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!

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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 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!

July 4 -Mr C in charge

345/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Company yes men and women!  We know who they are!  Most of us are initially befuddled when they get a promotion/rise in the ranks but then it all makes sense – they are company yes men/women.  They get moved on up because they are going to keep towing the line in the same manner it has always been and not necessarily for the benefit of the greater good but just following the directives from up above.  In all my years as an educator, there has only been one administrator that I can say pushed the envelope – hell, he tore it open.  In my opinion while working with him, he made decisions that benefited those directly involved and not to be the popular company man and that is a quality that I, along with several others, greatly admire.  Mike C was the administrator that I went to when I would have a question and also in those rare instances I needed advice on how to best deal with a student.  He didn’t mince words nor sugarcoat things – he gave me exactly the advice I needed in the moment.  When I had to choose an administrator to evaluate my teaching of the Psychology 12 curriculum, without hesitation, I went to Mike and asked him to watch me teach as I knew I was going to get an honest evaluation with practical advice on how to best improve my practice for myself, not for some vague pedagogical reasoning being espoused as the doctrine of the day.  I have not worked with Mike since my Burnett years – well over a decade ago but as my son entered high school, Mike became the vice principal of the same school and I was beyond ecstatic as I knew that he would say it like it should be said when it came to my son but he also would be the guy who would give me real advice if need be.  I take comfort in the fact that Mike is there as an administrator and I know my son also appreciates Mike’s realness.  Here’s to you Mr. C – a rarity but so greatly appreciated!

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 19 – father figure

330/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  It’s dad’s day.  The day when male role models/caregivers/fathers/father figures are being recognized for their part.  Yes, I’m the first to say that moms are way important overall for children but if the dad is in the picture, he also matters and makes a difference.  Dads can be grand-dads and uncles, brothers and cousins especially in this day and age.  For all those fathers out there that may not be in their kids’ lives daily but do try, kudos to you.  For all those awesome fathers who are there for their kids, same on you.  And for those guys who are stepping up and being “dad” (whatever that may mean), well major props for you.  Yes, I’m second fiddle to my kids’ mom and I totally understand that bond.  My kids don’t necessarily appreciate me in the same way and I get it – especially with the angsty teenager – oh how I miss those elementary days with hand-made crafts and big hugs 😉   However, I was the same way and didn’t realize the value of my dad until much later.  Yes, he wasn’t around literally and figuratively but he did the best he could given his circumstances.  Thank you to him and to all the uncles who stepped in and helped out my mom to get us raised.  Most of you were not “real” uncles in the traditional sense of the word as you were more friends of the family or distant relatives but you were at times more real than my biological uncles and I truly appreciate you being there for assisting the family.  This one also goes out to my mom who was my dad for most of that time – took on both roles and yes, it was tough but you did the best you could and that’s not forgotten.  I know I’m not the best of dads by far as I didn’t have a consistent father figure to model myself but I try.  Hopefully one day, I have the same fatherly connections that I see out there in the social media world and will eventually measure up to my kids’ expectations but until then, I will keep on keeping on and try to get this dad thing right!  Cheers to all the dads!

