On moms, beauty, and perception


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Last week Dove released a video that quickly went viral and had everybody talking about beauty and issues of self image. The video featured a woman describing herself to a sketch artist and then another person describing the same woman to a sketch artist. Afterward, the drawings by the sketch artist were shown side by side. Sure enough, the drawings of the women who had been described by another person were far more attractive than the drawings of the women who were describing themselves.

I’m not going to address the numerous issues that people have with this video and Dove (they’re owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe, the overarching message is still that beauty is important, they’re just trying to sell soap, etc). When watching this video, one of the parts that stood out to me was when a woman said that her mother told her she had a big chin. I noticed comments in online communities that were similar. “My mother told me I’d never be as pretty as my friends.” “My mom has always said that my nose is too big for my face and that she’d pay for plastic surgery if I want it.”

I almost couldn’t believe these comments, although truthfully, I know that sometimes a mother can undermine her daughter’s self-esteem worse than anyone. It got me thinking about my own mom and how I was lucky enough to have someone who not only was supportive but who regularly tried to get me to see my own beauty. She told me over and over, “Other girls might be pretty but you are beautiful.” As I’ve said before, when I look back at pictures of myself I now wish that I could have seen what she was talking about. Instead I was my own worst critic, constantly convinced that I didn’t look as good as the other girls in my class. Nevertheless, I’m thankful for what my mom said. Throughout all my self doubt, she was an encouraging and reassuring voice. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up with a mother who criticized my looks just as harshly as kids in the schoolyard. Once again, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have my mom.


I’m listening to: Marina and the Diamonds



I can’t get enough of Marina and the Diamonds. I first heard about this amazing singer when her song Shampain kept popping up in the suggested videos section of Youtube.


I finally gave it a listen and I was hooked! Strangely enough, Marina hasn’t hit it huge in North America yet but that may change soon because one of her songs is rumoured to be featured on an upcoming episode of Glee. In the meantime, here are two of my favourite picks from her latest album, Electra Heart.


Skinny people are human too!


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Okay, ignore the tongue-in-cheek title. Obviously people of all sizes are human. But as I’ve written before I spent a long time thinking that any person who was skinny (and by skinny I actually mean fit and trim or someone who can button up their jeans without feeling like they’ll pass out) was naturally that way and didn’t have to work at it. And while I even claimed to understand that slim people actually work hard at it, I didn’t realize just how much effort they put into it until recently.

In an effort to go beyond the standard advice that my plate should be 1/2 veggies, 1/4 protein and 1/4 carbs, I decided to swallow my pride and hit up some of the healthiest people I know for advice. And boy was it eye-opening. One of the biggest things I heard, over and over again, was to simply not buy sweets and snacks. Every single healthy person I know has said that they don’t have any more willpower than I do, they just know that they can eat healthier if they don’t keep unhealthy foods in the house. The rest of what I was told was even more surprising. I thought I might be subjected to some stock advice about using low fat salad dressing over full fat. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead I learned that my friends are eating things like steamed chicken and veggies, having a single tiny portion of a sweet snack and throwing the rest away and engaging in bootcamp style fitness classes.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised by all this but I was because I truly didn’t know how hard it was for these people to stay in shape. In a way it made me feel better because they aren’t just adding a few extra veggies to their plates. They are constantly working at it. I now know that food journals and measuring out portions aren’t just for fat people, they are for everyone. It might sound crazy but it really does help knowing that I am not the only person struggling to control my weight and that pretty much everyone has to put some effort in.

Lent Challenge 2013

Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner but do you know what else is around the corner? Lent! Ah yes, that time when Christians give up certain luxuries (usually some kind of decadent food) as a form of penitence and also as a way to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert while he was tempted by Satan. For the last few years some of my friends have decided to take Lent and turn it into a contest to see who can actually make it through the entire period without giving in to their temptations. There’s no prize at the end, just the satisfaction of knowing that you did it. And even though most churches actually discourage fasting or any form of penitence on Sundays (that’s why Lent goes for 46 days, not 40) we usually keep the challenge going for the entire 46 days.

