Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Baby, Gotchya on my Mind

Like most little girls, I used to have fantasies about the man I would grow up and marry.

In my imagination, he looked an awful lot like that dude in the Sound of Music. Life would be one big song and dance routine, wearing Doris Day dresses and being invited to the best cocktail parties.

Nothing could have prepared me for the reality.
Who knew that a germaphobic, hypochondriac, pug daddy could be so sexy?

The reality is so much better than anything I could have imagined - this wacky, wonderful man suits me.

October 1, Happy birthday honey. We all love and adore you.


Mika, Tyler, Tex and Maggie

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good Times

Unless you’ve ever had a job that requires a great deal of travel, you might be under the misconception that it’s a glamorous life. I’ll be the first to admit that it has its moments; it’s just that most people never see the dark side. Trust me folks, I’ve been to the mountain top and have the scars to prove it.

Case in point, I am currently in Tokyo, one of the world’s great cities. I should be out on the town hanging with the Harajuku girls – instead I’m sitting in bed, blogging, channelling my inner drama queen.

The trip started out with a good vibe. I had a free day before starting work and decided to head to Kyoto, a place that has always intrigued me. I was really digging it, until my knee decided to go on me. The truth is my knees have always been my Achilles heel; we’ve had such an up and down relationship that at some point in my life I actually started talking about them in the third person. This time damn it knees, your timing really sucks.

Considering that people have come from China, Korea and Taiwan to meet with me, going home wasn’t really an option. The only viable response is to walk with a funny gait and depend on the kindness of my friends to help me get through it.

This afternoon was my last meeting, silly me, I actually thought I was past the worst of it. While standing in my hotel bathroom, I decided to see what would happen if I tried standing up like a normal person. Let’s just say things didn’t go exactly as planned. Unable to support my weight, I took a tumble - on the way down I grabbed the control panel on the toilet to try and catch myself - accidentally hitting a button that triggered the bidet - getting a face full of water.

Good times people, good times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Putting Things in Perspective

Written by Mika's wonderful husband - Tom.

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand, prior to meeting up with Mika in Beijing.

After spending a few days in Bangkok with our son Tyler, and his lovely girlfriend Jane – they both soon insisted I fly south to the resort town of Krabi for a little rest and relaxation.

So before I knew it, I was on my own, in the little beach town of Ao Nang. And I did what every other white, middle-aged male does in Thailand - I rented a scooter, and went exploring.

Just a few hundred metres away from the beach, not far from where dozens of sun-burned Scandinavians board cigar boats for their morning high speed tours to “James Bond Island”, just around the corner from the Muay Thai kickboxing stadium, and tucked inside a small grove of trees - was a most peculiar sight. It looked like a tall bee-hive.

Parking my scooter, I walked along the boardwalk and past a tiny pond before entering this strange little hut. Inside was a sculpture. A pair of golden hands, protecting another (smaller) pair of hands. Maybe the hands were praying, maybe not, but inside this quiet little shelter, they seemed very alone.

There was a plaque on the wall, and the words of the 96 year-old artist Louise Bourgeois - written in both Thai and English.

“I will not let you go, but do not abandon me. Keep your grip. Hold me close forever and ever.”

It was then I realized this was a small memorial to the many victims of the tsunami that struck Thailand and other countries ringing the the Indian Ocean. In an instant, over 230,000 lives were lost.

I imagined the hands to be that of a husband and wife, or a mother and older child - but I couldn’t be sure as to who would be speaking these words. Was it the husband speaking to his wife? The mother re-assuring her child? The child to her mother?

Perhaps they were both calling out to God. Perhaps it was God calling out to them, above the roar of the rushing water.

Wondering if they had survived the flood, I left the hut and walked past the little pond. It was then I noticed another, much smaller golden hand. This little childs hand was alone, reaching out from the water, and much too far away for anyone to hear his cries for help.

