On The Grind

On The Grind

“It’s kind of like dating. Once you’ve tried something of high quality, Tim, Donald and Buck just don’t do it for you anymore.”

Originally published in Branded Magazine: The Drive

The first cup.

The first time Jessica McCarrel tried coffee, she was repulsed. The beautiful aroma that filled her childhood home was a façade. By the time she was in post-secondary, the ‘shit-coffee’ that her school’s cafeteria served was just a way for her to stay awake.

Similarly, the first time Phil Robertson of Phil & Sebastian ordered a cup of coffee, it wasn’t any better. He just needed a way to stay focused in his engineering classes, “It tasted awful, but it worked,” said Robertson. And when Cole Torode of ROSSO was sixteen, he just wanted to find out what all of the fuss was about at Starbucks. So he ordered a vanilla latte.

“I hated it,” said Torode.

Most of us have come a long way since our first sip. We no longer order a triple chocolate frappuccino and call it a coffee. Now, it’s become much more about connecting with each other than getting our caffeine fix. When someone says to you, “Let’s grab a coffee this weekend,” you know that this means more than the words themselves; it means you’re going to connect, catch up, or gossip about last weekend. McCarrel’s cafe, Kaffee Klatsch, literally translates to ‘coffee’ & ‘gossip’.

But that doesn’t mean the quality of what we’re drinking doesn’t matter; it matters a whole lot, especially to these roasters and baristas. This is the story of the individuals at the helm of ‘Coffee Culture’ in our city. Whether they forged the path or are just getting started, they’re ensuring that we no longer settle for ‘shit coffee’ while we send emails or get our gossip in. Jeremy Ho of Monogram explains that these days, “People’s standards are higher about what they put in their mouth.”

That’s what she said.

Where them good cups of coffee at?

Pre-Beltliner, McCarrel was always on the hunt for good coffee. “Straight up, I didn’t like anything that anyone made,” said McCarrel.

A few more years back in time, Phil Robertson and Sebastian Sztabzyb, two engineering lab buddies, were also lamenting the fact that good coffee was so hard to find. Eventually, rather than just loving good coffee and complaining about having no where to get it, the two of them decided to step up and create such a place.

Lech Wojakowski, owner of The Roasterie, shared the same problem: a love of good coffee but no where to get it, and so began his 30-year journey. His shop in Kensington was the first of its kind, bringing roasting to a street front cafe. It was the first time a lot of people had tried something other than Maxwell House or Nabob, “People were curious and in a very short time, we had a line up out the door.”

Simply put, it was about noticing that there was something missing in our city and then doing something about it.

Why coffee?

So it’s clear that we needed better coffee, but how does one decide to turn this quest into a career?

“I guess the sexy answer would be, I don’t even know what I would do without this,” laughs Ho.  Four years ago, two of the three Monogram boys were working at Phil & Sebastian, “I found myself researching coffee in my spare time. I was giving so many hours to work, and barely any to university,” said Ho.

Terrible student – but an amazing barista.

McCarrel’s career choice was a process of elimination. “I have like, two interests. The visual arts, and coffee.”

For Phil & Sebastian, their partnership was one of serendipity. After a mix up with his school registration, Robertson found himself with a brand new group of students in year two of Engineering. Annoyed that he was separated from the peers that he had already formed relationships with, he needed a new lab partner, and Sztabzyb happened to be standing beside him.

The rest is history.

“Right away we were fairly inseparable,” Robertson tells me about how more than once the university turned the lights out on them in a lab. They never stopped working until their projects were perfect.

It’s this very same standard of excellence that drives their business today.

Unlike the others, Russ and Chris Prefontaine – better known as The Fratello Brothers – have a long history with coffee that dates back to the 70s. Their father, along with Wojakowski, were the first two pioneers of coffee in Calgary. Their business’ may have been separate but the goal was common – to create a community around independent coffee.

Wojakowski, about to celebrate The Roasterie’s 30th anniversary, tells me that he knew there was a lot of opportunity in coffee, but never thought he would do it for 30 years. That’s the thing about finding the right career, whether you’re born into it or you stumble upon it, the passion takes over, “To me it was never work … it was just a really good ride.”

As I sipped on a latte at Corbeaux, The Fratello Brother’s reminisced about their long caffeinated history, “It’s literally the only job I’ve ever had,” says Chris. “I’ve never thought that we wouldn’t do this.”

Looks like Chris takes the cake for sexiest answer.

