I can do that magic.

Last night I attended the Toronto Slam Poetry Finals and when I say I attended the Toronto Slam Poetry Finals I mean I attended a three hour talk therapy session where I did none of the talking. There was no therapist sitting there asking me questions, probing out answers I didn’t even know I had inside of me. There was no comfy couch or chair to sit on, but instead packed theatre seats facing a stage. Instead of affirmations and self-care reminders, instead of tools for how to handle the next bad day, instead of a safe space to let it all out, there was just words. And last night, that was enough.

You see I found out about slam poetry how I believe most people do; through viral videos. The first poem I remember coming into contact with was Neil Hilborn’s “OCD”. The video went viral with over 75 million views and I can promise you, if you haven’t watched it, it’s worth a look. After “OCD” I went on to search out more great poems, looking for the same passion and heart that Hildborn had put into his performance. I found an abundance of it.

But last night was the first time I went to an actual performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would three hours of poetry remain as impactful and powerful as what I had found online? Would I connect to the poems the way I had before? Admittedly, in the beginning I bought my ticket with the sole purpose of seeing the feature artist Sabrina Benaim but the night ended up being so much more. Of course, meeting Sabrina was a big moment for me; I was shaking after talking to her for a few passing seconds. I am thankful for being able to tell her the impact her poem “Explaining my depression to my mother” has had on me and listening to her live was incredibly healing. It’s just what I needed right now. In particular, one line from her newer piece stuck with me:

“I just feel lately I’m living myself back alive.” – Sabrina Benaim

This is something I’m working on right now. It’s coming in the form of doctors appointments and a whole lot of work. I’ve noticed things getting bad again and I have to be present enough to stop it. There are some big and wonderful things coming up for me, and I want to be around to see them happen.

But it wasn’t just Sabrina last night who patched up the freshly opened wounds in my mind, it was each and every poet who performed. From the younger artists from BAM! Youth Slam to those competing for a place on Toronto’s team, each poet brought forth works of art that were raw, real, and healing.

Each poem was so different and so powerful. From stories about having a child with autism to defending one’s own blackness or learning to break lessons of hyper-masculinity, it didn’t matter the topic, the artists found ways to inspire, move, and motivate with their words. As the host said early in the night “they’ll make you cringe, wishing you’d written the line yourself.” Indeed they did.

That’s when I realized; I’ll never write the line myself if I’m not writing. 

Poetry has been in me since well before I discovered slam. It was something I was very interested in as a child. In fact, there are whole scrap books filled with poems I wrote my mother. They are juvenile, of course, but the heart was still there even when I believed you had to make everything rhyme. I have written some less Dr. Seuss-like poetry since then, though very little of it has ever been shared with anyone. It’s been my form of private therapy, something I do when I need to get emotions out in a productive way. In fact, many times it has been my replacement for self-harm.

The poem I wrote Matt for the proposal was the first time I’ve actually performed anything I’ve written. But after last night I’ve decided it won’t be the last. Toronto Slam does open mic at the Drake Hotel on a regular basis throughout their season. All you have to do is show up with your poems, sign yourself up for the evening, and you have a platform. It’s intimidating to think about right now, especially since so much of my stuff is half written or scribbled somewhere random but I’ve decided this is something I need to do for myself. And I’m writing it down here so someone can hold me to it. 

Before the show last night my mom texted me telling me she’s happy I’ve found something to interest me and that I’m trying new things. Mom, so am I.

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See ya real soon

I’ve been putting this off for as long as I could but as I look at all the half-written posts sitting on my computer I have come to realize I have only been denying the inevitable. It’s time to take a small hiatus, to focus on all the busyness that has started to creep up again, and to really give my mental health the time and energy it deserves.

Writing has always been my safe space. It has always been something I love doing, and I can truly say this blog has been one of the ultimate adventures for me. It’s not over, that’s for sure, but it is time to take a little break. I would rather take some time off to revitalize than to continue giving you half-assed posts that are always late, poorly edited, and filled with half-hearted messages that I could have written so much more life into.

I can’t say for certain how long it will take me to get back into the swing of things. I’m going to keep writing, just without deadlines. It could be weeks, it could take a couple months. I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Before I go I just want to say a quick thank you to all of you. You are the ones who have kept me writing, who have made this blog a success. While a couple dozen reads a day might not be much to some people, it has meant the world to me. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

Remember, this isn’t goodbye. As my good pal Mickey says: See ya real soon.

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Feel that winter wind blow cold

It’s dark by five o’clock in the evening.

You can’t walk anywhere without your toes starting to freeze.

The air outside fills your lungs with a sharp pain.

Family and friends have returned home and you’re left by yourself.

The bustle of the holidays and of last second to do lists suddenly slows.

And you’re left feeling empty. 

Does this sound familiar to you? It’s certainly been my reality for the last little while. Coming back to work at the beginning of this new year with little to do and even less to look forward to has certainly been a fallout that has hit me harder than I ever expected. I’ve definitely always been prone to some unhappier feelings at this time of year, I’m just not sure they have ever hit me so hard. I was so busy and had so much to look forward to every day during December that coming back to January and finding things at a slow pace both at work and in my personal life was a major letdown. And it was one that really sunk in a little deeper than I ever should have let it.

So why share all this? Well, as always, this blog is an honest reflection of my journey in life to be healthier and happier. I would be a complete fraud if I only showed the good times. My life is not all motivational speeches and delicious eats. It’s a mixture of ups and downs, and feelings that are felt deeply, whether they are positive or negative. It’s important that I share this, not only for myself, but for those of you who might feel it too. I want you to know that you are not alone.

