What is in a name?

Some of us have three, some four or more: a first, a sur, possibly hyphenated from two, and maybe a middle or middles. However long, that name becomes your identity from when you are born or the moment you assume that name. You answer to it, introduce yourself with it, and brand yourself by it. Your name becomes the so-and-so people talk highly, or lowly, about (“have you heard about so-and-so?”), you don’t want to tarnish it, and you do everything you can to protect it.HelloGrowing up, I hated my name, Alison (sorry, mum). None of the popular older girls in my school shared that name, there were no pretty celebrities named Alison, the only popular Alison was Buffy’s sidekick, Willow, and she didn’t even spell it like me so that didn’t count. Plus, she wasn’t the beautiful badass vampire slayer, she was the character that provided comedic relief, and to preteen Alison, humour was not an attractive trait I wanted associated with my name. In 1990, Alison was listed as the 347th most popular name for girls – how was I ever going to be popular with a name that was so far from cool? (I bet you can guess the most popular girl name in 1990 – I always knew my lil’ sis was way more popular than me, and this stat just proves it!) Fast-forward thirty years (gasp), and I can proudly say, I love my name, it just had to grow on me.

So, what is in a name? Names humanize a person, and are a crucial part of a person’s existence. After recently binge-watching Fleabag on Prime (if you haven’t watched the show, then you’re later to the party than I am, and need to do so asap), I was curious as to why some characters were left unnamed, such as Fleabag, the Godmother and the Priest. I was also questioned whether or not her friend “Boo” was actually her real name, or a ghostly trait of the friend that haunts her memory. I am interested in hearing the thoughts from those that watched the show on why viewers are not privy to these characters’ names, yet are invited in on Fleabag’s inner, most secretive thoughts. By not giving someone a name is a way to keep them at a distance, to not  get too attached to them, think Holly Golightly and Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. By not saying someone’s name is to remove the power they may have over others, think He Who Must Not Be Named from the popular, and much loved, Harry Potter series. My argument on why these characters are nameless is that they are everyone, they are not just one person – Fleabag is not only a Jessica, Alison, Claire or Boo, that character is everyone – all of us are Fleabag. Same with the Priest and Godmother. The personalities and actions the Priest, Godmother and Fleabag exude are real and raw human behaviours and actions that we all experience and commit.

Which leads me to ask, why are we (women) asked to change our name after we have spent x-amount of years claiming it as ours? As some readers may know, I recently married my person, and with that, comes the name change, which is a decision I’ve been struggling with – my last name defines me, it’s who I am and I’m scared that I will lose a piece of myself once I give it up / replace it with that of my husband’s. The easy solution is to hyphenate our last names, but that mouthful will eat up 22 spaces, not easily fitting in any box that requires one to write their surname. Add to that all of the paperwork that needs to be completed, the updating of accounts, the changing of email addresses. Oy, bring on the headache and the martini. Needless to say, all of this leaves me in a name conundrum. Again, I pose the question, what is in a name? Simply put, a lot.

A long-winded social media ramble

I don’t know how many hours I waste each week mindlessly scrolling through social media to gather news, stay up-to-date on long lost friends’ daily happenings, or daydream of far away locales, fancy outfits, and home décor. I, like many, am guilty of using these sites to only show a certain perfect part of who I am. Hidden from public scrutiny are tweets of my screw-ups at work, unexpected front facing camera selfies (yikes), or long-winded posts of the current state of the dizzying disarray my head is currently in right now. No one wants to hear or see that, or maybe that is my own insecurity telling me to keep the disorganized hidden for fear of judgment from outsiders. But isn’t that the point of social media, letting the outside world in, to an extant. We all want to live this picture-perfect life that we’ve somehow forgotten how to actually live a genuine life. We communicate in acronyms, emojis and slang through mediums that have begun to define us that we no longer know how to have meaningful face-to-face conversations.

