A Toronto Transformation

10 hours of Street Harrassment is Sadly, Not Surprising

This condensed video of a woman walking around a city for ten hours in jeans and a t-shirt was originally posted on Hollaback’s website under the headline “You won’t believe how many times this woman gets harassed in 10 hours.”

I beg to differ. As a woman who does a lot of solo walking around the city, there is nothing shocking about this to me. I absolutely do believe it.

I love this video though, because I know a lot of people do not view street harassment as a serious issue. Even those of us who experience it on a regular basis become so conditioned to unwanted commentary on our bodies that it starts to seem like it hardly matters.

It matters.

Because even the strongest among us can have our confidence eroded over time, chipped away every time someone asserts his perceived right to tell us what he thinks of our bodies, what we should do with our bodies, and what he’d like to do to our bodies.

Facing this kind of objectification again and again is so discouraging and demoralizing, not to mention terrifying, depending on the context.

I know that I’m more than my body. I am a bright, compassionate, funny and strange whole entire complex human being. But it can be hard to keep that in perspective when strangers insist on reducing me to it.

Here’s hoping this video reaches some of the men who perpetuate this boorish behaviour and that they start to understand that, as I’ve said before, catcalls are not compliments.

Did you guys find this video surprising? How do you deal with street harrassment? I’d love to chat about it in the comments!

Three Years of Metamorphocity

"My head hurts, but I love you" graffiti, Queen Street West, Toronto

Three years ago I was in a state of transformation.

My heart was on the mend and I was eager to try out my new independent-woman-in-the-city grown-up wings. They were barely dry, but they were beautiful. I wanted to see how they worked in my new life.

And so I did.

I went to Spain.

I trained my neighbours to say hello to me.

I went on dates.

I dodged being drafted to a naked volleyball team.

I fell in love, hard.

Really hard.

And then I climbed back out of it, bedraggled, bewildered and shivering from that special kind of cold that comes from being discarded without grace or compassion by someone who has won your heart.

I took candy from strangers.

I took my dad to see Lady Gaga.

I documented the unfortunate life of a lovingly crafted, hilariously disturbing voodoo doll.

I marched in the Pride Parade.

I made a conscious effort to be happier in my own skin.

I got a new job (and a new diagnosis).

I learned to shuck oysters!

An evil dog ate my movie snacks.

Every day, this weird and wonderful city became more my home. And through it all I wrote.

I wrote when I was charmed and delighted by the city around me. I wrote my love, my curiosity, my anger, my humiliation. I wrote to grieve and to heal, to provoke, to entertain, to share and to learn. Sometimes I wrote just to make more space in my brain.

And finally I realized, I was writing because, no matter what I do during my 9-5, I’m a writer.

This city has changed me. It has made me bolder, and braver. It has given me friends I would never have known and now can’t imagine my life without.

This blog has changed me too. It has helped me get to know myself and introduced me to some amazing people. It has opened doors I would never have imagined three years ago. I’ve learned so much here on this wee cocoon of internet space.

Thank you so much for stopping by from time to time and being a part of the ride.

How to Make a Fall Leaf Bouquet

fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial

Last weekend, while I was waiting for my clothing swap buddies to arrive, I came across a so-called tutorial for making roses out of leaves on Pinterest. As with many a “DIY” project, while the finished product looked lovely, the instructions were sorely lacking. Still, I muddled about and enlisted the help of one of the more artistically-minded swap attendees who made the mistake of arriving first to find me covered in maple leaves and washi tape and we finally figured out a technique that worked for us.

I thought I’d document the process step by step for any of you who are feeling the fall craft bug or whose tables are sorely lacking decoration now that the Toronto Flower Market season is over.

How to Make a Fall Leaf Bouquet

fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial 1. Start with one of your smaller leaves (leave the nicest, largest ones for the outer layer). Fold down all the points, coloured side out.

fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial 2. roll the leaf up tightly, points in.

fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial 3. Fold the second leaf the same way, and roll the first leaf tightly inside the second.

fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial 4.Repeat with two or three additional leaves, depending on how big you want the flower to be.

leafflowers5 5. To create the “petals” wrap one of the larger leaves around the rolled up leaves, keeping a tight grip on the base, close to the stems and letting the top roll in a little looser.

leafflowers6 6. Repeat 3 or 4 times.

leafflowers7 fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial 7. wrap a little washi tape around the base of the flower.

fall leaf flower bouquet tutorial 8. Pop them in a mason jar, et voila! A cheap and cheerful fall bouquet for the table!

