To all the books I’ve read this year…

To all the books I’ve read this year…

I LOVE YOU. You’ve gotten me through the long months of quarantine and held my hand during the warm summer months. I’ve borrowed you and shared you, I’ve ordered you online and picked you up at my favourite local stores (A Novel Spot & TYPE Books). I’ve downloaded you on my Kobo, spilled coffee on you and marked up your pages. I’ve stayed up late because of you and have fallen asleep with you on my lap.

You’ve been my mirror, my confidant, and my one constant.

Thank you!

Thanks to quarantine I’ve had a lot of time to read this year. Here’s a list of all of the books I’ve read so far. I’ve given them each a rating out of five stars. Please note that this rating is purely based on whether or not I liked the book. I am not going into plot or character development or writing, the stars are simply my overall feelings. My mood at the time that I read the book could have very well informed the star rating.

  1. Ariel Levy – The Rules Do Not Apply 🌟🌟
  2. Ann Napolitano- Dear Edward 🌟🌟
  3. Patti Smith – M Train 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
  4. Julia Armfield – Salt Slow 🌟🌟
  5. Patti Smith – Just Kids 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
  6. Karma Brown – Recipe for a Perfect Wife 🌟🌟🌟
  7. Jia Tolentino – Trick Mirror 🌟🌟🌟
  8. Kiley Reid – Such a fun Age 🌟🌟
  9. Victoria James – Wine Girl 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  10. Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  11. Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
  12. Samantha Irby – Wow, No Thank You 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
  13. Emily St. John Mandel – The Glass Hotel 🌟🌟
  14. Joan Didion – Blue Nights 🌟🌟
  15. Jen Gotch – The Upside of Down 🌟🌟
  16. Julia Alvarez – Afterlife 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  17. Rachel Matlow – Dead Mom Walking 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
  18. Desmond Cole – The Skin We’re In 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  19. Jacqueline Woodson – Red At The Bone 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
  20. Maya Angelou – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  21. Celeste Ng – Little Fires Everywhere 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  22. Julian Barnes – The Only Story 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  23. Erin Morgenstern – The Starless Sea 🌟🌟🌟
  24. Zoe Whittall – Holding Still For As Long As Possible 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  25. J.D. Salinger – Franny and Zooey 🌟🌟🌟
  26. Souvankham Thammavongsa – How to Pronounce Knife 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  27. Fredrik Backman – Anxious People 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  28. Teri Vlassopoulos – Escape Plans 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  29. Zadie Smith – On Beauty 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  30. Heather Morris – The Tattooist of Auschwitz 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  31. David Chang – Eat A Peach πŸ‘ πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

xo, Vanessa

through the fog (a pandemic diary of sorts)

How is it already mid-October? How have we lived through ten months of the year and I barely remember any of it? January and February, in my mind they didn’t happen. March, April, May and parts of June flew by in an instant. I was busy getting used to working from home, to staying home, and not seeing my family or friends. I was busy getting used to spending every moment with my husband in a condo that didn’t seem as small when we first moved in.

Every morning I would wake with a fire burning in my chest. I felt tired all of the time. I felt afraid. I worried constantly about my loved ones and their health. I’d FaceTime my parents and nieces, then cry after we got off of the phone because I missed them so much.

I didn’t think I could get through another day of walking from my bed, to my den for work, to my couch and then back to bed. I didn’t think I could go another weekend without seeing and hugging my family. My anxiety got so bad that I called the doctor and start taking my anxiety medication again. I wrote about this on She Does the City so I won’t dwell on these feelings but I won’t forget them either.

My sister caught me tearing up on one of our daily calls…

Without a my normal routines I became a ghost of myself during those earlier months. If I couldn’t see anyone in person or go out for coffee or even go into the office, then what was I to do? Well, I read a lot of books, watched ALL of the Netflix shows, and allowed myself to do nothing. I watched as my life became very quiet. I slowed right down and looked inside. I thought about what I wanted out of life and now, I’m slowly working toward it.

I know we’re not out of the woods yet but seeing my family, returning to work, driving, getting outside; it’s as if I’ve woken up from a dream.

I’ve been walking for months through thick fog and somehow, some way still ended up back home.

Yes, this year has been full of tears, fears, and sleepless nights but it has also been full of growth and reflection.

So, there’s that.

xo, Vanessa

Homesick Adult

Mom answers the FaceTime call with a smile and a smirk as if she knew I’d be calling her for help. She’s holding her phone too low, all I can see is her chin and up her nose, and yet I feel cozy as a newborn being swaddled. She’s making dinner at her house, so we have to be quick. My husband runs over and grabs my phone so he can show my mom what I’m doing. I follow her instructions as she yells them out: Β Throw everything into the pan. Get a beer. Get the white wine. Poor them in, more. More. In all of the corners. Grab the salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic, and dried parsley. Add them in. More Vanessa, IT’S NOT GOING TO TASTE LIKE ANYTHING IF YOU DON’T ADD ENOUGH SPICES. No, that’s not enough, keep going. Okay. Wash your hands and mix it all together. You missed a corner. Okay now try it. The JUICE that you created with the wine and beer, Vanessa. I think it needs more salt, I know I can’t taste it but I can tell. Okay. You’re good. Now get it in the oven.

I’m wearing an apron from my first part-time job. It is faded black and reaches just above my knees. Across the chest is the familiar threaded white block letters that read CARUSO with a red and white line underneath.

I have a sink full of potatoes and defrosted sausage. The mushrooms, yellow, red, and orange peppers are already chopped and sitting hazardous close to the edge of my tiny kitchen counter. Every light in our condo is on and every blind is open as if the brightness will shed some light on what I should be doing with the ingredients in front of me. I know that they can be turned into something delicious. I know that with the addition of a few spices, our 600 square foot condo can smell exactly like my parent’s house. I just don’t know how.

