Writing Prompt: let your hair down

I noticed recently that Man Repeller has a monthly writing prompt.  They ask aspiring writers to send in their work and publish one on the first Saturday of every month. I submitted this month and although mine was not featured, I thought I would post it anyway. 

Enjoy! 

Fact: I am not a snob

Also a fact: I am prudish and insecure.

Throughout high school, fear plagued my every move. Fear of showing my true colours. Fear of being considered weird. I always had my guard up and sat quietly, eating my salad, while people talked around me. It wasn’t until the end of grade 12 and the beginning of University that I pulled out the topknot ballerina bun and began “living”.

At the age of 18, living means doing the same stupid shit that your friends are doing. This includes but is not limited to drinking, smoking weed, and playing dunb to get noticed by guys. I would jump into pools with my clothes on, take long enough drags out of bongs to hurt my head, and gulp down whatever came out of the funnel during summer parties. The funny thing is that none of this got me a boyfriend, respect, or lasting friendships, it just made me look stupid.

The stupidity heightened one evening when the guy I was seeing broke up with me. It was at my friend’s house, in her hot tub when I tried to kiss him, the taste of marijuana still on my tongue but he backed off and said a simple no. I drove home high, drunk, tired, and without my contact lenses on. I got into bed utterly embarrassed and stunningly surprised that my friends let me drive home and that I actually made it there in one piece. There were other evenings that I’m not proud of; sneaking out to meet a boy, lying to my parents to meet up with people they didn’t approve of, spending evenings at the park smoking weed and wallowing in self-pity.

 
I began to settle into my own skin around the time my sister got married in Dominican. With no schedule and 24 hours to my family and myself, I felt at ease for the first time since University. On our second evening there, I went to the club on the resort with all of my cousins and my boyfriend. I clichéd the crap out of that night; dancing like no one was watching, laughing like the world was going to end, and living as though there was no tomorrow. I did not give a second or third thought to what people thought about me, or if I looked like a fool while I was dancing. It was my night and I felt free.
It would take four years, three failed “relationships”, a few fake friendships, and one incredibly wonderful boyfriend for me to understand that letting your hair down is not about being reckless, naïve, or carefree to a stupid degree. It’s about being so heart-stoppingly comfortable in your own skin that nothing else matters. It’s about living in the moment and chasing after your dreams. It’s about rocking the fuck out of your life.

Rockingly yours,

Vanessa xo

*** Have an idea for a writing prompt?? Once a week I’ll choose a topics that’s been tweeted, emailed, texted, or shouted at me and write about 500 words on it. I’ll write anything from essays to blogs to fiction to poetry and am game for any topic thrown my way!**

Slow Down

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I’ve been told many times that I need to slow down. Whether it comes to texting, tweeting, writing, reading, captioning, getting orders out, or simply making decisions, I tend to rush. I feel the need to get things finished quickly so that I can move onto something else; I am beginning to understand that faster doesn’t always mean better.

I have two methods when it comes to decision-making:

1) I think endlessly about the decision. I weigh out the pros and cons either on paper or in my head. I ask myself questions like: How will this affect me emotionally? physically? mentally? financially? Will this decision improve my life? will it burden anyone?

2) I go with my gut: I want. I like. I buy/do.

I can’t tell you which one is better since I’ve been burned by both. With number one I’ve lost out on loads of opportunities because I took too long to commit, or I thought about it so much that I ended up more confused than when I started. With number two I’ve had numerous cases of buyers remorse, regret, and guilt. When I self-published my books, I had certain dates in mind and refused to not meet my goals. As such, my cousins (aka my only fans) found several spelling or format issues, which I kicked myself in the ass for later. If I had given it a few more months maybe the books would have been closer to perfection.

It would make sense to find a method that is somewhere in between but I can’t seem to find that balance. Is there a speed between fast and slow? Maybe this isn’t really about how quickly or slowly decisions are made but more about trust. The trust a person must have in themselves. The kind of trust that builds confidence and assertiveness. Maybe that’s what I need more of.

Speedily yours,

Vanessa xo

The Bride’s Diary – 4 months to go

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With four months until the big day I’m trying to get the shower organized, figure out which balances are due and when, confirming flowers and decor, sending out invitations, and ensuring my wedding dress will fit after the alterations are complete.

Admittedly all of this is stressing me out. I’m unsure if it is the amount we have left to do or just a lot of things happening at once. It could be leftover stress from planning the wedding all year. The hardest part of planning hasn’t been the lists, appointments, decisions, or money, it’s been trying to balance everyone’s opinions.

