Author Archives: Vanessa

How to Overcome a Shitty Start to the New Year (2015 Edition)

I spent Christmas Eve through December 29th more or less glued to one of three toilets in my parent’s home, with my first ever bout of the stomach flu. Thankfully, it wasn’t the vomiting kind – allowing me to avoid my life’s greatest fear. Oh but how I worried it would happen as the grand finale to end all symptoms. In the end, Immodium saved the day after a valiant return (we broke up two years ago). Yay TMI.

Not only that but my mom accused me of being depressed and manifesting the entire illness due to stress and anxiety. I knew in my heart she was wrong but for a minute I had visions of stretchers and strait jackets, a la Girl Interrupted. Double fist pump.

I fought with the person I’m dating (multiple times). I fought with her. My parents fought. The days leading up to and following “THE NEW YEAR” were, well, really shitty (in more ways than one). And let’s just say Instagram wasn’t helping matters.

I didn’t feel safe and secure in my parent’s home, but I didn’t want to leave. Because I wanted to be taken care of (and car access…fine cable too). Suddenly, all the inner work and calm of the past twelve months flew down the drain. I spent December manifesting how I want to feel in 2015 (I recommend the Holiday Council Course, but here is a FREE intention setting resource by Nicole Antoinette). My reality was the opposite of: RADIANT, CONNECTED, DELIBERATE and BOLD. How ironic.

I sulked for a while and then got down to work. Here are small, habit-forming changes I’m committed to making this year. I hope they spark some ideas & action for you too!

Core desired feelings of radiant, deliberate, connected and bold

This is what rooted for growth looks like (Pinterest you so fine)

Commit to these eight new habits in 2015 to feel radiant, deliberate and bold

1. Plaster your vision (board) everywhere

2015’s theme is “Rooted for Growth. ” I spent most of last year floating through life, not committing to anything all wishy-washy. This year I want to renew my vows to myself, my career, romance, real estate you name it.

You can use Pic Monkey to create a digital collage of images and then make it your laptop screensaver (your iPhone too). You can post it in your cubicle (ultra glam) or stick it to your fridge (hi magnets) so your bleary-eyed ass gets a stare down every morning (hiss: “are you game?”)

Last year I created a poster size collage and never looked at it. So far, this new method is much better at keeping me inspired by and in touch with my vision.

2. Meditate Twice a DaY (to keep the doc away)

If I had a penny every time someone recommended meditation generically or specifically after speaking with me I’d be rich. It’s like FINE. You wore me down. I’ll DO IT!

By July of 2014 I was using this theta wave song once or twice a week for 15-20 minutes. This year, it will be like brushing my teeth (non negotiable). Five minutes in the morning and at least five at night. Here is a video on how to meditate monk styles. Click here for a bunch of guided meditations I have never tried. Click here for a 30-day meditation challenge beginning Feb 1. Or try this App.

3. Do a 5 minute Daily Journal Reflection

I listened to a podcast with UJ Ramdas who is the founder of the “five minute journal.” Just answer three questions in the morning and two at night to keep you in a positive frame of mind. I just started yesterday but am excited. It is very manageable time wise.

4. Create a Gratitude/Positivity Jar
Someone in Holiday Council shared how she wrote down positive moments on paper, folded them into a once empty jar and then re-read them when she was sad, as well as at the end of the year for review and reflection purposes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hot date with Dollarama.

5. Get your Fitness on at least Twice a Week

Last year I was lucky to get active once a week and that just isn’t enough. I took a break from yoga for a couple of months and missed it. I might also pick dance back up and dabble in kickboxing during this polar vortex season.

But from spring until fall, I’m going to jog two to three times a week for a half hour. I always admired runners but never felt motivated to be one of them. After California I felt the call and started to use the “Couch to 5K” App but then it got too cold and dark to continue (bah humbug). I’m also running a 5k this year for the first time ever – preferably a fun one like “Colour me Rad”.

6. Stop Waiting for someone to come along before you hit up your bucket list

I would rather invest in real estate with the power and safety of dual incomes and life savings. I would rather go back to school or make a significant career change when I have the emotional support and financial safety of a partner to temporarily weather the storm. I’m even saving a visit to Toronto’s new(ish) aquarium because it would make a great date night. Not to mention travel. Even if I replace boyfriend with friend, I am still making myself dependent on someone else’s whims and/or life circumstances before doing what I want to do.

