Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Many years ago, I meet a very interesting woman who worked as an art therapist for the Florida Penal system. Her work focused primarily on inmates who were serving life sentences – hard-core criminals who were capable of unimaginable acts of violence.

I like the idea of art therapy, and have a funny feeling that the person who invented the discipline was most likely a mother or father. When my son Tyler was a little boy, he was a prolific and talented artist. His art was a barometer of his feelings, often telling Tom and I what was really going on inside.

For example, when Tyler was curious about the “birds and bees”, he went through what we now refer to as the “Penis Period”. Basically, for weeks, everything Tyler drew had a penis. Houses, fish, trees, people (both sexes), the sun – it didn’t matter, it was all about the penis. It didn’t take long to figure out that perhaps it was time for Mom and Dad to initiate a discussion on the facts of life.

When Tyler was four, he had a pre-school teacher who recognized his special talent. We were thrilled. It was so validating for her to recognize what Tom and I already suspected – our child was a budding Picasso. She was a wonderful teacher and spent a great deal of time nurturing our little darling – encouraging him to verbally express how he felt about his art. At one point she started transcribing his stories - verbatim. Tyler was in his element and loved going to school each day.

So it was no surprise to see that many of Tyler’s masterpieces were suddenly on display in the foyer of his school. In fact, his art was the first thing everyone saw when visiting the school – an important first impression. Needless to say Tom and I were very proud parents – arguing over whose side of the family he inherited his wonderful artistic talent from.

Life was good in the Ryan family - so imagine my surprise when I picked Tyler up from school one sunny afternoon and detected a slight chill in the air. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like the teachers and other parents weren’t quite as friendly as they usually were. In fact, I would go so far as to say that people seemed to be avoiding me. I tried to shake it off, telling myself not to be paranoid.

However, over the next few days, things did not improve. Let’s just say that I didn’t like vibes I was getting. I pride myself on being a people person, so it troubled me that I couldn’t figure it out. Was it something I said? Did I have bad breath? What in Gods name could it be!

Coming into the school one day - I noticed a crowd of parents admiring and discussing one of Tyler’s paintings - which of course was accompanied by a story describing what it meant to him. It was a large and colorful canvas which depicted me driving a car – and in the backseat of that car Tyler had drawn several TV’s and numerous boxes. The accompanying story talked about how Tyler wanted to be a smuggler when he grew up - just like his Mom.

It was fun trying to explain what it “really meant” to all of the other parents. I pointed out that it actually referred to the time I bought a TV in the states, and a kind border guard allowed me to cross into Canada without paying duty. Tyler must have heard Tom jokingly refer to me as his “little smuggler”.

It didn’t matter, the more I tried to explain to the other parents, the deeper I dug a hole for myself. It was as if I had said, “I am not an alcoholic, really I’m not!”

As you can imagine, this was a very embarrassing moment in my life. On the positive side, it did settle one dispute. Tyler gets it from his father’s side of the family.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Construction Zone

When I was in the process of buying my convertible PT Cruiser – aka “Stella” - the car salesman made the comment that he bet I was a “bra burner”. He was quick to assure me that he meant it as a compliment - referring to the fact that I was making a major purchase without my dad, husband or brothers there to guide me.

I certainly wasn’t offended by his statement and took it as a badge of honour. For me it’s all about ensuring that woman and men have equal choices. If a person of either sex decided to take a sabbatical from the corporate grind and stay home with the kids for a few years – I’m all for it. Seriously, can you think of a more important job? I’d like to live in a world where either gender could pursue their dreams and determine what they want to be when they grow up – rather than society dictating what is appropriate.

That’s not to say that I don’t love being feminine and appreciate my husband’s desire to take care of his family. Tom can be very protective of the women in his life - which usually consist of Maggie and me – and lately includes Marot, our house guest from Thailand - whom we have come to think of as a daughter.

