WHO IS
ARLETTE?

July

22

We apologize for the interruption in programming…


…but when a dapper and sweet-voiced Tennessee-born gentleman, with hypnotic music and killer moves to boot, happens to stop by your city for a night and a friend invites you along to see him do his thang, you must:

1) Dig into your well of patience to get you through the work day and keep yourself from bursting like a Cinco de Mayo piñata;

2) Spend your entire afternoon revisiting his discography and refreshing your memory’s jukebox so that you don’t look like a complete aberrant fool during sing-alongs;

3) Remind yourself 1,000,000 times that his sexy love anthems, no matter how convincing they sound when he croons and smirks directly into the camera, are really not about you.

Oh, to hell with it! I love me some JT like a fat kid loves cake and tonight, I’m going to Take Back The Night.

Source - mystar.sapo.ptFile this one under:

#NumberOneWhiteBoyCrush

#UnaNocheWithJT

#TheProfessionalPantySnatcher

#CuzThisIsLadiesNight

#TraceyMelchorMayHateHimButLetsAgreeToDisagree

#HaveIMissedAnything

#FollowMe via Twitter and Instagram at @WhoIsArlette because my own idiotic, happy face will become a hashtagged occurrence of its own.

Now, get Jimmy Fallon on via teleconference — he’s needed for some hashtagging sign language.

Avec amour,

- A


July

11

Been to the Starving Artist Exhibit Yet?


I looked down at my watch: 11:08 a.m. I sighed deeply and picked a piece of thread unraveling from my alleged “in pristine condition” vintage blazer before sighing again. Although we were only eight minutes behind schedule, I seethed with impatience as we waited for the most-buzzed about exhibition tour in town to begin. My muscles started to grow numb from foreboding — nothing had taken place yet for me to assume that some impending doom was upon us, but nonetheless, the feeling clang on like an icky rash. Every few minutes, newcomers to the group would arrive at once, marching dutifully like ants in a single file before stopping abruptly at the edge of our broken circle. The creases on their faces gave away their palpable excitement as they spoke animatedly amongst themselves before letting their childish laughs rip through the air. Finally, our guide appeared seemingly out of nowhere and proceeded to commend our attention by waving a gaunt and veiny hand to rally the troops.

“Good day and welcome to the Starving Artist Exhibit!” he shouted enthusiastically, revealing scraggly, yellowing teeth under a thick mustache. “The International Museum of Hopeful Creatives is thrilled to be the first to host this never-before-seen, world-class exhibition about the exhilarating and uncertain world of the struggling artist. Since its inauguration 6 days ago, the exhibit has had an unprecedented number of visitors, breaking early attendance record predictions of 10,000 guests. I’m happy to report that we will be reaching the 1,000,000-visitor mark with you all today! Aren’t you lucky to be part of the one in a million group to mark this milestone?”

The group erupted into cheers, clapping boisterously. The guide ran his hand on the back of his close-cropped hair, adjusting his thick-rimmed glasses over his nose and licking his lips suggestively as he looked in the direction of a pretty young brunette who bore all the winning elements of a made-for-the-runway model. An elderly woman standing nearby for whom the innuendo didn’t go unnoticed, wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“Before we go any further, please step this way and pick up the paddle that represents your vocation and follow me!” he continued, leading the way into an area where light became increasingly sparse. I looked down at the rows of wooden paddles, my eyes glazing over the options:

Photographer…Musician…Graphic Designer…Stylist…Painter…Makeup Artist…Performer…Videographer…

I came to a complete stop as the Writer paddle came into full view. It definitely mirrored my reality the closest, but didn’t sum up entirely the scope of my dreams. My mind argued against the paddle’s one-liner headline, which fell short of telling the real story of the struggles I faced on a daily basis as an aspiring writer. Accustomed to regularly receiving generic “Hi There!” pitches from PR companies and brands, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was perceived as another “Eager Beaver” puppet whose strings these industry giants felt they could pull with promises of free swag and VIP tickets in exchange for free marketing write-ups. I grabbed the paddle and twirled it in my hand, following the group closely behind.

“The exhibit has been designed to showcase several types of creatives, taking you through the realities of their dreams and struggles based on a number of factors such as passion, self-promotion, personal marketing and branding, ferocious competition, creative license, high-demand client expectations and so on,” noted our tour guide. “Feel free to peruse the massive display at your leisure and ask me any question you may have,” he added noncommittally before disappearing behind a wall.

As I approached the 12-ft long window display, I was taken aback by the House of Wax-like figures who stared back at us blankly as if their souls had been stolen in some cannibalistic ritual meant to exterminate them. One of them appeared to be struggling under the weight of multiple bags, overpowered by Transformer-size equipment; another stood amongst several racks of high-price gowns and boxes of shoes, while an impeccably dressed figure stood nearby looking condescending and requesting “More options!”. As I walked by each figure, I read the descriptive over each one silently:

The Shoot-Free-for-Exposure Photographer…The Barter-for-Beats Producer…The Gimme-More-for-Less Graphic Designer…The Copy-My-Genius Painter…The Run-Around-Town Slaving Stylist…The Put-a-Price-on-My-Art Makeup Artist…The Nickel-and-Dime-Me Performer…The Let-Me-See-Quality Videographer…

A burly man with a balding head dressed in what seemed to be his return-from-the cottage getup, spoke up to one in particular.

