Friday, February 29, 2008

Other People's Children

On Monday this week, our senior writer brought her exceedingly well-behaved six year old to work for the day. She lives in Whitby and her son had an optometrist's appointment nearby.

It wasn't the first time he's spent the day with us.

He's a good kid. Well mannered and well behaved. This writer is an exceptional Mom and a real asset to our team.

Flash forward to Thursday. Senior Art Director decides to bring his daughter to work.

Reason: she doesn't feel like going to school. This is an ongoing problem with them. This is the same six year old who stays up until 10 or 11 o'clock at night because she doesn't feel like going to bed, and when she does, she sleeps with the Mom and Dad in their bed. Therapist 911.

Anyway, daughter is the complete opposite of well behaved son. Bold, disruptive and loud.

More than this, Senior AD is not making her mind, and leaving the care and feeding of her to others.

The place felt like a daycare. Half my team spent their day keeping her entertained.

So here's the management dilemma.

On the one hand, you want to have a flexible and holistic work environment where your employees can be productive because they feel comfortable enough to bring their progeny to work. Yet on the other hand, rules are designed for people who take advantage of them.

I didn't say anything to Senior AD -- who I half suspect of bringing in demon child because our CD was out of town -- even though it was within my right.

What would you do?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wind Chill

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. It's an old joke, but it still makes me laugh.

It's breath-suckingly cold outside.

Ordinarily I walk to work. But this morning, I threw my lot in life in with the huddled masses and rode the rocket.

A writer I know once told me that she loved riding public transit because she loved being that close to other people.

Whenever she glanced on a three-seater bench with one person on either end, she'd wedge herself between them. Even if there were other seats available. She said she enjoyed the warmth.

I thought of her this morning when I unexpectedly scored a middle seat. Gratitude and human warmth trump wind chill any day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mom's the Word

My Mom is coming to town this weekend, which can only mean one thing.

Whoa to anyone who tries to usurp her rightful place in the front row of the southbound Ontario Northland bus.

She's bringing me my house-warming gift.

It's a paper shredder.

She lost her mind and bought one because my Aunt R. got a paper shredder for Christmas. My Mother hates to be one-upped.

My Mom loves the following: timbits, Swiss Chalet Quarter Chicken dinners, Costco, IKEA, mass at St. Michael's Cathedral, casinos, Saturday night episodes of Cops, and clothing made from unnatural fibres.

My Mom is suspicious of the following: shell fish, anything that is not a root vegetable, foods with foreign names, cats (particularly mine), independent women, First Nations people, and animated feature films.

Think of me this weekend. There's little doubt that I'll be gracing a Swiss Chalet and ordering one of the few vegetarian items on the menu -- baked potato with steamed vegetables.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Once upon a time

A couple of months ago, I saw a beautiful little film called "Once." It was the story of two struggling musicians living in Dublin. The music in the film was fantastic. It was one of the rare times I watched all the extras on the DVD and played back the songs several times.

I was so delighted to see the two leads perform their Academy Award nominated song on the Oscars on Sunday night. Happier still to see them win.

Here are the hopeful lyrics from the song that won.

I don't know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can't react
And games that never amount
To more than they're meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I'll sing along

Sunday, February 24, 2008

7 Days Make One Weak

Why doesn't the work week ever seem as short as seven vacation days?

It's a good thing I like my job.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Qi-a Pet

I saw a Chinese medicine doctor/acupuncturist yesterday.

According to Doctor Qi (pronounced "chi" for all you non-mandarin speakers out there) my particular condition (which is hot + dry, if you must know)is best treated by making a number of physical/dietary changes.

I have a list.

Some of them are easy (ie. avoid fried foods) while others are decidedly more difficult -- ie. avoid cold, raw foods and processed, puffed, dry foods...hence the demise of my beloved raw baby carrots, nightly bowl of popcorn and rice cakes.

My diet is already pretty healthy, so I'm going to start by making small changes.

For starters, I bought some soy milk. Dairy is on the list of things to avoid. I LOVE dairy. But maybe I can learn to love soy milk in my pure, unflavoured organic coffee. I had some this morning and it wasn't too bad.

I'm also going to make a concerted effort to experiment with more grains and legumes in my diet. I even had some quinoa for dinner last night. It was delicious.

I'm off know to purchase a few Chinese herbs she recommended to balance my kidney yin, which you all know needs some balancing.

You can be sure that I'll let you know how it's going. Next appointment is March 15th.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Rogers, over and out

When I moved into my last place, a few of you may have been on the receiving end of my 45 minute account of trying to get a working home phone.

