Thursday, July 30, 2009

Abracadabra


i believe in magic.

An amazing friend recently was referring to the magic that kids can bring back into your life as an adult. He specifically was using Christmas as an example and how you get to believe all over again when you experience Christmas through a child's eyes. Remember how good it felt to know that Santa was so fantastical that he could make it around the world in one night?

For me, there are two stages of magic in life: 1) sweet and naive beliefs that are out of this world, young, childlike magic. 2) then there is a "sweet spot" magic - where most of our day to day is ho-hum, until we stop, wake-up and actually see and recognize the magic in a very adult moment.

So what is magic for me now?
  • it's the feeling when someone truly gets and knows the crazy thoughts inside my head. Very few people have this key and when they open it - magic.
  • it's those moments when you're surrounded by your closest friends and you're laughing so hard your crying. I always stop to relish it that magic - the pure joy.
  • it's the recognition of pure gratefulness - for everything in my life.
  • and a look, shared with a complete stranger or someone you love across a crowded room
  • more than anything, magic for me is that sweet, sweet spot defined in the picture above. It says it all.
Personally, I'm glad magic didn't end after I realized that ole Saint Nic writes just like my mom.

Thanks to 'the other cheryl' for sparking this thought with imagery.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

happy tails

video

As I get ready to head to Nova Scotia for a week without Daws, it always makes me sad leaving her behind because I know how much she loves it out there.  From the fields and lakes, to the oceans and pool she freaks out all day long with a huge smile on her face. 

For you non-dog lovers or non-dog owners, you likely don't see what I see when I watch this video.  Which is simply happiness looking right back at me.   These moments warm my insides.

I owe her a NS adventure down at Lake Ontario when I'm back.  

Sunday, July 26, 2009

blame it on the rain

Since the 'summer' began here in Toronto, I've been surrounded by elevator conversations and small talk about the rain.  It's at a point now where I'm more sick of people talking about it than I am about the god damn rain itself.  And while everyone is chirping, all I'm thinking is, so let me get this straight, you'd rather 27 degrees of smoggy heat with maggots growing at a rapid pace on the heaps of garbage piling up on every street corner?   If you ask me this is a great summer in TO - cool, breezy and luke warm.

Yesterday, I discovered I wasn't the only one with a positive outlook on the weather.  My niece Samantha and I had to leave the Blue Jays game early (thank gawd, as they lost to a miserable comeback by Tampa Bay) to get my car...basically because time was running out on the meter. When we got to the doorway, we stopped in awe of just how hard it was raining.  We looked at each other and smiled.  With the car parked about a 15 minutes away, we knew this was going to be an adventure.  In the absence of having an umbrella, Sam pulled up her hood and I put on my jacket and we embraced what was about to happen.   Just steps away from the Rogers Centre and we were already soaked to the bone.   We ran past a wedding party, we slowed down to watch an incredible guy play the spoons and we saw three young guys that decided to take their shirts of and relish in the freedom of fun.  The puddles were higher than our ankles - we jumped in them, kicking water and laughing so hard we were crying.  I'm not sure the walk back would have been half the fun if it was a 'typical' Toronto summer. 

As for everyone else out there not having as much fun, guess they gotta blame it on something.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

dreamweaver

Ah, it's amazing how one tiny thing can lead to another and then it can snowball into a gong show, a step back in time or, in this case, an amazing exploration.

This story ends with Spike Jonze and begins with Tony Robbins. But the thread of it all lies within our heros, the untouchables and our imagination.

About a month ago, I was on twitter and I saw that Tony Robbins had tweeted about Steve Jobs' health and reflected upon his amazing commencement speech at Stanford back in 2005. So, I went to YouTube to watch the speech and was blown away by Steve's presence, humility and his words.  I felt intrigue and interest. From there I started to gain a mild addiction to various MacWorld Conference presentations on the internet, which then lead me wanting more information on Jobs, his career, his personality and even his partner Woz.  I then went to Indigo after work and picked up the book "Icon", which led me to my last blog entry.  That entry, in turn, led me to spark a conversation with a friend that has a colourful history in advertising and I wondered if he ever met Lee Clow (Lee was the creative behind the "1984" Mac ad).  He did meet him and knew him.  Um, Ah-mazing.  So that lead us to a conversation about our hero's (Lee was his and was for many in the industry) and how it sucks when we find out they're human.  Hero's have flaws and that they too fart, burp and have bad breath.  That made me think about the time I 'wigged out' when I met Matt Mays...ok, he was far from a hero but he was someone I put up on a platform, a stage, a rock 'n roll pedestal. And yes, while I wasn't of "sound mind" at the time, nor could I hardly formulate a sentence, I found sadness (and ironic comfort) in that he too was equally a jackass that night. 

