For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Living the life of Riley

I agreed to condo-sit in midtown Toronto, for a friend who would be going away for a couple of months. The deal was, I would take care of his dog, and in return get a space to myself to catch up on work, edit and try and get my writing mojo back. At the last minute, I asked if he could bring the dog to his dad's house while I stayed alone. Afterall, at home I have responsibility, duties to walk my own mutt, clean up after it etc and I didn't feel too pumped about minding someone else's pooch.

"I'm starting to feel like this isn't going to work out." The deal was with Riley. I obliged.

Panic stricken, I pulled into the condo feeling that familiar anxiety that creeps in when change presents itself to me. Where do I park? How do I operate this fob key? Where will I get my morning coffee? How do I work this convection oven?

"What happened to you?" my friend asked, almost puzzled. "It's like moving to the sticks has made you completely unconfident in how to do things."

He wasn't wrong. Besides, I was reminded at any time that I could go home. I wasn't stuck here. But I didn't want to go home when scared. I wanted to stick it out. With grit and determination and proving to myself that I could do it solo. And Riley was the perfect excuse to not be able to pack it in when things felt slightly uncomfortable. Do things that scare you. Trust me. There's no other satisfaction like it.

It's a strange feeling being taken care of but wanting your own autonomy to do things independently. After I got locked into the parking garage (my spot is 25 winding turns to the destination) and got honked at and yelled at by a resident, I got my inner guts back. I opened the car door, walked up to his car, tapped on the window and in Carrie Bradshaw fashion yelled "You're SOOOO Busy!"

He then apologized and showed me what I was doing wrong, to the detriment of the lined up cars behind us trying to get out of the retail parking they paid for.

That felt good.

I then hesitantly put Riley's leash on. My own dog bites at any given chance and has made me fearful of other dogs. Even though it's owner says it would never turn, you just never know with nature's wild. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and gave my hand a sloppy kiss, as if to let me know that he would cause me no harm.

Riley is three times the size of my dog. He's an Irish wheaten terrier so I half expected him to pull my arm off at the sight of a tree. I walked by the front desk where the security guard started asking questions about the dog. He handed him some treats from behind the desk and I would then find out that he was a Veterinarian back in Iran and performed hundreds of surgeries on smaller animals. He took the security guard job because of the flexibility it allowed him to study to take the equivalency test here.

They say Toronto is unfriendly. Maybe people just need a reason to make eye contact, or a four legged friend to start up conversation. Everyone loves Riley.

Christmas at my parents had me packing the car and bringing the dog in tow. He sat in the front seat like an angel and didn't so much as make a sound. My own dog gets put in a crate for the entirety at our parents because he goes to the washroom in the house and is a complete mental case. Riley pranced in slowly, let everyone get accustomed to him and he didn't leave my side. He was a great comic relief in certain needed moments and really just had love to give. Sometimes there is strength and comfort in quiet and calm. He doesn't say much, but you know he's there.

I can tend to hibernate in this season. Taking care of a dog reminds you that you must get up and take care of them, even if you don't feel like it. It means you don't open your backyard door, because it's a condo so up and down you go whenever he needs to go. I realize that most of you reading this are parents, and that you are probably rolling your eyes at me. But it's important for me to get my sense of responsibility back. To care for something other than myself. My job. My house. My spouse. My own dog won't let me care for him the way I want to.

They say that the grass isn't always greener on the other side...but sometimes it is. Sometimes you have to trust another, even if something in your past has bitten you hard. Afterall, he's giving his trust in me, a total stranger, left and expected to feed and care for it.

I came to Toronto to get inspired by the city.  Instead I found it in a dog.

Love is, a four legged word.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Push and pull

It's been a while, old friend. There's been a lot going on and yet at the same time, a quiet and unfamiliar stagnant. I've packed my past five years so tightly with shoots, meetings, work, editing, training, mentoring and striving to be better than ever, that I realized along the way...I sort of lost myself. I had a huge ass chip on my shoulder and an ode to prove something to the world.

A funny thing happens when you stop living for everyone else and quiet your mind. When you ask yourself what really matters, what really makes your heart soar and at the same time ache. When you question if you're really happy or just kind of comfortable.

I lost my way. I stopped being inspired. I couldn't write. I became uninterested in my craft. I lied to myself. I tricked myself into believing I was happy. Because I didn't allow myself the free time to even doubt that so called life for even a millisecond. If I saw an empty square on my calendar, I almost panicked. What would I do with my free time?

