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Thank you, always and forever

For those who don’t know, my birth wasn’t planned. And I start off with that sentence because regardless of the surprise of me into the world, it never felt like one.

Especially because of my aunt—Tita—Ela.

Growing up, she had always touted me as her “first-born” or the little sister she never had. She was always holding me, loving me, and spoiling me.

But like a little sister, I put her through a ringer.

She often liked to remind me, that as a baby, right before she had to go to school one morning, I pooped on her uniform.

It’s very much a metaphor for how she’d deal with my shit the rest of her life.

Whether it was banging on her door to watch Beauty and the Beast with me for the millionth time, even after staying up late to study for her exams, or taking the VIA Rail on weekends from Toronto to Ottawa to come hangout, or even sit through hours of me trying on prom dresses before I finally settled on one—my Tita Ela was always there.

Like sisters, she let me cry on the phone with her when my first boyfriend broke my heart, and let me vent when I got into another fight with my parents. She would calm me down when I had anxiety because I thought would die from eating undercooked pork sausages. And she would scream just a little when I told her—after the fact—I had jumped out of a plane.  

I still have the teddy bear she gave me one Christmas, years ago.

Tita Ela wasn’t just a mother and a wife, or a sister or aunt, for a lot of my family she was also a confidant, a best friend.

I remember when she told me she was pregnant with her (real) first-born. My cousin David and I had jokingly, a month ago, made her eat Rockets but called them pregnancy pills.

I was ecstatic when I got the news.

I remember her Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy she had in her apartment, her love of Dalmatians (and dogs in general—she still claims Buddy as her own), and how she could draw (she once sketched Betty and Veronica and Snoopy in my sketch book).

We’d gush over our mutual love of Nick Carter and how Pierce Brosnan is still fine (like aged wine). We’d talk about future travel plans when COVID was finally done and her youngest’s latest audition.

We’d dissect the story arcs for ABC’s Once Upon a Time, I’d sit through her worrying about my partying some days as well as recipes I should try, and also sent pictures back and forth to help her decide on what dress to wear to her Christmas parties.

In my third year of university, my Tita let me do a project on her for my photojournalism class.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer and a week later found out she was pregnant.

My series and documentary followed her through her second trimester, asking her how she felt.

And what stuck out to me as I watched in on loop—just to hear her voice again, just to feel a sense of calm wash over me—was that despite all the fears, and the unknowns, and the exhaustion in her voice, she knew that her “little one” was worth it all, was something to look forward to.  

One day on Instagram I asked my followers what they loved most about themselves and it couldn’t be physical.

Tita responded:

“One thing I know I have and can be proud of? Resiliency.”  

And that’s the thing about Tita Ela… she would never give up.

It’s something I will forever remember her by.

I know right now she’d sassily—honestly, I think that’s where I get my sass from—tell me to not be a cry baby, that everything is okay, and she’s with Lola and Tita Tess now. But I also know that I miss her immensely.

I also know that no matter how many funerals you go to or how much grief you have, it never gets easy the next time around.

I don’t think it ever will.

It never gets easy writing these, no matter how many times I have. No matter how many walks down memory lane, no matter how this time around I was able to hug her one final time, no matter how many walks in the rain or tears you shed… still I have all the words, and none at all.

In moments like this Tita would remind me that our peace doesn’t come from the departed—it comes from God.

So, in this moment, like Tita, I’ll quote a verse she shared only 11 days ago: Romans 8:28.

Today I woke up to a world without her—and I don’t like it one bit.

Today, I woke up knowing I can’t FaceTime her randomly during the work day nor can I text her about the next boy I like.

Today I woke up wishing we could have more memories to make.

And while I know she’s up there with a mother and sister she’s missed, I hope it’s okay I miss her too.

I hope it’s okay every time I see a butterfly, I’ll remember her too.

Besides, I already know—and will wait for the day—when we meet again.