Coffee 101

Why are more people buying custom roasted coffee instead of grabbing a Starbucks? If you ask these pros what goes into a quality cup of coffee, you’re going to be there awhile.

“It’s not ever one thing,” explains Robertson, “It’s about all the links in the chain. That’s where you achieve quality.” A little coffee 101 for you: those links he’s talking about are origin, roasting, and brewing, “You need to get all three of those right to achieve excellence.”

Even if consumers don’t understand all of the chemistry behind a good cup of coffee, all of these roasters spoke to the fact that they have a lot of confidence in people’s ability to taste the difference.

“Environment, service, product. It’s gotta all come together,” says Chris. “When you can hit it all, you’ve got something interesting.” Russ adds, “A good cafe should be helping educate the consumer on discovering different flavours.”

Chances are what you’re going to discover is the passion and expertise going into the coffee at these cafes is worth the trip.

More than a flavour.

The quality of the coffee and the bean itself goes with saying, but the community of coffee culture in Calgary is just as important, “We heavily focus on service and creating a warm environment,” says Ho. “It’s assumed it’s going to be good coffee – we don’t have to talk about that.”

Whether it’s the 75-year-old lady who has been a regular since day one, or one of their frequent canine visitors, when these coffee fanatics started talking about their community, that’s when they really light up.

All the coffee connoisseurs spoke to the joy of getting to know their regulars and watching their lives grow. From dates, to newlyweds, to babies and business, “It’s great feeling like we’re a part of that” says Jessie Attrell of Rosso.

Even though they’re all serving the same beverage, you don’t get a sense of tense competition. Wojakowski shares the discussions between roasters at industry conferences are always about the newest bean or innovation, “It’s always this happy group of people together.” They simply inspire one another to raise the bar. “We want to pull from the Tim Hortons and the Starbucks, not each other,” says Torode, “The more vanilla lattes we can transition the better.”

I also asked everyone what their biggest challenge has been.

“I think for me, it’s been working with Ben,” laughs Ho.

For Rosso, it’s saying no to vanilla lattes.

But in all seriousness, they have the same challenges as any small business running on passion.

“You have this idea of where you want to take your business,” explains Robertson. “But you need to have the patience to let it be realized. I always have higher expectations than we ever achieve. I always want it to be better, whatever it is.”

And of course, like in business and in life, the people you surround yourself with are key.

“The hardest variable to control in all of this is people,” explains Chris Prefontaine. “There are so many hands that have touched every step of the process. What is critically important is that you align yourself from start to finish with people that give a shit. That’s the key.”

Starbucks versus Everyone

Robertson puts it this way: “How do you compare Model Milk to McDonald’s?”

Ho gets me to consider the difference between going to Tim Horton’s and sitting at Monogram. “They are almost like different products. Obviously they still have the same bones, but when you think about the drinks and the experiences that you get, it’s so different.”

It’s not to say that Starbucks is the devil, “They have done an amazing job in terms of consistency,” says Torode. Attrell adds, “People like what’s safe and they recognize a brand. But it’s worth stepping outside of the box to experience something special.”

Wojakowski recalls when Starbucks started, “They brought a large scale of awareness to specialty coffee.” But it’s clear that being a part of a smaller micro world has a certain richness to it and unique opportunities for innovation.

“Independent cafes should always be better. Period.” says Sebastian. “It shouldn’t be a question about where to go. The fact that we have to answer this question means we still have work ahead.”

It’s kind of like dating. Once you’ve tried something of high quality, Tim, Donald and Buck just don’t do it for you anymore.

Attrell at Rosso tells me her favorite thing is seeing people’s reaction the first time they taste specialty coffee. Yes, Calgary wants to see local thrive, but it’s the taste that’s really going to hook us.

Because of these individuals’ high standards, the innovation, and creativity won’t stop anytime soon. In fact, with a research project underway at the U of C, Phil is about to start tackling some of the big problems that the entire industry faces.

(Hey U of C – Better keep that lab open late.)

Our city is evolving, and coffee plays a part in that. Monogram, Fratello, and Lech all spoke about international influences in ‘Cafe Society’ and ‘Coffee Culture’, “We’ve experienced excellence elsewhere and we want it at home too” says Chris Prefontaine.

When I asked our original coffee pioneer what was next for him, Wojakowski didn’t hesitate. “Another 30 years.”

In summary, I can tell you from experiencing the taste and getting to know the people driving this industry, the future of our coffee is in good hands.

Recap: Sydney

The only good reason I had to do this was that I had always wanted to.

And I think that’s a good enough reason to do just about anything.