I think often times when we see someone thriving after struggling with mental illness for some time, it can be easy to dismiss that issue as something that happened in the past. But more ad more I’m beginning to understand what happened to me is a larger part of who I am and not simply a singular event. I may not be that bad now, maybe not ever again because I’ve learned better coping mechanisms and I’ve learned to seek out help when I need it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still there. Coming to understand things this way has actually been helpful, it’s allowing me to really comprehend the darker times when they come without much warning and explanation.

For those of you who follow this blog, you may have noticed the lack of post last week and the delay in this one as well. There was supposed to be a post last Sunday. It was supposed to be all poutine pizza and lightsaber battles but then Blue Monday came early for me. I spent the weekend in a misery that I couldn’t quite put a name to.

It’s just the weather. It’s the time of year. It’s because you spent too much time alone this week. 

These suggestions from my mother didn’t add up in my head to equal the immense amount of pain I was in. I couldn’t see them cumulating in a desperate desire to not exist, and it was that inability to link a direct cause to the effect that made me angry. Because if I didn’t understand where it was coming from, how could I do anything about it?

It took some time but eventually I came to see that my mom was right. I couldn’t find a direct cause because there was no singular thing making me feel that way, it was a combination of factors. Just as I started this post; the weather, the darkness, the lack of plans, and the letdown from being so busy for so long, had led to major crash. For me, this time of year is especially difficult because I find it harder to get out and do things which gives my mind too much idle time.

Recognizing all this is great and important, you should try and stay in touch with your feelings and the way they affect you. But it’s also important to recognize that there are things that you can do. So what does that look like?

Well here’s what I did; I allowed my parents to force me out of the house last Sunday even when I wanted to stay in bed. A few hours of shopping, movies, and a late lunch date gave me the chance to get out of my head for a little while. It didn’t instantly make things better but it forced me out of the corner of my mind I had crawled into. From there, I had the mental strength to go into work on Monday morning with a brave face. We had staff training on Indigenous Culture that ended up being more helpful than I could have ever imagined. I was able to release some of my negative energy, and I was given some useful tools from their teachings that would help me move forward.

You see, when teaching some of the stories behind the medicine wheel, the facilitator noted that at the different times in their creation stories they were given the gifts they needed at that specific time. This idea allowed me to reflect on my journey through mental illness and mental health in a new way; along each step of the way I’ve been given the gifts I needed. Sometimes was therapy or weekly trips home to be with my parents, most recently it was the chance to be part of an organization that truly meant something to me and gave meaning to the work I put into my schooling. And now, the gift I needed was the clarity to be open with myself about what was going on and how this part of me is always there. It’s not just something I experienced once upon a time ago, it’s a piece of me.

Emotionally, I was able to open up and really allow myself to feel what my mind wanted me to. I was able to acknowledge the unhappiness and trauma. I began to understand that too much idle time was not good for me and that I would have to do something to change that or to manage my reactions when stuck in that situation.

On the practical side I made plans; I busied myself at work, I made a date with friends and family to visit them at home, I had Matt take a night off so we could spend some time together. I opened up to my boss about what was going on and was able to get some support at work to make things better moving forward. Lastly, I did a crazy spontaneous thing and booked a three day vacation to Disney World with my best friend.

So, obviously my exact plan of action isn’t going to work for everyone and it might not even be possible for some of you. But I hope that it at least provides some ideas. Whether it’s taking yourself out for coffee, heading to the movies for a few hours, or facing the cold to get some fresh air, I hope you’re able to find ways to pull you out of those January blues. Remember; it’s okay to take a day and to feel your misery, as long as you don’t allow yourself to stay there forever. Create a plan, see what works, and slowly but surely things will get better. If you can’t run away to Disney World, bring the magic to yourself instead.

I encourage you all, if you’re struggling right now, to take a moment to step back and really look at your situation. Don’t just push it down. Don’t ignore the feelings, don’t pretend they don’t exist. It will not do you any good in the long run. Get yourself the help you need. There is help out there and it looks different for everyone. There is no shame in admitting that something is wrong, it’s one of the strongest things you can ever do.


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Well, we made it through the first week of 2018; I don’t know about anyone else but it sort of felt like things were moving in slow motion. But now that I’ve had some time to settle into this new year it is time to finally blog about health and weight loss again. It seems in the absence of posts there has also been an absence of effort on my part. I knew when I started working full time I would find it harder to keep up with the healthy routines I had started back when I had nothing but time on my hands. I told myself all those steps I was getting by giving tours and running around for my duties as office coordinator were enough to keep me on a level playing field. I was hitting 20,000 steps some days so surely that should have been enough to counteract the fact that I wasn’t traditionally working out anymore. Maybe it would have been had I not stopped being mindful of what I was eating.

The occasional dinner out turned to frequent takeout orders and running out to grab something for lunch rather than bringing a full and healthy meal. I slowly but surely sabotaged myself, and I let it happen by using the excuse that it was just a busy month. But the truth is I’ve been slacking off since August.

I know this post may come as a bit of surprise after just posting about body love last week but just because I’m trying to change things does not mean I can’t have body confidence too. It means I recognize what a healthier lifestyle did to not only empower me but to help me. I’ve noticed some negative changes about my health that don’t centre around my weight gain or the size of my pants. Mostly it’s back pain that has come back to consistently bother me after having disappeared during those months of working out, and there’s a lethargic feeling that I’m sure comes from all the crap I’m eating.

