WHO IS
ARLETTE?

May

09

We Orellana Girls | Mother’s Day Edition


“Oh, my sweet girl, you made me work!” I cried out, as beads of sweat and tears ran down my face and my midwife placed my daughter’s tiny body on my chest. At last, she was here: my Little Mami, the one I’d prayed for without ceasing for two years.

Sophia: Greek for “Wisdom; wise”

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As I look at my little girl today, 7 months of sugar and spice and everything nice, her once undefined newborn face replaced by almond-shaped eyes, a button nose and a wide toothless grin, I still cannot believe that she’s mine. It’s quite a mystery to look down at a face that resembles parts of your own, to observe some of your mannerisms and quirks replicated by another and to never tire of being called by the one word that sounds sweeter than the lyrics of your favorite jam.

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As we’re gearing up to celebrate another Mother’s Day, I realize that the holiday itself should not be construed as egotistical boasting for one’s prowess as a purveyor of life; it’s the tale of a tribe, a diverse clan of caregivers that extends past the uterus that births us. After all, if physiology alone dictated what makes a mother, which argument could we use in favor of the countless children who are abandoned, neglected or rejected? This is why I love the example I grew up with in the Haitian culture, where we’re brought up to call our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and community neighbors “Manmi” (Creole for Mom) no matter who they are, showing our reverence to the many ladies who positively impact our lives every day.

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Whether they’re versed in child-rearing after bearing the brunt of multiple births; faced with the demanding adoption process by choice or necessity; or holding fast the hope of conception in spite of many failed attempts, miscarriages and diagnoses that often try to discourage them from going any further, “Manmies”, in whichever form they come in, are our first examples of unconditional love, courage and sacrifice; and to me, that’s essentially the way I hope Mother’s Day could be viewed and celebrated by the population at large.

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I often think about what my relationship with Sophia will look like in the future, only to remind myself that I ought to focus on the here and now and pray for a relationship that can get passed strife, disagreements and disappointments, that will thrive in acceptance and mutual respect, and that will blossom in love. And when I pass and Sophia goes on to have a daughter of her own, my wish is that whatever we will have cultivated over the years that was memorable, noteworthy and life-changing goes on to imprint itself into her own relationship with her daughter and grow tenfold.

“Oh, my sweet girl, you made me work!”

“Yes I did, but I was worth it, no?” I imagine she’ll say one day.

Indeed, wise girl, indeed…

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Happy Mother’s Day to all you lovely “Manmies”!

Avec amour,
– A

Photo Credit: W. ‘Only10′ Orellana

May

04

Arlette Chez Colette


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Spring is turning out to be quite something and my grill is shining brighter than the sun’s rays. Two of the major highlights from last month that still have me in a gleeful mood include my Little Mami saying “Mama” for the first time (which she now uses religiously to keep me whipped!?) and finding the #OClan’s new home!

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With the move fast approaching, we find ourselves living in all of my favorite home decor spots lately like permanent store fixtures, and with so much to be done (and the fact that I’m the not-so-patient type), it has been both thrilling and overwhelming. If I could have it my way, my new home would be set up with all the bells and whistles in a single day; but alas, I fall short of those Heiress Tree Dollars and must pace myself, learning to set the place up little by little like the “Get Smart” money manager I try to be (although, admittedly, doing so feels as refreshing as drinking vinegar). But what can I say? Old habits die hard, but so will my money if I do not learn to manage the cheese like a diligent mouse (the fact that I would use a rodent metaphor at all should totally make all of our heads explode right about now).

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In an attempt to get out of my own head for a while and focus on my recent blessings rather than the tiresome work another move will entail, I made a weekday lunch reservation for me and BFF who, turns out, had her own cause for celebration. After exploring the mani-pedi circuit a few times, enjoying a much-needed day of relaxation at the spa, twinning it at the AGO and churchin’ it at each of our respective iglesias in recent months, I wondered to myself how two girls with well-documented voracious appetites, as well as a love of “showing up and showing out”, could remain within “casual hang” territory when this city is brimming with hot restaurant destinations!?

