Category Archives: Personally Yours

On Overcoming Limiting Beliefs and Finding Love

Confessions of a Commitment Phobe Nerd Who Got Engaged

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

In elementary school, I only had a couple friends, no inclination for sports, a penchant for Cher Horowtiz skirt suits and straight A’s. But I still thought I was pretty rad.

From grades four to six I may have lusted and obsessed over a secret crush, full of hope and faith that before grade eight graduation we’d be together (like Ross and Rachel). It all came crashing down during one of those fateful dance-a-thons. You know the one: half-empty gym, past-his-prime DJ, colourful strobe lights and Venga Boys on blast.

As I resumed my go-to spot against the wall during the never-ending slow songs, a couple of popular girls figured out the identity of my crush and asked him to dance on my behalf. It was like watching a train wreck slash outer body experience. BUT a tiny part of me was excited that the cat was out of the bag, two years early! Hoping for good news, obviously.

Unfortunately, his face was aghast with horror and he backed away, hands up like he was under arrest. The reality of his reaction slowly sunk in and I ran to the bathroom with a hot face and shaking body, willing the tears to wait until I could take cover in a stall.

And I think that was the moment when I started to feel not quite “good enough”.

The memory haunted me for years and could bring me to tears, as silly and minor as it sounds now. I never wanted to experience that kind of public humiliation or rejection again. So I focused on achievements and working hard because I could control it and feel good about myself (Lord knows I couldn’t trade on my looks).

Vanessa in all her 90s pre-teen glory

Q: “But why don’t boys like me?” Answer: (shrug)

Vito as a “baseball stud”











After a couple more puppy love heartbreaks in my teens, I put my fragile heart on lockdown and threw away the key.  I didn’t know how to receive love and I didn’t know how to give it (to my self or to anyone else). I made romantic decisions with my head or out of pure infatuation, both mild recipes for disaster. I went along with almost any boy who would have me, grateful for the opportunity. Some men were even kind enough to point out why I was doomed to die alone (often after I rejected THEM).

Until “unlucky-in-love” became part of my identity, a twisted badge of honour. I was the token single friend with the crazy, entertaining and sometimes sad stories (I do love making people laugh). I became addicted to self-help everythang, convinced that if I could fix the broken parts of me, I’d be in a position to attract the kind of person I wanted to be.

When I first met Vito, at the tender age of 25, I was adamantly against dating him. He must have frightened my ego, fighting to cling to the familiar. I judged him before I knew him, sticking him in the boring Italian pile with the others. He didn’t have charismatic swagger. He wasn’t artsy or a world traveller. But after brought us back together two years ago (I still dreaded online dating), he wore me down and we started dating.

For a couple of weeks I felt sheer TERROR when I realized I was HAPPY. I promptly focused on all the small things that weren’t perfect and criticized him to death until we were done like dinner. Self sabotage reigned supreme, even after the psychic told me we were twin flames.

But Vito came back because he’s resilient like that. And always felt sure. He saw my light and focused on it. He tried to understand my point of view. He gave me space to be neurotic and put up defenses. He held me without judgment when I cried because they threw out all the chicken at the Portuguese takeout place one minute before I got there (#thestruggleisreal). He treated me with respect and looked at me with love in his eyes. Vito was the first boy I didn’t want to change (the second time around), though nothing and no one is perfect.

So after an emotional roller coaster and epic pondering last summer in Greece, I finally gave up on the old stories and familiar emotions like loneliness, despair, self-loathing and self-pity. Choosing love was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Have any of you experienced the same?

I brought Vito to Greece this summer, despite my family’s protests of unbetrothed village scandal. I wanted him to meet my grandmother and that desire trumped the risk of bringing a third boy to Greece who may not be forever. I started crying out of nowhere just after midnight on the 2nd night of our trip, in a beautiful resort outside of Athens. I told Vito that he was going to break up with me by the end of the trip, once he saw all the ways I could sabotage fun and relaxation, completely disoriented outside my Toronto bubble. The flaws my Exes saw would surely be impossible to hide and impossible for him to ignore.