On the weekends, our house is a BFZ (Bra Free Zone). After the grind of the work week it’s all about comfort. I don’t think having a BFZ is unusual. Anyone who has ever strapped on a wonder bra will appreciate the desire to break free – at least on Saturdays and Sundays.

For the most part Tom handles all of this estrogen quite well, after all he has Tex and Tyler to help add some testosterone to the mix. But this weekend, the poor guy is a little stressed.

This is Day One of our construction project, as we are in the process of remodeling our bathroom and kitchen. Considering that Tom and I have two tools - duct tape and WD40 - we thought it would be a good idea to turn it over to the experts.

Imagine our surprise when the first guy to show up at the door looks like he could be a fashion model. It is easy to imagine him as Mr. August – the buff centerfold of a Handyman calendar - raising money for young, muscular construction workers in need. Young Marot, and even Maggie the Pug noticed his brawny beauty and both started working it.

Tom’s protective instincts kicked in. He suggested that for the next little while, the woman in our house might want to skip our usual BFZ weekend attire, and dress more "appropriately". I reluctantly agreed, but only if I could buy Tom a tool-belt of his own.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ride Like the Wind

Saturday, August 18

Tom and I sleep in – this time as a result of the late night fire alarm and a humongous side of beef. Come to think of it, we always sleep in on road trips – and invariably hit the road at a tardy 10.00am. We jump out of bed, and grab a quick smoothie on our way out of Wenatchee, promising to make lunch a special event.

Tom suggests that we drive towards the Yakima Valley, as he has a “good feeling about it”. I personally think he just wants to burn the other side of his face. We find a great Blue Grass radio station out of Moscow, Idaho, and point Stella south.

What a beautiful drive, the scenery along the Columbia River looks like something out of a John Wayne movie. Even the names have a western feel to them, places like Rattlesnake Hills, Saddle Mountain, and Quincy. At one point we pass a very large and mysterious array, which reminds of us Nevada and leads to a lively debate. Twenty miles later we are still arguing whether it’s Area 51 or Area 61 – bets are placed.

Finally we reach the heart of Washington State’s wine country, where we decided to tour a few wineries and stop for lunch. One problem though, where are the wineries? Tom drives around aimlessly, and I resist the urge to make a snide remark about homing pigeons. As we travel through the small towns of the Yakima Valley, we can’t help but notice the huge discrepancy between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Some areas look more like Mexico than America – neighbourhoods that are made up of migrant workers who are here to harvest the apples, pears, grapes, and countless other fruits.

We finally find a winery – and as we enter the tasting room we are greeted by the owners pug. This is a great sign, our luck has turned! We high five each other and remind ourselves to buy a lottery ticket. We leave with a few bottles of vino and directions to several other good wineries. We enjoy our wine tasting, but have no luck in finding a restaurant. Even a picnic is out of the question. We have wine and grapes, but are unable to find a baguette or chunk of brie – in desperation we end up pulling into the Taco Bell just west of Gleed.

We decide to head toward Mount Rainier, as neither of us have ever seen it up close. The landscape quickly changes from high desert to rain forest, and we try to choose which mountain road to take. One road is faster but less scenic – and the other is gnarly and twisted - reaching an altitude of over 7000 feet. We aren’t even sure if it is paved. The stormy weather is closing in fast. I say we should go for it, take the winding road. Tom says he is worried about Stella. Worried about Stella??? It dawns on me that Tom hasn’t been bonding with me during this trip, he’s been bonding with my PT Cruiser. It’s always the wife who is the last to know.

Even though it is misty, Mount Rainier is spectacular - and Stella performs like a star, hugging the wet road as we twist and turn along the steep slopes of the mountain. At one point, Tom feels the urge to yell at the top of his lungs “Ride Stella, ride. Ride like the wind!”