I just know she’ll roll her eyes, put up her fist and shake it back and forth, going, “What did you do that for?” as she proceeds to rip me a new one for all the crazy antics and mistakes I’ll probably make moving forward.

And to that I’ll say, “Thank you, always and forever, for putting up with my shit.”

Pun intended always, Tita. Pun intended

It’s All About the Little Things

The other day my therapist asked me how I felt about myself.

You’d think I’d have a great answer for that at 28 but, if I’m honest, I still don’t know.

I’ve spent so much of my life hiding behind my grades, my achievements, my highlights, and my career, that if you asked me who I am when you strip all of those away I can honestly say I’m still figuring it out.

And, in a month that acknowledges mental health, I’d be remiss not to talk about it.

You see, while I may not know yet how I feel about myself, I’ve spent the last few weeks focused on how to feel, generally: to feel alive, to feel happy, to feel hopeful, to feel peace.

That’s why, unsurprisingly, near the end of my session, my therapist asked me to spend the next little while really focused on the things I do throughout the week that make me feel, but more importantly to really focus on the things that exemplify self-love and self-care.

So in light of the little things, in light of transparency, and in light of the fact that I hope maybe this might help someone (anyone), here’s my list of little things I’ve been trying to do just to feel a little bit better, to love myself a bit better, and to feel a little bit prouder of just how far I’ve come.

Foreground of blue water with a canopy of trees in the background. Two paddleboarders are on the lake.

Going on Walks

My one friend joked I looked like I was outside more than I was working, but in all seriousness I try to go for 1 to 3 walks a day during my lunch break or after work. My one friend and I always hit up the beach area close to the city to go on boardwalk walks, other times I make sure I at least pass the lake.

There’s something about the sunshine too that has just made everything feel better! So get your 10k steps in a day, because I promise it’s a mood booster.

An Elevated Skincare Routine

While I’m sure most (if not all of you) have this down pat, I recently splurged on some Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Hydra-Gel Eye Patches (because I am not a fan of bags or dark circles under my eyes) and honestly it really is a little added thing that makes my day. Not only does it help wake me up in the morning, but it just makes me feel a little bit better when it comes to caring for myself.

Enjoying a Bubble Bath

I know some of my friends hate the thought of sitting in a tub, but I have always (and will always) treat the bathtub as my happy place. Bath bombs, bubble baths, essential oils… and maybe a glass or two of wine… maybe it’s my inner Pisces, but I’m hoping to eventually transform my bathroom into a dark jungle vibe of coziness with dark paint and wallpaper.

Starting New (Creative) Projects

I find I’m my happiest when I’m passionate about something and pursuing things that bring me joy. While the past month has seen that in the form of decorating my space and making it feel like home, I’ve also been trying out other creative avenues.

Over the course of the pandemic I started drawing again and purchased the Procreate App to try my hand at digital illustrations. It’s been so long but I really enjoy it.

And while I won’t be talking about it too much yet, I have a future series of work I’m excited to share (with a little help from some of my awesome friends!).

Taking Photos (Especially of Flowers)

About a week ago, my mental health was in the best place it’s ever been and I had to share this news on Instagram. And one friend in particular mentioned taking photos of flowers to be therapeutic. And I did. And I made this. And it really was everything.


It sounds so, so, so weird, I know, but I’m very much a stress cleaner and I find that when my space doesn’t look cluttered my mind feels less cluttered, too. Lately it’s taken the form of decluttering my desk and keeping everything in its rightful place, while also (unsurprisingly) planning my next home decor purchase. My most recent one involves my balcony and turning it into a pandemic oasis.

Also, it’s nice coming home after a long day of errands to an already clean space so I can just fall into bed without having to fret about sweeping or dishes.

Phone Calls/FaceTime

I know so many of us are all Zoomed out, but I call at least one (or two or three or four) friends a day just to chat and to take conversations past texting. In a time where human connection is more important than ever, it’s nice bringing it back to basics and actually sharing a laugh instead of an “lol.”

