Jump Into The Frying Pan

Sometimes big life lessons present themselves in quirky little ways.

Another beautiful morning, everyone in the house – in some form or another – and no place to go. The coffee is hot, good insightful articles in the life section of the paper, all is great.

A wonderful moment to appreciate the simple things in life that maybe some of us take for granted. A time to be grateful for everything in our lives. A brief moment in time to remind myself of everything I have.

In stark contrast, I am aware of the technologies around me. My phones ability to send music to a speaker, situated in a separate room. A thermostat that senses our movement and adjusts to our pre-program request. A conversation with my son, who is eight hours away. My IPad sits on the hearth in front of our fireplace, family face time for everyone in the room to converse with my son who lives 850 km away. Just his head, no torso, arms or legs – a kind of ‘Max Headroom’ experience (for anyone around in the mid-80’s).

Just out of the corner of my eye, I witness my daughter practising her UFC fighting skills on our nonstick frying pan. Maybe to the younger generation, nonstick hardly seems innovated compared to my son’s head vicariously floating in space in front of the fireplace. However, nonstick was cutting edge back in the day. Evan today you can’t put the TV on without an informercial preaching the virtuous properties of a non-stick pan. Just imagine how all of our chaotic lives would be saved if only our frying pans could be wiped clean in one easy swipe. Imagine what we could accomplish in our time-sensitive lives if we could free ourselves from cookware clean up. These pans are indestructive. Marketing to our sense of logic, they do everything to these frying pans – burn stuff, broil ball bearings, chip chunks of cement or hit it with a hammer. All the things we generally want to do with our cookware right!

Nevertheless, on this day, something more subtle happens. A unique and somewhat unbelievable phenomenal occurred. The eggs stuck to our nonstick frying pan! My daughter was scrubbing the frying pan as if she were going to release a genie from a bottle. “You used the wrong pan” I murmured. “How is there a better nonstick pan dad” she replied. Our family conundrum was at a full standstill. Something was sticking to the non-stick frying pan. It’s not supposed to, the commercials say so. The order of life, as we know it to be, has been flipped upside down.

Lots of life lessons ran through my head at that time. First and foremost not everything in life works the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes, we don’t get to slide through life. It takes hard work to unstick ourselves at times. Second, what’s promise to us doesn’t always occur. Learning to manage your expectations when things don’t turn out the way you want is part of everyone’s personal development. Perseverance to overcome life’s hiccups is, in essence, life itself.

However we may slide or glide through life’s journey, inevitably one thing is certain – we are going to feel stuck from time to time. There are always lessons to learn if we choose to see them. There is still something positive hidden in all you’re life’s sticky situations. It’s your willingness to seek the positives and learn from your experiences. And, remember when the next time you feel like you are in the wrong frying pan – consider your options.

Gratitude

Her commitment to personal excellence is infectious. It’s innate. It is what makes her one of a kind. Lots of people try hard to be kind and loving, but some of their attempts are diluted with a hint of insincerity.    In contrast, we all know people who just emit energy of positivity. Genuine goodness.  They are real and not pretentious.  Everything they do and say seems to come from a place of authentic, loving interest.  They draw you in with their attentiveness and empathy, all the while you are sure you are the centre of their universe.  They are not fake in their connections with others.  They represent all that is genuinely great about humanity through and through.

The New Year is a time to self reflect, self assess and take stock of who we are and what we have become.  Evan for those who acknowledge their lack of interest in resolutions, there isn’t a doubt their internal self-talk (post to follow) isn’t flickering.  But, for the truly gifted some things just come naturally. That does not mean that there is no room for improvement.  We all can think of someone gifted in their field of endeavour. Whether it’s a musician, sports athlete, or the smart kid we grew up with that never seemed to study or do homework and still got A’s. Some genuinely have a gift. I think the power of her kind, caring, loving gifts are lost in her humility.

There are no barriers to her spirit – young, old and everything in between.  Her family, friends and students are lucky to have her in their lives.  She indeed is one of a kind. Time never interferes with her energy, and there is never an inconvenient moment to share her caring, loving ways. 

When we reflect on our new selves do we superficially glaze over the supposed to layer? Or, do we assess ourselves at a deeper level?  So, our commitment to personal growth and a place of peaceful and loving care lends to a simple question.  How can I be a little better today than it was yesterday?

