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.

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“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

Not That Kind of Girl [Book Review/Thank You]

Book Reviews

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I’ve been excited to read Not That Kind of Girl since my interning days at Random House Canada when the book was first announced. I’ve watched Girls on HBO and love it but my admiration for Lena Dunham has more so to do with her words and her kick-ass attitude than her acting. Not That Kind of Girl feels like you’re reading a script from Girls, except it’s a tad more poetic and 100% real. Lena holds nothing back, sharing insights and stories about love, sex, her body, friendship, work, and family life. She writes with honesty, conviction, and passion. In sharing everything she’s “learned’ you can’t help but learn something about yourself or about the person you want to be.

Lena’s book doesn’t need to be reviewed. No matter what I say fans  will still flock to bookshops and purchase their own copy. In the big scheme of publicity, my review will not boost her sales or gain her fans, so instead of writing a review I’d rather write a thank you.

Thank you for expressing everything that I have ever felt, witnessed, or experienced in a kick-ass, unforgiving way. Thank you understanding the basic human condition, that we are all assholes who are afraid of death. Thank you for making the personal essay cool, valid, relatable, honest, and smart. For publishing the kind of words that fill voids, generate laughter, and banish embarrassment. Reading your book has given me the courage to continue writing personal essays, to share my thoughts with the world, and to challenge myself as a writer. Thank you for showing me that every story is important and that my thoughts are valid.

lena-dunham

 

AND I DECIDED THEN THAT I WILL NEVER BE JEALOUS. I WILL NEVER BE VENGEFUL. I WON’T BE THREATENED BY THE OLD, OR BY THE NEW. I’LL OPEN WIDE LIKE A DAISY EVERY MORNING. I WILL MAKE MY WORK. (201)

 

Vanessa Xo

WILD [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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My cousin Amanda recommended that I read WILD by Cheryl Strayed. It’s one of her favourite books, one that she knew I would love too. WILD is the most intense memoir(ish) book that I have read this year. Cheryl holds nothing back when retelling dark and incredibly personal stories from her childhood, her teen years, and her adulthood.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I adored Cheryl’s writing style, her voice and her views on life. I held my breath on every word of every sentence. I cried, I laughed, I shuttered, and I wondered if I could ever do what The Queen of the PCT did. I enjoyed every person she met on the trail, I cringed at the thought of toenails falling off and the immense strain the hike put on her body, and I cried whenever she discovered something new about herself or her mother. I admire everything about her journey and more so, I admire her ability to write it all down and leave it on the page. WILD is about more than her literal journey, the PCT hike, it’s about life and how we approach it. It’s about the simplicity of complex problems if you just sit down, empty your pack, and think things through. It’s about how to carry yourself through life while understanding everything around you. It’s about lives ending too soon and appreciating the relationships that you have. It’s about goals and dreams and letting go when it’s time to let go.

“It was all unkown to me then….except the fact that I didn’t have to know. that it was enough to trust that what i’d done was true… to know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. that it was everything. it was my life — like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. so very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” 
Vanessa xx
*quote from pg 311

Lesson Learned: Don’t Half-Ass your Life

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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It’s a little-known fact that my mother and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and yet I’m more like her than my father. I might shrug off her bits of advice and pretend that I don’t care what she thinks, but the truth is that her acceptance and wisdom mean a lot to me. My mom has this way of always doing things perfectly, she puts 100% of effort into everything she does. Whether it’s making dinner, grocery shopping, or reading to my niece, she never looks for a short cut. My mother is always put together. She ALWAYS has a pair of earrings on, long mascaraed lashes, and combed hair, even if she’s walking out of the house in track pants. If my mother had a mantra or a set of guidelines for life, it would look something like this:

Don’t half-ass your life.
Do things the right way, not the easy way.
Clean your room, make sure your clothes match, put on some mascara.
We might not be rich, but we can be presentable. 
Don’t do it for anyone else, Do it for you. 
Take pride in your life. 

Whenever I feel like giving up or convince myself that going out in a ratty sweater and old track pants is okay, my mom’s voice pops into my head, altering my choices. If you can’t show up to your own life and give 150% every single day, nothing awesome will ever happen. I think my mom is my number one (silent) supporter. She believes in me and knows my potential more than anyone else — it may have something to do with me living in her uterus for nine months.

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When I’m feeling uninspired, self-conscious, and down about my life choices, she sends me little notes of inspiration and positivity. When I don’t believe in myself, she does. When I don’t do my very best, she pushes me to. There’s no way that a daughter of hers is going to waste her life, or half-ass her dreams. She might seem like an overbearing mother, a nag even, but she’s my nag and when her green eyes burst with passion and her hands start flailing, I know she’s about to tell me one of those secrets to life, and I listen with an open heart.