I’m going to be very blunt about this: I’m not stepping on a scale. It was months ago that I read that number in the 180s and I know I’m not there anymore but I’m not going to drive that nail into my own coffin. I’m not a failure for gaining some weight back. I had more important things to focus on and at the time finding balance wasn’t really an option. Now that I’m comfortable in my job (and only working one) it’s time to focus up again and I’m going to do so by building a strong foundation and I am going to do that without beating myself up.

The disappointed and frustrated girl in me wants desperately to put on some hard workout and force myself back into those good habits. I want to eat nothing but chicken and broccoli for the next week just to try and get back what I lost… or in this case lose what I gained. But I know that plan is foolish, I know it will just backfire and I’ll likely end up digging this ditch even deeper. Pushing yourself too hard out of the gate will make you hate something and if you hate something you won’t do it.

So I’m going to start small with a basic foundation that will be the first step back to the awesome healthier life I was living before. In creating this foundation for myself I’ve decided to focus on things I know have helped ease me in before. This comes in three different sections: workouts, meals, and limitations. So lets explore them, shall we?


  • Darebee’s Foundation Program to start
  • Using my fitbit every day to track steps
  • Aim for 10,000 steps 5x a week
  • Start swimming again in the morning at least 2x a week


  • Resume meal prepping to curb impulsive takeout orders
  • Fruits and veggies every damn day
  • Limited snacks, even when they’re ‘healthy’ snacks
  • Weight watchers old point system to help guide me
  • Tracking / writing everything down


  • Picking up lunch at work will only be for special occasions
  • Eating out is limited to twice a month
  • No more chocolate, chips, etc. in the house

So there’s the new game plan. I did so well at the beginning of last year and while the changes were slow they were steady. I felt a lot better about myself and I also felt a lot better physically. Lately I’ve been feeling weighed down and I know my eating habits and lack of activity has something to do with that. So it’s back to the base of things. It’ll be a slow start once again but I’m going to stick with it. If anyone has any advice to pass along, I’d be happy to hear it!

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Body Love Ball

(credit: Nancy Kim [NSB Photography])

Sometimes my days feel planned out to the minute, each week is a messily scripted entry in a day planner I don’t have time to keep updated. I thought once I went down to one job after the madness of October, I would be in the clear. Instead, I continue to be busier than ever. I am not complaining, in fact I don’t remember the last time I was this happy. I’ve found a job I love in a city that has always felt like home. But despite the excitement and the good ole happiness I am recognizing that some things are falling through the cracks because I’m just that busy.

I do have a hard time finding the energy and time to workout. This isn’t meant to be an excuse, it’s honestly just an honest evaluation of how life has been going. Just like I’ve slacked with this blog a bit in the past few months, I’ve slacked on working on my health and fitness. It’s something that’s really frustrated me because I was feeling like I was watching all my progress slip away. But then an event I went to a few weekends ago reminded me that my shrinking waistline and smaller pant sizes were not the only things I had made progress on. There was a much more important lesson that I was forgetting: body love.

I told myself early on in this journey that it would not be worth it if I did not work on the thoughts in my head as much as I was working on the rolls on my midsection. I knew that if I did not change the way I think about my body then no amount of weight loss would matter. I had to change my mindset. The Body Love Ball by the wonderful team at Body Confidence Canada was a reminder that the weight was never what mattered: it was how I felt about myself.

And on that night I felt amazing.

(Credit: John Simone Photography)

This is a big turn around from the emotional upset I had before the Shine Charity Gala early in November. I tried on the dress that I had had tucked away in my closet for months only to find that it really didn’t fit. Not only that but it fit worse than it had when I bought it. This was frustrating because for the longest time that dress was what had kept me motivated. It was a sleeker shape than I was normally used to, something I would have never dreamed of wearing before. And in the end I didn’t get to wear it because I just wasn’t comfortable in it.

But a month later, it was like a whole different young woman had stepped out for the evening. Between my dress for Chief’s Gala (seen here) and my suit for Body Love Ball, I couldn’t have been happier with the way I looked, even with a few extra pounds and a bit of reversed progress. That isn’t to say I had my doubts about the high waisted pants and the white shirt. I spent more time looking in the mirror than I personally care to admit but once the party started I was so empowered by the other individuals around me that I stopped worrying about how I looked from the side or if my belly was rolling over the top of my pants. I just enjoyed myself and for once I celebrated the body I have, not the one I’ve always thought I needed.

(Credit: John Simone Photography)

I still want to be healthier, I still want to try and work harder because of the other benefits I was getting throughout that journey. But I’m learning that my confidence doesn’t need to be tied to the width of my hips or the size of my jeans. I can be confident throughout this journey, whether I’m on the up or the down. It’s because of the Body Love Ball that I’m more aware of this now, and it’s something I’m going to try my best not to forget. In the spirit of this I wanted to share four lessons that I took home from that night, they are ones I think everyone could stand to remember;

A lot of amazing people don’t give a damn about conventional beauty

There were all shapes and sizes, all diversities, and all beauties present at the event. Everyone we bumped into was nothing less than complimentary and kind. People wore what they wanted, they embraced styles that made them feel beautiful and that part was easy; they all were. It didn’t matter the cut of your dress, the width of your hips, the size of your bra, none of this came into play. It was a room full of beautiful people, not in spite of how people looked on the outside but because of it.

