Lane say they are learning something new every day, and firmly believe that passion dictates the success of any business. Their door is always open to the fresh air, something that helps calm their restless hearts. They love travel and everything that goes with it: long work days, bandaged fingers, and all.

http://elcaminobracelets.com

https://twitter.com/@ElCaminoB

https://www.facebook.com/ElCaminoBracelets

– Vanessa

** This article was originally posted on CANCULTURE.COM in April of 2013. It was edited by the talented Natalie Berchem. It got lost in the shuffle when the website was redesigned so I decided to share it here, on My Pen, My Voice.

** After this article was published, the owners of El Camino sent me my very on bracelet as a thank-you. I love it.

 

That Time I Met David Nicholls [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Once in a while HarperCollins Canada hosts an intimate gathering with their Facebook fans, one of their authors, and a spectacular interviewee. This event celebrated David Nicholls, author of One Day and Us (which just came out). From what the Facebook invite said, guests would get to listen in on an interview between the epic Laurie Grassi and David Nicholls, then get their book signed. My love for Us demanded that I attend.

On Sunday afternoon I headed down to the HarperCollins offices and was greeted with smiling faces, hot coffee, and yummy snacks. The interview got underway rather quickly, David Nicholls lit up the room with his warm English accent and humble disposition. With cues from Laurie Grassi, he spoke about wanting to write a novel about what happens next, what happens after the dating and the courting. Us is what happens after the I do’s.

He spoke about the theme of changing over time, about journeys and the way they effect you. He discussed the characters in the novel having reasons behind their actions — this is what the other readers and I found so loveable about them. Douglas, however maddening, always acts with reason. In response to Douglas’ annoying traits, Laurie Grassi brought up one of my favourite lines in the book: The fact was I loved my wife to a degree that I found impossible to express, and so rarely did (page 27 of the ARC). David Nicholls purposely chose Douglas’ point of view to tell the story because he has trouble expressing himself. That is what makes him so vulnerable and sometimes rather stupid.

Although I loved hearing about the inspiration behind the book, what I enjoyed most was the discussion on various writing tools. He spoke about how important structure was to writing Us, the short chapters and interweaving Connie and Douglas’ meeting with their trip around Europe 25 years into their marriage, had a purpose. The structure not only made it easier to write the book, but also made the reader want to just read one more chapter, one more chapter.

When asked about what makes him want to keep writing, he shifted in his chair, fixed his glasses and said, “I just really love it. When I was acting, what I really loved about it were the words on the page. It’s a great privilege to do it for a living. I just love it, plus I have a contract with my publisher…”

There’s something quite fascinating about listening to the author of a novel that you love discuss their own work. What struck me about David was how funny he is and how quirky his comments could be. He’s clearly very passionate about his work, and answered all questions with vigor and excitement. He was honestly humbled by the amount of people who turned up for the event and took his time signing books and chatting with each fan. While he signed my copy I asked him if he had any advice for an aspiring novelist. He paused for a moment, thought deeply, and replied:

If you’re going to write, you have to read, that’s where ideas come from. Then you need to show people your work, believe in yourself enough to show your family and friends. Oh and stay away from the Internet, it’s quite distracting.

Thank you HarperCollins for hosting such a lovely event, I’ve never met an author in such an intimate and charming setting. Count me in for the next one!

– Vanessa

 

Sometimes, you walk right into Life

Lifestyle/Personal

The wheels in my head wouldn’t stop turning this weekend. My thoughts sprung back and forth from an interview I went on, to the book that I want to write, to an event I’ll be attending tonight, to traveling, to needing new phone, to saving money, to looking for more freelance work, to comparing my life to others and back again. I’ve always spent a lot of time in my own mind, churning over various conversations, moments, and decisions until they stop making sense. Like repeating a word over and over again until it looses all meaning. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to excel, to make people proud, to ensure that I am living up to my potential, and every day that I am not doing one of those things tends to be a rough one for me.

Below is a photo of a door that leads to my parents’ bedroom. My mom is repainting and decided to let the smoke detector hang in such a way that it is exactly in line with my forehead. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own thoughts that no matter how many times I walked down the hallway this weekend, I walked right into the smoke detector. Sometimes I’d snap out of it and nearly duck out-of-the-way before I smacked right into it. Afterwards I’d turn around and watch it sway back and forth, taunting me, laughing at me. Telling me that it’s time to wake up and pay attention. Telling me that Life is happening all around me and if I don’t look where I’m going or live in the moment, it’ll find a way to smack me back to reality. Telling me to stop thinking about things and start doing them. Not just doing them, but doing them well, doing them right, doing them with passion.

Sometimes you sleep walk right into Life, and I have the bump to prove it.

photo-3

“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

Vanessa Xo

Obligatory (& Necessary) Thanksgiving Post

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

 

book-page-pumpkin-1_thumb[7]Although we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be thankful, we’re human. We’re self-obsessed beings who thrive on pity, and focus on the bad instead of the good. We need Thanksgiving to take a step back and think about all of the people and moments that make us happy. To remember that life is fragile and we should enjoy what we have before it gets taken away from us.

I’m thankful for… (equally and in no particular order) 

  • family and friends
  • my niece
  • my boyfriend
  • LOVE & LAUGHTER
  • sight and health
  • books and words
  • music and movement
  • travel and adventure
  • dreams and goals
  • traditions (new and old)
  • good food and sweet wine
  • inspiration and creativity
  • work
  • romance and hand holding
  • passion and dedication
  • YOU!
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” 
― John Henry Jowett

 

Happy Thanksgiving!
Vanessa xo