The Girlfriend Zone

So I have been debating on whether or not to share this with you guys for a while. Maybe I felt kind of shy telling the whole world about the man that completely changed my whole world. Maybe on some level I am superstitious and did not want to jinx it.

This is basically what convinced me to write about it: The Friend Zone. It’s a post I wrote on February 2, 2012. Exactly one year after I wrote The  Friend Zone, I met Allister on February 2, 2013.

*Author’s Note: It just occurred to me that this was post I wrote on February 2, 2012: Reality check: Why I’m going to be the next Bachelorette. Either post works really. They both speak to my hopeless humorous situation at the time. 

As a lot of you may have come to know about me, I had my own views of what relationships should be like. I had never been in a serious relationship but I had a lot of friends who were in a lot of serious relationships and observations taught me many things.

People in average relationships seemed happy enough. People in great relationships, however, seemed…quiet. People in great relationships knew what it took to make it to where they were. I always wanted a great relationship. I knew it would take work.  But that’s okay…every great thing takes a lot work to obtain, right?

Against all the odds that I imagined there to be in this world, I actually found someone that also seemed to want a great relationship.

I am by no means an expert in relationships. I could have somehow gotten away before by telling you guys I was an expert at being single. But to being relationship-savvy I have no claim to fame.

As practical as I would love you guys all to have believed, I had very skewed, Hollywoodized ideas of a great relationship. Things were really not what I thought they would be when I finally got into one. Unlike what I imagined real relationships are like, there was no drama, no waiting by the phone and there was no sleeping around with a million people until one of us had life-changing epiphanies.

Allister and I met at a dinner arranged by a couple of girlfriends a year ago. He thought my plans for starting a business of writing online dating profiles was preposterous. I thought he was hotter than two rabbits in a wool sock. He offered me a ride home that night. I invited him to my place for house party the week after.

Three weeks after Allister and I started dating, he told me point blank that he wanted to be my boyfriend. Had I been the practical person I wanted to believe I was, I would not have wanted run for the hills. After years of being single, I had almost developed a Stockholm syndrome towards the Friend Zone. But he saw that. He told me that when I was ready, send him a postcard and he’d be there…still wanting the same thing. (All paraphrased)

Eventually our first major fight happened four months in. There was a lot of crying on my part and a lot of listening on his before he addressed what bothered me.  Contrary to how great I thought I was at being reasonable, he was better at deflecting fights before they escalated to destructible levels.

That was also the night he said I love you for the very first time. He told me later that it may have been the least romantic moment to me, but he never meant it more.

I turned 27 last September. He celebrated it like he was making up for for the last 26 birthdays he missed. That was when I knew that I would never ever be able to celebrate another birthday without him.

Everything about dating Allister was unexpectedly alarmingly easy. I was not sure if it was because years of failure had lead me to believe relationships couldn’t be drama free but I would always wonder if we were going wrong somewhere.

Where was the downside of being in a relationship that everyone talks about? People always told me to enjoy my single days. Being in a relationship has its rewards but it is SOOO MUCH WORK.

They were NOT lying when they told me it would be a lot of work.

Over the past year it took a lot of arguments, heated discussions and flat out fights with each other for me to realize that relationship are a LOT of work….on myself.

I learned just how blinded I am to my own faults. I pout, I fight, I bitch and I yell when I don’t get my way. Oftentimes, I found that the arguments we have had were born out of a sense of injustice I felt when someone else failed to do things my way and when I assumed the worst of my partner not realizing that having two people in a relationship ALWAYS means there are two sides of a story.

It took a lot of work for me to admit that I am a far cry from the perfect person I thought I was. And it takes a lot of work to fix it.

At the end of it all, the paradox of happiness that I stated in The Friend Zone remains true:

In order to be happy, you have to make someone happy.

In order to make someone happy, you have to be happy yourself.

If at all somehow by some fluke of the Universe, the fates are kind and bless you with someone that makes you happy, you best do everything you can to be the person that makes them happy. Even if it means you lay down your pride. Especially if it means if you have to lay down your pride. Because according to the paradox, that’s happiness.

And as someone who strives to make this guy happy, I can definitely attest to that.

PS: You can’t see her in this picture, but there was a thousand year old woman sitting on the side who came up to us with these pearls of wisdom for Allister: 1) Always wash your hands. 2) Never be mad at each other

So I will ask you this: What have you learned from your relationships? Here’s a  poll to help, but I would love to hear from you as well!

The Good Samaritan that never was

I have always prided myself at being AWESOME at life. Part of being AWESOME at life was seeking out opportunities to help the less fortunate. Like one time, I gave my gloves to some homeless guy. 

Another time, I gave my seat to a super pregnant lady. The look of gratefulness she gave me was enough to melt the heart of God himself.  

And another time, I was at Shopper’s Drug Mart, I almost bought a $5.00 gift card for the next person in line from me. I refrained when I saw that it was some old geezer buying Lottery tickets. Pfft…screw that! I may be awesome at life, but I’m no enabler. 

Anyways. 

The problem with this whole act of kindness thing that I’m mildly obsessed with is that there’s always an air of pride that’s dancing along with that.  I never do things for people if:

- It’s inconvenient for me.

- They’re crazy.

- If they clearly look distressed but also look like they are totally capable of lunging for the carotid with a machete and the kind of enthusiasm that only comes with being a repeat victim of the Toronto Transit Commission. 

Most people who need help in Toronto fit one or all of the above categories. 

And then I met Ivan last week. 

I was going to buy some groceries on my way home from work when a rotund little man with a cane and two heaping grocery bags was walking towards me. He was talking to himself no less. 

“EXCUSE ME, KIND LADY! Will you help me with my bags?” He was looking straight at me. 

He fit almost all of my above stated categories. Although, he wouldn’t be able to run fast enough after me with a machete with those bags so I obliged. 

“Sure, I’ll help you!”

“Thank you, kind lady. My name is Ivan and you’re a kind lady!!”  Of course I’m a kind lady, Ivan!

