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

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

Foodie Friday – Featuring Montreal

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As you may have noticed from my Instagram or Twitter feed, Alex and I spent the last three days in Montreal for part two of our honeymoon.  Although I had every intention of shopping and cooking in the loft (hotel) we stayed in, we decided that it might be better if we enjoy all of the amazing food that Montreal has to offer.

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Brunch at Maison Christian Faure

After a five-hour drive all I could think about was coffee and food. We checked into our hotel and found the closest bistro. Maison Christian Faure is bright, white, and a breath of fresh air. Their cappuccino was the best I had during our trip and their club sandwich the most filling. I have to admit that Alex ordered the better dish: a ham, cheese, and mushroom croissant. The croissant was made of buttery dreams and magic (or whatever croissants are made of). It was fluffy, crunchy, and savory whereas my sandwich (although tasty) had cold chicken and hard-boiled eggs. Definitely not as magical. The sandwich did come with crispy chips and a fresh salad though.

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Alex’s ham, cheese, and mushroom croissant.
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My club sandwich

Dinner at Tapas 24

Full disclosure; since I work for Serrano Imports (an importer of Spanish cured meats and specialty items) I take any meals at Spanish Tapas restaurants very seriously.

Tapas 24 has an extensive tapas menu and loads of drinks to choose from. They have two ways to order, either you pick and choose from the menu or you give your waitress your budget and she comes up with your perfect menu. We chose the former since I can proudly list off any of the items with the correct pronunciation.

I’ve been to several Spanish restaurants in Toronto and was happy to see what Montreal had to offer. The jamon croquettes and boquerones (white anchovies) were delicious and the bread with manchego cheese divine, but the highlight of our meal was the sausage and seafood paella. The protein was cooked to perfection while the rice still had a bite to it. It was perfectly seasoned and exactly what we needed to fill us up.

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from left to right: salchichon iberico, jamon iberico, and chorizo iberico – Also, BREAD ❤

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Breakfast at Tommy

If I was a place and not a person I would be Tommy: simple, classic, and highly caffeinated. Picture white walls, high ceilings, and a leafy chandelier mixed with three floors of industrial looking chairs and tables and couches taken directly from an Anthropologie catalogue. The smell of coffee creates an intoxicating hazy smog begging any who enter to order a cup or two. Did I mention they had a mix of modern jazz and amazing oldies meant to serenade all of your troubles away?

OH! We went very simple for breakfast and munched on a Nutella brioche and croissant while downing a few strong and tasty cups of joe. I promised myself that if I ever find return to Montreal I will spend a few days sitting in Tommy, writing to my heart’s content.

Lunch at Le Magasin Général du Vieux-Montréal

On a desperate hunt for soup and salad, we stumbled into Le Magasin Général du Vieux-Montréal which is a store of awesome trinkets, as well as, a place to eat. Think exposed brick, hipster severs, and a live piano player stuffed in between crowded tables.

Unfortunately, on this cool April day in Montreal the restaurant we stumbled into didn’t have a soup of the day as the menu made us believe. So, as per usual, I settled for a club sandwich and salad. The chicken was warm and meaty, the salad and veggies utterly fresh and expertly dressed. The meal was so good that I forgot all about the soup and  the fact that I planned on taking a photo to chronicle meal deux on jour deux in Montreal.

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Dinner at Bevo

If you’re looking for a good plate of pasta, look no further than Bevo. The lasagna tasted like Nonna’s (bechamel sauce anyone?) and the gnocchi hit the spot. For me, pasta is all about the sauce and although their sauce didn’t taste like my mom’s it was definitely an authentic Italian tomato-based sauce.

I would recommend trying pizza, as that is what they’re known for. Nearly every table around us got a pizza and as I sat there and watched them eat, I had serious regrets ordering pasta. If you happen to be in the area, FedEx me a slice?

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Lunch at Montreal Poutine

The only time I ever crave fries with gravy is Thanksgiving.  We have this decade-old tradition of heading to Downey’s Farm and getting fries from the food truck on their grounds. They used to be my favourite spot for fries, until the other day when I tried Montreal Poutine.

Crispy fries, thick gravy, and creamy cheese curds – what more can you ask for on a gloomy Wednesday? Good service maybe? Well, you’re in luck because the staff at Montreal Poutine is just as wonderful as their fries! Go. Just go. You won’t regret it!