Stopping and staring every twenty feet, knowing my camera will never do it justice but trying anyways, the coastal walk from Bronte to Bondi continues to make me stand still in awe. Usually when you see something this beautiful you’re a tourist with a camera who snaps a photo and then leaves. But this gets to be my backyard for months on end. If all I ever saw of Australia was this, I’d be happy.

It makes me feel small, alive, and free.

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Watching the surfers catch and crash into waves reminds me of an important lesson, one I hear often but rarely see in action.

Surfers can’t be afraid to fall. And they also can’t be worried about “looking good,” or being perfect every time. They paddle out there for what I imagine is just the joy of it. They fall over and over and over, or miss wave after wave. Then once and awhile they catch one and ride it out, making it look easy. I often find myself holding my breath for them as if I’m the one on the board. I could watch them all day long, thinking about how okay it is to crash and then try again.

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This wasn’t a well thought out plan. I didn’t have a big why behind moving away for a year. The only good reason I had to do this was that I had always wanted to.

And I think that’s a good enough reason to do just about anything.

“I live somewhere I can wear shorts all year round.” I had written that down a few times over the years while making a list of life goals, not knowing how or when or why. I just knew I’d love to live by the sea.

Well they lied – you cannot wear shorts all year round in Sydney. But I love it anyways. Having traveled a handful of times in my twenties, I knew that I still wanted to experience actually living somewhere new, starting from scratch, having no idea where I was headed. The how and the when seemed to figure themselves out. Being here now feels serendipitous, like I’ve landed somewhere I belong.

Australia and I just jive.

 

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Me crushing hard on the Central Coast, my first day in Australia. 

 

Not that moving to a new city doesn’t have its growing pains. I’ve also had to be quite a bitch a couple of times, and though I don’t like being that person and it definitely doesn’t come naturally, they were also proud moments of adulthood. It’s kind of comforting knowing that I can stand on my own two feet, even if most of the time I don’t have to.

Thank you to Australia’s terrible customer service and shitty work ethic for teaching me this valuable lesson!

Which is also probably why I like the place so much. The word “hustle” isn’t glorified here whatsoever. I can say with certainty that there is a better work-life balance here, with “life” being of higher priority.

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I haven’t done very much besides walk a lot of kilometers and watch the surfers, but if this trip ended tomorrow I would be filled up completely. I think all I really wanted was space and ocean breezes and to be reminded of how beautiful the world is, and also that I don’t have to take adulthood so seriously.

Crash, coast, paddle back out; you don’t have to get it right every time.

On Being Alone

In this summer’s issue of FLARE, Briony Smith wrote an article called “The L Word”, and no she wasn’t writing about love. Instead, she wrote about a topic much less talked about: That of loneliness.

It made me think about two summers ago when I was one of the only single people at a friend’s wedding.

I was in a coral lace dress sitting alone at a table for 10 waiting for my friends and their dates. We had some time to kill between ceremony and reception so we all met for drinks in Eau Claire. I was more comfortable sitting there overdressed and alone sipping my drink than I was two hours later when it dawned on me that I was the only solo person at the table.

But wasn’t I having fun until that moment of single girl panic? I was drinking and laughing with the dudes that my friends had chosen. I was absolutely, positively okay.

Later that week I was alone in the middle of my condo with boxes and pillows and books everywhere. Sixteen months had gone by since I moved there. It boggled my mind how much had happened, but also how much hadn’t. I never brought any guys home. A few slept on the couch, but it was only my girlfriends or coworkers that had slept in my bedroom. Shouldn’t I be having loads of sex and dates and choosing which guy I thought was a keeper? I thought.

And who put this idea in my head-that my mid-twenties should be bursting with men?

See, I wasn’t lonely until I was surrounded by couples at that table two summers ago. And I wasn’t lonely in my mid-twenties until I was packing up my apartment and realized I hadn’t brought anyone home the entire time I lived there. I wasn’t lonely until some expectation about what my life should have been like started to sink in.

Now, two years later, on the other side of singledom, I sometimes feel weird talking about “what worked” or offering up any kind of advice. Who am I to talk? I was making mistakes right up until the day my boyfriend made a move on me. *

There is nothing more annoying than being single in a group of girls, (or even worse – family members) who decide they ought to start dishing up advice.

Stop focusing on it.

Maybe you’re looking in all the wrong places.

You’re being too picky. What about [insert name of guy you’ve friend zoned here]

It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.

Join a beer league.

And my personal favorite, “Just focus on yourself”

Are you kidding me? I’ve had half a decade worth of ‘me-time’, self-improvement, and staying selfishly busy. 