Troubling Times

Ever watch that old television show Family Ties? I haven’t watched it in years but I’ve been thinking about it lately, reflecting on how much the Ryan’s have in common with the Keaton’s. Tom and I are two old hippies who dream of joining the Peace Corp when we retire, while our son Tyler is always plotting various ways to get rich on eBay. In other words – Tom and Mika not so good at math – Tyler very good at math.

I’m not sure who thought of it first, but around a year ago either Tom or I had the brilliant idea that maybe it was time to start investing in the stock market. If you've been following the news I don't have to explain why this has turned into one of those “other than that Jackie, how was Dallas” moments. The reality is, in the big scheme of things our losses are pretty small. You’ll be happy to know that the pugs aren’t going to have to go without kibble or chew toys anytime in the near future.

But being in NY last week when the US government decided to step in and bail out several of the big financial players was troubling. Not to sound like a drama queen, but it felt apocalyptic. I’d really like to believe the plan is going to work, but in my heart of hearts I can’t help but feel that this is just the tip of the iceberg, a harbinger of more troubling times to come.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pugs and Politics

I’m working in NY this week, after which I fly to Tokyo for another stint as a corporate road warrior. I love to travel – in fact I’ll go out on a limb and proclaim that I’m a nomad at heart – it’s just that I’ve had a really hard time getting motivated for this one.

The main reason I am so conflicted about leaving home lately is the fact that Tex and Maggie are getting older. When I look at the big picture, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than with my two best friends. As they get older and a little more fragile, I feel like I have to cherish every minute we have. Not to mention that every trip is equally traumatizing on them - even though I try to hide the suitcase and pack downstairs – Tex has the innate ability to know when someone in his family is about to hit the road – at which point he goes into his shaky dog routine.

At the airport this past Sunday, I was throwing myself a little pity party, wondering how the pugs could possibly survive without me. When I checked my blackberry I felt a little better, as my friend and colleague Heather sent me a note regarding a “Pugs for Obama” event in NY (yes I am serious, do you really think I could make this up?) Even though my flight to NY was getting in too late for me to attend this canine political rally, it felt like an omen and made me feel so much better about life.

My first meeting in NY was with Sanjay, an Editor in the Conde Naste building (on a side note, the woman at Vogue really are all that, beautiful and intimidating). Sanjay and I have been working with each other for years, so it was only natural that he ask about the pugs. This of course led me to mention my delight at the idea of a “Pugs for Obama” rally and my disappointment at not being there, after all Tex and Maggie represent.
Low and behold -Sanjay introduces me to his colleague - who is leaving Conde Naste to work for Obama - whose pug Pixie was the inspiration for the event. Wow, it really is a small world.

The way I figure, with all that pug karma Obama has to win……..God I love this city!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember

When Tyler was younger, Tom and I tried to take him on business trips as often as possible. Even though it required a great deal of planning, it was worth the effort, one of the smartest things we’ve ever done as parents. The thing I most remember are the conversations we had during those trips -discussing things on a deeper level– addressing those questions humans have been pondering throughout the ages.

During a trip to New York, I asked him about historical events that had shaped his young life. Moments that define who you are, something so significant that you never forget where you were or what it felt like when you heard the news. I told him about my experiences – traveling in California with my mother, waking up early in the morning and hearing our host crying “they’ve killed Bobby, they’ve killed Bobby”, even though I was too young to really know who Bobby Kennedy was I still remember that lonely feeling – my frustration at having to miss my cartoons when my mother made me sit in front of the television to watch Watergate or the Moon Landing, informing me it was history in the making and ordering me to remember it. At that point Tyler really had nothing to add to the conversation, in the spirit of things he tried to make a case for the deaths of Biggie and Tupac, but even he knew it was a lame argument.