Leave Olivia to her business; I got this…#BFFadventuresFixer

Turns out, all we needed was our first trek to the famed French-inspired Colette for a middle of the week meetup that saw us toasting to the Good from our Great God and provided me with plenty of inspiration to get back to the grind with quite a few ideas for the new place and life in general. I was so enchanted by our surroundings that I penned the following little poem about who I imagined “Colette” would be in the flesh…

There is a secret which I know

Beyond the white doors, where one must go

As the ocean’s hues collide with soft sand dunes

And the sun’s bright rays meets the afternoon.

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There she sits, composed and solitaire,

“She’s French”, I hear them whisper,

Furtive glances, thoughts laid bare;

Despite her calmness, rages a deep fire

She is aware of herself, of that innate power.

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Intriguing, alluring, breathtaking…

Her crimson lips sealed, breath in her eyes;

Her pump gently tapping the marbled tiles,

Sweet cadence surrender, born of nine lives.

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I wish to know her, I now observe

Crowning myself in her cloth, a heart to preserve

Subtly, comes a winking nod,

French women, dare I say, are favored by God.

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There is a secret which I know…

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Beyond the white doors, where one must go…

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Stars impassioned by her presence…

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Oceans and dunes colliding in quintessence…

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Let them whisper; elle n’en fait pas une tête…

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She knows her worth; she is Colette.

Avec amour,

– A

Photo Credit: Cindy ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana

April

26

Be BeYoutiful…Being You


“BEAUTY BEGINS THE MOMENT YOU DECIDE TO BE YOURSELF.”

“YOU KNOW WHO’S BEAUTIFUL? READ THE FIRST WORD.”

“NEXT TIME YOU THINK OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS, DON’T FORGET TO COUNT YOURSELF IN.”

“BEAUTY IS WHAT YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF, NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE IN THE MIRROR.”

With all this talk of feminism and female empowerment in the media and society at large today, such call-to-action reminders would seem obvious to a generation brought up in the “Selfie” Age, but to 23 women faced with dire circumstances that have left many of them broken and helpless, those same reminders could very well mark the road back to self-love.

I should know: I was once the victim of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of a boyfriend for four and a half months and the damage caused led me to retreat to an unforgiving mental prison that took me longer to escape than the length of said relationship.

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For one year, I felt unworthy of love because I had been told that I was nothing and that I should consider myself lucky that any man would pay attention to me at all. For one year, I replayed the events of the first time his clutched fist hit my face or the time his finger grasped my neck tightly, leaving me bewildered and terrified beyond words. For one year, following the demise of that relationship, I wished for the one thing I believed would end my mental suffering and my broken spirit: death.

But God had other plans…

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As it is often said in church when one overcomes their trials: “Your test will become your testimony.” Although only a few people in my life knew of the above confession until now, I always felt in my heart that I should consider the weight of what I had been through so many years ago and what it signifies to be a woman in today’s world. Whether faced with abuse, divorce, layoffs, poverty or other obstacles, when one is given another chance at life, giving back is imperative and I felt the time was ripe for service, which is why I decided to volunteer at The BeYoutiful Project.

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The brainchild of Gina Pomone, The BeYoutiful Project, a community-based initiative assisting socially and economically disadvantaged women, is the kind of event I wished existed a decade ago when moral, financial and spiritual support was all I prayed for. Having held the first event last year to rousing success, Gina and her enthusiastic team of volunteers, supporters and sponsors hosted the project’s second event this past Saturday, where 23 women enjoyed a day of pampering comprised of personally-assisted shopping, beauty treatments, catered food and entertainment.

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I have asked Gina to share her impressions of the project today, the unexpected surprises she’s encountered and what the future holds in all things BeYoutiful.

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A: How has the second year of the project differed from the first?

G: I wanted to cast a bigger net in the community this year. In addition to partnering again with Community Outreach Canada,  I reached out to the Pregnancy Care Centre and the Scarborough Women’s Centre.  I also personally invited one women upon the recommendation of her young daughter.

Also this year, I received donations from as far as my hometown of Montreal, more corporate donations and support.  I had to incur some extra costs compared to last year, but God provided the resources and every single bill was covered.

I also wanted to increase the monetary gift to the women from $35 to $100 this year and as you know, the monetary gift was a $100 gift card for groceries.

I think the success of last year and its impact ‎has created a little buzz and people from all over are interested in partnering with me on future projects.

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A: What pleasant surprises did you experience during this year’s event?

G: I can’t say it’s a surprise because this is a project God laid on my heart to do and when He is in it, nothing should come as a surprise, but two women gave their heart to Christ that afternoon! It’s incredible knowing this little project had such a life changing impact on these women.

