Thursday, June 25, 2009


Since my birthday last week, I've been having a love/hate relationship with technology and how it's taking over our lives at a pace that I find unfathomable.   I feel like each day that passes I'm less 'connected' in a world where I have more than enough options to stay connected.

The realization happened when my cell phone rang at work on the afternoon of June 18th and I saw the area code 403. I smiled; it was Dwyer. Sean Dwyer and I have been friends since 1985.  Let me take you back to that moment we first 'met', so please, bare with me. The first time I truly 'noticed' Dwyer was in Mr. Hawrylak's Grade 5 class. It wasn't simply because he was the 'new kid' in town, it was because this kid was funny.  Not class-clown-jackass-type-funny, but smart-intelligent funny. And at this time we were studying poetry. Mr. Hawrylak was a reading a poem to the class and every second line was "I feel joy." i.e. -  "I wake up in the morning. I feel joy.  I see the sunset at night. I feel joy" get the picture.  When Mr. Hawrylak finished reading the poem and explained it's meaning he asked if there were any questions.  Dwyer raised his hand. The room was silent, everyone was staring at the new kid wondering what he was going to ask. He said, "Sir, who's Joy?"  The class erupted in laughter.  I knew from that day forward Dwyer was my kind of peeps.

Our friendship has endured many, many more tales which took us through puberty, high school fights and dances, drinking underage in the woods, sticking up for him when he'd get crazy drunk in university, living in Calgary and learning what's it's like to be a young professionals together, attending his wedding, always being 'one of his boys', being the butt of his jokes and then recently seeing him become a dad.  And through all of that, the one area where Dwyer has never ever let me down is the annual birthday phone call.   No matter where we are or what is going on in our lives, he remembers and picks up the phone to call.   And, for some reason, this year I noticed just how special a phone call can be.

Maybe it's because I have a heightened sensitivity to technology and communication because I'm fresh into a new job that is solely focused on bringing consumer experiences to life on the world wide web. I'm tasked with creating a two-way "dialogue" strictly through a computer and/or the many mobile devices we carry with us daily.  Maybe it's because today I discovered that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died via facebook and twitter.  And that made me wonder if we will ever say again, "Do you remember where you were and who you were with when....?" in a time when we continue to get immediate information delivered to the palm of our hand.  Or maybe I'm simply getting old and nostalgic. 

I'm blessed to have such a large circle of friends and I've always prided myself on the fact that they've referred to me as "the glue".  I don't want to lose this title.  And I know we are all aware of how difficult it is to stay in touch as the years go on, to be relevant to each others changing, dynamic lives and to ensure there is reason to be 'sticky enough' to make our friendships endure.  But my big fear is that the benefits of technology just might take away from what's real.  The human emotion and connection. Frankly, I just want to pick up the phone and feel joy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I wanna take a ride on your disco stick

Back in 1988, in my wee hometown of 30,000 people, there used to be these massive video dances held at Centre 200 for all the jr. high school kids in the surrounding area. They only happened, at a max, twice a year and they were HUGE (literally and figuratively). Kids from Glace Bay, New Waterford, Sydney Mines and Sydney would all come to these dances hoping to get drunk, "wheel someone" (that meant 'pick-up', 'score', 'cop a feel', etc), get in a fight or all of the above.

It was at this time in my life when my mom introduced censorship to me. Sad but true, I wasn't allowed to watch Madonna's "Like A Prayer" video. My mom definitely wore the pants in the family when it came to how we were raised and disciplined (sorry, dad). With her very own strict Catholic upbringing, I think it was due to the selection of images where: Madonna had crucifixion holes in her hands, she was scantily clad and/or the fact that she had sexual chemistry with Jesus himself (not to mention the burning cross in the background). So when "Like A Prayer" came up on the massive video screen in the arena, my girlfriend Leah shouted to all my friends standing together in a group, "everyone, let's get Cheryl out of here - she can't see what's happening on the screen!". My friends laughed, I laughed. I was mortified.

