Toddlers are so cute. Especially virtual ones.

My blog is 3 years old!!!!!!!

This blog means so much to me. It changed my life, proving to me that I have a voice. It is my baby, my virtual darling.

To celebrate, I spent way too much time re-reading my posts (#modest), reminiscing about the good times and bad. Behold, my favorite 10 posts: a motley crew of smiles and feels from the past 3 years.

  1. That time I had a real boxing fight
  2. Microsoft Paint is required for this story
  3. It’s like a Kinder surprise, but without the Kinder
  4. Mr. T has nothing on this guy
  5. My street cred: that time my bedroom radiator decided to take me down
  6. Clair de lune
  7. That time Vanilla tried to be sexy
  8. The Dynamo trip: bow ties and feelings
  9. All I’ve done is eat, chat and watch ppl smoke shisha
  10. My facial expressions are not correlated to my happiness levels

Thank you to everyone who takes time out of their busy days to read my words.

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for caring.

Thank you.

And thank your mama too.


My facial expressions are not correlated to my happiness levels

Finally! The official photographer from the Dubai festival uploaded his pics onto Fbk yesterday! It turns out that I look like a prissy know-it-all when I dance. Yippee. This pic however, I enjoy. You can see traces of the prissiness, but really that’s just my look of intense concentration/mild panic, mixed with enjoyment and satisfaction.

photo cred: Farantini, the amazing photographer of all kizomba events @

When I first danced with that guy on Day 1 of the festival – hands down, one of my favorite leads ever! He can make me DO things!! – he surprised me by pulling that move. I didn’t expect it, the sudden falling forward, so maybe definitely I screeched. Loudly – I don’t have an indoor voice even when I try. Classic dance styling option: startle your partner into almost dropping you. Imma trademark that, stat.

Notice how my mouth is closed this time? That’s what 4 days of non-stop dancing will produce: no more hearing-loss for my dance partners.

Cue many minutes of total non-productivity, as I perused through all those pics, bringing back small moments I’d already forgotten.

It’s the “bringing back” part that I struggle with. When I first got back to Montreal, I didn’t want to let go of the intense happiness I’d felt in Dubai. I made the mistake of assuming everything I associated with this trip – including the friendships and all emotions – must be in the past, distinct from my present. And that is true, kinda.

This Dubai trip proved to me that I have the capacity to feel happiness, and the capacity to dream. I created deep bonds with friends, both new and old; these friendships changed me, as all love and shared experiences must. Therefore, who I am today, post-trip, is different than who I was pre-trip, because of the people that I met in Dubai. My anxiety lied to me last week: it is false to assume that all these lovely people are continuing to live their lives, without me, and I without them. We all bear the marks of each others’ influence, stemming from those moments of intersection. That eternal connectivity is just as true as the physical truth that we all apart now, sprinkled across the world.

If I can feel that grateful and connected to the people I spent 4-8 days with, perhaps, maybe, I should refocus my gratitude on those that I share my daily life with? There are so many opportunities for happiness in my Montreal life, that I frequently don’t notice, distracted by the noise that is adulting. Like my Baba taught me: “give us this day our daily bread”. That means my happiness is not stuck in the past, nor is it tied to the outcome of goals set in the future. Happiness is felt in the now, if I will but let myself be open to it. It can be found in my #dreamteam that smiles when they see me, and care and worry about me as much as I try mentor them. In the zany disorganization of Teacher’s dance classes. In the grey weather that is starting to show green tinges of summer. In a good workout with Coach and my gym crew. In my favorite ice cream parlor opening on Sunday for the spring-summer season. In a Friday-night supper with my friend & her fam that I haven’t seen in a few months. In the satisfaction of knowing that I did a good day’s work, boring accountant-style.

Dubai taught me I can be happier than I ever thought possible.

Montreal will teach me to enjoy every day that I build a life of happiness for myself.

Them happiness goals tho!


Memory box

Growing up, my mother encouraged me to keep a memory box of all cards and letters I received from friends and family, because she told me I would cherish the memories one day. Because she was my Ma, and I took her word as Law, I religiously kept all such items as a child.

I became slacker in adolescence, and to my eternal regret, I stopped when I moved out at 19. There are some cards she gave me in my twenties that I would give anything to find again, but I lost them during all my moves, and my carelessness.

Tuesday, after my bad day, when I was desperately searching for something to comfort and anchor me, I opened up the Memory Box for the first time since she died. I found so many treasures there, including her letter to me, aged thirteen-minus-two and this one:

Jan 19, 1995

Good Morning Miss Bingi,

Shake yourself awake little girl!!!

It’s a new day and how hard you work now will make all the difference in your tests today. Wake me as soon as you need quizzing. Say “Ma, I need you! It’s important, my old mom.”