I have never gone quite as hardcore as my friends. Last year, one friend decided to give up baked goods entirely. This year another friend has decided to give up alcohol, meat and junk food. I usually go a bit easier on myself. One year I gave up Taco Bell which actually wasn’t much of a challenge because I hardly ever eat it when I’m in Toronto. I’m prefer to take advantage of the drive-through when I’m back home.

This year I decided to take stock of my eating habits and figure out which foods I could give up that would actually provide a challenge. And of course, I’m using it as a bit of an excuse to try to eat healthier. Believe it or not, foods like pizza and french fries don’t pose much of a problem. Instead, I decided to give up all solid chocolate and….juice! It sounds crazy but I’m kind of addicted to juice. I can easily knock back three cups of apple cider without even trying. I can’t imagine eating eggs for breakfast without having a glass of orange juice to go with it. And of course, the chocolate is kind of a given. I actually tend to avoid baked goods that don’t have chocolate in them because I figure there is no point in eating them.

So, that’s my challenge for this year. Starting next Wednesday I will be giving up chocolate and juice straight through till Easter Eve. I can’t wait to see what happens!

Becoming an aunt


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Well, this post is pretty self-explanatory. One week ago I became an aunt. My brother and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. Unfortunately I was out of town during the birth but my mother and I were able to rush back home on the day my niece was born. After four hours on the 401 we drove straight to the hospital and saw my adorable 14 hour old niece. I spent the next three days spending as much time as possible with her. My brother was impressed that I was able to hold his little girl for hours at a time and rock her just gently enough that she would stay asleep while her mother got some rest or went for a shower. And even though my back and shoulders would ache after a while I felt like I could have held my niece all day and all night.

I used to think it was weird when people seemed totally obsessed with their nieces or nephews but now I totally get it. I’m not ready to be a mother yet but I have so much love for this little baby that I feel like my heart could explode. Since I’ve come back to Toronto I’ve been badgering my brother for daily pictures and updates of his little munchkin. I truly can’t wait to see her again.

I’m listening to: Stars


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Have you heard about Stars? Chances are you have actually heard their music somewhere in the last ten years. They usually have a slow, melancholic, dreamy sound but their latest album, The North, makes me feel like I’ve been transported to a New Wave club in the 80s. I finally picked up their latest album on Boxing Day and I have been rocking out to it ever since. Of course, I can’t write a post about Stars without including the song that introduced me to them nine years ago. Listen to it and fall into a trance.

Let it go


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It’s a new year and once again, it seems that everyone is making resolutions. But a few days ago, I started what will become a lifelong resolution. It’s one that I know I will constantly struggle with but in the end, I will do my best to keep at it because I know that it is what’s best for me. I am going to let go.

What does that mean? Well, let me explain. I am going to share something that I have often tried to hide, that I have often tried to ignore, and just sweep under the rug. My father is an alcoholic. He’s not physically abusive, he isn’t a falling down drunk. In fact, he is a functional alcoholic. In a way, that is almost part of the problem. He figures that his behaviour isn’t extreme enough to warrant being called an alcoholic. Heck, he doesn’t even want to say that he has a drinking problem. Never mind that he feels he “needs” a drink. Never mind that since I have been home for the holidays, he has literally staggered off to bed by 7pm every night. He sits at the dinner table, slurring his speech and is barely able to hold his head up, but he will insist that he doesn’t have a problem.

I tried my best to ignore this behaviour but of course it was impossible. It wasn’t just the forgetfulness or his inability to form a coherent sentence. It was also the fact that my father becomes an absolutely miserable person when he drinks. There is no pleasing him. Once again, it all culminated in an argument between the two of us the day after Christmas. I wanted an apology for his behaviour. He insisted on seeing himself as the victim.

But as I stood there crying (and crying and crying) I finally had a realization. It isn’t worth it. I have tried my best to help my dad change but I finally realized that it’s not my responsibility. What I do or don’t do has no impact on his behaviour. So I need to stop pointing out when he has forgotten the conversation we had the day before. Or when he slurs his words. Or when he simply can’t understand a concept because he has destroyed his mental functioning with years of hard drinking. I finally accepted that what I have been doing is akin to banging my head against a brick wall and expecting a change.