You see the person I am writing about is my wife. She exudes a positive, loving energy vibe all the time. However, she continues to challenge herself make herself better. So, as part of her personal growth, she forwards to me gratitude. For me, I am blessed to have her in my life.  She makes me a better man.  I sometimes feel responding to her daily gratitude with one of my own would seem contrived, made up or fake.  

At hot yoga class, entering into Shavasana, the instructor asked what we are most grateful for? In that very moment every cell of my body, without hesitation, felt my wife’s presence.  That’s not sweat rolling down my cheeks; it’s a tear. 

 Everything she is and represents is what I am grateful for. So, it only makes sense that I write it down and share. Hopefully, she can feel the love, know that I am grateful to have her in my life. 

Where to begin – again

His death is my beginning – again.

As if it were yesterday  I remember the day it didn’t make sense to him or anyone else in the family.  A simple check up and a statement from the doctor and it was like the begining of a track race, the starters pistol loud and direct – the race begins.  The race was different this time; everyone knew there would be no gold medal at the end. They were unsure whether it would be a sprint or a marathon.  It is hard to prepare for something when you are unsure of how it will take shape.  One thing is for sure, I will be better at being present.

You see it was a few years ago now that my father-in-law had his drivers licence taken away.  He was getting a little older and some of his memory faculties were failing.  I am uncertain why this had such a lasting impression on me.  Maybe it’s a reminder that I have a male ego, maybe I felt his loss of identity, maybe it was the fact that times are changing and so is my health. Or, maybe it was the reality of the state of health my father-in-law was entering.

As a kid I loved to play with my cars. I would roll out my car carpet and I was immediatley transported to another world of a colourful, one-dimensional city.  It was complete with roads, buildings, police stations, hospital, parking lots and any other idea I could muster up in my kid brain. It was endless what my mind could come up with.  Any car and every car was sacred to me. I did not have a 3D television, electronic devices or an iPad to play on.  I am still the guy that reads the automotive section of the newspaper.  I am the guy that loves to drive in all types of weather and for as long as possible.  The 22-hour straight drive to Florida has never been an issue.  Sometimes I think my independence and enjoyment is from the simple ability to drive my car.  I am required to stay present (see previous post “Smash up Derby”). He lost his driving privilege that day and I imagined the day when I will lose mine.

For the next couple of years I supported my wife and her family the best way anyone can as we watched her father transform slowly in front of us.  His demise was insidious and fascinating all at the same time.  My wifes’ gracious, caring, patience and unselfish abundance of love reassured me that I am in great hands if I were ever to enter that race of my life. And, she can rest assure I will be there for her.

Our imagination and/or lack of it, makes us human. To be human gives us the capacity to care and love for others. We have choices to make along our journey. Why not make great choices for ourselves before we are unable to – like my father-in-law?

Alzheimer’s and dementia are harrowing diseases.  To help give peace to the families and to attempt to help us understand the disease, the doctor acquainted it to erasing your memory backwards. It is a loss of memory of the simple day to day activities, followed by bigger events in the past and ultimately forgetting who we are.

The brain is amazing; fascinating to say the least. Trillions of signals on a daily basis automatically regulate our bodies, creating thoughts both consciously and subconsciously. Researchers are still trying to figure out how it works and, for that matter, how it doesn’t.

In a fascinating decline of my father-in-laws brain function, too a disease we are still trying to understand, I marvelled at the brain and how it functions. So in honour of his disease I ask you this:

“If we don’t really understand this fascinating decline of our brains, is it possible we are interfering with the fascinating potential of our brains.”

To commemorate all of those who have suffered a tragic, uncontrollable loss of brain function – I have a new beginning.

My new beginning. I will reunite myself to practice, share, give, receive everything that is mindful. A dedication to exercising the brain. I will immerse myself in what has always fascinated me – the brain, human behaviour and personal development.

Join the journey and stayed tuned.

University of Life

All stories have a beginning and an end. Some stories are even long enough to have chapters, or volumes for that matter. It is interesting when you consider the impact a great story has on your life. It opens your soul to great possibilities and can play out in countless ways. It can make us laugh or pull at our heart strings. It can raise the little hairs on the back of our necks or make us want to change the world. Some stories are fiction and some are not. One thing for sure, is that they move us in ways we never thought were possible.