What stood out for me, and I still tear up thinking about it‎, is the moment the woman I personally invited looked at herself in the mirror after getting her hair and makeup done. She could not believe what she saw and it was like she was blind and saw her reflection for the very first time. I think she finally realized that she truly was beautiful. We both could not hold back our tears!

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A: What do you hope to witness in the coming months or the next year with The BeYoutiful Project?

G: My dream for the project is for it to be mobile so that I can take it across Canada and beyond. ‎I also hope that we made a difference in the lives of these women, that it gave them that little extra boost of courage to move forward with their lives and to realize that they are valuable and that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives and that when they look in the mirror, they see and believe that they are beautiful.

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As I placed a single laminated quote in each one of the changing rooms that I was tasked to stage at the event, one particular message jumped at me:

You are BRAVER than you believe

STRONGER than you seem

SMARTER than you think

and twice as BEAUTIFUL

As you’d ever IMAGINED

A fitting message 10 years in the making and not a day late…

Avec amour,

– A

Photo Credit: Cindy ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana

March

29

The Return to #WMCFW (or The Tale of Mother Guilt)


Although there’s much cause for celebration when a child enters one’s world, there’s also the reminder of the things one must oftentimes give up (or put aside temporarily) to assume their parental role. In between caring for a newborn, guiding a teenager and being a supportive wife, I’ve tried my best not to lose sight of my own wants and needs and have sought to strike that elusive “balance” that women often make mention of in conversation: that ‘One Woman Show’ magic act titled The Tale of Mother Guilt.

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My balance, unfortunately, doesn’t come courtesy of the ‘Nanny-All-Day’ brigade the way many celebrity mompreneurs rely on their Mary Poppins to keep their tykes in “joie de vivre” bliss as they go on to build empires (my Playdate Platinum card sadly cannot seem to cover the premium portion of that membership). But regardless of the logistics, I count myself blessed to have an ally who understands my need for a “time-out” every once in while so that I may go feed my curiosity and creativity and come back stronger and better for it. World MasterCard Fashion Week ended yesterday and although this was only my second season, I was thrilled to return to the tents, especially now that proximity and time off work are no longer an issue.

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I’ve been paying close attention to the happenings of Canadian fashion for years: from the reception of new collections, to the newly heralded kings and queens of the catwalk, all the way to the street style darlings who keep us running reblog marathons on Tumblr. But above all, what keeps me engaged (other than each designer’s inventive runway take) is the “observation study”: the plethora of styles, faces and candid moments and realizing the irony of it all: despite the aura surrounding that world and the bravado scrawled across many faces, all who are present appear far more like school-aged children on their first day of grade school than fully assured adults.

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There is a sense of hesitation, of fascination: first, with others, and then, with this specific moment in time as publicists run around seating VIPs, industry insiders and sponsors, photographers congregate to the pit and guests pile in to fill a space to the brim. All this energy builds up, hangs in the air and keeps us guessing as to what we’ll be witnessing in the coming minutes; observers become observees. But then the lights go down, the musical notes rise and all eyes collectively transfix that shiny catwalk, where for less than a dozen minutes, hopes and dreams of speed, shock and self will take flight…crash…die…and be reborn.

In that moment, the cool kids, the misfits, the high society priests, the rebellious convention knockers, the money makers, the broke hustlers all mesh, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and social economic status — fashion is the one and only definitive thread running through each one of our stories.

Wake up kids
We’ve got the dreamers disease
Age 14 we got you down on your knees
So polite, you’re busy still saying please
Frenemies, who when you’re down ain’t your friend
Every night we smash their Mercedes-Benz
First we run and then we laugh till we cry
But when the night is falling
and you cannot find the light
If you feel your dream is dying
Hold tight
You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget you only get what you give
Four a.m. we ran a miracle mile
were flat broke but hey we do it in style
The bad rich
God’s flying in for your trial

This whole damn world can fall apart
You’ll be OK, follow your heart
You’re in harm’s way
I’m right behind
Now say you’re mine

Fly high
What’s real can’t die
You only get what you give
Just don’t be afraid to leave
Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they’re multiplying
Fashion mag shoots
with the aid of 8 dust brothers Beck, Hanson
Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
You’re all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We’ll kick your ass in!
Don’t let go
One dance left

– You Get What You Give (New Radicals) –

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 Avec amour,

– A

Photo credit: C. ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana

March

09

(What’s the Story) Mommy Glory?