A couple of weekends ago, I devoured My Friend Anna, a ridiculous story about a young woman who fooled people into believing that she was a German heiress, was able to scam businesses, and conned the one girl who believed to be her friend, Rachel DeLoache Williams, the author of the story.  A few days after, I stumbled upon the story of Caroline Calloway, another absurd story of an egomaniac, and I couldn’t help but think – is this what we have become in this digital age of constant life sharing? Nothing is authentic and genuine, and because of this, we no longer have the ability to differentiate the real from fake. It’s as if we are in this constant need to prove ourselves to others that we look to the  number of likes and followers we have gained through our beautifully styled grids, which obviously can only mean that we all have our shit together, for reassurance.

Our lives have become highly curated tiles that we will pay money to capture an incredible Instagrammable moment for others to see, or have mastered the monetization of that perfectly poised look by representing brands in a square shaped image, brands one may not believe in, but who cares, they’re paying money, right? Then, we anxiously wait to see the likes roll in that we forget to experience the moment, to live in the moment, and to just accept the moment as is.

Maybe we all want to make beautiful things, and we do this through styling a beautiful picture? Maybe we all want to be viewed as perfect, and we do this by posting that perfect image. And maybe we all want human connection, but instant connection, not something we have to build, we want it right away, and we do this by following and liking, but that’s as far as we’ll go.

However, on the other hand, there is also a lot of good that can be found on these platforms. It has opened the window into landscapes one may never visit personally, started the dialogue with people one may never have the opportunity to converse with, it has made us more aware of what is happening globally, introduced us to new people, and put smiles on our faces – if you don’t follow Tiny Chef or Simon’s Cat, please do so asap.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to get at here, but what I do know is that we have started comparing our lives to something unattainable, we mindlessly live life through a filtered lens, and we spend hours scrolling that we are unaware of what is happening IRL, unless we’ve just seen a livestream of it through our devices. Maybe it’s time for us to step back for a second and just be present and content with life as is, undocumented and unfiltered. Or maybe, it’s time for me to do that?

The irony is not lost on me as I shamelessly share this post on social media, hoping that the title is clickbait-able enough to entice readers. And I should share that this article is me pointing the finger at myself, as I am so guilty of the social media post, like, tweet craze.

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It’s okay to not be perfect.

Let’s Talk Politics

Sure it’s taboo to talk about the current government landscape, especially since we have been advised to never address politics and religion at a dinner party – the elephants in the room – but here I am about to break convention and chat all things political. Well, not really, but I do want to talk about an upcoming important date that should not be left neglected.

With the federal election looming in the foreground of our day-to-day activities, ads begin to interrupt our shows slandering a party leader we may or may not like, radio jingles mock another party, while predominantly red, blue and orange lawn signs decorate, and potentially divide, communities. It’s a who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s better, who’s worse race to The Hill, and we, the people, are left to decide on the right candidate to run our country.

I’m not here to shout at you to vote, but really you should. Nor am I here to tell you whom to vote for, but let’s be honest, it probably shouldn’t be blue. What I am here to tell you is that your vote counts. Yah, it sucks waiting in line in some elementary school’s gymnasium (were gyms always this small?!) and not channel surfing on your couch. True, long lines are annoying, and thoughts of what difference does my vote make, I’m just one person, float through you head (and everyone else’s) as fluorescent lights beam down like some political UFO spaceship propaganda sonar-ing insecurities into your brain. And now you’re next, you walk up to the little cardboard divider, and place an X by the name you want voted in, and good golly, doesn’t that feel good? You completed your civic duty for the day, you helped enact change, you can walk out of that miniature gym with your head held high. Although, you may feel a sense of defeat as the results roll in, but, that shouldn’t sway or dismay you on hitting the polls come October 21st.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, who should be the next Prime Minister of Canada? Well, that’s not for me to say, but what I will do is urge you to research each parties’ platforms, their policy priorities, their behaviours, and how they act. Ask yourself where you want to see change, what are you passionate about, what will impact you, but most importantly, what will impact us collectively, our communities and our country. Sure you are voting for yourself, but your vote is also very important to the young, the vulnerable, and the old. Is education, healthcare, affordable housing, climate change, etc. a priority to you? Well then, read how each politician talks about these matters that matter to you, and if you agree with their platform, then vote for them, but if you don’t, then read the next party’s, and then the next, and so on.