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Dinner at Joe Beef

Where do I even begin to explain the experience of dining at Joe Beef? If you’re looking for fresh ingredients, incredible service, and a completely new dining experience, Joe Beef is the place.

We only managed to squeeze in a last-minute reservation thanks to my boss: a spot at the bar at 7:00 PM on a Wednesday. I’ll admit that I was less than thrilled to be propped up at a crowded bar but now that I’ve eaten there, I wouldn’t have dined any other way.

Two minutes after being seated we were on first-name basis with every server, bartender, waiter, and busboy within reach. Each person met us with grins and firm handshakes, as if they wanted to get to know us (and everyone else sitting nearby because that is exactly how they treated each customer).

Our waiter/bartender slowly and generously went through the entire menu with us, as it’s written on a chalkboard above the bar and in French.  His knowledge was extensive and incredibly impressive. He even recommended which dishes we should try and knew which wines we would enjoy most.

We ate like pigs kings. We tried six of the appetizers before moving onto our mains. I tried things that I have never eaten in my life – like chicken liver mousse and tartare! Each dish was presented with such beauty and purpose that I couldn’t help but dig into delicacies that I never thought I would try (I’m a food lover but not a very adventurous one).

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Calamari stuffed with sausage in a lobster bisque sauce etc. etc.
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Lamb tartare and chickpeas etc. etc.
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Jambon, fresh mozzarella, and asparagus

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Alex’s main – it was demolished before I got to taste it
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Bone marrow and mashed potatoes (I WOULD GO BACK JUST FOR THIS)!!!
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Lobster spaghetti, need I say more?

Between dishes we chatted with the staff and other customers sitting beside us. We shared drinks with them, laughed with them, and enjoyed nearly three hours of food, great music, and honest conversation. I would go back to Montreal JUST for the atmosphere at Joe Beef. Every person on staff looked happy, like they were having fun, like they loved their jobs, like they were unapologetically living their best lives! Have you ever felt that way about work or witnessed anyone at work who did? I haven’t and their vibe was completely infectious.

I’m not sure if every evening at Joe Beef is as unbelievable as the evening that Alex and I shared but I like to think that they are. I like to think that every guest at Joe Beef leaves  feeling full, satisfied, and optimistic about their own future.

Thank you for everyone working that night for an evening to remember! A special shout out to Chef Marco; thank you for a meal that I’ve actually run out of adjectives trying to describe.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Satisfaction (not) Guaranteed

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WANT NOTHING + DO ANYTHING = HAVE EVERYTHING

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m currently reading The Happiness Equation. I’m trying to figure out how to be happy every single day. First things first – I am NOT unhappy. I am very happy. I have a good family, a wonderful husband, and a steady job. However, there are many mornings where I wake up feeling dissatisfied, where I want more, where my current job, phone, or writing is just not enough.

According to The Happiness Equation, I’m not the only one. We’ve gone from a society who was happy with what they had to a society that is always reaching for more. For society as a whole this is amazing! It’s progress! It’s evolution! It’s change! It’s technology! But as individuals, is it good to always want more? How draining is it to always feel unsatisfied?

When I got my iPhone 5SE I was in love but as soon as the 7 came come, my phone just wasn’t enough. When I self-published my first book I was completely content until 3 seconds after my book launch. That very evening I wanted to write another book but get it published by an actual publishing company this time. When I worked at Caruso’s all I wanted was a full time job and a proper paycheck. Now that I have one, I yearn to make more money, to move up, to move on.

We have a coffee, we want a second cup.

We have sex, we want to do it again.

We achieve a goal, we want to make a new one.

I am all for self-improvement, for growth, for becoming a better person, for pursuing your passions. But shouldn’t that moment of happiness, of contentment, of pride, last a little longer? Shouldn’t we relish in those feelings before we dismiss them and move on?

Yours,

Vanessa xo

My BEST Life

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Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, when there are too many people at home, or when my anxiety gets to its max, I go for a car wash. The vibrant colour of the soap combined with the sound of the brushes smacking against the car create a womb of comfort. I can move forward without actually doing anything. I don’t have to worry. I can coast and allow my thoughts to hatch without any sort of distraction.

