Author Archives: Vanessa

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? 

On homelessness, mental health & Robin Williams

Every time I see a homeless person on the street my heart hurts. I try not to stare too hard, partly for their benefit (so they don’t feel like a pariah) and partly for my own (to limit my emotional involvement so I don’t have to do anything). Sometimes I smile, the way I do at little old men so they think, “still got it”.

I mouth-breathe automatically to avoid the putrid smell that often accompanies them. One time, I had to vacate a subway cart due to the oppressive odor that made my breakfast churn. How inconvenient (I wasn’t the only one either).  I give roughly 25% of the time to those who ask but it’s almost like the more desperate the plea, the more I want to rush past. In short, I’m sort of a shitty human.

I can’t help but wonder what their stories are? How did they end up on the streets? Do their parents know or care? Did they endure something horrific as a kid? Are they someone’s husband or ex-wife? Are they someone’s parent? Did they leave a career behind? What talents stayed bottled up inside? Have they ever tried to get off the streets?

Ironically, some homeless people seem happier than the vacant-eyed suits wandering around Corporate America. They offer blessings and gratitude in exchange for coins. Sometimes they sing. I wonder if it’s because they have fully accepted their life choices. Perhaps there is some comfort in living life at rock bottom.

But what separates the forgotten, local homeless man from the late and great Robin Williams? Addiction is addiction. Pain is pain. It doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, occupation, family status, or meaningful contributions to society. Countless actors have proven this time and again. And we are always shocked by it. The suicide rate among famous types seems higher than average but maybe that’s because we hear about it more, care more. We expect that coveted life to be enough, as we strive for our own definition of external success. I heard the phrase, “all comedy is pain” and it is clear that we all feel immense gratitude towards Robin for sharing his beautiful pain with us.

Robin spread magic to Gen Y kids, their parents & anyone he crossed.

Robin spread magic to Gen Y kids, their parents & anyone he crossed.

It just goes to show that you can never ever compare yourself to someone else. You never ever know what is going on internally. We rarely ever share those ugly parts of ourselves and when we do, it is only after we have “conquered” them. Some people craft careers out of that (side eye at Gabrielle Bernstein). These self help gurus make happiness sound so easy and it is, while remaining complex. The message of hope is great but what happens when someone falls from grace again?  I imagine their feelings of guilt and shame, in those moments of numb reckoning, would be overwhelming.

As far as I’m concerned, if society and the media treated mental health issues with as much urgency and publicity as the Ebola virus, we’d all be better off.  I’ve had my own struggles and I know a lot of others who have to. It is our common ground and a sign of our times.  So what can we take away from this tragedy?

  1. Engage in a daily practice of self care & self love, regardless of what others think of you, how others treat you and whatever external rewards you acquire
  2. Engage in real and meaningful conversations with others – from your friends or spouse, to the person in front of you at Starbucks, if the opportunity presents itself.
  3. When someone reaches out for support, offer whatever you can and guide them towards even more helpful sources
  4. Don’t cross the street or play with your phone when another human reaches out. Perhaps take proactive action to aid suffering on this planet.

I have been thinking about lending time and energy to a cause (mental health, homelessness or mentorship) for a while, but a psychic advised me to wait until I had more inner peace, until my cup is full enough to spill over and fill someone else’s.

How full is your cup and what are you going to do about it?   

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:


Think Twice Before You Label, Judge or Envy Someone As Skinny

Recently my life coach brought up how I am not standing in my power after I confided feelings of shrinking and hiding from life. It seemed like everyone had an unsolicited opinion to give, which made me feel small. Do you ever feel that way? 

Why are you so skinny? You should eat more. When are you going to get drunk? When are you going to get a new man? 

Every time I went out on the town, I was exposed to beautiful souls completely in their power, as if to reinforce the message: this could be you. From the empowered drag queens at El Convento Rico on College, to the tell-it-like-it-is, hips don’t lie gay man in Yorkville, to the overwhelming energy from an enigma at The Drake (we danced grade 6 styles and tore up No Scrubs).

Lady Gage Born This Way #werkit

Lady Gage Born This Way #weskit

It inspired me to wax poetic rant on some truthful subjects I haven’t touched on before. I hope it comes across less as complaining and more as tough love to get us all more in our power!

A History of Feeling Self Conscious About Being Underweight

I am perpetually trying to gain 5 lbs and contrary to popular belief (“everything looks good on you”), finding clothes that fit well can be a challenge on my petite, 5 “1” frame. Before you get all “poor little rich girl”, hear me out.

I’ve been underweight since birth. In my toddler days, people accused my mom of starving me, which is far from the truth (I just refused to eat, a post for another day). My mom developed such anxiety over what people thought of us, that I developed social eating anxiety disorder by osmosis. I would worry that people assumed I was anorexic and that I had to prove them wrong by eating a lot, which ruined my appetite, creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Many restaurant visits ended in feelings of shame, frustration, anger and long periods of hiding out in the bathroom stall.

In my tweens I developed lactose intolerance. Acid reflux and IBS came in my late teens. I felt a lot of shame around my IBS symptoms, which were exacerbated by stress or anytime I lied to myself really.  I didn’t accept them and in turn, neither did those around me (like my mom or first serious boyfriend), so the symptoms worsened.

I tried to control my diet to avoid digestive upset – it literally ruled my life up until February of this year. Anytime someone commented on my size, I felt like crying. I worried about wearing shorts and a tank to yoga, imagining fellow yogis silently judging (“she must be obsessed with working out“), which really defeats the point of being all “namaste”. I bought clothes that made me look fuller.

let it all hang out #poorpear

let it all hang out #poorpear

The Naked Truth (or Potentially Awkward Causes) Behind The Skinny

To make a long story short, after many medical tests that ruled out conditions like Crohns or Colitis, I focused on the psychological and nutritional components. I am more or less forced to eat clean: coffee, chocolate, milk products, alcohol and fried foods bother me and my metabolism is either German or Japanese engineered because that sh*t is efficient. Literally.

What bothers me the most is that society is too politically correct to voice when someone is overweight but has no qualms when someone is underweight, when both can be caused by mental or physical health conditions.

Barbie Girl falls into the psychological category...

Barbie Girl falls into the psychological category…

Call it a compliment or passive-aggressive bullsh*t but it puts me on the offensive.I feel compelled to comfort the “I want to feed you a burger” commentator with tales of my hyperactive metabolism but really, it’s not my job to make strangers feel better and no one has to know my personal business (except you my dear readers).

The Solution: Accept Your Own Body Shape & Discard The Rest

The point is to think twice before you comment about that skinny b*tch in yoga (or silently admonish that large person). Rarely is anything what it seems and everyone struggles with their shape and appearance. Where is the value in trying to relate to others based on external appearance (“You’re so pretty“. “No you are!“). What matters most is relating via heart and soul…

Anytime we make a judgement, it is generally an indication of suppressed shame or pain within us. Believe me, I learned this the hard way through shadow work post recent break up. Let’s focus instead on sending love and compassion to our own bodies, just as they are. And to everyone we come across.

And while we are at, let’s not support media outlets or brands that prey on our insecurities by cultivating a narrowly defined body image ideal.

So tell me, Am I alone on this one? Add to the conversation, whether you agree or not, in the comments!