Boo to reality.  

What has this snowball taught me? To continue to feed my imagination no matter how old I am, to stay hungry and be foolish and to keep my heros up high and very far away.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

an apple a day.

I've been in the career of marketing communications for the last 12 years, specifically within the advertising industry. I fell in love with advertising when I was kid. Watching Saturday morning TV, I remember loving the commercials just as much as I loved the Smurf's. It wasn't until 1994, in my third year of university, when I surrendered to the fact that I wouldn't be an accountant and I wanted to do something, anything advertising related.  In 1997, I landed a job at Ogilvy, which is where it all began (insert dramatic music here).

This week, after twelve years in the business, I reflected back on my experience and what I've learned...

My brother and I were on the phone last Wednesday and I started to tell him about the book that I'm reading, "Icon" based on the life of Steve Jobs' career. My brother has a long history of being a computer nerd, which has served him well his entire life.  I'm often reminded of him and his passion as I read this book.  Sidebar: Each page that I turn I find myself more and more attracted to 'Steve Jobs Circa 1980'.  What a crazy bastard, and definitely someone who re-affirms the foundation of the book I'm writing.  OK, so back to the convo with my bro. We started talking about marketing & advertising, specifically the work that Apple has been doing for the last 5 years.  My brother asked me why more marketers don't produce simple, compelling, brilliant advertising like that.  And for what felt like the first time in my life, I had an answer for him (you need to know that my whole life my brother is uber smart, so much so in fact that I find it difficult to talk to him on the same plain about anything in life). But because he works for IBM in Marketing and Product Management we found common ground this week. Brilliant Branding.

To me the answer was simple.  
1) Because the advertising is built on an incredible product that lives up to (even surpasses) consumer expectations.
2) Apple knows branding in the purest, cleanest sense.  In many ways, it's almost like they invented branding itself.   

The company completely believes in innovation and leadership (so much so that when they were developing the Mac in the early 80s, Steve Jobs' specifically said his goal "was to change the world".  And, they did.).  Good lord, how many people say that today in the work that they do? Then, mean it and more importantly, have a group of people following that leadership to deliver on a vision. 

In my opinion, 95% of marketers want their advertising to say more than what their product or service can actually offer. In turn, they don't understand the essence of their brand. And most want the advertising to "go first" in order to change perceptions before they execute/change the product or in-store experience.   Advertising is not branding - the key lesson that I've witnessed over my career.

Jobs and Apple slaved over one vision and their product.  They have for the last 30 years. Simply put, they get it.  They believe in what they're doing.  Therefore, making it simple to showcase their efforts in store, on TV and all over the web. Consumers are doing the "advertising" work for them because they worship the product.  Apple has not let them down.

I can't remember a time when I got this much of a reaction to an ad I produced. More importantly I don't recall having my client beam from this much pride on something they've brought to market.  Long live brilliant marketers...


Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. - Steve Jobs

Thursday, July 16, 2009

One Rum, Two Rum, Three Rum...done!

The countdown to Cape Breton is ON!  

You can't quite possibly know what this means to me unless you grew up on the Island. Summer in the Cape is simply sublime. On Aug 1, I head home straight to good ole Sydney, NS with my niece (Sam) and nephew (Rod) in tow.  Tonight when I was talking to Sam on the phone, we were both giddy with excitement. I said, "What are you most looking forward to doing when we get there?".  Ten days shy of her thirteenth birthday, she responded, "Chillaxin'. God Bless her foresight to know this is exactly what her Aunt Cheryl wanted her to say.

