March 26 – all my nieces and nephews

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

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February 17 – I’m a Survivor

208/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I absolutely love reality tv – not the Kardashian Krap type but competition reality. I used to watch American Idol and The Voice. I am a fan of The Amazing Race and loved Top Model. I watched a couple of one season shows as well but the king of all competition reality is Survivor. I would like to say that I watched it right from the get-go and to a certain degree, I did. The show came on in 2000 and the first season was repeated immediately after it aired and because I heard so much about it, I watched the re-airing and fell in love with the premise and the characters and the entire concept of sole Survivor. Thus, technically I have been watching it from the first season and I have not missed an episode since! Here we are into season 36 I believe and I am just as excited! Being not very athletic, I get to be arm-chair athlete! Being a very social being, I also get to watch the players’ social games and analyze them. I basically live vicariously for an hour through these players. I have been told many times that my persona would be ideal for reality tv and yes, they are all personas – the players are cast for entertainment. I haven’t applied because perhaps on some level I think I would be cast and I don’t know how I would be “edited” – probably the dumb guy!! I have said that if I ever do get on, I will be first voted out or make it all the way to the end 😉 Now the other thing that has made my Survivor viewing interesting and probably that much more enjoyable which is the real purpose of tonight’s blog is to thank the many staff members who have joined in on the Survivor (and other reality) pools that I have organized. I started them way back when I taught at Burnett as a way of getting some staff socialness going on and it took off from there. I came to McNair as a newbie and did the same thing and the staff also came on board. Yes, I may have arm-twisted a few to join but what better or easier way to participate in the work place social atmosphere than throw a $5 bill, get a random player and see if you get a $100 win. The camaraderie that has developed with staff members has been amazing and I have gotten to know staff members that I wouldn’t normally have had a chance of conversing with and it just makes for my Survivor viewing all that much more exciting and pleasurable when you are now talking about staff member players and you have someone to route for right away. Also, I love writing my reviews – some are wine-infused and I let loose a little too much but hopefully they are enjoyable to read 😉 Once again, I want to thank every single person who has participated in the pools – without you, my entertainment on Wednesday night’s would be solely a one way activity but because of you, it has become multi-faceted and much more enjoyable. Here’s to your player winning!!

February 14 – The Walking Dead

205/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s VDay!! All about love! Love can be anything – that special someone or someones. A passion. Something that gets you through the day. Or the week. Of course, I’m going to take this blog in a different way rather than talk about traditional love as I’m not ready for that J However, today’s Valentines’s is so much more because of the mere fact that one of my favourite tv shows is back. This is the show that my son and I sit down and watch. Having a teenager, there are very few bonding moments as connections are different but this show gets us together once a week for an hour (sometimes two with the follow-up hour). What’s the show? The Walking Dead. The non-converted may think it’s just about a bunch of zombies and gore but that is just the surface – it’s so much deeper than that as character development, societal breakdown, loyalties and so much more come into play and the show is not afraid to kill off main characters. My son and I have been watching this show together since last year (he Netflix binge-watched to catch up to me) and there are moments when the house explodes with both of us freaking out about what just happened. However, this show’s bonds go far beyond just the father-son ties – in fact, it cements friendships with people one doesn’t even think would be/could be watching the show. The follow-up show Talking Dead, the inevitable internet search regarding what just happened and the Twitter/Facebook diatribe about the same thing in addition to the next day talks at work about what just took place – this is The Walking Dead experience that bonds so many people and I love that I am a part of this phenomenon in this day and age of a million shows available on TV, streaming, specialty networks etc. Here I am less than 30 minutes from tonight’s mid-season premiere waiting in anticipation of what major events will take place and the follow-up chaos – bring it on Walking Dead, I’m ready!!

February 7 – sports, sports, sports

198/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. So it’s Superbowl Sunday – does absolutely nothing for me except maybe the half-time show and the lead-out show (the one right after the game) but even those this year aren’t anything spectacular. However, I do wish I was one of those guys who was a super-fan. I will be honest, I am envious of the camaraderie/brotherhood and the whole spectacle of the game but I know nothing about football – its plays or the teams. I tried watching it last year because well Seattle was in it to defend their championship (is that even the right term?) but I really couldn’t get into it. So who am I actually thanking in this gratitude post – sports fans for showing me what I am missing out on. This post does get me a bit down due to the fact that I never got into sports of any kind let alone football (you know what kind of Hockey Dad I am if you’ve read my previous blogs!!). I wished I was an athletic kid so that I had played sports or had a dad around to watch sports with or was even put into sports against my will but none of that happened. I could say that the lack of sports has shaped me into the man I am today and that is very true but when it comes to days such as playoffs, championships, finals – I want to be on the inside if not on the bandwagon, even just hanging on but alas, I am not even running after it, I’m on a different street in another city altogether not knowing the locale of said bandwagon 😦 So yes, I am a unique individual but not happy about lacking sports knowledge and some days I wish I was just like the rest of them – the sports fan brethren. To all sports fans, here’s me from the outside looking in with great admiration and jealousy at something I have never been a part of and probably never will be.

