Saying Goodbye to Honest Ed's and Mirvish Village

As a native Torontonian, I was incredibly sad when it was announced that Honest Ed's would be closing.

My first memories of Honest Ed's come from when I was in elementary school. My Nana would take me back to school shopping there and we'd hunt down the best Yikes erasers and coloured pens. When I was in musical theatre college, Ed's was my hub for batteries, cassette tapes for my dictaphone and the occasional snack.

Over the years I would find myself shopping inside for toboggans, men's ties, home decor and random souvenirs.

I spent many a late night in the alley chatting the night away during the Fringe. It was always impossible to leave because by the time you got to the end of the alley you would have run into at least 7 other people you knew and someone would inevitably offer to buy you a drink.

I was happy that I was able to visit the building one last time, during its closing weekend in an amazing event called an Honest Farewell.

There was beautiful art installations, performances and a chance to visit all sorts of neat nooks and crannies, whilst getting lost one last time. I explored, watched some theatre, listened to music, ran into all sorts of friends and reminisced all of the time that I had spent amid Ed's treasures.

The end of Honest Ed's also means the end of Mirvish Village - including one of my very favourite restaurants: Butler's Pantry.

In December I felt an inclination to go visit and have dinner. I started going to Butler's during college, and had some really special meals there with friends, as well as great solo time doing work or learning lines. I knew the menu by heart and the Butler's salad dressing is like no other.

By complete coincidence, that dinner in December turned out to be its closing dinner service. The owner came over and comped our meal. I was thankful that I felt compelled to go when I did. It happened during the end of December when everything in my life was changing, and it as a pretty special experience. They still have a location on Roncesvalles, but I know that it will never feel the same as those giant window booths.

It's barely been a month since the big bash, but the lights are off and there's graffiti covering the building. It will be so strange to see it torn down and a condo erected in its place. Rumour has it that the sign will be incorporated somehow, but it will never be the same. The Fringe tent will move this summer and we'll have to adapt to a whole new setup.

I already miss the iconic lights at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor, and all the great memories along the way.

with photos by Corbin Smith

How I Grieve

It's February 24th, which means that it's the 19th anniversary of my mother's death.

Year after year, February throws me into a tizzy and leaves me feeling sad. I've shared before the idea that grief is like the seasons - ever changing, but always present. While I know this and believe it, February continues to hit me like a tonne of bricks every year.

My mom isn't buried in a cemetery, nor do I have a place to visit her in any way, so each year my blog has become a forum for me to honour her memory and reflect on each new season of grief. This is where I'm at today.

It's ok to not be ok.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Most of us are guilty of reassuring people that we're ok. I myself found myself telling my therapist that I was "mostly ok" -- and that's totally fine if it's true. But it's also really ok if it's not. And it's also ok to admit it.

In this glossy, social media-driven world it's easy to view one another's lives as polished, easy, ideal or even perfect. But you never really know what's happening behind the photo or what their expression looks like in between camera clicks.

I encourage you to truly ask those around you how they are and adequately prepare yourself for a real and true answer. It's not always sunshine, rainbows and unicorns -- and that's really ok.

And in those darker days, I encourage you to reach out. Ask for help if you need/want it. Practice self care that helps you to feel safe. And do your best to find a glimpse of light in the darkness, just to make the day a tiny bit easier.

Feelings are valid, whatever they are

In past years I've gotten down on myself for anticipating February 24th or just feeling upset as soon as the calendar turned to February. I've worried about being "too upset" or "getting myself worked up". I've been working to remember that my feelings are valid and normal and it's totally ok to feel what I'm feeling. Getting anxious over "getting too upset" doesn't serve anyone, especially me.

Grief is such a difficult thing - it comes in waves and sometimes hits you when you least expect it. There are so many things that have triggered my grief - other deaths, special occasions, difficult life changes, happy life changes, photos, memories, conversations -- the list goes on and on.

I've found myself feeling sad over the last few weeks and doing my best to practice self care, but I've had moments where I've been paralyzed by grief. I've started and ended workouts really quickly, cancelled plans and put myself in bed to manage my emotions. I've been having some really helpful conversations with my therapist and being honest with where I'm at day to day, hour to hour.

I read this quote last night in BrenĂ© Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection "owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do", which rang especially true.

Showing or expressing feelings is not a sign of weakness. It's not a competition to try and be better or stronger. Feelings are valid - whatever they are.

19 years later, it's still important for me to honour my mom

I moved into my new apartment on January 1st and I've been enjoying making it my own and creating little projects for myself. One of the things that makes me really happy is that there are lots of pictures of my mom throughout my space. I look up in most rooms and she's there.

My mom wasn't a huge fan of having her photo taken, so each of these photos feels like a pretty special gift. Having these photos, talking about her, sharing my thoughts through social media helps me to feel closer to her.

I'm afraid of next year

It blows my mind that 19 years have passed since I've had any contact or a conversation with my mom. I have no frame of reference for what it would be like to have her in my life. I'm an entirely different, grown up person from 13 year old me.