Body confidence is an ongoing journey and the path is yours to forge for yourself

There were some wonderful speakers at the event that talked about their different journeys in body confidence. They explored that desire to fit in and to want to look a certain way and really normalized that experience for everyone in attendance. But each speaker so powerfully reminded the crowd that you do not need to fit a mould to be beautiful, that you will shine brighter when you learn to love and accept the body you are in. It is the only body you have.

What is on the outside does matter and everyone’s outside is beautiful

One of the speakers had a really powerful message that tore apart this whole ‘it’s what is on the inside that counts’ argument. Because yes, your personality, your drive, your charisma, your passion, all of these things are important and they matter but so does your outside. Just because you don’t look a certain way or don’t fit a certain size does not mean your outside is lesser. You are not suddenly beautiful despite your size or looks, your size and looks are included in that beauty. Because what is on the outside does matter, it plays a part in first impressions, it plays a part in who approaches you or what jobs you get. Our society is not blind to the outside and therefore we should not pretend it doesn’t exist, we just need to embrace the differences and celebrate each and every body, not just the ones in magazines. So know your outside is just as beautiful as your inside, and it deserves to be loved too.

You define what body confidence and beauty means to you

It may be surprising to hear but I learned this lesson from clothing, specifically the clothes everyone was wearing that night. Body Love Ball’s dress code was simple: fabulously you. While this originally made choosing an outfit for the evening a little more difficult, it did open up a lot of options and really allowed people to wear what they were most comfortable in. We saw crop tops, beach dresses, ball gowns, jeans, pant suits, suspenders, heels, flats, boots, every different and fabulously fun combination you could imagine and we spent most of the night worshipping everyone’s outfits. You see, everyone looked radiant, they looked confident, and they looked absolutely lovely. There was something about that atmosphere from the moment you walked in that just empowered you, that made you stop worrying about all the little things that we get caught up in. As long as you were fabulously you you were doing just fine. It was that lesson that reminded me that body confidence and beauty looks different on everyone. For some people it’s a boudoir shoot or a two piece bathing suit, for others it’s a rockin’ pair of jeans or comfy sneakers. It’s not about conforming to any trend, standard, or anything else, it’s about being yourself in the body you’re in.

(Credit: John Simone Photography)

The Body Love Ball is something we’d like to make a staple in our year going forward. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this event by pure coincidence. At first it just sounded like a fun night out that reflected the journey I have been on this year, but in the end it was so much more than that. This inspiring event is something that will drive me forward and will hopefully help me when I’m having another crisis over a stupid dress. As one of the wonderful speakers said “sometimes it’s the fucking pants.” and in this case it was just the fucking dress.

I hope all of you out there remember to love yourselves today, to celebrate the body you have because it’s the only one you’re going to get. Put on something that empowers you, whether it’s a dress, a pant suit, a crop top, or an old t-shirt. Own your beauty and don’t let anyone convince you that you are anything other than stunning.

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He said yes

Yes, you read that right: he said yes. As many of you know by now, on Thursday December 14th, after over six years of being together I decided to finally pop the question. We had a long day of adventuring around Toronto and I ended it off by asking Matt to marry me. It was a wonderful day that we spent together, one that I’m not bound to forget, but just in case I thought I’d write it all out and share it with you.

The day started with a little set up of chocolate and tea at home which included the first of Matt’s adventure cards. Back in the spring I had custom cards made up by Zazzle that invited Matt to accompany me to different places throughout the city. These were all places we had been to before, and they were mostly places that had a part of Toronto’s history in them. I had each new card stowed away in my bag, ready to lead him to the next place.

To start the day we headed off to Snakes and Lattes Annex to have some snacks and to play some board games. We have been to this board game cafe a handful of times and it is part of the reason we now have hundreds of dollars of games on our tv shelf. We spent quite a bit of time playing games, ending off the first stop with a quick round of Marrying Mr. Darcy (yes, I’m that extra). Still, Matt had no idea what was going on.

The next card brought us to the St. Lawrence Market for lunch. We shared the famous peameal on a bun and brought home a game sausage. The fun part about this stop is that it holds the venue that we want to get married in. I first visited the Market Kitchen with my mom (you can check it out here) and after showing it to Matt we decided it was perfect for us. When we walked in Matt remarked “when should we book the venue?”, I wanted to laugh, knowing he didn’t know what was still coming. Instead, I played dumb.

He guessed the next stop once I told him it was going to be cold and given the time of the year. We were off to the Christmas Market for schnitzel, spiked hot chocolate, and a quick run in with our best friend (thanks Kee for not giving away the surprise). It was even colder than expected so the visit was short and sweet but we got our fill of market eats and Christmas lights. With frozen noses and shivering hands we headed to the next part of the adventure: Benihana’s at the Royal York.

Benihana’s is a Sushi & Japanese steakhouse with hibachi style dining as an option. In a way it’s dinner and a show which made it a unique adventure. There’s a groupon for the restaurant that makes it a little more affordable but with optional add ons it’s still a luxury night out. It’s definitely more than I’m usually willing to pay for dinner but it was a special day and the food was absolutely amazing. Stuffed, and perhaps a bit tipsy from the two person margarita we ordered, I handed Matt the final adventure card.

Our last stop was Union Station, which is my favourite building in the city. Some time ago Matt made a comment about how it would be cool if we could just get married there, and that was what kind of solidified my choice to have the actual proposal there (the original spot was Casa Loma). We walked inside with the pretence that we were just heading home. I declared I wanted to go into the great hall to see the Christmas decorations just so we wouldn’t head right to the subway. We did indeed check out the Christmas decorations (including these holiday windows that Matt insisted on seeing while I was anxiously waiting to deliver the final surprise) and then I pulled him back into the Great Hall. He protested as the signs to the subway pointed in a different direction which is when I finally gave in and told him I had a poem he needed to hear.

