Friday, August 29, 2008

My American Prayer

I can't even vote in the American election and this video makes me well up. For the record, I don't think Dave Stewart can vote in the election, either. But it sure is inspirational.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An ounce of Convention

I know it's geeky, but I just love a good political convention. The wild-eyed delegates. The pundits. The fabricated spin!

I nearly developed bed sores when the Liberals selected Stephane Dion to represent them here in Canada. This was around the same time everyone promptly forgot who the leader of the Liberal Party was in our country.

I'm sure Dion is a good man, but he's got all the charisma of a high school science teacher.

So I watched Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention last night.

He's so captivating and charismatic. Crazy smart. And an incredible orator.

It's such an incredible relief to feel like you're in the hands of someone who at least understands what the situation is.

Can't they just re-elect him?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No day like today

Dave Freeman, co-author of the book 100 Things to Do Before You Die, has died.

Learning this fact from my great friend Barb, caused me to quip that I was going to pen the bestseller, 100 Things to Do before you reach the age of 140.

The truth is, you never know when you're going to go.

Freeman was an advertising exec (and god knows we're always looking for meaning in a material world) when he saw something that changed his life. From his apartment in Manhattan, he saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

Yup, that'll do it.

He moved back to Southern California to be closer to his family. Friends say he walked the talk.

"He didn't have enough days," they said. "But he lived them as he should have."

I thought about Freeman a lot yesterday.

How he woke up in the morning -- just like me -- probably thinking about what was ahead -- just like me -- maybe worrying about some problem at work -- just like me -- and's all over in a flash.

Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What you think others are thinking

My partner and I presented concepts for a new credit card on the 64th floor of a downtown office tower yesterday.

Despite the height, the room had a distinctly clubby feel.

Definitely old money. Probably your old money...from all the interest you've been paying on your credit cards.

Anyway, Canada's big banks have some of the biggest and richest art collections in Canada. There were some real Group of Sevens hanging in the hallways. There was a painting of an old, dead, white dude in our boardroom. The table was an antique that resembled your grandmother's dining room table.

There were four of them and three of us.

One of theirs was a Brit. Suit and tie. Grim expression. He looked like he had been to Eton with Prince Charles.

Throughout our presentation -- which was pretty theatrical, if you want to know the truth -- he sat absolutely expressionless.

We bounced around the room wearing hockey jerseys, showing mood boards, and waxing eloquently about Canada's favourite game.

When it was all over, we looked to the clients for feedback.

And Prince Charles says, "It's so refreshing to see people who just get it. That's one of the best presentations I've seen in a while."

Now I don't tell this story so you can say, "Oooh, looky you. You're so smart and talented," although that would be nice.

Truth is, it wasn't my concept to begin with. I was actually presenting for another writer who is on holiday.

I tell this story because it reminds me that you can never tell what other people are thinking.

Sometimes we react to what we think we're getting back...but we can be way off the mark. The only thing we can be is our own authentic selves and hope for the best.

If we'd modified our performance to suit what we thought he wanted, we would have lost him.

Who would have guessed that Prince Charles was actually having the time of his life?

Monday, August 25, 2008


Should you ever find yourself in Ottawa with a couple of hours to kill, might I recommend a trip to Le Nordik Nature Spa in Old Chelsea, Quebec -- about fifteen minutes from Parliament Hill.

All I can say is God Bless the good people of Finland, who came up with the idea of restorative baths about the same time our people were getting bitten to death by mosquitoes and trying not to have all their teeth fall out from scurvy.

The concept behind the spa is simple.

You start in the pore-opening dry sauna or eucalyptus infused steam bath (so steamy that it's worthy of an appearance on The Sopranos), where all the bad toxins cry "Uncle" and make their way to the surface of your skin. Then you alternate between a series of baths, from steaming to frigid.

The baths will help tighten your pores and restore your natural vigour. Maybe I'm just a victim of marketing -- which we all know is true -- but I think I have a healthier glow than usual today.

They encourage you to stay for hours. Signs posted throughout the property remind guests to whisper which, if you have any French Canadian blood in you, is immediately understandable. Quiet storytelling is not generally a natural trait of my people.

Bring a book. There are hammocks strung between trees, a meditation room complete with noise cancelling headphones with a choice of new age music to help you melt the stress away, and the sweet smell of burning cedar in outdoor fireplaces. Heaven on earth.

My friend and I enjoyed a delicious lunch featuring locally grown produce at the on-site restaurant.

If I'm gushing, it's because this lovely experience has stayed with me...even through a trip through the airport and a flight home on God's other gift -- Porter Airlines.

At just $42, for as long as you'd like to stay, Le Nordik is the best deal I've seen in a long time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stealing happiness

Sunflowers are to flowers what Great Danes are to dogs.

You can't help but laugh a little when you look at them.

