December 31 – goodbye 2015

160/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Closing off 2015. It’s been a crazy, chaotic year – yes, it tested me and it bested me but I learned a lot about myself and this blog was borne of it.   I made new friends this year that came into my life because that’s what was necessary for my life. I made stronger connections with already existing friends because that was also necessary. I faced health issues that only made me stronger. I lost touch with close relatives due to family politics but I reconnected with estranged family members as well – both making me that much better. I became open and honest about who I am and what my life is about. I shared about myself but I received so much more feedback from others telling me that I have inspired/aided them in their journey of life. I turned 50 this past year and faced my demons and discovered angels – one being letting go of my perfectionism and accepting my human frailties. I took on various challenges and conquered some of my fears. I re-evaluated my personal relationships and moved back home. I have learned a lot in the past year – some good, some not so good but all good for my personal growth. Yes, 2015 was another trying year for me – 3 years of trials and tribulations in a row but as they say, things come in 3s so maybe a change is coming! I needed you 2015 to put me through the test of life but I am very much ready to say goodbye to you and welcome the new year but whatever 2016 throws me, I will face it and deal with it as I do with everything I face, a smile and a drink in hand and my sense of humour intact! Cheers to you 2015 – glad to have been alive and living and heeding your life lessons!

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December 30 – i remember you

159/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. This past year – well actually the last 5 months, I spent time reflecting on all sorts of people who have had an impact on me. Many were from my career in teaching, others from family and still others from my youth. One person that I hadn’t thought about for a long time was Gary I. I worked with Gary at McDonald’s when I was in my mid to late teens. I didn’t have many friends growing up and Gary and I didn’t start off as friends but over the course of work, friendship developed especially given that I was host (working in the lobby organizing children’s birthday parties or just talking to patrons) and Gary was the “lobby boy” (person cleaning the restaurant area) for many of my shifts. Yes, we did the not so good things of sneaking extra food for ourselves, taking longer breaks than normal and just having laughs on the shift. A group of McDonaldites started socializing outside of work and I ended up being on the periphery – not always invited but so grateful when I was. Gary and a few regulars would be there and the group did what teenagers do – hangout, maybe have the occasional beer, go to movies downtown, go to parties.   I felt included and Gary was an integral part of this. I recall one time that we had a McDonald’s car rally and Gary, myself and on other girl were grouped together. We were driving around Richmond picking up clues and one of the items required was raspberries.   We were on the smaller roads with big ditches (# 6 Road) and Gary didn’t time a turn correctly and the next thing we hear him say is “We’re in the ditch”. He was right, we just landed nice and neatly, no injuries in the ditch and the car started to fill up with water. Bit of shock but we all climbed out of the trunk and onto the road and the first thing that Gary said that I was thinking – “Raspberries” – yup, huge raspberry bushes in the ditch. We started laughing. Got the car towed but of course showed up late at the end. I have many great memories with Gary who helped me come out of my shell and made some of my youth enjoyable. I looked him up in my late 20s to reconnect and thank him but was saddened and shocked to learn that he had passed away. This gratitude post is in your honour and to recognize you Gary for being one of my first friends as a teenager. Cheers to you in heaven!

December 29 – embrace your passion

158/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s cold outside but hey, I live in Vancouver so how cold is it really compared to the rest of Canada – pretty mild but then again, El Nino is having a weird effect everywhere but I digress. The weather outside got me thinking about Calgary and that got me thinking about one of my last visits there when I met Debbie T for a coffee which was quite a while ago. I first met Debbie when she was in the UBC Education program becoming a Business Teacher. Even though I was her instructor for her required courses, we hit it off well and became friends. I was able to offer her advice about teaching and especially set her mind at ease in that she made the right decision to leave the corporate world behind. It is a tough decision for most of the people in that particular program who are used to high paying jobs to give all that up and go into teaching but I knew Debbie had made the right decision. She reminded me of myself – very focused, a go-getter, and a perfectionist which is not always a bad thing ;). I also loved her wicked sense of humour but best of all was her passion for teaching. I would have loved to have seen her teach but alas, I was not her practicum supervisor. After her degree, Debbie decided to take time off and go traveling in South America for a year – I watched her travels via Facebook and was very envious. Debbie came back to Canada and got married and Debbie had a baby – if I’m remembering it all well. I hope she is still teaching because she is the type of person we need in the profession. I was inspired by her genuine compassion for students and the way she lit up when she told me about the things she was doing in class and the successes that she experienced. The biggest thing though that made Debbie stand out was that she changed her entire life to pursue her calling – I often wonder if I would have had the courage to do that in my early 30s. Although I have not seen Debbie in a while, this gratitude post is just a timely one to let a person know that they had an impact on someone that they probably were not aware of. Thank you Debbie for making me realize that passion for teaching isn’t something that can be inculcated but it is something intrinsically woven in one’s being and those are the people that make the best teachers! I raise a crema de tequila spiked hot chocolate in your honour : )