As we leave the park we spot the perfect roadside diner, a little place called the Copper Inn, and fellow travellers are lined up out the door. They all say this place is famous for it’s wild blackberry pie, and after two helpings, we both agree that it lives up to its reputation. In fact, I would go so far as to say the pie alone made the trip worth while. We leave with a loaf of homemade bread and a jar of blackberry jam.

Tomorrow will be an easy drive. We’ll be home in time to read the pugs a bedtime story. And I catch myself already looking forward to my next road trip with Tom (and his new found friend Stella) – wherever it may lead us.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ride Stella Ride!

Friday, August 17 – Day One

Morning: For the past two weeks Tom and I have been out of sync, living in two very different head spaces. Past experience has taught us that a road trip is the perfect remedy. Some couples go to therapy - we find there is nothing like the open road to help you get your groove back.

Driving along the first few miles of the Trans-Canada Highway, we agree on the rules of engagement:

Avoid interstates - travel only the “Blue Highways” (okay, we just broke this first rule.)
Eat locally – no chain restaurants
No set itinerary, we intend to let our whims dictate the direction we take
And most important of all, we are on a quest to find the perfect slice of berry pie

Vancouver is cloudy, with a forecast of rain, so we decided to head towards the sun. I suggest we stop and pick up a guidebook on the Pacific Northwest. Tom proudly reminds me that he is the human equivalent of a homing pigeon - he assures me a guide book will not be necessary. Having lived with his “unique” talent for many years now has given me a new appreciation for the necessity of female astronauts – there comes a point in every trip when someone has to get out and ask directions.

Afternoon: We are driving through the Okanagan with the top down – the sun is shining, and the day is getting hot. I am covered in sunscreen and wearing a hat – Tom has decided to go au naturale. We listen to classic rock, stop at numerous fruit stands, and drive through beautiful vineyards. Highlights include spotting the Spotted Lake and a large bear eating fruit from a tree. I know this is going to sound crazy but it sure looked like a grizzly – do they even live in these parts?

Evening: We cross the border and head into Washington, USA. Driving through the Okanagon the only difference we see between our two countries is the o. The sun is still high in the sky, and it’s at least 85 degrees. We thank our lucky stars we have a convertible.

After passing miles and miles of orchards, we realize it’s getting late, and we are almost out of gas. Driving the last 20 miles on fumes we pull into Wenatchee for the night. Wenatchee, the Apple Capital of the World. After checking into our hotel we head to the local diner where we intend to sample the local delicacies. The look on Tom’s face, as he realizes they have brought him what appears to be an entire side of beef – priceless. We must remember that the portions are much larger in the US of A. I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy, not only is Tom facing a mountain of beef – but the entire right side of his face is sunburned. It is as if someone has drawn a line down his face – one side is white – the other is beet red. This is one of the hazards of driving in one continuous direction, on a hot, sunny day, in a PT Cruiser convertible. I, on the other hand, have no sun-burned face at all.

After dinner I try to convince Tom to join me for a swim in the hotel pool. He is a bit of a germaphobe and is convinced that every one who jumps in a public pool immediately pees. Even though he isn’t ready to take the plunge, he offers to cheer me on from the side lines. Once we get to the pool it becomes apparent that all of the other adults staying at our hotel also have pool issues. I am the only person in the water who is over 10 years old, which makes me a good target for cannonball practice. Good times.

At bedtime Tom starts telling me about a special show he recently saw on Dateline - in which an infrared camera is used on hotel bedspreads – and of course, finds all kinds of disgusting things. I beg him not to go “Howard Hughes” on me.

At 2:30 am our hotel fire alarm goes off. After evacuating, Tom and I spend an hour walking around the deserted streets of the Apple Capital of the World. A weird mix of antique shops and bingo parlors.

To be continued…….

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On the Road Again

Last week, Tom and I decided to hit the road. You see, things have been a little tense in the Ryan household recently. I’ve been on a two week holiday, while Tom has been working on multiple projects from his home office. Let’s just say Husband and Wife have been in two very different mind sets. Tom has been worried about meeting deadlines – while I’ve been sleeping in, cranking the tunes, looking at old photo’s – and starting, but never finishing several major home projects.

