Sunday, July 29, 2007

Salvation

Tammy Faye Bakker has passed away, which is no surprise for anyone who saw her recent interview with Larry King. I couldn’t watch the show – for starters, I’m not big fan of Larry King – but mainly because it was so sad to see Tammy literally fading away on national TV. I have read several editorials, in which people have commented that perhaps it was God’s retribution for her past sins. I disagree.

In the early 1980's Jim and Tammy Faye were at the height of their televangelical popularity. Contributions from their PTL Club viewers were in excess of $1000,000 per week! As New Yorker Magazine once wrote - "They epitomized the excesses of the 1980s; the greed, the love of glitz, and the shamelessness; which in their case was so pure as to almost amount to a kind of innocence."

During that time, I worked at a swanky restaurant in the Dallas area, where Jim and Tammy Faye were regulars. Jim was an asshole. The kind of guy who never looked you in the eye and had this phoney sense of entitlement - not to mention he was a lousy tipper. Tammy Faye was actually a very kind and sweet person. She was Gangsta long before it was cool, and I’m not just talking about the hair and make-up. Her clothes, jewelry, everything were always way over the top.

I confess, I have real issues with the whole Missionary mentality. Isn’t it just a little presumptuous to assume I need saving, when you don’t even know me?

When Captain Cook first went to Hawaii, he wrote that the native people were excellent stewards of the land – the best he had ever seen. It was a rich, thriving culture – in which the locals were able to balance their needs with that of nature. We all know what happened after the Missionaries arrived, but few people realize that their decendants now own most of the land in Hawaii. Not to mention the adverse effect they have had on the island environment.

Yet, even though I disapprove of the whole "Save the Heathens” mentality - I’m not without compassion. I always feel sorry for the door-to-door missionaries who visit my home, and have a difficult time asking them to leave. Fortunately, my best friend Nina solved my problem several years ago.

It was a Saturday morning, and I was enjoying a quiet cup of tea with Nina when I heard a knock at our door. Damn! It was the same two young proselytizers that had made a habit of waking me up every Saturday morning. I figured the best way to deal with the situation was to quietly tippy-toe downstairs and pretend I wasn't home. Lucky for me Nina decided to take control of the situation.

Nina opened the door and politely introduced herself – after which she produced a pen and paper and asked the two young men for their home address. They looked confused and didn’t really know how to respond. Nina then told them that she would be dropping by their house sometime next week, so she could tell them all about her own religious beliefs. Let’s just say that they couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

We must now be on their black list, as nobody from that church has ever been back. When they call on our neighborhood, they avoid our house at all costs. Thanks Nina!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's the real thing

I’m not sure if you’ve picked up a newspaper this week, but the news is all bad. Forget the war in Iraq. Two landmark studies have just come out – both of which have rocked my world in the most horrible way.

For starters, scientists have found that people who have overweight family or friends have an increased risk of also being obese. I’m talking about a 40% increase! The odds are not in your favour.

On some level this not only makes me feel better, but it also explains my recent weight gain. It’s all Maggie’s fault. I knew my chubby little pug was naughty, but I didn’t realize what a bad influence she is. The two of us are going to have to seriously cut back on the treats and slugs.

The second study is much harder to take. Even writing this is difficult, as I’m still in denial. Apparently, recent studies have proven beyond a doubt that drinking Coke is a very bad thing. Even Diet Coke!

My love affair with Coke goes back a long way. Once, I met a cute guy in a Texas nightclub who offered to buy me a drink. When I told him I would prefer Coke – he gave me a funny look - before pulling out a little bag of white powder. (Sorry Mom, but it was Dallas in the 80’s).

The truth is, my thing with “Coke” is somewhat of an addiction. Trust me folks, I realize how white trash it is to be addicted to a soft drink. At the rate I’m going, it’s only a matter of time before I’m living in a double wide with the two dawgs - and referring to my mulleted husband as “Daddy”.

So, I’ve decided to kick my Coke habit. Honest.

As Betty Ford is full of Hollywood celebrities, I’ve decided to develop my own treatment plan. For the next two weeks I’m going on a bender – I plan to drink Coke morning, noon and night. The sweet sugary syrup will be coursing through my veins. And then - once those two weeks are over - I’ll go on “holiday”, during which time it will be cold turkey (sorry honey!).

So stop sending me emails about the evils of Coke. I get the message, loud and clear. However, when I come back from my “holiday” - if you catch me stashing soda six-packs in my office, home or car – please feel free to intervene.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Tale of Two Shoppers


Recently I attended a marketing conference, where various talking heads discussed the unique challenges of selling to women. A very timely topic as woman now make most of the purchasing decisions for their families – everything from cars, holidays, furniture and toothpaste.

According to the experts, the average woman takes months to make a significant purchase. She starts by doing in-depth research and reads everything she can get her hands on. Once she has researched, she talks to friends, neighbors, family members and even strangers – anyone who is willing to offer an opinion. Finally she goes to the store, where she gets to know the salesperson on a first name basis. This will come in handy, as she will return many times before actually spending any money. After the purchase, it’s common for the woman to experience something called “Buyers Remorse” – that guilty, un-sure feeling that perhaps the zebra print might not have been the right choice.