December 28 -love thy brother

157/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. For half my life, I have been envious of a certain group of people. Brothers. Not sisters and brothers but brother and brother(s). In my entire family of cousins, I am the only male that has no male sibling. All my male cousins have brothers. Although I was the oldest and was well on the path of my life, I often looked at my male cousins with envy as I wanted that brotherly bond. Growing up, I had friends who had brothers and I often wondered what that would be like and what I was missing. I guess I felt I would have been a totally different, probably better person. My mom also felt bad for me – I recall going to India when I was 18 with her for the second time in my life and most of the people who met me us would ask myself or my mom how many boys/sons there were and when I would remark that I was the only one, my comments would be met with borderline pity and sadness. This just added to my frustration. I often longed to have had an older brother who would have helped me through the tumultuous childhood and teenage years that came my way (especially with my dad being in an institution and missing a father figure from when I was about 7 to 16) and show me how to play sports and just basically be a guys’ guy. I didn’t necessarily want a younger brother as I knew that my social awkwardness (aka nerdiness) would probably have caused him some stress. Alas, none of that was to be. I eventually realized that I was fortunate in that I got a little more special treatment and attention from uncles, aunts, grandparents etc because I was the only son. I also realized that I had to step up to the plate and didn’t have anyone to rely on growing up and it has made me stronger person today. I guess we can’t really miss what we don’t have as we really don’t know what we are missing except what we perceive others have – I hope that makes sense as it took me a long time to come to that understanding. Although, I still occasionally wonder about my parallel life with that older bro and will still be a tad envious of brotherly love, I have to be thankful for a brotherless life as the life I’m living today is more than wonderful. To you brothers out there, enjoy your bonds – from the outside looking in!

December 27 – service oriented

156/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the holidays and for someone in my career (teaching), you kind of take it for granted that you get two weeks off to relax, rejuvenate and destress or in my case, eat and drink and gain a Santa belly. You forget that a lot of people actually work during this time and if they are on holidays, they are taking time off during this period to be with friends and family – especially if they have younger children. I realized that this past weekend. On Friday, an internet repair technician came to our house to upgrade our modem as we were having problems with connection speeds. This was Friday Christmas Day!!! I felt guilty that he was working on this day – and internet is not an essential service (although some days it feels like it is!!). I remarked this to him and soon realized that he was a newbie and must have been given this as part of his schedule. I got his business card and asked for his supervisor’s name (told him why) and sent her an email about him and how he helped us out on Christmas Day. My wife’s car has been dead at the airport over Christmas and Boxing Day and we got a technician to come out and look at it today on a Sunday (typical day off for people like me) and during the holidays. Great man who figured out the problem and set us on our way. Yes, there could be so many bitter people who have to work on the holidays but I have not encountered them since venturing out for groceries, the odd latte or a night out drinking beer with friends. Everyone has been so kind and pleasant – maybe it ‘tis the season or maybe these gratitude posts just make me see the world in a different way these days. Thank you to all of you who work/have to work during these days but doing it in such a kind and happy way – your attitude definitely deserves to be rewarded but the least I can do is recognize it.