I’m sure I mentioned this in previous posts but over the last year I’ve listened to many opinions from numerous people. There have been loads of compromises, arguments, and hidden tears (my own) because of this. I am not a traditional bride, Alex is not a traditional groom but we have people in our lives who like the traditional European wedding. There are many things we’ve said yes to in order to make others happy and although I love and value everyone who has given me their two cents that doesn’t mean I want what they want. Some might say don’t be that way, just make ____ happy. But what about the bride and groom?

Yesterday I decided I would not stress over what others wanted or their opinions. Whatever decisions we have left to make will be made by us and us alone. If we offend anyone in the midst of this decision-making I hope they don’t take it personally (but that is their issue at the end of the day).

Traditions we’re saying no to:

  • corsages/boutonnieres for aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents
  • having our parents’ names on the invitation
  • having a wedding over 200 people
  • getting married in a church
  • having a receiving line
  • having a big bridal party
  • the garter toss
  • speeches
  • the whole entering the hall spectacle
  • the Portuguese midnight fish table
  • traditional thank you gifts

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We’re not against any of these traditions and enjoy going to weddings that include them, they’re just not for us. We don’t like the spotlight and attention gives us the runs. On a personal note; it has become vividly clear that I make a lot of big-life decisions based on what I think other people will think about them. I try to do my best to keep everyone on my side and happy. This is the quickest way to a lifetime of unhappiness. I refuse to let this huge milestone in my life become another burden that I’ve created for myself.

Relentlessly yours,

Vanessa xo 

The Bride’s Diary – The Bachelorette

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Another wedding milestone has come and gone. On Saturday my sister hosted my bachelorette party at Lula Lounge in Toronto. My sister struggled with the planning because I’m kind of weird. I don’t like clubs or big groups, I go to bed early and send my spare time in bed reading. I would rather go to the ROM or the AGO then to a busy nightclub. However I highly doubt my best girls would want to spend their evening in a bookstore or library. After intense Googling, my sister found something that we’d all love; something fun but very me.

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We started the evening with dinner and drinks, laughter and drinks, gossip (and did I mention drinks?). The meal was decent but I don’t think you go to Lula Lounge for the food. You go there for the awesome decor, the vibe, and the incredible music. After dinner we headed to the dance floor where we took up an awkwardly large space and danced our hearts out. 

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Although we were all pooped by 11 PM I had an amazing time. It’s not often that all of us can get together. We all have hectic lives and most of them have children, so when we do get together we make the most of it. I have an amazing group of women in my life who are super crazy, funny, and down-to-earth. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my bachelorette with anyone else!

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Blushingly yours,

Vanessa xo

It began with a phone call

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It began with a phone call, as most adventures do. My brother on the other end of the line, speaking in a hushed tone. He got a flat tire on the highway and needed someone to bring him a spare, some tools, and patience. I volunteered and dragged Alex along.

We found my brother and his girlfriend sitting on the curb beside his car a few minutes from the highway. My brother got right to work, swearing as he accidentally stripped a lug nut. Knowing that there would be no way he could fix it, his girlfriend and I took it upon ourselves to flag down the tow truck driver a few streets away. And by flag down I mean walk ten minutes across a busy intersection, me in my slippers and her in her white converse.

Fast forward 30 minutes and we’re leaning on the hood of my brother’s Miata with a coffee in hand sitting in front of Veer Preet’s auto repair on Dixon Road. With nothing to do but wait, we watched the planes land and take off from opposite directions. The sky was a ombre blue with tinges of golden honey and pink lemonade. A plane flew overhead making me feel incredibly small and vulnerable. As it landed, the wind from the engine nearly blew me over but I held my ground. Feet firmly planted, eyes facing forward.

For the first time in a while I felt steady and strong. It may have been the conversation I had with my friend earlier that day about how much pressure I put on myself. A conversation that reminded me to slow down and stop with all of the expectaitons. Or it could have been this little unplanned evening that took me to a busy mechanic shop where so much was happening, but no one seemed to know what was going on, either way I felt glad.

Glad for that moment of solitude. Glad for a moment where all the pressure I felt disappeared. Thankful for that brief moment of bliss and hope.