“These mannequins are creepy,” he said. “They almost look life-like!?” he observed. “These descriptions seem so accurate, but are so sad,” he continued. “It’s almost as if these people have lost that sparkle in their eye because no one takes their craft seriously. They look distressed, worn-out…”

“…almost as if they’ve been doing this forever and are now depleted from trying to prove their worth and feeling like they’re getting nowhere” suggested a lithe redhead, who knelt closer to the window before tapping its glass with her finger.

“This one looks like she hasn’t slept in days,” said a couple as they pointed out another target. A few of us gathered around them and let out groans of agreement. I felt sucker-punched: the figure sat among a sea of rumpled sheets, looking focused on what could be construed as another rewrite. I considered the scenario before me: how many hours had she put in already in drafting what she hoped would be read, shared and celebrated? Was she doing it because she had been contracted to do so or because she hoped to be in the near future? Was she being promised her own bylines and hence, pouring all of her heart and soul into those lines, hoping to be found worthy of an opportunity? Would her work go on to live gloriously, or vanish unrewarded, taking her along with it?

We all stood in silence, each one of us gazing in the direction of the objects of our afflictions.

The elderly woman from earlier spoke quietly: “At this rate, they should have just slapped ‘Will work for food!’ above the entire display because that’s essentially what each one of these represented figures want — to share their craft with the world while ensuring their likelihood. We’re first driven by the feeling of contributing something worthwhile to the world. Showing skill, talent, innovation and creativity…that’s one thing; but nurturing those traits is quite another!? This is why many fail and give up when recognition is slow to come…Where do we draw the line? When do we agree to keep going out of love and when is it time to demand respect for our time, efforts and work? Hmmm, food for thought, I guess…” she concluded with a gentle smile, winking my way. I smiled understandably.

I looked down at my watch: an entire hour had gone by in the blank of an eye. I looked around the room at the other attendees — silence weighed heavily over the room, leaving only racing thoughts to speak louder than words and interrogations ever could. The awkwardness was suddenly broken by the tiny voice of the pretty brunette.

“How come there’s no figure representing a model?” she asked inquisitively. We all turned to look at her before looking back at the window display. Our guide emerged from his hidden corner, his clothes slightly wrinkled.

“Oh, the committee was slow to introduce this one to the gallery, but it’s already in the works.”

“What will the figure be called?” asked a teenage Asian boy without raising his eyes from his Instagram feed.

“The Make-Me-Famous-Now Model” replied the guide. “Well, what do you know, the tour is already over. Thank you all for visiting the Starving Artist Exhibit. Please do not forget to return your paddles before leaving. Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Have a wonderful day!”

He turned to the young pretty brunette and whispered: “I can quickly show you the model figure you inquired about, if you want?” he offered, smiling brightly and extending his hand to her. She took it without hesitation and followed him.

“Thanks for the tour, Mister…?”

“You can just call me Terry…”

SUPPORT CREATIVES. YOU WOULDN’T WORK FOR FREE: WHY SHOULD THEY?

Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: thelocalmotif.com

June

22

Measure of an Indochino Man


The man who is too – shall we say – lazy to care about his appearance is described by Clueless protagonist Cher Horowitz in an unflattering voice-over monologue as follows:

“So okay, I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all, but I don’t get how guys dress today. I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair – eww! – and cover it up with a backwards cap and like, we’re expected to swoon? I don’t think so!”

I never quite understood why Miss Horowitz was given a paltry C in debate class — her assessment of the high school male population, among other things, was not entirely devoid of logic then and certainly isn’t irrelevant in our fashion-obsessed society today, whether subjects are at the junior level or upper echelons of education. Judging by the growing class of well-dressed superheroes men all around us today, the obvious may have hit some of us over the head a bit later than our fictitious high school BFF, but remains no less a reality that we now dissect with the same pomp and circumstance that we devote to our own outfits and the study of seasonal trends and collections.

What can be said of the Davids, Ryans and Kanyes of this world? Are we staring down the trifecta of swagger, swaggerlicious and swaggerific? The penchant women have for men who possess the credo on good style could fill an entire style tome; starlets are no longer the only ones reaping the marks of our criticism: we speak of Gucci, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana suits with the same candor used to debate ‘Who Wore It Best?’ and ‘This or That’ showdowns — a man’s look either has us singing his praises or singing “I don’t want no scrub; a scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me…”

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I, myself, am loca for men who look the part, walk with confidence and incite stares and drool from pretty ladies and supermarket grannies alike. I’m happily married but am certainly not dead, and when a fella happens to “represent”, I pray internally that a national holiday will be inaugurated in his honor, complete with a megawatt parade that’ll have him flanked by the Me(a)gans (as in Fox and Good). High-end designer brands have launched many a Hollywood bloke into the style stratosphere, but this fact still begs a couple of questions:

Is the league of extraordinary gentlemen reserved strictly to those with deep pockets? And if not, where can everyday civilians with more “modest means” turn to for similar craftsmanship and quality at a fraction of the cost without having to turn to malls’ generic destinations?