The beginning of this story is a scream and a cry, I felt helpless. Believe me if I had a uterus I would have given birth to my daughter. Not really, but it is the thought that counts, or does that just apply to gift giving. There she was my first born child, with tears streaming down my face, chapter one begins. Her cute little hands and feet, I remember them as if I was starring at a 3D pop up picture book. Her hands and feet connected to her limbs as if they were Lego pieces. Actually it was more like the Pillsbury Dough guy, soft pudgy and perfect.

There were many chapters to follow. Crawling, walking, talking and growing up. There were tears and accomplishments. Proud days memorable moments and a never ending astonishment of how my baby girl grew up so fast into the astonishing young women she is today.

It’s was her birthday recently, 18 years young and the whole world ahead of her. I am excited for her and maybe a little jealous. I remember when I too began my school journey. I loved learning and meeting new people, their opinions and stories. Each one writing their own personal chapters one day at a time. Like myself, the journey to who you will become will be shaped consciously or sub consciously by the experiences of your journey through University.

Looking back on one of the chapters, she was only in elementary school. I remember the day as if it were yesterday. She was asked to do a xylophone solo for a christmas concert. She practised daily. Her dedication to the task at hand and her hard work will serve her well in future chapters of her life. The day had finally arrived. She was flying solo up on stage by herself. No parents to protect her or guide her if she begins to falter. As she took to centre stage I was astound to notice no sheet music. No crutch, nothing to fall back on. No help, she was all alone up there on stage. I worried for her, ‘what if, what if….’. The ‘what if’s’ are a book on their own. I wanted to say something, do something, anything to shield her if she falters. Why would I feel this way? Why did I not trust my daughters ability or my parenting skills?
She was amazing. Not a stumble. To the roar of the audience – it has more affect – she was amazing.

It is amazing how chapters in your life prepare you for future chapters. The University of Life can be similar to Xylophone life. It looks complicated, make the wrong choice and it’s dreadful. The great thing about the chapter of growing up, is simply that it is just a chapter. As she begins her journey of searching what she wants to do with her life, she will gain experiences and events that will shape who she will ultimately become. She will work hard and practice what it takes to succeed in life. Just like her xylophone.

Similar to any next milestone in your child’s life, it marks a definative end to a chapter in your own life. Her begininings is almost like an end to ours. Or is it? Sharing in the celebration of who she is and what she will become is a more upbeat chapter. It marks less of an end in mine and more of a begining. It’s reflective but not sad. It is uncertain but exciting. It is unknown but not fearful. It is life.

There is no doubt in my certainty, this story will have a happy ending. The University of life teaches us some fundemental laws. You are allowed to write a short story or a novel. A chapter book or a trilogy. One thing for certain, enjoy the chapter you are currently writing, your parents can not wait to see it unfold.

Where Have I Been….

The day I received a ‘Package’ and never realized the ‘gift’ inside. That’s the answer I give to everyone who has been asking; Why haven’t you posted anything? Where have you been? You should post that on your blog, why did you stop writing? Well, the easy answer is this, I was ran over by a truck (not literally), got lost and made a choice not to get back in the game. I will never forget the day I got lost and forgot my purpose.