Slam poetry has become something that has helped me understand myself. I’ve listened to many artists that somehow capture my experiences in words that I would have never thought it. It’s something I’ve shared with Matt to help him understand too. Despite loving this art form, I’ve never conceived a poem myself. I used to write poetry a lot as a kid, mostly sappy stuff to take home to my mom to tell her I loved her. I decided my first performed slam poem would be a good way to propose. I was going to keep the poem just between the two of us, but I’m actually rather proud of it and it’s something I don’t want to lose. So here it is:

Short months ago,
scaffolding had taken over this space like jungle vines creeping along historic stone.
The building was in need of much restoration and perhaps a little change.
The same could be said about me when we first met.
I was crumbling from the inside out,
a broken foundation and unsteady walls.
What a surprise it was that the boy who had been too afraid to kiss me
became the very scaffold that would hold me up.

Like this building, I took years to fix.
Pain and depression had become cemented in my head
they needed to be taken out with fine tools.
You see, I’d already tried a jackhammer.
I needed something gentler;
an endless phone call in the middle of the night,
a long drive in traffic just to say hello,
you were the chisel that helped carve out the darkness.
Like this building I have been restored.
I have been changed.
And with your help, I did not crumble in on myself.

I am lucky to have fallen in love with a beanstalk who makes me laugh to the point of gasping for air.
Who brings an embarrassed smile to my lips that makes my cheeks ache.
Who sees tomorrow when I cannot.
Every adventure I have set out before us you have come on without question,
taking my hand and letting me drag you from one world into the next.
It is this thought that brought about this day,
a grand adventure through the history of our new home,
but also through our history as well.
It’s hours of board games and a love as sweet as apple cider,
the bustle of the market, and the grandeur of a regal hotel.
But mostly it’s just the girl in Union Station,
no train ticket or place to be,
wide eyes looking to the ceiling as though she was gazing at the stars.
And it’s you, the boy she loves, looking at her like she is starlight herself.

So here I am, the girl in Union station,
with another adventure in mind,
my hand outstretched for you to take once again.
This time, it comes with a question.

At this point I handed Matt his pocket watch, after struggling to pull it out of the plastic bag that sat in my pocket. I was supposed to say the words but instead I let him read the question that was engraved on the front: will you marry me?

He didn’t actually say yes at first, he wrapped me in a hug, and I mumbled the age old is that a yes to which I got a shaky positive response. The next few minutes were spent in laughter as Matt ended up with a nosebleed and we ended up sitting in the station waiting for that to end. It sounds like a disaster but in the end it couldn’t have been more us.

Throughout the day we took little videos of where we were and what we were doing. I lied and told Matt that I wanted to try and make my first vlog to compliment a blog post. I suppose this was kind of true since I’m now using it here but in reality I wanted to put together an announcement video that recapped the whole day. I hope you all like it.

The question I’ve heard the most since announcing that I proposed is “did you just get tired of waiting?” and it makes me laugh. I get where this idea comes from but it’s also another reminder that Matt and I don’t fit those typical expectations. He is most definitely the one who has been waiting. When we started getting serious I put down the rule that I didn’t want to get engaged until after university. Then, when I graduated two years ago I told him not to even think about it. Over the years my opinion on marriage has shifted in and out of favour, there have been many times when I thought we would just go the way of my parents and not bother. I’ve never thought any piece of paper or contract would define our relationship, and I still don’t. But I’ve decided I want the celebration, and that we deserve it after all the ups and downs we’ve been through.

Of course that still doesn’t fully answer the question; why did I end up doing it? It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t think Matt was never going to. In fact, I have had so much anxiety in the last year just worrying that he might beat me to it. I decided I wanted to be the one to propose because it gave me some control over a somewhat stressful situation. It allowed me to decide when exactly I was ready and what I was comfortable with. Along the way I decided I wanted the day to just be the two of us, and who knows what it might’ve been if Matt had proposed. I’m sure he would have come up with something amazing but I also knew my planning talents would be wasted if I didn’t take this chance.

There are lots of studies that suggest most men still aren’t in favour of women taking on this task. The gender roles in proposing and marriage seem to be still very contrasted. This is part of the reason I asked Matt if he’d be comfortable with me proposing almost two years ago. I told him it wasn’t anything immediate (his friends didn’t believe me since we were leaving for Paris a month later) but I just wanted to know his thoughts. He said he wouldn’t mind, and that it would take a lot of pressure off of him. I’m known for my over the top thoughtful gifts (which is why he didn’t suspect anything) so he was worried about living up to that. It was the perfect fit really; he was anxious about doing it, I was anxious about not having control, switching roles worked out better for us. Plus, this is the comment we’ve heard most of all when people find out I did it:

Yeah, that makes sense.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and excitement I’ve received from everyone who has found out, whether it’s been the past few days or over the last few months when I shared my plans with friends, family, and my work in the middle of a staff meeting. So many people have told me they think it’s awesome that I did it, and I honestly cannot be happier that I chose to. We had so much fun on our adventure and it’s been so exciting to share it with everyone. If there’s anything I’ve learned from all this, it’s that it doesn’t matter what anyone else expects, as long as it makes you happy.

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Happy Birthday Blog!

It was Facebook’s On This Day that reminded me of the particular significance of December 22nd. Normally it would be nothing special; no big celebrations, no momentous occasions, just a few days before Christmas to get ready for the mania that is about to ensue once I get back home. But this year December 22nd marks the one year anniversary of this very blog.