For the past few weeks, I've been walking past a house with a thriving sunflower garden. This is no easy feat in squirrel town. These majestic, somewhat goofy flowers stand way taller than the average person. I'd guess eight feet.

It takes almost all my energy to keep from swinging from one.

This morning, I noticed that the garden was somewhat pared back and someone had tacked a white sheet to one of the remaining sunflowers. On it, in big block letters was written:

I curse you, thief of our sunflower.

I guess someone with less self control than I have must have succumbed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Literary Angioplasty

Once or twice a year, if I'm lucky, I'll read something so profoundly moving and heart breaking that I'll recommend it without reservation.

Cormac McCarthy's Pullitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, is that book.

This haunting work of literary genius blew my heart open.

Not since Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces have I been so moved by words.

The Road follows the journey of a father and son -- "each the other's world entire -- across a devastated North American landscape after an unnamed apocalypse.

If it sounds bleak, it is. But it's also a love letter between a father and his child and an elegy to the indomitability of the human spirit.

The novel tenderly explores hopefulness in the face of utter despair and perseverance in the face of complete devastation.

And it asks you to consider the question -- not easily answered: Would you be good if you knew no one was watching?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Well, at least you're not Jennifer Aniston

Whenever I think that I'm having trouble with my love love, I think about our favourite friend, Jennifer Aniston.

Poor Jen.

No one has had more publicly humiliating break-ups. If it wasn't enough that she lost the sexiest man alive to St. Angelina, she's now in the midst of another sensational schism with hippie hottie, John Mayer. Mayer has come out in the media saying that he basically cut her loose because, well, "he wasn't that into her."

Oh my god.

What hope is there for us mere mortals if Jennifer Aniston can't even keep the guy?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shameless shallow product endorsement

Is it just me, or is waterproof mascara almost impossible to remove?

I've been wearing Maybelline's Great Lash Waterproof Mascara for a little while now. While it looked reasonably good going on, talking it off was another matter.

After trying everything from Varsol to leftover crude oil from the Exxon Valdez to remove the remains of the day, I happened upon another product to highlight my baby blues.

It's called Estee Lauder Sumptuous Bold Volume Lifting Mascara. Combined with Shu Uemura's eyelash curler, I have all the tools I need to fight crime, and look good while doing it.

The best part of Sumptuous is, not only can I get it off at night without ripping out all my eyelashes, its "ultra-light lash thickening powers" (yes, lifted directly from their marketing materials) manage to stay on my lashes, rather than making its way down my cheek until I resemble a velvet painting of a crying clown.

The best part of this mascara is how I discovered it in the first place. The ubiquitous "gift with purchase".

While shopping for perfume for my Mom, the nice lady at Shoppers Drug Mart made it on to my Gratitude List when she whispered that the same bottle of White Linen at The Bay came with $75 worth of free products, a hideous black plastic shoulder bag, and a brand new make-up case.

Marketing works, folks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A reporter investigates himself

I just finished David Carr's "The Night of the Gun: A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life -- his own."

The book has been getting a lot of buzz these days, primarily because of the author's methodology.

Carr's an inveterate journalist -- a reporter with The New York Times -- who, conscious of the scandal surrounding James Frey's Million Little Pieces, applies all the best journalistic principles (including hiring an independent third party) to assist him in making a searching and fearless moral and physical inventory of his life of drinking, drugging and carousing.

The result is an unflinching look at his life which, among other things, has included numerous incarcerations, stints in rehab, a brush with cancer, relapsing after fourteen years of sobriety, and raising twin girls all on his own.

Memory is the distance between two people, as Carr says, so to avoid the pitfalls that Frey fell into, he has been meticulous about documenting his research.

You can find much of it on-line, including videotaped interviews, pictures and written affidavits.

It's a good and fast read.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heart and Soul

I got a shiny new MAC at work yesterday. It comes fully loaded with EVERYTHING a person could want -- iMovie, iPhoto, iDitarod (that's the dog lover's program).

I think I could shoot chimps up into space with this thing.

Of course one of the first programs I opened was Garage Band. Click the title link to see what I played.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Anatomy of an Olympian

In the dirth of material being written about the Olympics, the Globe and Mail published an amusing little sidebar analyzing Michael Phelps' physique with a view to proving him the greatest natural Olympian ever born.

I'll say he's great. He'll probably single handedly win more Olympic medals than the entire Canadian team.

They touted his enhanced lung capacity and his big oars and flippers -- broad shoulders, long torso, slim hips and super-size feet, for giving him a genetic advantage over the other swimmers.

That made me wonder what my physiology makes me perfectly suited for.

My short fingers, while not well suited to the parallel bars, tend to dance across a computer keyboard quite nicely, but they're also quite useful in picking up a dishcloth and helping an over-worked friend speed through her chores, while the baby is down for a nap.

My soft lap, while not well suited to rowing, makes me the perfect receptacle of cats and other small creatures (most notably, children) who are looking for a warm and comforting abode. It also cradles the popcorn bowl quite nicely.

