March 31 – this is how you do 50

250/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As I’ve mentioned several times before, as a young person, I had difficulty making friends and having friendships.  I was not comfortable with myself I suppose and this was easily read by others (let’s leave all the bullying to the side and focus on my personality rather than my looks way back then).  I didn’t have opportunities to make friendships until I was able to shed all the weight, gain some confidence and grow into my looks.  Over the years, I have made good friendships but the thing about most of them is that my friends are my junior by a few years to a couple of decades.  Initially, I wondered about myself and also about them as to why they wanted to be my friend but to quote Aaliyah “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” and I am so okay with it now.  However, making friends, lasting friends later on in one’s life (remember I am 50!!) is a tough thing to do.  Even harder is making friends who are your age-mates.  Hockey dadding has helped but I have also made friends outside of teaching and parenting.  Dean is one of those friends.  We met a few years ago and we had an instant chemistry and friendship.  A couple of months older than me, he was working at UBC while I had just finished my stint there.  Initially, I just thought this was just like many people you meet and might friend on Facebook but rarely talk to afterwards but we have maintained our friendship.  We are yin and yang as friends:  me, the wild man-bun sporting, loud, out there guy and him, the reserved, GQish, intellect.  However, despite our differences, we are friends and in two years, we have created a great friendship and he becomes another shoulder to lean on.  He also inspires me – running his first marathon to celebrate his 50th while I ran a marathon as well – partying for 7 days straight with various friends.  As well, I want to have a refined fashion sense for a 50 year old man.  I don’t!  He does!  Yes, Dean is probably how 50 should be done!  I do question the gin martinis and have yet to convince him of the merits of craft beer but I can forgive that one difference in our tastes.  So glad we met and yes, I raise a gin martini (reluctantly) in your honour!  You rock!

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March 30 – such a trip

249/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Not only is this a straight forward gratitude post, it’s also a backhanded gratitude post at the same time as I am thanking two groups of people.  Without the shortcomings of one group, the appreciation for the other group would not be noticed, let alone written about.  I have been fortunate over the years to travel on trips within my role as a teacher – be it short ones on a ski trip for a day or a weekend camping trips or coaching/sponsoring for a couple of days to two week long journeys to Europe or Japan.  The students aside, the trips are all about the co-workers who accompany you on the trip.  Unless you are organizer (which I’ve rarely been), you have little choice or say in who is going so the very trip’s enjoyment is based on the dynamics as a result of the staff mix.  I have been to Japan once with three different schools and thus three different adult chaperones and it was a nightmare.  All I did with one of the teachers was argue as I was more laissez-faire in my approach to things and she was by the book, accounting for everything, not veering off the beaten path.  I based extending curfews on student behaviour – she based curfew on the fact that she goes to bed at 10pm!!  There was no leeway on her part so we clashed.  I felt bad for the third chaperone as he knew we did not like each other.  She thought that I would end up getting kids lost or abducted but I had the last laugh when two of her male students decided to take the bullet train during the night to meet up with some Japanese girls they met earlier in Tokyo (we are in Osaka now!!) and missed the return trip.  I knew they were safe but the childish me was like “ha ha ha”!  Because of that travel companion, I have appreciated traveling with others where our personalities just mesh and there is give and take and a lot of flexibility.  I have had this on a trip to Europe with three other sponsors, on trips to Kelowna (or was it Kamloops) for field hockey tournaments, room sharing in Whistler and the list goes on.  You really don’t appreciate good travel companions/chaperones until you have traveled with a nightmare!  Thank you to both types of sponsors as now I choose wisely if I want to go on a trip – be it a day or two weeks – based on who else is going to be going.  Bon Voyage!

