A Dent In My Boat, But She Keeps Me Afloat

Peace at 7:00 a.m. in a kayak on a summer morning. Just me, my daughter, and nature.

My serenity, however, is broken when I arrive home, for when I unload my kayak, I notice a couple small dents on the hull. I’m angry. How could I have let this happen?

“Man, I can’t believe it! Look at these dents.”

My seven-year-old daughter responds in a calm voice. “Daddy, it’s fine. I have a dent in my water bottle and it still works just fine.”

There is wisdom behind her words. Don’t let the imperfections, the nicks, the scratches, the dents, the depressions—whatever you call them—consume you. Things still work just fine.

Trust: The Gateway to Student Development

I have come to discover that every student has the ability to grow and improve as a learner. By developing a relationship of trust, an environment is created such that students can express their challenges and what they’d like to improve on.

Real growth and development comes from an intrinsic desire to better oneself. A helper can only guide students when that fire is kindled with a supportive, non-judgmental relationship.

Beware the Smelly-Cheese Beard

Humans are very good at recognizing the emotion of disgust in a person’s facial expressions.

The other night I saw it in four faces: my wife’s, my daughter’s, my son’s, and my own.

There was a nasty smell in the house. Foul. Disgusting. Gross. Rank. It was bad.

I suffered the stench for two hours. It seemed like it was so close, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where the putrid smell was coming from.

Finally, it dawned on me. The fetid, rancid, putrid smell was right under my nose. The revolting odour was emanating from my own beard.

Imagine the shame I felt and still feel today. Even Brené cannot help me.

It could have been the corn on the cob or the garlic chicken or the Coors Light or the Staphylococcus hominis. It could have been a combination of them all. But whatever it was, I’m telling you the smelly-cheese beard exists. And if you succumb to it, like Mr. Twit and I have, your wife and kids will never let you live it down.

Daddy Versus the Volcano

“Dad, tell me what should I draw,” my six-year-old daughter says.

“Um, I don’t know. Draw Joe jumping into a volcano.”

“Who’s Joe?”

“He’s from a movie. Joe jumps into a volcano to save an island.”

My daughter puts pen to paper. She quickly finishes her artwork and laughs as she shows me her masterpiece:

Dad volcano
Drawing of daddy jumping into a volcano.
Photo by M. Fleming

“That’s not Joe. That’s me jumping into the volcano!”

“Funny, eh dad?”

Yes, funny. But it makes me think at a deeper level. How would I face an impending death due to brain cloud? Would I discover meaning? Would I jump into a volcano? Would I learn how to live? Would I realize my Meg Ryan is right in front of me? And if I would, if I could, I should be able to now—in the present—without a brain cloud.

My Love Affair With Carl

I was first introduced to the ideas of Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology, when I was in university back in the ’90s. I had a psychology professor who made fun of Rogers and his principles.

These days, if I were to run into that psychology professor, I would strongly disagree with his criticisms. But that psychology professor has probably kicked the bucket by now.

Anyway, after reading On Becoming a Person, I have come to discover that I love Carl Rogers. His philosophy on relationships and personal growth align with insights I have gained from my personal and professional experiences.

Rogers On Becoming
Cover of On Becoming a Person
Photo by M. Fleming

In my personal relationships and in my work with students, I have found that individuals have enormous potential within themselves.

Rogers discovered the same:

Gradually my experience has forced me to conclude that the individual has within himself the capacity and the tendency, latent if not evident, to move forward toward maturity.

Let’s keep moving forward.

Nostalgia for Richard Marx and The Importance of Syntax

Ah, it’s great to have memories of a first love.

Her name was Sonia, and she asked me to dance in an elementary school gymnasium years ago. The song? “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx.

So you can imagine the fuzzy feelings that returned when I saw Buddy Daiquiri—played by Richard Marx—in the episode ‘Poison Fire Teats Universe’ of Life in Pieces.

In the episode, Buddy sings “Right Here Waiting.”

My eyes started to tear up.

It was the perfect moment to express my love to my soulmate. But instead of turning to my wife and saying, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” I hear myself saying:

I’d rather be nowhere.

It didn’t go over too well…I wonder what Sonia’s up to these days.

The Evening My Wife Burnt My Heart

There was nothing out of the ordinary that night.

Mind you, there was a new dish on the table that night, but that was the new normal. My wife had been experimenting with meals since she had been on a new health kick.

The night’s dish was vegetarian tikka masala.

The tikka masala was a lot spicier than the food I’m used to, but I was hungry that night. It didn’t taste too bad. In fact, I went back for seconds.

It was about 30 minutes later when the pain started. My chest was on fire. I gulped down a few antacid tablets, but the fire continued to burn. It burned long and it burned bright. Death was a possibility that night.

“Was there garlic in that?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“Onions?”

“Yes.”

“Tomato sauce?” I ask.

“No. Diced tomatoes,” she says.

“That’s worse,” I say. “Spices? What kind?”

“It’s called garam masala.”

I look up garam masala: acidic and may cause acid reflux.

That evening, my wife— the heart arsonist—mixed in all the ingredients that contribute to my acid reflux and ignited it with a new, near-lethal weapon—garam masala.

“Honestly, I didn’t think you’d actually eat it,” she says.

“I guess I’ll know for next time, honey.”

Reader’s Digest and my Worrying Mind

My wife makes fun of me as I pick up the latest issue of Reader’s Digest.

“You’re so old.”

“But I like Reader’s Digest.”

“Yeah, that makes you old.”

I think about this claim as I adjust my glasses.

“And those silver rimmed glasses make you look old.”

I worry about looking old. I worry about getting old. I worry about my life. I worry about my wife. Is she going through menopause? I worry about getting cancer. I worry about fake news. I worry about the amount of trash piling up in our country. I worry about earwax. What’s earwax for anyway? I wonder why I worry and how to stop.

Lego and Change

My 5-year-old son loves building with Lego, and for a 5-year-old, he’s pretty good at it. Sometimes, I’ll be staring at the instructions and he’ll already have the right piece in the right place. His mind sees how little pieces come together to make something whole.

My son recently had a birthday party, and of course, he got some new Lego.

“Dad, can you help me build this?”

“Let’s eat the birthday cake first.”

“Okay. Then can we build it?”

“Sure.”

We scatter all the pieces into an open container, open the instruction booklet, and start building. He’s very focused, but like most kids, his attention span is not very long. Sometimes, I look up and he’s no longer there. Other times, he’ll ask me to complete the creation.

The last time it was a dinosaur. Unlike my son, I don’t love building with Lego. Sometimes it’s painful locating a particular piece and figuring out where it goes. Anyway, after a little hard work I completed the dinosaur.

“Check it out, buddy.”

“Good job, Dad. Now let’s take it apart and build a different dinosaur!”

“But it took me so long to build this one! Let’s just keep it for a while.”

“No, Dad. Let’s take it apart and build something else.”

It’s then when I realize it’s not about the creation. It’s about the creating. It’s not about admiring the creation. It’s about taking it apart and creating something better. It’s not about constancy, but fluidity. It’s about building something with the pieces we are given and once it’s built, using the pieces again to build something even better. It’s about improvement. It’s about growth. And it’s about spending time with my son.