He told me that was the craziest thing I’ve ever said.

Celebrating our engagement with yia yia and papou in a village in Greece

Third time’s the charm!

Two days later Vito proposed on the beach just after sunset, during a mini-getaway. It was the last night of Mercury Retrograde (yay) and the (almost) full moon had popped out from behind the mountain, catching us both by surprise. He picked that day for a few reasons, but mainly so we could tell my grandparents in person before leaving for Malta. It was a private, simple and heartfelt proposal, again not quite what I pictured (I was also very much in my head).

Upon hearing the news, Papou beamed from ear to ear and set out on foot to spread the word. Yia yia was pretty happy too, having pressured me every day for the past 5 years to get hitched. EVEN IF she has no recollection of our visit (her mind is going), she was present in that moment and we’ll always remember…

And the funny thing is, I would have had the biggest crush on Vito in elementary school.

Advice to Anyone who may be Struggling with Love:

Not that I’m a qualified expert, but no matter! Here are some well-intentioned words of wisdom…

Timing is everything and you are on your own journey so try as hard as you can NOT to compare yourself to others or let fear run your choices (been there big time sista).

Also it’s impossible to ruin the right thing – you will get a second or fifth chance. So don’t worry but also, try not to be an asshole.

Forgive yourself for all your bad decisions, indiscretions, perceived and real shortcomings. Do the shadow work. Give the gift of closure to yourself for any unhealed endings. Write the letters, burn the sage, tune in and host the make-believe dialogues. Hold space for the inevitable EX dreams (and delete your search history trying to decode them, LOL but actually).

Deconstruct limiting beliefs around love. Not all the good people are taken. Commitment doesn’t need to represent stagnation or loss of freedom or changing who you are. It doesn’t have to be the ending…it CAN be the beginning.

When you are ready, make that clear to the universe/your soul, as things can change very quickly from there. Be open to being wrong. Be open to meeting someone in an unexpected way and having him or her look a little different too.

Above all, know that you are perfectly lovable just the way you are. In your ugliest physical state, in your ugliest emotional state, when you play small. There is someone who still finds you pretty cute in those moments and will stand by you through it all (including your success).

Promise to be open to feeling joy and excitement for where you are right now and for where you’ll go. Because joy can be the hardest part…even after you’ve met “the one”.

Here’s to continuing on the journey of life, imperfectly as we are.


Vanessa xo

Engagement Champagne toast

Pretending to drink champagne at Elite Resort in Kalamata – Cheers to free room upgrades! #itsasign

The Village in Greece

I was dreading going to Dorio, a tiny village in Messinia Greece where my grandparents live and my mom was born. I’ve been roughly 10 times in 30 years and every single time I swear it’s haunted and I become an anxiety-driven monster.

Dorio sits in a valley (of the shadow of death) surrounded by mountains on all sides, with a storied history involving the intermingling of Romanians, Albanians and of course, Greeks! Two roads lead in and a tired banner welcomes visitors. Every house is within walking distance from the main street, which has two of everything.

Half the houses are abandoned and dilapidated with tattered shutters either because the former inhabitants have passed on or because anyone with promise gets the hell out of town. The other half are in good shape, a mix of old stone work and plaster, either in original white or vibrant yellow.

Typical houses in Dorio, Messinia - old and dilapidated or new and yellow.

Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

My grandparents’ house is modest with two bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen and a family room with several sleeping options in the form of couches and a bed (with a 100-year-old, slanted mattress). The furniture is a mix of old country hand me downs and whatever they took back home from Canada. It has a large garden that my 84-year-old grandfather is almost too old to tend to and a couple porches. The shiny white floors get dirty every 30 seconds and flies are always getting in through the half open doors. Zap!