Some time back in May, I was craving a taste of a Cape Breton summer, so I called up my brother and we booked a trip for me and the kids to head down to see mom and dad.  My bro and I are doing a family swap of sorts - they get my dog, I get the kids.  Normally, that might be a raw deal (I mean that in the best possible way) but this trip, at their current age, is the best swap I could ask for. 

So, what will this trip entail, you ask?  Well night #1 you can pretty much guar-un-teeeeeee that Donno (my dad) and I will sit at the kitchen table analyzing life over a few (read: many) rumbos.  The rest of the week will include the Cabot Trail: Ingonish Beach, Baddeck, Loch Lomond, and (of course) chillaxin' by the pool.  And if Capers are known for one thing it's their hospitality and having a good time.  I'll be catching up with old friends and spending much needed annual quality time with the extended Munho clan. 

The best part for me this time will be sharing it through the eyes of a 10 and 13 year old that have grown up in Ontario for most of their lives. I plan to soak up this quality time before Nova Scotia becomes a bore to them in their high school years.  I have to say some of the best pictures of them were taken there - jumping off wharves, learning to dive in the pool, riding on their Aunts/Uncles four-wheelers and eating marshmallows at the campfires.   I'm going to ensure we all do this again in the 5 short days we have together and live in every single tiny moment of laughter.

For those of you that have never been, let me be your ambassador for a moment.  Enjoy:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Leave it to an amazing run to put me in an incredible mood.  I got home from an 8km run about an hour ago and I'm still high from it.  That reason alone is why I've missed running so much, not so much for the fitness aspect, but what it does to my headspace and attitude.  I've been working through an injury for 2.5 years now and today's run felt amazing - I feel hopeful and strong.  And generally, just pretty damn happy about having such a great weekend.  On Friday night I reconnected with an old friend, one that I haven't seen in 3 years - we spent the night laughing, reflecting and catching up.   Last night was spent in Oakville at my friends Kevin and Adrienne - having vino, a great meal, good convo. Daws and I slept over  - their new home is inviting, but not because of the walls but because of who's inside.   Adrienne once said to me that even though my family is in NS and Ottawa, I also have my family here in Toronto.  So many incredible friends that always invite me in, feed me and spoil me with love.  All around just feeling happy and lucky today. 

It's a humble feeling when you look at your life and know that you want for nothing and have everything.

And if I could make a mini-movie or a commercial to describe this feeling, it would look like this:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

For Better, Not For Worse



I just caught this documentary on CBC TV tonight and thought it was interesting given that I'm not a child of divorce.  I'm completely impressed by good marriages, strong commitment and shared compromise. I do believe marriage is a fine balance of give and take and those that do it well are masters of the equilibrium and I'm in awe of it.  

After 42 years of marriage, mom has told me that she loves dad more today than she ever did the day she married him.   As someone who has personally never made it past 4 years of commitment in an intimate relationship, that comment impresses the beeejeebus out of me.   But you can see that it's true when you're with them (well, some days). They respect each other. I've often said, when I look around the room and see the happiest couples, they all share ONE thing in common.  They genuinely respect their partner - as a human, a professional, a lover, a friend, a brother/sister or parent.  And while there will be years you don't love each other - you'd never hurt the other, because you respect them.

In watching this hour-long docu tonight, it broke my heart.   There is nothing worse than losing love.  The feeling is sad and sickening. And of the three couples on the show, I was effected most by this couple - you can clearly see he is checked-out and she is heart broken at the loss of the life she vowed to have with him...for better, or worse.  Problem is the 'worse' arrived and one person broke a promise made during a time of love.

An ex of mine once told me, "it easy to love someone when they're at their best, it's at their worst when your test of true love really shows".  

So, to my parents, my brother, Ali and BJ (who celebrated year 9 of marriage yesterday) and to all my friends in incredible relationships, I am impressed and in awe of the love you share. Remember that love and why you got married on those ugly days.

