February 28 – cousin-in-law

219/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s true when they say you marry, you marry into a family and everyone else in that family. Connections are made – some good, some great, some not so. I have been very fortunate in that my wife’s family is amazing. Before the separation, I spent a fair bit of time with them and enjoyed their company. The family is huge and the get-togethers were amazing – everyone loving, caring and genuine. I valued my time with them and would take their company any day over my own smaller family as there was a great bond with them. I felt accepted and valued by most of the family members and I had a great relationship with the cousins and spouses. Yes, I was weird uncle Randy and I relished that role 😉 However, as things happen with a separation, understandably uneasiness and confusion takes place as to the navigations of the extended family dynamics. Since I’ve been back home, I have had some time to think about these lost relationships and it has been awkward for me to engage in in-law family get-togethers as I guess on some level I felt hurt as I thought the connections that were there could have ridden the storm on even a simple level – just a message of “heard, hope you are well” instead of a complete shut-out but as I said, I am working through those feelings as I can see the other perspective.   The one person who I must thank today and who has been one of my most favourite in-laws is Raj. She is the one who has always had my back – when others make judgment calls or feel they know the right answers because they are louder – she always steps to the forefront and says it like it is. We have similar outgoing personalities and sometimes to our detriment, wear our feelings on our sleeves. She also understands me plus has a great sense of style – I mean we were both blondes once 😉  Upon my moving back, Raj did make an effort to connect with me and although I didn’t let her know, I am saying it here that I appreciate you reaching out to me – whereas others didn’t or haven’t since, you have and although I wasn’t ready then, I am ready now to reconnect. I feel so bad that I missed the birth of your child but she’s young, she won’t remember fingers crossed 😉 Thank you for being an awesome cousin-in-law and always a ray of sunshine 🙂

Advertisements

February 27 – hurray for Hollywood

218/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s Oscar night. No, I’m not at a party watching – actually, in my pjs drinking wine and watching Walking Dead live as the Academy Awards are being PVRed; however, I do love movies though. Movies provide me with a form of escapism in the crazy life that I lead. Yes, very fortunate to be living the live of privilege that affords me the luxury of watching movies that move me in a myriad of ways. I can’t even fathom not having movies in my life whether they are being viewed on the big screen, the small screen or even the smaller screen of my ipad or the teeny tiny screen of my phone. I wasn’t allowed to watch movies as a youngster so I missed out on a lot of defining moments in my childhood but I have made up for it since. For all the actors, directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, etc etc, I thank you for taking me on journeys that aren’t even rivalled by my own imagination: space adventures, dystopian landscapes, romantic journeys, terrifying moments in the fetal position, horror nightmares, feelgood moments that replay on and on, tug at the heartstrings moments where I keep my manliness by pretending the tear is actually just a yawn tear (you know what I mean!!). Yes, not a traditional gratitude post but a gratitude post nonetheless. Thank you for allowing me that escape that I need every so often from the daily grind!

February 26 – to Russia with friendship

217/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. About two or so decades ago, being not sport-minded, not uber-masculine, not a beer drinker, not publicly making moves on the ladies, basically not being very male, I found it tough to make friendships with other guys. Actually, let me correct that – I wouldn’t allow myself to make friendships with other guys as I thought I’d be rejected. I kept more to myself and would make the casual and superficial small-talk and leave it at that. Fast forward a couple of years to Burnett Secondary where I met Rob – Robin Thicke look-alike. Rob was a substitute English teacher and the casual chat at the lunch table started but given that there was more time and no where for me to go, I got to talking with Rob and found that he was nothing like what I thought he should be. He was a very nice guy – kind, caring and just laid back. Somehow a friendship developed and we started hanging out and he introduced me to a few new friends. One spring break, he asked if I wanted to go to Vegas with his group of friends (who I had never met) and not one to shy away from anything, I said yes and had an amazing time. I got to know his parents, his sister and some other cool friends as well as a few girlfriends (one being a common friend) and he got to know my wife and a few new colleagues. We hung out regularly, had beers, went shopping for clothes, hung out with people – basically, we had a bromance before the term was even, ever invented LOL. Rob got a job at an international school which allowed him to travel all over the world, meet his wife, and have two sons. Both my wife and I were fortunate enough to travel to Egypt because Rob was there and stay with him – not even a destination on our horizon but Rob made it a reality. In fact, I was supposed to go to visit him in Russia in a few weeks but because of injuries, visa delays and the like, that won’t happen but for him to open up his home to me yet again, what an amazing guy. Yes, Rob, you were my first true guy friend – I remember telling you that and you definitely set the bar high but I totally appreciate your friendship and advice over the years.  Have an awesome birthday today and I look forward to seeing you again next time you are in Vancouver!