Okay so this one is more of a mantra or mindset but I’m going to commit to the experiences I’m craving and inform my friends and anyone I’m dating at the time of the details. If they want to join, great! If not, I’m doing it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

7. Dress for Success

I decided to invest in boxing week sales and upgrade my professional wardrobe because a button up dress shirt will not define me. And when I make it (wherever that is), I will no longer wear one. But until then, I’m going to fake feeling like an adult until I make it (courtesy of Banana Republic, land of the spontaneous daily sale).

8. Don’t Rely on Chance: Get an Accountability Plan

I’m going to mark down with stickers on a physical calendar the days I meditated and journalled (Gretchin Rubin styles) and then expand it to other goals. I’m going to check in monthly on my 2015 plan instead of holding my breath, closing my eyes and hoping for the best. I might recruit a buddy to be an accountability coach. IT’S ON!

So tell me, did your New Year start off rocky or was it fabulous? What habits do you want to integrate this year?

2014 In Review: On Letting Go & Wearing Big Girl Pant(ies)

In 2014 I discovered this thing called “Desire Mapping” by Danielle La Porte, which is all about identifying how you want to feel and then taking action in alignment with those feelings.

In retrospect, 2014 was all about making peace with the past. If I had to sum up the theme it would be “Surrender and Let Go” in order to truly move forward. I sought out teachers and spiritual healers of all kinds and re-read old diaries (twice) in my quest for answers and closure. I fell in love with and loathed the girl I used to be. Below are some key highlights filed under 2014’s relevant desired feelings.

Feel Nourished + At Ease: Work on Your Mind & Body

I started the year 8 pounds lighter, a consequence of an emotionally turbulent 2013. I really wanted to get my digestive issues under control and for the most part I did. By the end of the year, I had gained 10 pounds.

Most of it had to do with making peace with the past and getting better at removing myself from situations that I did not want to be in. I dabbled with meditation midway through the year. I tried Kundalini Yoga (meh) and Tai Chi (double meh).

But I also cooked more home food with the help of my mom so I had more control over what I was putting into my body. I also started a daily routine of probiotic powder in water with L-Glutamine, plus an acid reflux pill (after a terrifying introduction to heartburn, how shexy).

Feel Free + Flow: Move Out & Don’t Look Back

January gave me the first opportunity to go with the flow, freeing myself from imposed limitations and boundaries. The result was feeling full and alive.

In February, I rolled with the flow of a scary car crash that renewed my faith in people, fate and led to my first taste of independent living. I danced around my borrowed digs almost daily. I went car free Monday through Friday and eventually settled into a neighborhood I had only barely considered.

With permission to just be and lots of quiet, I finally let out bottled up emotions and cried everyday for three weeks until the tears stopped coming. I tried not to ask others for advice as often, especially for minor decisions.

Feel Expressive: Take a Course

I signed up for two UCLA online courses. The first involved creating a feature film outline based on a real life figure, using the Save the Cat framework. Most people chose legit historical figures like Einstein but I chose myself circa 2013, which made it really difficult to see the forest from the trees. When the story diverted too far from the truth, I turned my sights to memoir.

During “An Introduction to the Personal Essay” I pumped out three based on different real life experiences, which was freeing, awakening and therapeutic. I loved reading everyone’s work, giving feedback and receiving peer and instructor feedback weekly. Both courses were 100% hands on reading & writing.

Feel Love: Open your heart

In 2014 I tried my hardest to love myself as exhibited by all of the above. I reached out in love to a former best friend in January and enjoyed a healing reconciliation.

I experienced three different love connections this year, from super fleeting, to semi fleeting, to hopefully not fleeting. My heart was invested in all three and none of them were planned. One of them hurt like a b*tch but all of them felt like they were gifts from above in order to teach me a lesson I was ready to learn.

How was your 2014? What worked and what didn’t? What surprised you?    

How to Plan Your California Road Trip: From San Francisco to Los Angeles

I want to help you structure your California road trip on the pacific coast highway (PCH) so you maximize time out of the car, actually immersed in your surroundings.

