July 23 – my wife

364/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Here it is.  The penultimate post.  The one that I wanted to write so many times but wasn’t ready for.  This one is for my wife – Lak.  I have not prepped my wife for this.  Yes, it may be wrong of me but I have to go with my heart.  I know that she is the yin to my yang and thus, this post is not what she would want as she is a very private person but I have been honest and public throughout the year and I have to finish on the same path.  My wife and I had an introduced marriage – not arranged as both of us had a “choice” to say no.  I had met several girls but the moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Unfortunately for her, I was the first guy she met so she really didn’t get a chance to see others.  I know that we both felt pressured to get married – her more so than me and both of us being good children did what we were supposed to (this was the late 80s).  She was only 19 and I was 22 when we ended up getting married.  That first year – in fact the first couple of years – we were like a dating couple trying to get to know each other, figure each other out while being legally married at the same time.  I will say it straight up – I was not the best of husbands.  I was, I guess we both were, children thrown into this situationship but I acted like it; however, Lak was and is the one who could handle it and had/has maturity beyond her years.  I know I didn’t make the marriage easy on her but she sacrificed who she was to make it work and only in the past couple of years have I realized the things she has done to make sure that our home was a home and how she put her own needs after everyone else’s.  Yes, I took things for granted.  She is an amazing mother.  I fully recognize that.  Our daughter is a damn, wonderful young woman and it’s because of Lak and the tight bond that the two of them have and share.  My son, although he likes to pretend mom doesn’t matter, is her baby boy.  He adores her but won’t admit it.  She has been wonderful to them and has always put the kids first.  I know that is said of many mothers but Lak actually does it and I know my daughter realizes it and my son will also once he becomes a young adult and I definitely realize it though I should have acknowledged it more.  Not only is Lak physically stunning – yes, I’ve been told by several people (hundreds in fact) on how beautiful she is and what is she doing with me and yes, that’s a good question – but she is a very kind hearted, generous person to all those around her, a full time working mom (and has been since before the children were born and while they were young – never taking any time off) and a responsible daughter as well as good cousin, sister and friend.  As the years progressed and as does happen in many relationships, ours took a turn for the worse.  The boat that you thought was sailing along smoothly, capsized not as a result of some storm that you could have predicted and planned for but more due to the neglect of the maintenance required for the boat and then just getting used to it and the apathy towards the repairs that were necessary.  The boat tried to right side but would take on a lot of water and thus, we decided to take time apart from each other to reassess the boat itself as a vessel – I moved out.  New uncharted territory for both of us.  I decided to go public about the separation and with my feelings (freshly starting the gratitude posts into the first year of the separation); whereas, Lak wanted to deal with our relationship privately.  In retrospect, I totally understand her reasoning but in the moment, I wasn’t hearing it – something that has been my downfall throughout the almost 30 year relationship.  I definitely could have been a more understanding, more helpful, more there for her, more in tune with her needs type of husband.  Alas, I wasn’t and I apologize for my shortcoming but here we are back in the same space co-parenting our teenage son.  Where is this relationship between the two of us going to go?  I couldn’t even begin to guess.  Today’s post is not meant to be a public apology to undo the past but rather a public acknowledgement of gratitude for you, Lak being a great wife over the years to my not-so-perfect husband.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and wherever our roads lead us – either together on the same one, side by side intersecting here and there or in two opposite directions, I wanted to say I’ve loved sharing the journey and yes, I do love you!

Advertisements

July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

July 9 – it’s all elementary

350/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I have been asked a few times why I chose to be a high school teacher over an elementary school teachers and my response jokingly has been that I don’t want to be touched with germy hands.  I never, ever considered elementary.  I just knew that I was suited for high school.  The students there would get my sarcasm.  I would end up making the elementary kids cry.  The students in high school/listen/follow the same pop culture icons.  The elementary kids would go home and tell their parents and I’d be in a whole world of trouble 😉  I have also joked about the calm nature, soothing voices, and just general loving nature of elementary teachers – totally not me!!  For the past week, I have been part-time employed assisting kindergarten to grade 7 summer school!  I did it last year as well.  Totally outside of my comfort zone.  They touched me!  LOL  I had to tell them to keep their distance.  I watched the elementary teachers working with them – first time ever I saw close up the difference between high school and elementary and I was in awe.  These teachers were amazing.  So good with the students.  So suited to be doing the job they were doing.  I also look back to my elementary years and I had some amazing teachers.  I reflect on both my kids teachers and they too were amazing and my kids loved elementary school because they felt important and acknowledged.  Yes, the argument could be made that it is the nature of the classroom and the school but I do think it has a lot to do with the type of teachers that are in elementary school.  Just as I know that I would not be suited for that type of role, they probably know that they are ideal for the job they are in.  The patience and the general caring nature that is so second nature to my elementary sistren and brethren is what makes them the perfect people to be in their role.  Thank you to my own elementary teachers in shaping who I am.  Thank you to my both my children’s elementary teachers for helping create the adult and teenager I have today.  If not for my summer school job, I wouldn’t have seen how amazing you all are in what you do for all of us!