And then last night, I find myself listening (and watching) Lady Ga Ga perform "Disco Stick" in front of all the tweens at the Much Music Video Awards. They are all singing along to "let's have some fun, this beat is sick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick". I think of my twelve-year-old niece and I'm aghast. There's no metaphor in "disco stick", trust me I've racked my brain. And then it goes on, "I'm educated in sex, yes. And now I want it bad". Ummm, Ga Ga's core fan-base is equivalent to the Jonas Brothers?? This is messed up. And then I realize it, I find myself relating to my mother - Jesus Christ (pardon the pun), what's happening to me?! So, there was only one way to deal with this situation. I downloaded the song to my ipod.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

goodbye, demographic box "Age 25-34"

Today was the day I said goodbye to 34, forever. Please don't think for a second that I'm sad about leaving my early thirties, because I welcome "35" with open arms.  Oddly enough, my worst birthday to date was "25" - doesn't that say everything? Good lord.  Every year of my life, I'm more grateful and rewarded with the sweetest things - love, a great family and amazing friends.

Normally, I don't like to put myself into a box, I prefer to always live outside of it.  But today, I've realized I'm just jumping from one box to the next.  From this day forward, for every race form I fill out, or every survey I participate in - I'm officially into the next box.  

So, to you "34", I feel you deserve a credible, honorable 'thank you' for one of the best years of my life- 
  • A solo trip to Peru - hiking to Machu Pichhu, living with a family and working with street kids
  • NYC in the Fall with great friends for a weekend of debauchery
  • an xmas trip to Nova Scotia - spending quality time with mom and dad, and my many NS friends
  • Santiago, Chile for work and incredible experience
  • LA for my birthday and a KRAC Reunion which was 7 years in the making
  • NYC again for 35 and a visit with Ren...2 days and counting
  • the birth of Lola and getting to be there for her arrival into the world, a complete and amazing surprise 
  • along with the birth of Carly and Finn  - for two of my other best guy friends that I never thought would 'grow up'
  • the birth of sweet Olivia - for Kev and Ady
  • Nancy announcing that Jack will get to be a big brother
  • Sweet smiling Cate being born into the awesome Munroe Clan. 
  • Running, after I didn't think I could (and some days still don't) - only to race in a 5 and 10km again
  • Having the balls to chop all my hair off after wanting to for years!
  • Developing new friendships (at an age when you think you have enough friends) 
  • Opening my mind and heart to different kinds of love (every shape, size and form) 
  • Having Toni come to visit me for the first time ever since I've lived in TO (and Nance here too to celebrate our friendship)
  • Being asked to be the MC of Jennie and Dave's wedding in Mexico 2010.
  • seeing George and Jude fight through some scary health concerns and coming out the other side smiling. yay!
  • watching my best friend finally take on the career he's always dreamed of!
  • and for me, taking on a new path career-wise that continues to be pleasantly surprising.
  • seeing Mel, Chris and Todd turn "40" - only proving that it's something to look forward to.
ps - "35", bring. it. on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

simple math

music + kids + inspiring teacher = indescribable happiness.

these videos leave me speechless and, in a weird way, proud?  And frankly, they kick Susan Boyle's ass in the category of 'moving me emotionally and generally be grateful that good, real people are everywhere'.  Watch every kid in these videos - completely living in the moment.

they owe their new-found fame to Perez Hilton, so given that bit of may have viewed them before. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

you spin me right 'round, baby

There are two big handfuls of blogs that I follow, half of which are my dear friends (the other half are just super cool). Today I noticed a new entry that my friend Marty posted which fascinated me because it was one of my favourite topics of interest: the universe. (in case you're wondering my other two favs are religion and history). For me, what these three topics all have in common is that once I'm in a discussion I could talk and talk and talk forever. And I crave hearing other people's opinions and can listen for days. I don't think there is any one topic I would ever claim to master in life, and with these three I know so very little of each, because their depth is infinite. I just want to know more or discuss what might be possible.

Marty posted a similar video to this one - which reminds us just how teeny tiny our wee planet is within the entire universe.