February 25 – i got schooled again

216/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Today’s person I met just very recently but I had to include them in on this list as the comment they made changed my entire teaching philosophy and the way I look at things going forward. Earlier in these posts, I talked about the white boys in my classes and in the weeks since, one of them made a comment to me in response to my trying to motivate him to spend more time on and add more details to the assignment he was working on in class. I was thinking of a number of ways to motivate him when he simply said – “I’m okay with this.” I was taken aback. I have never been told that. I queried and he said that he took the time to do it in class – which he probably wouldn’t have done if it was for homework and he was satisfied with what he did and willing to accept the mark he got. I was floored and although I said he could do better, he said he knew that but this was good enough for him. I stood there dumbfounded not because he didn’t take my advice but because he knew what he was doing and he was satisfied. He understood the assignment, did it to the point where he was okay with his work and submitted it. At that moment, I realized that I was imposing my standards on him. There is one thing to motivate but another to have standards that don’t necessarily fit every student. I was trying to raise the bar for him but he was comfortable in grabbing it where it was and bringing it down to where he wanted and leaving it at that. Yes, one could argue that I should be pushing him and trying to help him succeed but he’s not failing. He is in grade 12 and he knows what he is doing.  Plus, unwarranted antagonism because of some ideal I have is not necessary. And before you start criticizing my teaching strategy – and don’t even consider it if you are a non-teacher 😉 – I know what I am doing. There are other important things to work on and grades are definitely not the be all and end all and I needed to be reminded of that but I also needed to be made aware of the fact that students take ownership for their own learning and they are entitled to make those decisions at the grade levels I teach. Thank you “S” for bringing a much needed awareness to my teaching.

February 24 – you neglected my needs

215/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. This is definitely a reverse-gratitude post to the extreme. I can admit that I’m pretty stupid when it comes to politics, when it comes to government, when it comes to economics, when it comes to anything to do with what one learned in high school in a certain curriculum. In grade 11, I happened to be at a high school (which shall remain nameless) where a certain sport was the be all and end all – students who excelled in that sport were “recruited” and cross-boundaried to the school. The coach of that sport also happened to be a teacher (not the other way around) and I happened to be in that coach’s class. The class was first period on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (how I remember that is beyond me). The games that that coach coached were usually those afternoons. The assignments that we did were make posters for the games – I kid you not! Because I am artistically inclined, I aced the posters. I got an A in that class. When it came to the exam (first year of provincials), we were “coached” and of course the class aced the exam as well. I can honestly say that I learned absolutely nothing in that course and got the easiest A of my life. At that time, I didn’t even second guess that. I was a high school student who got to do art in a class that others actually did work and I got an A – why would I complain because I had nothing to complain of and I didn’t know that I was missing out on anything. Off to first year university and that’s when I realized I knew absolutely nothing of the subject area because of Economics 101. I took the class and I had no clue what was going on. I failed but not a wimpy 45% or anything like that. I failed solidly – 8%! Yes, single digit fail – I have the transcript to prove it. That’s when I realized that I had learned nothing and I denounce that teacher to this day because I was failed as a student and it affects me to this day as I can not hold an intelligent conversation with anyone about important economic/political issues as I have no foundation or basis to start from. Because of that experience, no matter what is going on in my class or in my life, my students will get an education and will learn the curriculum that I am tasked to teach. I consciously make sure that they will walk away with some knowledge as my role is an educator and everything else at school is secondary to that. “Thank you” Mr ? for the impact that you had on me 😦