Turned out he not only needed help with his bags, he also needed a shoulder to lean on. Literally. He almost fell off on one side. When you’re not strong and you need a friend, you lean on Karen. 

To say his bags were heavy was an understatement.  If his bags were a food group, they’d be trans fat. If his bags were a feeling, they’d be a mixture of guilt and daddy issues. If his bags were a mustache, they’d be Tom Selleck.

The point is, I couldn’t actually carry his bags and have him lean all of his 250lbs on me at the same time. The only thing that kept me going was pride that I was doing something good. 

Ivan was a character. If the personalities of Walter Matthau and Uncle Leo from Seinfield had a love child, it would grow up to become Ivan’s personality. 

He shouted at everyone on the streets about what a kind lady I was. When he found out  I was Catholic, he yelled some more about how protestants are fools.

“NOT the place or time, Ivan”, I scolded back at him. 

“Whatever you say, kind lady”

Luckily, the City of Toronto is God’s own green earth of polite, tree-hugging atheists. All I got were stares of unadulterated sympathy. 

The subway station, where Ivan wanted to get to was three minutes away. Twenty minutes later, we were still crossing the street and Ivan was still bitching about protestants. 

He finally noticed that I was struggling with the bags and just stopped and asked, “Oh kind sister, would like some help with those bags?”

I stared at him dumbly.”No Ivan, you need help with these bags, remember?”

“Oh you’re such a kind lady”. 

By the time we got down the stairs to the subway platform, Ivan had already yelled at every passerby about how kind I was and I, in turn, was ready to fling his bags onto the subway tracks. 

The train finally came by. Ivan wrote his number on my hand and insisted I call him because he liked kind ladies. 

Before he left he yelled one last time, “WAIT! I have something important to tell you”

He said this with all the self-importance an enlightened Siddhartha could muster. Maybe this was the moment when I was to find out that he’s really a wise man and he’ll give me a piece of profound wisdom that would make sense all of that had just happened. 

“Remember, kind lady”, he said. “When you go grocery shopping today, stock up on juice. JUICE IS ON SALE!!”

Fuck you, Ivan. And the subway door closed. 

Moral of the story: Its okay to have a little pride when you seek to help people. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of doing the right thing. But its better to have humility. Because without it, nothing you do to help people will ever make sense to you.

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PS: Thank you all for such a warm welcome back. It feels good to see all of you again :)

Immigration officers say the darnedest things

If for some reason you have felt my blogging absence in your soul for the past week- don’t fret, children. I actually have a legit excuse this time.  As a lot of you already know, my never-ending immigration problems with Canada have been a constant source of bemoaned bitch fests on this blog.

Around this time last year, I wrote a very heartfelt letter to Canada making a pretty strong case of why this country needs to drop all this Bollywood-style drama and welcome me to the family already. Unfortunately, none of the big wigs in Ottawa read my blog or they would have seen that my love for Canada knows no bounds.

I’ve been living here as a foreigner for so long that I was sure the government must have either forgotten about me or has been using my application as a place-mat for their Tim Hortons’ coffee cups.

And then last week, just as I was in the middle of writing a miserable blog post about why Hallmark should hire me as their executive greeting card writer (I clearly have big dreams), I received an email from my immigration lawyer. It was an email I have been waiting a very very long time for.

I’m getting teary-eyed even writing this sentence: After 8 years, 3 months, and 21 days, my immigration application to become a permanent resident in Canada was finally APPROVED.

I was a little most excited about becoming immigrant than these people were about Canada winning gold at hockey in the Vancouver Olympics.

I was a little more excited about becoming an immigrant than these people were about Canada winning gold at hockey in the Vancouver Olympics. (Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com)

The past eight years of my time in Canada were probably the happiest and the hardest years of my life. I met some of the most amazing people whom I eventually called friends, I started this blog, I found religion, my first immigration application was denied, my status was incorrectly filed and as a result I lost my entire savings to the government in taxes leaving me completely broke. And then I broke my foot.

I laughed about it all till I almost peed my pants, and I cried about it all till I almost peed my pants…and eight years later, all of it came full circle as I stood in the immigration line clutching my confirmation letter- happy, proud, relieved and exhausted all at the same time.

But as much as I would love to tell you all more about my harrowing immigration ordeal, the whole point of this post was actually to tell you about the awesome immigration officers who marked the end of this chapter in my life.

Border immigration officers have always scared the crap out of me. They are stoic, expressionless fixtures who are trained to be suspicious of everything from puppies to empty tuna cans. Part of the whole charade of becoming a landed immigrant in Canada meant that I actually had to “land” in the country.

This required a drive to Niagara Falls, crossing the border into the States and then “landing” in Canada at the border on the way back. 

Crossing the US border is a feat in and of itself. I blame it on the fact that I was born in Kuwait. Names of Middle-Eastern countries stamped in your passport are never meritorious in these situations. We had a two hour wait in the line up in the immigration office at the US border.

The US immigration official dealing with my passport was a young man with the same stoic appearance as everyone else.

He asked me some questions, and then stared suspiciously back and forth between me and my passport. I almost shit my pants.

US Immigration officer: “How long are you going to be in the States?”

Karen: “Just a day”

 US Immigration officer stares at me again. I was sure I was never going to get out of here. 

US Immigration officer: “Do you know who Selena Gomez is?”

Karen: “Huh? Umm yeh.”

US Immigration officer: “You look like her”

Karen: “Thanks. I get that all the time”

US Immigration officer: “Sorry to hear about you and Justin Beiber”

Karen: “I’m not crying myself to sleep over it”

US Immigration officer: “Good to see you’re pulling through.”

Karen: “I do what I can”

US Immigration officer: “Here’s your passport. Have a good trip.”

When a US Immigration officer pays you such a high compliment, there's no other choice but to believe it.

When a US Immigration officer pays you such a high compliment, there’s no other choice but to believe it.

It was a relief to know that the Americans weren’t trying to link me to some terrorist ring…just to Justin Beiber. Clearly they already thought I was Canadian enough. Now no one can say that US Immigration officers don’t have a sense of humor.