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 31 – to my dad

311/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This one’s a tough one.  I can only put it off for so long but tonight is the right time.  My dad passed away 3 years ago on the 26th of May a few days before his birthday which is today.  He would have been 80 today.  I have mixed emotions when it comes to my dad but through therapy, I have learned that those emotions, although valid, are of my own perspective and not because he did anything wrong consciously.  My dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic – he thought the government and all its agents were after him and by extension the family and thus he did not abide by certain rules and we were not allowed to live in the way most people live.  However, back in the 70s and early 80s, no one really knew all that much about mental illness and the myriad of diagnoses.  His own brothers and sisters denied he had a condition and lay blame on us (myself, my sister and mother) for fabricating tales about him.  He could get jobs but because of his delusions, those would soon end.  Eventually, because of things I’d rather not delve into, he ended up being institutionalized at Riverview Institute.  I was around 6 years old.  He was in and out of Riverview – sometimes on a month release, other times because he would “escape”.  This was our life for the next decade or so.  During this time, a feeling of resentment grew in me.  I would see dads and sons everywhere: playing ball, helping ride bikes, walking to school, cutting the lawn etc.  Upon a few of his unsanctioned “leaves”, the proverbial white van showing up at our house with my dad being taken back in a strait jacket is etched deeply into my memory.  I was embarrassed and neighbourhood kids made fun of us calling us the “retard’s kids” – oh damn, this is getting pretty tough tears welling up – but through it all, he was my dad and I had to remember that.  When he was finally diagnosed properly and on meds that managed his condition, he came back into our lives on a full time basis.  I finally had a normal dad for the most part – yes, he still had delusions and would talk to himself but less so.  He got a good paying job.  Worked hard and a year later, my parents had their third child – my younger sister.  I will admit that I was ambivalent towards her as this sister ended up with two more or less functioning parents and much more of a normal life than I had.  I had a very superficial relationship with my dad in that I guess I blamed him for not being around and thus, in turn making me feeling I was less than adequate.  I blamed him for not giving me the male role model I needed.  I was jealous of the new family dynamics when he was back.  I was upset that I didn’t have a normal childhood and laid all blame on him.  I know now that he did not do any of this!  He did not leave us willingly and consciously.  He did not abandon us because he didn’t love us.  He didn’t talk to or not acknowledge our existence because he didn’t care.  He didn’t hold down jobs because he was lazy.  He had a mental illness.  He was not in control.  Damn, more tears!!!  He worked hard.  He saved up money.  They got a brand new home.  New cars.  New “toys”. A new life.  Being the dad/granddad to my son that I never had.  Yes, I felt like I was on the sidelines looking in but I was also an adult and had to get over it.  I am 100% sure that my dad made me into a stronger person.  I needed to go through all of that to be the man I am today – phew, more tears!!  Towards the latter years of his life, I was able to let go of my resentment.  No, we did not have a movie-like wonderful ending – more like an ongoing telenovela/Bollywood drama where we were good for this week’s episode but that hole in my heart for lack of a father became much smaller in diameter.  Yes, I have never properly thanked him, told anyone I loved him, acknowledged him or even yet grieved his passing but this gratitude post is a start, albeit a public one, that my dad, given all he had to go through, ended up teaching me about life, struggles, being responsible for self and not letting your past dictate your future.  I love you dad for giving me life and caring for me in your own way.  Thank you for moving to Canada, marrying mom and creating something here and leaving behind a great inheritance both financial and emotional for the three of us children moving forward.  I still have a lot of work to do on myself in regards to father/son bonds but wherever you are, I am no longer angry or resentful – I can honestly say that I do love you and what you did for us.

May 19 – the lady at the gym

299/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Do you ever have moments when something clairvoyant-like takes place and you are trying to get an understanding of the logic behind it?  The other day I was thinking of a woman that I would run into back in my 20s and 30s when I used to work out at Fitness World.  I was wondering whatever happened to her.  She was a Punjabi woman who was well over my mom’s age (probably by a decade or more).  I was fascinated by her because first she was working out lifting weights.  Second, she had short cropped hair – growing up Indo-Canadian, all females sported long hair and older women had auntie-buns – but not her.  Third, she was made up to the nines (yes, she was working out but damn, she did it in style).  Fourth, her English, although accented, was impeccable.  I recall her sitting on a bike next to me striking up a conversation with me and of course, small world – she knew my mom and my extended family.  She started giving me hugs when I would be at the gym and I met her once at the temple where she just grabbed me and told my mom that I was her other son and we had only talked casually.  I admired her and how she really got me to see older Indian woman in a different light than what I was used to growing up.  The evening after she had popped into my head earlier this week, my mom phoned and asked me if I remember a woman who used to work out at the gym.  I was floored as I told her that I was just thinking about her.  My mom got all quiet and then told me that she had just gone to her husband’s funeral that day and that she (this lady) was asking about her “son” (me)!  To say I was weirded out would be an understatement.  I guess I also affected her on some level.  I made a promise to my mom that in the upcoming weeks I would make a trip to her place to give my condolences but also to connect with her.  I am very fortunate that a lot of good people have come into my life over the years to get me to think about life and this lady is one of those people.  Thank you for allowing me to see (Indo-Canadian) women of my mom’s generation and older as productive, vital, independent and lively rather than what I was shaped to see them as through my interactions in a patriarchal cultural.  I look forward to our reunion where I can tell you this in person.