Here’s my statement of the day: I’m LOVING maternity leave – it’s the business, son! What’s not to love about having days to yourself in the presence of a little one who stares at you adoringly, coos joyously, burps (or farts!) loudly in ways that prompt you to laugh or feel embarrassed, and relies on you so completely and without reserve that you could never imagine not loving them wholly? To me, that’s what motherhood is all about and it’s a role I feel at home in, no matter how the world chooses to rate a mother’s contribution to society. Since leaving Ottawa, my daytime party of two with Miss Sophia has grown into a ride-or-die trio with hubby on weekdays and further grows into a Quatro Dynamo with The Kid on the weekends. We fill our journées with play time, scheduled naps, breakfasts, lunches or dinners out on the town, shopping, museum visits, IRL dates with social media friends, IG moments, and when the day finally wounds down, evening events or intense catch-up work for Mommy and Daddy once la princessa has succumbed to slumber.

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The 2001 “New Mommy” I was then didn’t jive well with maternity leave: the days seemed to go as fast as a snail running a marathon. The solitude, coupled with the sudden slowdown in pace, lack of sleep and demands of a little person whose needs I couldn’t decipher without words, drove me to curl up in a ball on my kitchen floor in complete baby blues desperation. And although I later grew to appreciate this new presence in my life and made peace with the less-than-perfect fantasies of cradling a cute ‘Mini Me’, I found myself longing for the working world and went on to act on that impulse 6 months into The Kid’s existence. Certainly, I loved my child, but I loved grown-up time more, and given that I hadn’t figured out how I could reconcile then made me feel like I was continuously strapped to an ‘F’ bomb (Fatigued, Frustrated, Failing and a Fraud!). I couldn’t imagine how my two worlds could coexist harmoniously when I was the only 21 year-old I knew who bore the eclectic “Girl Scout” badge of wife, mother and fun-having/club-hopping dancing queen.

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The 2015 “Mommy Again” that I am now has a new appreciation for what constitutes this journey that is motherhood: not only because trial and error are great teachers in and of themselves, but because I can forgive myself the things I couldn’t grasp with enthusiasm then, be it the solitude or the responsibility. What should have been a year of me marveling at this little person during my uninterrupted time in ’01 was intercepted by my haste to escape what was out of fear and boredom. But this time around, the awareness of time and its worth, and most of all, the regrets one stands to face when they’re not willing to slow down and ponder the beauty of a moment, are what make me see this maternity leave in a different light than my 20-something self.

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There isn’t a day that goes by without the gratefulness of waking up to a little girl who smiles up at me brightly, unaware that her actions from the previous night have me shooing away the Fatigue Monster’s taunting come morning; or the greetings of this man of mine who fixes me breakfast and a mean cup of java and who reminds me that I mean the world to him and our kids; or the 5-minute shower I get to enjoy to be with my thoughts as water washes away anything unworthy of my mind space; or the impromptu outings at any moment, for anything, to meet anyone, without that rushed feeling that plagued me most of my life and made me feel like I would never manage to get anything done well (or at all!) no matter how much I tried. Thankfully, I do not adhere to the Stepford Wives Club: nothing in that bastion fits “my wife/mother/fun-having/crib-bopping/dancing queen” self.

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Yes, maternity leave has me singing a different tune this time around: that of a snail running its marathon however slow it wishes to, but who remains on-the-go nonetheless, knowing that it’s time well spent to learn to love perfectly in an imperfect world.

Avec amour,

– A

Photo Credit: C. ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana.

March

03

Sweet as Candy


A girl knows she’s officially landed when she receives her first invitation of (hopefully!) many social events in the Big City; luckily for me, this is one instance where the saying that “one never forgets her first” doesn’t conjure up regrettable memories in the vein of “losing it to some guy named Junior with bad breath in the back of a van at a Guns N’ Roses concert…”, but I digress (although I admit that the writer in me has never felt more grateful for cinematic metaphors and quotable moments).