A year ago I took the plunge, spent more money than I wanted to, and finally put my writing back on display for the first time since high school. It was a panicked experience for me. I didn’t know if anyone would read it, I didn’t know if the name was any good, and I didn’t know if I could actually come up with content worth sharing. Diving into the unknown has never been my strong suit. I’m the girl with the plan, the backup plan, and the plan for when the backup plan fails. This was new territory and it was scary.

But it was also worth it.

Here I am a year later and I can hardly believe I made it. There were times when I wasn’t so sure, when it felt like inspiration for the next post would never come but I made it. Posting three times a week was ambitious and it worked in the beginning but now I’ve adjusted, realizing I’ll never be a blogger with a set schedule. And that’s okay, I’m doing just fine with what works for me.

Looking at the stats from this year I’m pretty happy with the numbers:

  • 120 posts

Sure, a lot of blogs have stats that blow these out of the water. Some have more followers in their first month of operation than I have had in a year. But that’s never what it’s been about. I don’t think I’ll ever feel inclined to turn this into something that makes me money. It would be nice to score a free dinner or two for my reviews but that’s also not what I’m going for. This blog has, and always will be, about sharing my experiences and documenting the good that has come out of surviving.

In honour of Her Story Continued’s first birthday I’d like to share the ten posts I’m the most proud of. These are not all posts that had the most views but they’re the posts that have meant the most to me. They’re the posts that needed to be written, the stories that my heart wanted to share. So lets take a look at them, shall we?

10. The World’s a Stage
9. Why I Work for Free — A Story of Volunteering
8. Your Job Does Not Define You
7. One Last Wish
6. International Women’s Day — Why I March…
5. Six Lessons from Sharing Six Hundred Square Feet 
4. Father’s Day and the Gift My Father Gave Me
3. The Superhero I Call Mom
2. Seeing Myself in This is Us’ Randall Pearson
1. Dear Alma Mater

If you haven’t had the chance to check out some of these posts I would be honoured if you took a read through now. They’re not perfect, and this place never will be, but I’m proud to have stuck with it.

And I’m not stopping.

This week I was inspired by one of our Youth Leaders saying they wanted to write more in 2018. I want to do the same. I’m thankful for that reminder to keep pushing, to make time for this blog and my other writing, it’s something that has always been such a big part of me. I’m so grateful to have the chance to share it.

Thank you for reading, for sticking with me through all the changes and shake ups, lets give this place another year.

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Oh what a night

“It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos.”
— Mel Odom

This winter season I have had the privilege to be part of not one but three awesome events in the city. My volunteering with North York Women’s Shelter allowed me to help organize and also enjoy a wonderful night celebrating women at the Shine Charity Gala, my day job had me running around in the chaos of the 10th Anniversary Chief’s Gala in support of Victim Services Toronto, and my journey to self-acceptance and body confidence brought me to the Body Love Ball by Body Confidence Canada. Each event was a celebration in support of wonderful organizations in the city I now call home and each one was special in their own way. Now that the chaos of these nights is well passed I thought I would share each of them with all of you.

Shine Charity Gala

(Credit: Shay Markowitz with @bluetrailcreative)

The Shine Charity Gala is the event I’ve been looking forward to for the longest time of the three. I started volunteering with North York Women’s Shelter as part of their gala committee back in the Spring and have had the privilege of working alongside some brilliant and hardworking women in the past many months who really made sure the gala turned out lovely.

As it was the earliest in the month it was officially the first gala I’ve ever been too. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of any events that I’ve attended that could be lumped into the same fancy category. The dress code was cocktail and unfortunately the dress I wanted to wear no longer fit but I salvaged the night with a favourite plaid dress and a petticoat.

The best part of the Shine gala for me was the fact that I got to spend it with my mom and my best friend. The evening started with us wandering around the reception to beautiful covers played on the violin. We grabbed our drinks, hit up the photo booth, and took a look at all the great items on the silent auction. I got outbid on everything I tried to go for but my mom brought home two bundles.

After some time we were welcomed downstairs to dinner. The silent auction continued via tablets on our tables while the courses were served and the welcoming addresses were made. The MC for the night was Toronto based Actor- Burlesque Performer-Emcee and Writer Dainty Smith. She was charming and knew how to pull a laugh out of the crowd when the programming didn’t go perfectly. She was accompanied by two lovely women from her burlesque troupe who performed to close off the end of the night. Additionally, there was a video preview of the project the former residents at the shelter have been working on, and Tiffany Hsiung ended the night with a look at the trailer for her acclaimed documentary The Apology which follows the stories of three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

10th Anniversary Chief’s Gala

One of the things I talked about in my first volunteering interview with Victim Services Toronto was how I like event planning and that I’d be happy to help out with the annual Chief’s Gala. Fast forward ten months later and I was surprised to find myself working and attending the gala with my co-workers. The weeks leading up to the event were organized chaos at best, with last minute orders of walkie talkies and auction paddles, and initialization and unpacking of 40 point of sales machines. Our office became a war zone of silent auction items and event materials.

The day before the gala a team of us headed down to the venue to set up. We stuffed pins, pens, and keychains into stemless wine glasses, we organized team boxes for the volunteers, made plans for decor, and tied ribbon onto 100 stuffed animals. As it turns out, as a lefty, I’m quite inadequate in ribbon tying so I was left in charge of cutting the 100 yards into 35 inch strands instead. It was a long day with a delicious pizza lunch and a lot of laughs.