Our relationship was built on road trips. We put over 250,000 miles (miles, not kilometers) on our old Mazda – with our sweet baby boy Tyler riding shotgun in his car seat. The Mazda is long gone and Tyler no longer lives at home. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point Tom and I became far too busy to bother with road trips.

A couple of years ago I bought a new PT Cruiser convertible, a car that Tom loathed at first sight. You’re probably wondering why a good and dutiful wife would buy a car her husband detested. Like most things in life, it’s a complicated matter.

For starters, Tom didn’t think we needed a car. Vancouver and NYC are very similar in one respect - many people who live in either city choose not to own an automobile. Both have excellent public transit and walking is encouraged. After much “debate”, Tom caved in, and washed his hands of the whole process.

When I came home with “Stella”, he freaked out. According to Tom she looked like a mini-hearse, and he thought that driving a convertible in a temperate rain forest was not exactly a wise move. I told him not to be so silly, the pugs loved riding in the car (even if they did get a little wet).

Most of all, he was worried that people would see him driving Stella and think she was his mid-life crisis car. To have people associate a PT Cruiser - with this special time in his life - was more than he could bear.

I did my best to alleviate his fears - pointing out that Stella was actually quite sporty – and had an excellent safety record (a very important fact as she would sooner or later end up being our son Tyler’s car.) I also pointed out that driving around Vancouver in a blue PT Cruiser - with a bobble-head Pug on the dash - proudly proclaims “I am a man with nothing to prove - and I am quite comfortable with the size of my Johnson!”.

These arguments did not have the affect I was hoping for. Tom continued to hate Stella with a passion – and when he did have to drive her around town, he always wore sunglasses and a hat.

To be continued………

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Girl in a Bubble

Over the past few days, I have received several messages from Tyler’s friends that my dear sweet boy is miffed at his Mom for my not responding to his e-mails. The truth is, sometimes I hit the wall and just need to unplug.

I can understand why CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are starting to declare email bankruptcy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just hit the delete key, and start fresh?

The attached photo illustrates my point – while hiking in the wilderness - a friend of mine used his Blackberry to settle a dispute. We are almost at the point where one can go anywhere without loosing contact with the outside world. Case in point -who can forget the recent story of a man who climbed Everest - only to find himself in very serious trouble. He was actually able to call home and say goodbye to his family, only minutes before his death.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that there is an upside to all of this communication. I’ll be the first person to call for help if I ever find myself lost and in need of assistance. Hell, there have been times I couldn’t survive without using my cell phone to order take-out.

I also love the idea that my beautiful son can travel around the world and send frequent emails home, assuring us that all is well - and to please send money. When Tom was Tyler’s age - he was backpacking through Europe and North Africa - his family often went months without hearing from him. Something I can’t even begin to imagine.

So if you’ve been trying to reach me, don’t send out the search party just yet. Next week I plan to re-connect with everyone. And not to brag or anything, but I work a mean Blackberry.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Six Degrees

Six Degrees of Separation - I love the theory that everyone in this world can be connected within six degrees. Here is how even Tex and Maggie are truly connected to Kevin Bacon:

Tex and Maggie, two naughty and adorable little pugs who are only six degrees from Hollywood's elite.

Tom Ryan - aka "Pug Daddy" - responsible for convincing his reluctant wife to play a supporting role in several Hollywood North productions.

Mika Ryan - mother of Tex and Maggie. Upon her husband's insistence, once acted in a block buster movie, co-starring Katie Holmes.

(Okay, so maybe I was more like an extra - and in the spirit of keeping it real, the movie sucked.)

Katie Holmes, Hollywood sex kitten, mother of Surie and wife of Tom.