But first, I have a confession to make. This Cali trip was intended as a solo expedition to prove that I CAN and not allow my single status to hinder life experiences. But all that changed due to budgetary and itinerary sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make, plus a parental throw down along the lines of “over our dead bodies are you going to LA by yourself”. I’ve learned that only when I don’t heed their advice, are they right and I couldn’t handle any more drama, so I listened.

Instead of flying between LA and San Fran (1 hour, $100), my dad met me for the coastal drive (4353835 hours, $100+ in gas) but it was so worth it. I think we both learned about each other – he says all you have to do is feed me every 3 hours (after two near starvation experiences in one day). I learned that he has difficulty tolerating me in my least perfect moments (road trips are stressful and uncertain).

What I said to a stranger: "he's my daddy, not my sugar daddy" #onlyinLA

What I said to a stranger: “he’s my daddy, not my sugar daddy” #onlyinLA

In truth, I felt a bit disappointed for needing accompaniment but I couldn’t tell if it was my soul or ego talking. At least part of my motivation was to keep up with the independent, fearless women of the Internet and sound badass at the water cooler. But enough about me, this is about you!

When to go to San Francisco / California Coast  & Other Practicalities

San Fran is at its best weather wise in September and October BUT daylight hours are more limited so if you can’t do the ideal itinerary below, go in June to maximize sightseeing. Also the ocean is warmest in September at the end of the season (71F).

In terms of planning a weekend trip to Yosemite OR Tahoe – I would suggest booking last minute after you’ve arrived and based on the weather forecast. Outkast says it best: “You can paint a pretty picture but you can’t predict the weather”.

If you want to do any camping, I’d suggest early to mid September as a sweet spot. I found tours that did 2 nights and 3 days with camping in both Tahoe & Yosemite (for $500) but that would be intense driving and cold at night. Yosemite single day trips are available, but involve 7 hours on the road.

Freezing my buns off in Tahoe - 5 degree freak show

Freezing my buns off in Tahoe – 5 degree freak show

The Drive Itself from San Francisco to Los Angeles (LA) & Other Practicalities

California is full of mountains from top to bottom, which are 50 shades of brown (likely due to the drought). There is no cell or radio reception in Big Sur so bring CDs or a fully charged iPOD for the journey. Roadside service stations didn’t exist – you had to bank on the next town for sustenance.

Also Americans don’t seem to believe in streetlights. I would invest in a data plan since Google Maps App saved us many times (better than GPS).  And while they say Canadians are polite, West Coasters are so nice, happy and helpful.

I’ve never seen so many active and fit people in my life, from those biking the steep and windy roads to jogging Runyon Canyon in 40 degree weather. They must not be eating in the restaurants where portions are massive. You can easily split an entrée and appetizer for two and save some dough.  LA had the most organic and gluten free options, plus juice bars (vegan treats were harder to spot). Whole Foods will rob you and Starbucks is the equivalent of Tim Hortons (no value coffee chain).

In terms of accommodations, prepare to spend $200 – $300 a night for a hotel, motel or AirBnB. I booked three AirBnB’s but can only recommend the one in Lake Tahoe (Rick Gunn is my idol). I was expecting a personal experience where you hang out with the hosts but that wasn’t the case. Plus you have to make your bed on vacay (boo).

An Ideal California Coast Road Trip Itinerary from Los Angeles (LA) to San Francisco

If I could redo the trip, here’s what I would change. Keep in mind that subjectivity counts. Also if you’ve already been to either LA or San Fran on a standalone trip, you can shave days off in both city centers, which is budget friendly.

4 – 6 nights in the Bay Area based on your Itinerary

  • 4 Days in San Fran area proper (including one nearby excursion i.e. Sausalito/Muir Woods or Napa for a half day). Stay in City Centre. I hear road to Muir is extremely windy. Sausalito was a diluted version of coastal Europe.
  • 2 nights / 2 days at either Tahoe or Yosemite (if you want to mimic my itinerary) but not both as they are 5.5 hours apart (learned that the hard way and lost a hotel booking). Tahoe is 4 hours away, 1.5 of which include ascending and descending 8,000 feet.
Full House Credits - all day every day. Everywhere you look...