Papou and Yiayia left Greece for Canada when they were 40 and 50 years old respectively (SHE’S 10 years older), a bit old to “live the American dream” with their three teenagers. They did typical cheap labour jobs like dishwashing, office cleaning and factory working and they were eventually able to buy a main floor condo in a sketchy part of Scarborough. They were both pretty much retired and super old in my earliest memories. Papou’s daily highlight was walking to Coffee Time or taking the bus and going somewhere. Yia yia was a homebody and watched me during that crucial period after mom’s extended mat leave ended but before daycare.

I was a devil child who wouldn’t eat and yia yia was a pushover, so I really liked spending time with her. I would con her into giving me lollipops and junk food rather than real food and beg to be taken to the park every day. I’d also tear her couches apart to create forts or slides and emptied her drawer of handkerchiefs to keep amused with my baby cousin Joanna. Yia yia never got mad and was always full of love tinged with extreme worry and warm, cushiony hugs.

For a long while, they took care of Papou’s mom who only had one eye due to an unfortunate run-in with a donkey (true story). She was very strict (bordering on unkind) when my mom was a rebellious teenager, which I could sense as a toddler….SO we were ARCHenemies. As a pre-teen, however, I was just plain terrified and grossed out by her and she eventually died at the age of 91.

I never imagined Yia Yia would grow that old but here she is at the ripe age of 94 and counting. Well sort of. Her and Papou moved back to Greece on a semi-permanent basis 15 years ago but decided to live there full-time two years ago to die on their own terms, in their own home. We made the trek to Dorio this summer because we don’t know how much time she has left. Yiayia is the last hold out of her siblings and she’s watched many of her friends and neighbors pass on. Her appetite is full force and her mind is sharp but these are both blessings and curses.

Yia Yia has difficulty walking even with two canes at Kalo Nero Beach.

Double cane action on a forced beach outing.

She’s gained 10 lbs every year and her weak legs struggle to support her weight. She walks around like a hunchback with two canes and complains constantly of arthritis pain in her shoulder, arm and hands. She’s pretty hard of hearing now and takes a special tea to go the bathroom. She doesn’t always make it in time if she wakes up in the middle of the night but otherwise her vitals are good.

Mentally she is super aware of her pain and preoccupied to the point where she hardly enjoyed our visit this summer. She feels completely useless that she can’t help around the house and everyone yells at her whenever she tries to get up because she’s fallen so many times. Yia yia is convinced every birthday she reaches will be her last and I don’t think she wants to hit 95 on Feb 13. She told us she prays for her mom to take her to heaven and she dreams of her every night. I think all of us get our mental health issues from her.

Papou buying pizza for yia yia in Dorio.

Papou, taking care of biz

And then there’s Papou, 10 years her junior and a doting, albeit short-fused caregiver. He does whatever she asks, makes sure she takes all her pills on time, covers her with a blanket because she’s always cold, brings her to the bathroom in the middle of the night and everything in between. She resents his relative freedom and so he stays by her side 24/7, partially out of guilt. Personally, I think she is the wind beneath his wings and the reason he lives though he’s in rough shape himself. Papou walks with a limp, has really low iron and a mouth full of rotting teeth. He’s stubborn like her and refuses to brush them or get dentures.

They celebrated 62 years of marriage on August 29 in spite of Yia Yia being a whopping 31 years old on her special day (#geriatricbride). Their love was a practical arrangement with zero courtship – they saw each other on the street one day and decided to marry. Having faced the “old maid” paradigm herself, Yia Yia asks me when I’ll marry just about every five minutes.

Yet the decision to commit a life to someone keeps me up at night. I’m terrified of making a mistake and getting a divorce or staying in an unhappy marriage. I’m always looking for signs and that gut feeling that HE is the one. And suddenly I realize with a sinking feeling that Yia Yia most certainly won’t be at my wedding unless I get married in the village STAT. And she probably won’t even meet or speak to or be aware of the ONE while she’s still with us.