Tom Cruise - SSG, scary Scientology guy - and not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Before dissing Brooke and jumping on Oprah's couch, he actually made a few good movies, including "A Few Good Men" . Tom co-starred with, (drum roll please......)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kicking the Habit

This afternoon, I hit bottom.

Rock bottom.

Tom could sense something was wrong as I quietly headed out the door, under the pretense of doing a few “errands”. He even went so far as to say “Honey, you’re not having an affair, are you?”

The truth is - and this is painful to admit - I just needed to sneak away and have a Diet Coke. Badly!

I’m taking a few weeks off work, and rather than relax in some boring tropical paradise - I decided to stay home and tackle my to-do list. It’s a long list, and includes: paint the bedroom, renovate the kitchen, lose 20 pounds, learn the basics of the Romance languages, reread Proust, and most important - kick my Diet Coke habit.

To help me reach some of my goals, I’ve been going to the gym all week and working out with a personal trainer. Mike is a big, strong man from Eastern Europe, and he trains many of the professional athletes and celebrities who call Vancouver home. He’s a wonderful guy, but by the time we reached day five of my workout program Mike’s accent wasn’t sounding quite so sexy.

During today’s session I had an epiphany. There are people in this world who actually get paid to kick ass. Legally. I’d bet the farm that these so called “personal trainers” are people who never need therapy, walking around all day with a big smile on their face.

I don’t want to point fingers or anything, but it’s actually Mike’s fault that I needed to sneak out for that diet coke. When you’re in as much pain as I am, it’s easy to throw yourself a pity party. And what does every great party have? Diet Coke, of course.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Reading Room

Just finished my second great read of the summer - Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith.

Even though I loved the book, I’m not really sure how I feel about
Anne Lamott. She writes with candor about her inner diva– which makes for a great read, but at times made me cringe.

However, don’t let that stop you from reading her book. She has a gift for finding the spiritual in the mundane and tackles the big issues with clarity and insight.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

“Honey, where’s my…”?

Three simple words that strike fear into my heart.

I don’t think it’s a guy thing. My son, dad, brothers and pug are all men and they seem to have no problem finding wallets, shoes and chew toys. Let’s be honest - it’s a Tom thing - and in our family the source of much amusement (well at least most of the time). Here are just a few of the highlights:

Our first year of marriage, baby on the way, and of course money is tight. Tom discovers his pay check has been stolen – which is later returned by a good Samaritan. Apparently he wrote our shopping list on the back of it, and after buying groceries decided to leave his ‘list’ in the shopping cart.

Fast forward another year – Tom takes our baby Tyler for a little outing – a lovely gesture which is meant to give me some quiet time. A few hours later he returns with the baby, minus the stroller and baby gear. After retracing his steps we find the stroller where he left it, in the isle of the local sporting goods store. It seems he picked up baby Tyler in order to get a better look at something, and just sort of forgot about the stroller and walked home with Tyler in his arms.

Summer of 2005, Tom and I are in New York when he discovers his passport is missing. He swears he remembers giving it to me while we were in Greenwich Village, and is sure I must have lost it.
For most people this would be serious business, but for our family it’s part of our vacation. Unfortunately, when he discovered it was missing - I was on my way out the door for an important meeting. To be honest, I was less worried about finding his passport than about the trouble he would get into while looking for it. I gave Tom very clear instructions not to worry about his ‘lost’ passport, to go and check out the sights, and let me find it when I get back.

Upon my return, I find that Tom has already been in contact with every cab company that services Manhattan, filed a report of theft with the local NYC police precinct, and has someone at the Canadian Consulate working on the problem. Within three minutes, I find his missing passport inside his drawer - stuffed in one of his socks - where he hid it a few days earlier for safe keeping.

But the best one by far, was the time a band of thieves stole his scooter. It was Valentine’s Day - and being the romantic guy that he is, Tom decided to ride his scooter to Granville Island to buy me some flowers.

