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

Girls’ Night Done Right

Lifestyle/Personal

A bouquet of bright yellow flowers with a hand written card attached, a long drive on a warm nearly-Spring evening to visit a friend, two hours of girl-talk and all-you-can-eat-sushi, countless laughs, and a screening of (the incredibly boring and weird) Fifty Shades of Grey is sometimes all a girl really needs. The last few weeks have been mentally draining and I can’t see the next few weeks getting any better. Life is busy and the older I get the less time I seem to have for impromptu girls’ nights, long text messages, or even phone calls. I always promise myself that I am going to be a better friend, a more thoughtful friend, and MAKE the time to show my girls how much they mean to me. And I will.

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It’s crazy to think that we now spend our time together talking about houses and weddings and children and Home Sense. It’s wonderful to think that after all this time, after all of the stupid things we got into when we were “cool teenagers” that we’re still close, still friends, and still there for one another. I always tell people that I don’t have a lot of friends because I’ve never needed them. I have a handful of the best friends a girl could ask for…

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

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

Five Days into 2015 and so far…

Lifestyle/Personal

We’re five days into 2015 and so far I’ve caught a nasty cold, developed (is that the right word here??) a bladder infection, finished reading a novel, applied to ten jobs, felt so anxious it’s turned into nausea, deleted Facebook, stepped back from Instagram, spent loads of time with my family and boyfriend, watched The Theory of Everything, watched bits and pieces of Life Itself, and started writing a new short story for Passion8 Mag. I’ve mixed in the good with the bad simply because that’s how life works. Here’s hoping for a better week, a stomach that doesn’t feel so yucky, and making someone else happy.

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From Pinterest

 

 

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*

 

NEW MANTRA [LOVE LOVE LOVE]

Lifestyle/Personal

unnamedAs my mother stirred the heaping pot of sauce and meatballs, she called me over to take a look. With a smile stinging her lips she said, “I told you I always cook with love”. The heart in her sauce (you can see it right?) emulates just a few things that I love about life: pasta and family dinners.

There are many kinds of love in this world: I truly believe that you can love people, hobbies, AND food. I know for a fact that the more love or passion you put into something, the better it becomes. I’ve made myself quick meals just to eat something and it never tastes as good as the meals that I put effort and love into. I’ve written blog posts just to write them but I never get as much feedback on those ones as I do with the ones I put passion behind. When it comes to people, I love a lot of them, to varying degrees. I love my co-workers and friends like family, I love my family obsessively, I love my boyfriend to an incredibly disgusting degree, and most importantly I love myself and the woman I’ve become. The more I shower these people with love, the better I feel about life and about myself. Love, it’s all you need, amiright?

Put love into everything you do, every meal you make, and every word you write. 

– Vanessa

 

Do you remember what high school was like?

Lifestyle/Personal

I drove past my high school last week and couldn’t believe how different it looked. I remember it being a lot bigger when I went there. It’s been seven years since the last time I walked the halls, ten years since the first time I stepped into the school. I remember being a nervous wreck the few weeks before school started, asking my sister over and over again how to work my lock, how I would find my locker, and if I would be able to go to my locker between classes. I don’t remember what her answers were, but she more than likely told me to just relax.

Do you remember who you were in high school? What you did? How you felt? When I think about the four years I spent walking the same packed hallways, a sea of forest green sweaters and black pants, I remember wondering if anyone noticed me. I always did well in school but making friends and being social took work. I remember the friends that eventually made, every crush that I had, and every single time I was heartbroken. I recall everything being a BIG DEAL, I can still feel my back up against my locker, my friends on either side, judging others and being judged. I remember skipping class for the first time, driving to school for the first time, being kissed for the first time.

I’ve held on to memories of parties I hosted and parties I attended. Silly mistakes and risks taken make me shake my head. I was desperate to belong and to be liked. It’s funny to think back and picture that younger version of me walking the halls. I can smell the desperation leaking from her pores. I want to reach out and hug her, to tell her that it gets better, and then worse, and then awesome. I want to tell her that everything gets a lot harder, but dreams come true. I want to tell her that after high school is over, real life begins. You’ll find out who your friends really are and you’ll feel more comfortable in your own skin. I want to tell her that she will find love and it will be better than she ever dreamed it could be. I want to tell her that one day all her pain and confusion will be a distant memory, a grainy photograph, and a subtle reminder that she lived through it, that she became the best version of herself.

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– Vanessa

What story do you tell others?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

Right now, you’re living your story. Your job, education, family, friends, relationships, dreams, and passions are all part of it. What story do you tell others? Mine is something along the lines of I’m a writer, looking for a full-time job because people don’t want to pay me for my words.

Let’s pretend that your story is the palm of your hand.

Look at it.

Now bring it up to your face, place it above your nose.

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Can’t see, can you?

If you’re constantly telling a negative story about your life, eventually that is all you’ll be able to see. You’ll get stuck in the ‘sad’ retelling of your life and forget what it means to reach out and search for more. You’ll forget what it feels like to have adventures, to grab onto life and do what you want with it. You’ll think that this is it. You’ll forget how to live.

Take down your hand.

Wash it.

Start fresh. 

– 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.

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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