February 6 – the JNB lunch crew

197/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. When you think of work, you think of your co-workers and when you think of them, some of the ones that come to mind are your lunch room buddies. At my present job, due to building layout, the lunch room isn’t much utilized; thus, only a handful of people go in there – some substitute teacher, student teachers and a couple of regulars. I have gone in there a couple of times to escape my classroom. At my old school, our lunch room much more in use and there was a lunch crew – actually a couple. This was what you thought of a lunch crew and they actually made my days go by quickly as I looked forward to hanging with them and having adult conversations but I must mention, they were not necessarily the typical adult conversations 😉 For example, each of us would have to read and article from the Savage Love column without breaking up in front of the table regardless of the subject matter – easier said than done!! We also got to learn a lot about our co-workers over 40 minutes which actually helped in developing friendships outside of the workplace. As I realized when I moved to my current teaching job, co-workers have a great impact on one’s work environment and I can say that I miss the daily lunch room connections that I had at my old job. Thank you JNB lunch crew for making the years go by so quickly and the day that much more enjoyable!

February 4 – you just got served – backhandedly

195/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Total backhanded gratitude post. I have often thought about this and yesterday I got the answer. I get a lot of subtle hate on from guys my age or a few years younger and especially guys from my own ethnic group. As I did a quick perusal of my contacts, I can say that I have no male friends of my age group from my ethnicity but do have many male friends who are non Indian and of various ages which was something that was quite surprising to me. Last night, while I was out, the subject matter came up and an epiphany resulted – I throw a wrench into the typical persona that I should be presenting/portraying as an Indo-Canadian male which is hyper-masculinity and everything that goes with that. I was also told that I threaten my Indo-Canadian counterparts as I am comfortable with both my masculine and my feminine sides. As Indo-Canadian males of my age and a decade plus or minus a few years younger than me, we are implicitly taught more than most other males to show no emotion, that the male is the boss, that masculinity shall not be threatened and to rarely back down – yes, I am colouring with a wide brush right now but I don’t think I am necessarily incorrect about this. To this day, I still struggle with how I am to present myself and how I will be judged and it’s true, my worst critics are the aforementioned guys yet none of them has ever said anything to me explicitly but their actions (or rather inactions) towards me speak volumes. However, with saying all this, I would not change myself today which took a long time for me to accept myself. I like my sensitivity. I like my eccentricities. I like my excitability. I like my quirkiness. I like my metrosexuality. I like me. Thank you guys for making me feel uncomfortable and inferior subconsciously which actually allowed me to grow a tougher shell to withstand criticism, not care about others opinions and actually reach my potentiality.  I didn’t know or realize I needed your judgments about me to allow me to become who I am.

January 20 – those white brown family members

180/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Yesterday I spoke of my father’s family. Today it’s about my mother’s family but not her immediate family such as siblings and their offspring. No, this post is of her extended family – specifically her mother, my (almost centenarian) grandmother’s side. My grandmother was the oldest of her siblings – she had 6 brothers (or was it 7). Almost all the brothers were either raised or born in Canada back in the early to mid 1900s. All their wives were very modern Indo-Canadian women – I’ve seen pictures from the 60s (mini-skirts, bouffant hairdos, all class). Their children (who would be my mom’s cousins but are younger and older than me) all born and raised here were very Western – some moreso than others. As I grew up watching them, I envied them as they seemed to negotiate the Western world that I was born into with ease but my parents still had traditional Indian beliefs that challenged the very being of who I was. I would see my mom’s extended family drinking wine and other spirits, some smoking, speaking English, in western garb, modern haircuts and some in relationships with white people (oh the shock for a kid like me 😉 ) basically free with their being and no worries of what other Indians thought of them – and this was the female relatives as well as the males. As I’ve grown up, I have challenged the constructs of what it is to be Indo-Canadian and I have had to shatter some of the preconceptions that my mom and dad held. I have to thank my mom’s extended family as they subconsciously influenced me to not have to skirt who I was and wanted to be in order to fit into a pre-defined mould of what I was supposed to be. However, I do have to mention that I am glad that I received the morals and values instilled by my parents especially not forgetting my heritage as that also makes me unique and uniquely me. I thank my mom’s extended family for allowing me to dream and then be a part of the Western culture I was born into while still retaining my ethnic values.