When I watch this it makes me feel like any bad day I experience is completely laughable. It makes me believe nothing can't be overcome. On the flip side, I can't help but wonder in the 'year 2009' where social media is all about 'building a community' and belonging with others - why can't we all just get along in this tiny place. After all, it's our collective home. So why so much hate? Year over year we continue to live through senseless battles and I still don't know what "we" are fighting - what comes after world domination in this landscape?
And aside from what's happening in the world today, history is completely top of mind for me these last few weeks as I just finished reading "Inside the Third Reich" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". Both are completely different novels but both are told in a setting where the backdrop is war. And within one story there is simple love to give and receive between two people, but it's smothered by toxic hate, distrust, blood, death and ignorance.

It's next to impossible not to wonder what role "God", "Allah", "Buddha" and religion play in our life. And although these 'beings' are supposed to give us hope and faith, in the end are they just responsible for it all? And do they only reside over our one wee planet - because how could they possibly have the time to manage the universe?! (sounds a bit like Santa Clause to me -hey, fool me once...)

As we rotate the sun each year - I'm starting to feel dizzy and worry that the walls are closing in on us. But when I look back at history, this is nothing new here in our setting, in our story today. The problem is we're re-enacting the same play. The more intelligent we become, the less intelligent we are.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

moderate wow factor

In my line of work, when we're about to launch a new "innovative" product, we test the concept with consumers first to ensure there is a strong demand and a perceived need for it. 

This week I noticed that there is a section of the testing dedicated to getting a read on the "wow factor", this is otherwise know as "the innovation" and what makes it really unique.  This particular product that I was reviewing had it's highest score in the "Moderate Wow Factor" category. Pardon? Did you say, "Moderate Wow Factor" - really? What the hell does that mean when you pair moderate with "wow" anyway?  Isn't that more like the "meh" factor?  

In my humble opinion, the visceral feeling you get the second you experience anything with a wow'd reaction should never be the pulled back by moderation.   You get the wow from it's pureness, it's coolness, it's appeal and perhaps even it's breath-taking presence.  You shouldn't have to try and minimize that feeling.  You either feel the wow or you don't, plain and simple. Nothing is better than the full-force of a wow-zah!  Celebrate it and get excited about it.  The minute you feel a moderate level of excitement -  then becomes "less so" and the energy is lost. 

My vote: we don't buy it, we don't market it, we don't sell it.  Let's not try to kid ourselves if we think anything will fly off the shelves with a "moderate wow factor".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

wonder woman

Growing up, Wonder Woman was my idol.  Her big beautiful hips, her not-so-typical brown hair and the fact that she could shoot lightening from her wrists - so kickass.  I was a hardcore fan.  My best friend Alison and I used to having matching Wonder Woman bathing suits when we were four years-old, not to mention underroos too.  Back in 1979, my 16-yr old neighbour, Karen used to tell us that during 'magical hide and seek' (where we'd spin around with our eyes closed until Karen disappeared) she'd end up on another planet where she guessed it, Wonder Woman.  Alison and I were in awe. Little did we know, Karen was probably watching Welcome Back Kotter in her basement just trying to escape the annoying neighbourhood kiddies. 

Wonder Woman currently lives in my living room now in a big black frame; she has also lived above my bed for some time until she intimated a few guests.  Regardless, she's not going away and she's still keepin' on.

As I get older, I see that Wonder Woman lives on in many different ways, through many other incredible women. Judy Hennessey is one of my Wonder Women and one of my many special mammas.   I won't sing her praises here, because unlike her son, she's modest (who loves ya, Leo!).   All you need to know is that this woman had already seen enough shit in the last few years, without cancer having to come knock on her door for one last 'hoooo-raahh'. With her lightening bolts beaming from her wrists, her fading brown hair and beautiful hips - she's kicked cancers ass just like every other piece-of-shit 'disease' that tried to run her down.  

You remain beautiful with that stunning smile, Jude.  You won.

Love you.xo

Sunday, June 7, 2009

sunny side up

OK, this wouldn't be the first time that I've talked about how rare it is when we, as human beings, meet or see someone that has a magical spark.  And I've talked about this chemistry between two people and what it stirs within us.  But then there are those people that we see on TV, in concert, or on a stage that are simply beautiful, captivating, inspiring and we never forget how they make us feel in a moment, or forever.

