Homesick Adult

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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:  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 later 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.

Yours, 

Vanessa xo

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Out of Focus

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The snow is falling without fear, without apprehension. My morning commute is becoming an hour longer than it has to be. My hands grip the wheel as my shoulders hunch up toward my ears. My mind is racing a mile a minute in spite of my car’s snail pace. The flashing break lights in front of me are no longer in focus – I force myself to blink.

If you’re like me, doing one thing at a time isn’t enough. I like to feel busy, to use my time wisely. I like to have a lot different projects on the go. Recently I have been writing for my Writing Group, trying to revamp my blog and pump out a few posts, spending loads of time on social media, looking into the job market to see what else is out there, reading whatever book I can get my hands on, and trying to purchase the necessities for our condo.

The problem is that nothing is getting finished. Everything is started and each time I go back to a new task I’m left frustrated, confused, and cannot seem to focus. I come home from work a stressed out, tired mess and spend my evenings and weekends watching Netflix or making excuses to spend time with my family just to avoid my long-winded to-do list.

Simply put, I cannot do it all. Not all at once.  As much as I’d like to re-brand and revamp my blog, I know that I won’t be able to dedicate myself to the blogging world like I did when I was in my early twenties. So, I’ve chosen to focus on writing for my Writing Group (which I hope leads to the writing of a novel) and reading. I can buy things for the condo closer to our move-in date, I will spend less time on social media, and I’ve signed up for Indeed’s emails to keep me in the loop when it comes to jobs.

It’s time to switch focus and get rid of the blur.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

*photo is a stock photo from WordPress*

2017 – year of the recluse

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With only a few days left in 2017 – I find myself reflecting on the last 360 or so days.  In 2017 I became a bit of a recluse. While everyone I knew was planning a wedding, a family or a vacation, I put my head down and went through the motions of my days. I worked, ate, Netflixed, read, wrote, slept and repeated. I stopped sharing as much as I used to, I took a good hard look at my relationships, my work, and an even longer stare in the mirror. I didn’t like a lot of what I saw so I pulled back as much as I could and tried to figure out what would make me a happier, better person.

I deleted Instagram (more on that here) and then got it back but with an entirely new perspective. I finally understood the importance of using my time wisely and how a filtered collection of photos doesn’t show the whole truth. I looked at photos for what they were and stopped looking for a deeping meaning. I also stopped comparing my life to what I see on Instagram – which was HUGE for me.

I tried to navigate my first year of marriage and all of the speed bumps that came along with it (I wrote about it for SDTC, hopefully it’s published soon). My marriage requires compromise, especially since my husband and I are very different. For 2018 I plan on being less of a nag, being more open to compromise, and letting go of things that don’t matter in the long run.  If there is one thing I learned about marriage it’s that no one will truly understand someone else’s relationship so you’re better off minding your business and worrying about your own.

Amanda and I started a writing group and every month for the last year we’ve met to discuss out work. We recently added a new member to the group which is exciting and scary. She’s still a stranger to me and so talented that sometimes I get shy showing her my work but this group has been an entirely new kind of support system. They’ve pushed me to take chances with my writing and its paid off. I wrote a lot of personal essays and dug as deep as I possibly could, learning that I’m not a bad person but I can also be an asshole. Learning that the best writing is that which people can relate to and if you’re not being real, there’s no point in writing. FOUR of my life stories have been published on SDTC and something else I wrote will be in the 4th issue of Feels Zine. I am beyond thankful for this writing group and the new friendships its yielding.

Speaking of friendships, I realized that just like people, those change too. And that’s okay. There’s no need to beat yourself up about friendships that fade. Embrace the new people who come into your life and be thankful for the friendships that made you who you are today. I spent 24 hours in Blue Mountain with a friend that I’ve known since the tenth grade. We talked continuously for those 24 hours. We are honest and always open to constructive criticism. We’re supportive and can be ourselved with one another. I might see her once every six months but we can always pick up where we left off. It’s those kinds of friendships I will continue to hold on to.

2017 felt immensely draining. I spent a lot of the year in my own head and I still feel a bit lost. As people make plans for the new year and jot down their goals for the future, I’m having a hard time putting mine into words. Sure, I’d love to travel a bit (Boston is on my radar this in the Fall), get more writing published, eat better, work out more, and read more, but there’s something missing…

In a few months I’ll turn 29 and the number 30 is already looming above me. It’s such a huge number and I not sure I’ve lived up to it. What have I really accomplised? Have I used my time wisely? My boss is constantly encouraging me to do things in my spare time that nourish my soul and I haven’t – this could account for feeling lost, inadequate, and bored.

