July 7 – 10 N C

348/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my mind, I feel I live a slightly charmed life.  For all that I’ve been through, I still see the positives and I think for the most part I have been thrown back positivity in most anything I take on.  As a teacher, salary-wise, we are adequate.  We will never be millionaires and would live a decent life.  Before the inheritance I received upon my dad’s passing, I decided to get an investment property to get ahead of the game.  I bought at the height of the market in 2008 and what happened – the market crashed.  I “lost” $50,000 on the condo I purchased in that all the others in the building were then priced that much lower 😦  Hmmm, maybe I don’t live that much of a charmed life on second thought 😉  I kept the long-term goals in sight and rented out the revenue property in highly sought after Yaletown.  My first tenants were fine.  Then that’s where it went to hell.  The next tenants went out to work and left the bathroom sink running which flooded my unit and leaked into the unit below costing me thousands.  Then the next tenants ended up housing up to 15 other students in a 725 square foot apartment unbeknownst to me.  Guess what that cost me in strata bylaw infractions!  If those tenants were not bad enough, I then ended up with the tenant from hell – well, actually his mother.  Since he was 21, she paid and caused me no end of grief – phoning me day and night, screaming at me, threatening to call lawyers, the police etc as he had lost his keys, lost his fob, window was broken, it was too busy in the city etc etc.  Oh man!  I should rethink if I live a charmed life.  Unfortunately for me, I manifest stress in the worst way possible – alopecia areata – yup, chunks of my hair on my head or in my eyebrows, or facial hair fall out.  That year, I had horrible hair!!  Having to evict and subsequently go to residential tenancy arbitration, I finally ended up with decent tenants.  The first couple stayed for two years and were amazing.  The current couple is at the end of their two years – fingers crossed that they stay.  I didn’t realize the value of good tenants until I had the nightmare of years previous.  With these current tenants, the fridge had to be fixed or a slight problem with the laundry machine but that is so minor in contrast to what I had to go through. I’m also feeling assured that they are taking care of my place.  I didn’t ever want to be a landlord but here I am trying to create an inheritance for my own kids and I’m learning a great deal.  I have to thank both the good tenants and backhandedly the bad ones because the learning curve of being a landlord was steep but I have begun to figure it out.  Am I ready to invest in another property – hell no but I have the life lessons I have taken away are amazing and would definitely help me if I were to contemplate a similar situation in the future.

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May 17 – ending a friendship

297/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I guess it’s not true what they say about aging – that you get crankier or forgetful or set in your ways.  None of these hold true but I can also say that 50 isn’t really aging – it’s the new 35 😉  But seriously, the last one about being set in your ways and keeping the status quo is definitely not how I have lived my life of late.  This past year, I unfortunately had to let go of a close friend who for the past decade was there for me (as I was for her).  We were the best of friends hanging out regularly and sharing our love of craft beer and fun and commiserating over life circumstances.  We had met through a friend and became even better friends because of it and through her, I was fortunate enough to meet other friends.  I was able to just let go and cut loose when we hung out.  I got to know her family and hit up the Sunshine Coast and a few festivals along the way.  She was also there for me (along with the friends) during my difficult time through my separation and got me out of my funk by making sure I was doing things and socializing.  I thought we would have been lifelong friends but then she got threatened/jealous by the fact that the friends she introduced started to socialize and at times without her in the mix – which is ironic since I met her in the exact same circumstances: friend of a friend.  Unfortunately, stories were made up about a few of us with a he said/she said element and yes, I got caught up and am to blame for opening my mouth to agree with things but when the shit hit the fan, all parties involved realized that the common denominator was this friend and ties were not just cut but severed with a dull knife, a dull rusted knife!!  The good that came out of it was the truth was learned about who real friends are, stronger bonds were made with others and I realized that as one ages, one doesn’t have to accept things and even a decade old friendship that doesn’t serve you doesn’t have to be preserved.  I am saddened of course as we were good friends because of our connection but I have been strengthened in my resolve to surround myself with happy vibes when at all possible.  I still think of the good with this friend and am thankful that she was there for me and I will remember the amazing times rather than the last couple of negative months and that’s another thing that I am happy with that I can let go and not be bitter but focus on the positive.  I wish things had turned out differently and if ever a reconciliation could be had, I would welcome it with a whole table dialogue with all involved but I am very appreciative of the friendship that we had because I am a changed man because of her!  Cheers to wherever you are! 😦