This happened to me the first time I saw Paolo Nutini.  I was on a flight from Vegas to Toronto three years ago and I was watching the Today Show on the satellite station on Air Canada. Matt Lauer was interviewing this 20-year old kid from Scotland that was just making his debut in North America and with an incredibly thick accent he was remarkably engaging.  I instantly wanted to know the history of this kid and to hear more of his music.  

I bought the CD immediately, listened to it daily and proceeded to buy tickets to his shows.  I saw him in Vancouver and bought a ticket to see him in Chicago with Amy Winehouse, but unfortunately the show was canceled because Amy did really end up going to rehab.

Anyway, hard to believe it's 3 years later and he continues to get better, his voice is even huskier and more eclectic.  Sunny Side Up is his latest CD and I've been listening to it over and over again for the last 24 hours.  It hasn't been getting great reviews, but I find that a 'professional critic' of anything is typically a wanker.  Standing on their soapbox trying to read into all the finer details behind the meaning and sound of an album (or a movie for that matter).  If his fan base (and then some) have incredible feelings for what they hear, that's all that matters, no?  Lord, it's like asking a focus group to tell you to 'evaluate' a TV commercial. Bollocks, I say.

Sunny Side Up, makes me happy. Paolo's inspiration was just the simple, straight-forward things in life that we should bask in to make us happy and live our lives beautifully.  And he sells these words through a folksy-reggae-hillbilly kind of way.  A man after my own heart and a right-ole-soul.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

kids vs dogs

I often hear from my friends that there is nothing that beats the feeling of having your 'babies' come into your bedroom on a Sat morning, asking you if they can hop up in the bed and snuggle.  I know that it's a treat for them when they get to share the big bed.  I actually remember doing it with my own parents when I was small. 

Ever since Dawson was a pup, she's had the luxury of sleeping in the same bed with me, a bad habit I know.  But in the last year, as she gets older and her hair becomes more of a nuisance, I've been working on having her sleep on the floor.   She's been doing a great job, proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks.  In fact, we might have to run to Canadian Tire today to get her a new bed since the current one is pancake flat.

But this morning I made an exception, I had a dream about her last night where I left her tied outside to a pole, down the street and around the corner.  I remember in my dream I was finding a spot as if it was a parking space, because it was the only spot 'left' for her on the street.   It started snowing, big time.  It was the next day and I forgot about her being out there and when I remember it was mid-afternoon - I was with friends (and their kids) at the time and I dropped what I was doing and left immediately.  She was there waiting for me, and even after what I did she was so excited to see me...covered in snow and wagging her tail.  I'm pretty sure that would be her reaction in 'real life' too.

I'm not sure what this all means - if I've been feeling guilty about keeping her on the floor at night? Lord, I'd obviously be a wreck if I had kids - just thinking about how much I love this damn dog. So, after waking up this morning and looking over the side of the bed to see her lying there...I oozed motherly guilt and asked her to come up on the bed for a quick cuddle. Just like the kids, I know she too finds it a treat because she's still lying there.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

the power of being relevant

then, and today...
come on, the beatles in Rock Band.  i love smart people.

F to the Y....Sgt Pepper was recorded over a 129-day period and was released in June 1967.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the road not taken

I received an email today from my first mentor in 'the business'.  Richard was the agency producer at Ogilvy & Mather and had been for many years at that time.  As the newly appointed creative coordinator, I was also deemed 50% his 'bitch'. (the other 50% of me was owned by the Creative Director).   This was back in 1997 and I'm happy that 12 years later, Richard and I still keep in touch today.  I was a smart-ass kid just out of school, so stoked to work at a global advertising agency, but not so keen to take on some of my more menial tasks. Richard taught me many things - about friendship, about passion in what you do and about doing your best... in any job.  Back then (and for years to follow), I was pretty sure I wanted to follow in his footsteps and be an agency producer. 