Hearing “Just focus on yourself” just pissed me off.

Single girls don’t want advice. As Briony Smith points out in her article, all a single girl needs is some empathy and your hot friend’s number. (2015, Summer) The L Word. Flare, page 92.

But if there’s any advice I wish I had let sink in as a single lady, it’s that I never needed to be anything more or less than what I already was.

All that self-awareness stuff, sure it’s worth it in a lot of ways. But is it necessary to find love? Aren’t we supposed to be loveable just as we are? And why did it always feel so weak to admit that “Yeah, I’d really like to have someone to go home and have relationship-y sex with.”

I would have really enjoyed a date sitting beside me at that wedding two summers ago, but I shouldn’t have felt, even for a moment, like there was anything wrong with me because I didn’t.

“This obsession with dating success by way of self-improvement is a by-product of western society’s can-do ideal …. I tried, for a long time, to eradicate my undesirable bits. Some changes made me a better person, like going to the gym and softening my bitchy resting face … I eventually gave up. There’s only so much of myself I can change before there’s nothing left.” Smith, Briony (2015, Summer) The L Word. Flare, page 94.

As the months went by and my single status never changed, I really started to feel like I wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough, witty enough, smart enough, and so on and so forth. It makes me cringe that some nights, the lack of some drunk guy hitting on me had that much of an impact on my self-worth. And even worse, that the same kind of guy also had the ability to make my self-confidence soar.

“You’re gorgeous” said the devil.

I believed him. And I believed all sorts of other vain compliments from guys over the years. But when the guy who is falling in love with me says the same words, I automatically think, “He has to say that”.

I’m admitting this because I wish I could tell my fifteen year old self that even if no one is loving you at certain points in your life, you’re still super loveable. I wish I had never given my power away to this idea that I needed to be better in order to be desirable.

So no. You don’t have to master self-confidence in order to find love. You do not have to be the smartest or wittiest girl in the bar. You don’t have to start or stop anything. You’re not doing anything wrong. Stop giving away that much power to the idea of romance, when most of what our dating lives consist of is meaningless hookups and mediocre dates. It’s not worth beating yourself up over.

You can want it as much as you want, just don’t base your self worth on whether the real thing is in your life yet or not.

It’s easier said than done. But I wish I could make that feeling disappear for every girl and guy in the world. Because it’s a liar.

Fresh out of dating, newly retired if you will, I don’t miss being single at all. I suppose there was something thrilling about knowing it was all ahead of you – the meet, the first kiss, the falling. But what’s better than all of that is the kiss that says “I missed you.” 

The difference now is that being alone doesn’t worry me anymore. Not that heartbreak doesn’t scare me – nobody likes heartbreak; it’s what fucks us all up. Even our parents heartbreak can have a huge impact on us.

#daddyissues

But the being alone bit, the waiting for love to show up again, that I can do. Because now I know for sure that you can be totally surprised by it. It can show up in the most unlikely of ways, when you least deserve it. And you don’t have to change a single thing about yourself. I really didn’t think I was going to be surprised by love ever again. 

“You might already know him.”

Pffffft. YA right.

I was surprised, to say the least.

No advice here. Just a message to future romantics and seekers of love (and to my fifteen year old self if I could talk to her):

Someone will get over themselves and their shit and go to the depths it takes to love somebody like you. In the meantime, be as much of yourself as humanely possible because even though at times it will feel like a game that you desperately want to tap out of, the right person will want you. Including the undesirable bits.

Ugh. I feel like the advice that annoyed me the most probably annoyed me so much because it’s TRUE.

“Just focus on yourself”

But don’t make that mean that you have to focus on changing yourself. You don’t have to change a thing.

*I was still sleeping with the devil

Don’t Call Me Baby, But Please Fix My Dishwasher

“You’re pretty.”

The boyfriend whispers those words into my ears. It’s 5:45 am and I can barely open my eyes. I have floor to ceiling windows in my condo and I face east, so my bedroom is like a sauna, a very unflatteringly bright sauna.

I make a pathetic whining noise and hide my face in his shoulder.

You’re pretty.” I say, as if I’m challenging him.

His compliment is genuine and sweet, but I do not believe him – especially in the early morning light.

But the thing is, even if he was saying those words while I was sporting effortlessly perfect hair, a sexy spray tan and my dream outfit, I would still have a hard time letting those words sink in.

Low self esteem? Not really. Ungrateful bitch? Some might say. But I think there’s more to the story.