Or, on those ugly days, just give me a shout if you want a taste of the good life that you're missing. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mr. That'll Do

Every year I always give myself a goal of reading X amount of books.  I try, oh how I try, to read at least a minimum of 3 'business or finance' related books, to quench my desire to be smarter tomorrow than I am today. Sometimes even making it to 3 is tough, but I typically make it with some leniency on my criteria.  And in this annual quest, it is a prerequisite to include a few 'light and fluffy's' to that list, so that:

a) my brain doesn't implode
b) I make it to my goal faster
c) I don't get too smart

With that said, my recent interjection of a 'light & fluffy' was a book called, Mr. Maybe.  Enough said, right?  Look at you, already judging me. Anywhosie, I made it through this book in about 2 weeks (pretty fast for me) and although I tried to take it in stride there was one line in it that hit home. Hard.

By the title you've probably already guessed the plot and the climax - cute, successful, twenty-something female works in PR in the UK.  She starts dating a guy that is adorable, they have tons of chemistry, he's funny, charming but his friends are losers, he has no job and lives in a shithole. He leaves her because he thinks he's not good enough for her. Then she meets a guy that is "perfect on paper" - older/more mature, great job, house, car, rich, super nice - but there is ZERO chemistry (christ, it's like my fucking autobiography).  As she's about to marry this guy that she doesn't really love, her best friend sits her down and says, "Libby, don't do this - you're young, you're 27 and you have lots of time to find that perfect guy.  I'd understand if you were 37 and making this decision." 

Um, PARDON?

Ya, I get it...it's just a "light & fluffy", but when I read this line it felt like someone sucker punched me in the face.  And of course it left me wondering when it ever became OK to compromise at any age.

Time to increase the 'business and finance' quotient in my book report.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the way you make me feel

I know, I know.  You're tired of hearing about Michael Jackson.  You're frustrated that the media are hypocrites calling him a pervert when he was alive but a hero in death. Or maybe you're the one that firmly believes he was 'a freak' and doesn't deserve all of this fame or praise.

If you ask me, it's simply nice to celebrate life rather than think about our current state of living lately - the economy, homelessness and a recession.  Maybe it's just me but I think it is an unfortunate, albeit nice, distraction to have us re-focus on what's important.  Living properly. Although he couldn't live properly, he tried his best to teach us to do so.  To enjoy the simple things, to be kind, to love unconditionally and to dance & sing.

Regardless of how we all feel individually, today is a massive day as we officially say goodbye in a global memorial to the King of Pop (now that title is one thing we can't argue about).  I missed the live feeds today at work, so I'm sitting here watching it re-air and I'm crying like a baby. For many reasons, it's me - it's what I do. But, I also haven't experienced a memorial service or funeral in many, many years - thankfully. Michael's memorial is a reminder to me of that horrible feeling of letting go, saying goodbye to someone or something that impacted my life.  

I've always been a naive, cheeseball.  I'm often affected by pop culture and always, always impacted by people that are kind and have a huge heart.  I've never understood people who lie, who are intentionally cruel or just generally deceitful.  (It's probably why I love animals more than most humans).  I truly believe Michael Jackson brought love and joy to us while he was here. 

The words that hit home for me the most in the last two weeks were the words Marlon Jackson said today about his brother: that Michael always wanted to experience those simple moments in life that we all take for granted each and every day, basic living really.  "Michael was judged and ridiculed so often - how much pain can one take?  Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone".

I feel pure sadness when I look at these images side-by-side where he appears on the same stage in the Staples Centre, just one week apart. He was always on stage doing "this" for us, I just hope we didn't do "this" to him.

Goodbye MJ.










If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.
- Michael Jackson

Monday, July 6, 2009

don't throw your junk in my backyard


dear Toronto, 

It's summer time.  I know you can appreciate how much my love grows for you during these limited 90 days. I basque in the glory of your warmth and sunshine.  You know I love you all year round, but c'mon, we've just had some dark snowy months together. Remember?  Blech. So I ask you, what did I do to deserve this?   It's Day 16 and your desire to not shower is literally making your skin crawl with maggots and I witnessed a rat running out from one of your manholes on an early morning run.  I can't help but think, why now? Do you have to be difficult during our hottest months together?