December 26 – let’s make a deal

155/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s Boxing Day. Am I out shopping today? Nah, not really into it this year but I do remember what I was doing two years ago on this day – dealing for and then purchasing myself my Range Rover. Yes, I bought it on Boxing Day and I couldn’t have done it without Don S’s advice. An owner of his own luxury car dealership, I met Don at the gym and got to know him there and at a few wine events. My son told me more about Don than I knew as my son is very much into cars and had heard of Don’s auto dealership. As I spent months and months doing research and looking for my Range Rover Evoque (slightly used and either red or blue), I was almost about to give up until I happened upon one on Craigslist Cariboo. I was even willing to drive to the interior of BC but was surprised to discover that this was some type of marketing by the local Kia dealership in town and the Rover was not locally advertised. They had the exact Range Rover I wanted (one month old) all under warranty so I quickly drove to the dealership heart pounding. There I was and it was true. The regular price was $60K new, their selling price (as it was one month used) was $50k. I phoned up Don asking him what to do. He told me that it was the end of the year, they want to get rid of this vehicle, especially since it’s not their make/model and they will negotiate. The dealership dropped down to $47k. Don told me to offer $45k and walk away. “Are you sure?” I recall asking and he said do it and they will negotiate. I got it for $45.5K with lifetime car washes included! I am not a wheeler-dealer by nature and I so appreciated Don’s advice and guidance in the quick purchase of my vehicle. Oh, and I also have to give Don one more prop – for interviewing my son last year. First interview ever and my son had no clue what to do and of course gave honest, yet not very-job getting answers LOL but what a great experience. He didn’t end up getting the job but my son is motivated to try again once he gets his Learner’s license this February and I’m glad that my son is actually wanting to work part-time and willing to try again. Thanks Don for helping me out with my big purchase and giving my son a chance at what he’s interested in. In your honour, I learn a little more about my Range Rover while I get my son schooled on how to drive 😉 Cheers!

December 25 – my wife and kids

154/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s Christmas. It’s time for family. Last year was a crazy time for me. I was separated. I was living on my own. I also decided not to spend Christmas or the holidays with family – immediate or extended. It was my choice. I made the conscious decision to be alone but I did not regret it. A year ago, I was angry at life. I was angry at my immediate family. I was angry at my extended family. I was angry at myself. But I knew it. Having that knowledge allowed me to make an informed choice – either one where I could inflict my upset on others during the holidays or deal with it myself. I decided to go with the latter. This is where growth happened for me. I needed to deal with my emotions – regardless of the time of the year – on my own schedule. I had a lot of pressure to do family things but I decided to hold my ground and separate myself from family to do my own healing. I was lucky to have friends to keep me occupied but one year ago today on Christmas, I was on my own without anyone for the first time in my life and it was actually okay. This Christmas is different. I have moved back home to work on family at this moment – if my spousal relationship heals, that’s great but that is not the focus at the present. When I decided to be a father, I made a commitment to be a father regardless of what was going on in my own personal life. I could never forgive myself if I was away from my kids, especially my teenage son, getting through teen life and making mistakes and me not being there to offer advice/support/criticism. If he/they make the same mistakes while I’m at home, so be it but I am not away focusing solely on myself – that’s not what being a dad was for me – I have to be there. Life is not back to normal – far from it but that’s a good thing. It is way better than what it was before I decided to move out as the appreciation and communication had eroded and now I am consciously working on it. The time away has given perspective for everyone. A lot more growth and healing has to take place but that is what a family is for. I am very fortunate that I have an understanding wife (gratitude post to come when I’m ready) and two awesome children (gratitude post for son in February, gratitude post for daughter back at 9/11) – yes, all this was tough for them as for me but no one said life was easy and this is what relationships are all about. This is what sometimes happens in family. But also family understands better than anyone else and I am very thankful for my family even if they don’t know it. Thank you my wife, my daughter and my son.

December 24 – family night

153/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the day before Christmas and everyone has traditions this time of the year. Although my kids are older now, each of them got an ornament to put on their own miniature tree every year from birth to their mid-teens. My daughter got a Hallmark Holiday Barbie and my son received a Hallmark Harley – yes, you may criticize that I was falling into the gender stereotyping of ornaments and yeah, you are right 🙂 The kids absolutely looked forward to putting up their previous years’ ornaments and then the new one. I must say that I also got a kick out of it. Another tradition that found its way into our family (when my kids were younger) was “Family Night”. Every Friday, regardless of our individual plans, all four of us had to set aside two hours for Family Night – this was basically going out for dinner as a family of four and then coming home to perhaps a movie or a board game. We did this religiously for several years – if it wasn’t Friday, then it was moved to Saturday. It got harder as the children started to become teenagers but we managed for as long as possible and it was one of the best traditions we had as a family. I cannot take credit for this – I was inspired by my student Tefke. A wonderful young woman who was in a couple of my classes back when I first started teaching, Tefke really inspired me. I, being a keen teacher, took it upon myself to phone every one of my student’s parents at home over a weekend for an interim report on their progress regardless of their grade – an onerous task for sure. I remember Tefke coming up to me and telling me not to phone on Sunday. I was at a loss as she was doing very well in my class so I asked her why? She told me it was Family Day. I asked her to elaborate and she told me that her parents, herself and her other two sisters spent Sunday together being a family. They had activities planned and probably would not be answering the phone. She told me that this happened every weekend. She went on to explain how this kept the family close and expressed her gratitude to her parents for doing this. I was in awe. This explained the kindness and generosity that Tefke displayed to others in class as well as the close bond that she had with her sisters but also the love that I could clearly see that she had for her parents. I told her that I was going to do something like that and that’s how our Family Night came to be. Thank you so much Tefke for sharing your family tradition that I was able to adapt. You changed the way I parented and I am forever grateful. I want to share this so others can also benefit from what you taught me. In your honour, I will try to organize a Family Night these days with my adult and teen children 😉