Dr. Gary Chapman, relationship expert and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Five Love Languages, claims there are five different methods people naturally gravitate towards in how they give and receive love. These include words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

After reading Chapman’s book, I’ve come to the conclusion that simply put, words of affirmation just aren’t my jam.

A LESSON IN COMMUNICATION

Hopeless romantics out there might not like hearing this, but you know that euphoric feeling you get when you “fall in love”? Gary Chapman says that’s not going to last. 

In fact, you’ve got about two years max.

I almost closed the book when I read this, die hard romantic that I am. It was like learning that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny weren’t real all over again.

But I kept reading out of curiosity. After all, the subtitle to the book is “The Secret to Love that Lasts.”

I needed to find out the secret.

So after the “I’m so in love” fireworks settle down, things get a little trickier. In a very non-romantic way, Chapman explains that one of our basic human needs is to feel loved, but how we actually have that emotional need met after the euphoria dies, is not the same for everyone.

After years of research and counseling he found one fundamental truth: “People speak different love languages.” Someone could be expressing their love for me in Italian, but I don’t understand Italian, so I’m not going to get the message.

When expressing your affection for bae, it’s the very same thing.

“Language differences are part and parcel of human culture,” Chapman explains . Just like how we don’t all speak the same languages around the world, in order to be “effective communicators of love”, we need to communicate in the love language that our partners understand.

Hearing about how pretty you are in the morning might fill you up with love and emotion, but it does nothing for me. And on the flip side, just because I don’t feel the need to hear how much my boyfriend loves me five times a day, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need to hear some kind of verbal affirmation himself in order to feel secure in our relationship.

In other words, knowing each other’s love language is basically the secret to not fighting with your significant other.

That’s a bold generalization, but if you’re curious, read on.

After reading “The Five Love Languages” and becoming more aware of the “expressions of love” in my life, I’ve discovered that I’m quite needy. I think depending on my relationship status, time of the month, how things are going at work, how tight my jeans are fitting, and where Mercury is in rotation, I need a combination of everything. 

Here’s a look at three of the five love languages. 

Acts of Service (You’re a Brat)

I can list the moments in my dating career where I felt the most love rushing through my veins.

  1. When my boyfriend in high school helped me with my math homework
  2. When my one night stand last summer made my bed for me
  3. When one of my Tinder dates fixed my kitchen cabinet
  4. When the jerk I was dating last fall said he’d do my taxes for me.
  5. When my boyfriend picked me up my favorite flavor of toothpaste when he saw that I was running low.

It’s very clear that my top love language is ‘Acts of Service’. I love it when people do things that make my life easier or take a burden off my shoulders. Sometimes I feel like a lazy little brat, especially when my boyfriend does something that I could totally do myself.

But no matter how many times I take the love languages quiz, single or taken, I always score the highest in ‘Acts of Service’.

Tell me I’m pretty? I get upset with you.

Buy me toothpaste? You’re getting lucky that night.

Quality Time (Dating You is Very Time Consuming)

“You never talk to me.”

“Do you have to have the TV on right now?”

“You’re always on your phone.”

Sound familiar?

Chapman explains, “People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.”

If quality time is your thing, you need undivided attention, real conversation, and probably a lot of it. And you’re likely to point out when your partner isn’t giving it to you.

Where I get critical, and this was a big clue as to which love language is foreign to me, is when I hear disgusting things like, “Has anyone told you how beautiful you are today?” or, “I missed you baby.”

When an ex said those things, it took everything in me not to yell, “DON’T CALL ME BABY.” I was critical of every nice thing he said.

That brings me to another love language worth talking about.

Words of Affirmation (Dirty Talk Doesn’t Count)

“I knew I loved you when you drooled on me and I wasn’t mad.”

Even though ‘Words of Affirmation’ aren’t my jam, hearing this made me pretty damn happy. I guess when it’s the right guy I don’t mind a little verbal acknowledgment.

There’s no doubt that during the beginning phases of dating someone, it’s a dream to hear how they feel about you (even if it’s a reminder of the time you fell asleep and drooled on their shoulder), especially if what they’re feeling is L.O.V.E. After you’ve been together for awhile, a common question you’ll get from your friends is, “Have you dropped the L bomb yet?”

This conversation is a marker.

But after that initial declaration of one’s feelings, some of us need more consistent affirmations than others do.

After seven years together, my girlfriend and her fiance took the love languages quiz. She realized that she had spent the last seven years expressing her love through ‘Acts of Service’, constantly doing things for her love that would make his life easier.