Also, I really appreciate everyone who has been there for me through my highs and lows the last little while. Support really is everything.

Arugula Salads

I don’t know what it is, but I have been obsessed and eat one of these a day. Just add 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil as a dressing, and I top it off with parmesan cheese and ground black pepper.

Also stay tuned for a future blog post about all the fun recipes I learned to make over this pandemic. One of the things the last guy I was dating was good for was encouraging me to enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen. Verdict: it isn’t terrible – and for some of you, it may just be a little thing you’ll do and add to your list.

I know for a fact each of us struggles with something (whether publicly or privately). And I also know it’s not easy.

But what I’ve discovered in the last two-ish months of my own journey of self-love and therapy, is that on top of the unpacking and unlearning and facing your traumas… it really is also all about the little things in the inbetween.

It’s about the baby steps you take, the small changes you make each and every day to get to where you want to be… to get to who you want to be.

While I’m admittedly the type who needs to reach a destination to feel like I’m making progress and/or seeing results, I’m learning to embrace that this process in and of itself is a step, a little thing, a little change I’m learning to make.

And some days it may not seem like much, it may not seem like anything at all.

But, take it from me, I promise you, they really are everything.

Life Moves Fast (Apparently So Do I)

I bought a condo in the middle of a pandemic.

I didn’t think I’d be uttering those words in 2021, but somehow, three months into the new year, this is what’s happened.

I told myself I wanted to be a homeowner by 2022—the only silver lining to lockdowns is I had found myself saving more—but, life had other plans.

Isn’t that how it usually goes?

When starting out on this buying journey, I figured that if I started looking around my birthday I would find something by the summer (hopefully, fingers crossed).

I found it in less than a week: I viewed my condo on March 5th and had it sold conditional by the 8th.

I only started viewing places on the 2nd.

If that wasn’t enough of a surreal and slightly emotional whirlwind (wanting to be a homeowner was surprisingly emotional I was not prepared), what made this entire thing even more hectic was the fact I had just gotten out of a relationship (and living with someone I was seeing, for lack of better terms) a week before.

Cue all the feels.

But, apparently, I like to distract myself. Anyone else like to take on new projects when they feel their life falling apart? No? Just me?

The day I went back to my parent’s place with my heart shattered in pieces and tears down my face, my mother jokingly said we’d, “Window shop for houses.”

That turned into actual shopping.

But heartbreak to homeowner, right?

While I spent most of the past few months casually scrolling through to see what was on the market, a unit had caught my eye at the end of February. I immediately texted my agent Marjorie from Maison Real Estate Co. to schedule a viewing, but alas, it had sold before I even had a chance to view it.

Welcome to the downtown Toronto market.

Fast-forward a few days later to another unit I saw close to Cityplace that Marjorie suggested I view (even though the photos were horrendous). I really liked the unit the instant I saw it, to the point that despite it being the first unit I had ever seen I was ready to put in an offer.

That excitement lasted a whole three hours before the panic ensued.

This was too easy. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that. It cannot be this smooth.

Those were the thoughts racing through my mind as I tried to comprehend what exactly just happened.

But, when making one of the biggest decisions of your life during a very emotional time in your life, sometimes it’s really important to pump the brakes just a little and ask yourself is this really for me?

Of course, Marjorie calmed me down, but we agreed I should look at a few more units just to reassure myself before placing an offer.

The next three units I wanted to see had again sold before I could get a chance or just weren’t open to viewings.

And then came the one I ended up buying.

Again, like magic, Marjorie had chosen a spot I didn’t originally think to view (because the photos on the website just weren’t doing the place justice).

But I kid you not, the second I walked in, I knew it was mine.

I’ve found through all of this, the buying process is part logic and part emotion and in that moment, unlike that first unit, without even a moment’s hesitation or self-doubt (after a quick FaceTime call with my mother), I told Marjorie to put the offer in.

The second she sent it in I knew it was mine.

And three days later it was (sort of).

