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

Pizza Month @qmpizza

Pizza is one of my favourite food groups (pasta and coffee are tied for first). I waitressed at the best pizza place in Bolton for nearly ten years, so when I say that I understand pizza I mean it. From the dough to the sauce to the toppings, everything must be calcualted and made with love. My favourite pizza was made by Domenic Caruso during our lunch breaks. Although the pizza he made was normally thick crust to hold the toppings, for lunch he would make the staff the thinnest crust imaginable. The toppings included broccoli, prosciutto cotto, diced white onions, mozzarella cheese, NO SAUCE, and homemade spicy oil. It was heavenly. I’ve never come close to having pizza I enjoyed as much as my ex-boss’ until now!

Did you know that October is Pizza Month!? To celebrate I was sent a gift certificate for Queen Margherita Pizza by my friends at Brand & Buzzing. Alex and I used it as a an excuse for date night. We headed to the Annette location with nothing but time and empty stomachs.

We started with the grilled kale and fried calamari – both were amazing! Then moved onto the margehrita pizza. The dough was light and thin, the sauce not too sweet, the cheese utterly delicious, the basil and sprinkle of olive oil gave the perfect balance. Alex and I agreed that QMP would be our new go-to pizza place. 

Are you ready to celebrate Pizza Month? QMP is offering margherita pizza + beer = $10 at all 3 locations! 

Carb-lovingly yours,

Vanessa xo

P.S.  This isn’t an ad. I went, I saw, I ate, and I wrote about it. I don’t write about things, places, books, or meals I don’t like. There’s enough negativity in this world. 

Serrano Goes to Cirque! 


I spent last Sunday afternoon in the VIP tent at the Cirque de Soliel! My bosses took the entire Serrano Imports staff to the Luzia show as a little staff appreciation gift.

We were given our VIP passes and escorted into a dark tent filled with with cozy sofas, Mexican decor, hot and delicious hors d’oeuvres, and women with sparkling wine dresses (and I mean that literally, they had dresses holding glasses filled with sparking wine). After an hour or so of chatting with my coworkers we made our way to the main tent to enjoy the show. We were seated about four rows up from centre stage which made the costumes, dancing, and tricks all the more vivid.

I was blown away by the strength and poise the was possessed by every person on the stage. It’s alarming what a human body can do if trained hard enough. Although the stunts were incredible, I fell for the beauty of the stage, costumes, music, and story. At the beginning of the show, the clown comes on stage and turns a key that opens and a magical world filled with wonder. Each act left me longing for a few more seconds of unadulterated bliss.

One of my favourite acts incorporated a man-made waterfall where the water actually depicted different things – flowers, fish, hearts, designs. It was incredibly stunning. 

Luzia made me believe in magic again. It left me feeling hopeful, young, and optimistic. 

Magically yours, 

Vanessa xo 

Podcasting with the Sociphoria Duo

Last week I was invited to sit down with Amanda and Patrick from Sociphoria and join in on their podcast. This duo has amazing chemistry and make their listeners feel like they’re part of the conversation. They tackle topics from Pokemon to happiness to dealing with people who are getting the best of you – they have their own witty spin on each topic and make it easy for the listener to think hey, I’ve been there too! 

We recorded two podcasts, one about the emotional effects of social media and the other about making compromises. As we sat close together, huddled around a tiny microphone I completely forgot about what we were doing and had two of the most honest and thought-provoking conversations I’ve had in a long time.

Am I the only one who forgets what it’s like to have a conversation with someone without simultaneously scrolling through your Instagram feed?  I had my phone beside me but didn’t bother looking at it. Instead I focussed on the people beside me and the thoughts bouncing around in my head. I felt free, conscious, and confident in the words that came out of my mouth. I remembered for an instant what it is like to have your voice heard, to be listened to, to have an opinion. Too often I focus on the written word and I’m glad that this podcast experience reminded me that my vocals are powerful too.

Click the link below to check out the first podcast we recorded – I haven’t listened to it yet but I would LOVE to hear your thoughts.

SOCIPHORIA Episode 14

Talkatively 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

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 

 

Epic Faceplant – a day in the life

I put on my favourite floral pants (from TSOQ), black strappy heels, chunky coral necklace, and new black shirt. I straightened my freshly cut hair, cat-eyed my eyelids, and put on some fresh pink lip balm. For the first time in weeks I felt beautiful, confident, poised, and elegant. I felt like the best version of myself.

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Well, the best version of myself quickly turned into the clumsy version of myself when I face-planted in the parking lot of the even I dressed up to go to. I’d been strutting my thighs out when the  floral pants got caught on my pointed heels. Next thing I knew my knee and palms (one of which holding my iPhone) were on the floor and my heart was pumping in my ears. I got up as quickly as I could, allowed my legs to shake uncontrollably while I said hello to the guest of honour, and made my hobbling way downstairs to the bathroom.

After quickly wiping my knee with paper towel I put my game face on and went back to the party. Apart from minor leg spasms I had a great time. I guess life is a series of tripping over yourself and getting back up again. It’s about putting on your game face even when your legs are crumbling beneath you. It’s about making the most of every fall.

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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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