If I'm being totally honest, next year's anniversary scares me a lot. Two decades. 7300 days. Her physical presence in my life feels like more than a lifetime ago. 20 years feels like it has added significance somehow.

Today I will feel what I need to feel. I will continue to practice good self care, surround myself with wonderful people who I love, take time and space to feel safe and remind myself that whatever my feelings are today, they're valid, real and significant.

"As far as I can see, grief will never truly end. It may become softer over time, more gentle, and some days will feel sharp. But grief will last as long as love does -- forever. It's simply the way the absence of your loved one manifests in your heart. A deep longing, accompanied by the deepest love. Some days, the heavy fog may return, and the next day, it may recede, once again. It's all an ebb and flow, a constant dance of sorrow and joy, pain and sweet love." - Scribbles & Crumbs

Therapy Doesn't Have to Be a Taboo #BellLetsTalk

Two weeks ago, I opened up on my Facebook about going to therapy. The response that I received what phenomenal and I was overwhelmed by the incredible support, love, reassurance and conversation that ensued. Given that today is Bell Let's Talk day, it seemed fitting to keep the conversation going. 

I want to talk about a subject that can be really taboo in our society:


I've been seeing a therapist over the last few months as I worked through challenges in my relationship and now in the aftermath of our break-up. I have an appointment tonight and I'm so thankful to have someone outside of my normal life to talk through the way I'm feeling right now.

Before this, I hadn't had a very positive experience with going to therapy or working with a therapist. I tried once when I was in college and another time in my 20s. I didn't jive with the therapists and was basically told I was "fine".

As someone with a lot of feelings, I had an instinct that seeing a therapist would be a beneficial thing, but both of those experiences kind of rubbed me the wrong way and made me pessimistic about the potential of seeing someone else. I also felt like I had a good support network and that I was pretty good at handling things on my own.

That changed when things started to get hard in my relationship. We were working through some difficult things and I was trying to navigate through a lot of unfamiliar, vulnerable and scary feelings.

A friend recommended my current therapist and she ended up being a great fit. For the first time, my needs felt heard and I jived with her approach.

Asking for help can be really scary, but it's so important.

Going to a therapist doesn't make you weak.
It doesn't make you a bad person.
It doesn't mean you're "too emotional".
Or that you are incapable of handling your shit.

Asking for help and learning more about your feelings actually makes you really, really REALLY brave.

And if you're like me and didn't necessarily have a good experience the first or second go round, take your time and try to connect with someone else - who follows a different modality or comes with a recommendation from someone you know/trust.

If finances are a concern for you, there are programs you can access to find someone to talk to for a lower cost. It may take a bit more digging, but they're out there.

If you're not ready to take that step or it doesn't feel like the right approach for you, don't be afraid to reach out to a friend or family member.

You are loved.
You are worth it.
You are not alone.

There doesn't need to be a negative stigma around therapy or mental health or mental illness -- we're all just trying to do the best we can.

And you don't have to do that on your own.

2016 Year in Review

At the end of last year's year in review, I concluded by saying that I wanted to blog more, but that is actually what I did the very least of. There have been so many times where blog post has been written in my planner on my to-do list, but it's always fallen to the very end. So I'll start by saying that in 2017, I am going to write more. Let's start there.

Oh, 2016.

I know that I'm not alone when I say that 2016 was a tough year. For me personally, it was a doozy and while there were lots of really great things that happened, I'm really looking forward to a fresh start tomorrow.

When I look back on everything individually, I'm happy to report that there were definitely some good things that it's been nice to reflect on as I've sat down to write this post.

Over the course of the year, I got to travel to Nashville and NYC again, and also experienced my very first cruise. All 3 trips were amazing for all different reasons.

The cruise was awesome to take a break, see my Beachbody friends and experience something entirely different. It was so much fun to explore, partake in all sorts of activities, workout at dawn with my favourite trainers, have awesome nights out and of course, meet Stan the dolphin.

Being in Nashville again was just as much fun as the first time around. The energy at Summit is always infectious and I continue to cherish time with my Beachbody family. I loved exploring new parts of the city, getting re-energized about this biz and generally nerding out over all things Beachbody related. I also stayed in the sweetest airbnb on my last night with the most lovely host! It was a really really wonderful trip.

And NYC was exactly what I needed. This second half of the year has been rough, and I decided that a trip on my own would be good for my soul. I saw 5 shows in 3 days, ate all sorts of delicious food, visited with friends and relished the energy of my favourite city. A full recap of that trip is coming in the new year.

I continued my fitness journey, completing a variety of programs that were all very different! With all of the challenges I was facing, I found myself in a place where I wasn't feeling great about my body in this last half. I recently completed my first round of an MMA style program that re-ignited my excitement and gave me some incredible results in 30 days. I'm kicking 2017 off with round two and I'm pretty stoked to jump back in!

My work life has been awesome, but hectic. At MT, we said goodbye to a cherished team member, welcomed two amazing additions to the team, launched a charity cookbook, ran the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program and oh-so-much more. I was recently promoted to Operations Director and I am really looking forward to the things we're going to do in 2017.