_____________________________________

The Canadian border immigration officers also had an unusual sense of humor…which they displayed through this very cruel prank they played on me.

Our car pulls up to the window and we hand the immigration officer lady our passports.

Canadian Immigration officer: “Who’s doing their landing here?”

Karen: “I am!”

Canadian Immigration officer looks at me confused.

Canadian Immigration officer: Umm…were you told to come to the border to do your paper work?”

Karen: “Yes. I was told I could come to the border anytime.”

Canadian Immigration officer: “Who told you this? I’m sorry, but we don’t do permanent residence paper work on Saturdays. You’ll have to come back.”

For the second time that day I almost shit my pants.

Karen: “What?!? No!! Please. I was told I could get it done anytime.”

Canadian Immigration officer: “No ma’am, you can’t. Also, do you realize your visa here expired a couple of days ago?”

Karen: “NO IT DIDN’T!”

I was visibly on the verge of tears. The Canadian Immigration officer took one look at me and burst out laughing.

Canadian Immigration officer: “I’m so sorry. I’m just messing with ya. Come on out. Breathe. We’ll go in and do your paperwork”

I chalked this one down to the fact that maybe this woman was sitting out all day tired, probably needed a little entertainment and I was the perfect scapegoat.

The officers inside took all my forms, stamped all my documents.

They finally handed all my stuff back to me and said the words I never thought I’d hear:

“Congratulations, you are now a landed immigrant in Canada. Sorry you had to wait for so long.”

A declaration AND a quasi apology from a Canadian government official.

I smiled and walked out of that office feeling like I just won the life lottery.

The Writing Maladies of a Sensitive Blogger

For the most of this past summer I was MIA on WordPress. Believe it or not, the sentence “this is me showing up at the page” was all I could come up with. I would sit in front of this blank screen with the blinking cursor silently mocking my failure at stringing along a few decent paragraphs.

Eventually, I couldn’t bear to see it flashing before me, closed the tab and avoided WordPress altogether for the better part of the summer.

Why am I telling you this? Maybe I’m just looking for sympathy. Or maybe I just want to know that someone else out there can relate.

I started this blog in 2009. Three years ago, I was a very different person. Well actually, I was the same person but I saw things very differently. I started my blog for the same reason many of us start blogs. The feeling of an escape from life, or perhaps the need to have something new that is utterly and completely in your control. In my case, it was both.

The blank page was my best friend. I could fill it up with whatever I wanted. Life was a mess, but the page was clean.

I didn’t really care who read the blog. I loved to write. Writing made me happy, and my happiness had nothing to do with how many views my posts received. I learnt that I was my biggest critic. If I liked my post, then it didn’t matter who else did. If I hated it, all the positive feedback in the world wouldn’t be able to convince me I did a good job. 

And then something happened. Call it time or call it Freshly Pressed. Let’s call it Freshly Pressed. 

Freshly Pressed was probably the best and the worst thing that ever happened to this blog and its writer. Freshly Pressed gives you about 48 hours of fame and instant gratification, a window in which the world loves you. Followers and likes and comments rain down like confetti on the celebration of your blog’s success.

If you are a blogger who was Freshly Pressed, you may be able to attest that things change after that. For me, it stopped being about the love of writing and expression. It was now all about the audience. This is not to say Freshly Pressed was a bad thing. I ran into so many of you because of it, and for that I am grateful. 

But the pressure that I put on myself was definitely on. I placed my creative self-esteem in the hands of audience feedback. And solely positive feedback. 

If I didn’t think someone would like what I was going to write about, the post either landed in my saved documents or in the trash. As a result, hundreds of posts were aborted out of fear of disinterest, fear of negative feedback or maybe the worst- fear of complete indifference.

I seemed to have forgotten why I started this blog. The main reason this blog even exists is so that I don’t take myself too seriously. Ironically, I’ve never taken myself more seriously. For example, take this very post. It took me two weeks to write it and an hour and a half to come up with a title.

Creative process of normal people:

…whatever your definition of normal is

My version of the creative process:

I make this look more complicated than it really is

Of course, I cannot blame my blogging blocks entirely on Freshly Pressed. A lot of it was also personal issues that added to the mix. 

While I may have been absent from blogging, I wasn’t completely absent from reading some of the blogs I`m subscribed to. Mainly, you guys. This is where I talk about why Freshly Pressed was the best thing that ever happened to me. Take this any way you want to (actually, please take this in a good way) but I envied you all.

You all are fearless writers. (Yes, you!)  Whether it’s a post about finding roses in the garbage disposal, or a post about getting mad when people call you by stupid nicknames, or a post about the joy of getting voting stickers, you guys taught me that I shouldn’t care too much about other people’s opinions. Even if I do, it shouldn’t stop me from writing. You all have the metaphorical pair of blogger balls that I really need to start growing.

In many ways, they both feel the same.

Eventually of course, my summer pity party ended and I started writing again. Even if it was a post about talking to my blender, it had to be written if only to break the cycle of fear of not being liked. This post has no fancy play on words, no clever puns (except the blogger balls one, which is really a metaphor and not that funny). It`s the first time in a long time that I’m not trying desperately hard to impress everyone.

If you have gotten to the end of this post- Thank You. I may have spent a whole post talking about how you are indirectly the cause of my writing anxiety, but you are also directly the cause of infinite encouragement and inspiration. I could write another 3000 words about how awesome you guys are but I won`t because I’d like to stop being such a sap and get back to my usual no-nonsense sarcastic self. 

To all of you awesome WordPress bloggers, seeing you guys regularly on my reader has inspired me by kicking my ass into gear. Now I’d like to know your secrets: Why did you start blogging? How do you get past social acceptance fears? Does blogging ever feel like a job?