Fast forward several years, our little family is awakened by an early morning phone call. Too slow to make it to the phone, we listened to the message my mother left, telling us to turn on the tube. We didn’t take it too seriously, after all those Texans can never seem to get their heads around the time change, telling ourselves she was probably referring to something on Oprah. We continued to doze, asking Tyler to check the TV, drifting in and out of sleep before one of us had the presence of mind to ask him what was happening. I'll never forget the sound of his young voice, quietly telling us that a second plane had just hit the World Trade Centre.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On a Lighter Note

Lately I’ve been thinking about cereal…..you heard me….cereal. It all started a few weeks ago when my good friend Nina (Thelma to my Louise) and I took Stella on joy ride to the states. It was a glorious day – we flirted with a cute border guard – enjoyed a delicious lunch on a sunny patio – and picked up a few boxes of the new fruity cheerios.

You see my son Tyler, aka baby boy, has a thing for cereal. Before you tell me this is a good thing – pointing out that it could be sex, drugs and rock-n-roll – you should know that even cereal has it’s downside. My idea of an appropriate cereal for Tyler usually has the fiber content of a redwood, while his contains a field of sugar cane. When he lived at home this consisted of hours and hours of negotiations, which quite frankly was exhausting.

It was so much easier for our parents generation. Negotiating wasn’t an option, the standard response to any disagreement was “because I’m the parent and I say so”. There also wasn’t all this emphasis on health, after all they were the generation that smoked and drank during pregnancy. This all worked in my favor, as my childhood criteria for selecting cereal was solely based on the toy in the box.

The only thing better than scoring a good toy was buying cereal before a camping trip. It was the only time my mom splurged for the package containing an assortment of mini boxes. Even though there were always a couple of duds and I had to duke it out with my brothers for the best picks, it made me feel like I was living high on the hog.

Poor Tyler didn’t have it so good, he often moans about the trials and tribulations of having a granola for a mom. Our usual compromise was honey nut cheerios, a happy medium between Captain Crunch and Oat Bran. Even though Tyler is no longer living at home and is probably coming off a Count Chocola high, I felt it was important to buy a few boxes of fruity cheerios in his honour. Tex, Maggie and I are slowly snacking on them, thinking of sweet baby boy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The World According To Mika

This past week I’ve had a very difficult time following the US Presidential election – the truth being it really gets me down. Contrary to popular belief, I’m neither a Republican nor Democrat, falling into that illusive demographic commonly referred to as the swing vote.

One of the things that troubles me most is the idea of Sarah Palin as Vice President. Our forefathers had the wisdom to recognize that religion should not dictate how a democracy is governed. Do we really need a Vice President who believes that creationism should be taught in the classroom, sex education is taboo, banning books good, and even victims of incest and rape should not have the right to abortion?

Even though my first reaction was depression, I’m happy to report that I’ve had a change in attitude. Rather than give up, I’ve decided to embrace that old adage “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Should we get stuck with McCain and Palin, it seems only right that we all get a fair share in determining how religion shapes our country. With that in mind, I’d like to put forward some of the changes I’d like to see.