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Indochino, the leader in custom online menswear (and a proudly Canadian brand!), has felt the pulse of the industry and filled a void in these matters, commending an impressive presence both at home and abroad. With the retailer’s Traveling Tailor pop-up shop now in the nation’s capital until July 6th, Ottawans can experience the careful attention to detail that is synonymous with the brand’s mission to provide “custom suits for men of action who do not have a lot of spare time”. Free consultations, measurements and the creation of a personalized armor suit take less time to conceptualize than one’s drive home from downtown to the suburbs in rush hour (i.e. saving adrenaline-pumped soccer fans time for those can’t-miss-’em FIFA matches). Priorities in check for all!

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Come along as Indochino Retail Operations Manager Erin Clark offers her take on custom-made suits as the hallmark of being a gentlemen, cites the new class of style influencers and suggests ways of styling your new suit for different occasions.

Arlette: This Traveling Tailor pop-up shop idea is genius! As you may have heard, Ottawa is known as Government City and if there ever was a place that required proper suiting, it certainly is our fair city!? However, there’s this misconception that dressing impeccably either requires a fortune or is impossible to achieve because the few known stores who cater to men are known for taking the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. How does an Indochino custom-made suit break the mold?

Indochino: In a lot of ways! Where we’re breaking the mold is giving every guy the opportunity to be able to get dressed well in a suit that fits; something that’s affordable for every guy, accessible for every guy and it’s really made for them. So not only is the fit made for them, but they get to choose all the customizations on the suit to the way they want it, depending on the lining, the buttons, how they want the pockets…It’s all up to them.

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Arlette: We’ve been blessed with many examples of well-dressed men in entertainment, music and fashion: there is a certain aura and confidence that these men exude when they’re dressed to the nines (I think of the Robert Redfords, Colin Firths and Sean Combs of this world). Are we witnessing a new class of style influencers that has men taking note? Any notable mentions?

Indochino: There’s a lot of guys with great classic style, going back to Steve McQueen, but there’s also the more modern look like Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds…I think the suit is all about confidence. What we’re seeing more and more of is print, color, three-piece suits, double-breasted suits. A suit is all still the same traditional elements,  but what we’re doing is the modern element fit. So, all of these things have been around for a long time; it’s just a matter of making them with that modern fit from then into the now.

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Arlette: Several men in my entourage have admitted to never owning a suit; they rent from their local rental stores for weddings, galas and the likes, but shy away from making the investment for multiple reasons. Two of the reasons I’ve often heard are that 1) they can’t think of enough occasions that would warrant the purchase of a suit and 2) they’re not sure how to make their suits versatile. What is the Indochino way of solving these conundrums?

Indochino: The way to make a suit versatile is to pick a color that you can do all seasons, that you can do as a business suit if you have the need for that, or that you can bring into evening going out for cocktails, or that you can wear something formal to a wedding. A three-piece suit is going to give you the most versatility as well because they have the option to take the jacket off, be just in the vest; they can roll up the sleeves, have a little bit less fabric, and we can do fabric all the way around the vest so that they still got that nice, clean look, and they can break up the vest and wear it with different pants. The jacket, as well, is really easy to break up and wear with denim and oxfords for the weekend, for a great weekend look.

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Arlette: Indochino currently has a partnership going with United Way Ottawa which aims to donate a suit to a man in need for every 50 suits sold during the TT pop-up shop — I love when fashion and philanthropy come in perfect harmony! Why United Way Ottawa and how do you foresee this partnership impacting the men in need?

Robin Rowley, Marketing Director: We chose United Way because when we were in Ottawa in 2012, two of our biggest advocates in the market were existing customers who happen to work for United Way. When we decided to come back to Ottawa, we wanted to do something with them as we supported the community. 

The United Way is deciding who is getting the suits, and they will be clients enrolled in United Way programs that help people with disabilities find meaningful employment in the region.
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Want to get the star Indochino treatment? Appointments are being booked faster than you can say Mr. Pitt 5x times in a row, so don’t delay! Find the appointment schedule here and get thee to the Chambers Building at 54 Elgin St. to be transformed. And please, for pretty ladies and supermarket grannies’ sake, show us your swag using hashtag #SuitUpOttawa.

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A huge thank you goes out to Robin Rowley, Marketing Director of Indochino, for the invitation to check out the pop-up store and to Erin Clark for giving me the lowdown on all things Indochino.

I heard there may be another installment of the Ocean 11 franchise…Care to stand in for Clooney and Co.? You sure look like you could…

Avec amour,

- A

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

June

18

Wednesday Words


Shot by yours truly last Sunday. A good friend reminded me not too long ago that I was that girl in high school who carried her Fujifilm camera like a third arm, shot everyone around the halls and on school grounds and spent every spare minute of her free periods in the dark room. Some hobbies are reborn when you least expect it; others are reignited when you happen to marry a fine and talented photographer whose work inspires you to get back to the basics; and some resurface just because some days you’re feeling restless, are in much need of some vitamin D and just want to connect with the world any way you can…

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Avec amour,

- A


June

09

Summer Shimmy


Summer is pretty much here, folks: if the several delightful days we’ve had lately are any indication, we can safely go ahead and intone this little joie de vivre piece, cheerfully tapping along in our revived mules and platforms and burning the what-were-they-thinking Madea-style garbs in our fashionably-conscious pit. I, for one, have been embodying the life of a nomad by spending as much time as humanly possible outdoors, despite the discomfort that accompanies increasingly swollen feet and a protruding belly. What can I say? The memory of this past ratched winter left me so cold (no pun intended) that I cursed its grey days into another planetary dimension and figured that the only plausible karmic solution to dealing with the trauma would be to roast outside like a sweltering pig at a Greek festival. Of course, sun protection prevails, so don’t go telling your momma that Arlette encouraged you to take a spin on the Skin Cancer Ferris wheel – you grown, so por favor, act like it!?

