Dear DiaryI'll Follow You Anywhere

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When I made the decision to book a one-way ticket to LA with no sense of when I’d stop adventuring and come back, it was so spontaneous and unexpected I didn’t really think all of the details through. When a friend asked me about a going away party a few days after I made the announcement, I was totally blindsided – I needed to say farewell to all of my dearest friends!

With less than a week left I scrambled to put something together, and luckily Planta came to my rescue. A new upscale vegan restaurant in Yorkville, this place is literally to DIE for, and I knew it would be the perfect location to feast with friends. Their incredible team booked us our own massive table tucked away at the back for Sunday brunch, and no lie, it ended up being one of the best meals of my entire life.

Cauliflower tater tots, banana pancakes, nachos, crab cake benedict… the list of wondrous creations sent from the kitchen went on and on. Every single thing, from the tea to the blood orange mimosas was absolutely divine, and by the end of the meal we were confident our server was the nicest man alive. We ate like queens, chatted incessantly, and in the end shed a few tears over goodbye hugs and Christmas gifts.

It was the kind of sendoff that almost convinces you to stay, and ensures you’ll be back.

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A special thanks to Planta for hosting my special day!

Dear Diary

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Okay guys, real talk: there’s less than 10 DAYS till Christmas. Is anyone else panicking? Are we all remembering to breathe and eat occasionally?

As I’ve mentioned 1000 times before, I’m practically an elf, taking pride in finding the most perfect gifts for every single person on my list. But as I look at the calendar (how is it the end of December already?!) I’ll admit even I’m starting to panic. As hard as I’ve tried, my whole list isn’t totally “wrapped”.

Let’s be honest: there are always a few people that get left until the last minute – it’s usually the friends in my life who have everything they could possibly want, a distant relative I didn’t expect to see, a new friend who I just recently connected with or the person that just can’t be surprised no matter how hard I try.

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This is when even I, a pro gift-giver, will consult a gift guide. There’s tons and tons of guides out there (even we have a few!) but my absolute go-to this year is the Chatelaine gift guide hub. It has lots of unique gifts under $100 all picked by trusted Chatelaine editors, and thanks to some very handy organization there’s a separate guide for everyone your list. I found this Bluetooth Item tracker – which I had never even heard of before – and it’s perfect for the person that has everything, but always loses it. I also discovered the perfect gift for all the witchy women in my life – a healing crystal set that goes to a good cause (who doesn’t love the gift that keeps on giving?)

Getting names checked off the list this late in the game is a feeling like no-other, and now I can finally wrap up my wrapping!

Dear Diary

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One of the hardest things to navigate as a blogger is where to stop, how much to share, when to block people out and when to let it all out. In a lot of ways blogging is about living your best life, especially a sparkly happy little blog like mine, so being real about the shit you’re going through can often seem nearly impossible.

That said, I think as bloggers we have a unique responsibility to share our pain, to let others know that they’re not the only ones questioning why life can be so hard and how to get through the next week. I try to be as honest as I can when it comes to daily posting, but the fact of the matter is, in a lot of ways, my life and my brand bleed together, and it’s become harder and harder to stay honest in recent months.

Sometimes, things are just too sad to say out loud, never mind write down. But I think it’s important to talk about what I’ve been going through the past year and a half. To hold myself accountable and ensure it never ever happens again.

I used to think I was invincible. Confident and strong with rock solid values and a great sense of self, I pictured myself as my own little planet with all of the mess of the world orbiting, but never actually touching me. I was happy with myself, my life, my friends, and everyday I woke up feeling, well, blessed, for lack of a better word.

But then something happened, something I can’t really explain in a logical way. In short, I let someone take my magic. I promised to protect it, and I failed. Despite all of my self value and strength, I ended up in an emotionally abusive relationship.

