When writer Shana Gray's marriage ended, she thought she'd never find love again. Then, a weeklong foray into the world of online dating renewed her faith in romance—and herself.
"I'm leaving you tonight. I won't be there when you get home."
After 22 years of building a home and a family together, those were the only words Shana Gray's husband, Tim*, had left for her. His announcement—delivered by phone call while Shana was at work—came three weeks after she'd discovered he was having an affair with a mutual friend. "I had expected to be with him for the rest of my life," she says.
After Tim moved out in April 2003, Shana was ridden with insecurity. "I remember thinking that, if my ex didn't want me after 22 years, how could anyone else ever want me?" She was afraid to trust a new man after the horror stories she'd heard from her police officer ex-husband, and it didn't help matters when she watched a TV show about male stalkers one drunken night with her girlfriends. Maybe I'll just be single for the rest of my life, she thought.
Shana had been single for 18 months when one of her friends suggested she sign up for a dating site; the friend had found love online and thought Shana could do the same. But she was skeptical. At the time, there was still a stigma surrounding online dating, and Shana assumed most men trolling for women on the web were "scuzzbags." She finally agreed to log on—for a one-week trial.
Then, on Day 2, Steve* found her. Like in a cheesy '90s rom-com, his profile was titled "Looking for Ms. Right." His bio made him seem "down-to-earth and honest," so they struck up a conversation, moving quickly from chatting on the website to hour-long phone calls each evening at 10. Shana felt like she'd known him for ages.
When it came time to meet in person, they decided to grab a coffee at the mall. They had never seen pictures of each other, and Shana was scared Steve might not be physically attracted to her. "I'm a curvy girl," she says. She also had her friends on alert in case he was a creep. But when the couple embraced, there was an instant connection—and they've been together ever since.
In hindsight, Shana, now 55, realized the end of her marriage was the best thing that ever happened to her, as it made way for Steve to enter her life. A far better match for her, he's also much more supportive of her writing. She wrote and published her first novella in 2010 and has since authored several romance novels under the pen name Shana Gray. "Steve felt that I needed to have an outlet," she says. "He'd tell me, ‘You've got to follow your heart. You've got to do what you love.' "
*Names have been changed.
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Learn how feng shui techniques can declutter your home and create positive space in your life.
Do you want to bring happiness, good fortune and wellness into your life this year? Turn to the positive energies of feng shui as your guide. The ancient Chinese art of living in harmony with your environment can help spruce up your home and simultaneously create balance and joy.
Bridget Saraka, the Saskatoon-based owner of Feng Shui by Bridget, says the practice offers life-changing benefits. "Feng shui is about creating a space that's not only pleasing to your eye, but also pleasing to all your senses, so that your home supports and enriches your life," she says. "How we live has a profound impact on what our experiences will be. When you apply feng shui principles to your home, you can attract a great new year."
If your home is cluttered, dimly lit and has poorly arranged furniture, feng shui principles state that your life will be filled with obstacles and present few opportunities for growth. As a result, your job, relationships, finances and health can become stagnant. By making a few small changes, you can revitalize your space and your life. Here are six simple tips to get started:
1. Make your front door visible to receive blessings
In feng shui, a hard-to-read house number or a blocked walkway to a door will prevent positive energy from entering the home. "Have an address that's easy to see from the street and a path from your front door into your home that isn't cluttered with obstacles," says Saraka. "If the universe can't find you, how can fortunate blessings find you?"
2. Add colour for good health
Taupes and other neutral colours are popular in home decor, but they might contribute to low moods and energy levels during Canada's long, dark winters. "They're the wrong colour palate for Canadians because many of us suffer from seasonal affective disorder," says Saraka. From a feng shui perspective, these colours absorb the winter light, leaving Canadians feeling depressed and directionless.
To boost health and energy, start by painting your walls. "Choose a colour that's warm yet still reflects light – soft yellows, soft greens – colours that give a feeling of the sun and nature," says Saraka. "Green makes all colours pop, plus it's about life, vitality, growth and new vibrations." If you can't afford to paint, use colourful accessories—accent pillows, throws, live flowers, lighting in dark corners—to ignite powerful energy shifts in your home. "It's the easiest and most affordable way to do it," says Saraka.
3. Edit your belongings
Clear the bad vibes that accompany clutter. "Go through your home with a keen eye to what no longer serves you. If you haven't worn or used it within a year, donate it," says Saraka. "If it's broken and you're not going to repair it, remove it from the space. This editing practice opens up your home so you have room to experience a new chapter." Items that hold upsetting memories should be removed, too.
4. Let indoor plants and water bring prosperity
¨Want to attract wealth this year? Bring plants and a water fountain into your home. "Jade plants and fountains are symbols that represent wealth and finance in feng shui," says Saraka. Your health may also benefit from plants and flowers inside the home. "They purify the air," says Saraka, "And as you nurture the plant, you're nurturing yourself."