“You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.” ― Lisa KleypasLove in the Afternoon

Blissfully yours,

Vanessa xo

Hello Kobo

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The year was 2012 or 2013 and I had just grabbed the last gift hiding beneath the Christmas tree. It was a gift I hadn’t noticed the first few times I snooped around to count how many had my name on it. This gift was wrapped differently than the rest with a label that read  To Vanessa, Love Santa.  It had been years since my mom stopped using the S word so I knew it wasn’t from my parents, which made it all the more interesting.

The gift was the size of a book but far too light to be one. I opened it and saw a brand new Kobo staring back. My heart saddened. I liked real books. The feel of them, the smell of them, the way I could highlight whatever I wanted and write notes in the margins. The eyesore sitting on my lap was no book. No friend of mine. “Santa” turned out to be my then boyfriend (now fiancé). His heart was in the right place, he knew that my love of books was extreme, so much so that I carried one everywhere I went. He thought that this would have been the perfect gift for me. I told him it was, placed it in my room and never looked at it again. Never gave it a chance. A year or so later I gave it away.

Fast forward 4+ years and my bookcase is overflowing, our future condo will not fit the number of books I have collected. My rule is that I can take to the condo only what I can fit in my bookcase. This is somewhat of a problem. Although I don’t receive as many books from publishing houses as I used to, I still purchase quite a few of them and end up giving them away whenever I need to free up space on a shelf.

When I noticed a contest on Casie’s blog for the Kobo Glo HD I thought, hey maybe I’ll give it a try. As luck would have it, I won the Kobo. I met this one with less apprehension than the first, and with an open mind to boot. This little gadget seems to be the answer to all my bookshelf woes. I can download loads of books without cramming up my bookshelf!!

So far I’ve read two books; One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave. Both were well-written, entertaining, and perfect reads for the beach. I just downloaded Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and cannot wait to get started. I’ve noticed that I’ve been reading more since I received the Kobo. I love how compact it is, how easy it is to navigate, how easy it is on my eyes. I enjoy the fact that it tells you how much you’ve read and how quickly. I love that ALL OF THE BOOKS are at my fingertips. I enjoy being able to read on my side or my back without having to hold onto a  heavy book and how I can eat a meal without flipping a page.

I love my Kobo, just so you know.

Bookwormingly yours,

Vanessa xo

Never a Dull Moment

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There are days where I feel incredibly invisible. Days where I take myself so seriously that I literally have nothing nice to say about myself. And then there are moments that bring me down from that lonely dark cloud and into the real world where funny things can happen. Where life surprises me. Lovely moments that make me feel silly, alive, and insanely visible.

I was at Sherway Gardens last week visiting the new Pusateri’s and walking around with my family when I realized how desperately I had to pee. We went to the food court where I immediately ran to the bathroom. It was one of those one-person bathrooms. I ran in, sat down, and picked up my phone to catch up on Twitter when the door began to slowly swing open.

Standing at the doorway was an old woman with white hair, blue eyes, and a blue jogging suit to match. She had hit the automatic door-opener button. It took both of us a few seconds to realize what was happening. Picture me with my jeans around my ankles, my phone in my hand, and my thigh fat spilling over the side of the toilet staring at her like a deer in headlights.

As the door continued to slow-motion its way open, the lady began to apologize and try to pull the door closed. Unfortunately for me, once that button is pressed the door can’t be pulled shut. She pressed the  button again hoping it would close on its own. It most assuredly did not. As people walked by to see what the commotion was I realized that I was going to have to get up and close the door myself. I put my phone down on the floor (ew!), slowly and carefully slipped up my jeans while thanking my lucky stars that I was wore a long and flowy shirt that most likely covered my woman parts, stood up and closed the door. It was only then that I noticed the big red button beside the door with a sign that read PUSH TO LOCK.

…I knew I forgot something.

Embaressingly yours,

Vanessa xo

 

To be influenced…

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Recently I’ve been thinking hard about my current situation, my career, and my place in the world. I’ve wondered about the future and tried desperately to picture what my life will be like in a few years. I’m evaluating my goals while simultaneously taking a good look in the mirror. In doing so I’m realizing so much about who I thought I wanted to be and who I’ve become.

I wanted to be an Influencer; a Toronto blogger attending events, reviewing products, networking, and sharing my adventures. I looked up to my mentors shamelessly and tried to follow in their footsteps. I tried to BE them. There is one pixie-sized blogger in particular who I tried to emulate. My voice began to sound like hers, my blog even started to look like hers. The problem there is that I stopped living my own life, I stopped focusing on my own goals, and I wasn’t being authentic to who I am.