The buyer’s journey is one filled with status certificates and financing calls and talks with a lawyer to figure out a land transfer tax and closing costs, and all that jazz (all things I am happy to help you with if you want some insight!).

And it’s one that I somehow completed in 27 days (I had a very early closing date… whoops).

But, in that crazy race I had found myself running through the month of March, I really could not have done it without Marjorie’s help, insight, and support (not only as an agent but as a friend). From all my freak outs to my never-ending questions, she was there to help me achieve my goal when it came to finding a space I could call home.

And achieve it, I did.

Although one millionaire once stated we had to stop eating avocado toast so we could afford houses as millennials, I have to admit in all transparency, I wouldn’t have been able to purchase my condo without the help from my parents.

They provided the financial support (and my dad’s SUV to help move) to make this happen.

And, as I get ready for one of the biggest changes in my life to-date, for the time being, I am breathing and taking pause.

The past month has been a smorgasbord of joy and sadness, of heartbreak and healing, of closing old chapters and beginning anew.

I am nothing short of excited because what a birthday present to myself, but I am also reflecting on just how much can change in 30-something days.

As I slowly pack up my apartment in the downtown core—the one that saw me as I lost my job after moving out for the first time, the one where my roommate and I solidified a friendship forever (even though we’re now in different timezones), the one where I got a new job and hit new goals—I can’t help but reflect on how metaphorical packing and purging has truly become.

If it’s not the clothes that no longer fit or the pieces of furniture that won’t move with me to the next stage of my life, it’s the relationship and friendships that no longer work, it’s the goals I had for myself that have somehow shifted, and it’s the realization that while some things last, others don’t.

But there’s a beauty in that.

There’s a beauty in the ebb and flow.

There’s a beauty in progression.

And there’s a beauty in being open to whatever is next, in the be.

While the next little will most likely have me on an interior decorating binge, I’m also excited to see what milestones, adventures, and memories my new home will see me through.

Because, undoubtedly, life comes at you fast friends.

And sometimes, all you can do is hold on for the ride.

P.S. I also promise I’ll dive into the process, journey, and story a lot more in some future videos and posts, soon (because what else is there to do in lockdown number three except to get creative with new mediums?).

A Good Day for a Spa Day

It’s funny sharing a birthday with the global pandemic: while I celebrate yet another 365 days around the sun, I couldn’t help but hate that we had somehow made it through 365 days of social isolation and no travelling. Emphasis on that last point.

So while I didn’t have the option of hopping on a plane or taking shots at a bar, my friend and I booked a last-minute overnight stay at Ste. Anne’s Spa.

It was the closest thing to a vacation we could get without hopping on a plane.

Disclaimer: It books up fast folks, so the earlier you book the better. We somehow got really lucky with our timing.

For those who aren’t familiar with Ste. Anne’s Spa, the cute cottage-like building is located in Grafton, ON about less than two hours from Toronto’s downtown core (on a good day).

Overnight packages are generally cheaper on weekdays and we had booked just a one night stay. For the weird seasonal purgatory between spring and winter, Genée and I thought it was the perfect amount of time.

I have to say though, we got really lucky—the weather felt like summer at some points!

Prior to your trip, you can book your spa treatment and all the timeframes for your afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast, and lunch (yes, you get four meals included with your package price!).

When we first arrived at the spa, we were given an orientation where we filled out some forms and were given our robes and bags for the day. We also went over some COVID-19 precautions and procedures and felt reassured that the sanitization and safety went above and beyond.

Now the one downside is that our room wasn’t expected to be ready until 4:00 p.m. (we had checked in a round lunch). So, while we waited, we signed up to go on a guided walk tour of the property.

It probably wasn’t the best idea to walk outside in our fall boots (we were not prepared for the snow). Being the klutz I am, I may have slipped one too many times…

But I imagine the trails must be gorgeous when there’s actual greenery outside. Plus, with the three various trails you can choose from something short and sweet to something longer. We followed our path to the farm just up the road where you could feed and pet some horses.

