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.

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July 20 – so young

361/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in the day, my Accounting teacher told me that in life there are three definites: death, taxes and car accidents.  That hit me.  I didn’t know about any of them at age 17.  I learned about taxes pretty quickly – take home vs gross pay – pretty ugly.  Yes, I’ve had my fair share of fender benders – small accidents thankfully.  I did not experience any immediate family loss until well into my 40s.  Yes, so very rare and very fortunate but I did attend funerals prior to this.  Sadly, as a teacher, they were of my students.  I have been teaching high school since 1991 and have taught well into the thousands of young minds.  They are perpetually 17 or 18 years old to me.  Lives full of potentiality!  A lot of them feel like extended family because I get to know them as young adults since I teach grade 11 and 12.  With the advent of social media, I have gotten to keep in touch with them and get to see what they are getting up to in their lives and I vicariously take pride in their successes and when there are failures in their lives, I also feel that sense of loss.  Thus to hear/find out that these young, amazing people have passed away well before their prime was something that I was not prepared for.   The one that struck me the most was Chris.  He was in my and the school’s (Burnett) first graduating class ever.  Chris had it all.  Height, model looks, girlfriend on his arm, athleticism, university acceptance, amazing family and a wonderful and humble personality.  Always respectful to me and constantly smiling and just an all around nice guy.  This is exactly who I wanted to have as a son if I ever had a son (which would happen a couple years later).  The day that I heard that he was killed in a car accident shortly after graduation devastated me.  This was the first death of a person I had known.  It was a student.  There should be distance.  This should not affect me.  I didn’t know him that well.  He was just in my class.  I tried making the excuses but it did affect me.  He was like a “child” to me as are many of the students that I teach and end up bonding with.  He was an amazing young man with his whole life in front of him.  He has stuck in my mind.  He has forever affected me.  Yes, there have been other students.  None as young as him yet none of them any less important but Chris was that special young man.  Chris made me realize that in my career as teacher, the students that I work with will also affect me just as much as I affect them and all I wish upon their graduations is not only for their happiness but that they lead long and happy lives.  Yes Chris, you are gone, but you are never forgotten!  Thank you for coming into my life and showing me that teaching is more than just teaching – it’s about connections, memories and relationships.

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!

June 5 – Mr Singh

316/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Indian role model growing up?   Not until late elementary school.  There he was – Mr George Singh.  Indian.  Male.  Teaching grade 7.  Thompson elementary – my school.  I was intimidated and in awe at the same time.  I had never seen “myself” anywhere but in blue collar labour jobs.  Here was an Indian man.  Well groomed.  Articulate.  I never spoke to him once.  He transferred to the job while I was either in grade 5 or 6.  Once he made a comment about asking about my dad – and I wasn’t too sure what that was about and thus I kept my distance.  I wanted to and also not to be in his grade 7 class.  I did not end up being in his class.  Towards the middle of grade 7, my mom asked me if I knew of a Mr. Singh at the school?  She then informed me that he was my dad’s cousin!!  What?!  Extended family and we only saw that family at weddings or events on my dad’s side (which was rare).  I wanted to know how she knew that he was at my school and she told me that she had seen him and he mentioned me?!   Although he went by Mr Singh (the traditional Indian Sikh middle name), he was actually George Singh Sangha and upon realizing my (and my sister’s) last name and quick office sleuthing realized who we were.  He wasn’t aware of my dad’s mental condition and thus when he asked about him, he wanted to spark a conversation which I shied away from.  As the years passed on, I would see him occasionally at family functions and we chatted several times.   It was easier being an adult.  He had known that I had also become a teacher and he told me that he was proud of me (and secretly that made me happy).  So here we are several years later and my daughter is in grade 5 at Westwind Elementary.  She comes home to mention that there’s also a “new” older Indian grade 7 teacher!  Mr Singh!!  Uhm wow!  I happen to be at her school to pick her up and who finds me and engages me in a conversation and also mentions his sleuthing in regards to another Sangha – imagine his surprise when the parent on the file was me!  : )  I’m so very glad that Mr. Singh served as a role model that I believe influenced me on some subconscious level – I mean look at my career choice.  I am also glad that I was able to express my gratitude to him in person at a wedding reception telling him of how great it was to have him as a non-traditional role model in the late 70s – and perhaps again on some subconscious level, that is exactly who I am to the young Indo-Canadian youth that I work with!