In 2000, after 3 years of still having that dream on my mind, I was back in NS working at the only job that I have ever truly hated.   I thought that more education was the practical answer to reaching my goal. So, I applied to the "Radio and Television Arts" program at Ryerson.  I remember needing to write an essay and provide a few key references.  Of course, I called Richard.  He obliged and as it turns out I got accepted.   But, simultaneously I received an amazing new job offer working on the Alexander Keith's brand. This real life experience delayed, eventually even canceled my admission to go back to school. So...

The reason for Richard's email to me today?  He found the reference letter that he wrote for my application.  In addition to sending this along, he of course followed it up with a very caring and inquisitive, "how are you anyway, arsehole?"

To whom it may concern:

It has been my pleasure to have worked with Cheryl during her stay in Calgary while working at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising.  During her time at O&M she demonstrated a tremendous interest in all facets of advertising, but most specifically broadcast production.

An able student, she learned about production quickly and was soon responsible for producing retail TV commercials for Canada Safeway, a large western grocery chain, and radio commercials for Shell Canada and TELUS.

Unfortunately, another career opportunity took her back to her home province, Nova Scotia.  She and I have stayed in touch and have had several conversations about production and her passion to one day be an Agency Producer.

As a former student of Ryerson, I can honestly represent Cheryl by saying that I know that her refreshing attitude, straightforward working style and dedication are exactly the characteristics and qualities that make successful producers and directors in the marketplace.  The way she has gelled with every person on the set is a reflection of her great sense of humor and her ability to work with various differing personalities.  I strongly recommend Cheryl to the program and I grin when I say that she will make you laugh because she is truly unique.

Best regards,


Manager, Broadcast Productions

Today, I'm not an agency or line producer, but I am still very happy working in advertising. While I don't have any regrets with my path, I do wonder what the bulk of my days would have been like...

Monday, June 1, 2009

40% chance of sunshine

This afternoon I had a very enlightening conversation with a very old friend of mine and for the sake of anonymity, let's call him "Fudge".   Fudge and I go way back to the summer of 1988 when we used to drink Spumante behind the Cromerty tennis courts in Sydney, smoke menthol ciggies and admire each others yellowy-orange bleached hair, compliments of "Sun-In". 

Where Fudge and I grew up, friendship isn't taken lightly.  Capers are known to have each others backs at the drop of a (trucker) hat and would defend you in a bar fight in two seconds flat, even if you were the one that started it.   Capers will always show up to the party with booze in hand, never mind that this booze is theirs to drink, in fact, I'm pretty sure we coined the term BYOB.  This is probably the reason to why I never heard of an 'open bar' until I became an adult and moved to the main land.  Anyway, I digress.... Point is, regardless of how much time passes and what happens in our fast-paced adult lives - it's always great catchin up with my true, honest and refreshing Caper: Fudge.  His humour hasn't changed a lick and his ability to be a 'no-show' is like no other.  But I love him. We all love him. And today, I missed him.

Unfortunately this afternoon, I discovered Fudge's dad passed away via Facebook.  I witnessed the condolences being passed along on my 'news feed' to Fudge's Wall from another old high school friend.    I decided to take the old school approach, I grabbed my phone and called him. It was important for me to reach out, talk to him and send a huge virtual hug across 2.5 provinces .   Although I knew the time wasn't ideal for him to chat, good ole Fudge stayed on the phone to chat regardless of the chaos I could hear around him.  We spent half of our time talking about his dad, but the other half talking about life stuff and how sometimes being an adult really sucks.   We talked about how easy it is to run from our problems but so damn hard to stay close and work through them.  We talked about the battle of positivity and how difficult it can be to remain hopeful when our world often tries to push bad news on us.

Now, I'm not sure if Fudge holds the copyrights to this quote, but tonight he rendered me silent in a moment when he said, "even when you listen to the weather forecast, you always hear there is going to be 60% chance of rain, but you never hear that there will be 40% chance of sunshine."

Friend, the sun is shining on your dad this week - high above the hills in Cape Breton.  And if it's only 40% , it's better than no sunshine at all.