  • I truly believe that every creature, great or small, are just as relevant and important to this planet as humans. Because of this belief I am a strict vegetarian and do not buy or wear animal products. This may seem extreme but trust me, tofu turkey and pleather aren’t so bad once you get used to them.
  • This one may seem like a small thing, but it’s really important to my belief system. In the future, beauty pageants for children will have to be outlawed. The way I figure it is all of the money that would have been spent on rhinestones and tiaras - will now go towards the cost of therapy - helping all of those poor kids who were victims of their parent’s unrequited dreams.
  • My faith also tells me that violence of any kind should never be condoned. Over these past eight years we have been ruled by the dogs of war, which according to the gospel of Mika, absolutely must come to a stop. In the future we are going to have rely on diplomacy, decency, reason and compassion when dealing with our adversaries. On a side note, it also means that we are going to need new rules for the NHL…..sorry, but no more fighting boys and girls.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Around this time last year, I was hiking across England with a group of my colleagues, an odd assortment of Public Relations and Media folk. On that trip I had the great privilege of meeting Alicia Vargas Carney, a beautiful woman who touched my life. As we started talking we found out that we had a great deal in common; we were the same age, both married to men named Tom, each had a son in their early 20's, and believe it or not.... it seemed that each of our families had a much loved pug.
When you're hiking, you really get to know the people you're with. Over the course of our trip we talked about our families - the difficulties in balancing a career with life, wondering if it was possible to actually have it "all" - each day's cravings (usually a hot bath and glass of wine) - how plastic surgery doesn't make anyone look younger, just desperate - we discussed a multitude of things that make up one's life.
It was with great sadness that I recently found out that Alicia passed away of breast cancer. The irony is the day before I went on the UK hike, I found out that I had a lump in my breast. It gave me a great deal to think about, thank god it was benign. Alicia was full of life, much fitter than I am, smart and beautiful. How can this even be possible?
Like most people I don't spend a great deal of time thinking about my mortality - sure, we all know it's going to eventually happen - let's be honest, don't most of us live in denial? The other night, suffering from jet lag, I lay in bed unable to sleep, thinking about Alicia. The thought occurred to me, even if I'm fortunate enough to reach the full life expectancy of the average Canadian woman (80.4) , half of my life is over. A sobering thought.
The first thing that popped in my head was maybe it's time to buy a red sports car and trade Tom in for a younger man. After that moment of madness I took stock of my life, counting my blessings for this embarrassment of riches, realizing that I really better start living!
Rest in peace dear sweet Alicia.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bee Grateful

This week has taught me a few lesson’s about Karmic Justice – why is it that I always have to learn things the hard way?

Note to self; just when you think you’ve kicked the whole jet lag thing, it sneaks up and kicks your ass. Looking back I cringe at some of the conversations I’ve had, giving people advice on the do’s and don’t of jet lag. Saying things like “yea, I’ve pretty much got the whole jet lag thing figured out” – “ it’s a piece of cake when you travel as much as I do” – “ You know me, I like to hit the ground running”. To all of those poor people who had to listen to this lecture, please forget everything I said. As it turns out, I know nothing. Let’s just say this trip has been a bitch and I’m still struggling to get over my Beijing hangover.

Second big lesson of the week, I’m also not an expert on bees. Texie Baby has a life threatening allergy to bee venom - in an effort to do everything possible to minimize the risk - I’ve tried to learn all there is to know about the little buzzers. With knowledge comes respect, bees truly are amazing creatures. Just when I thought I’d figured out a system where bees and pugs could live in harmony – Tex gets stung by B.A.B. (big ass bee) during our afternoon walk.

Tom and I immediately went into emergency mode, running around like the two stooges as we rushed him to our vets office. We actually made very good time, even though we had the misfortune of getting stuck behind an old couple who were driving excruciatingly slow. Wish we had taken their license plate number, as it would be nice to contact them and apologize for all of the honking and hand gestures.

The good news is the wonderful people at the Granville Island Animal Hospital, who always take such good care of Tex and Maggie, took one look at us and knew exactly what to do. I’ve come to think of them as a band of angels, who make a huge difference in our lives.

During all of the excitement, we made an executive decision to leave Maggie at home, after all time was of the essence. We felt guilty about this - speculating on the effects this might have on her delicate psyche – imagining her home alone, sitting in the dark, worrying about her poor little brother. Needless to say it came as a surprise to find that Maggie saw this as her big opportunity to raid the pantry. We came home to find she had some how managed to drag big bags of rice and dried beans into the living room, tearing them open and treating herself to a little tasting. You could tell she really did her best to like the un-cooked rice and beans, walking around chewing, spitting them out in almost every room in the house. It seems baby girl is going through a second childhood, doing all of the naughty things she did as a puppy.

While it’s true that I am still exhausted, I’m also very, very grateful. Life is a beautiful, fragile thing and every day is truly a blessing.