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This “first”, the Hard Candy S15 media preview at the swanky Cosmopolitan Hotel Toronto, was a well-spent couple of hours that temporarily made me forget our collective angst against dreadful Old Man Winter and gave me a nice reprieve from mommy duties. The suite that welcomed blogging darlings and press certainly rivaled Katy Perry’s colorful SuperBowl half-time show in cheerful, electric hues reminiscent of early 90’s color explosiveness (Saved By The Bell collage-y prints, Vuarnet fashion, Caboodle kits…); yes, a time that was positively wondrous for the TNBC generation before the decade took a turn to dirty, somber Grungeville.

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As it is commonplace at these sorts of events, details are de rigueur in keeping attendees in good social graces: from the signage of the brand’s social media accounts with ‘call-to-action’ hashtags, to the test-drive of the latest makeup and lacquers, all the way to the complimentary makeup retouches and manicures by a team of Hard Candy beauticians, and savory and sweet nibbles and wine aplenty, everything came together like a well-oiled machine…except this well oil-machined brought the experience up a notch thanks to a spectacular view of la grande ville‘s hustle and bustle seen through the suite’s giant bay windows, a remarkable spectacle if there ever was one as the night fell upon the city. Those are the kinds of firsts one can count themselves lucky enough to experience once in a while, in addition to unleashing the 14-year old inside on a “Rebecca Bloomwood/Warm-Butter-Sliding-Down-Hot-Toast” high.

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Having suffered from a terrible bout of acne and hyperpigmentation most of my life, I often felt that makeup felt both like a worthy solution and a torture device as I tried to cope with my predisposed skin condition. In my teens, applying makeup often left me feeling apprehensive, while nail polishes left me darn right frustrated (which would explain why I consider professional manicures and pedicures my ultimate indulgence and no longer bother to “nail down” the self-application technique). All in all, makeup served as a shield from hurtful comments rather than an enhancer, and when all was said and done, it didn’t nearly cure me of my insecurities; it only exacerbated them! But with my maturing skin now making way for wrinkles and kicking my unsightly spots to the curb, I realize that it always boiled down to perspective: I can either roll with the punches knowing that nothing, good or bad, lasts forever, or I can throw punches, fighting myself to the death for a life that has been more than forgiving of my imperfections.

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As I stared down at the oodles of “face magic” goods staring back at me, I imagined what it would be like for the ‘teenage me’ to be here in this moment, not overthinking the process or the outcome, and just allowing herself to play, marvel and paint herself pretty, getting a bite of that Hard Candy…so I let her out to play, finding her relaxed, silly and smiling as she snapped a #selfiestick pose wearing her new favorite lipstick: ‘Wanted’. I’ve decided that she’s allowed to stay indefinitely; Ms. Hepburn was right: “Happy girls are the prettiest”.

Many thanks to Esther Garnick, Jessica Denomme and the lovely ladies of EGPR for giving this girl a memorable ‘first’.

Avec amour,

– A

Photo credit: Cindy ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana

February

03

It Takes Two


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Two years ago today, this blog came to life (in a not-so-Frankenstein-ish kind of way!) and although it’s very tempting to rehash the good sentiments of why I launched it in the first place, I’ll spare you the sappiness (with its side of violin strings on this God-awful snow storm Monday) and refer you instead to my one-year anniversary recap; it sums up well what this online space was intended to be. But given that we’re in a new year now and hence, facing a new set of 365 days to ponder what’s next, I must really come to terms with some new realities, which are the following:

  • I still love WIA and my faithful readers the way Rihanna loves herself ‘ride-or-die chicks, but I do wonder if the blog continues to “thrill” me the way it used to. I now find myself asking a whole lot whether it brings anything of value to me or my surroundings. I do, however, know one thing: my love of writing has not waned and continues to grow with each typed word, experience lived and people encountered – this remains the only constant for me in this whole blogging affair. It’s not about the hoopla of invitations to events, getting free swag, being heralded the new ‘IT’ girl or being told that I’m a great writer (although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to any of them being wonderful perks and compliments). Somewhere, in this chaotic mess made up of words, thoughts and vulnerability, must live this belief that I am enough and that I will be fine, with or without this space. If I am no longer as invested, do I die along with my words? I think that’s what scares me most: to be left without a thing to say.
  • Awareness brings growth, and growth fosters the need for change. In my case, my move to Toronto makes me want to explore my new environment and tap into different creative avenues, with one particular project strongly hammering at my brain as of late (more on that in due time IF and WHEN I should decide to fire the gun). Because I’m one who gets bored easily and is in constant need of a challenge, it should come as no surprise to those who know me that I would eventually want to explore the scope of my various interests. Time and tide wait for no man and I’m not one to fight personal evolution, which is why I’ve chosen to qualify 2015 as my “transitional” year. Transition into what? Transition into whom? Who knows! But I can tell you that once I figure it out, I’ll take you along for the ride, whether on here or in a bigger, better dimension.
  • I want to support more people in their dreams and projects this year. I don’t know in which way this will take shape, but I just have a strong inkling that there are many more of us out there wondering who’ll be open to encouraging our dreams, listening and responding to them and helping us get them off the ground. Now, I’m aware that this is a grand declaration for me to make and I can already foresee some folks interpreting this to mean that they can hit me up with any old nonsense or random pitches that do not align with my blog or values (Dear Brands with pockets overflowing with generous marketing budget dollars who come asking for write-ups on X, Y, Z without any sort of return compensation? You’re uninvited to this party). Little entrepreneurs full of heart, talented students on the come-up, professionals reinventing themselves and big dreamers who hold the belief that they can make a difference? You are my kind of sauce. In a world where everyone is out for themselves and looking for their big break, it would be foolish of me to remain blind to the creative supply and demand food chain, especially when I could find myself at either end of the spectrum at any point in time. So, I want to give more where it matters and to whom it matters, but I also certainly want to get more, and that should not be shameful for me to say or admit. If this is a statement that rings true for you as well, then we can certainly do like Prince and GO CRAAAAZYYY…or Party Like It’s 1999 (because let’s be real, 1999 was the shiznit!).
  • While we’re still on the topic of change and evolution, it’s obvious that my world has changed greatly since February 1st, 2014, when a pair of Pink Ladies showed up in those tiny Life Show windows (well hello, #BabyO!). And now, my days are filled with activities that may or may not be of interest to some (if not!) all of you and that’s perfectly fine. If I choose to speak of things for which there’s no lost love on your end, I can certainly respect that; but in an effort to retain some of that magic I tried to create on here (which is to write about my life and opinions from a real, genuine place), I must let the good, the bad, the ugly AND the mommy transpire because it is part of who I am. I’m still that fashion enthusiast, pop culture junkie, detail-obsessed creative you discovered back in ’13 and I hope to maintain this tagline firmly in place because nothing is more endearing than a split personality ratatouille.

So, while I wait on life to play its next hand, I’m yours in musings and life every-things.

Happy two year anniversary to this place, to me, to us: we made this circle the place we wanted it to be.

Avec amour,

– A

Photo credit: quotespin.com

January

23

Where My Girls At?


My father emailed me an article several months ago that discusses how health, for men and women, rests on vastly different ideals. The article in question goes on to say that men mostly reach their nirvana through their achievements and activities, while women do so through cultivating friendships with other women. The former is rooted in the practicality of being in control of one’s actions and hence, outcomes, while the latter rests on that relational dimension synonymous with a woman’s disposition to nurture others.

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I, for one, didn’t need an article to point out this vital need in my life, although in my younger days, that need wasn’t as fundamental as it is now — I was that girl who felt more at home being around the bros than the hoes ladies. Up to a little more than a decade ago, it was a work in progress to get to a place where I genuinely believed in other women’s interest in being friends with me. But after careful observation of what great female friendships are made of, I can attest that I’ve made it out of the Mean Girls wilderness (though not necessarily unscathed). The journey, at times, felt like swinging from the girls-just-wanna-have-fun vines; at other times, it felt turbulent and left me seeking shelter from the occasional get-that-knife-out-now backstabbing or misunderstanding; but luckily, I’ve finally made it to the friendship contentment destination, due in great part to the empowering message of female-driven anthems from TLC, 702 and Destiny’s Child to keep me in Survivor mode along the way.