Un petit morceau de Montréal

Disclaimer:

Dear French people,

Please forgive the very likely possibility that all my French words/expressions are wrong and/or misplaced. Je suis sorry :(

Last weekend I took a trip to Montreal. Granted it’s already been five eight days (I started this post on Friday)since said trip so some parts of this post might be made-up hazy on the details. The last time I went to Montreal, it was one of those single girl Eat, Pray, Run from hobos weekend.

This time it was more of an Eat, Eat, slow-comatose-jog away-from-hobos type of deal. I learnt a lot about my digestive capabilities, much like how Elizabeth Gilbert learnt how to make millions writing about hers.

Regardless, I tossed a dollar into one certain hobo`s venti Starbucks cup; he was a real entertainer. He was outside the Metro, theatrically jumping up, down and around a milk crate giving a gallant French sermon in a booming voice that would make The Tenors want to tranquilize him, steal his vocal cords and leave him with a ten dollar bill, bleeding from the neck in a ditch behind a Montreal poutineri.

Many people asked me whether I was visiting friends in Montreal or whether I was taking a trip with someone. Apparently,  the idea of going alone for no conceivable reason isn’t something that crosses the minds of normal people. This is why I never update my Twitter. It’s easier to just shrug a no then it is to type ‘Solo getaway to Montreal, bitches!! #foreversingle’.

Is it really so bad  that I find sitting awkward and alone in fancy restaurants infinitely more appealing than taking long knee-busting yet dreamy romantic walks through the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal? #sarcasm

Speaking of fancy restaurants, I went to many! When I say many, I mean two.

It was Friday night when I had my first food experience. I was perusing online for places to eat when I stumbled on one very close to the Bed and Breakfast I was staying at. It was a tapas place. Tapas make me nervous. Who knows how the hell to order them?

The place I wanted to go to was called Confusion Tapas du Monde. The irony of its name was not lost on me while I spent the next 45 minutes goggling what is tapas and how to order it. The best answer was: Ask your waiter.

I called the restaurant. This was the actual conversation we had:

Tapas waiter: Bonjour!

Karen: Hello sir. Do you speak English?

TW: Yes ma’am. I actually speak very good English.  (Dollop of politeness with rich warm undertones of french sarcasm)

K: Great! I was just wondering….do I need to make reservations for one?

TW: You’re coming for dinner on a Friday night by yourself?

K: Yes.

TW: We can give you a table at the bar.

K: At the bar?! Can I not have a table?

TW: But the bar is actually quite pretty.

K: I’ll think about it.

I thought about it. As much I’d like to brag that I decided to have my Montreal adventure on my own terms, did I really want to sit alone at the bar of a restaurant where I’d be too culturally handicapped to properly place an order?

Of course not! But I went anyway. I have no Eat, Pray, Love reasoning behind embarrassing myself except that I was just very hungry.

Confusion Tapas du Monde. The bar (against the wall) WAS very pretty. Yes, those are swings. Genius.

I had three dishes.

Exaggeration alert: The broccoli soup was THE BEST I ever had. It came in a mason jar. 

The coolest and most ineffective way to eat soup

I also had escargo on a slice of zucchini and some grilled calamari. I couldn’t take pictures of everything on account me looking like a complete moron. So I drew you the closest thing.

I even ate the leaves.

Average rating of Tapas Confusion: 4 out of 5 maple syrup lollipops. An extra half eaten one for the smartass waiter.

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The next restaurant I want to talk about is Verses. This is a restaurant that I stumbled on by accident which is why I’m so pleased with myself. I originally intended to go to another restaurant that I checked out on Trip Adviser  But when I got there, it was looked like a truck pit stop with penis drawings on its Closed sign.

N’importe quoi! (my cheap googled french way of saying whatevvverrr!)

I walked around hungry looking for alternatives but everything seemed unnecessarily expensive. Finally, in the heart of Old Montreal, I found a cheaper oasis called Verses. The interiors were fancy enough. And yet their prices were deceptively cheap(er). $22.00 for a two-course meal was acceptable to me.

I ordered the cream of cauliflower soup because I`m a toothless old woman at heart.

The best part of this soup was that I didn’t need my dentures to have it.

The entrée was where I had a similar conundrum to Confusion Tapas. There were three items I could pick from: 1) Boring salmon. 2) Interesting sounding beef tartare 3) Good ol` steak.

The beef tartare looked very intriguing. Mainly because I had no idea what the hell it was and this weekend was all about treading into the unknown. I had no google on my phone, so I texted one of my friends and asked her. No response. I decided to bite the bullet and asked my french waiter whether he recommended the beef tartare or the steak.

“Madamoiselle, beef tartare is raw beef.“

Steak it was. I`m all for treading into the unknown, but you have to draw the line when the unknown involves the possibility of explosive diarrhea.

My blackberry camera makes everything on this plate look rarer than it actually is

Average rating for Verses: 4 out of 5 maple syrup lollipops. And extra one for the waiter not judging me.

For the sake of this blog post not becoming 72 pages long, I will now only post some more very bad photos I took of my food from all the other places I ate at. This neither diminishes nor takes away from the fancy feel of everything.

Like this whole wheat crepe filled with walnuts, pesto and goat cheese at La Brioche Lyonnaise- a cute little cafe on St. Denis:

I endured three stares and a dramatic eye roll for taking this picture. You’re welcome.

This tiramisu that I took to go without taking a fork.

When our minds fail us, we have hands.

And the most terrible crime of manners in the history of manners: A sneaky shot of the first course of my lovely THREE COURSE homemade breakfast that our host Nathalie made for us. This was poppy-seed bread pudding.

Each following course does get bigger in portion size

And for good measure, here’s the farmer’s market where I got the best honey and maple syrup in the world.

Beautiful fall day at the farmer’s market

I just noticed that there are grapes hanging from the ceiling.

And that was my awesome food adventure in Montreal. I hope you enjoyed these photos as much I enjoyed eating whatever is in them. I have officially decided that a spring and fall trip will be a Karen tradition from now on. Where else would I get honey for my tea?