Now, on to the business of what makes me happiest every summer without fail: music festivals! I come from a musical family myself, but gave up the art when I was in high school. I don’t quite know why: I used to sing, I used to write songs and I used to play piano, but somehow, it all got lost in the frenzy of Alanis Morissette teenage angst, parental expectations and boys. Now, as an adult, I look back on those days with bittersweet melancholy, feeling like I may have missed out on a calling as a… — oh! I don’t know –…light-skinned, piano-playin’ prodigy who racks up hit after hit (naaaah, boo, just kidding! There could only be one of her!?).

All jokes aside, it seems Canada is fully on par with its southern cousin and rolling out the red carpet on even MORE festivals to satiate our appetites. The usual suspects are showing their stripes by bringing in the big guns of classic bands and today’s hit makers (RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, Osheaga, Montreal Jazz Fest…) while the newest kids on the block are appealing to the indie-loving crowd (NXNE, FieldTrip, TIME…). Last year, Osheaga had me dizzy with its honest-to-goodness eclectic lineup, while Bluesfest had Ottawa roaring along with the bands of our collective teenage dreams. I would love to partake in the milestone celebrations of a few of them this year, but am faced with that eminent cankles-and-elephants pudding by the end of August, which would greatly restrict my capacity to be out and about like the cool kids (in other words: the cut-off outdoor playtime for this chick is July). However, should I find myself so lucky to sit in the media or VIP section of one particular concert to take in la musica comfortably, I’d leave my greed at the door and opt for the ONE act that has kept me humming along during the colder months and which I suspect could prep me with Energizer Bunny strength for delivery come fall.

 St.Lucia - popcultureaddict.com

THE FEEL-GOOD BAND: ST. LUCIA

Where: TIME Festival – Garrison Common | Toronto | Saturday, July 19, 2014

Additional Notes: the band will also be playing the Osheaga festival in Montreal on Saturday, August 2, 2014

The deets: I’ve been OBSESSED with St. Lucia ever since my ears were wiggled by their hit ‘Elevate’ on Songza’s Blogged 50 playlist. What is it about their sound that brings out the pearly whites faster than a Colgate commercial? The elements: 80′s Lionel Ritchie-esque happiness meet cool Depeche Mode vibe + repeat every lyric prose + make-you-drop-everything synthpop beats make this so-awesome-it-hurts band my sole music craving of the summer.

It’s another Manic Monday, but you may just have found the cure to your stuck-in-a-cubicle woes…

 Which festivals or artists are you looking forward to this summer?
Avec amour,
- A

Photo credit: popcultureaddict.com


June

05

Share My World


#selfie, #ootd…#OD?

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If we’re going to talk about the obvious, we certainly couldn’t do so without bringing up the “hashtagged” appellations of what “dressing up, feeling good and showing off” has done to our world. I’ve only eased up on the whole concept of selfies in the last several months and somehow still feel sick to my stomach when I resort to the collective madness. What is it about the genre that has me wincing, yet intrigues me in equal measure? On the one hand, there is our need to be noticed (and rarely in a self-deprecating manner), which has me believing that we’ve either arrived to this rare place of self-confidence and acceptance or that we’ve become completely self-absorbed creatures. Then, there’s the lack of appropriate balance: I’m not shy to admit that I’ve unfollowed a young lady who considers me a big sister just because my tolerance level for her repeated head shots/duck faces left me wishing I was unfollowed and unfriended like the worst of stalkers (whether she’s noticed that I’ve vanished from her follow list remains unbeknownst to me). My question is this:

Where do we draw the line between harmless fun and oversharing?

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Every generation talks of its successor in that berating manner suggesting that theirs was far less self-involved and the cycle goes on and on. Have we reached the Exodus of making our lives too public? I’m in no way an expert Instagrammer with a following in the hundreds of thousands and although this isn’t intentional, but I also can’t state it to be the contrary…

My reasons for this are as follows:

1) I personally care more about posting “organically” (when it comes to my personal life) or intently (when it comes to my work) — launching a “Like” campaign is the least of my concerns. Things that make me happy and serve as pleasant memories or personal interests are what I care to look back on with fondness rather than cringe worthiness.

2) I cannot, in good conscience, resort to the sort of mindless posting many people partake in — the kind where EVERY.SINGLE.MOMENT of their day is shared, whether it looks appealing or not. I’m a strong believer that there’s a time and place for everything, and bombarding people with the most mundane of every day activities is as ineffective a tactic as trying to hold your breath under water indefinitely. I admire those IG accounts that give me the element of whimsy and surprise and which keep me tuned in rather than tuned out!