April 26 – rock, PAPER, scissors

276/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Straight out of high school, I entered UBC in the Commerce program.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life – I had an inkling but it wasn’t fleshed out – so Commerce offered a door that would lead to many other doors.  The entire program was theoretical and one did analyses of various problems or led discussions or worked on case studies but not once did we have to write a paper.  As well, I did not have to write a formal research (or otherwise) paper in high school English.  In my second year of Commerce with all my electives being in the Arts (the “ologies” as I like to call them), I was tasked with writing a paper in my Psychology 200 (and some odd number) course.   Paper?  I had no clue what that meant.  I read the outline of what was required and got the research material and decided to go ahead and write this paper.  Not thinking much about it, I submitted it with a smug satisfaction that this Arts stuff is way easier than Commerce.  I received that paper (I’m sure marked by a Teaching Assistant (TA)) with all sorts of red marks – yes, red marks outlining my flawed arguments, my grammatical structure weaknesses, my errors in proper formatting – basically every error a high school student would have made.  Needless to say, I also received a failing grade.  Yes, university was a rude awakening for me as a year earlier, I had failed 3 courses and now here I was failing papers.  I went and talked to the professor who obviously didn’t read my paper but gave me advice on how to write future papers and who to talk with about such tasks.  Being the keener that I am, I paid serious attention and learned how to write a proper research paper.  This is something I wished I had learned how to do let alone correctly but at all back in high school or first year university.  I am very grateful for having taken the course and having that TA make all sorts of corrections as I could have gone through Commerce without taking any electives outside the program and never learned how to write.  I am further grateful as most of my Masters’ program required the writing and submission of numerous papers and failing a paper in my 40s would have been much tougher to take than failing a paper at 19/20.  Because of that TA, I make, yes make, my Psychology 12 students write a paper so they have the experience under their belt regardless of whether they pursue further education.  Thank you TA not only from me but the trickle down effect it had on my own students – developing such an important skill.

April 5 – I have weaknesses

255/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Confidence.  I have it now but I definitely didn’t have it back in the day.  I slowly gained a sense of who I am over the years by starting to believe in my abilities and try things outside of my comfort zone.  As I am writing these gratitude posts, people and experiences re-enter my thoughts and allow for reflection.  I can’t recall if the events I’m about to detail happened just after high school or just after university – I am thinking the former but I could be mistaken.  Regardless, I had finished a milestone and wanted to celebrate it.  I had never traveled on my own and thought that a backpacking Europe trip would be the thing to do as everyone did that.  How I coordinated it with three people I barely knew is beyond me but the next thing I knew, myself, two females and one male were on our way to Europe – I don’t even remember their names.  The girls had the itinerary all planned and without really thinking about the details and being caught up in the excitement, we end up in London England.  I should have had a clue when they dynamics weren’t working on the trip over but it didn’t register.  We spent the first two days in a hostel (so not me!!) and of course, I was getting homesick and regretting going on the journey as I was really out of my element.  Making matters worse, the girls didn’t get along with the guy and told me that they were going to casually lose him along the way.  I was shocked!!  Who does that?  And if you could easily do that to him on day 2, you could do that to me on day 3 or day 18 (since it was a month trip).  My mind started freaking out as I knew I could never handle Europe on my own.  I told the guy that this was their plan and he said we could go our own way right now.  All sorts of emotions were coming over me and I just wanted to go home.  I phoned home in a panic and told my mom what was going on.  She tried to get me to continue on with the trip but I wouldn’t have it.  She found some relatives that I could stay with until a return flight could be arranged and I left the dysfunctional group that night.  I felt bad for the guy as I knew he would have been loyal but I was in way over my head – I wasn’t independent as he was and I was outside of my comfort zone.  Yes, to the two girls, this is a backhanded gratitude post in your lack of loyalty which taught me that it’s okay to quit something when you are not comfortable and people aren’t there for you.  Up until that point, I tried and tried in my life and never gave up on anything but this was the first time I threw in the towel when I knew I couldn’t handle it.  To the guy, I only knew you in passing in school but was so impressed that you went on your own way and discovered Europe.  I wish I had had your confidence at the time but I’m also glad that I didn’t as that moment allowed me to reflect on my weaknesses and take my time developing myself and my own personality.  Do I wish I had ventured out of my comfort zone?  Hell yes!  Do I regret it?  Hell yes!  Does it haunt me?  Not at all as I knew I was still a child in a grown man body and wasn’t ready for the independence.  To all three of you, you all had a subconscious shaping on the man that I am today in different ways.  Yes, I took a lot of time becoming independent and self-reliant and capable but I thank you all in different ways in letting me reflect on my weakness and learn from it.

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!

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 16 – you made my life Hell

207/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Oh how I hated you. And to all the people who say hate is a strong word, I disagree – if you greatly dislike something/someone, it’s definitely hate and I can admit to having those feelings. You made my days miserable – and I thank you. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have realized I needed a change. You monitored every move I made, criticized everything I did and made other people aware of it. And I’m glad you did as it lit the fire under my ass to do something about it. Perhaps you knew that I wasn’t happy and so you rode me to get me to re-evaluate things and now, 25 years or so later, I am so very happy that you were horrible to me as I am so very happy. I had just graduated from UBC with a Commerce degree – hating almost every moment of it as I had no passion for it. I saw my colleagues getting interviews and jobs with Campbell’s Soup, Benson & Hedges, KPMG etc etc. I didn’t even get the interviews and once again, in hindsight I’m so very glad. However, desperate to not have wasted my 5 years (yes, back then a Commerce degree was 5 years long), I took the first job that was available and got into the CIBC Management Training program but I’m wondering if I just convinced myself that I did and it was really just a teller job (no offense to tellers meant). I absolutely hated it more than getting the Commerce degree – at least my colleagues were fun!! I had to bus downtown every day to be there for 8.30 am. I had to wear a suit and tie – yeah, maybe I clean up nice but I’d rather not. I had to endure boring conversations with boring co-workers and curtail my true personality. But the worst thing I had to deal with was the manager from Hades! She belittled me and berated me and I was bewildered and bemoaned my situation. I have said this often as a joke – and don’t take offense as since then I own a dog and would never do it – that during that time if I had a dog, I would kick it when getting home – that’s how horrible she made my life.   I would cringe when I would see her coming up to me from the corner of my eye and then one day I just lost it with her. I think I quit but I probably was fired. The best thing ever to have happened. I am not corporate world material. I am not Commerce material. Yes, I can do left-brained things with ease but I enjoy and am truly a right-brained person. If not for you CIBC manager and the tumult that took place for me, I would not have walked through the doors that led me into teaching and for that, I truly thank you for all that you put me through to get me to see that I was not happy and needed a life change!