March 29 – nod ya head

248/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  After 4 months of no exercise whatsoever due to broken ribs and a punctured and then collapsed lung, I finally ventured out for my first form of cardio – a run, no wait, jog, no wait, let’s be honest – it was a trudge.  But even before beginning, I came down the stairs and my daughter asked if I was going out dressed like that.  Yes, a stuffed sausage has nothing on me in my running shirt now that I’ve packed on a good 10+ pounds but that wasn’t what she was referring to.  I queried – shirt too tight, man-bun not on fleek, too bright shoes???  Then my son jumped in and said “it’s your stripper shorts”!!  I was quite taken aback – they were mid too low thigh on the mannequin but they were well above on me.  My 6’3” son offered me his basketball-type shorts and I came down in them and both of them laughed and remarked that even those on me were above my knees and I was wearing them well low on my hips.  Yes, surprisingly 5’10” of me is all long limbs but a very short torso 😦  So with my ego not so intact, I make my way outside and was about to quit for the second time.  Even though it was sunny, it was deceivingly chilly around 7pm; however, I mustered the courage and head out.  The 5 km that had in the past taken me about 20 – 25 minutes tonight took an hour and for the third time, I was ready to just turn back into the first ½ km.  But that’s when it happened – the nod and smile.  It’s some kind of greeting code between runners that I had no clue about until well into my 3rd or 4th year of running – I mean, the first time it happened to me, I thought the person knew me and so I stopped and turned around to engage but they kept running.  The second time it happened (and okay, let’s be honest, a couple of subsequent times), I thought I was being hit on – damn, I could really be into this running thing!  LOL  Then I realized that almost everyone who was a solitary runner gave some form of that “nod and smile greeting” be it a wink and nod (hey, that definitely looks like flirting LOL) or a wave and nod.  So tonight, just as I was about to quit – my breathing would have been the envy of any Lamaze coach – a female runner going in the opposite direction gave me all the encouragement I needed:  the nod and smile.  No, I did not pick up my speed.  Yes, I did stop a couple of times for rest breaks.  No, I did not make the lights – on purpose.  Yes, an older guy passed me as did the kid on his tricycle.  But that runners greeting that has been getting me through about 2 decades of jogging/running worked its wonders again.  Thank you to my fellow runners for giving me the fortitude to get through my run not only tonight but each and every time I go out.  I nod and smile back at you!

March 28 – escapism

247/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I love to talk.  I love to express myself.  I love to share my opinions.  I love to be heard!  LOL.  If you know me, you know that all that is true about me.  I also love to watch tv and get involved in any discussions regarding the shows that I watch.  I also love music and espouse the virtues of my favourite artists at any turn.  As well, I’m a fan of books and movies and can find myself in enlightening dialogue regarding characters or plot development.  I think this is what makes entertainment that much better – being able to engage into it further than the initial viewing, listening or reading.  About a decade or so ago, I was a moderator of a music forum with a few others.  New singles and artists were introduced (yes, the days of Napster!!) and threads were opened to discuss the merits or faults about the song and I could spend hours embattled in what I felt was a great song or what should have been a huge hit – I enjoyed making ‘friends’ and being able to have lively debates about whomever was artist du jour.  With books, I’ve entered into forums on a work chat site over the years convincing others of the merits of an author and listening to thoughts about others based on what I read.  Not always are the recommendations great, but they do always allow me to expand my horizons.  When it comes to movies, I go to critic sites and see what others are saying.  I also take to heart word of mouth recommendations from friends who I consider would know my tastes – not always have they been right  – Birdman??  Hated it!!  But the follow-up dialogue was better than the movie.  Finally television allows me to engage with people I would not have had things in common with – there are tonnes of co-workers, hockey parents, gym buddies, and Facebook friends who I can text, email, talk to about the episode and come up with theories around the next episode.  To all of my entertainment friends, I love having you around (whether we agree or agree to disagree) about what we have in common – our love for escapism!

March 27 – do you believe?