He showed up in my office wearing jeans, he looked to be a retired man, friendly wearing a ball cap he asked to speak to me, asked me my name and handed me a package. It was a kind of a friendly exchange, surreal to speak and looking back now one of the most memorable days of my life. I opened the package and was frozen. My emotions and senses were taken over as if from some external alien force. I sat motionless, paralyzed in what to do next. Little did I know it would be the source of almost mystical power over me. It would transform me personally over the following years. It provided sleepless nights and countless moments of anger and outbursts to the ones I love most. I shut down. I removed myself further away from the things that bring me life and energize my soul. I lost trust in myself and the people around me. I became synical and skeptical. I found little trust in anything. I questioned everything, and usually not from the place of wonderment. Waking up and struggling to put on a brave face for those around me was the ‘soup de jour’. I was slipping and felt I had no traction. It was as if the pull of the undercurrent was so strong my resistance seemed futile. I was falling, uncertain of how far and long the decent would be. Sure, I was able to forget. But, not for long. I use the term ‘forget’ lightly, because no one forgets a ‘package’ that changes their lives forever. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It is imprinted on the neurons of my brain in the same manner as the day I opened my most memorable Christmas gift. I may have been around 7 years old, when I noticed behind the curtains that glorious Christmas morning, one more gift that was strategically hidden from the rest of the gifts that day. The curtains were made out of green valour and were tied back exposing the white shears that covered the window. (Remember, this is not a story of the fine decorating qualities of home decor in Montreal, back in the early seventies). It’s a story of how a surprise package can change your life forever. As a young boy, I remember my parents suggesting I look behind the curtains, and I noticed a large box, I opened it to my amazement. A surreal and unexpected wonderment was with me the day I opened the mystery package in my office. I will remember the ‘gift’ I received when I was seven similar to the ‘package’ I received in my office that day.
The gift I received that year was a table hockey game, with metal players ( you could curve their sticks), an automatic puck dropper at centre ice and a puck ejector, that if pushed just right could fling the puck out of your own net, through the air and almost hit your opponent in the face, a great feature for highly competitive kids. The Canadians versus the Leafs, there was no better match up. I remember the sounds of the game, the colour and more importantly the wonderful feeling I had when my parents gave me the ‘gift’ of my life.
It’s amazing how a package can change your life. Similarly I remember the details of the day I received the package. I did not see the ‘gift’ that came with the ‘package’ that day. I was blinding to the ‘gift’ that would eventually expose itself over time. Sure, the package itself was the beginning of a journey that brought me and my emotions all over the place. One thing is for certain though, if you want to learn anything about yourself and your purpose and principles in life, you need others to ask questions of your personal integrity, intelligence and purpose.
It was in this package that I questioned my own purpose. Allowing my ego to interfere with the process I failed to see the gift and clarity the package was providing. Who I am, what I stand for and the intentions of my actions were all in question. My absence to demonstrate empathy and forgiveness for those around me was breached. We all understand the importance of seeing through the eyes of others and learning how to forgive unconditionally. But, it isn’t until we are required to carry out such an altruistic and nobel deed, at a time when we have sunken to our lowest point, do we find out who we really are and what we represent.
I made a choice to forgive. I see now what I couldn’t see then. I decided to renew and familiarize myself with my principles and purpose in life. I decided to see the ‘gift’ that I was given rather than what the ‘package’ represented. I hope you always see the gifts that come your way, no matter what the circumstances are.

My Son’s Grade 8 Valedictorian Speech – June 2011

Valedictorian Speech

By: Fraser Kirk

Life: we all start at the same spot. When we first looked into the eyes of our parents they saw a brilliant aura, we were bonded by unconditional love. It continued as we made our first sounds, our first words. It continued to grow as we learned to crawl and eventually walk. We were infants, toddlers, then young children and now grade 8 graduates. Although, we stand here tonight looking very similar, we are actually all very different.

You could kinda say we are like trees in a forest. Started from a small seed that develops into a twig.
The twig gets bigger and looks like a young sapling, then a young tree, and soon spreads it’s branches like a Willow tree, or maple tree. Trees and forests also have a brilliant aura. Each one is unique and very beautiful in their own way. We just have to slow down and observe it.

They are spectacular and posses unique characteristics once they are all grown up. But the journey for a tree to reach and soar to great heights is not always easy.

Sometimes trees have to live in the shadow of others, and this may affect the growth of these trees.
Yet, the nature of the forest is to keep rising, continue to grow and maybe one day to look over the top of the forest. A tree with strong roots, a great base, and foundation has a great future. Elementary school has provided us with these roots, our parents have watered us with love and we too have started on our path to reach towards the sky and for our future.

Similar to us, each tree will be different. Some branches will extend further or some will be stronger. Some will love the winter and some will prefer the heat, some tall and some small. Thick ones or thin ones they all belong.
Although these differences exist, there is one constant – roots. I believe that our roots were built by our wonderful elementary school – CRB.

When we move on to high school, we to, will begin to grow differently just like a forest full of trees. Some of us will get taller ( I hope), some of us will stay together and some of us will venture off in new directions. All, will branch off in different ways; forward, backwards, left, right, up, down we will all head in directions every which way you can think of.