My work became my sole purpose in life. And that my friends, is a dangerous thing. Because like anything, the popularity rises and falls. A new 20 something comes in with bigger dreams, brighter eyes, a bushier tail and better talent. And just as you're riding the crest of success, it can feel that it's all crashing down on you and you're grasping through that swelling wave to catch your breath.

Sometimes, you just have to get away for awhile, alone. To question everything. To answer nothing. To cry your eyes out and not have anyone console you. To jump on your hotel room bed and mess up the perfectly made sheets. To order overpriced room service and drown in a bottle of wine. When even in the depths of your soul, you're not sure what's wrong, sometimes it feels good to take off the tightly adorned mask, and just let all the monkeys roll the fuck off your back.

"You're grey alright", I had a friend of a friend say to me in a discussion about personalities. "She's push and pull", the longtime male friend said to the handful of people in our presence.

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

So I proceeded to delve into what that exactly meant. And why I'm so 50 shades of fucked up.
And their answer astonished me:

Stop thinking there's something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you.

And just like that, I questioned 38 years of my life....could it be in fact that there truly isn't anything tangibly wrong with me? That I constantly analyze every situation so deeply that I ruin living in the moment? That I thrive on drama and pain? That I so badly yearn for an extraordinary life and that automatically has to equate to strife and suffering?

I don't know what it all means. But I'm in an honest place right now. I do know that I had this same feeling five years ago, when I quit my great paying safe job with benefits and leapt in with two feet to a photography business I didn't even know I wanted, nevermind was capable of. And when people called me "brave", I never understood it. Because there was nothing calculated about it. I just went with my heart and let it guide me. I'm doing the same thing today.

I may not be what everyone wants at any given time. That part of me has changed. And I won't apologize for that. But I do know that I'm on a journey to the best chapter of my life. I am here on this Earth to accomplish astounding things. And I hope, even if I cut my hair, swear too much, answer your email a little less quick than breakneck speed or write more honestly, that you'll still love me for what I have to offer.

People change. Things fall apart. Shit happens. But the world keeps going round and round.

Growth and comfort do not co-exist. And things are about to get really uncomfortable. In a really epic way.  And not in a way that creates whispers or stories or assumptions. Not in a way you'll even notice. It's a shift of sort, internally. I hope you'll join me on this journey of mine. And in return, I can promise to offer you, a totally better version of myself. With an occasional fuck-up, I'm sure.

Love always,



Friday, March 20, 2015


She lifts her skirt up to her knees
Walks through the garden rows with her bare feet, laughing
And I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters

Walk on down the hill
Through grass grown tall and brown
And still it's hard somehow to let go of my pain
On past the busted back
of that old and rusted Cadillac
That sinks into this field collecting rain

Will I always feel this way ‒
So empty, so estranged?

And of these cut-throat busted sunsets,
these cold and damp white mornings
I have grown weary
If through my cracked and dusted dime-store lips
I spoke these words out loud would no one hear me?
Lay your blouse across the chair,
Let fall the flowers from your hair
And kiss me with that country mouth so plain.
Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves
To me it sounds like they're applauding us,
The quiet love we've made.

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged?

Well, I looked my demons in the eyes
laid bare my chest, said "Do your best, destroy me.
You see, I've been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kind of bore me."
There's a lot of things that can kill a man
There's a lot of ways to die
Yes, and some already dead that walk beside me
There's a lot of things I don't understand
Why so many people lie
Well, it's the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged?

~ Ray Lamontagne ~

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When it counts

For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

It's been about five years since I started this little blog and finally am referencing the above, inspired by a double disk George Michael box set I bought in the 90's. One CD was all slow jams...for the heart, naturally; the other all beats....for the feet.

This got me to thinking about the different types of friendships we have in life.

For the eyes....those that we roll with to public affairs. They make us look good. They know people. We rub elbows with them but certainly would never divulge our deepest secrets.

For the heart....those that make us feel warm and fuzzy. They do nice things like write sweet cards and offer us a feeling of safety and security.

For the ears...we listen to them, or they listen to us. We can sit inside in our comfiest clothes sans makeup or judgement and just pour our hearts out. We can talk about nothing or anything at all.

For the feet.....these friends make us feel happy being around them. They know how to whoop it up, drag our sorry butts out of the cold winter hibernation and make us glad that we did so to hit the dance floor. Double time.

For the soul....we may not see each other often but we always know they are there. Without them a part of us are missing. There's a reason they are the mate to your soul.