July 2 – delineation

343/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Initially I thought it would be awkward to have my kids going to school in the same district and early on it was.  During my daughter’s kindergarten year, the teacher released our daughter to my mother who unbeknownst to us, came to pick her up.  There were only two of us who were supposed to pick her up – my wife and myself – and well, we were both freaking out.  Yes, the teacher was frantic too and after a couple of hours, we finally had figured out that my mother had taken our daughter to our house – after several phone calls to other students and one remembering a lady picking her up and my daughter going willingly.  Because I complained about what happened to the principal, I was reprimanded by an official as I was a teacher first and should not be disparaging other teachers??!!  Uhm, what??  I argued that I was a parent first when it came to my child and I was not disparaging anyone but thinking about the whereabouts of my child.  Not once were my feelings acknowledged as a parent and how I must have been feeling.  Bureaucratic rhetoric was spewed.  The conversation went back and forth until I said that I could easily go to the media.  I wasn’t planning to and it was an idle threat but I was so very angry that my job was to supercede my life as a parent.  I calmed down and repeated that I would do the same thing if it were to happen next time; however, I realized that I also had to create some boundaries.  That type of colossal incident aside, I knew there would be situations where I might come into conflict with fellow teachers in regards to teaching ideologies or grading practices or whatever the case may be.  From that moment on, whenever it came to parent/teacher critiques (moreso in elementary I have noticed than in secondary), my wife would go into those meetings.  She would give her thoughts and advice on what was and was not working for both my daughter and later my son.  I took most of the parent teacher interviews in high school which were (for my daughter) and are (for my son) easy going conversations.  No, I am still not happy as to what took place and how it was “resolved” by the powers that be but I am backhandedly acknowledging you for delineating roles and for me to know to where I as teacher and I as parent stood.  Yes, you definitely had an impact on me (not necessarily what I expected) but I hope I also had an impact on you as to what it means to be a parent and a teacher in the same district.

June 28 – i learned from the best

339/365 people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m going to say it – basically, only one or two classes in all my seven years of university at UBC enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Education and Master of Education degrees actually taught me anything worthwhile.  I can’t even remember the countless courses I had to take for the sake of having to take them – basically jumping through the hoops in order to get my required degree – and most of them did not matter and taught me very little.  Yes, some will argue that the courses and university education in general “taught” me how to think.  No, I knew how to think – that’s how I got into university in the first place.  So I go back to my belief that very little of the education there was of value to me personally.  I had some great professors and Kimberly Schonert-Reichl is in the top 5, if not in the top 3.  I had to take several electives during my Masters degree and I decided to take her course under Educational and Counseling Psychology – it was Social Emotional Learning in Adolescents (or some theme around that).  I thought that yet again, this would be another filler course that I just had to get through and complete what was required of me but as I’m sure you can guess, that was not the case.  Kimberly was very easy going and her nurturing personality came out in class.  Different people brought in food to the class weekly to share while the lecture was going on – an idea that I “borrowed” from her when I was teaching at UBC myself.  She was heavily involved with the Roots of Empathy program which she described during lectures and imagine my surprise when I learned that my son who was in Grade 1 at the time was involved in said program in his classroom!  She allowed digression from the course syllabus as long as the work challenged and inspired us.  I ended up completing an intensive, fact-filled research paper on Relational Aggression (basically Mean Girls) to better understand what my grade 8 daughter was going through and to also relate to the high school girls I taught.  This was the first assignment in all of my university career that I thoroughly enjoyed completing.  After reading it, she suggested that I get it published but I was too nervous to even entertain the thought; however, I have shared the paper with several colleagues and a few of my students.  I want to thank Kimberly for being such a wonderful educator who not only inspired me with the way she taught but also allowed me to get interested in what it was she was teaching which benefited me on a personal level.  How I wished all my professors were like you!