This is the second meal I am making in our condo and if the first one is any indication, this too will be a tasteless nightmare. I’m not sure what happened with meal one. I did everything exactly how my mother would do it. I marinated the chicken early on in the day so the juices would make the big white breasts moist and succulent. I cut and boiled the broccoli for the same amount of time as my mother would AND I even bought the same microwave-minute rice that she does. But, when we sat down to eat the meal that took me all day to create it did not taste like anything. I’ve actually belched things with more flavour.

Over the 29 years I lived with my parents, I watched my mom cook meal number 2 numerous times. I should know how to throw sausages, potatoes, peppers and mushrooms into a pan and make it taste good. But the horror from the previous night was too much to bare so, of course, I had no choice but to call my mom. Apart from taking over an hour to cook in our condo-sized-easy-bake-oven, the meal was perfect. All plates were empty, all stomachs full.

It wasn’t until a few days laterΒ that I realized making a delicious meal was more about creating the same environment that my mom did at home than impressing my husband or my friends. Every meal made in our condo will be more about being homesick than about adding fuel to my body.

My husband and I got married two years ago and since we had to wait for our condo to be built, we lived with my parents. There were many a thing that got on my nerves: it seemed like there was always someone around, the basement was too cold and dark to read or feel creative enough to write (honestly, where does my brain come up with this stuff?), the family dog barking all of the time, and limited privacy. By year two of living as a married woman in my parents’ basement, I was itching to get out. I counted down the days, hours, and minutes until move-in day. I was depressed when it had gotten delayed by a few months, and I found any reason I could to get out of the house.

We got very close to my parents during those two years. We had dinner with them every night and spent weekends lounging around the house with them because we had to save money. My husband would always join my parents for a nightcap and would stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking about Donald Trump, stocks, life, and whatever else came to mind. The moment we got our official move-in date, my husband and I started to feel sad. Yes, we were excited to get our own place but something just didn’t sit right. My mom helped me pack, move, and painted out entire condo over three days to ensure we would settle in quickly. She went shopping with me and spent two weeks forgetting whatever she had to do in her home to make my transition easier.

Our first weekend in the condo was easy because my husband and I were both at home. The second week, not so much. I would jolt awake every morning at 5:00 AM after my husband said goodbye and left for the day. The quiet of the condo invaded my ears; realizing that my dog wasn’t going to come to wake me up, or my mom wouldn’t be sitting in the backyard having her cigarette not only made me feel lonely but spun me into a panic.

Every. Single. Morning.

We went to my parents’ house for dinner the other night. I felt more at home there than in our condo. I felt safe. The house was filled with people and the scent of pasta sauce cooked lovingly for eight hours wafted through the house. We were only there for a few hours and we didn’t want to leave. When we got in the car and drove away we both sighed and looked at each other. I was already crying and my husband’s eyes were a little wet as well. We immediately began listing the things we missed about living with my parents:

  1. Someone was always there to talk to

  2. Family dinners (both delicious and fun)

  3. The cool dark basement that was ours

  4. Waffles – the family dog who is as cute as he is annoying

  5. My nieces – who always seem to be at my parents’ house

  6. Hanging out with my parents – learning from them, laughing with them

I, honestly, didn’t want to go home (to the condo) and the homesickness ate away at us the entire drive home. I know that there is a point where you have to be independent and grow the fuck up and I want to. I do. I just never thought I would feel this homesick. Some people, including my parents, would say that they babied us too much (my sister, brother, and husband included). Some people would say that we’re spoiled and need to cut the cord. I would agree if I didn’t feel homesick as fuck. My parents created a home that was free of judgement, full of safety, and EVEN when we were all annoyed by each other, overflowing with love. They created a home that their kids don’t want to leave and I am so thankful for that.

Apparently feeling homesick is natural, especially for those who’ve never been away from home. It just means that you miss the place you felt safe and secure. I am a basketcase full of insecurities so it only makes sense that I miss home. I cringe with slight embarrassment when I think about the cry-fest I had during that drive home. My mom keeps telling me that I’ll adjust and get used to not living with them and even though that might be true, I’ll always think of their house as my home.

xo, Vanessa

Thoughts from a loft in Old Montreal

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This is not a travel diary. I’m not going to tell you what to pack when you go to Montreal, or where to stay because I’m not that kind of blogger and there are LOADS of blogs about that out there. I will tell you where to eat in another post because my trips are generally remembered by what I ate, not what I wore or what I brought with me.

But I digress…

When I travel, I tend to come back a different person. Of course no trip has been able to cure my anxiety, OCD, or desire to stick to a schedule but they do open my eyes and heart to new ways of being.

Anyone who knows me (or reads my blog) knows that I struggle when it comes to making decisions. I struggle with self-confidence and I am constantly questioning who I am and what I want out of life.Β  I compare myself to others and just want to be liked!

As I sit here in the loft we booked months ago, with my husband asleep by my side, the one thought that keeps running through my mind is LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE. The energy, the vibe, the people in Old Montreal appear to be living their best lives. There is a happiness in the air, a calmness, a I am who I am and I ain’t sorry about it feeling. It’s addictive. I want it.

I want to wake up almost every morning and feel as though I am living up to my potential. That I am taking on new challenges and failing or succeeding with poise and grace. That’s the feeling that you get when you spend a few days in this place. Like you are obligated to do what you want in life and not be sorry for it.

P.S. I also want to learn how to speak French.

xo, Vanessa