How to be thankful on Thanksgiving

It seems common belief that holidays of any sort can be hard on singles. Christmas time, the season of nauseating radio play of basterdized Christmas carols and long line-ups for the naked scanner at the airport, is usually tainted by Aunt Bossy at the annual family stroke-inducing holiday dinner.

Everyone has an Aunt Bossy. She’s the one with the candy cane earrings, a pearl necklace and a brooch that says “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  She may or may not be biologically related to you. But this doesn’t stop her from closelining you on your way to the cookie table with well-meaning insults.

“Why are you so thin, Karen? Are you on a diet? Your mother tells me you joined a dating site”, 

“Do you know your cousin Melissa just got engaged to that engineer from Winnipeg? Remember him? You know he has a brother? You’re not getting any younger”

Whether its Christmas, Easter, Sabbath, Black history month or the zombie apocalypse, Aunty Bossy’s solution to the question of the Universe is: find a man as fast as you can.
 
Of course you could shut her up by yelling ‘F*ck cousin Melissa and her goddamn engineer fiance!” promptly causing major family drama, a demotion from cousin Melissa’s wedding party and the lifelong family anecdote of ‘that time when Karen lost her cookies…just 3 seconds before she was about to stuff her empty soul with butterscotch.’
 
But of course you won’t do that. What you probably will do is sit there silently hoping cousin Melissa chokes on her half-price Easter chocolate.
 

Aunt Bossy.This is also pretty much what I will look like 30 years from now.

Apart from Easter and Christmas, there are also other obscure holidays like Labor Day, New Year’s, and if you live in Canada- Family Day and Victoria Day. Not to mention birthdays, baptisms, summer bbqs, anniversaries and of course Thanksgiving.

But for the purpose of this post not becoming any more of one of those angry, woe-is-me, single girl rants, let’s just focus on the real issue at hand: giving thanks on Thanksgiving.

In Canada, thanksgiving is celebrated a little over a month before our American neighbours. Nobody knows the reason for this; it may have something to do with the fact that every year, Canadians need a whole day in the fall to recover from the shock and panic of Environment Canada’s annual prediction that it will be a cold winter.

Thanksgiving, which is predominantly a North American holiday, was never a tradition I grew up with. My family was the kind that showed love by making dry sarcastic comments at each other’s expense. Christmas and birthday gifts were never exchanged and nobody sat around, held hands and talked about their feelings.

Usually I’m just grateful that Thanksgiving exists so I can have a day off. But after living in Canada for the past 8 years, I’m inclined to believe that North American culture dishes out public holidays in order to give malls silly excuses to hold sales so that single people with no families have something to do on their day off.

The only man I’ll ever need is Michael Kors

 But this year I wanted Thanksgiving to be different. None of this feeling sorry for myself bullshit. It was time to go back to the real reason for the holiday: Being grateful for everything.

As it so happened (like it often does), I had no real Thanksgiving plans with family or friends. But that didn’t stop me from starting my own Thanksgiving tradition: Having one day when I truly allow myself to see just how good I have it.

I thought I would go all out and have a hearty turkey dinner for one. But standing in front of the freezer section at my grocery store, I had to come to the acceptance that cooking a turkey, which weighed about the same as a three-year-old child, was perhaps not the most original or feasible idea for a gal like me.

I settled for a small chicken instead.

I’ve never cooked a full roast chicken in my life. The whole day was spent fussing over this damn bird that I had no time to think about all the things us fickle singletons fret about during holidays. To stuff…or not to stuff? (Gordon Ramsey says to pop in half a lemon wedge) How long do I preheat the oven? What if it turns out too dry? And what the hell does basting mean?

In end, I decided to go the heart attack route. No roast chicken can be dry if you cover it with 5lbs of butter and bacon stripes. And would you believe it…here are the results of a whole day’s worth of labor:

Just to drive the point further, that bread was fried in butter.

Never in my life had I ever created anything quite so fattening and delicious-looking. I sat down and said a prayer of thanksgiving. I gave thanks for the food, my life, my health, the fact that Immigratin Canada still hasn’t kicked me out of this country (just yet), the fact that I could still afford to eat a lard-laden meal without collapsing from a massive coronary (just yet), my family, my friends, and my future family, who I’m sure when they someday come along, will be thankful for the fact that there are no vegetables involved in this meal…and the few veggies there are are guiltily swimming in a tub of butter and bacon grease.

I truly had everything I needed this Thanksgiving. Even if Aunt Bossy thought otherwise.

And so this thanksgiving, whether you celebrate it today or a month and a half from now, may you always find something to be grateful for. And if you can’t, there’s always bacon.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of  you out there! :D

 _______________________________________________________________________

Author’s Note: There were no turkeys, aunts, or cousin Melissas harmed in the making of this post. Last I heard cousin Melissa did end up marrying that putz from Winnipeg. Bitch.

Roots to roots: How hair trouble enkindled short-lived patriotic feelings

Today all of you are in for a treat. Not only have I decided to make one of my now exceedingly rare appearances to WordPress (cocky much to believe that this is a treat for anyone?), but I’m also going to give you a little glimpse into my Indian culture that I never bother bragging about to anyone.

If you are avid readers of Ms. Breezyk’s humourous blog, The Camel Life (if not, please stop reading this and click on that link first), then you would have known from one of her fairly recent posts that this hot chick seems to be having some hair trouble. Here, this is a photo of her woe:

Perfectly normal hair.

Do you agree that something needs to be done about those 4 ounces of dark mane on this loveable brunette head? No? Really? Good. Me neither. And I’m not just saying this because I have a not-so-secret girl crush on her. But regardless, I decided to step in and help her out with her hairy conundrum.

I suggested an old Indian hair remedy of dousing one’s hair with coconut oil. I’m not completely sure if this even works since I haven’t ever tried it. I hate the smell of coconut oil in my hair. Not to mention, the sight of your head looking greasier than a Middle Eastern oil well automatically renders you a social outcast. Between my unsucessful attempts at online dating and Breezy’s numerous cat photos, it is clear that times are tough.

Now is not the time for young, single gals like us to be walking man repellents. Our womanly inclination to over-analyze and obsess does that enough.