2016 taught me a lesson – no matter how successful and sparkly you are, how strong and full of conviction you feel, it is always possible to fall victim to abuse. If you let the wrong person in, it’s surprisingly easy to lose yourself, and honestly it was a terrifying feeling. There were days where I barely made it out of bed, days where I refused to call my mom because she’d sense something wasn’t right, and so, so, so many days spent crying in restaurant bathrooms. And yet I stayed, and the longer I stayed the more guilty I felt for letting myself and my loved ones down. It was a special circle of hell that I never imagined I’d find myself in, and no matter how I tried to convince myself to get out while falling asleep each night, each morning I went right back to the same toxic routine.

By the end of November this year, I had nothing left. I was a shell of who I used to be, and the sparkle others had once told me could light up a room was gone from my eyes. In my world, crying was received not with support and love, but with anger and punishment. I was too emotional, too over the top, too depressed and not “chill” enough. I was too much for him to handle, I was “stressing him out” with my feelings. No matter how hard I worked to be less sensitive and to act exactly how my partner wanted, it wasn’t enough, and the more I tried to be his ideal, the more I realized that didn’t really include any of the traits that make me… me.

I started to doubt everything – my passions, my job, my personal style, even my sanity. He wanted me to “just be normal”, to dress more basic and to stop caring so much. So I tried everything I could think of – I stopped bleaching my hair so it would grow longer like he wanted, I started waxing, I bought black and grey clothing over baby pink. I stopped letting my dog sleep on my bed. I vacuumed obsessively to try and erase any trace of hair so he’d want to spend time at my house. I loaded up on antidepressants to try and be “happier”. I stopped working out (until he pointed out I was getting “bigger” and eating too many treats), stopped seeing friends unless they were the friends he wanted to see, and worst of all became a bitter, judgemental, negative person that I had never ever been. He once pulled over his car and made to look at myself in the mirror as I cried hysterically, his voice beside me saying “Look at yourself, this is how you look every day.” The person in the mirror was someone I no longer even recognized.

On some of the darker days I didn’t know if I’d make it out of this whole mess alive. Every time he ended things (which was almost monthly) I’d start to feel better, but he’d always find a way to manipulate me back in, though we both knew he didn’t really care for me all that much – certainly not in the way I unconditionally loved him. I was totally trapped, like a robot programmed to follow, and he was happy to have full control.

But a few weeks ago, I finally did it. I got away for a week with my best friend, and of all the people I’d hidden my situation from, I couldn’t hide from her. She saw right through me, and helped give me the power and support to understand how damaged and lost I had become. On the last day of the trip my partner decided to tell me at 1 AM that “I made him the worst version of himself”, and that was it, I finally snapped. I had loved this person harder than anyone before, had showered him with gifts, paid constantly for meals and adventures. I adored his family, fell in love with his friends, and every morning when I woke up at his house I scrambled to clean his apartment for him so he could arrive home later that day not feeling stressed. I was a doormat, a person who lived to serve and only asked for love and commitment in return. And somehow, some way, I made him the worst person he could be?

That night I cut contact. I was paralyzed with fear. How could I be without him when I no longer even felt like myself? My confidence was shot in every capacity, my belief in true love and romance was shattered. No one even knew the extent of what had been going on because I’d hid it in the hopes he’d get better and we could have a happily ever after. I felt like a fool, and it seemed too hard to face the time I’d wasted and all I’d lost.

But over the past few weeks I’ve remembered how much I really do have. All of my friends welcomed me back with open arms and big hugs, and I started to feel inspired by my work again. A dark fog lifted from over my life, and I found everything was still shiny and colourful, just as I’d left it. For the first time in a long time, I felt light again, and that sparkle in my eye got stronger by the day. I even met a few truly magical new people who would change my life for the better in ways I never could’ve dreamt up. With newfound energy, I started making moves: I changed my flights home for Christmas so I no longer had to be on a plane with him. I sent him a final note explaining he would never hurt me again, finally ending things on my own terms. I returned his things and had a friend pickup mine. I apologized to the people in my life who had been affected by my absence and negativity.