To be honest, when I first met you and decided to give this relationship 'a go' I was a little leery. Initially you weren't that welcoming or friendly.  Your mood was often grey and dreary.  But I soon realized we were both in this together. And I too had to try harder.  I knew it was in my best interest to give you my genuine true effort if this was going to work between us.  Once I opened my eyes and changed my attitude, I saw all the things you had to offer - good food, biking and hiking trails, a plethora of parks, Lake Ontario, the waterfront, many special unique neighbourhoods, a colourful mix of cultures and, best of all, you were the conduit to bringing many more good things and people into my life.  So, I know this is a small hiccup that we're going through - this need you have to be strong (or maybe even stubborn) to hold steadfast to certain beliefs - but please don't punish me for an issue that you have with other people.

I want the Toronto back that I fell in love with...sorry to be so cruel right now, but it must be said, you stink.

Forever yours, 
Cheryl


Saturday, July 4, 2009

fasten your seatbelts

I thought I'd keep this blog a bit 'light' compared to the last few entries.  And what can be more light than a stroll down a memory land of big hair, tight jeans and a crapload of hairspray.

Tonight I'm about to step back in time to 1988, and perhaps even venture all the way up to 1991. These were my junior high and high school years and although my love for music was comprised of a wide range of individuals, I was heavily influenced by glam rock.  I'm pretty sure much of that was a result of my brother's life long dream to be Eddie Van Halen.  Therefore, my first big-haired crush was David Lee Roth.  

My brother's room was in the basement of our house and he spent hours and days down there listening (on record, of course) to everything from Bon Jovi to Black Sabbath.  But one of our mutual favs....Def Leppard.  And let's face it, everyone loved Poison...well at least everyone has an affinity to "Every Rose has it's Thorn".

Tonight, I get to re-live the experience at the Molson Ampitheatre here in Toronto.  It's a cougars dream - a triple bill of super cheese and amazing rock - Cheap Trick, Poison and Def Leppard.  I'm not sure what will be more entertaining - the music or the fans.


video

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

one step away from crazy

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a religious person. Rather, I'm an incredibly spiritual person. I believe that a higher power is not something that is out of the realm of possibility in this universe. In fact, I believe these higher powers are all around us each and every day.  We just misinterpret their presence. 

Although I was raised in a combo Catholic/Protestant household, I definitely don't claim to know much about the teachings of the bible, nor can I wrap my head around all the "God's" that exist globally within each faith.  What I do know is that we're all in it for love.  Maybe not big worldwide love, but love within our own communities - whomever we believe them to be based on colour, religion, taste or status. It's safe to say we turn to religion to give us faith and hope because without them we can often find it hard to carry on when we're faced with the ugly truths within this world.

Whether we like it or not, Michael Jackson's death has caused us all to stop for a moment, even if very brief, to think about humanity.  Yes, he's 'just a pop star', but his message for the last 40 years was beyond music. Personally, I've been bummed this past week, not so much about the loss of one individual, but what his loss means and represents.  Sure, the King has fallen over the years, but it was slow and painful and we all took a front row seat to watch it happen. Chronologically we saw a metamorphosis in his physical appearance, we watched him become a recluse and we listened to tales from parents and children accusing him of horrific, unspeakable things.  And I wonder, did we do this to him?  My dad always taught me about taking accountability for my own life at a certain age and while I agree with him, does this situation still apply for Michael? In many ways, this person (from the little I know of him) was put in a position quite different from the rest of us.  One that lacks genuine nurturing and normalcy. And even without those things, it was obvious that he wanted to give love and to be loved, that he wanted to be child and he wanted children to live like children.  He was a strong presence. He wanted to say more to us, but we broke him down over time.  We silenced him.

As I started thinking about him, I then thought of Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ.   Why is it that whenever we look at individuals that have the power to hold a global conch, that speak the 'gospel' of love, music, peace and a brotherhood, we think they're a bit crazy?  Crazy for their believes, their courage, strength, their relentless and exhaustive efforts to believe in a beautiful, innocent world.  We want to abuse them and take them down.  On the flipside, I can then close my eyes and honestly see the countless number of homeless faces I pass in the run of a month and think about when I make eye contact with them - they always smile at me and express words of endearment, peace and love.  Often their words are not that different than the words spoken in scripture, history books and in lyrics.  And we, yes we, definitely look at these people and think they're crazy too. 

We continue to try and take down these various higher powers that are present in our everyday life when we really should just be directing our simple faith and hope in their pure goodness and love.  

So, who's really crazy here?  C'mon, show of hands....