The next day was even longer.

Now technically our shifts did not start until 3:30pm but I think my day began around 10am and I was up much earlier than that just due to excitement. I couldn’t wait to see how everything turned out and what the room looked like with 1,000 people.

But first I had to get ready.

Of the three events I attended this winter, the Chief’s gala was by far the fanciest. While the outfits seen throughout the night really ranged, there was definitely wiggle room where wearing a full length gown was not out of the ordinary. And why not take the opportunity? When I was in New York we went looking to see if we could find a new dress for this particular gala, hoping I wouldn’t have to wear just one of my dresses that I wear all the time. By some luck it was the very first dress I tried on in T. J. Maxx that ended up being the one I brought home. It was nothing like I’ve ever worn before; a slim flowing bodice with a slit up the one side, and a high neckline that cut in. It was meant to be a joke when I pulled it off the rack but when I put it on I was pleasantly surprised.

After a mishap with exploding liquid liner and some debate over shoes I headed out to pick up flowers and to meet one of my co-workers. By the time we arrived there were a few things left to do and volunteers to train but else wise we were ready. Soon enough the guests started to arrive and from there the rest of the night sped by quicker than I could have ever imagined.

I spent the first hour helping sell stuffed versions of our trauma dog Dandy. It was kind of hilarious watching everyone walk around with their little stuffies while mixing and mingling. I also ran into a couple that I had given a ghost tour for earlier in the year which was all kinds of funny. The hour went by quickly with lots of people giving wonderfully generous donations to our Trauma Dog Program and with a quick hello to Chief Saunders himself.

After the reception we scuttled into the ballroom for dinner. Our MC for the evening was Ben Mulroney of etalk and Canadian Idol fame. We heard opening remarks from him, some of the sponsors, and Toronto’s Mayor John Tory.

My one regret of the night is not getting to eat more of the main course. The beef was probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted but we had a live auction to prepare for so a few quick bites and we were up on our feet while Kayla Diamond gave a special performance for the evening. If you haven’t heard her hit song Carnival Hearts you should give it a listen, it’s quite beautiful.

The live auction was actually a lot of fun, even though it was chaotic. We were auctioning off some very unique experiences like a Jays game with the Chief or a fishing trip with the former Chief. I cashed out some of the big ticket items and it was kind of overwhelming just knowing some people’s credit card limits are that high. It was also exhilarating knowing that that money was going to support our clients and our programs.

The most powerful part of the evening was when one of my coworkers shared her experience with Victim Services Toronto. She provided the context and meaning of the work I see our Crisis Team do every single day. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the agency I work for.

Unlike the other events I was a guest at, the night ended with much left to do. Our volunteers were the unsung heroes of the evening, helping with each and everything they could, staying even as the party wound down and there were only a few of us left. Boxes were packed, cars were loaded, and at some point my shoes were ditched and left to the side. I left with a smile on my face and hope to play an even bigger part in the evening next year.

Body Love Ball

This little exploration will be short and sweet because I actually have quite a longer post coming about this event and what it meant to me. But just to introduce you to what the Body Love Ball is, I figured I’d give you a little preview.

Back in October I shared this image on the Victim Service’s media account, giving credit to the creators as you always should when reposting art or any sort of creation. And because I tagged Body Confidence Canada in the post they replied back to it, saying they hoped to see us at the ball. Naturally, the entirety of my organization wasn’t about to show up but that didn’t mean I couldn’t go. A few texts later and a look at the outrageously generous pricing for early bird VIP tickets, and we decided this was something we wanted to do.

The ball was originally scheduled for the end of October but it ended up getting reschedule until December, making it our wrap up of the gala season. It was a night of empowerment, beauty, and a whole lot of fun dancing and singing along to the music. To top it all off I got to spend the evening with my best friend feeling good about our bodies and loving life. More on that to come!

(Credit: Nancy Kim @ NSB Photography)

So that was my winter season. It was certainly much more exciting and extravagant than it usually is. Each of these events were truly a unique experience and I hope you enjoyed hearing about them. Stay tuned for more regular Sunday posts. Happy holidays!

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Toronto Eats: Starving Artist

I was looking at the date stamps on my phone and I can’t help but wonder where the last few months have gone. I was warned that the fall/early winter would be busy at my job but I don’t think I expected my life to be this busy as well. As you all know by now, this busyness in the day to day has led to me slacking with this blog a little bit. I hadn’t realized it was that bad until I saw that the pictures for this post have been there since September.

So I guess it’s about high time I talk about some of the best waffles I’ve had in my life.

You should know, this is very high praise for me because I love waffles. I’ve never been much of a breakfast person because of the fact that too often breakfast centres around eggs and I just don’t care for eggs.Toast, bacon, hashbrowns, they’re all pretty excellent but what I love more than them is a really tasty waffle with a bunch of stuff piled on top. Usually stuff that isn’t too healthy.

With that craving in mind, I went about doing my research on where to get some spectacular waffles in this beautiful city of ours. There are always so many places to choose from, regardless of what kind of food you’re looking for. It can definitely make trying new restaurants intimidating, especially since I hate wasting money on bad food. So far we’ve been incredibly lucky; we’ve found great Italian (see: Terroni), delicious pizza (see: Descendant), and fried chicken that was more than just a bucket from KFC (see: Joe Bird). And in Starving Artist on St. Clair West we found damn good waffles.

The restaurant itself had a very cool vibe to it with exposed brick, big bright windows, and those simply basic glass bottles of water for the table that I enjoy for no apparent reason. We walked right in on a Saturday morning with no issue finding a table but by the time we ordered there was quite the lineup at the door. I would say, it certainly helps that we’re almost always early.

