Monday, March 31, 2008

Emotional Tornadoes

They start innocent enough. A little stress here. A minor annoyance there.

Then, suddenly they're off.

Emotional tornadoes.

Before you know it, they're raging. Their "take no prisoners" force sucks in everything and everyone in their path. One minute it's a calm and clear day. The next, your house is spinning and the cows are flying.

I'm trying to make a concerted effort to detach, detach, detach.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Developing an attitude of gratitude

In an effort to stop watching life's double feature, affectionately known as "Pity Party," I recently started keeping a gratitude journal.

Once a day -- usually before bed -- I write at least five things I'm grateful for.

Gratitude shows pity the door.

Being thankful for what I have, rather than what I don't have or have lost, really helps me put things in perspective.

Going from "poor me" to "lucky me" actually makes me a happier person to be around.

Today I'm grateful for:

1) The arrival of spring. Someone I know saw a crocus. A billion more can't be far behind.
2) Good health. There's nothing else, really.
3) Clarity.
4) Starbucks Tall XH Soy Latte
5) The beheaded Lindt bunny in my freezer, waiting for me.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Listening with your heart

I spent the hours between 6 and 8 a.m. in the atrium at SickKids, answering phones for Radiothon.

The place was electric, even at that time of day. The charismatic hosts from three of the city's biggest radio stations were battling it out to see who could get more Miracle Club members during their power hours. I even got interviewed on CFRB.

But the real highlight was a little girl named Caitlin.

She was eleven years old, with flaming red hair and a thousand watt smile.

This sweet girl has been in and out of SickKids her whole life. She's had twenty operations. She'll probably have twenty more. It's more than any child should have to bear.

She arrived with her brother. He was probably 14. He had the awkwardness of a teenager. Bad skin. Baseball hat. Hair just a little too long.

If you saw him on the street, you'd probably think he was a skateboarder. A punk. But appearances deceive.

After Caitlin told her story, DJ Bill Carroll turned to her brother and said, "What do you think of all this?"

He looked Bill square in the eye and said, "If I could do anything to take her pain away, I would. I'm bigger and stronger. I'd take it all so she wouldn't have to suffer."


There wasn't a dry eye.

Caitlin threw her arms around her brother and hugged him tight.

How do you raise children like that?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Business Decisions

Raise your hand if you've ever been laid off.

Raise your hand if you've ever had to lay someone off.

Both suck.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Making fun

As I get older, I find I'm actually starting to enjoy the things I used to make fun of.

I call it the Disco Bowling phenomenon.

You think, "How much fun could a person have in rented shoes," until suddenly you're prancing down a lane under black lights, wagging your finger at a competitor and mouthing, "You're going down in a blaze of glory," to the tune of your favourite rock anthem. Yup, you're the girl who loves disco bowling and you're not too proud to admit it.

I'm also the girl who loves ABBA, Barry Manilow and now, dare I say it, Anne Murray.

I found myself watching Anne and friends on CBC television last night. I knew every word to every one of her songs. It was a special focusing on her Duets album, so the show was lousy with some of the best voices in music, like my girl kd lang, the incredible Emmylou Harris and the ever-soulful, always hysterical Jann Arden.

Life's too short to want to saw my wrists off to the mournful tunes of Tori Amos. When I unwind, I need a little happy. I need a little Anne.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Christ is risen. Let's eat.

As you'd expect, one of the holiest days in the liturgical canon was celebrated with Timbits and stale pound cake.

As part of her gig as chief kitchen wench for the Catholic Women's League, my Mom was responsible for arriving at the Easter Vigil service an hour early, and setting up the after service luncheon. I came along as her disgruntled sidekick.

The Vigil itself was an endurance contest.

It lasted for two solid hours and contained all the elements of a really good guilt fest. There was mass candle lighting, at least five separate readings, three adult baptisms and confirmations, and some rousing, if off key, hymn singing.

My Mom, in her unfailing positivity, had demanded that we set up the luncheon for 80 -- a number that I grew increasingly more sceptical of as the service inched its way to a conclusion. Because I wanted to bolt, I assumed everyone else wanted to, as well.

But it turns out she was right.

In fact, never underestimate the power of free food to draw a crowd.

The hall was full, people really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and my Mom was a star. I was really proud of my Mom as she ably stick-handled the other grey hairs to serve the parched and peckish crowd.