June 8 – tattoo you

319/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my adult years, I have loved drawing attention to myself through my appearance.  I am a confident man who enjoys expressing myself in multiple ways – I’ve already talked about my hair (literally the pinnacle of my aesthetic self) but today is about the body art that I adorn myself with and the two gentlemen who so greatly helped in getting me to the point where I got inked.  I have always wanted to get tattooed and would looked longingly at others over the years at artwork that looked incredible in my eyes.  However, the other thing that would catch my attention (or sometimes rather not) was the location of such artwork.  In my mid to late 20s, I decided to go get my eyebrow pierced – yes, it was de rigeur to be so avant-garde (oh how it really wasn’t as everyone had one but not the point 😉 ).  I found myself at Sacred Heart Tattoos on West 10th and the owner happened to be my piercer.  There I am lying down at his station and he’s sterilizing the equipment and putting on his gloves while he’s been conversing with me.  He then just stops and says “You are not getting an eyebrow piercing.  You are not ready for it.  In fact, it’s not you”.  I was shocked.  I didn’t know it but he did.  He was right.  He read my body language.  He told me that he could have pierced me and taken my money but I wouldn’t be happy.  He told me to give it 6 months and if I still wanted it, to come back and he said one more thing.  I would be one for a tattoo – a uniquely placed, meaningful tattoo when I was ready for it.  His words stayed with me for over a decade and a half and every time I thought of getting a tattoo, I knew where I would get it done.  To celebrate my 40th, I knew exactly what I wanted.  Tattoos.  Not one but two.  The names of my kids – things I would never regret.  I designed the font.  Cursive and looks Sanskrit like lettering but the words are in English – Natasha and Ethan the names of my kids as we are Western with an Eastern influence.  Each of them chose the colour of the font – Blue and Green.  I also decided where I wanted them.  Inner forearms.  I took it to Sacred Heart.  Sadly, the owner (whose name escapes me) was no longer there.  I contemplated on hunting him down and for some reason I didn’t but was turned over to the Candyman.  He refined the tattoos slightly.  The date was set, all instructions abided by and I showed up.  Once again, my nerves started showing and he stopped preparation.   I told him I didn’t want them anymore.  He asked the best clarifying question – do I not want the tattoos or rather, do I not want them where I had originally decided.  He hit it bang on.  I didn’t want them on my forearms as they would be too noticeable.  He went through various body areas giving me reasons why they were NOT me.  He was right.  He then told me that I would be the guy who have them start on my inner arm up near my arm pits and work towards my elbows – thus hidden by a full shirt but peek-a-booing beneath a tshirt and sparking discussion because of the uniqueness of the font.  How damn right he was in hindsight.  I got them done (now over a decade ago) and I absolutely love them.  I love the conversations – Ethan is my right hand man since his name is on my right side and Natasha is close to my heart since her name si on my left side.  I love how stylish my ink is.  I love absolutely everything about them!  Thank you nameless manager 😦 and Candyman and thank you Sacred Heart for giving me something that I am proud to wear every single day of my life!

May 8 – to all moms

288/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.    My very first gratitude post 287 posts ago on my birthday was about my mother.  Today being Mother’s Day, I just wanted to recognize all the “moms” who’ve had an effect on me but also all moms in general as well.  Moms can be biological.  Moms can be adoptive.  Moms can be dads.  Moms can be single.  Moms can be aunts.  Moms can be grandmothers.  Moms can be family friends.  Moms can be in heaven.  Moms can be trying.  Moms can be loving.  Moms can be teens.  Moms can be older.  Moms are all sorts of things.  Moms are whomever you share that bond with.  My mom fits several categories.  My aunts have acted as surrogate moms.  My grandma has been a mother figure at times. My wife is a great mom to our kids.  I am the first to admit that the bond between mother and child(ren) is much more important than the bond between father and child and it will always be that way for most people – hey, there’s a reason why it’s the second biggest gift giving day (after Christmas) because our mothers are important.  Moms sacrifice careers, deal with tears, have fears and will get cheers but also jeers.  Moms are the true superheroes in my opinion – from my own mom, to my cousins, my wife, my sisters, my aunts, my friends, my grandma – I’ve seen how much moms do.  Today, I will go visit my mother but also my grandmother – yes, it shouldn’t be about one day but if not for today, I might keep putting it off (especially in my grandmother’s case).  To all the moms as defined above, thank you for all that you do as the ripple effect of your hard work, care and love are felt by countless others unbeknownst to you!