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I do believe countless women find joy in sharing their triumphs and struggles with their peers, especially when that Panic Room (the one where disclosure of raw emotions can often be dismissed as frightful, shallow or irrelevant by the opposite sex) leaves many women feeling more vulnerable than liberated. But in the Venus realm, said room ceases to exist! Certainly, we’ve all encountered the occasional nightmarish female who is more Malificent than Magnificent, but evil-doers aside, we continue to witness the good that prevails from the great stories often told about the female spirit. And let’s face it, those feel-good/make-me-laugh/you-hurt-I-cry stories are rites of passage that reflect the many life themes we’ve identified with at one point or another.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some amazing friendships of my own, and while some of them have ran their course as a result of moves, commitments and unforeseen “fall outs”, others have thrived to become as vital to my life as my blood-pumping pulse. I’ve nicknamed those friendships the “Two-Hand Ladies” (in other words, they represent the number of loyal and faithful women I can count on my two hands). Some of us go back like diapers and pacifiers. Other friendships were revived during my teenage years after spanning years and continents, lives ruined, blood shed (a Veronica Mars reference just seemed so fitting here for a split second). The proof is in those artifacts from that primitive communication era (what are those called again? Letters, methinks). And again, others were born during my university years and into this thing called “adulthood”. Regardless of each friendship’s time stamp, I’m utterly grateful for each one.

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Last month, my BFF Roseline and I went to Her Majesty’s Pleasure to celebrate my arrival to the Big City as well as launch a new BFF tradition: that of a monthly day of pampering. Ro and I haven’t lived in the same city in 9 years until now, but find it funny that these two proud Montreal-born girls now call Toronto home (God’s divine doing never ceases to amaze me).

To find the proper words to describe a place like HMP simply wouldn’t do the place justice: if you fancy yourself a Queen whose opulent taste can’t be understood (let alone) catered to by the usual dingy Mom-and-Pop parlor, you’d be hard pressed to resist an environment that delivers the Grand Puba of royal treatments and only falls short of asking whether you want it all with a side of Grey Poupon!? It’s the kind of haven where the sunshine doesn’t sleep, ragged cuticles and overworked digits are massaged and primed for your millionth Tour de Likes, tired tresses are revived into Victoria Secret Angel sorcery, and scrumptious bites and tasty libations make you run up a bill like a car note. It’s the all-encompassing wet dream you wish you’d thought of yourself (“nail done, hair done, everything did…nai-nai-nai…“) — #lifesoundtrack. Ah, well, what can I say? There’s always next year’s resolutions to clean up your act…

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Here’s to great friendships that touch the heart and the joy of never growing apart.

Avec amour,

– A

Photo Credit: Cindy ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana

January

15

#That6life


“Hey lover, hey lover; this is more than a crush…”

I stared down at my outfit and curled my lips, uncertain: although my fitted jeans and lacy pink top with the right amount of skin showing appeared every bit the successful come hither first date look, it dawned on me that this was essentially the #firstworldproblem of first dates — not knowing what kind of bloke one is susceptible to encounter on that dreamy “we talked/we danced/we laughed/and then he kissed me” first outing. Would said outfit tip the scales towards attraction…or repulsion? Based on the perception of the dater, such a look could spell many-a-thing if taken into any given context, i.e. fishing for that first kiss (tame, possibly desperate); looking to get felt up (Skanky coming through!); or being one song away from Chasing Waterfalls (that creepy, one-word screaming doll inside your head is better known as SLUTTY). I quickly took it off and tossed it on top of the mountain of first date dressing dilemma options and settled on a simple red tee with my feel-good jacket. For all my troubles, I hoped that at least the talk-dance-laugh-and-kiss wouldn’t seem as farfetched as a Drew Barrymore rom-com.

The door rang and I stumbled down the stairs, grabbing my winter coat on the way. As I opened the door, there he stood, grinning at me. He looked even more handsome than I remembered from our initial introduction at a friend’s house a few weeks past and my knees buckled a little.

“Hi!”

“Hi!” I replied, stepping out and pulling the door behind me. He smelled wonderful.

He took my hand and I followed, trying my best not to dive to my death as I skated my parents’ icy driveway. The air was frigid, but I felt lightheaded. He helped me into his car and that’s when I experienced it: that unmistakeable, in-the-pit-of-your-stomach, close to fainting flutter. It felt odd and I thought for a second that I would either lose my dinner on the car’s mat or flat out pass out. As my best friend hopped into the car half a dozen minutes later, I turned to look back at her with obvious alarm:

“Are you okay?” she inquired.

“My stomach is in knots,” I blurted out quickly while my date was circling back to his door. “I’ve never felt this before. It’s like…butterflies running around!”