3) I find Instagramming to be somewhat of an art (albeit one for the digital age!) that should be pursued with a purpose. Is it meant to inspire? Make others laugh? Share one’s dreams and life’s work? Or simply kill time? I think those who have succeeded in gaining a commendable presence have done so because their IG personality is rooted in one of those specific goals. Finding your niche and crafting your place online should first align with your own values and secondly, engage your audience. People who excel in the matter? @parisinfourmonths, @tmagazine, @brooklynblonde, @thecoveteur, @moderosa, @streetetiquette. If you’re crushing on some particular IG accounts, do feel free to share them in the comments.

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One of the things bringing me lots of joy lately is knowing that life is taking me into the direction of my dreams and launching the motherhood 2.0 chapter. The pictures enclosed represent my version of what it is to share my world with others, to inspire confidence in those moments where we’ve wished for something badly and finally seen it come to fruition and to hold on to that particular place in time where I felt my happiest (let’s be real, after a first trimester that was the pits, right now feels like walking on sunshine!?).

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To my little mami: you’re so loved. Capturing the essence of my joy is my way of honoring you — your seal of approval far outweighs a million likes;)

Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: Wil “Only1O” Orellana

May

29

The O Love Chronicle


Anyone who’s ever come across me and Mr. O can tell within minutes that we’re still smitten with each other. After 8 years together, I assumed that the “flame” would have waned, as it is known to for the majority of couples when the goo-goo-gah-gah days of flirtiness and butterflies in the stomach eventually flip over to the simplicity and acceptance of maturing love; but no, we’re still that annoying couple who holds hands every day, stands together like the Bobbsey Twins and does googly-eyes at one another, leading people to seek out the nearest trash can to relinquish their lunch.

We often get the question of how we manage to keep our marriage good and truthfully, folks, I cannot act like we’re the poster children for Happily Ever After (anyone who has you believing that is a worse liar than the devil himself!). It first boils down to our mutual love and respect of the One who created us. It then boils down to several things we found in each other that we didn’t in any previous relationship. It also comes down to the fact that we’re very much aware of our respective gifts, talents and strengths, and yet understand that those traits are better enhanced simply by being with one another. We know where we’ve failed in the past with others and there was no pretending from the jump that either of us came with perfect resumes that read like Danielle Steel novels — that’s when I knew we were onto something real.

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There was the 5-year long distance relationship, which to many’s horror (or surprise) only deepened our desire to be together rather than make us each run for the hills. There were the challenges of family disapproval, doubting friends and the fact that if he chose to have me for life, this girl would come bruised up, possibly broken and with the addition of a little one calling me ‘Mom’. And yet, here we are: still going strong, still in love and still pushing forward.

The road wasn’t easy, but loving him was. It wasn’t all peachy, but believing in us made me feel like I was sailing the calm seas. And now, three years of marriage later, I’m still in awe of us: for having surmounted the struggles, for having proven others wrong and for managing to remain in that place of bliss in a world where people are cynical, bullshit and chaos reign and marriage is no longer the sacred entity it once was. For those reasons alone, I love me some Mr. O. and I thank heaven for sending me someone who defies hardship gravity.

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Just want to thank my sweets for his unconditional love: I don’t know why you chose to stick around (my track record wasn’t all that great when you found me!?). I know even less why you felt I was worthy of your love, support and attention, but I’m grateful for it all. I didn’t need a man’s love to feel complete, I already had God to fulfill that void and I was ready to accept whatever fate awaited me. But I certainly love the immeasurable blessing that came from loving the Father and having Him bless me with the wonderful gift that is you.

Happy third year wedding anniversary, papi: by the next one, a li’l someone will be commanding all our attention, so…can we go make out now?

Avec amour,

- A

Photo Credit: Cory Vanderploeg; Marie-Michèle Hayeur (Flower Girl Studio)

May

20

Saving Lives, One Stylish Driver at a Time


I looked down at the serene young woman with a Mona Lisa smile looking back at me, wondering why I had never seen this picture of my mother before.

She looked striking and peaceful in a way I had not yet seen her before as I sat among the mounting pile of family photographs my parents had amassed over the years. I rushed upstairs with my newfound evidence that my mom had, in fact, been a bonafide babe in her prime.

“You never showed me this one of you before!?” I said to my mother as she stood in the kitchen preparing dinner. She looked down at the picture and her face froze.

“That’s not me,” she responded. My mind drew a swirl of blanks and question marks as my brows furrowed into an expression of confusion. “She’s your aunt Elsie. People often thought we were twins.”

My eyes widened of surprise and delight: of all of my mom’s siblings, Elsie was without a doubt the one that resembled her most and although I knew each one of my uncles and aunts by name and had spent four deliriously glorious years of my youth in their presence in Haiti, Elsie remained the one I had yet to come face to face with.

“Where is she now? How come I haven’t met her?” I asked, plopping down on a dining chair.

“She died in a car accident when she was 19,” my mom revealed nonchalantly without stopping her chores.

My insides suddenly felt like they were under attack from the sort of discovery no tween should have to make at an age where death still remains the biggest and most frightening of mysteries. I could have pressed my mother on for details of that fateful day, but decided against the inevitable awkwardness and pain such a conversation could have on her psyche — besides, looking at her go about her affairs, it occurred to me that perhaps she had finally reached a state of serene peacefulness about the ordeal and the things she couldn’t change and that I would be damned to yank her away from it all.