In comparison, men are simple creatures. They see, they want, they buy. No looking back. No regrets.

In my house we are having a gender identity crisis. Tom shops like a woman – and even though this is embarrassing to admit - I shop like a man.

I’d just like to say to men everywhere, I feel your pain.

Watching Tom buy anything is a painful process. You don’t even want to know what our family goes through when it comes to buying camera equipment. Even when he finally figures out what he wants - he can’t buy it. After all, what if the company releases a new model minutes after he exits the store?

I try to be a supportive wife, but find it is much easier to just go out and buy things on his behalf. In fact, I’ve purchased most of his camera equipment. Believe me, after a few months of listening to the pro’s and cons of film versus digital, Nikon versus Canon, extended warranty or not - you’d be surprised how much a spouse is willing to pay for a little peace and quiet.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Humour is a funny thing….


This evening I met a few colleagues for an after-work drink. Maybe it was the wine, but I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. We shared stories of working with “Reality” TV – a genre where nothing is really real and everything is carefully scripted.

I came home with a big smile on my face, and shared a few of the funnier stories with my husband. He politely humoured me, but it was obvious that something was lost in translation. He just didn't get it.

My dear friend Bob told me about a similar experience. He was on assignment for Smithsonian Magazine, writing a story about a group of Birders. Very serious Birders. They were competing in an event that can only be described as their own version of the World Series.
These Birders were intelligent people, all of whom Bob had a great deal of respect for – but he had a very difficult time getting their sense of humour. An old timer’s haughty reference to a Red Throated Booby had all of the other Birders doubled over with laughter. The only one who wasn’t laughing was my friend Bob.

I guess there is some truth in the old Italian proverb "Ride bene chi ride l'ultimo" - which loosely translated means “He who laughs last, didn’t get the joke in the first place”.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bling




When I was in Maui, I had dinner with a lovely gay couple who taught me all about Hawaiian bling. They were wearing the most amazing leis - made of teeny, tiny shells that were woven into beautiful, intricate designs.

In their island paradise, a lei is equal parts fashion and status symbol – it tells people you’re a contender. It is also a big investment and can set you back any where from $5000 - $50,000. Both boys looked fabulous!
Bling is a tricky thing. In my experience there is a very thin line between the ornate and the tacky. So before you go out and buy a diamond tiara, here are three simple rules to consider:

  • Consider your environment. Trust me on this one – that which is cool in Hawaii, might be an invitation for an ass whipping in Pittsburgh
  • Men should be careful when buying bling. I wouldn’t recommend gold chains or a diamond tooth to anyone who isn’t a rapper. Other wise you might come across as a “wanna be”.
  • Represent - wear the bling, don’t let the bling wear you.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Blues

I woke up with a mild case of the blues. In fact, I’ve had trouble finding my groove all week. The frustrating thing is, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong. This morning I finally figured it out – I’m in dire need of a Tom fix. Between our busy schedules, it’s been a good three months since we’ve really had time to hang out and chill.

At some point in our marriage Tom became my touchstone - the north star that I set my compass by. I know how strange this must sound to anyone reading this. Most people work under the assumption that this is a given - part of every marriage. The truth is far more complicated. Marriage is a funny thing, in my experience it is nothing like the clichés that we grow up with.

All of my life I have been a very independent person. I’m really good at caring for people who depend on me (pets, children) - but not so good at being dependent on anyone - even Tom.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved him. It’s just in the past few years that I’ve come to admit how fundamental he is to my life. I’m not really sure how it happened, but it’s a nice evolution.

The Reading Room


I may not be a very good writer, but I’m a great reader. My husband once said that I’m the only person he knows who goes on reading binges - I think he should be grateful that my vice isn’t sex, drugs or rock and roll.

So let me tell you about my first great read of the summer - a lovely book called “Eat, Pray, Love”, by Elizabeth Gilbert. The story of one woman’s quest for that elusive "thing" everyone searches for at one point in their life.

The writer goes to Italy to immerse herself in pleasure – India on a quest for the spiritual – and ends her journey in Indonesia, were she learns how to balance the two.

If anyone is interested in reading it, I have a copy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lovely Maturos




For the past few weeks, Tyler’s friend Maturos has been staying with us. We adore her!
Here are just a few of the reasons why:

The way she compares all of our Canadian wildlife to elephants. For example, when seeing a little sparrow playing in the dust, she will say “very similar to our elephants back home in Thailand”. The elephant comparison also applies to raccoons, bears, beavers, moose and cougars. It is very charming.

Her willingness to eat anything. The Ryan’s have food issues. Tom is lactose intolerant - I’m a vegetarian - and don’t even ask about all of things Tyler refuses to eat. How wonderful to meet someone with no food hang-ups!

Her amazement at all of the crows that are living in Canada. Apparently they are scarce in Thailand - which is a good thing, as they believe if a crow flies over your house, someone you know will die. Thank god it doesn’t apply here - otherwise we’re screwed.