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Could You go a Year Without New Clothes?

vintage prom dresses at 69 vintage Toronto What do you mean I don’t need another frothy vintage prom dress?

According to a recent eye-opening and kick in the ass-ing review of my last three months’ spending, I could not.

Which, of course, immediately made me want to try.

To be fair, those three months included my birthday, when I was generously gifted some funds specifically to put towards an “investment piece” I’d been hemming and hawing over for about a year. Still, it was shocking to see just how much I actually spent on clothing in just three short months.

It made me re-examine my view of myself as a fairly financially responsible person. Because the truth is, while I’ve been patting myself on the back for being debt-free, I really haven’t been putting nearly as much money as I could, and arguably should, have been away for a rainy day.

Apparently, no sooner are my essentials paid off for the month, than I head out to spend whatever’s left over on food, clothes and a retrospectively inexplicable number of trips to Shopper’s Drug Mart. I’m like a moth to an optimum points flame. Half the time I just wander in there to see what’s on sale when I need to kill time.

Looking over my spending, not only was I disappointed in how little I had squirrelled away, and what a ridiculous amount of my paycheques was going to retail therapy and lazy food shopping, but I was dismayed to realize that I’d become such a rampant consumer.

When I think about the things I value most in life, of course, most of them aren’t things at all. They’re people, experiences, nature and feelings. And while there’s certainly room there for enjoyment of stuff, fashion stuff included, I was a little crestfallen to realize just how much stuff I was enjoying, and how that might be pushing aside the experiences I’d like to think I value more.

So, while I might not be ready for the challenge of going a year without buying a single new item of clothing that I’ve seen some bloggers sign up for, I am going to make a concerted effort to cut way back on my spending, particularly in that area and go from there. Even cutting my clothing budget in half for a year would be a significant boost to my overall savings.

Luckily I hosted a clothing swap this weekend, and snagged some great new-to-me stuff from my friends, so that should keep the spending wolves at bay for a little while at least.

Baby steps, you know?

Taken in shoes I already own, of course.

Are you guys big shoppers? Good savers? Could you go a year without new clothes? I’d love to hear any saving money/avoiding buying clothes tips you have in the comments!

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Five Shows to Curl Up With This Fall

Shows to Curl Up With This Fall via metamorphocity.com

As much as I love all of my autumn activities, sometimes there’s nothing better on a chilly fall day than curling up on the couch with my latest crochet project and some really good tv.

Borgen – A seriously fantastic Danish series about the complexities of government and the choices politicians face. It manages to be both real and really fascinating. As an added bonus, I expect to start understanding Danish any day now.

The Mindy Project – it never ceases to crack me up. Mindy is hilarious and I really dig Danny Castellano. I’m a sucker for a curmudgeon with a heart of gold.

Orphan Black – This show about human clones is so clever, suspenseful and well-written. It also features my lovely, talented pal Kristian Bruun and the phenomenally gifted Tatiana Maslany, who should win all the awards for her flawless portrayal of multiple characters. Plus it features my lover Toronto, as itself no less!

Utopia – If you’ve ever worked in an office where you dealt with the red tape and stunning inefficiencies of buerocracy or preposterous projects that landed in your lap on the whim of a clueless higher up, this Australian series will have you in stitches.

Top of the Lake – I watched this right after finishing True Detective, and actually liked this mystery/thriller set in New Zealand more. Elizabeth Moss is fantastic and New Zealand makes a gorgeous, fascinating backdrop for the show.

I’m still hanging in there with Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones despite the constant killing off of my favourite characters and I’ve put off starting the new Outlander series, because I really love the books and I REALLY love the books’ male protagonist and I’m worried the series won’t measure up to my own imagining of the stories, but I’ve heard it’s quite good too.

What are you guys watching this fall? Do you have an all-time favourite series?

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The Trouble With Trolls

women in animal masks Sometimes it feels like the internet is a masquerade…for jerks.

I’ve been thinking about trolls lately.

No, sadly, not the fluffy, neon-haired bejewelled belly button type (what a weird fad that was).

I’ve been thinking more about the type who prowl the internet looking for unmoderated forums to spew bilious, hateful trash. You know, the ones you encounter when, against your better judgement you think, “I’ll just quickly scroll down to the comment section of this thoughtful piece of writing or this heartfelt video.”