Additionally, I've continued to grow my biz as a health and fitness coach and I still absolutely love it. Our groups continue to grow each month and I am looking forward to diving into 2017 with our January group. I'm looking forward to continuing to grow our team, developing myself as a leader and helping even more people feel like their very best selves in the new year.

I also got to celebrate the marriage of my best friend (& adopted little sister) Jessie over the summer. It was a beautiful wedding and I felt so blessed to be a part of her special day.

Amid all of that, I found time to ride Cecily around the city, meet Tony Horton and Shaun T, visit with friends, see incredible shows, share a post on xoJane that sorta went viral, Fringe it up, read some amazing books, create delicious meals and even perform too (videos herehere and here)

And I got another tattoo.

this too shall pass (courtesy of Aaron at Speakeasy Tattoo)

This couldn't have come at a more perfect time and continued to serve as a reminder as the year went on.

Right around the time that I got the tattoo, we went through some scary health stuff with my dad and then 2 months later, my nan suddenly passed away. I kept looking down at my arm and tried to remind myself that things would keep moving forward and that this too would pass.

A hard summer turned into a tough fall and an even more difficult holiday season. Corbin and I went through a hard time this year. After defining what some of the issues were, we went to therapy together and really tried to be a team as we faced our problems. I'm writing this post from my nearly packed up bedroom with empty walls and a handful of hangers still in the closet. We broke up a week before Christmas and I'm getting ready to move into my own place on January 1st.

It's still very raw and very sad. Our relationship was incredibly special and I will have a lot of great memories - many of which have been captured on this blog. I have a lot of love for Corbin and all that we've shared. I've also learned a lot about myself and what I need throughout this process. I didn't think it would end up this way, but I feel confident that we're both going to come out on the other side even stronger as individuals. It's so so hard, but it's the right thing for us at this moment.

So now I'm here on the 31st, feeling very ready to turn the page and begin again.

I'll spend the day finishing up packing and preparing to move into my new place tomorrow. I'm going to be living on my own for the first time and it feels very liberating, whilst also being scary unknown territory for me. I've been spending more time than usual on Pinterest and I'm looking forward to creating a space I can thrive in. Tonight I'll be ringing in the new year with friends and tomorrow I'll start a fresh page in my gratitude journal as we load my belongings onto a truck and into my new apartment.

In the past I've picked a word that would be the theme for the coming year but I'm not exactly sure what that should be for 2017 just yet. I think I need to sit with it before I make a choice (I may have just signed up for this email series to help as well). I haven't set goals or intentions either, though perhaps I need to get clearer on that, especially if I aspire to blog more in 2017. On that topic, writing this post has been cathartic - take note, future Ashley!

I feel very lucky to have had an incredible group of friends to support me through all of this. I know that I wouldn't be standing without their love and support.

While 2016 has not been my favourite year, I hope that in time I can reflect on all of the good and the fun that also happened in a year filled with tragedy, sadness and anxiety. I also now have a permanent reminder of some sage wisdom, and can look down at my arm in case I need a reminder.

Here's to new beginnings. Happy New Year, friends xo

You are Missing From Me

Tu me manques. You are missing from me.

It seems so much more fitting than just “I miss you” as we say in English. And 18 years after my mom’s death it almost feels redundant and insignificant to say that I miss her.

But I do.

I realize her absence when I’m really excited about something – whether it be a new job, a great day, a cute dress, a new friend, an exciting opportunity.

I realize she’s not there when I want to pick up the phone and call her to talk about a tough decision or challenge that I’m facing in my life. Even up to age 13 I always felt that I could talk to her about anything. I watch friends and family members and colleagues and movie characters and complete strangers talk with their mothers, and I am reminded that I can’t do the same. That’s what moms are there for, right?

I miss her every single day and over the 18 years that she’s been gone I’ve noticed the mom-shaped space in my life. It's not empty, but more like a shadow that is always present. 

This year we lost my Nan. It brought up old feelings and more sadness. While our relationship had its challenges, I loved her and she was still a connection to my mother. Hearing that her house had been sold was a blow to my heart – I had so many memories of my mom in that space and visiting there was such a comfort. That’s gone now too.

With each passing year that she’s gone, it reinforces the fact that she’s not coming back. This isn’t some long vacation or holiday or visit to another country.

As the years go by I continue to wonder what my mom would be like - would she be happy to celebrate her birthday? Would she be on Facebook? What would our relationship be like? What kind of music would she enjoy? How often would we connect? How different would my life be with her in it? I don't know.

Today would have been her 55th birthday. I like to think we would have celebrated. But instead she is missing from me and every single poppy reminds me of my loss. I know that they carry a strong significance, but I can’t help but associate Remembrance Day with another birthday that I won’t get to celebrate with my mom. 11/11 feels like an extra painful day.

Every day my mom is missing from me, but today I'm feeling the loss more significantly.

Happy birthday mom. Tu me manques.