Except he hardly seemed to notice. This drove her nuts.

But as they found out, her fiances love language was not acts of service. They did nothing for him. What he really needed wasn’t being taken care of, it was words

“You mean all I have to do is say nice things to him and he’ll be happy?”

Could it really be that simple?

Yes actually. 

“This damn book changed my life,” she tells me now on the regular.

She has a difficult time expressing her feelings through words, so now I remind her weekly that she should probably tell him that she loves him, appreciates him, finds him sexy, etc. Sometimes I even write the text messages for her.

But he doesn’t need to know that. He’s finally getting his words of affirmation, and therefore, he’s a much happier fiance.

LOVE & CHOICE

The heart wants what the heart wants. At first, it doesn’t feel like we have much choice in the matter. Maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s chemistry, maybe it’s Cupid. Whatever it is, when sparks start flying there doesn’t seem to be much logic in falling in love.

But as the months and years go by, choice seems to play a larger part in that love actually lasting. This is where Gary Chapman’s logical approach to relationships makes a lot of sense.

There are mornings when I might fight the urge to yell “Get OFF of me,” but I don’t, because my boyfriend’s love language is ‘Physical Touch’. Falling in love with him wasn’t a choice. Letting him get his morning snuggle in is definitely a choice.

Seemingly minor interactions with one’s partner can add up, for the better or worse of the relationship.

Chapman concludes, “If I have not learned her primary love language or have chosen not to speak it, when she descends from the emotional high, she will have the natural yearning of unmet emotional needs. After some years of living with an empty love tank, she will likely “fall in love” with someone else, and the cycle will begin again.” (136)

I don’t like the sounds of that.

It really is the little things that end up mattering. That one phrase, “I knew I loved you when you drooled on me,” or that one hug that you ran back for, could make the difference in your lover feeling happy and secure.

So learn your love languages, speak them, and fill each other up. This just might be the secret to our generation defying the odds and actually having love that lasts, decade after decade.

Spirit Animals & Eskimo Sisters

“It looks like an expired Cheeto.”

We were admiring my friend’s new gemstone collection at a booth in Earls earlier this summer. 

I gravitated towards a green one that apparently brings prosperity. Stampede was fast approaching and my plan to save some extra funds had failed, as per usual. The one that my friend decided resembled an expired Cheeto supposedly aides in manifesting love, something that caused the three single friends I was with to go “Ooooo lemme see that one.”

As a joke, I carried the green money manifesting stone in my pocket the first weekend of Stampede. Do I believe a gemstone is the key to my financial freedom? No. Do I occasionally pick up that little stone still sitting on my dresser beside my jewelry and pretend that it’s working? Yes.

I just paid off my credit card and I’ve barely worked since mid-June. Coincidence or crystal powers? 

The collecting of gemstones, the reading of horoscopes, and the finding out of spirit animals, all falls in the realm of things my brother would call, “fucking weird.”

I on the other hand eat that shit up. When I’ve found myself in situations that many people might find “woo-woo”, I’ve always tried to keep an open mind. The shaman who led me through the sweat lodge ceremony that I attended in Mexico last year seemed like a very happy and content guy, making me curious about how he came to be so. Why wouldn’t I be open to what he had to say?

Similarly, when I found out what my spirit animal was, I wasn’t sitting on my couch filling out a quiz that I had just googled. I found out what mine was last summer from a reliable source, someone much more practiced in the spiritual realm than the Google search bar.   

This doesn’t mean I think my spirit animal is better than your spirit animal. I am mostly ignorant when it comes to these practices, I can only speak of my experiences in being open to them. In fact, I threw a temper tantrum when my boyfriend did the googled spirit animal quiz and got “hummingbird”.

“YOU’RE a fucking hummingbird!? I’M supposed to be a hummingbird!”

I really like hummingbirds and always thought that that should have been my designated animal. I’m not taking liberties and adding the F-word for emphasis here; that is in fact how I responded.

I’m actually a hawk, incase you were wondering. 

This means that I have a keen eye and am good at seeing the overall perspective of things while also narrowing in on what’s important – clearly not demonstrated in that conversation with my boyfriend post quiz. 

A lot of people, myself included, also like to believe that things happen for a reason. That there are no coincidences.

When I think about coincidences and chance, I always think about the time I was picked as one of Calgary’s most eligible singles by Branded Magazine, only to find out that the other two girls chosen were the exes of the last two guys I had dated.

[I can’t even say exes. I just mean we had slept with the same guys-is there a female equivalent to eskimo brothers?]