I've been privileged to have all sorts of relationships in my life and have learned through age, wisdom and maturity that people don't necessarily have to fit perfectly into one particular compartment. If we don't see eye to eye, it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean we are finished. If we drift, we may find our way back, we may possibly not. If we are different, we can talk about it and accept each other for our unique personalities. If things change, it's okay. You may have kids and I may not. We may not have the same schedules, interests and activities but that's alright too. We may have lost touch from highschool, university or our workplace; promising to keep in touch and both knowing all the while we won't. You may have insisted your way into my life when I wasn't interested in meeting anyone new, and then left by choice. One chance meeting, email or run-in turned strangers into acquaintances into friends and then maybe strangers again.  I have a tendency to attract people in need. I stay with them until they are fixed and eventually, they always leave. It's okay, it's all okay. A purpose was served. Our time is complete. We may never and yet we may still find our way back to each other. Either way, there was a point in our lives when this person served a mutual purpose. Whether it was to get through a God awful class together, to laugh at inside work jokes, to paint the town red in our wild and shameless single years or to share childhood memories together, it all counts. It all matters.

Recently I had a very good friend from highschool ask me what happened to us.  We were inseparable, always dressed the same and even got matching tattoos. We sort of drifted but the truth is I thought she didn't care. I always felt a sting of pain when her name was mentioned; almost a waive of shame would wash over me for the failure or rather dissolution of the friendship. I once read in a book about girlfriends....The friend who got odd it is for girlfriends' relationships to fall apart. We are the ones who are supposed to stick together and bash that mother fucker when he cheats on you. And yet it's a strange almost shameful feeling when the relationship fails. Almost an unspoken silence when their name is brought up in a mutual circle of friends. The book is fascinating to me because it tells the story from both sides of each party and you yourself can decide what the truth is. And when something is that painful, does the truth even matter?

While I genuinely feel more than most, my friend genuinely still feels...but in a different way. Her message to me, years later was astonishingly simple: I cared, I just show it differently. But I always cared , Wendy. She quipped that her mother in law often says that she will live until 100 because she can whip up a turkey dinner for 30 and not even break a sweat. And me? Dear God, we know what would happen in that situation. But then it dawned on's really okay to have distinct personalities. We just have to work harder to understand each other.

And just like that I realized that we are all different with the same inherent qualities. We just cope and deal with things differently. We take everything way too personally.

Don't overanalyze relationships to the point that you ruin them. Not everyone is the same as you. If you find yourself thinking "I would never do that..." it's probably because you wouldn't. But is said personality trait a deal breaker? Or is it petty shit that in the long run or during a world crisis you would never even remember? Life is hard enough. We are all in this together and need each other. Stop pretending we don't.

At Christmas I had dinner with my very good friend. I brought a gift bag. She looked at me, knowing the way my brain works. She mused: you brought a gift bag. Because that's what you do. I'm picking up the tab for dinner. Because that's what I do.

And just like that we showed our love for each other differently. I write cards. She writes cheques. But at the end of the day, when it really counts....when life is down and out or you have a sick or ailing child or parent, when life crisis' hits...when it really counts...and you need someone, a sweet card....a shoulder to lean on...a listening ear...a night out to get your mind off things...a soothing hug...who cares what box they fit in or if they were indeed a reason, season or lifetime.

For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

It all counts.



Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Measure of a Man

I came on this trip seeking relaxation but most importantly answers. Answers to questions I've yet to ask myself, let alone seek solutions for. A random televised show brought me an unlikely blog post and a new perspective on life, love and what it means to truly be a man. I've often mused that I was born in the wrong generation; an old soul merely trying to exist and thrive in a new aged world.

Living amongst spoiled brats of generations X,Y and one day Z often finds me shaking my head in frustration, confusion and disbelief and yet the same thing I've come to know and hate is partly responsible for my so called success. I suppose it's like a celebrity's relationship with the media. You can't rise to the top without it but come to loathe it and one day run from it. We live in a generation of self entitled, media whoring spoiled brats. This vacation couldn't have come at a better time. Lately, I've been feeling for lack of better words: stuck. Or something like that. Unsure of my future or place in this world mixed in with trepidation about the world's strife, wars and issues has me losing more hours of sleep than surely healthy. Dialed into CNN more hours than sitcom television surely doesn't help. And then one night, I saw a show that will most certainly change my life. It was about Auschwitz and it's survivors. And suddenly, all those frustrated tears that have been pent up but not dared shed for our pathetic first world problems, opened up like a floodgate.

I'm not sure what exactly I was weeping for, or about. Was it that I had found something so deeply disturbing that I, a spoiled brat of Gen XYZ was finally able to comprehend how truly lucky we really were? Or that such a complete and abhorrent time actually existed in this free world as we know? Whatever the reason, I shut off everything that night and just really for the first time in a long while, sat and absorbed someone's story. No distractions or interjections or thoughts of how I could turn this moment into profit. I just sat still and listened. I transported myself to the 1940's, a time that only 10 years later my mother would be born. It's hard to grasp the fact that the Holocaust ever existed. And when I heard Martin Greenfield's story, I knew that I had so much to learn.