But back to coconut oil. Other Indians (and some “trusted” sites from Google) swear by it. And there is no reason to question my fellow (wo)men on this. We Indians are a hairy race. Someone must be doing something right (or wrong). So I told Breezy that if she gave me the time of day next week for another one of our wannabe hipster brunch dates, I would have a nice blue bottle of Parachute Coconut Oil (India’s finest) waiting for her. She agreed.

And so, off I set in my mission to help my friend. The task was quite simple. Buy Parachute Coconut Oil so we could turn this:

Smiley Breezy

to this:

Don’t joo get all up in ma weave!- Some hairy baby

Destination Little India, located in a small section of Gerrard Street in Toronto was a place I had only been to once before.

Now let me get something out of the way before I proceed. I am Indian, yes. However, my ties to my Indian roots go only so far as throughly enjoying Indian food. I don’t care for anyone’s useless unfavorable opinions about curry, I will down that shit like it has power to give life. Not only is curry the Indian word for deliciously delicious, it is also richly packed with antioxidants. True fact, all you avid inhalers of genetically modified blueberries!

Unfortunately, that’s as far as my emotional bond to my homeland goes. I think saris are horrible creations for midgets like me who need to be able to run from their stalkers without constantly tripping over 5 million meters of cloth. And let’s not speak of Bollywood movies. That’s a bitch fest that could go on for at least a week. Coincidently, that’s also how long a Bollywood movie lasts.  

I pondered over the love I don’t have for Indian things like saris and Bollywood movies and that one batshit crazy bitch who sings EVERY single Indian song in her high-pitched banshee voice that shatters the auditory senses of everyone around and their surrounding five postal codes.

Such is the nature of my love/hate (clearly, mostly hate) relationship with my country. And with this feeling, I slowly got off the streetcar to the instant olfactory explosion of fried everything, incense and curry dreams. It smelled like India, it looked like India and it sounded like India. Minus the pollution and stray animals.

Normally, this is the kind of scene that drives the point further home of how I had become too much of a spoilt North America city child. But at that moment in time, for reasons that elude me completely, I found myself wanting to stay.

Maybe it was the smell of curry that was at the level of amber alert for ambushing my clothes. Or maybe it was the guilt of being completely indifferent. Whatever it was, it drew me in and made me want to be here.

Perhaps the worst (or best?) part was when I found my legs uncontrollably walking into a sari shop. I audibly gasped at everything in there. Yards and yards of beautiful fabrics with beads and sequins and mirrors and handcrafted embroidery.

The Indian saleswoman obviously noticed my dumb tourist look and told me in Hindi that the sari I was looking at was on sale. Out of nowhere I started to bargain with her in Hindi. I didn’t even know I knew enough Hindi to string along a sentence without 97% of it being swear words.

I stood there in that store listening to music featuring the banshee voice and was surrounded by every colour in the rainbow.  I had a stupid grin on my face and an unexplainable feeling of pride.

This was my country. We have annoying music, we’re cheap enough to miraculously learn a language if it means we will get something half price, we have the best curry in the world and if our clothes are any indication of who we are then we have one of the most colourful, vibrant and happy cultures in the world. And for once, I was pretty freaking proud of that.

I would have taken some photos of all the sari stores I went to (yes, all of them. The patriotic feelings were too strong to resist). But I didn’t mostly due to signs like these posted everywhere.

I had easily spent an hour perusing every store and reminiscing  little things from my childhood. I finally made my way to the variety store and picked up one these suckers for Breezy:

Get ready for some hairy goodness!

Alas! All good things must come to an end and soon I was on the streetcar headed back into the city. I spent the entirety of the ride thinking about Little India like how one would think of a first date that they absolutely dreaded at first and yet went frighteningly well in the end.

And so Breezy, here is India’s beauty gift to you: A full head of luscious Kim Kardashian hair at the expense of being an occassional social leper.

As for the rest of you, don’t think I’ve forgotten you guys! I have an Indian beauty gift for everyone today (apart from the gift of myself) (HAHA.)

I hereby give you the recipe for the Gram Tumeric facial mask. Or as I would like to call it The Radiant Indian Bride Face Mask. (You fellas can do this too. No shame in being an Indian bride)

This mask is great for exfoliation, acne and dry skin. Pretty much covers everything annoying that could happen to your face before your big Indian wedding day…or a crappy Monday at the office.

The Radiant Indian Bride Face Mask:

3 tablespoons of gram flour. Gram flour is just the Indian way of saying Chickpea flour. You can find chickpea flour at most bulk food stores.

1.5 teaspoons of tumeric. Tumeric is an antiseptic and the key ingredient in making your face all glowly and radiant. Many believe tumeric is the next super drug that will cure cancer…which may be true. But it also stains like a bitch so don’t go apeshit with the tumeric.

You want to be a radiant Indian bride. Not a jaundiced troll.

2 tablespoons of almond oil. You can substitute with olive oil.

Milk. Pour in just enough to make this all into a thick paste.

Your freshly prepared homemade mask should look something like this:

100% organic!…says my Indian salesman smile.

Once you have that shitty yellowy looking concoction, you may proceed to cover your face with it.

Like so:

A face only a house cat could love.

Yes, my face matches my Captain Morgan shirt. And I look pretty darn happy about it.

Keep that crap on for about 10 minutes and then wash off with cold water.

And voila! Radiant Indian bride face for everyone!

You’re welcome, world.

Look what you have done, WordPress!

No, this is not another shameless bid to get WordPress’ attention to get myself Freshly Pressed. Although, who am I to protest and complain if they do after reading this?

By now, if you are a WordPress blogger you would have realised that there truly isn’t a better platform from which to springboard your innermost thoughts and fantasies to a whole bevy of strangers around the world. And even then, everyday I discovered new nifty little tricks and features that WordPress keeps adding to enhance my TMI sharing experiences with even more strangers I ever imagined possible.