December 23 – i like your curves

152/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Curves! They are all over the place. In baseball – curve. In fashion – curvy. In conversation – someone throws you a curve. And of course in education – marking on the curve. Being that I am a teacher, this latter use of curve has come up several times in my career. I know that “the curve” represents the majority of people: most are average in height thus supermodels are technically freaks of nature 😉 Most of us are average in weight – TLC shows us the outliers in their programming. Most of us are also average in intelligence. Thus the averages cluster into the center of the curve, the normal curve. Enough of my lesson on that 🙂 While getting my teaching degree, one of my Education professors (oh how I wished I remembered her name – I have seen her around though) questioned our class about grading and grading on the curve. We had a very informative discussion on how students should be assessed on their abilities and not marked on a theoretical curve. I was inspired by that discussion but also dejected in that I knew that my grade in that university class was going to be put on that same curve as most of the courses I had ever taken, I was assessed that way. I am usually not the type of person to broach a subject in a large group setting but I just had to say something and I did – respectfully even though I did use the term “hypocrisy” in my questioning. I thought there would be some type of reprisal but she was very forthcoming with her response and told me that I was right. This didn’t help alleviate my fears but she continued on. She said to the class that this was the first time that it had been brought up to her and that she would definitely evaluate each and every one of us on our potential without fitting us to the normal curve. I didn’t know where my potential would lie and I also thought perhaps she was paying the requisite lip service but she kept her word. I noted the grades at the end of the term and the majority of the class was at the high end of the spectrum. I don’t know if that was consciously done or that’s how we all ended up but that moment changed the way I assessed – never, ever marking on the normal curve. I, to the best of my abilities, assess every student for what they do in the class and not comparatively to others but to the objective standards for assignments and projects that I have set up and I allow for bonus marks because if you put the extra effort in, you should be awarded and rewarded. Thank you Education professor for getting me to think about assessment and evaluation early in the game and put me on the path that is justifiable for my teaching. In your honour, I skew the curve for the students benefit 😉

December 22 – what she said

151/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s that time of year – no, not Christmas but rather grade 12 students making plans for life decisions: starting work, applying for universities and colleges, taking time off and traveling etc. I know from personal experience and also that of my daughter’s experience as well as the students I teach that it is such a difficult decision to setting one on the path they are going to follow for life (yes, changes can be made but most people get used to the status quo). In my daughter’s case and for some of my students, I was able to give some advice based on my own personal experiences but the same did not happen for me. I am the oldest child of immigrant parents who did not go to university. I am the oldest of all my cousins (in Canada). I basically felt the pressure – both implicitly (relatives asking indirect questions) and explicitly (relatives telling me what to do) – which added to my grade 12 stress. I would have been happy being a gas jockey but I knew that that would not be what my parents nor my extended family would want me to do. The person who helped me was the Career Guidance counselor (not the regular counselor). I believe her name was Ms Paxton. I remember making an appointment and going through some of the earlier precursors to the Myers-Briggs and other personality tests. I recall a battery of questions over the hour plus session and then I was called back a week later for the results – no, it wasn’t instantaneous as I went to school before the internet era!! Upon reviewing my results, I was disillusioned. Over the week, I was excited to find out what I should/could be doing for a career but nothing definitive came from the tests. I initially thought I wasted my time (plus I missed an hour of class – yup, I’m that guy). However, Ms Paxton pointed out that although it didn’t show me plainly what I should be doing, it did definitely point out what I shouldn’t be doing! I was surprised but reassured – I recall one of the things being that I do not like working with my hands and it delineated careers I should not pursue: gardener, repair person and ditch digger (I specifically remember that LOL). I knew that was right – I didn’t like working with my hands but I wouldn’t have been able to acknowledge that myself specifically and it made my decision for fields to pursue in university that much easier. Of course, I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher until my first degree was done (see gratitude post 2/365) but Ms Paxton’s interpretation of my results and subsequent advice set me on the road leading to the path I was to end up on. Thank you Ms Paxton and in your honour, I will continue to advise my students to the best of my abilities.