It began with Rogers Home Phone service and ended with tears, fisticuffs, and the adoption of a Bell Mobility cell phone as my primary phone of choice.

The story was pretty entertaining -- especially if you didn't have to live through it.

Flash forward to February 2008, the year of the Rat, and cable installtion.

The FIRST cable installer arrived, as planned, on Monday. I'll admit it. I didn't pay a lot of attention to him.

While he was working away at installing my cable, I was simultaneously working on assembling my (insert epithet here) bed with my BFF, who was in a time crunch.

Life lesson one: always pay attention.

When Cable Guy said he was done, I believed him. Besides, I flipped over to Cable Pulse 24, saw the traffic on the Don Valley Parkway, and knew he was a man of his word.

Next morning, I get up, go to close the door to my little storage area and realize that Cable Guy has run the cable through the door.

That's right. I can't close the door properly, because there are two gigantic (yes, they become bigger upon retelling) cables snaking through the open door.

So I get on the horn to Rogers. I get Mr. Rogers. Seriously. This guy is employee of the year. He loves his job and will go to the mat for his installers. I kind of liked him and loathed him at the same time.

I tell him my dilemma and ask him to send an installer out to correct the problem.

"Can do," says Mr. Rogers, "but we'll have to charge you the $39.95 installation charge to send someone out."

"Are you kidding me?" says I.

"Not kidding," says he.

The conversation goes back and forth for about ten minutes before Mr. Rogers exhaustedly says, "Look, what do you want me to do here?"

Anyone who has ever been in an intimate relationship with someone can recognize that this is the moment of imminent victory.

"Simple," I said. I want you to waive the $39.95 and send someone out here with one of those super-size drills to run my cable wires through the baseboard and not under my (insert epithet here) door."

"Fine," says Mr. Rogers, resignedly.

"And I promise," says I, "that I will tell anyone who listens what fab service you are providing." (Insert applause meter here.)

So, yesterday afternoon the SECOND INSTALLER arrives, by way the Kremlin.

He arrives, looks at the wires, gets a phone call, and tells me he'll be back in 15 minutes.

An hour later, he's back.

Super size drill works like a charm. It looks like an ice fishing auger. I'm thinking if I ever wrote a horror movie, super size drill would figure largely as a torture device.

Anyway, he finishes and little birds are tying bows in my hair.

That is....until I turn on The L Word at 10 p.m.. I flip channel 41 and realize that Cable Guy #2 has accidentally downgraded my cable package, so I am no longer getting the channels I requested.

For the love of God.

So I call that irritating voice-activated system at Rogers yet again. You know the one, where they ask you what you are calling about and you need to give clear one or two word instructions to be directed to the right department.

I always say, "real human."

Anyway, the real human was able to restore my correct cable package in real time. So my blank screen became The L Word, right before my eyes.

So endeth the Rogers saga...happily resolved. Yet another reason to never, NEVER move again.


Very fruitful trip to Home Hardware yesterday. Bob Vila, any opinions on the FlexStone and FlexRock products at Home Hardware? They have one product that replicates granite, and likes like it might be fun to try. It reminded me of my short-lived Podge period in the nineties.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bob Vila, will you marry me?

Well, it looks like painting my counter tops is a go-er.

I am going to print up Bob's most excellent instructions (see them in the comments to my previous post) and take them with me to the paint store.

This sounds like the perfect weekend project. In fact, I might actually be able to do this without committing a venal sin.

If the truth be known, I've had a crush on Bob Vila for years. Years and years ago -- before the dawn of 24 hour a day HGTV -- Bob and This Old House on PBS were just about the only home renovation show on the block. I've spent many a Sunday morning, coffee in hand, watching Bob work.

Bob and his crew would find a beautiful, old New England home, then spend the entire season renovating it. None of this pain-free, done-in-half-an-hour thing for Bob. He was no "stager". He'd get in there and battle the carpenter ants with the best of them.

He was, and will always remain, my first love.

So, Bob, will you marry me?

You can even wear your flannel shirt to the ceremony. If we sign a pre-nup, I get to keep the cat. And the countertops.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A practical question

My kitchen is sunny and perfectly functional but needs updating.

Until I'm ready for the full reno (sometime in 2020 or when the Scientologist take over the world) I'd like to do something simple, yet effective, to mask the tired, laminate countertops.

My grumpy art director pal suggested tile, but I was wondering about painting. Does anyone out there have any experience with painting countertops? What kind of paint would I use? Approximately how many times would I take the name of the Lord God in vain while completing this task?