When I read that Starving Artist was a place to go for waffles I didn’t really realize what that meant. When we sat down with the menu I opened it up expecting a regular breakfast menu with a few unique waffle items. Instead, I got an entire beautiful menu of unique waffle creations. Benedict waffles, french toast waffles, waffle sandwiches, sweet waffles, savoury waffles, all the waffles a girl could ever hope for. As the warning on the menu says: “Everything is made of waffles. On waffles. Between waffles. Or made in a waffle iron.”

So how the heck was I supposed to choose?

With the knowledge that we were headed to the Wychwood Barns for the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market (you may remember it from this post) right after breakfast, I knew I didn’t want to eat too much because we typically grab a snack or two at the market that gets devoured while we’re walking around. Wanting to try some different things off the menu, Matt and I decided we’d pick two items and share them both. A sweet and a savoury to cover our bases.

Our first choice was off of the signature menu. The Fully Loaded was a pair of potato waffles covered in sour cream, chives and bacon. It came with both a side salad and potato salad but of course these paled in comparison to the scrumptious waffles that were the centrepiece of the plate. It was almost like eating a baked potato but in waffle form which is so much better. The crispy outside of the potato waffles was a perfect contrast to the soft and cheesy mashed potato centre.

I don’t know it if was a typo or intentional, but Starving Artist’s online menu lists cheese twice in the description of this plate and it couldn’t be more accurate. There’s cheese in the potato waffles and there’s shredded cheese on top. I couldn’t have been happier.

Our second choice ended up being a sweet dessert waffle. The dessert waffles at Starving Artist come as a small plate with a single sweet mini waffle. This definitely wouldn’t have been enough as a meal on its own but it was the perfect amount to please my sweet tooth at the end of the meal. It was tough pickings between waffles with roasted marshmallows and waffles with blueberries and cream but in the end we decided to go with the Caramel Pecan Waffle.

This mini dessert waffle was topped with crushed pecans, whipped cream, and caramel. Quite simple but it was nicely done over a sweet waffle loaded with caramel chips. The whipped cream oozed down the side and the crushed pecans provided a nice contrasting crunch. It was definitely a good choice.

There was a final item on our order that brought my experience at Starving Artist over the top. When we walked in I noticed a chalkboard with different specials listed on it, this included meal choices as well as drinks. I can’t remember the exact name of the speciality milkshake we ordered but I knew I had to have it from the moment we walked in. You see, one of my favourite things from Walt Disney World is the Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake from Prime Time Cafe. It’s the perfect combination of sticky smooth peanut butter and sweet grape jelly in a thick vanilla milkshake.

And Starving Artist’s take on this drink was pretty much identical to Disney’s.

I love how different flavours just like scents and sounds can bring you back to somewhere. The moment I took my first sip of that milkshake I remembered one of our early Disney trips where my friend Maggi got to come along. Two sixteen year old girls had no business eating that much fried chicken but it was a great time anyway. The speciality milkshake from Starving Artist was a reminder of that great trip and a few others where Prime Time Cafe had been a dinner stop for us.

As I’m sure you can guess, I was pretty happy with our waffle adventure. I haven’t really had the chance to try waffles elsewhere in the city but I sure am glad Starving Artist made BlogTO’s list or I might’ve never found it. I’m also glad to finally get this review out there for you all. I hope you enjoyed yet another adventure in Toronto Eat’s. Now get out there and try some new places!

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Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego…

A.K.A. where the heck has Casandra been? It’s been over a week since my last post and while I’m anything but consistent anymore, I do feel a little bad for this stretch of time because there’s currently so much I want to share with you all. I’ve been on a lot of adventures and had some great new experiences that have challenged the way I view myself and the world around me. It’s been a time of extreme personal growth and while I may be a little rundown right now, it’s certainly been worth it.

November was a real whirlwind for me and December has shown no signs of slowing down. Rather than let this blog sit quietly while I try to play catch up with my work and social lives, I thought I’d do another coming soon to a blog near you post like I did the last time my schedule got a bit out of hand. And just like last time, I promise I’m not going anywhere.

So what can you expect from me and this place in the upcoming weeks? I won’t make any big promises but here’s what I have in mind:

  • Review of the Body Love Ball by Body Confidence Canada
  • Insights from working at the 10th Anniversary Chief’s Gala
  • A night celebrating women at the Shine Charity Gala
  • The laydown on my first trip to New York City
  • Toronto Eats: Bannock
  • Women in suits
  • Toronto Eats: Starving Artist (how haven’t I got to this yet)
  • One year in review
  • Matt’s Christmas adventure
  • What I’ve learned from our Youth Leaders
  • Toronto Treats: Desserts from around the city
  • Talking to kids about consent, healthy relationships, and cyberviolence
  • And hopefully much, much more

I know this short post is a bit of a cheat and isn’t the kind of quality content some of my more loyal readers are waiting on but I just wanted to check in, let you all know what’s going on, and then say see you real soon. I’m so humbled and thankful that I’ve almost made it the year with this blog. Seeing it grow and being able to connect and even reconnect with people through it has been a real pleasure. As exhausting as it can be trying to think up new posts or get things in on schedule, I really believe this place has helped me on my journey of self-discovery and growth. And I’m still learning, so why stop now?

I’ll see you real soon readers, I hope all is well and that life is good. If it’s not, I hope you’re seeking the help you need and finding ways to bring a little light in.

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