Accounting: my passion, it turns out. Who knew?

A little context of my journey to becoming an accountant:

I failed out of engineering in 2004. I chose to put myself back through school in 2007, in night school for a whole year as an independent student to get my GPA up from the 1.wtv it was after engineering. Graduated top of my class in 2010, and the rest is history.

But why accounting? My mother burst out laughing when I told her. She thought it was a practical joke, no way somebody as creative as me could go into accounting. So why?

Because I wanted a job security, even in the worst of recessions or during wartime (granddaughter of WWII survivors). I wanted qualifications that were recognized across the country and easily harmonized in the US. I wanted a career that I could scale up or down, depending on my family situation, and when my husband would ditch me for a younger model, I’d be able to continue providing my children the standard of life that they were accustomed to. I wanted financial independence. The only career I could identify that met all those criteria was accounting, so without further ado, accounting was my career of choice. It never occurred to me to question whether or not I’d enjoy it. I had a goal and I was gonna achieve it. Which I did.

I interned at a mid-sized accounting firm in 2008-2009. I hated it. Everybody was so stiff. The drudgery of the work, the hours (little did I know! lol, such #innocence), the black and grey poorly cut suits. I felt trapped, having chosen a career that didn’t suit me, but I felt too old (LOL!!! little did I know!!!!) to start over AGAIN, so I kept at it, miserable.

After one 60 hour week during tax season, I brought my hundreth personal tax return to the head partner for review. He had some questions about some of the data. I explained that the client was unresponsive, the government unhelpful, so I just winged it, a reasonable wild-ass guess, an example of “creative accounting”. The partner took off his glasses,

Vanilla, don’t ever use those words creative accounting ever again. We are professionals. People rely on us. Our clients trust us. What we do matters. We aren’t saving lives, we are helping these individuals make the best decisions so as to maximize the returns on their hard-earned money. That money that pays for their children’s education, sick parents’ hospital bills and their nice vacations which is their just reward after working HARD to reach their level of success. We safeguard the results of their hard work. We free them up to make the best decisions, while protecting them from making mistakes. They trust us to watch out for them. It is our responsibility to always do the best job we can, so as to be worthy of that trust. That is all we can be. Every day. With every action we do. It is no easy task being worthy of trust.

I left his office, shaken.

I recently became a CPA mentor. In this capacity, I have the duty to monitor, guide, advise and shape CPA candidates throughout their 2 years of required experience for their professional title. My first mentee? My adorable little GAB. She flip-flopped a lot before committing to accounting. She told me that if she could “become anything closely resembling” me, she was pretty sure she wouldn’t regret her career path.

My team has seen me stressed out of my mind. Laughing hysterically, swearing loudly, crying tears of doubt and insecurity. I am messy and myself. I let them know what parts of my behaviour they should NOT emulate in order to be successful. I’ve never been someone’s inspiration before.

They trust us to watch out for them.

I recently helped a friend clear up the last 4 years of undeclared tax returns, as a self-employed individual. It was frustrating, painstaking and there were moments where I feared I wouldn’t be able to sort through his mess of missing information. I developed multiple scenarios, read up on tax credits I’d never heard of before, and after 3 weeks and 100+ hours, I finally got him to file all 8 tax returns (provincial and federal), mere hours before the deadline. I was exhausted, fed up, and wanted to take a 3 day nap.

My friend hugged me, right after filing and paying. He had tears in his eyes, so grateful was he to have finally discharged his debt to the country that has been so very good to him since he immigrated a few years ago, coming from a place of poverty and violence. “I could never do what you do for a living, I would kill myself, I’d hate it so much. But I am so very grateful you do it, as well as you do. I am free, now. That is priceless. Thank you.”

We free them up to make the best decisions, while we protect them from making mistakes.