I wish I’d been ready sooner.

Papou & Yia Yia celebrate 62 years of marriage

62 years of marriage & multiple generations (pyjama party)! 

I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to watch someone who took care of you revert back to an infant-like state, requiring the same assistance she used to give. We had a couple heart to hearts on the couch before I left, regaling stories from her past and wishing me well for the future. She was tender and warm and focused on hugging and kissing my hands, cheeks, forehead and I started to cry. It felt like a permanent goodbye, unlike other years and I’ve been a mess ever since on this “Dream Greek vacation.” #yolo #instaenvy

I want to make a salient point around mortality, aging, love, commitment and genealogy but a tidy bow ending feels elusive. Yia yia made me realize how draining and sad it is to be around someone who is negative, gripped with fear and self-consumed (I take after her sometimes). But also how the biggest pains in the asses can grip the heart most.

I hope I never have to set foot in the village again and yet that would mean…losing a shining star.

Let’s see how things go.

Yia Yia selfie Kalo Nero Beach

Borrowed shades, cool as a cuke in this beach sunset selfie (crazy eyes on right).

On Turning 29 and the Paradox of Time

To Youth

To Youth…

...And everything in between (three generations to be exact)

And aging…and everything in between…










I used to be in a hurry to grow up. I thought I would be happier “over there”.

PG-13 movies and playing in the “big kid” schoolyard were important milestones. I beamed during our ceremonial grad “walk out” of elementary school, with teachers and kindergartners lining the halls in cheers. I had outgrown the chains of my bullied, outcast identity. I wanted to reinvent, to feel free. And by the way, when would my boobs grow already?!

I lusted over first dances and fantasized about sloppy first kisses. I got my G1 right away so I could drive my friends around, instead of relying on our lame-o parents. But borrowing the car became a drag; I couldn’t wait to buy my own. By grade 12 I was caught between a fear of the unknown and a desire to keep running forward. I desperately needed the years ahead to be better than the years behind, but I was trading drama school for business school, so the jury was out.

I wasted a lot of my youth trying to impress the world, but mostly myself. Chasing the next A, the next internship, completely consumed by my personal mission (to be successful). Those four years of university years could not pass fast enough. If only I had nights and weekends to myself!

I began to race away from…

Throughout my early 20’s, I was simultaneously 55 and 15 years old. Time moved in fast slow motion. I lived and worked in the suburbs, starved my creative passions for cubicle glory that never came and participated in relationships where the conversations ran dry and sex was a chore to get over with. All I was missing was a hockey mom badge and the kids to go with it.

The trouble was, there was a screaming kid inside me, leaking out optimism-laced angst. By my mid 20’s, real life started to sink in and I floundered through the muck. I entertained going back to school and changing careers. I fantasized about travelling for six months. I shuddered at the thought of marriage. I started to make choices that made me feel half alive instead of half dead.

The dawn of 29 feels bittersweet.

The other day I plucked out a white hair from my thick, dark eyebrows. Yikes. On the upside, I no longer personally identify with what I do for a living. Most of the time, I require a motivational pep talk to visit a nightclub. I don’t even know where to go this Saturday to celebrate, that’s how out of touch I am with the cool kids. I no longer have a car to feel feelings about. People tell me “I’m still young” when they find out I am single (thank you?). Things are starting to feel better or at least I’m having fewer emotional breakdowns per quarter.

But for the first time ever, I feel the urge to pause time in its tracks. Or at least slow it down. Heck, let’s stay 28 forever! Or…

What if we decide to savour the next 365 days instead? And consciously slow ourselves down whenever we let the pace grow manic. What if we set intentions while remaining open to possibilities we never could have dreamed up? Approached the world with child-like wonder…Tweaked and iterated over vaulting…

What if we let go of where we thought we’d be by now and choose to trust that we’ll get where we’re going. All in good time.


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?