Your kindnesses will be repayed with cups of tea and slabs of banana bread served while gazing upon my new/redone countertops.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What does your shower curtain say about you?

I spent over an hour contemplating the finer points of shower curtains at Home Outfitters this afternoon.

I can't really understand it. I'm generally quite decisive. But choosing the perfect shower curtain made my heart race.

Fabric or vinyl? Patterned or not? Coloured or clear?

After weeks of making decision after decision, I felt like I'd reached the end of the internet. I couldn't decide. I was stymied.

I made a few aborted selections before finally deciding on a vinyl curtain, with coloured circles. I paired it with a soft blue liner.

If you ever happen to gaze upon it, and it's not to your liking, please don't tell me.

I'm a little sensitive about it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Two word: Freezing Rain

If I ever, EVER suggest that I might move, say, sometime in the next twenty five years, you have my permission to hit me in the head with a giant, rubber mallet.

I feel like a giant safe has fallen on my head.

Thankfully I had three of the nicest movers imaginable. I jacked them up on Tim Hortons coffee and a box of timbits, and they got the whole thing done in three hours. God bless Joe the Mover.

Happily, I'm staying with my BFF tonight.

I probably won't make it to the first commercial in Battlestar Gallactica before I'm snoring on the couch.

Thanks for all your positive vibes. Moving always sucks, but it could have been way worse.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Last train at the Over Stimulation Station

As if moving day wasn't enough, yesterday we found out we actually won the business that we pitched a couple of weeks ago.

The business is Aeroplan.

Despite launching the CIBC Aventura Gold VISA card several years ago -- in what I have come to refer to as "the summer of no fun" -- I was never persuaded to give up my coveted CIBC Aerogold VISA card. I'm what they call in the industry, "a points hog." I switch orange juice brands for Aeroplan miles. I used my miles to fly first class to Delhi, and I'll use them this fall to take my BFF to SE Asia, for his long-delayed 40th birthday present.

My Dad worked for Air Canada for 37 years. I grew up in this brand.

Anyway, the funny thing about this business is that, also in the running, were other agencies where I know some extremely talented people -- all quite deserving of the win. I know what goes into these pitches, and I know that not winning sucks.

You never know why you're selected. I tend to believe that these decisions are made on the golf course or in the back rooms, before the clients actually enter the building. Or maybe our tray of breakfast foods just tasted better.

Life is serious. Advertising, not so much. Next time it'll be you.

Over the next week, I'd appreciate some positive vibes as I combat another of life's stressers -- the move. know what you need to do.

Happy Dalton Day, everybody. Have some fun.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More things to do before I die

The 25th Anniversary of that famous Michael Jackson album has convinced me. Before I die, I need to learn the Thriller dance.

In fact, I'm trying to convince our social committee that learning the routine should be part of our next off site.

In the long run, learning the dance would be so much more useful than falling backwards and trusting that someone will catch you.

In actuality, the synchronicity of a finely choreographed dance routine is a nice parallel for finding ways to work together. And when you think about it, don't many of our co-workers behave like the living dead, anyway?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Selling Canada

I love writing for the Canadian Tourism Commission, largely because I can unequivocally stand behind the product: our country.

David Ogilvy always said you need to use your client's products. This one is a no-brainer.

The job I'm working on now is for the highly lucrative market of Meeting, Conventions, and Incentive Travel professionals in the U.S.

There are only about 8,000 planners out there, but together they represent millions of dollars infused into local economies when they bring their meetings and conventions to cities across Canada.

Doubtful? Remembers the hit Toronto took with SARS. New passport guidelines and parity are also softening the market, so we need to do a really good sales job to make the Canadian case. People's livelihood depends on it.

Success will be measured by American bums in Canadian seats.

That's where loving the job and the country really helps.

I also love the research (who knew how much there was to do in Winnipeg on a Saturday night?) and I love the tone (fun, and slightly irreverent -- my specialty). I also love our client at CTC. He's allowed us to do some really killer, breakthrough creative. Think Bobble-Heads!

Anyway, to all gentle Canadian readers of this post, I'm hoping you'll send me an "insider" tip about something new, cool and funky to do in your neighbourhood. I'm looking for things that fall outside the usual tourist experience.

Example: Sweet potato and date muffins at Kensington Market's vegan restaurant, Urban Herbivore. Or the regular Saturday night show of the Cameron Family Singers.