We then returned to the main house to get ready for our spa treatments. The package we received gave us a $120 credit towards any spa treatment, so we both chose a hot stone back exfoliation. After having not seen my RMT in months, it was so needed (especially after an unintentional workout).

And, because we only used $100 of our original credit, we could put the remaining $20 towards a purchase from the gift store!

We followed up our massages with some afternoon tea, where I highly recommend you ask for extras of the salmon (don’t be afraid to ask, they are very accommodating. They also had great vegetarian and gluten-free options!

But, it’s no surprise that for this Piscean, the outdoor hydratherapy pools were my favourite part of the entire day. The temperature was perfect and there were enough pools and space to stay socially and physically distant from other guests.

While we thought we’d only spend 30 minutes turning into prunes, the water coupled with the pretty lights had us enjoying the heat for over an hour.

I really should have just dedicated a blog post to the food at Ste. Anne’s, because delicious doesn’t even cut it. Created with farm-to-table in mind, the quality of the meals were better than most places I’ve been.

For dinner that night, the four-course meal started with an amuse-bouche followed by appetizers. Genée ordered the pork belly and I chose the mushroom risotto. You’ll want both for sure.

We followed that with duck and Osso Bucco respectively. If I wasn’t so full I would’ve asked for seconds (which you can technically do…). Sadly we were too full for dessert, so we passed on that, but the options looked amazing!

Note: I think it’s also imperative to mention that Ste. Anne’s doesn’t serve alcohol but you are more than welcome to bring your own beverages to enjoy at any meal (or even by the pools).

Now for my birthday breakfast.

If you don’t know, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and I don’t just mean the hour it is, I mean even the food involved in breakfast is my favourite thing in the world.

Unsurprisingly, I chose to ring in 28 with an order of Eggs Benedict (my usual go to). Genée ordered a classic breakfast (with hard boiled eggs). Then we proceeded to ask for extra sausages and bacon. (I am allowed to be gluttonous on my day of birth).

We then checked out and hung around in the massage chairs and gift shop while we waited for lunch. For appetizers (man, we were really well-fed during this trip) we got beef carpaccio and a fish cake. I then ordered the grilled cheese and would highly recommend with a side of tomato soup! The service at Ste. Anne’s is impeccable and they were very flexible about getting Genée’s food ready for take-out instead.

(A good friend of mine also mentioned she once took seconds home after she had lunch… it is an all-inclusive spa for a reason!).

For those who are curious, Ste. Anne’s Spa did come at a bit of a higher price point, but by the end of 24 hours we thought that for accommodations, spa treatments, four meals, and access to the hot pools, it was worth the money.

Overall, the environment Ste. Anne’s Spa creates is nothing short of relaxing. From the music they use to the aesthetic in each room, it really is a nice little break from city life.

Plus the staff are amazing! While the rooms didn’t come with TVs, we were able to request one from the front desk where they had a selection of DVDs for us to choose from.They even called us a couple days later to ask how we enjoyed our stay.

For our first visit to the spa (it was something we’ve been talking about for a long time) we were really pleased.

Would we go back? In. A. Heartbeat.

Honestly, if I could do it monthly… I would.

P.S. For all my friends in relationships consider it your next getaway with your boo.

Also, because I am terrible at taking photos of the room we stayed in, enjoy this video where you can catch a glimpse of it.

Embracing the Gold

Lately I’ve been reminded of the Japanese art of Kintsugi: putting broken pieces back together with gold. It’s a metaphor that reminds us to embrace the flaws and imperfections – that in those cracks you can find something new.

But lately, as I think about it, it’s reassuring to think our hearts can do that, too.

It’s only two months into the new year, and I’ve already had to implement so many resolutions and face so many uncomfortable truths about myself, my traumas I’ve never dealt with, and healing the scars I’ve never let fade.