Full House Credits – all day every day. Everywhere you look…

The California Coast:  3 – 5 nights (instead of 2)

  • 1 – 2 nights in either Monterey or Carmel. If you skip Santa Cruz and drive straight to Monterey for lunch, drive the 17 mile and head to Carmel for dinner/overnight.
  • 1 – 2 nights in Big Sur area – the windiest roads, with the best views and most natural attractions (parks for hiking etc.) Big Sur has limited options (camping, cabins or pricy motels/hotels i.e. $400 – $500 a night). Book this first and base the rest of the trip around its availability.
  • 1 night in Cambria – cute, small town, ocean front, and one of the first towns an hour after Big Sur. My dad and I crammed everything before this point into the same day. This was our first coastal overnight.
  • I would stop in Santa Barbara for an afternoon but I wouldn’t do an overnight there unless you want to hit up the Camarillo outlets without backtracking from LA (1 hour north on the 101). We did an overnight here and regretted it. Stay by State street. Morro Bay and Pismo Beach are worth skipping too, especially the latter.
The Magic of Big Sur. Worth the headache & drugs.

The Magic of Big Sur. Worth the headache & drugs.

3 – 4 full days in Los Angeles (Instead of 2) 

  • Malibu was underwhelming (The Real Housewives say hi) though we didn’t see Zuma Beach (supposed to be nice, no bathrooms). Paradise Cove charges $40 per car and loses sunlight rather early (#europedoesitbetter).
  • Talk shows only film Monday to Thursday and are a full day thing. Ellen gets booked way in advance.
  • Stay by the water, where it is much cooler and comfortable if you can. Also “heated” pools matter off season.
  • Venice Beach is tacky bordering on terrifying. There were a lot more homeless people too (Hollywood dreams gone wrong?). Santa Monica is nice, if you like to hear kids screaming on rides. 3rd street has a nice pedestrian promenade with shops & restos (check out The Misfit). Lemonade (the franchise) is awesome – let’s start one and get rich.
  • You can rent bikes along the water at Marina Del Ray, Venice Beach or Santa Monica (and likely other beaches too).
  • Runyon Canyon has no bathrooms and its all uphill when you get there. We learned that the hard way.
Santa Monica Fun #pplinLAmademenervous

Santa Monica Fun #pplinLAmademenervous

I’d go back to Cali but I would take on less, be more clear on “must have” experiences, go slowly, stay in hotels or with friends and I would do LA down to San Diego for more palatable beaches. It wasn’t as rejuvenating as Europe – just mildly disorienting and unfamiliar, without castles, ruins or temples to awaken your soul. But still a nice break from the routine of every day.

Leave your Cali travel tips in the comments – do you disagree with anything? Hidden gems I missed? Resto reco’s? 

No I don’t want to get drunk with you: A Rant

Yes I’m drinking Ginger Ale and no I don’t want fries rye with that. Since when did not getting drunk become taboo?

I think I get more flak these days than when I was in high school, proving peer pressure persists beyond acne and hormones. But I’ll admit my motives were not always healthy…

In high school I stayed away from substances to “be good” and impress my parents (for love and stuff). I also wanted to stay in control and avoid my #1 anxiety-inducing phobia of throwing up (also linked to uncertainty). But indulging in fear avoidance behaviour is not the way to go.

In university I gave drinking more of a shot (pun and it stays) but eventually linked it to digestive upset. And apparently I’m not the only one. Have you ever been in a bar/club and smelled what I refer to as the DRUNK FARTS? It is vile and rancid, only detectable after sundown, you pick the bar. Proving that some people just shouldn’t.

If only I could throw down shots like LMFAO and Lil’ Jon at the corporate party, I might be further ahead.  But alas, as a chronic over sharer (sans assistance), I don’t want to get drunk (or crunk) with co-workers. Sorry?

What irritates me is that if I used religious beliefs or an AA badge to justify my lifestyle, no one would debate it. But simply admitting that I don’t like the taste of alcohol, or feeling sleepy/dizzy the night of or a write-off the next day is so not okay.

I can’t help but wonder whether these grown up influencers want the best for me (join in on the fun), or if they are trying to protect their own interests (self justification etc.)…Probably a bit of both.

I’ve grown to like the challenge of feeling as free and fun as the tanked guy in the room, or getting drunk by osmosis (grade 10 science, whaaaat).

Today my view on substances is to do them from a place of neutrality and love and make sure they aren’t a crutch for something deeper within you (a cover up if you will). Or that you aren’t doing them to gain acceptance from others.