April 14 – Orphan Black

264/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I will admit it, I’m a tv junkie! I love my reality tv but only competition type shows. I love some comedies. I also love some hour long shows but few and far between. However, if you have been on my Facebook, you will know that I am absolutely obsessed with one show – Orphan Black! Four years ago, my then just turned 13 year old son and I saw the preview for the premiere and were hooked (however, he happened to watch the first show on his own and told me he didn’t want to watch it anymore and as I confusedly picked up from where he had paused – only to discover he had stopped during the one and only graphic sex scene the entire 4 seasons, alas he didn’t continue LOL – I’m sure it would be different today). Sadly for the fans, the show is only 10 episodes per season and understandably so as the amazing actress who plays lead plays lead over and over and over. Yes, fellow Canadian Tatiana Maslany (who I had never heard of before this show) plays upwards of 5 regular clones per episode all with their own unique characteristics and qualities. I have to remind myself that Tatiana’s uptight, ponytailed, recovering alcoholic soccer mom Allison is played by the same Tatiana as Ukranian, bleached blonde, recovering psychopath Helena also played by yes the same Tatiana who plays the heart of gold, ditzy yet loveable, uber-blonde Krystal who does duty as quirky, pot-smoking, braniac scientist, the dreadlocked Cosima – did you get that? And that’s only four clones. The subtleties that this actress brings to all of the different clones – are we at 16 so far? – is beyond human! I didn’t know anything about acting and I still don’t know much but I do know that Tatiana Maslany is just amazing and mesmerizing in her portrayals of these unique female characters and up until this show, I never considered a person’s acting – I just watched for entertainment but when one woman carries the show all by herself and acts with herself in scenes with multiple clones, that’s when you realize what true talent is. I am a Clone-Clubber as I am enthralled by this show, follow blogs, have gone to viewing parties and just am truly a fan of the talent that is Tatiana Maslany (so hope she gets the lead in the new Star Wars film that she is in the running for). I’m so giddy with excitement for the season four premiere tonight that I can’t wait to be enthralled for the next two months. So yeah, be forewarned Facebook friends, my infatuation with Tatiana Maslany’s amazing talent is going to be in full force! To my clones – Sarah, Allison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel, Katja, Jennifer, Krystal, MK, Beth, Tony – long live this Orphan Black journey!

April 10 – my siblings

260/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  So today is siblings day.  Sad because as I have aged, my siblings and I have grown apart over the years rather than closer.  So apart that I don’t speak to either of my sisters over issues that really are petty but because emotions and pride are involved, no one wants to admit they were wrong and I’ll be the first to admit it.  I can now reflect on it and see that both sides are at fault when it comes to a disagreement and that acknowledging perspectives does not lower one to agree with said perspectives.   I did make the first move to mend fences with one of my sisters through a gratitude post on New Years’ Day but here we are in April and I have yet to hear anything from her although the post made it to her.  Regardless of where we are in our relationship today, I am glad that I had them in my life growing up.  I can say that I wasn’t a perfect brother especially to my younger sister (we are 14 years apart) as I had my own issues to deal with being bullied, not having my dad around, trying to get good grades so I could be something and move out; however, I tried to spend a lot of time with her in her younger, formative years which she probably wouldn’t remember.  Yes, as she got older, I’m sure she would have wanted what she saw in tv and movies as an older brother but as we grew up, the age difference didn’t help as at 19 when I wanted to go out or hang at university, she was a mere 5 years of age.  I did learn how to change diapers and feed a baby and all sorts of other things that come with parenting as my other sister and I became surrogate parents while my mom worked.  I have great memories of the good times with both my sisters and perhaps that is what I can focus on this Siblings Day and take pride in the fact that my own two kids get along well given their 7 years in age difference.  Here’s hoping that one day me and my sisters can let bygones be bygones and mend our bonds.

April 6 – 70s tv

256/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Growing up pretty much on my own with my younger sister, I didn’t really have many influences to guide me on my choices.  My mom, being a single parent on her own not by choice (as my dad was in Riverview because of his schizophrenia for most of my childhood), was working constantly so me and my sister basically made our own decisions.  My mom would work 6 – 7 days a week so our surrogate parent was the television and me being the senior by 2 years would do the picking.  Television was my escape – I could watch cartoons on Saturdays and I would watch cartoons as I would get out of bed to be ready to get my view on at 8 am with a large bowl of Fruit Loops (or is that spelled Froot Loops – weirdly that latter spelling seems to right).  Right after school, I would rush home to sit down with chips and my favourite 3 – 5 double hour of comedies.  Evenings would be campy tv shows or over the top serials.  My values and morals did not come from Disney books as my mom didn’t know how to read English so most of it came from the television shows that I watched relentlessly and as I reflect back, I am so glad that my role models were so clean cut and simple and the values that were portrayed and thereby instilled in me were of the highest calibre.  I watched Gilligan’s Island and learned about faithfulness, camaraderie, relentless pursuit and spirit.  I watched Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine and learned about believing in your instincts and teamwork.  I watched I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched and developed a sense of curiosity while retaining my naivety and sense of wonder.  I watched Dallas and Dynasty and learned about putting yourself forward and demanding what you deserve.  I watched the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family and was taught about family, bonding and the importance of honesty.  I watched Charlie’s Angels and basically learned about valuing yourself for your looks and your ingenuity.  I get criticized to this day that I am obsessed with pop culture but I don’t deny it – I love it.  I grew up on it.  It shaped me – dare I say for the better when I had no other options and I think that the choices I made for my viewing habits were, for the most part, exactly what I needed to become the person I am today.  Yes, I may be viewed (key word) as less knowledgeable/in touch with the world but I would disagree as I make the conscious choice of living my life with the values of the 70s tv shows that I viewed – a time when everything could be solved within one episode.  Thank you to all the television shows and their characters who had an impact on the person I have become – yes, you weren’t “real” per se but you got me through my tough times so you were real enough for me!