But I’m not going to waste an entire blog post praising the WordPress features that you already have come to know and love. Today, I’m going to show you how WordPress is awesome in a totally different way: Connecting People in real life.

It came to be realised that there were quite a few of us 20-something Torontonian bloggers, most of whom were somehow connected and subscribed to each other. From this fact was born our very ambitious mini-blogger convention. Sadly our first convention only consisted of three people (hence mini). You may or may not recognise these amazing bloggers:

Breezyk from The Camel Life

Janice (Cafe23) from Your Daily Dose

and of course, yours truly, Karen from The Chronicles of a Skinny Jeans-wearing Toronto girl

It all began like any potentially good online dating story (or the stuff  good reality TV is made of). I started reading Breezyk’s The Camel Life sometime last year when I came across her post about going to some Wine and Food convention. I was effectively hooked after reading her ‘About Me’ section. I have no idea what she saw in me at the time but we decided to meet up for a glass of Pinot. I was never one to turn down a fellow wino.

Three glasses of classy juice later, we knew we would be BFFs. Well I was thinking we would be. She was probably thinking about how she was going to be hungover at work the next day. Regardless, we knew that the only thing that would make this even better the next time was if we actually had more awesome bloggers in the mix.

Janice from ‘Your Daily Dose’ was another blogger who I started following fairly recently. I think the first post I read of hers was about the Kingston Penitentiary. This was really strange because after reading her ‘About Me’ section, the first thought that came to mind was “what the heck is a sweet girl like her doing in King Pen?!” Then I found out she was a Criminology major after which I promptly hit the Follow button. Anyone who is drop dead beautiful, likes week-long hikes and camping in the wilderness, has the voice of an angel and writes posts about King Pen definitely is a blogger to be reckoned with.

You mix all of us together and you get an evening of wine, Italian food goodtimes! Here’s some photographic evidence that this actually happened.

Left to Right: Breezy, Karen and Janice. There were no Cut, Paste or gun point threats involved in the making of this photo

It’s always wonderful when we as bloggers follow each other and support each other’s blogs with follows, comments and likes. But there’s really nothing like actually getting to meet these wonderful people in person and laughing and sharing stories. Breezyk and Janice, you guys rock! Here’s to many more blogging years and mini conventions in the future!

And more importantly, if any of you bloggers are Toronto-based or close to the GTA, drop us a line! This could only get better from here.

 Have you ever met a fellow blogger who is a complete stranger in real life? How did it turn out?

Family Matters

I love long weekends. Especially when they involve sunshine and a whole lot of uninterrupted Facebook ex-boyfriend stalking time in my jammies. But some long weekends are different from others. Easter long weekend is one of them.

I moved to Canada when I was 17. My family unfortunately couldn’t come along for the ride. If I told you that my life was incredibly wonderful without having to deal with parental controls on everything, you would be believing a big fat lie.

The truth was that I was miserable about having no one to nag me for quite a long time before I started to appreciate it. Today at 25, after 8 years of being on my own, I don’t think I could ever move back with my parents. And I will guiltily admit that I don’t always miss them as much as they miss me. But there definitely are some days in the year that really get to me. Birthdays are a big one, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Thanksgiving weekend, Family Day- which is Canada’s cruel way of giving people without families a day off to lie in bed and cry, Easter weekend and most Sunday evenings.

This Easter weekend is no exception. But this year I decided that instead of being mopey about my family not being here, I’ll share you guys how awesome they are and celebrate them instead!

My parents are from a little state in India known as Goa.

My beautiful mother and my dotting, expert camera timer setter father on their honeymoon.

My mom met my dad at a New Year’s dance. She told me that he had a small bottle of an adult beverage in his pocket when he asked her to dance. He also stepped on her several times during said dance. Some 7 or 8 years later they got married proving that it is indeed possible to overcome mediocre first impressions, even if takes 7 years.

Dad:

My mother couldn’t have picked a better guy to have me with. My dad is one of the most hard-working, honest and affectionate people I know. When I was kid, he would wake me up at the crack of dawn on weekends and take me to the beach with him for a swim. I loved everything about those days. We would spend hours together in the water and come home at sunrise to the smell of freshly made breakfast.

My father skillfully keeping my head from falling off.

As I grew older and no longer cared much for early mornings, my dad replaced our beach dates with trips to my favorite place on earth- The Family Bookshop. He would let me spend hours in there perusing Enid Blyton books. He would let me buy a couple and now I’m pretty sure this was his sneaky way for steering me clear of video games. Till today I’ve never played a single video game. Tetris is not a video game.

Years later, when I was 17, my father held back tears and let his only daughter go off to college all her own in a strange country a million miles away from him. I think this was his biggest sacrifice as a father. Perhaps even bigger than the billion dollar bill he footed for my university degree.

Mom:

This photo was taken while there were bombs and gunshots outside during the Iraq/Kuwait war. My mother in her Sunday best, me with a big smile and my brother ready to punch someone

If you ever wondered where I got my sarcastic streak, you can thank this woman for it. My mother is as affectionate as my dad but she had her own way of showing it. Although she was never very vocal about her feelings, it was not hard to see her selflessness in everything she did for her family. After the birth of my brother, and the rise in the mischief and noise levels in the household, my mother’s aim at throwing  random objects such as hairbrushes, slippers, shoes, books and erasers at her unruly children reached expert levels. I’m sure she would have made us proud if throwing random objects were an Olympic sport.

 She was also the proverbial good cop in her and my dad’s parenting stratergies. For example, that one time when I threw the entire contents of my lunch in the garbage my dad’s way of punishing me was to cut off my food supply altogether. My mother’s way on the other hand, was to patiently tell me that when I died, I wouldn’t be allowed to go to heaven until I ate every morsel of food I’d ever thrown away in my lifetime. Till today I lick away the crumbs of my potato chip bag and would rather be sick than throw away a perfectly good fifth slice of pizza.

Years later, when I became a foolish teenager, my mother and I butted heads over everything and I used to think we would never be friends again. It took thousands of miles between us for me to realise that my mother was the best friend I could have ever had. And there was nothing I could tell her about myself  would ever change that.