It’s easy to get swept up in the ideologies of those that you surround yourself with, but know that you don’t always have to agree with them. Do you research, form your own opinion on who the next leader should be and vote with that in mind. You don’t have to tell anyone, or do the taboo, and talk with your family and friends. Ask them who they are voting for, and why. Listen to their reasons, and who knows, it may help in guiding your decision at the polls, or it may sway you in a completely different direction.

I heard someone compare Canada’s current political scene as Batman’s villain, Two-Face: we are for climate-change, but also pipelines. We welcome immigration, yet ban religious symbols. We tout gender equality, and then our government bullies women out of office. Our options this election are difficult: one is a problematic duality, the other is struggling, and the other ‘popular’ party is hella terrifying. So, I would say this election, your vote really does matter. Voting

Summertime sadness is a real thing, yo

This time of year is always bittersweet for me, and I know I’m not alone in that melancholic feeling of summer’s passing faster than preferred. The cooler evenings, late sunrises, and back-to-school jingles are all signs of the changing season – one that I’m not yet ready to embrace. I know, I know, summer is still here for a few more weeks, but the start of September is the month that slowly creeps into fall, and those dogdays of summer slowly revert back into our reverie, becoming a distant blurry memory that is out of reach for another 290-or-so days. Summers are too short, too hazy and too perfect to only last a couple of months. Summer, that’s it, I am putting my foot down, do not leave us yet, it’s just not fair.

I recently read Dirty Work by Anna Maxymiw, and I loved it for many reasons, but the main one being that it brought me back to a time when I was a teen and would venture off to camp as either a helper in the kitchen (holy hell, feeding young kids is hard work), and then as a camp counsellor for the brightest most imaginative souls I have ever met. Maxymiw’s camp work adventures were a bit more strenuous than mine (we’re not comparing cabins to cabins here), but what Maxymiw did do through her book was build a connection to a time in our lives when life was a little less complicated, a little more innocent, the air, at times, fresher, and the food, cheap, greasy and damn delicious, especially after a 12-hour day of non-stop sweaty kitchen chores. If you haven’t read the book, read it. There’s still time this summer to escape to the wilderness, even if it is just through Maxymiw’s words.

Speaking of camp, what screams summer more than camp? Nada! Freedom for a week+ from authority figures, chores and societal rules that bind our day-to-day behaviours. Sign me up. Beach days, sport days, dress-up days; ghost stories, bonfires, week-long crushes that inevitably end when the bus leaves the campground; friendships forged, clothes swapped, numerous rolls of film taken of innocent experiences; laughter, joy, and depending on age, a bit of homesickness that often fades once a friend is made. There is a childhood innocence to summer camp that is fondly remembered, a time when life was easy, carefree and ‘perfect.’ What I would give to relive those days again. Maybe that is why those summer adult camping experiences are such a hit, but this time, a bit of booze is added to the mix. And as we all now, the best stories are made with a little, or a lot, of liquid courage.

Summer is so sweet because that thick humid air wafts nostalgia from summers past. It’s in the fireflies dancing during dusk, the lazy afternoon soundtrack of cicadas in the trees, the endless pool parties, slumber parties, sticky ice cream fingers, grass stains, camping, fireside stories and roasted smores. It’s those memories that we want to relive every year, and every year the season is too short to experience those summers of our childhood past. That 9-5 hussle is great when it comes to making bank (hah) and adult decisions, but it also means saying “summer, bye” to sweet August and July. Mind you, summer 2019 was one for the books – the best book (see #vanderlaenderstietheknot & #vanderlaendersinhawaii), it still evaporated faster than my money in Aritzia. Much like buyer’s remorse is a real thing, so is summertime sadness. So give me all that nostalgic summer memorabilia and let me relive memories of the past to help me imagine the summer memories I will make in the future. I only have 10 months to daydream.Camping

An Ode to Stuff

It’s been almost two months since the Marie Kondo phase hit households via television sets and social media, and it is no surprised that Tidying Up with Marie Kondo took onlookers by storm. The show was released during the gloomiest month, New Year resolutions were still top of mind, and to boot, Marie Kondo appears to be the most genuine person to ever appear on TV. Viewers went wild about tidying, folding, and sparking joy; #KonMari posts went viral, memes were shared, and people kept folding their clothes into tiny little rectangle shapes (what is that kind sorcery?!) I admit, I joined in and purged my clothes, but quickly stopped after I realized that the donation pile had more clothes than what I had left in my closet. Maybe that is the point.