I know that this new path won’t be easy. After all, I have an almost hyper-sensitive awareness of other people’s behaviours and actions. But I know now that I need to do this for my own sake, my own health and my own sanity. And I am determined to finally stop fighting and do what’s best for me.

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?


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nye poster

Another Christmas has come and gone and now New Year’s Eve is almost here. What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? I grew up going to parties thrown by my parents’ friends. Every year I dreaded going to them. I knew that I was in for a few hours of extremely loud bhangra music while trying to awkwardly interact with the other kids in “the group”. I never wanted to go but since I was underage I had to go along with whatever my parents did.

When I got a bit older I had a few years of going out for NYE. I went clubbing a few times and to the occasional house party. Like most people, however, I soon discovered that New Year’s Eve was overrated. Going out to a club for New Year’s entails buying tickets in advance, trying to wear something that’s a little sexy but won’t leave you totally freezing (note: slush and high heels do not mix), and of course, waiting ages for service at the bar because it’s totally overcrowded. And don’t forget that it’s virtually impossible to get a cab because everyone else in the city is also out celebrating.

Finally I decided that I had had enough of trying to go out for some “amazing” New Year’s Eve only for it to become a mess. For the last five years or so I have started a little tradition of my own. I pick up some Chinese food for the entire family and we have a delicious feast after having eaten nothing but turkey for a week. Then my mom and I watch the latest Harry Potter movie while drinking cocktails. We time it so that the movie is over about five minutes before the countdown in Times Square and then we ring in the new year! It might sound a bit boring but I love it. I don’t have to worry about going out and I know that I’ll always make it to my bed safely. Now that the Harry Potter movies are done we’re going to watch other things (this year it’s the 25th anniversary DVD of The Phantom of the Opera!). It may not be for everyone but I love our little low-key celebration.

10 Songs for a Vintage Christmas


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There are only two days left till Christmas and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent the last few weeks listening to Christmas music. There are a lot of older Christmas classics that gets played every year. Almost everyone is familiar with Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas or Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song but there are a lot of other songs that seem to have gotten lost over the years. Here is a list of my favourite vintage Christmas songs that you may not have heard.

1. June Hutton – Song of the Sleigh Bells

2. Mabel Scott – Boogie Woogie Santa Claus

3. Ella Fitzgerald – Santa Clause Got Stuck In My Chimney

4. Louis Armstrong – Christmas Night in Harlem

5. Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra – Marshmallow World

This performance always cracks me up. I think they may have had a few too many Christmas cocktails before going onstage.

6. The Enchanters – Mambo Santa Mambo

7. The Andrews Sisters – Christmas Island

8. Louis Armstrong – Christmas In New Orleans

9. Louis Prima & His New Orleans Gang – What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everybody Singin’)

10. Bing Crosby – Happy Holiday

Season of Death


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Christmas is less than a week away but I’m having trouble feeling the old Christmas spirit. By now everyone knows about the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday in which 20 children (all aged 6 and 7) and 6 adults lost their lives. I can’t even describe the grief and dismay that I felt. It got worse each time I turned on the television and learned more about those children whose lives were ended far too soon.

I don’t want to get into the gun debate but I will say that as a Canadian, most of us watch with confusion as these massacres happen over and over again and still do not lead to any change in gun laws and regulations.

In addition to this tragedy, I’ve had to watch as some people in my personal life face their mortality. My great aunt is living out her final days in a hospital because she has an inoperable brain tumor. On the one hand, I am thankful that at least she has lived a long life and has been able to bring joy to everyone around her. But it’s always sad to say goodbye, even under the best circumstances. A family friend is also facing death. He is suffering from a hereditary disease that has required him to be on oxygen for a long time and is now in the hospital due to a collapsed lung. Once again, death is on the horizon.

It’s hard to face these kinds of situations at any time of year but especially at a time that’s usually thought of as happy and celebratory. However, no matter how dark it gets, it’s helpful to remember people at their best and celebrate the impact they had on your life no matter how big or how small.

*edit* One day after posting this, our family friend passed away in hospital. May God rest his soul.