February 23 – chance meeting

214/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Growing up, especially during my late teenage years/early adult years, my mom relied on me more and more to accompany her to various Indian parties because my father never attended them. I would inevitably end up driving even though she was fully capable as she was/is only 19 years my senior but I had nothing better to do as I had yet to discover alcohol (that came in my early to mid 20s). So most weekends, I would be at some distant relatives or friend of my mom’s wedding/engagement/first birthday/graduation party. I would be bored out of my mind – did I mention that I had not discovered the mind-numbing pleasure of alcohol yet – and would sit there watching and most often all by myself as my mom had/has a social life that would be the envy of a Kardashian! I remember at one of these events, I sat there and there was another guy exactly my age with his mom and he came over and sat with me. We started talking and he introduced himself as Gary. We consoled each other over our situations – okay, who am I kidding – I complained about mine and he told me that I was being a good son. He said we should hang out and I invited him to come over to my mom’s house the next week. On that day, Gary struck up a conversation with my mom which inevitably wound up with the discussion of what village his family was from in India. Crazy small world. There was a link but not just a vague link – his dad and my mom were related but the families had lost touch since emigrating back in the early 60s. The chance meeting brought both families together and from that day over 30 years ago, Gary’s family and ours has been close and there for each other. Although Gary and I are just casual acquaintances/distant cousin-like relationship now but still honestly friendly, I have to thank him for approaching me that evening and starting up a conversation that brought my mom in touch with her relatives. He is like a second son to my mom as well and is always there for her – dare I say even more than me at times but I am glad that she has him to help her out when I am a little too absorbed in my own life. Thank you Gary for being there for me in my absence, for being there for my mom, and for bringing our families together. You are an awesome guy!

February 22 – European Vacation

213/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. So as my spring vacation plans fall apart and I am resigning myself to a staycation this year, I think back to some of the trips that I have been fortunate enough to have taken and one of them, although a lot of work, was taking a group of students to Europe during the spring break of 2010. The planning started well over a year in advance and no matter how well one can plan, I didn’t plan for my female teacher co-sponsor to up and get pregnant 😉 All of a sudden, I had new co-sponsors wanting to join the trip – especially now that most of the leg-work had been done. I knew right away that there were some that would cause me work than the actual students going on the trip and I also knew that there would be some that would just not make the experience enjoyable for not only the students but more importantly for myself. I had to come up with creative excuses but it was easy for me to pick the female co-worker to take with me. I got to know Rachel over the course of a couple of years. We happened to sit at the same table at lunch and would laugh (and also be shocked) by some of the stories told by our co-workers. But more importantly, I got an understanding of her work ethic and I knew she was as detail oriented as I was and so it was a no-brainer asking her to join the trip. So easy to get along with and so organized, the trip was a breeze – yes, the students were amazing but just having someone that you could rely on and without worrying about made all the difference in the world. That trip strengthened our friendship and I was honoured to be invited to her wedding about a year or so later. Unfortunately, I have moved to a different school and our friendship has trickled to the occasional messages through Facebook but at least that medium allows for virtual connections and updates such as the birth of her new baby a few months ago. I miss our lunch chats/laughs but still appreciate your friendship! Welcome to another great type of field trip with children Rachel – parenting!! 🙂