Talk soon,
Vanessa

Women in Clothes [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews, Fashion & Beauty

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Women in Clothes is a collection of surveys about garments of clothing and how they shape our lives. It’s an intriguing 500+ page conversation that you’d have with your girlfriends, reflecting on all aspects of clothing, garments, and beauty. I loved the photos of real women’s clothing collections from the false eyelashes and dress sets, to grey sweaters and raincoats– proving that all women have a type of garment they covet more than anything. I enjoyed reading the various features and found that I had something in common with the way that each woman dresses.

I know the kind of dresser I want to be — a sophisticated, classy, vintage goddess with so much sass it turns heads. When I picture myself working and living in Toronto, that’s what I see. In reality I live so far north of the city it’s a mission to get down there, and the closest I’ve come to vintage is wearing the clothes my best friend gives away. She’s got great taste but our bodies are so different that her clothes never look right on me, I feel strange when I wear them, like I’m pretending to be someone else. Funds, patience, and the mindset that I don’t have to look great if I’m just running errands has dictated my style for years, but I am willing to change. I’m willing to take a good hard look at who I am and let my clothing express that. Even the best dressed women put on their pants one leg at a time.

There is no exact science to the way I dress but I do have a few rules for myself:

  • NEVER wear a tight top with wearing leggings or tights, make sure the top is loose and covers your crotch
  • if your pants are baggy wear a tighter shirt and vice versa
  • tuck in your shirts when wearing high-waisted pants
  • heels and a blazer make every outfit better
  • jewelry is your friend — your mom has a boatload for you to borrow

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Women in Clothes has so many layers of information, stories, and photos. I found the project called Ring Cycle truly interesting — fifteen women who work in a newspaper office photocopy their hands and talk about their rings. I enjoyed learning where and how these women came to own their rings — it made me look at the only ring I wear a little differently. My boyfriend bought it for me for Valentine’s day about four years ago, it’s technically a promise ring with a blue diamond (representing honesty, fidelity, and love) hidden on the inside of the band. He doesn’t call it a promise ring though, it’s a just because I love you so much ring. I wear it on the middle finger of my left hand because I felt it would be bad luck to wear it on my wedding finger. It’s white gold, simple and beautiful. I never take it off (except to shower and sleep) and I’ll never forget his bashful face or nervously sweaty temples when he handed it to me.

Another one of their projects entitled Mothers As Others was incredibly moving and wonderful to read. The premise was for women to send in a photo of their mother before she had children and write what they saw. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder what their mothers’ reactions would be to what their daughters thought about them. Do they know how beautiful their daughters think they are? How much they inspired their lives, as well as fashion? I found a few photos of my mom before she had kids, these might have even been taken before she met my dad. She’s probably only eighteen or nineteen but she looks mature for her age. She looks confident and happy in her own skin, she appears strong and fierce, like she knows exactly where she’s supposed to be. She’s beautiful and her smile is endless. She’s got amazing hair (look at those bangs) and knows how to dress for her figure. I love the high-waist skirts and pants, the belts, and the collared shirts she wears. My mom still has a great sense for fashion (she helps me pick outfits all the time), a timeless style, and sometimes I see glimpses of the confidence she embodied all those years ago.

The best part about Women in Clothes is not the great writing or even the interesting surveys, it’s being able to place each survey or project into the confines of your own life. I learned so much about myself, my style, and the person I want to share with the world by reading this book. Although this book has a lot to do with clothes, how we wear them, and how we feel in them, mostly it shows the reader that they are not alone. There are so many women out there that think like you, that have the same insecurities and questions about clothing as you, just open the book to page one and you’ll find that out.

 “Taste is a wink, not a thud.”

Talk soon,
Vanessa
* Quote from page 22 of Women in Clothes
*Thanks to Penguin Random House for this book
*Thoughts are my own

 

Lesson Learned: falling into place

Lifestyle/Personal

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On my 25th birthday I held my breath and blew out the candles with such ferocity that my wish didn’t have a chance to exist…

The clock ticks faster these days and any attempt to slow down my thoughts results in a quickened heart rate and nervous tic. I noticed crows-feet digging lines into the corners of his eyes as I sang him Happy Birthday the other day. A mirror of those lines are in the corner of my own, not to mention the pillows of darkness beneath my eyes. We’re getting older, but we’re so young — the world is still ours.

Every rash decision I’ve made and every opportunity I’ve been afraid to take has led me to this land of mass confusion. All options are in the air — I’m a juggler throwing balls so high, losing them in the sky. I’m waiting impatiently for one to come back down, hit me in the head, and get me back on track. My mind is fatigued most days and this uncertainty isn’t invigorating, it’s a burden. I’m waiting for everything to fall into place.