My flattish feet, which will never win me a medal in rhythmic gymnastics (what's with the ribbon toss, anyway), can walk long distance at moderate speeds, with a spring in my step. They've also been known to glide across a dance floor in a moderately embarrassing reaction to David Archuletta's new single.

Okay, so maybe I'm not an Olympian, but the fact is, I'm perfect just the way I am, with or without medals. As unique in my DNA as Mr. Michael Phelps is in his. Feels kind of good, actually.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my Mother's 76th birthday.

My Mother is a card-carrying caretaker. She's got a complicated combo of pride, martyrdom and isolationism brewing at any moment. She's also completely unaccustomed to allowing others to do anything nice for her.

Last night, my Mother's friends Stella and Mario took her out for dinner. You know where: Swiss Chalet.

When dinner was finished, my Mother refused to allow Stella and Mario to pay for her dinner. Her birthday dinner.

"Oh I don't want to be any trouble," my Mother said.

"Ma, it's okay to let other people be nice to you," I told her when she was recounting the story. "It actually makes THEM feel better."

"Maybe you're right," my Mother said, like she'd never thought of it before, and was undoubtedly sceptical about the whole notion.

A few minutes after her call, she called back. She'd opened the card that Stella had slipped her when they left the restaurant.

Inside, $12 -- the cost of her dinner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The truth is not out there

I've long said that there are two types of people: people who like Star Trek and the people who live with them.

I used to feel the same about The X Files, until my BFF lobbied long and hard for its relative merits and I, too, came to care deeply for the search for extraterrestrial life and happiness in perpetuity for Muldar and Scully.

So it was with hope, and a fair bit of nostalgia, that BFF and I ignored the critics and headed off to a matinee showing of the new X Files movie.

How sadly disappointing it was. Countless episodes of the TV show were much, much better.

The most positive thing my BFF could find to say about it was that it possessed "the creep factor".

But it felt a little like looking at your old Yearbook. A little out-of-date.

We should have seen Brideshead Revisited.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What I talk about when I talk about running

I don't run, unless I'm being chased or some part of me is on fire. But I sometimes read books about running, especially when they're written by writers whose work I greatly admire.

I just finished Haruki Murakami's What I talk about when I talk about running. He became a marathon runner and sometimes triathalete in 1982, about the same time that he sold his jazz bar and started writing novels full time.

For him, the act of running long distances and the act of writing a long work of fiction are not entirely unrelated. In fact, he feels the painstaking detail and attention to form that goes into each of these disciplines actually supports and nurtures the other.

The book provides insight into this intensely private and enigmatic literary figure, while also informing, to some degree, what drives people to run and run and run, even when there is no destination in mind.

I offer you this tiny excerpt from the book. Naturally, it's as much about life, as it is about running.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yesterday at Home Depot

Click on the link above for a little of what it was like to be a single woman shopping for countertops at Home Depot during a regular work day. Maybe I should have taken off the hat.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Do Nothing Vacation

I've been doing a lot of nothing over my week off, and it feels really good. It's one of the most relaxing vacations I've had in a long time.

Doing nothing is actually quite productive.

When you do nothing for long periods of time, and then you finally do something, you become more keenly focussed on the something you're doing and it becomes clearer someehow. Sharper.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jesus take the wheel

I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Highway driving scares me a little. But I'm tired of being afraid. So I drove to Buffalo all on my own yesterday. The siren song of Target is sweeter than all other songs.

Guess what happpened?

The drive there was great. Good weather. Good roads. Sailed through customs and immigration. A 10 out of 10 on the fear conquering scale.

On the return journey, the area around Hamilton was hit by a severe storm. Torrential rain. Hail. Wind so hard I thought it might have been a tornado. Half the drivers were pulled over on to the shoulder, while the other half were driving with their hazzards on.

But you know what? I got through it.

I actually said out loud, "You know, Universe. This is freaking me out a little. I could really use a little help here."

And help came. I was calm. Focussed. Refreshingly free from anxiety.

The storm subsided. It still rained most of the way home, but at least I could see for most of it.

And when I pulled into my driveway last night, I had a huge feeling of accomplishment.

I did it.

Well, actually, me and the Universe did it. But I paid for the gas.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mad Men

My holiday to date has been punctuated by two things -- Vampires and advertising executives.

While you might well argue that they're one in the same, the Vampires come in the form of "Eclipse", a rather tawdry but addictive bodice ripper that has been making the rounds at my office, and the ad execs come as I work my through Season One of Mad Men.

If you believe the writers of Mad Men, you needed three things to survive in the ad agency of the sixties: a high ball glass, a pack of smokes and an over-active libido. My how things have changed. Today, thirty years later, you need to go outside to smoke.

Tomorrow me and my questionable sense of direction are off for a little cross-border shopping. God help us all.