There's lots of joy in life's little things.

I'm grateful for that lesson this Easter time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thank Good It's Friday

I'm trying to work up a bit of enthusiasm about the long drive northward for Easter weekend.

My Mom's really looking forward to the visit, but I'm still tired from the assault on Montreal. In truth, she probably wouldn't miss me too much, what with her three-hour-a-day pre-Easter church habit.

I've been getting some of my own religious inspiration of late from listening to Bach's Magnificat.

Talk about a terrific piece of music. The version I've been listening to is from the Academy of Ancient Music and the choir from King's College, Cambridge.

I put it on and my spirit soars. I can actually feel it lightening my load. When the pressures of life press down on your shoulders, it's nice to have a guy like Bach to remind you that you're not going it alone.

Maybe Bach would fancy a little trip to North Bay.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tales from the women's prison

Just back from my business trip, where my colleagues and I enjoyed a delicious dinner at the site of the city's first women's prison. Ironically, our group consisted of a gaggle (or giggle) of five women, which in itself can feel a little confining.

If you're ever in Montreal and have a couple of hundred dollars to burn, I'd heartily recommend the place. It's called Da Emma.

When you sit down, they give each person a huge, individual serving of bruschetta, rubbed with garlic and olive oil, and topped with perfectly ripened chopped tomatoes and basil. There's an Italian Mama cooking in the kitchen and pictures of visiting celebrities -- Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney -- on the wall by the door. It's located in the Old Port.

Other than this dinner, served late at night, and twenty minutes in a car between meetings, I could have been in Bolivia. That's how much I saw of the city.

Very sleepy today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Remember when.

I was watching the news while eating my dinner last night -- generally a ticket to automatic indigestation -- and saw a piece on a Minnesota radio announcer who never forgets anything.


Doctors are studying his brain, because he has Rain Man recall of everything that he's ever seen, read, or studied. You name it. They'll ask him what was on the front cover of the newspaper on August 11, 1987 and he'll tell them, along with the day of the week the paper was published. He's even been on Jeopardy.

I was horrified. I mean, can you imagine it? Would you really WANT to remember absolutely everything that ever happened to you. And when you did, would that you should at least have the benefit of sentimentality to dull it a little? I mean, part of how we forgive the past is actually forgetting the details of it.

I'm off to Montreal on business this afternoon. Truthfully, I'd rather forget the last time I was in Montreal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lucky Charms

St. Patrick's Day is a charmed day for me.

Twenty two years ago today, I packed everything I owned into two suitcases and moved to Japan with my BFF. Two years later, on the same date, we moved back to Canada. And two years ago today I started working at my current job.

There are more things in Heaven and on earth, Horatio,
Then are dreamt of in your philosophy.
~William Shakespear, Hamlet

Friday, March 14, 2008

Can't talk now, I'm reading

Seriously, I can't put it down. "Losing It," is my new Iliad.

It's actually quite an interesting and sensitive portrayal of a co-dependent relationship. You can see her getting sicker and more self-destructive with each new chapter.

If you promise not to judge me, I'll loan it to you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Losing it

I'm having a few friends over tomorrow night -- my ex-agency surrogate family -- so I did a little trip to Costco for some supplies. Of course, I left with yoga pants and Valerie Bertinelli's new book.

It's the nature of the big box experience.

Sorry to say I couldn't put the book down. Valerie is from my Tiger Beat generation.

I came of age with Leif Garrett, Kristy McNichol and the Hardy Boys. I can still sing every word of the One Day at a Time theme song. I had to force myself to close the book and come to work this morning. I just got to the part where she meets Eddie Van Halen.

God. Sometimes I'm so shallow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This one's for you, anonymous

My latest preoccupation is ductless air conditioning.

Having a "latest preoccupation" at all, seems to be part of my temperament which, if you put any stock in things like the Myers-Briggs test, is ENFP.

Any any rate, I started getting interested in the topic about the time that The Storm of the Century Part XXVII was swirling around our exhausted heads last weekend.

As surely as I know I will gouge my eyes out if I have to gaze upon another snow drift, so too do I know that I will be grumpy as all get-out if summer turns up her humidex.

Generations of my ancestors helped hone my particular brand of low heat tolerance in the peat bogs of Scotland. Cold and damp we can handle. Sweat, not so much.