5. Position furniture for safety
If you don't feel safe and comfortable in your home, your furniture placement might be to blame. "Feng shui is first and foremost about comfort and safety," says Saraka. "Make sure that the largest piece of furniture in any room is in a position where you can see the door. If the sofa or head of the bed is against the same wall as the door, you can't see who is coming in. This creates a sense of vulnerability."
6. Use essential oils to attain happiness
Essential oils can help clear negative energy and add happy vibes to your home. "Put distilled water in a spritzer bottle, add three to six droplets of oil, and then spritz the air," says Saraka. If someone has been ill, Saraka recommends a blend of frankincense and cinnamon. ¨"To infuse a space with joy, use rose and orange essential oils. Rose is about love. Orange is about joy. So you're infusing joyful love into your space." Essential oils can be purchased from most health-food stores.
For more feng shui tips, check out how you can declutter your car.
Time to believe in mini miracles. Drop years by following these simple beauty secrets.
When it comes to eyeliner, white is the new black. Brighten up those tired eyes with a single stroke by tracing the lower lash line with either a white or flesh-toned eye pencil. It’s like getting an extra few hours of sleep!
Pacifica Magical Multi-Pencil Prime & Line, $16, well.ca.
Grab the gloss
Over time we lose the fullness of our lips due to the depletion of collagen. Say no to fillers and yes to plumping lip glosses. Tip: adding a touch of shiny gloss to the centre of your lips also gives the appearance of fullness.
Too Faced Lip Injection, $29, sephora.ca.
Skin vexed with dull complexion and aging dark spots can benefit from brighteners. Look for serums, moisturizers and masks with Vitamin C and licorice root, which help prevent cell damage and regulate melanin production.
Ole Hendriksen, $44 for 6 treatments, olehenricksen.com.
Over time we loose definition in our face - we can thank gravity for that one! Give yourself a mini face-lift with help of blushes and bronzers. Create definition by blending blush along the highest points of your cheekbones—it helps make you bone structure pop.
Smashbox L.A. Lights Blush & Highlight Palette, $40, beautyboutique.ca.
Less is more
Nothing makes you look other than heavy powder formulas. Keep foundation sheer and only apply where needed. Excess (and heavy) product can accentuate wrinkles by settling in the creases, so choose a formula that can be layered, like a tinted moisturizer, BB or CC cream or a cushion compact.
CC Ultra Moist Cushion, $29, thefaceshop.ca.
It’s called beauty sleep for a reason. When your body goes into a deep sleep, your skin starts healing and repairing. Experts say you need at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If that’s not your reality, give your skin a little boost with a nourishing overnight mask. It’s richer than your average night cream and is designed to go on top of your evening skin treatments as the final step, then rinsed off in the morning.
Fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask, $108, sephora.ca.
Bigger, bolder, stronger
As we age there’s an uptake of wrinkles and a loss of hair, including eyelash and eyebrow hairs. Giving brows a fuller and more lush appearance instantly takes years off your face. When filling brows, use a pencil that’s a shade lighter than your natural colouring, but if you’re blonde go one shade darker.
Benefit Cosmetics Goof Proof Eyebrow Pencil, $30, benefitcosmetics.com.
Sara Lanthier was 38 and single. But skipping love and marriage didn't mean forgoing the baby carriage, too.
At eight years old, Will is Sara Lanthier's everything. "He's hilarious and smart. He's super artsy and could build Lego for three hours at a time and not bat an eye," his mother asserts.
Nine years ago, Sara had written off being a mom. At 38, after a handful of short-lived relationships and one failed engagement, she thought, It's not going to happen; I'm already in my late 30s and I haven't met anybody. Plus, she didn't think she could manage the expense of raising a child on her own, so she made peace with her status as the resident fun aunt in the family.
Then, one night, her dad and her stepmom sat her down and suggested she try to have a child on her own. "It hit me out of left field," she says, but they praised her strength and her independence and promised to help out financially. Though motherhood had never seemed like an option, Sara realized the only thing that had been stopping her was the question of money. She decided to do it.
She picked a donor through Xytex Corp, an American sperm bank that divulges extensive donor information, including a personal essay and photos of the donor as a child and an adult. She went through more than 60 profiles to narrow down to her top five options, then she had her friends over for a cocktail party to help make the final decision. "I joke that I went with their No. 1 pick because my taste in men is what landed me in this situation," she says.
Alas, when she went to order him, he was sold out. Instead, she went with her friends' second choice—and her first—a German-Portuguese glassblower and artist.
After Sara underwent several rounds of tests with LifeQuest Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Toronto, the time for insemination finally arrived. Because of Sara's age, the chance of success was only 33 percent, but she found out six days later that she had conceived, and the pregnancy stuck.
She knows she's fortunate to have a supportive family, and because she lives in a time when it's possible to become a single mother by choice. "I have friends at my neighbourhood coffee shop who are in their 70s and never had kids. They wish this had been an option when they were younger," she says.
But her luckiest break has been Will. The day he was brought to her hospital room from intensive care (he was born 10 days early), she says, "it was like a first date." They wheeled him in and she sat there, staring at his tiny face. In the span of a few hours, she'd gone from a single woman to having a partner in crime for life. "We're a team," she says. "It's just me and him."