January 27 – i hide it well today

187/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. For as long as I can remember, I have been overweight/fighting a weight problem. In elementary school, my mom could not find belts to fit me and I had to resort to wearing suspenders to hold my pants up 😦 In high school, I was 250 pounds and all of it fat which definitely contributed to being bullied. I didn’t learn how to eat well and thus ate anything that tasted good but wasn’t definitely good for me – I mean, I recall eating spoons of salted butter or the fatty rinds of pork chops and my favourite part of KFC was the skin and potato salad. I guess I really didn’t help my own cause. I also remember my mom making me workout (squats for half an hour or running around the yard for half an hour) before she’d let me eat – many times I just gave up and didn’t get dinner. Although cruel, I understand that she was trying to help me out in her own way – not great parenting but hey, it is what it is. With a crazy late start to puberty (yup, Grade 11 – oh how the Gods must have been having a heyday with me!!), I ended up shedding the observable excess weight just before entering university; however, I still had chunk and could and did easily put on the pounds because I still knew nothing about nutrition and healthy eating. Because of the pre-Internet era, I would only catch information through television and the one show that I did watch was “20/20”. I happened to catch and episode on meat-processing which started my vegetarian ways 23 years ago. In the last decade or so, I have given over to watching the occasional documentaries and reading about food online which has helped me to maintain my weight – I’ve been able to curb refined sugar significantly, jump into veganism but quickly jump back out, give up wheat for a while (William Davis), try the 25 mile eating plan, think about McDs and what it did to my body (Morgan Spurlock) and even get into juicing (Joe Cross). As I sit and write this, I am on day 4 of a juice cleanse (but let’s be real, it’s a liquid diet) – I’m doing it to reset my body as I have been making poor choices and have gained weight especially since my injury and not being able to work out. I am very grateful that these documentarians have shared their journeys and influenced mine as without knowing about their experiences, I would not be changing mine. To all the healthy eaters that I have read about via blogs and books and that I have seen on through documentaries and testimonials, I raise my ginger, beet, tangerine and kale juice in your honour – here’s to getting back to my summer weight!

January 21 – failure is an option

181/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As I previously mentioned, I have been on a UBC bent for a few of my recent gratitude posts and on top of that been having discussions with my students about not being perfect. Tonight, all that is culminating into a post about the professors who failed me in three of five courses in my first semester of my first year of university. Yes, you may say that I failed myself but I will disagree and you will understand as you read. Yes, you may say that I wrote about this topic back at 70/365 but that was in relation to my counselor at UBC believing in me – tonight is in honour of actually failing and learning from it. Because of bullying, I put all my energy into school work as I had no other social outlet in high school. I did not have friends and I did not play any sports. Yes, I worked at McDonald’s and worked hard there. However, in school, I exceled. I received no marker lower than a B in high school in any of my classes. I wouldn’t say that I found it easy but with effort, I was able to do well. I even scored well in PE classes as there was written components that offset the physical aspects. When I entered first year university, I thought it would be a breeze. Being in Advanced English in Grade 12, I opted for regular English 100 at UBC thinking I would sail through that class and took a Statistics class as well as Economics, Anthropology and Psychology. At the end of the semester, I ended up failing three of the classes. I honestly thought I understood what I was doing and when I wrote the exams and received my year end marks, I did not give the professors what they were looking for. Not until later years did I realize that high school had spoon fed me and here I was at university not only left holding the spoon but it was a fork and required much different maneuvering for success. At the time, I will be honest, I cried and came home and lost it in front of my mother. Never having failed academically, I thought my world would come crashing down and that I would be disowned and I was a big disappointment. Although she didn’t show me any physical comfort (that hug still eludes me), she was very supportive in her words and asked if I could take the classes over – something I didn’t even consider. Of course, I ended up getting my degree but the greatest memory I have is of failing. It was so very necessary for me as it taught me one of the biggest life lessons – I am human and I am not perfect. I share my story with all my students and I have those professors to thank. I am glad they failed me and I didn’t know I needed it. Failure is an option as long as you learn from it. Failure also builds your character and I also needed that. I didn’t realize how much of an impact that first year and those first failing marks had on my character but I do owe it all to those three professors.