April 7 – to advise or not

257/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  What’s the toughest job out there?  You probably thought I was going to say my own – teaching.  Nope, that’s not it.  Air traffic controller?  Yes, it’s the #1 most stressful job but there’s something even more stressful.  ER nurse/doctor?  Once again, it’s not that either even though they are dealing with so many different personalities and unexpected circumstances.  The most stressful job which combines elements of every job out there is that of a parent.  Believe me, I speak from experience!  The terrible twos have nothing on the teenage years.  Got one through who is now 22 and on the other side of the fence but I’ve got one now who is testing my limits and asserting his independence as he is supposed to.  In the job of parent, you don’t know what you sign up for and who you are going to get but I appreciate the advice of other parents who’ve been through it or are going through it.  I didn’t realize that until having kids of my own.  In the beginning, yes, there are those who are giving you unsolicited advice on how to hold the baby, what to feed it and when and how not to coddle etc etc.  Then comes the advice in the toddler years to the early primary years and which teacher to get and which one to stay away from if you get into the right school in the first place.  That’s about the time I started wanting and appreciating parenting advice from other parents.  Now here I am with my second teenager and welcome as much relevant advice as there are days where I’m on the verge of pulling my hair out – thank God I have a lot of it  😉  However, I have a huge caveat as to when it comes to parenting advice – harder to accept/listen to your suggestions (usually criticisms) if you are not a parent and don’t acknowledge that point.  I don’t care how many books you’ve read, how many nieces and nephews you have, how educated you are, how many students you have taught or whatever the case may be – you don’t know parenting unless you are a parent especially if you start off with “I would…”.  Yes, I might have ruffled quite a few feathers with that comment but let me liken it to the following:  me giving hockey advice to my son just because I’ve watched games and know stats and team histories and all the rules – okay, maybe a bad example as I know none of that but you get my point 😉  If I haven’t put on a pair of skates and been on the ice against another team and hockey isn’t my life, I have no place in giving unsolicited advice to my son on how to improve his game unless he asks for it.  So to all the parents who have given, continue to give and will give me parenting advice, I so much appreciate it as you know what you are talking about.  To the others, the thought is appreciated and your suggestions are too but just keep in mind that you are on the outside looking in and I’m living it so I may not really understand your intent but if it’s coming from a good place, much respect.  To both groups of people, thank you for thinking of me and my situationship and I am gonna survive this second teenager too as it is what I signed up for 🙂

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 19 – reviving ophelia

238/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. We value physicality in girls yet mentality in boys. You may say you don’t but for most people it’s a default to focus on physical attributes when talking about their daughters (“you’re so cute” “my pretty girl” etc) and mental attributes in regards to theirs sons (“wow, that’s so clever” “you’re so smart”). Only the very enlightened of us use those latter words to describe their daughters without focusing on their physicality. I wasn’t so enlightened until I read the chapter on fathers and daughters in Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” a book mainly aimed at mothers of daughters. I was the dad who told my 3 year old daughter how pretty she was and how cute she looked and rarely focused on her intelligence until I saw that she was modeling her outfits and carrying purses and looking at herself in the mirror. The chapter in the book saved me! It mentioned that however the first significant male (aka father) values the daughter is how she will value her worth especially with other males. I was devastated that I was responsible in creating this image that she had. I started consciously valuing her intellect and focusing on things that she created rather than what she looked like. When she asked me how she looked, I would throw it back on her – in essence, the onus was for her to be happy with her appearance rather than seek the approval of a male. I also consciously made comments in regards to the overly skinny, overly male-reliant, overly appearance-obsessed females in the media to get her to think in a different way of what it was to be female. I have an amazing, strong, independent daughter who focuses on her mental attributes much more than her physical attributes. If I had anything to do with it, it is all because of what I learned from Mary Pipher. I have touted the merits of this author many times over to fathers of daughters and mothers who have fathers of daughters in their lives.  She changed the way I parented and if this gratitude post has that same type of affect on other fathers, I’m so very happy for their daughters!