I recently asked my father what he knew of Elsie’s gone-to-soon tragic death: while on her way to St-Marc, my mom’s birth city, with a group of friends, an oncoming speeding vehicle took too wide a turn on the narrow Haitian highway and collided with her vehicle. All aboard survived to the exception of my aunt. The feeling of pain, it seems, doesn’t dissipate with time even when we’re a lot more familiar with death as we age. I sighed of sorrow and felt a grand indignation at knowing that Elsie’s young life had been cut short in that split second.

Certainly, she must have had dreams and plans like the rest of us – places she dreamed of going to; people she wished to meet; and love she intended to give and receive, but alas, these are the things that one cannot anticipate when destiny calls us to count our daily blessings one moment and places us at the mercy of others’ recklessness the next.

That family tragedy took place in the late 1970s, in a time when the onslaught of technologies and everyday distractions, as we know them now, were light years away from being the imaginable dangers that now claim countless lives today. And yet, here we are: leading the Distraction Dragon through actions that we may deem less detrimental to our lives than the often-cited culprits of speed and drunk driving, but which contribute to the dire portrait of increasing risks to ourselves and others. We show little compassion for those who have taken said risks and paid for them with their lives, often placing ourselves above such behaviors when in truth, the only luck we may have had thus far has been to not get caught red handed with our own lack of judgment devices and maneuvers.

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If we’re going to speak of the things that annoy us in others, can we do so without examining our own motives and actions? If you are of those who believe that change is imminent in bringing awareness to the dangers and risks of distracted driving, I invite you to take the DRIVE IN STYLE pledge, a joint initiative of the Ottawa Police Service and Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, by going online, visiting Billings Bridge’s Centre Court to make your pledge in person and pose in front of the Drive In Style banner, or attending the LIVE event this coming Saturday, May 24th, between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. For every pledge, a donation will be made to Ottawa Network for Education.

Now on to the fun bonus round of the cause: your contribution is one that the Ottawa Police Service and Billings Bridge Centre wish to recognize, which is why they’ve come up with three fabulous prizes to reward your awesome no-losing-demerit-points-here behavior. You stand a chance to win:

1) $1,000 shopping spree

2) $1,000 in tech swag

3) $2,500 in prizes for putting your Weird Science savvy to work in coming up with a safe driving app idea so good that Silicon Valley may have to dust off an office with a view in sunny Cali just for you! (if we’re going to dream, it may as well be in Bill Gates-size imagination, non?)

So, get to it and show us how you roll (both figuratively and socially!) by using hashtags #DriveInStyle and #GoBillings.

On behalf of those who have gone before us and those whose lives can now be spared thanks to our collective efforts towards change, I thank you for saving lives, one stylish driver at a time…

Avec amour,

- A

Photo Credit: Billings Bridge Shopping Centre

May

12

Touched by an Angel


There are days where I wake up thinking to myself that something amazing is going to happen and surely enough, the passing minutes and hours eventually culminate into that promise. Last Thursday was one of those days.

Those of you who follow this blog or my Twitter may have noticed that there’s been quite a few references made about “little people” in the last few months and though I have no plans of turning this platform into a mommy blog (preferring to leave this to the women who excel in the matter), I wouldn’t be true to myself and my readers if I didn’t share some tidbits of my life in the one place that feels like home to me: my blog.

Many people, including yours truly, have speculated on the gender of #BabyO for weeks based on personal experiences or the legion of old wives tales that populate the Web. I’ve had a good chuckle at the probing of the belly for “gypsy-like” predictions and mathematical probabilities. I’ve drafted up a mental list of symptoms from my first pregnancy and those of several pregnant friends in the hopes of finding a pattern that would undoubtedly prove my correctness about my suspicions. The hubs and I traded stories of dreams that made no lick of sense in theory, but which we viewed as a prophetic telling of what was to come (“And then, the fruit turned into a boat. That must DEFINITELY mean a boy, no?”). I eventually came to terms with my folly and countered that the odds of it being either a boy or a girl will remain a firm 50/50 no matter what (unless science has since found a way to infiltrate the common mortal’s blood stream to breed a monkeys and donkeys mix).

But at last, the wait is over; mama’s dreams have stepped out from behind the Inception nonsense to greet us into reality…

I’m happy to report that #BabyO is none other than a GIRL!

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Words that describe my state of mind right now: exhilarated; pleased; grateful; dreamy; stupid silly. The proof is in my shimmying and happy outburst pudding (simply ask the hubs who’s had to contend with a full hour of 1D-level squealing). My dusty Pinterest account is getting more love than a summer-prep wax job for the first time in a while. My mother-in-law has officially inaugurated Spoiling Village by getting “S” (goodbye, #BabyO! A new mystery begins!) her very first nursery essential. Big brother Jay and uncle Pat are already talking all kinds of smack about the knuckles they will crack à la Martin Lawrence and Will Smith circa 1995′s Bad Boys as potential suitors come knocking on the door. As for me and Daddy, where do you think we fit in? If you’ve guessed that it starts with an F and rhymes with passion, then perhaps we should make tu nombre her middle name. OK, maybe not…

Now, where do we go from here? Here’s the thing: it’s been a long time since I can even remember much of the labour pain (other than it wasn’t an ice cream dream) or how to swaddle, breastfeed or change a diaper. But what my heart is telling me is that upon seeing my little peanut, I believe that we will fall into a rhythm that is all our own which no amount of belly probing, mathematical probabilities or other insane maneuvers will be able to predict or make right. We will simply arrive together in this place of introduction, instinctively knowing that we belong together and in those first moments and for the rest of our lives, be mother and daughter.