I made my way into the blogging world little by little but never gained the status that I craved. The truth is I will never get to that status because it’s not what I really want, nor does it work with my lifestyle. My ultimate goal is write a novel and with all of the time I spent on Twitter and social media, trying to be something I’m not, I could have written a novel two times over. I think it’s time to leave the Influence/Toronto Blogger game to the pros and focus on my current status, my career, and my writing dreams.

In a world full of constant noise it is so easy to lose sight of what you want and who you are. I have a crazy amount of respect for every blogger and influencer that I follow on social media. It takes a huge amount of gusto to be online all day, every single day, and still hold onto who you are. My Pen, My Voice wouldn’t have existed in its form without these influencers, nor would any of the opportunities I gained in those five years have been possible without them.

This doesn’t mean the end or goodbye when it comes to my blogging. It simply means that I’ll be harnessing my voice once again and going back to my roots. The goal is to stay true to both.

xo,

Vanessa 

 

My View of the Six

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I love the city. Exclamation Point. The skyscrapers, busy sidewalks, welcoming restaurants, and bright lights fill me with excitement. The city is an smorgasbord  of contagious energy brimming with inspiration. I love nothing more than exploring the city and sitting on a warm patio in the summer sunshine, watching an endless parade of people walk by. Each with their own destination in mind. Each with their own story.

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I’ve lived in the suburbs my entire life but for some reason, it is the city that feels like home. Toronto has no expectations of you and welcomes you as you are. It doesn’t care if you’ve washed your hair that day or where you work. All it asks is that you embrace it. That you take your ripped jeans and oversized glasses and find someone to enjoy it with. All it asks is that while you learn from its beauty and history you also leave your mark. Create something, write a blog post, make a painting of your favourite landmark, share a moment with a stranger, use it wisely.

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Toronto holds no judgement and neither do the residents. Everyone is too preoccupied with enjoying their own life that they don’t bother themselves with passing judgement on anyone who crosses their path. This is what I find most refreshing; small towns are great for gossip and unnecessary comparisons. Toronto has no time for that. It only has time for love.

This of course, is just one view of the six. There are loads of people who haven’t had great experiences in or with Toronto. It’s easy for someone who is only there a few times a month to relish in its magic but I truly think that even if I lived in the city I wouldn’t tire of it, I wouldn’t feel jaded. There are so many inspirational business owners, girl bosses, writers, and bloggers in the city to look up to. There are so many alleyways yet to be discovered and restaurants to be tried that a lifetime in the city wouldn’t be enough.

“I love to walk a city, whether I’ve been there once
or a hundred time before.
It’s amazing what sort of inspiration you’ll find
when you steal a second glance
.”  

Erin Hiemstra, Lifestyle Blogger, Apartment 34

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Dinner at Bar Isabel

Open your eyes. If you walk too quickly you just might miss it but once you see it, it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else on that side of College Street. Thick wooden panels frame a gorgeous wooden door illuminated red by the signature Isabel scrawl.


When you walk into the restaurant your eyes need a few minutes to adjust before the warmth of the venue washes over you. Authentic Spanish tiles bring the floor to life, rustic mirrors covering the length of the restaurant make the room feel bigger, the dimly lit space and candles on each table create an oasis for every guest. If you find yourself looking up you’ll notice an array of different light fixtures, adding even more character to an already charismatic space.

Thanks to my current position as Customer Service Coordinator at an importer of Spanish cured meat and specialty items, I’ve become pretty well-versed in the world of Spanish tapas. So while other couples Googled their way through the menu, I comfortably and casually ordered the Lomo Iberico, Chips & Boquerones, the Jamon Tasting (featuring the Trevelez and Iberico de Bellota), the Half Octopus, Jamon Croquetas, Manchego Cheese, and the Bread. I was stumped by a few items and was thoroughly impressed by the staff’s product knowledge and their ability to help us navigate our way through a pretty amazing tapas meal. Our waitress ensured that she would bring out the dishes that went best together until we made our way through the entire order.


What I’m noticing about Spanish tapas is the need for quality ingredients. Since the dishes are small and simple, there has to be enough flavour to bring the dish to life. Everything from the bread to the olive oil to the thinly sliced pieces of Lomo Iberico had its own distinct flavour. A memorable flavour that tickled the palate and ignited the taste buds.

So I guess the ultimate question is, would I go back? Would you go back to a place with great food, a warm atmosphere, and wonderful service? Exactly. I would love to go with a group of people next time, I love the idea of having a few drinks and chatting as we share a few dishes on a warm Toronto evening.

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