246/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As people sit down this Easter Sunday with their families, I’m assuming a lot of them are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection while others are using the holiday to be with their families be it having lunch, hunting for eggs, getting their chocolate on etc.  On these “holy-days”, I often wonder how many people are celebrating the true nature of the holiday be it Easter, Christmas, Labour Day or whatever you have and how many are using it just as a long weekend, yard work day, shopping day, extra respite from work day and so on.  I’m in the latter category but that is because of a conscious choice – I am agnostic in my personal belief system (only one in my family) but I am very encouraged by and impressed by people who have their beliefs and live by them.  In my life, with family, friends, acquaintances, I have seen hypocrisy in that one thing is preached in respect to others’ behaviour based on personal belief systems but exceptions happen for personal behaviour.  This is no attack against anyone’s religion but more of the way one chooses to follow that religion – that was one of the reasons I made my personal choice.  However, I also understand people need something to live for/believe in providing values and a way to live one’s life.  I could never live my life that way and I can admit it but I do have examples of those rare exceptions who follow their faith and live their life truly by it without judging others.  You are also in my life as family, friends and acquaintances and I am thoroughly impressed by the way you live your lives and you also have also shaped me as I know I haven’t got it in me but I am encouraged by your choices.  You have not judged or criticized me on my choices and that is one of the things that I appreciate the most.   As they say, to each his (her, their) own – you keep doing you and following your belief path and I will keep doing me and following mine and still maintain our bonds 🙂  Thank you both groups for shaping the way I choose to believe!

March 26 – all my nieces and nephews

245/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my family (and perhaps my culture but I can’t be sure), our cousins are like siblings. Our own children call these aunts and uncles with identifying terms meaning mom’s/dad’s brother or sister (not second cousins). As well, we as aunts and uncles refer to our cousins’ children as we do to our siblings’ children as nieces and nephews. Add to this that the in-law cousins and respective children fall under the same category and one outside the culture might get to understand the importance of extended family (and how our various functions/receptions are so huge LOL). Last night, my wife’s cousin’s daughter (did you get that? 😉 ) came to our place to spend the night and she watched a movie with me, baked muffins with my daughter, watched my son play his video games and played with the dog. For all intents and purposes they are cousins and she is my niece – not distant relatives. This got me to thinking about all my extended nieces and nephews on my side of the family and my wife’s with all of our siblings’ and cousins’ children and I honestly could not come up with a number as I easily came to 50 nephews and nieces and then lost count. I am very fortunate to have all these nieces and nephews ranging from the oldest who has her own children (damn, am I a grandpa?) to a newborn a few weeks ago.   I am also very fortunate that these nephews and nieces – even though we may not see each other regularly – take the time out to converse with me and add another dimension to my life. I am amazed at the wonderful men and women, the funky teenagers, the sassy pre-teens or the cute toddlers they are and how they not only affect my life but my own children’s as well (giving advice or being role models for). Yes, it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child – I’m just glad my village is huge and has a lot of children to raise!

March 25 – funky diva

244/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In a lot of social situations, I tend to be the life of the party – the one cracking jokes, getting things started, then going full force and going strong, saying it like it is and keeping it real but still being respectful.  I hope that I am a positive person when out with others and that they like my company because I bring something extra to the mix.  I, myself, also have a person that does that for me.  I met Allison maybe about 15 years ago in the school I was working at and we had instant chemistry and made a connection right away.  I can say that I have never laughed as much or as hard with anyone like I do with Allison.  She is the female me (or am I the male her??).  She is also the spotlight in any social gathering.  Vivacious and full of energy, Allison also says it like it is and has a no holds barred attitude towards life and I so appreciate that.  Nothing is off limits when we hang out and when we hang out, if you’re in the vicinity, you know we are hanging out.  There are no pretenses with Allison which is very refreshing in this day and age where you sometimes don’t know what kind of connection you are getting with a person – she is a genuine, true friend who knows how to keep me in hysterics but still be there in my corner.  Thanks for being a great person (even though we see each other sporadically but when we do, it’s so fun)!  Looking forward to connecting with you later today my funky, funny, friendly sista from another mista!  So glad we are still friends after all these years! 🙂

March 24 – superhero!