Avec amour,

- A

Photo Credit: takingnotescoasttocoast.blogspot.com; Wil “Only1O” Orellana

May

11

We Be Mothers – Part II


It was over Margherita pizzas and Brookstreet Clubs and Burgers that a Wednesday evening in the West end of Ottawa turned into a lively, chatter-fueled gathering of four outspoken mothers. Settling into Brookstreet Hotel’s Connections Lounge after taking an outdoorsy spin on its green grass runway dressed in our Hump Day best, I discovered that the stunning ladies of WeBeWearing and I had far more in common than having our junior versions call us by the one-name moniker of “Mom” (Favorite revelation? Finding out that we’re all church-going, Christian girls!).

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The ladies had been tasked with coming up with two different outfits: the first one being of the laid back cool variety, as shown in yesterday’s post, and the second being representative of a girls’ night out on the town. Needless to say, they killed it on both fronts, just as they did with their humorous anecdotes and infectious energy. But of all the things that were shared, my heart especially warmed at hearing them speak of their children and husbands, who the ladies credit for making them who they are today.

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Without further ado, I give you part II of WIA’s Mother’s Day special where we dive into the hard truths and lessons of motherhood (it gets real!); achieving career and home life balance; and making love work when your nest grows.

HOT FOR THE TOTS: lessons in motherhood…thus far!?

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ARLETTE: Motherhood is a journey that is both exhilarating and taxing. What have you learned about it that surprised you or shocked you?

(COLLECTIVE SIGH)

ALI: Surprises? (pause). I didn’t realize I could function on as little sleep as I do. I also don’t really like children (the group laughs). I never liked to babysit, like I hated it! I wasn’t the person that would play with the kids on the ground and I was a bit worried when I got pregnant, but I LOVE my kids!

ARLETTE: I identify with that because I know that I lose patience when I go to stores and see other people’s kids acting up. I just feel like I’m going to ring their little necks, you know? (more laughs)

ALI: And you wonder how they can deal with that all day or something, but you have your things that you’re dealing with with your kids and for some reason, you have more patience and more love for them. But it gets to a point where, obviously, they push you…

CHELSEA: It can drive you to complete insanity, to a point you never thought you could go to and then there’s a switch where they do something so wonderful and so sweet and like you never looked at something or loved something so much!

SARAH: I’ve heard someone say this before and this is gonna sound super cheesy, but being a parent or being a mom is like watching your heart outside your body (the other ladies agree enthusiastically).

ALI: When I saw Callum off to school, I was like: “there goes my whole life; LITERALLY, there goes..my…life; on a school bus, driving down the busy road…”

WIL: Did you cry?

CHELSEA AND SARAH: She followed the bus! (laughs)

ALI: I followed the bus; I hid in a tree, to watch him come off the bus. I needed to know, I needed to visually see that he was ready for this – he’s a little person, he gets off the bus, he’s got his backpack and he’s so excited to make new friends. I needed to know that he does want to do this, he does like this, he’s doing great! It’s your whole life, it’s everything! There they are: they just go!

SARAH: Probably, just overall, I obviously knew I would love my kids, ‘cuz people always tell you “Oh, you’ve never experienced such love” and it’s true, you can’t really understand until you’ve been there; and also, I also thought that after my first, I would never be able to love another child and then my second came along and I thought “I think he’s my favorite” and I was obsessed or whatever (group laughs); then my third came and it’s crazy that you can continue to love them each deeply, but also in a different way, love different things about them. It’s the whole factor of the love…

CHELSEA: You think before you have kids that you know what kind of parent you’re gonna be. And you have no idea until you actually have a kid. You think “My child is not gonna get sick in a restaurant and she’s gonna be quiet and she’s gonna polite all the time; she’s never gonna be that kid, running up and down the hall, eating crayons…”

CHELSEA: One time, we were in Toronto and we really wanted to go out to Bâton Rouge and thought it was a really good idea; we wanted ribs. We took the two kids and they were like maybe two, right? (Ali agrees). Anyway, we got there and they were both melting down and we wanted to eat our ribs, so we gave them the box of sugar packs and put them on the floor. And we realized we are those parents! I thought I’d never…I would have looked at that and think “That is terrible! I can’t believe they’re letting them do that!” But it’s like: “I’m here; my ribs are here; I’m gonna be paying $30 for this meal and I need to finish it, so…so go play on the floor with some sugar packets.”

I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT: show me your juggling act in family & career

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ARLETTE: Real Talk: life is hardly the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy of the aforementioned title — things can get hectic for any mom FAST and at ANY given moment. How do you achieve that so-called balance of family, careers and a thriving business that seems so effortless in movies, but really is anything but in real life?