I believe in dialogue, I believe in letting people have their say and I believe in participating in important conversations. After all, respectful debate is essential for human evolution and democracy.

But man, few things are as optimism-crushing as a comment section on a viral post.

My personal policy is to try never to say anything online I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone’s face and/or be comfortable having everyone I know hear.

For some folks though, the possibilities that come along with perceived anonymity are too tempting not to test out.

Online, you can be whomever you want.

And for some reason, I guess a lot of people really want to be assholes.

Maybe they feel powerless or invisible in their own lives. Maybe they hate themselves or are bored with their lives and don’t have the resources to deal with that productively. Maybe they’re genuinely mentally ill.

Whatever the reasons, they bring their racism, misogyny, intolerance and bullying to the internet and let fly. Some seem to believe the nonsense they’re spewing, while others pathetically claim to be writing loathsome things just to get a reaction (the original definition of an internet troll).

Recently, a woman accused of “trolling” a family whose toddler went missing was unmasked by a news team when they found out Scotland Yard was investigating her Twitter account, with which she obsessively tweeted abuse towards the family, who she believed were responsible for their child’s disappearance. According to news outlets, she was found dead of an apparent suicide a couple of days later. The situation has sparked some debate over whether exposing so-called “trolls” in this manner is the right thing to do.

I don’t know exactly what the solution is. I value my privacy online, and I value free speech, but I do think that we need to take online harassment, threats, and hate speech seriously, because the internet doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the more encouragement these so-called “trolls” receive either directly from other mean-spirited commenters cheering them on or through lack of consequence, the more likely that behaviour will be picked up by others and the more it will bleed into their lives offline.  And even if it doesn’t, we all know by now that sadly online bullying can have devastating and fatal consequences.

Some say we should just ignore online bullies and trolls, but Stephanie Guthrie had an interesting take on misogynist trolls in particular in this awesome Ted Talk last September:

What do you guys think? Have you encountered online bullying or trolling on a personal level? How do you think we should deal with people who make it their mission to threaten or make others miserable online?

 

Things to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving2014_10

For me, thanksgiving means hopping on a train out of the city to my aunt and uncle’s lovely house in the country for a feast and a visit with the people who’ve known me since I was born.

My mom has four sisters and one brother and when they were younger the women used to be mistaken for each other. While obviously I’ve never had a problem telling them apart, it does make me laugh to see them all together and realize just how many common traits they share. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but inevitably one of my aunts will say something in a particular tone and my little ears perk up and go, “mom?”

This year, while I listened to fellow passengers gripe about the lateness of the train (which, I pretty much plan for when taking public transit) and about the fact that they were “obligated” to go see their families, I realized for the zillionth time how lucky I am to actually enjoy spending time with my family.

One of the best feelings in the entire world is sitting around the table after dinner and listening to them tell stories and make each other laugh until they can’t breathe. I’m so glad they still take the time and make the effort to get us all together year after year.

So, while I’m thankful for the delicious meal and lovely hospitality, for my cousin picking me up from my late train, and for the chance to unwind in the country for a day, the thing I’m most thankful for this thanksgiving is that feeling. That bubbly joy in my chest when I hear my family laughing and I feel completely happy and at home in my skin.

Apple crumble pie

succulents in mason jars

Thanksgiving2014_11

Asked to put buns on the table. Acted accordingly.

Tech break

Thanksgiving2014_2

Thanksgiving2014_1

Our grandparents couldn’t make it this year so they skyped in. It’s like we live in the future!

ontario fall leaves

laughing in the trees reflection

Thanksgiving2014_6

This is what happens when I dare to attempt a group shot. Even with only a quarter of us it’s still pandemonium.

women hanging from garden trellis

These three needed exactly zero outside prompting to do this.

I’m also thankful that this garden trellis did not break.

Do you guys celebrate Thanksgiving? What are you thankful for this year? Let me know in the comments! 

Craft Projects for Fall

Crochet brick stitch headband

I don’t know about you guys, but there’s something about that first chill wind of fall that makes me want to head indoors and start one million creative projects.

This week I dove into my trusty bag of yarn and dusted off the crochet skills I picked up as a loner newspaper reporter living in the middle of nowhere, and whipped up the snow white headband pictured above.

Few things are more relaxing and cozy than curling up on the couch with a ball of yarn and a borrowed cat purring away. Concentrating on the soothing repetition of a crochet pattern is still the closest I come to meditation and there’s just something so satisfying about making something with your own hands.