On my recent trip to Oregon, one of my coworkers told me that she had been very nervous to meet me, because “we work so hard here, and we didn’t want you to find us inadequate, or not understand what we do, and maybe get us in trouble.” I tried to explain, I do not have that kind of power within the company, and besides, my job is not to get people into trouble. It is to understand what we do as a company, find ways to do things a bit better, and to protect us against risk. My job is to make sure that the people who work on the front lines, in Sales and Operations, can be free to do what they do best, because behind the scenes, I’m making sure that we are properly guarded against human error and fraud. All it takes is 1 big error or 1 dishonest person to wipe out everyone’s hard work. Our bonuses, our reputations, our value on the market, gone. It’s my job to protect all the time, money, effort, teamwork that goes into making our company great.

It is no easy task being worthy of trust.

We published our financial statements on Thursday, following a few days of chaos. I cried 3x on Wednesday, convinced I wouldn’t make our May 31 deadline. Thursday was intense. I felt like I was flying, my mind working in overdrive, pulling everything together, and then suddenly at 6pm, there I was, holding signed financial statements. A year’s work, told in a numerical story. It seems miraculous, that I can summarize one year of operational struggles, wins and loss, mistakes and inspired decisions, hundreds of employees clocking into work day in and day out, late nights in the office and emergencies, promotions, and new hires, into a few dozen pages.

It is our responsibility to always do the best job we can, so as to be worthy of that trust. That is all we can be. Every day.

I love what I do. I am so very very grateful that my cynical decision in 2007 has granted me a life of satisfaction and purpose.


Toddlers are so cute. Especially virtual ones.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for caring.

Thank you.

And thank your mama too.


My facial expressions are not correlated to my happiness levels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Them happiness goals tho!


Universe, nice try / a pre-NYE tipsy manifesto

So. My wallet was stolen at 4pm today, Dec 31, 2016. Because apparently, the Universe felt that I wasn’t sufficiently endorsing the whole #omgomgomgomg2016wasthewoooooooooooorst vibe.

Listen to me, Universe. Yeah, you pissed me off. Getting my wallet stolen, in the metro, from my purse, is shitty. Its annoying. Cancelling all those cards, getting my ID replaced, advising credit bureaus against potential identity theft = pain in the ass. Especially during a long-week. Especially at year-end. Especially when I don’t have time for this shit.

But does this make me lose hope in humanity? Does this make me despair at the pettiness of my fellow man? Is this #theabsoluteworstever proof that 2016 sucked balls?

Hell nah.

Universe, mark my words.

2016 was AWESOME.

I kicked depression’s ass.

I quit boxing to pursue dancing. Dancing has made me SO SO HAPPY. New friends, exploring a new identity, keeping in touch with all my boxers. No downsides, only happiness.

I dated a boy and then I didn’t and I survived and got closer to my friends and family in the process. Since then, I’ve dated others, and am happy and carefree and found my joy.

I discovered a Big Dream for the first time in 6 years and renewed my passion for my career.

I’ve met new people, made new friends via my blog, work and dancing.

I traveled for work and for friendship.

I’ve watched my friends marry and have babies.

2016 was the year of human connection. And that is why, despite all the horror of this year, the Trump and the Aleppo and the Turkey and the Nice and the ISIS and the Putin and the celebrity deaths, and the endless reasons to despair… No. No Universe, you will not quash my faith in mankind. This year, I have met good people and bad people and flawed people who both cared for me and hurt me and that is fine. People who try their darndest to be the best they can be, for all their baggage and scar tissue and weaknesses. Universe, I see the horror, I’m not blind. I am scared of the future. I look at the news, and I feel the panic as we inexorably march towards circumstances that resemble those that caused my grandparents to be uprooted from their lives, and wind up in North America, traumatized from WWII. I know that a time will come where I will be called upon to make decisions, moral ones, horrible ones. Maybe not in 2017, but clearly during my lifetime. I get the temptation to despair. But you see, Universe, time and time again, this year, my whole life, I’ve witnessed more love, gratitude and kindness than I have witnessed cowardice, spite and hatred. This year has introduced me to a swath of new people and guess what, Universe? They cool.

My wallet got stolen? Fuck you, Universe. Let those people who clearly needed it, take it. Meanwhile, I will spend my NYE getting tipsy with my roommate and singing off-key to Adele and the Weeknd, hanging out with my friends, or taking a nap and reading a book. WHATEVER HAPPENS, Universe, I will find happiness.