 

Kevin:

Kevin and I at the Jack Johnson concert in Toronto.

My brother Kevin was born in Kuwait on August 3rd, 1990, just one day after Iraq invaded Kuwait. This earned him the nickname, Saddam Hussein. Although, this was a terrible nickname, Kevin was kind of a terror when he was a kid. Before he even learnt how to talk, he knew how to manipulate situations to his advantage. He would wack me in the face with a spoon and run crying to my mother with his hand on his face. Guess who got some beatings with a stick disciplined for that one!

I bullied him all the time but with the price of his own crafty revenge tactics. We used to share a room together and one weekend, he woke up early at around 6am and started vacuuming our bedroom. Specifically the space around my bed. Our vacuum cleaner had a decible index high enough to wake up the dead and small animals from hibernation. In an obvious fury, I complained to my mother, who immediately yelled at me for being such an ungrateful lazyass and that I was lucky to have a brother who was nice enough to do my chores.

Such was the nature of our hate/hate relationship growing up. And then, much like my relationship with my mother, everything changed when life separated us. Four years after I went off to college, Kevin finally joined me in Canada. Today, I barely recognise him from the mischievous little boy I grew up with. He stands at 5’10”, has a ridiculously sarcastic sense of humor and better taste in music than me. He is also the most awesome concert buddy and the only one in the world who can put up with me on an airplane. And even though our parents are still far away on major holidays, I still have Kevin.

I could go on and on about these three people in my life, but I know I should probably stop here. As much as I miss them, I am grateful to this distance for making me realise how much they mean to me and how lucky I am to have them. Perhaps some day when life works out, we will all be together and distance will no longer be there to teach me gratefulness. But until then, you will have to hear the endless antics and anecdotes that only serve as proof of how lucky I am to have such an awesome family.

The Lenten Plight of an average guilt-ridden Catholic

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Yes, it’s that time of year again, children.

If you are Catholic, you know that it’s time again to put on your woollen sackcloth and gird your loins for 40 days of Famished Fridays. If you are a Catholic that carries enough guilt to make the whole world and a couple of Martians  repent, then you are probably preparing to take on some extra sacrifices.

Since I fall in the latter category of Catholics, I have spent the last couple of days stressing myself over which of my vices would reluctantly get the boot for 40 days. In the past, I tried asking some of my Catholic friends for suggestions for stuff to give up. The best I got was, “Well, pray about it.”, which is the Catholic way of saying ‘Quit bitching, I’m busy’. The worst I got were actual suggestions of some unthinkable things like giving up make-up and hot showers.  

So I decided to “pray about it”, which I’m now doing on the eve of Ash day by listening to Taylor Swift and blogging instead of lighting a candle and saying a novena.

In previous years, Lent used to be a time when I would try to one-up myself with ridiculous things to give up. I think maybe it was more of a competition I liked having with myself to see how far I could push myself. Alas! As history of my Lenten endeavors would indicate, I’m not very competitive…even when I have nothing and no one to compete with.

-Contact lenses (2007)

Yes, a few years ago, I gave up my contact lenses for Lent. I understand this makes no sense, but hear me out. I hated wearing glasses. Trading my glasses in for contacts in 11th grade was like shedding my frog costume for confidence. Hence the idea of wearing glasses for forty days straight  sat as well with me as  the idea of wearing a burqa would sit with Paris Hilton.

Why this won’t be such a sacrifice for me now? Because in addition to not having the same 5-year-old boy haircut and unibrow that I did in highschool, I now also have a little more confidence outside of my outward appearance. And I have since highschool changed my glasses to a pair that doesn’t make me look like a frog. Everybody wins!…except Lent.

- Facebook (2009)

I gave up Facebook for Lent 2009. It was no easy feat but I was juiced up on the idea of one-uping contact lenses. Since Sundays don’t count as Lenten days…something I learnt at the end of 40 torturous contact-lensless days in the social desert…I got my Facebook fix once a week. Some consider this cheating. I considered it God’s way of keeping me sane.

Why this won’t be such a sacrifice now? Because I won’t be making it.

- Coffee (2010)

In my craze to one-up every previous Lenten sacrifice, I told myself I would give up coffee. This marked the beginning of the end of my adventures of climbing the Lenten Mt. Everest seeing as how one week into the climb, I fell off the mountain, cracked my skull and lost my mind. This illustration explains perfectly what happened and why it will never happen again.

Sadly, my successful Lenten streak of super sacrifice ended here. (www.lapsura.com)

 - iPod (2011)

I’m pleading insanity on this one. Clearly, I either forgot the coffee failure of 2010 or my over-zealous Catholic self felt the need the make up for it. I didn’t survive one day and decided to pray everyday on the bus to overcome the guilt instead.

Why this won’t be a sacrifice for me now? Because last I heard, the Catholic Church considers suicide a sin.

- ?????(2012)

No, I didn’t take a 10 minute break from my blog to pray about anything. But what I do understand now at the end of this post is that giving up things makes me miserable. Perhaps if I could be one of those truly Biblical people who “anoint their head and wash their face” while they reach for the Tetley instead of a Starbucks grande, then I might have more success with giving up.

But I’m not.

So this year, I’m not giving up anything. I will listen to my iPod, drink coffee everyday and wear my contact lenses. I will take hot showers, drink wine and be a happy person. Misery need not claim another Lenten victim. This would also very much benefit everyone around me since no one needs to be dealing with coffee-less Karen as much as they shouldn’t be dealing with a lunatic bitch carelessly hurling around sharp objects.

Probably the best thing I could ever give up…for everyone’s sake.

In place of giving up pieces of my life that keep me sane, I will instead give up procrastinating on things like laundry, dishes and dirty bath tubs and bring life back to order. Because order makes me happy. Almost as about as happy as my iPod, coffee and contact lenses. And if I give up being lazy, maybe for once, I will be happy for Lent. I’m pretty sure this is what Jesus would do anyway.