I usually have a couple of creative projects on the go, so I find it especially satisfying to create something I can definitively finish in a day or two.

Although I really want to find some time this fall/winter to tackle the challenge of this pretty boho sweater or this cute throw blanket.

Are you guys crafty? What are you making this fall? Let me know in the comments! Stuck for ideas? Check out my “crafty” board on Pinterest!

What Women Really Want

What is not being reduced to boring, outdated, gender-based stereotypes, Alex?

Last week, an episode of Jeopardy featured a category entitled “What Women Want.” Suddenly the quiz show looked suspiciously like a 1950s episode of The Newlywed Game as one misguided attempt to pin down half the world’s population’s priorities after another was revealed on the show’s iconic blue screens.

Apparently what women want is Sleepytime tea, more time to do our precious pilates , jeans that fit well, and of course, for our domestically useless “partners” to unchain us from our vacuums.

Whew. Good thing we’re not a diverse group of people with a myriad different wants and needs or that would have been a really tough category to put together!

I know many people will (and have) argued that there are bigger fish to fry in the struggle for equality, but, as I’ve said before, I think it’s perfectly reasonable, and in fact necessary to sweat the “small stuff” when it comes to sexism. The ways that men and women are portrayed in popular media really do matter. The more we let slip by, the more these harmful stereotypes become the accepted norm, until we find ourselves losing the gains we’ve made towards living in a society where men and women are valued equally and where people are not bound by rigidly constructed roles assigned based on genitalia.

For the record, I’d also find it offensive and detrimental to society if the category had been called “What Men Want” and featured a list that painted a limiting stereotype of men. Maybe they’ll do that one next!

The sooner we stop making judgements about one another based on gender, the better.

Meanwhile, I’ve come up with a list of a few of the things I would like for myself and my fellow women just off the top of my head, jeopardy style:

What is:
Access to education around the world.
Not having our private photos stolen and posted on the internet.
Being taken seriously in the world of technology/programming
Equal sports funding and media coverage.
To be valued for the quality of my character, not my appearance.
Not to be told a “thigh gap” is desirable & that we can all have one if we really try.
Not being harassed by men in the street.
For strange men to quit demanding that we smile for them.
To feel safe walking home at night.
For missing aboriginal girls/women in Canada to be a priority for our government.
Not to be blamed or slut-shamed when we are sexually assaulted.
And, oh hey, maybe just to be treated with respect, compassion and dignity.

Anything you guys would add? Let me know in the comments, or add it to the Huffington Post conversation on Twitter #WhatWomenReallyWant.

What Keeps You Up at Night?

full moon over the CN Tower, Toronto

I’m usually a pretty solid sleeper.

Of course, usually I sleep in my quiet apartment with the reassuring hum of my white noise machine gently roaring in my ear to keep all the misophonia-inducing sounds of the night away.

But still.

With the exception of the occasional interruption from my super active bladder or a terrifying nightmare (side note: do you guys ever wake up with tears on your face from sleep-crying? No? Yeah, me neither…), I can usually count on a good night’s sleep.

Not so, last Thursday night.

I hopped into bed around 10:30, suitably worn out from work, followed by Barreworks, followed by lugging groceries home, I read a little, then turned out the lights, closed my eyes and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I guess the sand man had other plans.

In the whooshing dark, my mind was free to wander, and wander it did, to some very dark places.

Maybe the reason you can’t sleep is because you’re going to die tonight.

Wait, what?

Maybe a piece of the clot in my leg broke off today and is headed for my lungs as I’m thinking this!

I mean, that’s entirely possible. Cue me thinking through an elaborate scenario wherein I call 9-1-1 and drag myself out of my apartment to wait for an ambulance only to die alone on the sidewalk. Relaxing stuff, to be sure.

I wonder what all my exes are doing right now?

Oh good grief.

My parents are going to die one day.

Shutupshutupshutup!

I’m probably going to miss out on having kids from waiting too long to find the right partner.

Oh, thanks for chiming in, biological clock!

Israel-Palestine conflict, Ebola, ISIS, fracking…

Eventually I gave up and went back to reading. But John Irving was no match for my brain’s bizarre determination to focus on problems I have little to no control over.

In the wee hours of the morning I couldn’t stand it anymore and took an advil nighttime, which finally did the trick.

Ideally though, I’d like to find a way to beat insomnia sans drugs.

So what do you guys do when the late-night wakies strike? Do you have tips for turning your brain off and beating insomnia? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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