“Falling into Place:
deciding everything is falling into place perfectly as long as you don’t get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly.” ― Brian Andreas

Talk soon,
Vanessa

LAUGH at YOURSELF, Joan Rivers said so.

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

Anyone who has access to a T.V., a cell phone, or the Internet knows that last week Joan Rivers passed away at the age of 81. I’m not going to pretend that I was a huge fan of hers or that I idolized her. However, after watching a few memorial clips about her I’ve fallen for the way that she looks at life. She was a comedian; a hilarious, smart, powerful woman who wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself. I read the jokes she made about her husband committing suicide, the jokes she made about her excessive plastic surgery, and the jokes she made about her sex life. Although they made me laugh, I admire her comments on laughter itself most of all. She had the ability to laugh at herself, to speak her mind, and to question how society is run. She proved that laugher is the best medicine.

I watched a clip of her on Larry King where she said something along the lines of if you can laugh about it, everything will be okay. My biggest problem lately is taking everything personally, cutting myself up because of what I think other people think about me. Whether it’s an interview I didn’t get, or a look from a complete stranger, or telling people I’m unemployed instead of freelancing, it’s like I’m punishing myself. If you think about my situation the way people like Joan Rivers thinks about things, the fact that I have six years of post-secondary education and can’t even get an interview for a receptionist position not only comments on how much of a failure our school system is, but it’s kind of funny. Who do you have to blow know around this province to be taken seriously?! I know it’s not personal, even if I sometimes picture HR printing out my resume and covering it with a bright red LOSER stamp.

The only thing I can do is laugh about the interviews I don’t get, smile at the people who think I’ve wasted my entire life on following a dream, become a Joan Rivers kind of optimist (see quote below), work hard to create the life I want to live, and laugh at all of the mistakes I make along the way.

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“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”

– Joan Rivers

Talk Soon,
Vanessa

The Dentist’s Chair [OR] Where I Met my Life Coach

Lifestyle/Personal

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My cousin is training to be a dental hygienist. There’s a hands-on part to her studies where real live people (like myself) can go in and get their teeth cleaned (for $27). While laying there with my mouth open, I noticed how calm and cool my little cousin was (okay she’s 19 now). Her movements were executed without hesitation. She knew exactly what she was doing, you could smell the focus and determination. She had more confidence in her bright blue eyes than I have in my entire body. I am so proud of her.

As part of your cleaning, you get checked over by a certified dentist. The dentist that checked me over had the sweetest accent I’ve ever heard (I think it’s Polish), dirty blonde hair, plain glasses hiding beautiful wise green eyes, and a smile that puts you at ease. “You have beautiful eyes, are they natural?” is the first thing she said to me when she came over to my chair. I’m rarely complimented on my eyes so of course I turned seven shades of red. As she checked out my teeth, she asked my age, and was shocked to find out that I’m twenty-five. I went on to answer her questions about my schooling, my years at the pizza place, and my current employment status.

“It’s so sad how little importance education has these days. We tell you to follow your heart and your dreams, you study hard, and there are no jobs,” at this point her hands were in my mouth so I couldn’t respond. “Don’t go back to the pizza place, you don’t want to be the pizza girl the rest of your life. Go to the gym every single day. That’s what I would do, darling. Maybe go back to school for something else, something to add to your passion. Whatever you do, don’t take is personally. It’s nothing against you. You should come back and we can talk about ego-boosting. You could use an ego-boost. Your cousin here, she’s cool. She knows what she wants and she’s focussed. You need that.”

Can we just marinate on the fact that this woman, who I’ve never met before, summed up my fears, dreams, and needs in one breath? Let’s just say that her words echoed in my brain for the rest of the appointment. As my ears filled with the sound of little sharp instruments scraping teeth, tubes sucking up saliva, and rubber gloves snapping, my eyes closed and I focussed on my dreams for the first time in months.

Talk soon,
Vanessa

Coffee Shop Thoughts

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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Nervous legs twitch beneath every coffee table in my peripheral. The entire cafe takes another sip of their foamy, double-shot cappuccinos and put down their cups in unison as I breathe a sigh of relief. Their nervous ticks and hipster shades soothe me. After an intense conversation with a fellow writer/friend I see my life, my decisions, my writing, and my blog in a new light. Ideas of substance burst into flames when under intense pressure. It’s time to diminish the stress and thrive on new thoughts and different ventures. I’ve tried this before and failed quite successfully but I deserve a second chance.

This doesn’t mean you won’t hear from me at all.

It just means that I have to put a few other things first.

Talk soon,
Vanessa