Valentine’s comes and goes, and before long he looks out the window and realizes that someone has stolen his scooter. After doing the math, he comes to the conclusion that the moving van he saw in our neighborhood was actually owned by a band of thieves. In fact, they must have been master thieves – as they managed to steal the scooter right out from under his nose. It takes three days to file a police report and sort everything out with our insurance company – during which I can hear him telling various dispatchers that he watches CSI, and is confident that the scooter is now in a chop-shop somewhere in eastern Washington State.

A few days later, Tom goes to Granville Island public market to do some shopping, and notices a scooter that looks very familiar. He is both relieved and horrified to find that it is his scooter, exactly where he left it when he went to buy flowers on Valentines day. I guess he forgot he rode it there, and ended up walking home with just the flowers.
Later, I hear him telling the police and insurance company that his teenage son went on a scooter joy ride, and didn't ask his Dad for permission. A few hours later, Tyler hears Tom telling the neighbours a similar story about me!

The good news is, Tyler and I have become so good at finding things, we could easily open our own detective agency.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Secret Lives of Pugs

I recently upgraded my blackberry. The new model has a built in camera - a fun addition when used intentionally. Unfortunately I haven’t quite figured it out, and the damn thing goes off at the most inopportune moments. This can be embarrassing when one is in an important meeting and trying to discreetly check her email.

Most of the images are blurry and indecipherable, but I thought this photo was worthy of note. It reminds me of one of my favorite websites called “Mr. Lee cat cam”. Mr. Lee is a cat whose owner thought it would be interesting to see what he did when left alone. He attached a tiny camera to his felines collar - which takes random still photos throughout the day.

I personally think that Mr. Lee’s photos are really cool, but there is another side of the coin. I have a good friend who recently went to the Caribbean and decided to leave her pooch at a chi chi dog spa. The idea was, during her vacation, she could log onto the spa’s web cam and see what her dog was doing. Unfortunately what she saw ruined her holiday. Every time she went on the web her dog was miserable. All of the other dogs were having a great time, but her poor baby was having a nervous break-down. She caught the next flight home.

I’d love to have a Pug Cam, as I’m convinced Tex and Maggie do all kinds of naughty things when we’re at work. This would have been especially useful when our son Tyler was still living at home. I can’t tell you how many times we would come home from a road trip – only to find the pugs at the door - desperately trying to tell us something. I’m not kidding, they would get right in your face and try to form words. On a few occasions Tyler even went so far as to say “Come on guys, we agreed not to talk about that”.

On the other hand, I suppose ignorance is bliss.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


There has been a great deal of discussion over the past few years about the Canada brand. Research shows that for most people, Canada conjures up images of beavers, moose and Mounties. I don’t doubt the research, but this certainly hasn’t been my experience.

I grew up in West Texas, but now consider myself to be a Canadian. Before coming here, my image of Canada had nothing to do with wildlife or men in uniforms – Alaska, yes – Canada, no.

For starters, I thought Canadians rocked – an impression formed by my following Canada’s most famous couple - Pierre and Margaret Trudeau. Watching their exploits gave me the idea that Canadians were daring, flirtatious, and often went on tour with the Stones.

Canada was also where John and Yoko camped out in a Montreal hotel room – all in the name of Peace. It was the country where Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10 (also in Montreal) - and who can forget all of those images of American draft dodgers sneaking into Canada during the Vietnam War.

My love affair with Canada didn’t really begin until I moved to Vancouver. It was as if a light bulb clicked on – these crazy Canucks were my kind of people!

There are so many things I love about Canada and Canadians. The fact that most Canadians realize everything on this planet is truly connected. Canadians are young, without chasing youth. Canada is a land of spectacular natural beauty. Canada is tolerant, with enough room for everyone. Canadians are big picture thinkers. Canadians are very funny people (think Jim Carey and Mike Myers). Canadians care about the environment and even suffer from something called “green guilt”.

Go ahead, just call me a Canuck.