So for 2018 I have one goal to do more things that nourish my soul that make me feel full on life.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Where I’ve Been

I took a break from blogging but hat doesn’t mean I took a break from eating and exploring the city (two of my favourite things). Recently I’ve been to iHalo Krunch, Sud Forno, Ricarda’s, and Baro.

After seeing black and purple ice cream on my Instagram feed for months, I decided to see if my husband would be interested in trying it. After several failed attempts (and by that I mean we refused who wait in a lineup that went to the end of the block) we finally got to hold two charcoal ice team and ice cream cones in our hands. I don’t know what I was expecting but after the first few licks a wave of disappointment flooded over me.

Yes, the ice cream was tasty, yes the photo I got was pretty rad, yes the cone had an interesting flavour BUT there was nothing special about it. The ice cream tasted like regular soft serve, the charcoal stained my teeth (which NO ONE on social media warns you about), and I could have purchased quite a few coffees for the $13.00 we spent on two cones. I’m not trying to rag on iHalo; the shop is minimalist and adorable, the staff is super friendly, and the service is quick and painless. The idea of charcoal ice cream is awesome and I understand the fascination behind it. I think I’m just bitter about being sucked into another social media trend and not getting the instant gratification I was promised.

One morning we headed to Sud Forno on Yonge for breakfast. My husband and I love having bread, sweets, Nutella, croissants, and muffins for breakfast so Sud Forno was just up our alley! This location is big, bright and beautiful. I instantly fell in love with the high ceilings with crisscrossing wooden planks, the tiled floor with various Italian wording throughout, the lush blue booths, and stunning light fixtures. From their stacked bar and hot/cold table to their freshly baked bread wall (yes you read that correctly) they have everything you need for a quick and delicious breakfast or lunch. I haven’t been to their second floor dining space but I can only imagine what beautiful Italian dishes are created up there!

Recently we tried out a Mediterranean inspired restaurant on Peter Street. Ricarda’s is another giant space with ample lighting, comfortable seating, a bar, dining area, and a lounge. They have a breakfast, dinner, lunch, jazz brunch, and tapas menu plus an extensive cocktail list AND bakery. I started my meal with a (much deserved) aperol spritz and it’s the best one I’ve had all summer.

We chose some very familiar dishes; a lemon saffron linguine with calamaretti and mushrooms, pappardelle with duck ragu, a flatbread (which was really a pizza) with mushrooms artichokes, chard, and truffle oil. I have ZERO complaints about the food, atmosphere or service. In fact, the service is what stood out most to me. There was always someone around to answer a question or show you where to find the bathroom. The staff was kind, professional, and knowledgable and they knew when to come to your table and when to give you space.

Last but certainly not least is Baro. I’ve been wanting to try out Baro since it opened and I am so glad we did. If you’re looking for a vibrant, fresh, and colourful restaurant to drown out your crappy work week, Baro is the perfect place to go to on a Friday night. The atmosphere is electric, the music on fire, and the staff super friendly.

We shared five dishes from their menu and not one disappointed! My favourite are actually not photographed; simply since they were eaten faster than I could think to pick up my phone. The fish tacos, wings, and empanadas were AMAZING! I also loved the Chori Papa (chorizo, potato, peppers, chipotle golf, and goat cheese on tortillas).

If you can only try out just one of these I would recommend Baro. It makes for a memorable night with a satisfied stomach.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Seeking Value

After watching a minimalism documentary on Netflix and rereading The Minimalists first book, I’ve become obsessed with the role things and people play in my life. If something or someone doesn’t add value to my life, what’s the point of keeping it around?

I’d been playing around with the idea of getting off of Instagram for almost a year but I couldn’t pinpoint why I didn’t actually need it until I thought about what it did to or for me. When I would ask people for advice they would say things like:

You’re a writer, you should definitely keep your account active (I recently got an essay published and it wasn’t because of my social media. None of my accounts were even linked to the post)

Aren’t you like a blogger? Don’t they need Instagram? (I’m a writer who happens to have a blog. I am not a interior designer, artist, fashion blogger or influencer. I don’t need Instagram.)

You spent years acquiring those followers (And? I don’t interact with any of them. If they need to get ahold of me, they can find my website OR they’ll already have my contact information.)

How will you connect with people? (I will email, call, or text. I will stay in the “know” by reading magazines, blogs, and by experiencing since I’ll have more time to do so.)