And then, I booked a one way ticket to LA. I had always begged my partner to go on a trip with me, offering to pay in full if he’d tag along on an adventure, but he always avoided it, and I grew more and more restless. Now that I’m free I’ll be spending my new year in places like Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and maybe even Hawaii or Mexico. I’m on a short list to go swim with Killer Whales in Norway. My Staff wants to meet up in New Orleans. The world is literally my oyster, and for the first time since that first date last summer I finally have the dream world that I so carefully crafted BACK.

So that’s that- there are a lot of BIG beautiful changes coming up fast, and I hope you guys are around for the ride. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not just suddenly amazing, I’m human after all. There are days where I still miss him, where I just want to call and ask “why” or “how” he was even able to break me down like he did. What did he gain? Why me? In the end though, I know he doesn’t have anything to say for himself… he never did. So I’ve simply closed the last chapter and started on a new book. I’ve got a feeling this next one reads a lot more like a fairytale.

I wrestled with writing this at first, but in the end I think emotionally abusive relationships are so often glazed over, hidden for the sake of the partner. I refuse to protect someone who did so much damage to my life, and I hope if anyone out there reading this is in the same controlling, cruel situation, you feel the support and inspiration to free yourself too. It’s not your fault this happened to you, it could happen to anyone.

Last Christmas, I gave him my heart. When I got up the courage to say “I love you” he acted as if I hadn’t spoken.

This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.

Cover image via. Pinterest

Dear Diary

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I generally consider myself a gifting queen: I mean, not to brag, but I’m really good at taking notes all year round and scooping up the least expected surprises for the people I’m closest to.

But sometimes, with those we don’t know too well or those we don’t spend enough shopping time with (hi Grandpa!) we need a little bit of help. Chatelaine’s help!

It’s so impressive to me, a natural born elf, that Chatelaine was able to put such an extensive directory together. They’ve got everyone from your great uncle bob to the neighbour’s cat covered, and it’s really a total treat to shop through. Hostess gifts, book lover’s gifts, even gifts for the person with everything (aka me) can be found online and within the pages of the December issue, and it’s a seemingly endless treasure trove of good gifting.

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My favourite section is “20 unique gifts for the person who has everything” – what’s yours?!

Dear Diary

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Product design has intrigued me for quite some time, but it always seemed like too massive a project to take on by myself. I was over the moon when Teapigs, one of my favourite tea brands approached our team to design a limited edition mug for their holiday collection!

The only issue is… I’m not really a designer. Luckily I have Johanna as our in-house artist, and our intern Olivia who’s a total design BOSS. Together they worked with hand-painted watercolour textures and fun fonts. We probably did about 50 mock ups combined with the Teapigs design team before we finally settled on the final version that you see now. Crazy right?! It’s amazing how much time and energy goes into just one of the products you find on a store shelf. Definitely feeling a newfound appreciation for beautiful design details!

So here it is, after months of reworking and reimagining, just in time for Christmas! Rise and Sparkle comes from the idea that every day should be extraordinary… don’t just rise and shine, rise and SPARKLE! Tis’ the season to sparkle more than ever, right?

When I say sparkle however, I don’t just mean pile on the illuminator and dress only in sequins. Being sparkly is so much more about spreading joy wherever you go, like a beam of sunshine in the middle of a snowstorm (and there WILL be snowstorms ahead Toronto friends!) With this philosophy in mind I decided to donate $1 of each mug to a local charity that always makes me smile: Save our Scruff. Rescuing adorable dogs day and night from all over the world, SOS brings joy to so many pups and humans alike, and I can only hope our donations from this project can help find as many furry friends a home for the holidays as possible!

Scroll down for a holiday gift from us… aka a CONTEST!

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Want to win a Rise and Sparkle mug + a pack of Teapigs tea? Think of it as a gift from us to you!

To enter simply:

1 // Follow RAOP and Teapigs on Instagram

2 // Tag a friend who loves tea on today’s Instagram post

3 // For bonus points, comment here with your Instagram handle, or tweet the link to this post (just make sure you tag me so I can find you)

Winner will be announced Friday here and on Instagram. Good luck!

Ready to get cozy AND support a great cause? Shop the mug here now!