All tips gratefully accepted. And, although you might not get credit for being a roving reporter, you will be nominated for my personal Order of Canada award.

Thanks. I stand on guard for thee.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Loving the blank canvas

Most real estate agents will tell you that empty houses are harder to sell. People look for the security of furnishing to reassure of them of a room's purpose.

I, on the other hand, love empty rooms. They're so full of possibility.

There has to be a zen lesson in there somewhere.

I picked up my keys after work last evening and headed over to the new place for Smudgefest 2008. It was empty save for the delicious box of handmade chocolates and bouquet of freshly cut flowers that my agent had left for me.

Happily I had a single, unpacked vase at home. Otherwise I would have been displaying my fauna in an empty milk container. Not very Sarah Richardson.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting ready for Smudgefest

After more than two months of anticipation, today is new home closing day. To say that I'm excited is an understatement.

I'm planning to pick up the keys after work and do a little detoxification ritual with the Smudge stick that my BFF and I picked up at the Taos Pueblo when we were in New Mexico half a dozen years ago. I'm hoping that lighting the Smudge stick with the electric lighter from Kitchen Stuff Plus won't negate any of the positive effects.

Send positive thoughts.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Packing it in

You'd be ill advised to visit me any time in the next week. Chances are I'd grab you, stuff you in a box, and secure you with packing tape.

Such is the frenzied single-mindedness of the over-achieving packer.

I've got the whole prison aesthetic thing down pat. I'll be surviving on one plate, one bowl, one cup, and a single place setting of cutlery for the next week now.

Soon, I'll be setting my sights on the holy trinity of fast food for my sustenance. In my neighbourhood that means alternating between Pizza Pizza, Subway and Tim Hortons.

I can't tell you how excited I am about all of this. The best part of packing is knowing that I'll be unpacking in my new place. My place. All mine.

It sure would be great to order up one of those brilliantly sunny winter days for a moving day.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Team Awesome

I had a presentation at Subaru in Mississauga yesterday afternoon, on easily one of the worst driving days all winter.

Happily we took the company Forrester to the appointment. Not my style, really, but it sure felt safe, and handled well on the icy highways.

My art director and I have taken to referring to ourselves, only half facetiously, as Team Awesome.

After we left the meeting, I looked at him and said, rather stunned, "Dude, we might actually get to do this idea."

We were presenting a new campaign for the 2008 Impreza WRX STI. It's the boy rally car. The idea we presented was, well, you know....AWESOME! It'll not only sell a lot of cars, it will provide Team Awesome with a few months of absolute bliss in this industry.

Fingers crossed. The client looked just scared and excited enough to actually do it.

Anyway,it's hard not to be demoralized by all this snow, though.

This morning, in an attempt to turn it into a positive, I took my camera to capture some of the spectacular imagery. Snow nesting on branches and piled high, like meringue, on cars. Great in theory, but the reality was that it just made me cold and wet, as I climbed like a mountain goat over innumerable embankments.

More sun, please.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

This is all I've got for you today

The real Dr. McDreamy

This afternoon I'm attending an awards ceremony at SickKids for two doctors who are being recognized by the National Cancer Institute of Canada's Excellence in Cancer Research foundation.

One of them is Dr. Peter Dirks.

Dr. Dirks is a neurosurgeon at SickKids, and a principal investigator in the Brain Tumour Research Centre and Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology wihtin the SickKids Research institute. One of his clinical interests focuses on the surgical treatment of childhood brain tumours.

By all accounts he has a steady hand and a steady heart. He's also an undeniable hottie.

Brain tumours are the second most common type of childhood cancer and the leading cause of cancerous death. SickKids has the only paediatric brain tumour centre in Canada.

One of the best things about having SickKids as a client is in knowing that, in some small way, you're associated with something that is so much bigger than you.

Dr. Dirks has said that he does what he does because he longs for a world where no child should have to suffer and no parent should have to hear this terrible news.

Here's to making a difference.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Flipping Out

Yesterday, while everyone else in the western hemisphere was eating chili and watching the Super Bowl, I was planted in front of the Flipping Out Marathon on Bravo.

The reality series follows realtor Jeff Lewis and his rag tag dysfunctional family of employees.

It's riveting, primarily because Lewis is admittedly neurotic and obsessive compulsive -- two traits he's parlayed into a highly lucrative career. His assistant reminds me of Karen from Will and Grace.

Definitely beats watching Tom Petty in the Half Time Show. What's with that?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Thanks for the Mammaries

I had my first mammogram this morning. I wore my Dollywood T-Shirt to the appointment.