2016 was awesome.

2017 will be even more alive.

I love y’all, blogosphere. Thanks for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for spending time in your busy days to follow my rambles. May 2017 bring you joy.





Perfectionist Vanilla fails at something… and is ok!


I failed my creative writing class. I missed the last 3 classes because of work, and have zero time to do the final assignment (write a short story). The last time I failed anything I was young and stupid and failed out of engineering. That produced the biggest chip on my shoulder ever, such that when I went back to school, I refused to ever get anything less than an A- and have a top 3 mark in every single class. Which I did, graduating at the top of my class with a 4.wtv GPA, and winning an award, and turning into an OCD, angry, control freak in the process. During my graduate degree, I got a B once, the summer my ex broke up with me and I turned into a raging alcoholic (I showed up to class only to spend the time on facebook and talk to my friends, did zero homework or practice cases, and wrote the midterm and final. How I passed is a mystery, but hey! #countyourblessings #turnsoutthatwasoneofthemostimportantclasseseverformycareer). I try forget that blotch on my beautiful transcript. And yes, there was a period in my life when I would pull up my transcript and stare at it in rapt admiration, to make me feel better about myself. #sadbuttrue

My therapist suggested that one of the causes of my depression was my perfectionism. As it is impossible for a human to be perfect, and as perfection was the only thing I could tolerate in myself, it was only normal that I hated/despised myself, and deemed myself unworthy of love and attention from others. Furthermore, vulnerability requires the ability to recognize imperfections, weaknesses, the ugly, the scars. If I couldn’t accept that perfection was impossible, by the same token, I wouldn’t ever be vulnerable, and vulnerability is the core of human connection – I was essentially cutting myself off from others voluntarily, to hide my imperfections, and we all know that depression thrives on isolation. My therapist worked hard to get me to practice compassion towards myself. One of the first exercises he made me do was write a letter of compassion to myself. I tried. It was awful. It was a balance sheet of my strengths and weaknesses. He made me google the definition of compassion in a session, and we worked through each sentence, to help me achieve understanding, and compare it to what I’d written. I tried 3-4 more times. The first time I successfully wrote a letter of compassion to myself was about 12 months into my 20-month therapy stint. Clearly, compassion was a concept that I did not comprehend.


Here I am, having failed at something I set out to do. And you know what? My primary feeling is gratitude. Grateful that my life is so full, so exciting, so challenging that I don’t have time to do everything I want to do. Grateful that in such a short period, I seem to have achieved the happiness that I spent so long chasing. Accepting that my quest to become a better writer might take longer than I’d like, but that’s ok, because I am working on all of the aspects of Vanilla that need expression: Career Vanilla, Dancer Vanilla, Blogger Vanilla, Athlete Vanilla, Flirty Vanilla, Friend Vanilla, Cousin Vanilla…

Life is good.

#gratitude #happiness #adulting

Happy dance


It finally happened this afternoon – 10,000 blog views, and most of those views are not caused by me refreshing my website. Not bad, considering I rarely manage to squeeze in more than 1 post a week.

Thank you, my dear readers. I have trouble believing that people, friends and strangers, find my silly stories worthy of their attention. I remember how scared I was to start this blog – scared that if no one read my stories, it would be another blow to my already fragile psyche. I feared that silence in the face of my stories would feel like the ultimate confirmation that my worldview, my life and my self were irrelevent. Little could I have imagined just how empowering the process of writing is, or how much I delight in the crafting of each post, long before I publish it. Taking hazy feelings, atmospheres, and impressions of an event and crystallizing them into words that accurately describe my reality has been a revelation. I sometimes discover new ironies or implications to events that happened to me, or renewed appreciation of the people featured in my stories. Figuring how to navigate the line of disclosure has also been a challenge – I am surprised sometimes by what I feel is important to hold back out of respect for the people in my life, and why. Most importantly, this blog has allowed me to rediscover vulnerability – a state I found unbearable just a few months ago.  I never anticipated so many benefits from blogging, nor the pride I feel in this collection of my writing. That I am also rewarded by your readership increases my glee.

Thank you for every single like, comment and follow.

Thank you for reading.