243/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As the movie version of Batman vs Superman is making it to the big screens (and the initial buzz is sadly negative), I started to reflect on why I, as a teenager, have loved movies like The XMen and Batman – basically superhero movies and I realized that most of the themes are about characters who in their regular lives have struggles and challenges due to various reasons but are able to escape and become something through their alter-ego.  I guess it just resonates with the bullied boy in high school who had no means of escape except through his imagination be it through creativity (artwork), music (escaping into music) or fantasy (movies and tv shows).  I am a fan of the marred hero (some can say anti-hero) who still has flaws and isn’t perfect and probably never will be but does what he or she has to.  The outsider becoming the revered.  The outsider becoming better than those who put him on his path of struggle.  The outsider becoming a true version of himself.  The outsider self-actualizing.  Yes, most see the movie as pure entertainment on a superficial level but I see the movie in a deeper way as I connect to the flawed superhero.  Yes, he may not be the quintessential good guy but he is the good guy in my mind as I feel I know where he is coming from.  Thank you anti-superheroes for connecting with the boy inside of me throughout the years and allowing me to not only see but realize my potential!

March 23 – by George

242/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One of my favourite yet craziest and most challenging jobs I ever had was working for Social Services and Housing (Welfare) when I was in my very early 20s. My mom – the crazy, judgmental parent (at times) told me that I would get killed working with those people!!! Yup, that’s the type of advice she’d give me when she didn’t understand things. However, I learned so much about myself in that job especially growing up on this side of the fence. I worked with many people over my two and a half year career but the people I remember are some of the stand-out clients. The one guy that really affected me was George. He was First Peoples and my client at the Main and Hastings branch that I was a regular at. We had some crazy times in that office – I mean the front desk window was made of plexiglass and you’d think we would be safe when the main Vancouver police station was across the street but no, we had many incidents that required the shutting down of the office. I learned how to set up my office so I could run out if I had to for my own safety!! George would come in high and sometimes homeless losing his cheque over a drinking binge. But he would always be honest with me and own up to what had happened. He’d crack jokes and I felt a fondness for him as he was real and I didn’t feel like I was being used just as a money conduit. He took my advice for rehab classes – unfortunately never really finishing them.   When I switched offices, of course I lost contact with George but one day I happened to be downtown with friends and there was George! He saw me and recognized me and called out my name and I was like “Hey George” – he chatted with me briefly but sadly he was aware of the awkwardness from my friends but I gave him the respect he deserved. He high fived me and cracked another joke and then he was on his way. I’d like to think that I made a difference in George’s life and that he found his way but that’s probably not the case; however, he was one of the reasons that I got into teaching as I knew my role was to make an impact earlier in lives rather than later. Thank you George for showing me that everyone is worthy and to keep me cognizant of why I teach.

241/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Rarely am I not the one leading a group – teaching classes, running a workshop, head of a committee – but every once in a while I find myself in the role of a student. Yes, completing my Masters almost a decade ago, I was in that role the entire time but since then, it has been sporadic but I do on occasion need to be the one sitting and listening not only in order for me to learn things and be enlightened but also to remind myself about what it is to be a student and take into account the teaching style of the instructor. Sadly, most people who have something to say don’t really know how to say it – basically don’t know how to instruct but that was not the case with Ian. During my masters, I took a workshop for my own benefit on the advice of one of my instructors and to work on my own personal development. I was hesitant but decided to go through with it. The “class” had several people in it who shared their journeys but me, being the quasi-academic, was wary and sceptical. However, Ian made it into a very comfortable environment and had a laid back but caring style. He also led the group by sharing personal examples of which I am quite a fan in my own teaching. After the workshop was over, I kept in touch with Ian over the years with the occasional email/Facebook message and with that “we should get together for a beer” type of message. However, Ian being the genuine, true friend that he is kept his end of the deal and we do get together for beers/lunch every so often (like today). He is one of my cool, tatted, funky, pierced buddies and I am glad to call him my friend as he has a way of putting me at ease and just having fun.   I now understand how some of my former students are friends with me as once you become friends, the hierarchies of how people initially meet fall apart as the true foundation of friendship is cemented. Thanks for being a great friend over the years and hey, Randy & Handy or Handy & Randy is an awesome moniker as well 🙂