On the flip side, if you avoid substances from a place of fear, that may be just as bad and something I plan to work on more. I’ll admit I used to prevent my Ex from over drinking so he wouldn’t throw up and activate my anxiety, which is just as bad as peer pressuring (#guiltyascharged). This is something I like to call “control freak problems”.

At the end of the day, we live in the land of the brave and home of the free (or at least beside them). We should be more concerned with our own actions and let others be.

Take on the social customs and expectations that work for you and discard the rest.  Be who you are with flexibility to transform at your own pace. And if someone questions your life choices, just give ‘em the Jenna Marbles face:

The Jenna Marbles face aka stop talking, Sorry I'm Not Sorry, Thanks but no Thanks

Jenna Marbles throwing some shade i.e. stop talking

 

Also this kid is my idol:

 

On birthday wishes, desire mapping and moving out

Before the New Year dawned, I vowed I would move out by my 28th birthday. On April 27th with three days to spare, I got the keys. How’s that for manifestation?

I thought I would start looking in April but the universe intervened when I got into a car accident early Feb, totalling my wheels. But there was a silver lining, or several.

So this happened…zoom zoom?

So this happened…zoom zoom?

Not only did the accident renew my hope and faith in people (the EMS workers, police officer and doctor who stitched up my forehead were so awesome), but I also made some money from the insurance. And I no longer had to make the conscious decision to get rid of my car.

The very next day, an oblivious coworker asked if I would sublet her gorgeous one bedroom apartment, in a ritzy area of Toronto for just 50% of her rental fee. For once I didn’t have to think before leaping, it was an immediate HELL YES.

Oh you know just a 300 square foot deck w a view #livingthedream

Oh you know just a 300 square foot deck w a view in the city #livingthedream

Why Subletting in Toronto worked for me

  1. I got to test out independent living with training wheels, no strings attached or investments required.
  2. It gave me a quiet, peaceful and inspiring refuge to focus on my UCLA online writing course.
  3. It helped me identify what I really needed in a space and neighbourhood
  4. It tested my relationship with uncertainty, as the end date was not predetermined.

The only downside was it skewed my perception of what my dollar could get me!

How to Navigate a Home Rental Search

I knew I loved swanky attic living but it was out of reach. I consciously gave myself two weeks to find a new space, so I wouldn’t ruminate in analysis paralysis. If you are prone to procrastination, paint yourself in a corner.

I ended up making a long wish list and assigned ratings to each coveted trait in order to rank the properties (much like university business casing); highest score wins! This helped narrow down which properties I eventually went to see.

I also identified the kinds of feeling I wanted the space to awaken and foster within me, based on Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map. After delivering an unforgettable connection in Dominican, I knew the book would come through again. Definitely worth a read if you like self reflection and feelings.

Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte perfect for the beach

My version of relaxing: desire mapping on the beach.

Both steps were necessary to marry left and right brain, gut and rationale. After comparing Toronto’s rental market to online dating, I chose to sacrifice square footage in order to hit my $1,200 budget (plus hydro, insurance, cable + internet).

Don’t be afraid to negotiate! I knocked off $200 in rent due to our mutually desperate situations. Also my landlord is a writer, which is quite synchronistic, don’t you think?

On High Park Living and the After Glow

Greek YiaYia in Toronto

YiaYia visited my digs!

I ended up in Toronto’s High Park neighborhood, which was not on my radar. I learned that you could take the girl out of the suburbs but not the suburbs out of the girl. Being surrounded by gridlock and skyscrapers gave me anxiety; I needed to be close to nature but close to work and this area had me covered.I’m glad I didn’t take on a room mate just yet – my INTJ spirit loves living alone!

While the unit came furnished, it’s been fun personalizing with textiles and art. I even created a vision board based on my core desired feelings, that stressed me the f*ck out to complete, caused a fight with my mom and I don’t even really look at it now.  So you know, it was worth it.

Behold the pinterest inspired vision board.

Behold the pinterest inspired vision board.

But I will say this: I no longer feel ashamed for living at home as long as I did from a pure economics perspective. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay in this space, if, when and where I’ll buy (maybe not Toronto) and if I’ll ever return to my parents home. Sometimes its best to relax into the now.

Also, look mom, no hands!