Sure you could call it coincidence and say, “it’s a small world” but really – when something that unlikely happens my mind goes straight to “Why is this happening???

The conclusion I came to was that Calgary’s dating pool was much too small and I should probably consider moving cities if not provinces.

What I did instead was find a different age bracket 😉 Worked like a charm.

But in all seriousness, what actually occurred because of that huge coincidence was that I met someone who is now one of my closest friends and her “I don’t give a shit about what the world thinks of me” attitude was exactly what I needed at the time, and still do. She was a breath of fresh air and whether by coincidence or divine intervention, I like to believe we met for a reason and that the timing was perfect.

No matter how seriously we believe in gemstones, spirit animals, horoscopes and the like, I think there’s something to be said about believing in something. 

I think of it like I do my favourite photograph filter. Stuff happens, and then I decide how to make it appear better, or at least have it make sense in the grand scheme of things. I am a very optimistic hawk.

How you choose to see the world, which filter you choose, is up to you. I like bright sunny ones. And I can’t help but feel enchanted by and curious about all of this, to quote my brother, “fucking weird” stuff. Even if at the end of the day all it does is give me a false sense of clarity on how the universe works.

– I have no financial worries right now. Must be the green gemstone.

– Why am I being such a bitch?  Let’s see what my horoscope says.

– I keep running into adorable baby french bull dogs. The universe is clearly telling me I need a puppy.

As for the love-bringing stone that resembled a Cheeto, it seems to be as effective as Tinder.

In other words, it’s usually not.

Dating is kind of like eating a Cheeto. It looks good from far away – you definitely want a bite. Up close, you’re not so sure; it looks messy. After awhile it gets stale and you crave something with more substance. Except does that even exist anymore? What you actually want seems hard to find, so after awhile you start going for the expired Cheeto(s) and some nights you think to yourself, what the hell am I doing with this orange dirt bag? Yet, there’s something larger at play. All of those stale processed bad-for-you snacks are leading you to something greater. You’re learning about yourself, what you want, and what you’re worth. And then one day you realize you’re better than an expired Cheeto. You want a Ritz Cracker.

I’ll stop now.

All I’m saying is that sometimes the universe works in magical ways and gives you exactly what you need: a new friend, a green gemstone, a surprise tax refund. And whether it’s true or not, every time I see a hawk – which isn’t very often – I feel like everything is going to be alright.

Get Your Eggs Out of My Basket

Originally published on It’s Date Night

I’ve heard this dating advice many times over the last few years – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

I can’t say I’ve followed this advice religiously, or at all for that matter. When I meet someone I like, I like them and only them. I’m kind of like a bug. If the men in my life are a bunch of glowing lights, I go for the shiniest one and he’s got my full attention. 

I put all my eggs in one basket you could say. His basket.

This keeps biting me in the ass. 

Another problem has arisen since that terrible mercury retrograde we went through in February. Even though nothing has panned out [clearly still single]they keep lingering. It’s like I still have a few egg shells out there that I haven’t collected.

Now they’re the bugs. Annoying ones that keep buzzing around my periphery. 

I’m partially to blame for this.  Whenever I get a brazilian wax I tend to make bad decisions. [Don’t judge me, I know I’m not the only one.] My new year’s resolution was to not sleep with any assholes. Then it came time for my next wax. 

Two days after the fact I had failed my 2015 promise to myself and brought one of them back into the mix. Self-restraint? What’s that?

Then there’s this guy I dated last year for awhile. I keep randomly hearing from him. Maybe he thinks it’s nice of him to “check in”. I know better – His check in’s are usually in between his spurts on Tinder.

And then there’s Carlton. 

There’s a common sentiment that exists within my friend circle. “Poor Carlton.”

Now, I definitely don’t like being pitied, and there’s really no reason for us to feel pity for Carlton either. He’s smart, sexy, tall, kind, etc, etc. There would have been some definite perks to dating him. My mother would have been very excited if I had brought him home for Easter this weekend. 

Except I wasn’t into him. I tried, but the elusive spark was not there. After a month of dating I realized that I had put him in the friend zone and as much as I tried to convince myself that continuing to see him was a good idea, I knew doing so wasn’t fair to him, or to myself. 

And unfortunately, he was one of those guys who just wasn’t getting the hint.  

In fact, I can’t even call it hinting. I was very straight and clear with him, multiple times.

Initial break up text: “I don’t see this going any further for me.”

Two weeks later: “No I don’t think going for wine is a good idea.”