January 19 – getting my tradition on

179/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. My family background is quite diverse. My dad’s side of the family is smaller and although they are from the Punjab region of India and Sikhs in their beliefs, the physical proximity of my dad’s village is closer to the Himachal Pradesh area of India (foothills of the Himalayas) which is predominantly Hindu and many of their beliefs have been filtered down and embraced in my dad’s family even though they are Sikh. I am more than a bit of a skeptic when it comes to religion and religious traditions – yes, heresy in some people’s minds – and have a difficult time believing in and observing some of the ceremonial customs that I must participate in. Upon various trips to India, I have had to walk barefoot through mud to a temple to make offerings, I had to take a 3 day pilgrimage up a mountain with my mother and uncle to the Chintpurni temple, I had to have my head sheared (I refused but did compromise), I had to bathe in water that I knew would never pass a sanitation test here in Canada, I had to sit in the back of a crowded truck full of people with no personal space whatsoever on a week long tour of temples, I had to dance with Hijra/Khusras – the list goes on. However, even though I fight the cultural obligations around religion and ethnic tradition that I must partake in, I realize that they have meaning to my family and thus, I honour them by (albeit reluctantly) doing what is expected of me. The more I reflect on it, the more I know that the Indian traditions and beliefs of especially my dad’s family have had a positive impact on the man that I have become and I can appreciate (whether I agree with them or not) what believing in and respecting does for self, family and community. Thank you to my dad’s family for instilling in me the values of Mother India!

January 12 – those Indian beauty queens

172/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Growing up, I really never saw any Indians represented in the media probably creating the guy you know today. I am not upset by it as I like who I am but I could have totally grown up to be a different man if I had which would be interesting. Today my kids have tonnes of Indo-Canadian entertainers that they can relate to and I do see the influence on them. My family did have a tradition of watching Miss Universe when I was growing up and even though you may think it’s sexist, outdated programing, back in the day it was a different world and beauty pageants were not negatively perceived. The show was the first instance of Indians on television I actually saw – Miss India. I recall seeing my parents being proud of their homegirl being called into the finals whenever it happened. This pride filtered down and I’d be very happy when the delegate from India would hit the catwalk. I kept watching the show over the years even after leaving home as it sort of became a tradition. I had no other connection to these Indian beauties other than that my ancestors came from the same mother country but that was enough for me to root for them. In the 90s, almost every year saw the Indian girl hit the finals with two taking the crown – that was a cool time seeing a sister being recognized albeit for her beauty rather than her brains but hey, she was a fellow Indian and that’s what mattered 😉 Thank you Indian beauty queens for making this Indian guy get his first glimpse of his kind in the media. No runnerups anywhere!

December 24 – family night

153/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the day before Christmas and everyone has traditions this time of the year. Although my kids are older now, each of them got an ornament to put on their own miniature tree every year from birth to their mid-teens. My daughter got a Hallmark Holiday Barbie and my son received a Hallmark Harley – yes, you may criticize that I was falling into the gender stereotyping of ornaments and yeah, you are right 🙂 The kids absolutely looked forward to putting up their previous years’ ornaments and then the new one. I must say that I also got a kick out of it. Another tradition that found its way into our family (when my kids were younger) was “Family Night”. Every Friday, regardless of our individual plans, all four of us had to set aside two hours for Family Night – this was basically going out for dinner as a family of four and then coming home to perhaps a movie or a board game. We did this religiously for several years – if it wasn’t Friday, then it was moved to Saturday. It got harder as the children started to become teenagers but we managed for as long as possible and it was one of the best traditions we had as a family. I cannot take credit for this – I was inspired by my student Tefke. A wonderful young woman who was in a couple of my classes back when I first started teaching, Tefke really inspired me. I, being a keen teacher, took it upon myself to phone every one of my student’s parents at home over a weekend for an interim report on their progress regardless of their grade – an onerous task for sure. I remember Tefke coming up to me and telling me not to phone on Sunday. I was at a loss as she was doing very well in my class so I asked her why? She told me it was Family Day. I asked her to elaborate and she told me that her parents, herself and her other two sisters spent Sunday together being a family. They had activities planned and probably would not be answering the phone. She told me that this happened every weekend. She went on to explain how this kept the family close and expressed her gratitude to her parents for doing this. I was in awe. This explained the kindness and generosity that Tefke displayed to others in class as well as the close bond that she had with her sisters but also the love that I could clearly see that she had for her parents. I told her that I was going to do something like that and that’s how our Family Night came to be. Thank you so much Tefke for sharing your family tradition that I was able to adapt. You changed the way I parented and I am forever grateful. I want to share this so others can also benefit from what you taught me. In your honour, I will try to organize a Family Night these days with my adult and teen children 😉