Yours truly,

Sosipatra Hoggstub

P.S. Nightmares Mimi is having tonight:

  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimiburger
  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimihotdog
  • What’s next? Mimi Pizza?

(For a full introduction to Mimi, my childhood bestfriend and teddybear, read When you are having a bad day… and Where I rediscover that Mimi is fidèle.)

I have countless such handwritten notes that she’d leave on the kitchen table for me to find when I’d wake up. Some are whimsical (Sosipatra Hoggstub?! Straight outta Harry Potter, before Harry Potter even existed), some are irritated, some are forgiving, all are written with so much love. Due to her terrible health and pain conditions, she often had trouble falling asleep, sometimes only dozing off at 5am, after my father had woken to go to work. Yet, she always wanted me to wake her in case I needed extra help prepping for school.

What a mama.

Today is my father’s 67th birthday. My old man is off gallivanting in Moscow and St-Petersburg with some friends. He is enjoying his retirement, which given how hard he worked his whole life… is a very good thing.

A tribute to my old man

Happy birthday, Pops!

Halloween vs a high school reunion: are they any different, really?

It is my 15-year high school reunion tonight. FIFTEEN. That’s a long time. I’m old. I’m old as fuck. OYE.

I am no longer friends with any of the girls I went to school with. This is a reasonable outcome from my experience in high school: I didn’t have any crazy close friends, even though I enjoyed several good relationships, nor was I made to be miserable by any of my schoolmates. Other than a rough start for the first 2 years (+/- = middleschool for all you Americans), high school was painless experience for me. Maybe because I had too much going on at home, with my perma crippled state and my volcanic teenage relationship with my mother; I kept my schoolmates at friendly arm’s length (even then, I was ambivalent about vulnerability!) and viewed school as a drama free space. All my friendships faded within 5 years of graduation. Still, I’m looking forward to catching up with the girls (I went to an all-girl school run by nuns). From what I can see, many/most of them are married with children. Social media lies, of course, but the ones I follow seem happy.

When I graduated high school, I assumed that by 30, I’d be married, probably with kids, a house in the ‘burbs, and some job in science. Turns out I striked out on all 3 counts. I don’t have much to show for my years, other than a solid career that is by no means stellar. I remember a time when such thoughts would have filled me with shame, but instead, today, as I reflect on my life these past 15 years, I feel pride.

And that brings me to last year’s Halloween. During that weekend, I met Strawberry who, in the subsequent months, played a small but pivotal role in my comfort with my identity as a writer (we still communicate regularly, and keep the acquaintance alive). I went to a boxing party where I spoke to Beaut for the first time. I went to another party where I made out with a guy, ending my 17-month sexual fast. Looking back on that weekend, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. When I think of all that has happened since then… I am amazed. Beaut happened: for all the emotional roller-coaster, I don’t regret anything. His worldview challenged mine; it is thanks to him that I am pursing my writing with more conviction; he pushed me to take up dancing, which brings me so much joy. I travelled to Beirut, for my best friend’s wedding. I travelled to France for work and pleasure. I stopped therapy, after 20 months; and despite some tricky moments, and resurgence of some symptoms, I have been managing my mental health all by myself, with success. Lately, I’ve put my career back in high-gear; its been a thrill to realize Smart Vanilla is back. My friends are amazing, constantly reminding me that I am dearly loved.

For the first time, I can say that I live life to the fullest. I’ve had good and bad moments. I have made mistakes. But, after 12 months of taking risks, some of which paid off, and some didn’t, I can look back at what I’ve done and be proud that I tried. I might not have anything concrete to show for the past 15 years, other than the battlescars of life, but these scars remind me of the moments where my spirit almost broke… but didn’t. I’m still here and I am happy. I have my spirit and my smile.

Who’d have thought that a high school reunion and Halloween weekend would trigger such strong emotions of gratitude and contentment?!

Anyone feeling nostalgic about their virginity?

So, it’s time for me to get back into the dating game. Not sure what I am looking for – summertime really isn’t the best time to slide into a relationship, with all the hot eye candy, and parties, and flirting that has to be done – but at a minimum, this should generate some blog content, yeah? #thethingsIdoformyreaders #selfless

Omen of trainwrecks to come

The Universe seems to agree with me. On Monday night, I got a Facebook message from the dude I lost my virginity to, 13 years ago. I haven’t spoken to this guy since then, and we have no friends in common. How he tracked me down… I dunno. But then again, that is the whole purpose of Facebook, right? Stalking 101.

After a few short minutes spent small-talking via Messenger, Virginator asked me if I’d be interested in a no-holds barred night of hooking up, so that “we could do everything we were too shy to do when we were young.”

Ummmmm, no? 