February 21 – teacher friends

212/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. This past Friday, I, along with 5 others, organized a Teacher’s Pro D day held at a common school for 5 secondary high schools. It was a lot of work behind the scenes but the day turned out to be very successful and I got a lot of positive feedback; however, that is not the purpose of today’s gratitude post. There were a lot of people who showed up and as I looked around, there were a significant number that I had come into contact with during my teaching career. I saw, talked to and connected with a lot of teacher friends from over the years and each person – although I couldn’t spend much time with them due to my organizational commitments – brought back many memories that we had shared over the years. I realized that they had shaped me just by being around me in some way even if I no longer see them anymore. From Paul who briefly taught across the hall from me one semester and his conversations around life and death to the new, young teacher Taren who had taught my son and gave me an insight into who he is. From Mandeep who is amazing for my ego as she has nothing but positives for me each and every time she sees me to Joe whose dry sense of humour and sarcasm have taught me a thing or three about life. These are but a few of the teacher friends I saw this past Friday and these are but a few of the teacher friends that over the years have shaped me into the man, the academic, the friend, the teacher, the person who I am today. Thank you all for passing through my life and leaving a little piece of who you are on me as it has made me a better person. I look forward to reconnecting with you on a deeper level the next time we run into each other.

February 20 – defy aging

211/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s very strange to me that almost all of my friends and acquaintances are younger than me and not by just a coupe of years. I could probably count on one hand those that are older than me. If I dared analyze why this is the way it is – which I’m about to do – it’s probably because of my late personal development. I didn’t really come into who I was much later than most people. I often get asked what I think of 70s music? When did I start drinking? Partying? Dating? Which movies I watched back in the day? I didn’t experience any of it. Because of a combinations of things – bullying based on my appearance and my dad institutionalized for most of my late childhood and early to mid teens, I wasn’t asked/invited/introduced to such things and we wouldn’t have had the money to afford some of these extravagances. I was expected to be a good boy and be home after school, study to get into university and to get a part time job. I worked every summer. I finally experienced my own freedom around 17/18 years of age. This was my entrance into my teen years – almost ¾ of a decade later. I have been often told that I don’t look or act like 50 or 40 or whatever age I was at the time – initially, I’m revelling in the compliment but then I get a bit out of sorts as the people I’m with are late 20s, mid 30s, late 30s, early 40s and I start to consciously think about why they are hanging with me and why I am hanging with them. I know that I offer something to them as they do to me to validate and continue our friendships but I’m the first to go to the age defense mechanism to protect myself but not once has that ever been a hindrance on their part and I guess what this reveals to me is that perhaps I’m the one who has a bit of an ageist bent; whereas, all these “young” people don’t judge me on a number but on who I am and what I bring to our friendships. To all of you who have been, are and will be in my life through friendships, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for accepting me for me even when I am constantly challenged by my own age. You keep this 50 year old young in mind, body and spirit – cheers to each and every one of you!

February 19 – laugh at me

210/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’d like to think that I am a funny person on purpose but sadly I know that I have my foibles that lead to humourous incidences due to my naivety. I would love to change that up but for some odd reason, I find myself in countless situations that perplex not only myself but the many people that find out about them. I am an open book so I share my escapades with others or on social media as deep down I feel that they will be revealed so why not take ownership immediately and spin it my way. The former works but for the latter, there is no way to spin the things I get myself into in a positive light. I have been told that I need to write down and publish all the situations I find myself in/happen to me. I would if I was aware in the moment but I just seem to walk into them and then upon realization and reflection, I embarrassingly try to minimize what takes place. I must thank all those around me who unwittingly experience first hand or second hand the outrageousness that finds its way to me. Although I may on first glance revel in the hilarity of what has taken place, I am, on a deeper level, trying to figure out how I could have changed things up to make myself come across as smarter and look way more intelligent but alas, that has never happened and I doubt it will ever happen. I now take comfort in the fact that I am who I am and that I bring humour to others based on what life throws me. For all of you have laughed with me and not at me, I am forever grateful. For all of you have laughed at me – uhm, well, I guess I still brought you some joy into your life. As of present, I have stopped worrying about how I am being perceived and live my life and embrace the circumstances that come my way even if they end up making me the butt of the joke! Laugh on, I do 😉