Are you crazy? (If feeling alive, unburdened, and in control for the first time in years is crazy then yes.)

I’ve been battling anxiety for a few years now and it’s become blatantly clear that some of this anxiety is due to my use of Instagram (and social media in general). I start my day scrolling through news feeds over my morning coffee, check them again several times during the day (even while driving), and spend my evenings with one hand glued to my phone. I couldn’t go to bed without one final look at Instagram.

Every so often I’ll log onto my Rogers account to see how much data my husband and I have left until our next billing cycle. Last week I noticed that we only had 3 GB to last us fourteen more days. 3 GB for some people is a lot but as my husband is always on the road for work with little to no access to wifi and my office space doesn’t have wifi, it isn’t a lot for us. Since I really didn’t need access to social media while at work I decided to turn off the cellular data for my two most used apps, Twitter and Instagram.

It didn’t take long for me to see how productive I could be at work without social media around to tempt me. I decided that I would keep the cellular data off while at work; it made me more present and exponentially more focused. On the Friday evening of that week, we went to dinner with another couple and I actually didn’t need my phone. I was fully present and took an active role in the conversations being had. Yes, I took a few photos of the food but I didn’t post them and then continue to look at my phone to see how many likes I got. When we got home that evening, I checked Instagram before bed and the more I scrolled the faster the feeling of happiness left me. The high I had from great conversation and a delicious meal was practically forgotten.

Fast forward to the next morning and I decided to delete the actual apps from my phone. This would mean no social media on my phone at ALL. I spent my Saturday actually writing, reading, talking to my parents, and playing with my nieces instead of saying I would and being glued to my phone. My mind didn’t feel as heavy or cluttered as it normally did and I was able to write a blog post, finish a book, and continue planning out my novel. It felt amazing to be doing things instead of looking at what other people were doing.

The more I thought about Instagram the more I realized that it wasn’t adding value to my life. It wasn’t helping me find a new job, it wasn’t giving me time to pursue my passion for writing, it wasn’t connecting me to people in a way provided growth or change, and it certainly wasn’t making me happy. So what was the point? That Sunday, without hesitation I quickly deleted (and not just deactivated) my Instagram account. I’d keep Twitter so that I’d still have a platform to connect with writers and share my work.

Although I know it won’t be easy, I’ll have pangs of regret surface and I may even feel like I’m missing out, I will eventually stop reaching for my cell phone for no reason. I will get used to life without feeling the pressure to post a picture or taking it personally when someone does something that I don’t have the funds to do myself. With the promise of minimal distraction I will be able to put more time and energy into the things I really enjoy and that will add the greatest amount of value to my life.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

this is my time

 

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Notebook from the Dayna Lee Collection

Call me crazy but taking a break from blogging was the best thing I’ve done this year.  Since taking a break I’ve finished a manuscript (and then chucked it out the window), began outlining a completely new project (a NOVEL),  submitted essays to a few online magazines (SHE DOES THE CITY PUBLISHED ONE about me hating everyone and everything while wedding planning), spent more time wandering around Toronto, and developed a confidence rooted in the acceptance of failure.

I owe my new-found motivation to all of the mistakes and shortcomings I’ve experienced in the last few years. I owe it to the like-minded and goal-oriented people I’ve surrounded myself with. I owe it to notebooks with powerful sentiments scribbled on their covers. I owe it to sleeping in and going out.

Most importantly I owe it to myself to use this motivation and allow it to spring me forward.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

 

You Don’t Blog Anymore (what was all of it for?)

I didn’t consciously decide to take a break from writing blog posts, it just happened. I’ve been writing a lot (well some days) thanks to my editing/writing meetings with Amanda (from Be the Next Her) but that’s for a different project. It’s not that I’ve been too busy to blog, I just haven’t felt like it. My mind is focused on other things and my time is being dispersed in very calculated ways.

And now, after an insanely eye-opening conversation with a few of my high-school besties, my time is going to be spent in even more calculated ways. As my friend so eloquently put it:

When struggling with a decision you have to ask yourself:  Is this going to help get me to where I want to be in my life? Is this going to affect my friendship/relationship positively or negatively? Is this adding value to my life?

Based on your answer to these fundamental questions, making decisions will be a helluva lot easier. The only thing left to do is figure out what I want for my life. I know that I want to work in Toronto (with a career rooted in writing and social media), I want to have honest and nurturing friendships, and I want to have a love-filled marriage based on communication and trust. Now that I’ve narrowed down what I want out of life, making decisions might be a little easier.

Yours,

Vanessa xo