As we witnessed in Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, it is difficult to part with items that have served as protection, securement, and enjoyment. Not only is it difficult, in some cases, it is truly daunting. No wonder so many basements are scary, they are haunted by the ghost of lives lived past. Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging one to hoard every odds and ends they meet; if it no longer provides comfort, happiness, or value, then out it goes. Personally, I have discarded/donated many things that no longer hold any meaning (pictures, notes, agendas, clothes), and the act of disposing something that is no longer a loved item is quite cathartic, especially if the mementos being trashed are from toxic experiences. There’s peace in a clean space, just as there’s peace in a clean heart. Yet, there is so much happiness looking at a shelf that holds trinkets from travels, memorabilia from yesteryears, and sacred possessions handed down from generations.

The types of reality shows where we are invited in to see someone else’s chaos makes us feel better about our own mess, be it physical or internal, and these shows allow us the opportunity to quietly judge those on the screen from the comfort of our couch. I could never live that way. How could they let that happen to their home. Thank goodness my place does not look like that. Maybe that is another reason why Tidying Up quickly became such a sensation, Marie Kondo seems to truly care about the people and their homes that she entered.

As the saying goes, “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” so who are we to judge the state of someone’s home. And TBH, a home that is lived in is better than a house that is pristine. I want that fridge door that is crowded with a little one’s artwork, school pictures, and postcards. Give me a bookshelf that is overloaded with stories shared with kids, friends, and novels read in peace. I want a house with blankets on the couch, shoes at the front door, and coats hanging on the hallway hook. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and besides, who wants perfect anyways, it’s too much gd work.IMG_1359

Between the Vines

I vividly remember Take Our Kids to Work Day in grade nine, it was the beginning of our high school career signifying that we too will soon enter the coveted workforce and bid adieu to the dreaded school bell. (Hindsight is 20/20, amiright?)

While other kids in my grade were pumped about the idea of tagging along with their parents to the big city and do what grown-ups do best, work, I on the other hand, was far from thrilled to be following my dad around for a workday. A couple of reasons, but the main one being that I was embarrassed to talk about where I went for TOKTWD with my peers. As we all know, high school is tough, mean girls do exist, and 14-year-olds just want to be Cher Horowitz, not some farm kid.

Fast-forward 18 years later (don’t do the math), I am shadowing my dad again for a day in the life of grape farmer under my own volition. Things have changed slightly, like the truck my dad is driving, but everything else still looks the same: the grapes are still purple, the leaves are still green, and the barn is still standing. What is new is the fact that my brothers, all too young at the time of TOKTWD, have found their own niche doing what they love on the farm. IMG_8206

It’s a busy Saturday during harvest and there’s lot of action on the farm. The crew began harvesting grapes early for an 8am drop-off at a nearby winery, then a rinse and repeat for an 11am drop-off at a different winery. There is much to do and the crew are racing against the impending rainstorm that is on its way. Back at the barn, the group has a long break – their next grape drop-off isn’t scheduled until 11pm.IMG_8190

Since we have some time to kill, I meet up with my younger brother for a quick catchup. After we chat about life, I get down to the nitty-gritty.
“So, what do you do now?” I ask, as I figured they would be picking from 9-5 with a few breaks in-between.
“We catch up on paperwork, clean the machines, help the guys in the vineyard. There’s always something to do.”
“How do you manage everything?” I ask.
“What do you mean?” He retorts.
“You know, all the farms you pick for, what wineries get what, who’s harvesting where?”
“It’s a challenge coordinating everything, but we have a great team that we trust and rely on.” He then shows me the day’s schedule on a dry-erase board and tells me that it is updated daily for the team to check regularly, and further adds that communication is key.
My phone buzzes, “It’s go time. They are about to pick chardonnay on concession 8. I’m coming to get you.”IMG_0258