Last week I decided to get a car wash because I don’t think I’m living my best life. There, I said it. Like many people (I’m sure), my weeks blend into one another without a moment of real pause for excitement. I wake up early, head to work, work my 8+ hours, come home, eat, work out (if I find the energy), sleep and begin again. I find little joy in what I do. My job is great and challenging in its own right but most days I feel as though I might be wasting my time. I am reminded quite often that a job is a job. You have to work, you have to make money but that can’t be all there is to life, can it?

Apart from feeling unfulfilled at work I noticed that I haven’t been taking care of myself. I used to work out 5-7 days a week and now I’ll be lucky if I get 2 or 3 days in. I used to write and read like crazy and now I don’t. I used to go for a manicure or pedicure and really enjoy pampering myself, now I don’t. I used to stay away from sweets and junk food and now I can’t.

There are many things I am proud of and so many people in my life that fill me with warmth and happiness, but there is a large piece of me that knows I am not living my best life. I keep thinking that if it all disappeared tomorrow, what would I regret not doing? What would I wish I had made more time for? Which routines would I regret not breaking?

Questioningly yours,

Vanessa xo

How’s Married Life?

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When family and friends ask me how married life is going, I stand there with a blank look on my face  or stare at my phone with a million thoughts running through my head. Most of these thoughts are works of fiction filled with lust, drama, and romance.

How’s married life? they ask

Oh it’s wonderful! He’s more kind and caring than he’s ever been. He literally cannot keep his hands off me and sends me dirty text messages and brings home bouquets of roses. Only a few months into our marriage and we’ve filled our days with adventure, wine, and music that inspires us to dance.  He spins me around and leaves me breathless.

How’s married life? they ask

Well, it’s nothing like I imagined. It’s like the magician has disappeared and I’m left standing in a reality that I don’t recognize. We’ve let ourselves go and all bets are off. We’re far more gross and weird than we’ve let on and it’s beginning to wear us thin. We don’t go more than a few hours without seeing each other and are constantly getting on each other’s  nerves.

How’s married life? they ask

It’s like having a second full-time job. It’s a lot of work and the work has only just begun. We’re learning how to live together and still stay sane. Some days we want to strangle one another while other days we don’t want to be around anyone else. The hardest part in mixing our two lives into one.

Of course I don’t say any of this out loud. I allow these little stories to flutter around in my head because they seem far more interesting than the current status of my reality. How’s married life? The truth is it’s comfortable. Not much has changed from us dating to us being husband and wife. We have the same arguments, enjoy the same moments, and as much as I wish he was suddenly more weird and gross so I would have something to write about, he isn’t.

How’s married life? It’s wonderful and silly and fun and infuriating and a work-in-progress. What’s married life? It’s different for every couple so it’s difficult to explain.  For us, it’s sweat and farts and morning-breath and smiles and laughter. It’s planning for the future and figuring things out together. It’s comfort and boredom and rare moments  where I still find butterflies in fluttering around in my stomach. 

How’s married life? It’s great!

Happily yours,

Vanessa xo

 

My Breakfast with Fate

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Fate can come in different shapes and forms; it can be personified as a person, place, coincidence, accident, letter, email, or sign. I met Fate mid-Sunday morning at a new diner close to home. This version of Fate came in a 5 foot 2 bundle of confidence and happiness complete with gorgeous eyes and an open heart. I call her Alanna, mostly because that is her name but I digress.

Alanna and I have been friends since high school and after we meet up I always find myself a smidgen more confident and a boatload more inspired. As always, our conversation went from love and married life to work, family, and friends. We talked about adulting and everything that goes along with it. What struck me most about our conversation was how in the last few years we’ve changed dramatically. Thanks to our own circumstances, we’ve become more confident, happy, and untouched by the opinions of others. We went from caring about what people think about us to completely not giving a f*&$. There is an incredible freedom that comes with letting going of insecurities brought on by other.

Eventually our conversation veered to our creative pursuits, she is one half of Out of the Blue and I’m a writer.  She asked me how my writing is going and it’s definitely going – fingers crossed that the literary agent interested in my work gets back to me in 2017 with some good news. We started talking about another story that I’ve been itching to write. A story that has been right in front of me for years but I haven’t sat down to let it all out. It would be really cool to see both perspectives side-by-side.  I think you should write this book, Alanna said.

The more we discussed it the more I realized that I had to go for it…

Writerly yours,

Vanessa xo