If I had central heating, adding an air conditioner to my furnace might be the easy way to go. But I don't. I have electric heat and a very effective little gas pot-bellied stove in my living room.

So, the other day, while flipping through one of the design mags that seem to keep finding their way into my grocery bags, I came upon a unit called Mr. Slim. It's by Mitsubishi.

My BFF and I had something quite a lot like it when we lived in mushi-atsui (wet-hot) Higashi-Urawa, Saitama Prefecture, Land of the Rising Sun, back in the 80s.

It looked like the perfect solution. You can probably get it in the Hello Kitty version.

So, for the past few days, I've had a new guy come and do an estimate nearly every day.

It's a little disheartening.

It would seem that cool comes with a rather steep price tag. Nearly $6,000.

A love of damp isn't the only thing I inherited from the Scots. I can be pretty tight with the dollar, too.

If I'm going to drop six grand on something, it's got to be good.

It has to either involve twenty five hours on an international flight and three days of worship at the hill top monkey temple, or it needs to be something that I look at every day -- like kitchen cupboards, for example -- and go, "wow, that was a swell way to drop some dough."

So I'm losing interest in air conditioning, for now.

I may even need to go back to my first love, refinishing my kitchen counters. Look for future postings on the psychology of paint chip naming.

And anonymous, let me know when you'd like your banana bread delivered. I'll need to bake you some before the weather heats up.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A happy little vegemite...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

I love writing for Canadian Tourism. Despite the fact that I have multiple projects on the go at the moment, the CTC project is sustaining me. It's good, solid, creative and quirky copy. My specialty...especially the last part.

I was working late -- by choice -- last night and my boss came by.

She said, "You're here late."

"It's a big country," I said.

We both laughed hysterically. Maybe we were exhausted.

Best job in the world, folks.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sleep Deprivation

I attended a two year old's birthday party yesterday.

In truth there wasn't much of a party, because many of the other party-goers were digging themselves out from behind massive walls of snow. But there was all the usual festive fare, like cake - albeit vegan - and vegetable chips and fizzy organic drinks.

One of the revellers was four month old Sophie. Soph arrived in the clearly tired arms of her Mum.

Mum looked exhausted. Positively knackered. And Sophie wasn't making it any easier on her.

Sophie was fussy. She hadn't had a poo in three days. (Yes, this is the type of conversations that parents of young children engage in, with people they've never met.) And she wouldn't stop crying. Mum was beside herself -- she hadn't slept for longer than a few hours at a time for months.

My friend DL calls me the Baby Whisperer because one of the results of years of meditation practice is the ability to quiet myself, and often in turn, squalling infants.

So, for about ten or fifteen minutes, while Sophie's Mum enjoyed her cake, I walked and soothed the baby. It didn't last forever (harken back to three days without a poo) but it was enough for Mum to regain a bit of her equilibrium.

Parenthood is a total endurance contest.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Human Beings, Not Human Doings

Even though I'm the first one to complain about the weather, I have to admit something. I'm grateful for the enforced snow day today.

It takes the pressure off.

If the weather was good, I have a To Do list as long as my arm that I'd feel pressured to put a dent in.

Maybe Mother Nature is on to something.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Good Gifts

One of my good and generous pals -- the self-same pal whose husband brought me back the pair of toasty warm UGGS from Australia -- emailed me yesterday with an invite.

Would I like to join her at Massey Hall for the KD Lang concert?

Hubby bought her a couple of extra tickets for her birthday. He thought she'd enjoy a girl's night.

Talk about a lovely surprise. So, of course, I said no. Just kidding.

I called her up and said, "You may want to hold the phone away from your ear while I do this," and proceeded to squeal into the receiver.

I saw KD once before at Roy Thompson Hall, the year she released the Songs of the 49th Parallel album. She was fantastic.

While I tend to feel nervous for some performers, thinking "Will they be able to make that note?", KD's sound is so effortless that you can just relax and enjoy yourself. You just know you're in the presence of greatness.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Autism: The Musical

My Uncle Lou used to say, "If you put your troubles in a bag with someone else's, you'll want to pull out your own."

Last night's Doc Soup feature was "Autism: The Musical." It told the story of an amazing woman who started a Musical camp for autistic kids.