Was I sure? Yup, very sure.

It would be fun! Bro, I still remember our few times together. I highly doubt it would be fun. My rather limited experience since then has confirmed what I suspected then: the sex we had was not very good.

But why not? Really? I have to justify myself? Because I don’t want to.

But, seriously, why don’t you want to? Because, seriously, Virginator, you are not my type. Before you ask, my type is athletic (NOT skinny, those are NOT the same thing, I like some meat on my bones), tall, charming, preferably Black or Arab, and good dick. You are none of those things, Virginator. Especially not charming.

Too bad. Have fun Googling. Hmmmm? Ok. Fine. I’ll bite the bait.

I was SO SURE he’d turn out to be a small time amateur porn star, possibly the model used to show-case sex toys on websites. Yet when I Googled him, and I spent more than 2 minutes trying to find him, all I got was a very reasonable LinkedIn profile, a mention in his granny’s obituary and other boring typical links. Virginator is a nothing-special guy.

What a disappointing end to this story. I had such high hopes.

Still, now I know that I can use “Have fun Googling!” as a sassy repartee whenever I want to make a lasting impression.

Fall memories

Fall always makes me melancholy, and more apt to flights of fancy. I’ve always felt as though the fall opens a world of possibility – perhaps the remnant of so many years of schooling, where every fall implied new classes, new challenges, new people and new opportunities. But by its very beginning, it means the previous year’s stories are over. And that concept of ending, of closure, makes me nostalgic.

Perhaps it isn’t unusual, then, that fall makes me think of my mother. I’ve spent the last two years doing my utmost to not remember her, because I couldn’t reconcile the enormity of her absence with the need to keep living my life. I had bills to pay, a job to do, friends to not worry. The requirements of every day life are not compatible with grief.

The first fall immediately following her summer death, I was thrown out of my comfort zone by being sent on an unexpected 6-week business trip to France. I was alone in a beautiful country, doing very interesting work. I was blessed with the freedom of being a stranger: I could just be myself. I was distanced from my father’s grief, which, for the first 18 months after my mother’s death, was oppressive and all-consuming: it left no room for anything, including my own grief, or my need for his comfort. During that trip, liberated from everyone’s expectations of my behaviour or knowledge of my circumstances, I felt free to feel whatever range of emotions that presented itself to me. Wonder at life in France, mixed with moments of doubt about my job, deep loneliness, but also deep joy. I was alive, and living every moment fully. I was going to be ok.

That trip gave me the strength to push through the following year. Upon my return, I locked down my emotions, because there was no room for them in my life. I had to deliver at work. Friends were busy, it was inconvenient being sad. I became so good at locking down those emotions, I soon lost track of them entirely, and to my relief, I became an extremely productive member of society. Well-regulated, and efficient.

The second fall following her death, I was wrapped in my busy world. After one mediocre week, on a rainy, cold day, as I was doing groceries for my quiet upcoming weekend, I considered what might I do to put myself in a better mood. Normally, that question begets some sort of reward, typically of the chocolate or pastry variety. This time, unbidden, the perfect answer of “Oh, I know what will cheer me up – I will call my mother for a nice chat, she should be home at this hour” appeared, followed by the sensation of everything skidding to a sudden stop, a moment of stillness, and then the sinking realization, that no, no I could not do that and I never would again.

That was the last time I thought of my mother involuntarily until this September.  This time around, the change of season seems to have triggered a change in my ability to regulate my emotions with spartan discipline. And like small geysers, I’ve been experiencing sudden spurts of emotion as I remember her.

The benefit of this fall change is that it has slightly opened my memory – I have started accessing more than quaint vignette memories of her. Instead, I can almost feel her: she no longer is a frozen painting in my mind, she is more like the pictures in Harry Potter that are oddly lifelike.

The feel I have of her lately, in this cold week, is of her, round and comfortable, filling up a big ugly thick green cardigan knitted by her mother (Baba the Queen), and myself in a matching one, a million sizes too big, sitting on my parents’ screened-in porch at home, drinking endless pots of tea, and looking about her contentedly, as the wind blows through the trees in our backyard, before turning back to me, and starting our next topic of conversation. We’d spend all afternoon outside, interrupting it only long enough to make fresh pots of tea. We talked about everything. This tradition, started when I was an adolescent, continued every weekend, even after I moved out, and continued till the very end. I can’t remember a single conversation; I just remember that comfortable feeling of contentment and rightness. And the feeling of extreme water retention from all that tea.

I’d say there was progress between last fall and this year. Baby steps!

And to end this on a more positive nostalgic note: writing this post reminded me of a song I discovered during that France trip. Flight of the Conchords wrote a song about raising money for sick kids. It is one of the most endearing videos on YouTube, that does not include kittens.