“Guuuuurl!” she said, amused. “The guy has you hooked!” she laughed. “Good thing we’re off to a party: not much chit-chat needed there!?”

I only remember bits and pieces of that night beyond the car ride: there are flashes of my best friend standing on an old chest in the dim-lit basement, dancing and singing along to loud hip-hop as the crowd looked on with admiration and proceeded to fall in love with her. There’s the memory of me getting envious looks from my date’s female friends, one of which could have reduced me to human road kill with her icy stare. But I do distinctively remember Pretty Boy placing his hands on my hips very gently as he asked me in my ear how I was doing before telling me how lovely I looked. Beyond that, the night is a blur, but what remains of it is that disquiet feeling a girl experiences when she’s very much into someone and hopes that the feeling is mutual, reciprocated.

The weeks that followed soon revealed that crushing this hard proved a bit much for the lad and everything came to a swift end during a night out with friends without me having to hear the damning words: his detached demeanor gave him away and just like that, it was over. I remember going home and crying myself to sleep: not because I had been unceremoniously discarded like an old sock, but because I couldn’t imagine that I would ever be blessed twice with that feeling of happy jitters I had experienced earlier that night, and it saddened me that the feeling had been lost on someone who would live to forever be a boy

Except, experience (like all things worth one’s growth) often proves us wrong on these matters as we get wiser and come to terms with love and loss, victory and defeat, life and death.

As I drove into Toronto last month, knowing that I was taking the big leap into the unknown, those happy jitters resurfaced. At last, my new playground and the place I’ve longed to call home, is just that and it feels wonderful, strange, exhilarating, add any-pleasant-adjective-of-your-choosing. But above all, as the night lights flashed overhead as we rolled into the city, I smiled, reassured by the flutters inside and the knowledge that whether or not the city chooses to love me back or not, I am worthy of that wonderful feeling nonetheless.

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Avec amour,

– A

Photo Credit: W. ‘Only1O’ Orellana

December

26

An #OClan Christmas


EPIC YEAR: this is what I called this year early on without a glimpse into the future and simply believing wholeheartedly that speaking those words into the atmosphere would make it so.After all…

Isn’t faith the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen? 

And when those things, whatever they may be in nature, materialize into something wondrous, uplifting one’s existence to new heights and turning faith into a trusted companion, we find ourselves springing to action and trusting the journey ahead even when there’s no way of knowing how it will end.

I could wax poetic about the magic of the holidays as the quintessential love fest of family and friends and fa-la-la-la-la it until your ears bleed, but I wouldn’t be spinning the formula into something you haven’t heard before. The redundancy of things already spoken does not erase the fact that it’s often easy to be merry and care for those closest to us this time of year, but then later turn against that very loving feeling the rest of the year, numbing our senses to the world’s calamities because we can’t be bothered. Are we careless, bored, devoid of good intentions? Where does that beautiful sentiment disappear to once the eggnog runs dry and the merriment has died? For me, defining my 2014 as my EPIC YEAR does not mean that the feel good sentiment expires when the bell rings on January 1st; it means that I must thoughtfully look back on the last 365 days for what they culminated into, which are blessings, lessons and reflections for each one of them.

Gratitude has kept me hopeful when I could have drowned in misery; hard work has kept me engaged when I could have fallen into mediocrity; perspective has kept me humble when I could have fallen into vanity; and love has kept me believing despite disappointment, hardships and brokenness. One cannot say with certainty how many days his or her life has been allotted; however, one can stay centered in hope and faith and the belief that the feeling of EPIC is theirs to dwell in anytime they so choose to.

This Christmas, my gratitude is for the gift of a little girl who has changed my world and given me the most unadulterated joy I’ve experienced in years.

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This Christmas, my hard work is for those who continue to stop by this space and show love to my writing even when I fall short of delivering regular content.

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This Christmas, my perspective is in recognizing that I could have lost someone dear to my heart the way friends of mine lost their two year-old son recently, while I’m still fortunate enough to hug my own every day and tell him I love him.

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This Christmas, my love is for all: family, friends and foes, because life is just too short to dwell in other dimensions that are nowhere near those of EPIC.

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Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases. Go ahead: dwell in the possibilities. Enjoy the pages of that wonderful book…that of YOUR life.

Avec amour,

– A

Photo Credit: Wil ‘Only1O’ and Cindy ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana

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