We hopped on board for one of our first non-work related vacations in years. Sure, we travel frequently. But to actually just be present, shut down, tune out and relax was a concept quickly fading foreign. Before we arrived to the airport, I just knew we had to stop at the local bookstore to pick up Martin Greenfield's story. I needed to escape the frivolities of present times. Ironic, considering we had just paid thousands to travel to paradise, but I needed to engulf my mind into something bigger than today's fluff and smut.

Old soul.

We've been spoiled by our clients when travelling to photograph destination weddings. We've been put up in first class, travelled in luxury and when planning our own vacation we can be surprisingly frugal. We opted for a luxury resort but on a budget airline and by dumb bad luck chose our seats in front of probably the three biggest assholes I've come across. If the measure of a man is all that he has been through, accomplished and by the type of character he possesses then these three certainly measure up to two feet tall; combined. I listened to hours of show off, pretense chatter about how three twenty something year olds hide their wealth in offshore investments across the world and away from their wives. They carried on about their 20 year old birthday parties and how they would fly in lobsters and have professional chefs, and impress all their friends. Unwary or caring of surrounding passengers, they dropped the F bomb every three seconds and as the plane trembled and shook during turbulence and passengers white knuckled their travel companions, the 20 year olds joked about the privileges of being Arab and how they were going to bring our plane down. Perhaps if I had tuned into re-runs of Friends more often instead of CNN, I would have been less affected.

To top it all off, they were bragging about all the money they had hidden offshore and million dollar bashes, but stealing all the alcohol and snacks from the plane. To head to an all inclusive resort. Amateurs. My husband always  says if you are new at something, at least pretend to play the part. "Act like you've been there before" Or in Martin Greenfield's case, if you can't afford to do something, at least dress the part. A nice suit could change someone's perception of you...or in his his life.

I've found myself frustrated at the barrage of constant questions about the future. I suppose I get annoyed because well, for one, I myself don't have the answers. What will you do about retirement? What about kids? What about Michael's health and benefits? What if the answer is who knows? Who cares? What about our uncertain careers or the drawbacks of self employment? What if it doesn't work out?

What if it does?

Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective. For one man who's hiding offshore funds from his wife, there's another who survived beatings, surrounded by killings and unspeakable acts of inhumanity who, by never giving up working hard and literally dressing and acting the part of a man, saved his life. Martin made himself useful in the Holocaust, never showing signs of weakness or illness. When they forced him to beat his friend, he spaced out the lashings on the body, almost apologetically so as to not permanently injure one part of the youth's back. There was no rhyme or reason to the Nazi killings. They may shoot you if they were happy or if they were mad. The sheer methodical madness of counting over and over and over again the prisoners, the deplorable conditions, the heartless cruelty, would make you wonder how someone could ever go on to lead a normal life, nevermind take the Nazi life lessons and apply them to becoming a top U.S. tailor to celebrities and four presidents.

Life can sure be fascinating.

The measure of a man.

Daily I pester my husband about doing more. Being more. So and so makes this much money. So and so does this for his family. And here we are on vacation celebrating our five year wedding anniversary and discovering new things about each other still. I have someone attentive, loving and willing to do anything to make me happy. Why do I always forget this? Why, when my many moods are off kilter do I automatically shift blame to the one person who would give me the world?

The measure of a man is not what he earns but how he lives his life. As I sit here and reflect on numerous recent struggles, I realize it is not anything specifically wrong. We cannot measure happiness by material things, more stuff, status or superiority. The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he would never be caught.

Richard Sherman showed his true colours in the Superbowl. He's always chanting "Nobody beats me" and then handled his loss like the ignorance of a child, not the grace of a man. The Nazi's eventually stole the prisoners uniforms, running and hiding and pretending to be them when they were about to be caught. How does it feel? The Arabs on our plane by some chance were tired and ready to relax on the flight home. By dumb luck again, we found ourselves in the same seats in front of them on the way home. This time they were ready to relax. And those around them were loud. A gentleman introduced himself to us in Mexico as a Toronto photographer but made references to being a Russian spy. I instantly disliked him and his distasteful comments about large women. And yet our Mexican waiter was more than happy to have a job, show us photographs of his curvy wife and beautiful kids and give us a genuine smile. The Russian spy sat at a table alone and we later found out travelled solo because of a recent divorce. The irony of life and karma.

If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

J.K. Rowling