A few minutes later, I’m tagging along beside my dad like it’s grade nine again, but this time I’m interested. Unlike grade nine, a few colourful words escape my dad’s mouth as stress levels increase due to to the time constraint they are battling.
“Why is the rain bad?” I naively ask.
“We need the weather to remain warm and dry. We can’t pick in the rain, and the longer we wait the more susceptible the grapes are to rot. I can’t sell rotten fruit.”
“Oh” I respond, as I silently pray to the weather gods to not mess with my dad.

We make our way down a bumpy back road and spot the harvester already in one of the rows. A few seconds later, I’m riding on what can only be described as a transformer: a giant metal machine that straddles a row and picks the grapes. The driver, one of three on the farm, tells me that this is his favourite part of the job, and I can see why. You are on top of the world.
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The Old Apartment

Last week I was reminded via Facebook Memories that seven years ago I moved into my first apartment. It was nothing fancy, but it was love at first sight: French Doors, a claw foot bathtub, and hardwood floors. I loved this small 550sq.ft space more than anything. Sure, the floors were squeaky, the neighbours upstairs were noisy, and the water pressure was weak, but it was mine, a place to call my own. It was in this apartment that I adopted my cat, Kingsley; I wanted a companion but not the human kind, and a dog was just too much. It was in this small space that I learned what it feels like to have mere cents in the bank account and no food in the fridge. This was the spot that girlfriends would come over to chat late into the night. And most importantly, this was the place that I finally grew comfortable being on my own.

I remember locking myself out of my apartment one evening in the winter. I didn’t realize until after a few drinks as I searched for my keys inside my purse. As most amazing ideas are the brainchild of booze, my idea of climbing the garbage cans to my bathroom window that was ajar, was a given. After failing, and falling, I had to call my landlord.

I have hazy memories of hanging out with a girlfriend who lived a few blocks away. My back-stoop became the spot we would smoke Sobranie’s, sip rosé or some homemade cocktail and discuss our current life choices; Lana Del Rey’s drowsy voice and the murmur of busy St. Paul Street the soundtrack to those summer nights.

I became comfortably at peace with the place I called home, but after two and a half years of safe refuge, my fear became a reality, as my beloved apartment turned against me. It was an early summer morning, but the city was still asleep when I was jerked awake by what sounded like my door knob turning. Too scared to move, I stayed in bed and reassured myself that it was just a dream. A few seconds later, I heard a deep bellowing voice say, “B!tch, let me in.” I screamed, and jolted out of bed – it sounded like an someone was inside my apartment. With nothing to protect myself, exposed and terrified, I slowly walked towards my kitchen, where I stood face-to-face with an unrecognizable man, my only protection, the window screen that stood on guard between me and this intruder. I yelled at him to leave, colourful curse words escaped my mouth, and with shaky limbs, I slammed the kitchen window closed and locked it. The man did not recognize that his behaviour was unwanted but continued to pound on my door and the walls of the building, spewing profane language, and causing me to feel weak, dirty and isolated. Finally, the man gave up and ran off somewhere, while I remained hidden on my living room floor crying.

After I gained a bit of strength, I called the police, and to my horror, they did nothing but made me feel as if the incident was my fault.

That moment changed my carefree spirit and I became paranoid of what could be lurking around a corner, or across the street. I became a 27-year-old woman who triple checked that the door was locked, and that the windows closed. I could no longer sleep in the dark and had to leave my night table lamp on – shadows that were once familiar scared me and sounds that were soothing became unbearable.

I remained in that apartment for ten more months. When the day came to leave, I was sad; I didn’t want to say goodbye to my first home, to the memories I created in that small space, and to the place that taught me to stand on my own. Although it felt like she abandoned me that one summer morning, in reality, my old apartment protected me.IMG_1028