ALI: I think one huge survival thing to get through the days are my friends, and my friends who have kids especially because you all know what you’re going through, you all are going through the exact same thing and I’m sure the other girls will feel this too, but when your husband’s at work, you’re on your own with the kids, so when you have your girlfriends, other moms who have kids the same age, you don’t have to explain how you feel necessarily. We have a thing where we’ll say “I need to be saved today” and we’ll text each other and go over, bring the kids. We’ve had play dates where I’ve said “I really want you guys to come over; I have no food and my house is a disaster” and they come over and they bring food, Alphagetti for the kids…It’s like family saying “It’s ok! You don’t have to have the house clean ‘cuz my house isn’t clean either.” I think that’s how we get through it.

SARAH AND CHELSEA: She said it all!

ARLETTE: It’s funny that you should say that because my dad sent me an article not too long ago that talked about how men rely on their achievements to feel healthy, while women feel they need the friendship of other women to feel healthy. You saying that right now is really proving that point!

HOUSE OF LOVE: keeping love burnin’!

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ARLETTE: It starts out with “JUST US” and becomes “ALL OF US” as the clan grows, with the new dynamic often spelling the neglect of “WE” time. How do you avoid the pitfalls of routine with your partner to keep love sizzling?

SARAH: For me, my husband is my best friend – we would spend every second together if we could. I enjoy his company and vice–versa, so even if the kids are in bed, we’re just like hanging out, watching TV or something and talking about stuff even if we don’t get time on a special date. But at the same time, we have the grandparents that’ll come over and babysit so we can go out to dinner.

ARLETTE: Do you ladies feel that the minute you had your first child, that the husband was a bit like “Well, now it’s all about the baby, you don’t pay attention to me…” Because some husbands take it really hard: they feel like suddenly, the attention shifts! As happy as they are to have a child, a lot of husbands sort of resent the child deep inside because they’re thinking “This kid is taking away my wife’s attention!”

CHELSEA: I had the opposite! My husband was always there to help so the baby wasn’t always on me and he’s been with my first daughter since day 1. Right away, they had a special bond, a safe bond. The first time he looked at her when she was born, they weighed her, she was crying and he came over and started talking to her and she stopped. And they’re still like that to this day! A special bond. I was the one feeling left out!? She’s such a daddy’s little girl. My second is totally my girl!

ALI: I also bottle–fed my two kids and I don’t know what would have happened if my husband wasn’t around the first – I don’t think I changed a diaper for probably three days!

SARAH: We have overly helpful husbands and we know that!? (the other girls nod in agreement)

ALI: For my second, I wasn’t as scared since I was already a mom, so that was fine, and I had had other things in line like I had suffered from postpartum, so I had a plan now of what to expect, this is how you deal with it – I was on medication at that point so I took control of myself instead of letting it take control me. My husband was the rock of the family. The second time around, I was the solid one. The first time, it was my husband and the second time, it was me, so there was a good balance.

ARLETTE: When you find a husband that has priorities in the right place and good values, it just makes it this much easier.

CHELSEA: So much easier! I think we’re all the types of girls that are like, if we didn’t have such helpful husbands, we don’t know what we’d do!

SARAH: I always say to Matt: “Did we even talk about kids before we got married? How kids work – what responsibilities with regards to kids work…” and I don’t even know how I got so lucky.

ALI: They look after equally as much as the kids. The kids’ needs are obviously #1 and stuff, but it’s also “OK, what do you need now? Because you’re having a mental breakdown. You need to have your day away, you need to shop, you need to do whatever…” And we do that with our husbands too!

CHELSEA: We let them play video games last Saturday for literally 12 hours straight and they thought it was the greatest night: we actually made them their favourite snacks, had their favourite drinks…

ALI: …and they pretend they’re soldiers in whatever game they’re playing. They’re heros of the world! (the other ladies laugh)

CHELSEA: It’s all about give and take.

SARAH: Mine travels for business, so I use that against him (laughter erupts). It has to be equal.

ALI: If you have enough support and friends to look after the kids for one day, not even a night, just one day, then you guys can sit on the couch, do whatever you need to do: it’s not expensive. If you can do that, that’s a nice way to keep the spark alive.

***

Looking to treat your mom or yourself to a memorable time this weekend? Something in my gut (pun intended) points to Brookstreet Hotel’s delectable Mother’s Day Brunch and special $99 room rate as gifts that’ll rank up there with an “Hey, Girl” from Le Gosling. Double snaps for you when the little ones show you what good behavior looks like as they take part in complimentary kids’ activities while you down glass after glass of Mimosa. If you happen to be among the lucky ones to get the full BH experience (earning the Favorite Child award from the parentals), do not be coy — inquiring minds want to sift through those Valencia-tinged shots for proof. Simply use the hashtag #WeBeMothers.

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A huge thank you goes out to Ali, Chelsea and Sarah for a girly date that was All Class and Sass and to the equally stylish staff of the Brookstreet Hotel for knowing what women want;).

Wishing all moms the chicest Mother’s Day of all, especially my friend Bianca who welcomed a beautiful baby girl last Tuesday. Welcome to the world, Rosalie!

Avec amour,

- A

Photo Credit: Wil “Only1O” Orellana


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