It was one of the best we've seen this year.

Remarkable not only because of the sweet, amazing, uncontrollable, difficult, brilliant, frustrating and sensitive children it portrayed, but even more so because of their caregivers.

In almost every case, the story of the parental adaptation to their lot in life was as interesting as the story of their child's particular type of autism.

I really don't think I could do it. When I was teaching, I had a little boy named Nicholas who I believe, in retrospect, was autistic.

There has been an incredible increase in the number of children -- mostly boys -- diagnosed with autism, in recent years. The film alludes to our toxic environment as one of the contributing factors.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Everyone's a winner, baby

The other half of Team Awesome has been complaining loudly about not winning during the Roll Up the Rim to Win event. Every day, his Facebook status chalks up another loss.

Stuff like: "17 and counting...damn you Tim Hortons!".

I've been talking to him about the power of positive thinking.

By focusing on the negative, he's actually continuing to draw it towards himself. He sort of gets it....then he lapses into old behaviour when his rolled rim reveals yet another "Try Again."

So, yesterday afternoon, after I'd had just about enough of meetings and more meetings, I did a little Vision Board for him. You'll know what I'm talking about if you read The Secret.

In the centre -- a Tim Hortons Logo, surrounded by images of cars, coffee cups, boats and trailers, donuts and cookies.

I pasted positive words and phrases I'd cut out of magazines. Things like "Winner", and "You can do it," and my particular favourite, "Wicked Good."

To keep his mind clearly focused on goodness, I added a few random images. A picture of a kitten in a box, two squirrels hugging, and a chimp wearing a party hat.

It's hard to think about losing when you've got this kind of positivity hitting you between the eyes.

Finally, I added a tiny little image of Osama Bin Laden (rechristened Osama Bin Latte), because while he's winning the Roll Up the Rim to Win Event, he might as well focus on the War on Terror as well.

The way I figure it, you'll have to try really hard to lose with that Vision Board around.

I left it on his desk before I went home last night. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Truth in Advertising

Last night I helped out a co-worker who is an Account Director by day and a Girl Guide leader by night.

LS has a generous spirit and a giving heart, and she's had some trouble of late.

A couple of weeks ago she was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. It came on suddenly at a work function. It's under control now, but when she asked me if I'd come and talk to her Girl Guide troop for their business communications and advertising badge, I couldn't say no.

I spend almost no time with eight and nine year old girls, so I didn't really know what to expect. Instintively, I knew they'd be ten times harder to please than a boardroom full of old boys. Probably ten times smarter, too.

I'd spent a good portion of Sunday afternoon making my own "Find a Word" game, designing exercises where one girl got to be the reporter and the other got to be the one interviewed, and designing lessons to teach them how to structure a story. I was over-prepared.

My favourite part of the evening came during the question and answer about my job.

During the part where I was trying to teach them to look critically at the messages that television advertising delivers about the products it wants them to buy, a little girl started waving her arm around all Horshack-like.

"Miss!," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"One time my Mom and Dad went out and I had a babysitter and my Dad said I could get pizza and I really, really, really, really wanted to order that pizza from Pizza Hut. It was on tv. You know the kind with the cheezy stuff in the crust?"

"Yes," I said.

"It was crap." she said.

Girls rule.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Good Catholic Girls

In case you're wondering, I took my Mother to mass at St. Michael's Cathedral on Saturday night.

Despite the cold and the trouble finding parking nearby, it's usually worth it. The choir is world class, and hearing the Angelus sung in latin is such a rare treat.

The homilist wasn't even annoying. He was a fourth year seminarian from St. Augustine's.

He'd heard the call (the one from God, not the one with an annyoing ring tone on his cell phone) while working as a mechanic. Just a plain guy. You could tell he knew how to work hard.

He was there to talk about the ShareLife collection taking place next week.

ShareLife is a Catholic charity that distributes funds to local and international causes -- things like Covenant House, the Out of the Cold program and (you guessed it) St. Augustine's seminary.

Anyway -- the collection isn't until next week. But my Mom was clearly smitten with the young seminarian.

Before he was even finished talking, my Mom leaned over to me and said in the loudest stage whisper you can imagine, "LET'S GIVE HIM $10!"

Her voice reverberated off the walls.

It was sweet. Embarrassing, but sweet.