April 4 – i’m finally not the oldest!

254/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll just say it – I hate being the oldest.  All my life I have had to set the bar and through both conscious and subconscious pressure, I have set it very high so that my siblings and cousins had something to aspire for (or so I thought).  So many times I wished that I had an older sibling or cousin who I could look to for guidance but unfortunately for me, I was the oldest.  I have a sister two years younger than me.  I have another sister 15 years my junior – yes, 15!!  The cousins who were born in Canada and that I grew up with are 7 to 16 years younger than me.  In my 30s, my mom’s sister’s family emigrated to Canada and along came a few more cousins.  These ones were older but I was still oldest.  It was contested that my cousin Gurmit who was born in the season of harvest was older according to my grandmother as she had heard about his birth in India and then recalls my birth in Canada but harvest season is probably after this Leo baby.  However, I recall going to the motherland when I was 18 for four months – yes, when your parents take you out of school for a trip to India (and for me, it was out of university), it was for an entire semester!  My mom took me to probably marry me off – LOL, I kid (although I was hot property back then and had a lot of offers – I didn’t want an ESL tag-along!!).  So I was dragged along to countless homes and met cousins that I had heard about and finally, finally I was younger than two!!  My dad’s niece Baljit – stunning beauty – was about 3 years my senior.  She literally and figuratively took me under her shoulder and I let her.  First time I let go and was able to be someone who had an older sibling (re-read my earlier post about cousins being sibling in Indo-Canadian culture).  Although I was 19, she took care of me like her younger baby brother doting on me.  I let it happen because I so wanted to look up to someone and let go of having to be the oldest and role model and whatever else came with it.  A similar thing happened when I met my mom’s nephew Amarjit.  Handsome and having the same stutter as me.  Also 3 years my senior.  He took me on his motorcycle to various sites and kept me within arm’s reach and looked out for his Canadian cousin whenever we were out in public as I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  Although I only met them briefly that first time in India, they made an indelible impression on me that has been everlasting and they allowed me breathing time away from being role-model and just revel in the fact that I could be the younger one looking to my older siblings/cousins for guidance.  I have never forgotten that trip and they will never know how comforting it was to have them for those 4 months and have an experience I longed for all my life for however brief it was.  Thank you Baljit and Amarjit for being my older cousins and just making me feel that much more at ease and allowing me to be me without having to be an example for others.

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 18 – our Disney girl

237/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Do you have a daughter? Do you know who her Disney girl idol is?? It’s an important question and something you really have no control over. I didn’t even realize my daughter was into the Disney girls until I found myself watching That’s So Raven, Parent Trap, Lizzie McGuire – the list goes on. She ended up having a favourite Disney girl and we ended up buying all her paraphernalia from albums to lunch bags, from accessories to calendars – we were all Lizzie McGuired out! My daughter looked up to Hilary Duff (the actress) and we ended up watching all her movies countless times: Cheaper By the Dozen, A Cinderella Story, Agent Cody Banks and Cadet Kelly to name a few. As a dad of a daughter, I’d take Hilary Duff’s influence over and over again – my daughter picked the right Disney girl who maneuvered into post teen and early adulthood quite well. I mean, she had the choice of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears back in the day and she chose Hilary. I gotta give props to Hilary because without any big faux pas, she emerged into an adult – yes, she had a divorce, big deal and that’s not something that would shape my daughter negatively as Hilary didn’t do a Miley and become all about her sexuality (not slut-shaming here but being a dad of a daughter) nor did she become a Lindsay with all her drug and alcohol problems, Hilary just traversed adolescent into a respectable woman – the type that my daughter has become. I feel for parents of younger daughters today because the times are much different than a decade ago with the proliferation of social media and “stars” who are famous for infamy. I’m just glad my daughter idolized a Disney girl who was and is a true Disney girl with all the wholesome values that represented Disney post Disney career. Thank you Hilary Duff, this dad is forever grateful!