Four weeks later: “No Carlton I don’t want to sleep with you. Yes, I realize you mean friends-with-benefits but I don’t want that either.”

Then the final straw. I was very excited when I found out that he had gone on a couple of dates with a girl I knew. When I heard from him again I asked him about it. “I heard you went on a few dates with Hannah! She’s great!” 

He must have taken my inquiry as jealousy. 

His response: “What, did you think I was going to put all my eggs in one basket with you?”

I DON’T WANT ANY OF YOUR EGGS IN MY BASKET CARL.  

Yes I actually texted him that and yes I still heard from him a few months later offering to take me for dinner. 

So here’s what I’ve learned. Sometimes we put our eggs in people’s baskets too soon. Sometimes they still have one of our eggs even when they shouldn’t. And sometimes you get eggs put into your basket that you really don’t want but if the other person won’t take it back, there’s not much you can do about it. 

Part of my spring cleaning is going to involve organizing my egg collection if you will. 

Happy Easter everyone! The hunt continues.

Girlfriend Zone: The Grey Area

Published on It’s Date Night

“Katie, I think he thinks I’m his girlfriend.”

Like it or not, if you live with me, you’re going to become someones girlfriend. I’m sort of like Good Luck Chuck. Except if I remember correctly he had to sleep with a girl in order for her to find true love. That’s not the case here, I assure you.

Before you start lining up to be my next roommate I should put a disclaimer on this.

*These relationships don’t necessarily last. So far I’m 4 for 4, but only one past roommate is with the same guy and my current roommates situation is yet to be determined. It’s in the grey area. 

My absolute favorite and least favorite part of dating is when you don’t know where it’s going. I love it because it’s thrilling and exciting and you spend most of your time day dreaming about seeing them again/taking their pants off. 

I hate it for the same reason I love it: Like I said, you don’t know where it’s going.

A friend recently asked me, “I have a toothbrush at his place – what does this mean??”

“That you care about your oral hygiene?”

Obviously it means more than that in our girl brains. A tooth brush is not just a tooth brush. I even think something of it when my girlfriends leave toothbrushes at my apartment. It’s like our relationship has reached new heights. You are officially one of my people.

I’m gonna make the assumption that if there are oral hygiene products being left places, you are slowly but surely leaving the grey area that we all love and hate so much.

Other pieces of evidence I personally watch for: men’s hoodies, his favorite beer in my fridge, and extra lint rollers. 

Let me explain.

I am reluctant to sleep in a guys oversized university hoodie unless I think it’s going somewhere. It’s like forehead kisses. There’s something mushy and relationship-y about it.

Beer in the fridge is an obvious one. It means we have established our drinking buddy dynamic and the relationship is off to a good start.

Extra lint rollers is a big one because while I don’t really care about kitten fur on my lululemon leggings, I do care about kitten fur on his jeans. It’s sort of like how you’ll clean up your apartment when you have people coming over but if it’s just you, you’re fine to let the dust and wine bottles collect.

One time my cat threw up on a guys pants that had been laying on the floor beside my bed. This, and the fact that I didn’t own a lint roller at the time, were very clear indicators that the relationship was doomed.

Things are changing in my world. I have extra lint rollers laying around and I’m sleeping in a men’s hoodie.

Here’s what I’m realizing. The grey area is either one of two things; amazing, or torture. If it feels good, you don’t listen to any dating rules or the plethora of advice that we’re bombarded with all of the time.

But if it feels like torture you’ll start clinging to the rules, steps, and advice you think will land you what you really want. [To get your butt out of that grey area.]

“Follow these 12 rules and you’ll find lasting happiness.”

“7 steps to nailing the relationship you want.”

“Don’t do x,y and z or you’ll come across as bat shit crazy.”

“But do a, b and c and he’ll fall madly in love with you.”

Usually all of these recipes for success and happiness just cloud my brain and my own intuition. Which, as the universe keeps reminding me over and over and over again, never fails me. I just ignore it sometimes. 

Mistakes

If the grey area feels sticky and stressful and hard, it’s probably because it’s not right, and you probably already know it.

Whereas if the grey area feels fun and light and easy, you can’t really fuck up and you don’t mind sitting in it. If it’s right, it’s just gonna work. You can be completely uncool and he’s still going to leave his toothbrush at your place, give you a hoodie to sleep in, and think your drunk sloppy self is adorable. Remember this?

He can kiss you on the forehead and you won’t freak out because you both know there really isn’t much of a grey area to begin with. 

What I’ve suspected all along might actually be true. There are no rules and there is no recipe.