Daddy’s Girl

19 03 2011

If you are a father, and have a daughter, you likely fully comprehend the term ‘Daddy’s girl’. Or, you are lucky that you know what the term really means. Today, I was blessed with having some free time so that I could take Ariel to the doctor, and then go for a walk with her and my son, James. I had the opportunity to listen to Ariel tell me about her life at school, and all about her school bus driver, etc. I listened well, and answered all her questions. We had some grand conversation, and with the help of little Sunny Jim, we spotted three porcupines on a hike up Nose Hill. James, predictably, got plastered with mud. He found many treasures, including a large piece of ice that was like a window pane. Today was a gift.

   Ariel was a present that I had hoped and prayed for. When my wife came up to me one afternoon, 12 years ago, and tearfully commented, “I have a little black spot inside me,” I was absolutely grateful for the fantastic news. The ‘Little Black Spot’ was born on November 9, 1998, and was so tiny she was just as long as my elbow to my fingertips. I will never forget the potent experience of becoming a father, and then the host of wonderful experiences that have followed. To date, the best day of my life was when Ariel, still a baby, spoke her first words. They were, “Papa . . . Papa.” That moment really made my life have a different meaning, as I knew that I had truly achieved fatherhood. Being a parent is certainly not easy, but it is the finest gift that can come our way. I cannot imagine my life without our children, and becoming a father really has given my life positive meaning. Oh, and below is a picture of James before he got too covered with mud.


Snow Fort

13 03 2011

Oh, how I would love to be a carefree boy again, so that I could get fuller enjoyments out of the snow forts that my children build. They love me to help them, but I do so more out of a feeling of ‘being a dad’ rather than for the fun of it. We did not build the fort seen above, but my little Sunny Jim bee lined for it when we were returning from an adventure up Nose Hill. He added a few artistic bits to it, and then charged off to play with a passing dog that was obsessed with retrieving things.

   I so fully recall the joys of digging long tunnels in huge drifts of snow, and building formidable snow redoubts. Sometimes, these could reach impressive cavernous proportions when a group of friends worked together. Sure, it was cold doing this but it was an engaging blast. The burning cold was endurable. As a boy, I did not feel that winter was such a long, depressing stretch of dull tedium. Now, I need to ensure that I get out more, so that I can avoid being grumpy and too introspective.

Prayers for Gratitude

5 03 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I was having profound February Blues — sick of winter and feeling life was a routine rut with no personal time whatsoever. The trouble in my mind was that I knew that I should not be so ungrateful. I have gotten much more than what I ever wanted in life. I have a wife, three wonderful children, a nice house and a rewarding, albeit demanding, teaching job. We even have rental properties, something that I did not aspire to attain. I thought, could it be that fulfilling one’s dreams means that the excitement of the chase is gone, and the ennui sets one in bland concrete? To try to shake off the dreadful mood, I went to a special place I visit on Nose Hill. I fervently prayed to be more appreciative for what I have and to let go of the negativity, and resentments, racing around my psyche.

   Shortly after that, I went to the Calgary City Teachers’ Convention and was most fortunate to attend a session led by Richard Michelle-Pentelbury. Richard is confined to a wheelchair, due to a spinal condition. I knew, quickly, that I was witnessing a great spirit radiating from that wheelchair – somebody who was overcoming adversity through controlling his mind. His session provided tools for adapting to continual change, and Richard discussed what levels people work at – for example, self to self, self to other, all the way up to self to universe. He showed me that people can really change, through processes such as ‘positive disintegration’. His presentation showed me I was being too introspective. Richard’s session, and his humanity, showed me how ungrateful I was being. I was sure to go shake his hand after the session, and I thanked him for what he had done for me. He said that I was a very good and kind spirit. I asked him, “How do you know?” His answer was, “Oh, we tend to know these things.” I certainly was thankful for my prayer being answered, and to Richard. I was also grateful when he later sent me a quote from Buddha: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” God directed me to that session, I believe. I had been suffering because I chose to.

   Three days later, I had another answer to my prayers. I took my family to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, west of Fort Macleod. While I was looking at a photo of some bones left over from the last time aboriginals had used the buffalo jump, I met Edwin Small Legs, a Blackfoot who works at the centre. He is the cousin of Nelson Small Legs Jr., who committed suicide in 1976 in protest over how aboriginal peoples were being treated in the prison system, by governments, etc. Nelson Small Legs was very active in the American Indian Movement, and his cousin is still, somewhat, active. Edwin told me how he, his cousin, and other native activists, had taken over the Indian Affairs office in Calgary in 1974. They barricaded themselves inside for 10 days. The conversation migrated about, and I gave him a piece of gum. He told me about the history of his people, and how smallpox and scarlet fever nearly wiped them out of existence. Edwin added that an epidemic in 1910 had left just 150 survivors in his band. He added more details, noting just how many natives perished in the Americas due to European influence. Later, he told me of how he is working to get young people in his band off crack cocaine, booze, etc. Upon hearing of his struggles for his people, and of the appalling history of what happened when the Europeans came to the Blackfoot’s lands, I asked him if he had forgiven. He did not hesitate to say that he had to forgive because not forgiving was making him a mean person. I told him that he was an amazing and spiritual person for being able to let go of the anger, etc., in light of all the tragedies that befell his people. Again, I met someone who inspired me. Here is someone who has dedicated his life to his people. Edwin has been able to leave his anger and resentments behind and do something positive, and spiritual, with his life. Below is a picture taken at his cousin’s funeral, in 1976.

   The third encounter, days later, that showed me my prayers were being answered, came when the mother of one of my students came to watch her son receive the honour of being Student of the Month. Her boy, Zulkifl, is a very fine young gentleman who works hard and is respectful. While his mother took a photo of her son and me, she commented, “We thanked God that you became his teacher.” This certainly did make me feel both gratified, and humble. Thank you, Mrs. Imtiaz. Those words — and other kind words from students, parents and colleagues — made me realize that being left with nearly no personal time is not such a bad thing. I am making a difference in this world, and need to see the positives more.

   I have always believed in God and spirituality, and that prayers, if reasonable, are answered. My experiences after my heartfelt pleas on Nose Hill, beside what I call The Stones of Forgiveness, showed me how spirituality is so important if someone wants fulfillment in life. I feel much more appreciative after my spiritual encounters and less selfishly introspective.