But it’s reassuring to know that despite all the jagged edges and broken pieces, just like Kintsugi, I’m not worthless or damaged. I just need to take the cracks and emptiness and fill it with gold.

They say healing is a journey. They never said it’d be an easy one.

Healing is crying and screaming and self-deprecating moments of defeat. It’s waking up one day feeling great and then maybe not so great the next. It’s accepting that sometimes life sucks… but also that it won’t always. Some weeks it’s feeling off and not yourself and internally yelling because, “Why can’t I do this?”

But I also think a huge part of healing isn’t just about facing or dealing with the bad, but in filling your life with the good (even in small doses and even when you don’t feel like doing that at all.) For me, healing has taken the form of drawing on Procreate, of trying to feel healthy and strong and safe in my body and my own skin, of talking it out (sometimes yelling it out), of setting up that therapy session I’ve been avoiding, and mostly, as always, just writing what I feel.

Lately healing has slowly taken the form of finding the little gems and holding onto them, especially the ones within myself.

Because what I’ve learned about healing, above all else, is that the biggest part of it is choosing to lead with love, even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, and even if you can’t love yourself.

You see, if you can’t start with self-love at least start with self-like.

Start with one positive thought a day you repeat over and over. Start with being grateful for what you have. Start with believing in that little light in yourself, even when it feels so dim.

And most importantly, start to believe you’re not alone.

Full disclaimer: I am not perfect. And I will never again strive for “perfection.” It doesn’t exist.

But what I can strive for is to constantly choose myself and find myself. What I can do is put the pieces back together and admit that I haven’t been okay for a long time.

And don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t some overnight epiphany. This was constant late nights and 3 am pillow talks and fights that made me finally realize while I was terrified of hurting others, I was always only ever really hurting myself.

The last few weeks have been a serious wake-up call.

You ever think about how winter just buries things with the snow, leaving them to thaw when spring finally comes?

That has been me, burying things so deep, covering them up with bandages and distractions. But the thing with winter is spring always comes, these things resurface, and then I’m left to face the fact what I want isn’t exactly what I might need.

I have only just started this process of finding myself and putting pieces back together.

And truthfully, I don’t really know why I’m writing this (this level of vulnerability is absolutely terrifying) and to be honest I have no idea if any of this made sense… but maybe this is all to say that once upon a time I felt truly alone, completely broken, and maybe even a touch worthless.

Maybe I’m writing this because if you were in that place or are in that place, or like me go in and out of this place, I really want you to know and wholeheartedly believe you aren’t alone.

I’m right there with you.

There is a season for everything and in time this one will go too.

Because, your traumas and scars and hurts do not mean you’re broken.

We just might need a little bit of gold.

The Year of Be

This is a book review. But it also isn’t. It’s almost like a reflection, a series of word vomit if you will, as I ponder the past year and the year to come.

But while reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the humanity that exists in all of us. Of the shared happiness and fears and anxiety and joys that come with connection.

It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made fall in love with reading again.

In Anxious People, Backman takes you through a whirlwind journey of a moment in time shared by so many people all hiding behind their neurotic tendencies, cold exteriors, and longings—a longing to just be and belong.

It reminded me that in this weird purgatory of a pandemic, there are still so many connections to be made, so many stories to share, so many moments we may be missing if we don’t stop to look.

The past year, let alone the past few months, have opened up so many avenues of grief and sadness, but they have also opened doors for “new”—new beginnings, new hopes, new gratitudes.

It was so vividly seen in Anxious People that even in the uncertainties and the doubts and the fears, all it takes is just a little bit of kindness to help us realize we’re never really strangers, we’re never really alone.

When talking with my friend Shujanaa, we were summarizing our one word for the year. After pondering for the last few weeks I chose the word “be.”

It’s a word that holds so much weight—but only as much as you let it.

Let the year be what is. Let life be what it is. Be the best version of yourself. Be a better version of yourself.

Ultimately, be still, be present, be persistent, but also be proud of how far you’ve come—and how far you have left to go.