Her excellent pug Karma. Tex - who usually has to be wooed when meeting strangers – immediately sit in her lap and didn’t move for three weeks.

Her total lack of awareness that she is beautiful.

The fact that she said being in Canada made her feel tiny. Evidently she is something of an Amazon Woman back home.

Seeing our home through her eyes. She couldn’t believe all of the trees and saw snow for the first time in her life.

Her constant wonder at being able to walk in a place with no polution.

Her firm belief that everyone in Canada has a dog – and disbelief that we actually are expected to “poop and scoop”.

Her wisdom and grace.

This morning Maturos left for Toronto, we hope to see her when she makes her way back West. Mi Casa es tu Casa.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

As the Pug Turns


This morning seemed like every other morning – first the alarm clock - followed by breakfast and a quick walk with Tex and Maggie.

Just before I headed down the stairs for a shower, Maggie stumbled out of the kitchen and collapsed. Something was seriously wrong. I was terrified - was she having a heart attack - a stroke?

It soon became very apparent that she was choking on her breakfast. First I tried the Heimlich, which is almost impossible to perform on an unconscious pug. When all else failed I stuck my fingers down her throat and dug out a big chunk of dog food.

Maggie quickly came to and ran into the kitchen to see if there was any more food left - I was a basket case. I immediately rushed her to the vet, who sent us home with instructions to keep a close eye on her for the next 24 hours.

I like to pride myself on being fully present for my life, and know how precious it all is. So why was I was so unprepared for this?

All I can say is, once Maggie is feeling better I plan to go out and buy her a pony – thank god baby girl is okay.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Dog Days of Summer















This week my son and I had two very different - yet equally strange - encounters with wild Chihuahuas. Like most of you who are reading this, I had no idea they even existed in the wild. I assumed they all lived in cities, and acted as pets and fashion accessories for chic young women.

My experience took place in Maui, where I meet two little strays while hiking in a remote nature reserve. It was love at first sight, I absolutely adored them and covered their sweet, scruffy, little faces with kisses. From what I could piece together, they have lived in the park for most of their lives. The locals call them Cheech and Chong - and even though they don’t belong to anyone, they are never lacking for food or affection. I desperately wanted to take them home with me, and imagined a world where Pugs and Chihuahuas live in harmony. In the end I had to leave without them – I didn’t want to be the one responsible for taking away their freedom. Besides, if Pele gets that pissed off about a missing rock……imagine what would she do if someone took one of her Chihuahuas?

My son’s experience was at the opposite end of the spectrum –a story of a wild Chihuahua gone bad. In order to fully appreciate how humbling his experience was, I have to tell you about an incident leading up to his Chihuahua encounter. You should also know that my son lives in Thailand, where it isn't unusual to see wild dogs.
Last week a drug crazed man came into the school where he works. Tyler took control of the situation and was able to restrain the guy until the police arrived. He was a hero - a real life action figure – Canada Man! The parents, children and other teachers were very grateful and could do nothing but sing his praises.

This week he was attacked by a group of wild dogs – right in front of his school. The leader of the pack was a Chihuahua, a nasty little creature who started biting Tyler. In order to get away Tyler ended up jumping on a car, where he was stuck until a group of fourth graders came to his rescue. It was damn embarrassing –and even though it wasn't a serious injury, he now has to have a series of rabies shots.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Don't Mess With Pele


My friend Suzanne has led a charmed life. You may call it luck, but the truth is her success is due to intelligence, hard work, and good timing. Life has been good to Suzanne, except for one very dark period when she decided to take on the Hawaiian goddess Pele.

It started innocently enough, Suzanne was hiking on The Big Island with some friends and decided to take a lava rock home, just as a little souvenir. One of the locals tried to warn her that this was a very bad idea. It seems Pele - the goddess of fire and volcanoes - has anger management issues and tends to take things a little personally. Suzanne is a very spiritual person, but she is also practical and has never been superstitious. She thought it was a quaint story and ended up slipping the rock into her pocket, and taking it home.

Within weeks of her return to British Columbia, things went terribly wrong. Suzanne was in a very serious car wreck, broke up with her fiancĂ©, had a sudden career change, and almost died from a ruptured appendix. The bad luck continued until someone close to Suzanne offered to make a pilgrimage to Hawaii and returned the cursed rock. At the time, I was worried about my friend, but wasn’t really sure what to think. Let’s be honest, when you’re living in a big city, the idea of a temperamental goddess wrecking havoc in your life is a bit of a stretch.

During my recent trip to Maui I met a local biologist who swears by the wrath of Pele. He told many stories of visiting tourists who had similar experiences to Suzanne. It seems that thousands and thousands of rocks are returned to his neighborhood post office - from people who are desperate to un-do the curse of Pele. He explained that native Hawaiians believe rocks are sacred, and that they hold the souls of the ancestors. In other words, pocketing a rock is akin to grave robbing.

The good news is once the rock was returned to it’s rightful place, Suzanne’s life returned to normal. As for my visit to Hawaii, I decided to stay on the safe side - and won’t be adding to my rock collection any time soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Images of Hawaii

Just back from Hawaii and still on island time - stories to follow.