In high school, you can pick your classes, start to choose the path you want to take and the knowledge you want to gain. You’ll hopefully get excited about the endless possibilities and start to decide where you want to go in life. It seems overwhelming – but at the same time exciting.
Each one of us will begin to evolve like a tree, we will soar to new heights and begin to reach out in all different directions.

One of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read say’s “You have brains in your head. You have feet in you shoes. You can steer yourself, in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU’RE the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Amazing how inspirational a children’s Dr. Seuss book can be eh? All joking aside, this passage re-enforces the fact that you have the basic knowledge, CRB gave us our roots and high school will help us decide what type of tree we really want to be.

Dr. Seuss reminds us when he says “I’m sorry to say so, but, sadly, it’s true, that Bang-ups, and Hang-ups, can happen to you.”
With all this exciting talk about what lies around the corner for us, and the potential for success in the future, we must remember that we would be fooling ourselves to think that something won’t go wrong along the way. I mentioned earlier how it’s like being shadowed by a larger tree in the forest. You will at times struggle to find the light that guides you. In an overcrowded forest some trees struggle to find water. But in life you will always have two choices; you can give in to this pressure, give up, and stop your growth, or, you have the choice to push to new heights, and grow 3 times the size of the other trees. It is up to you.

Dr. Seuss says “All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone will be something, you’ll be quite a lot.” We may feel at times we are all alone. It’s true, taking a step into high school will reveal that you are now all on your own. You and your friends will not all pick the same subjects, they will begin to develop different interests. But, now that I think about it, not all trees are found in the forest – some stand alone. They to are strong and have a unique identity. Your journey and development continues after high school. Some of us will enter the work force, some to college and some to university. So we will all have to learn what will be best for us. But I think I am getting ahead of myself, after all, we are graduating from grade 8.

I am confident that we will all find our place in the forest. We are all good at something and high school will help us find it. If you don’t believe me then Dr. Seuss say’s “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! 98 and 3 quarters guaranteed.” It may be in sport, or a subject. We may join a group or choose to travel and help build homes in third world country’s. Some of us may actually meet our future wife or husband – isn’t that right Mom and Dad.
If you try different things you are bound to uncover something that you feel passionate about.

Promise me that once you do find your thing, be the tree that wants to soar to the top – it will be easy to find enough people to discourage you from shooting to the stars – so try not to discourage yourself.

I want to be in the NHL when I’m older. And everybody is going to say, “Well, you’ve got to shoot a little lower in order to be successful”. You can lower your standards, and make it easier to reach your goals in life. But, then you will remain the tree that does not have enough light to soar. How do you think every professional athlete started on their path? With a dream. Just like all of us. Maybe someone will be the next, John Lennon, Oprah or Bill Gates. Remember, the easiest part of following your dreams is saying it. Remember, the easiest part of following your dream is saying it. Just because you want something doesn’t mean you instantly get it. Futures can not be bought at the local grocery store. I have a little story for you – My Dad read this and said that statement wasn’t true because we have politicians. You need to decide, commit, then succeed. Along with this you must NEVER doubt yourself. I was once reminded that – generally those who tell you that you can’t do something, it’s because they couldn’t do it themselves.
If you don’t believe me, then listen to the quote from the true story of a man who had nothing and went on to be a very successful business man. The movie is called The Pursuit of Happiness. The scene is just after the father tells his son not to waste his time shooting hoops and try to become a pro basketball player. The father reminds him that he can only be as good as him and he wasn’t very good. The young boy hears his fathers words and dejectedly throws the ball down.
The Dad reflects on his words and says “You got a dream, go out and get it. Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you cant do something, even me.”

Think of the words of one of the greatest boxers of all time, Mohamed Ali, when he says “He who has no imagination, has no wings”. All successful people started the same way. They went to elementary school, just like us. Then they made a series of choices to get them to where they are today. HHHHHHHMMMMMMMMM, all of us, are graduating from elementary school. So we are well on our way.

Well it’s not that simple. Most professional athletes are not just given their abilities to play professional sport. They had to work very hard at it. Just like each and every one of us.
Whether you want to be a teacher, pilot, start your own business, work towards a math scholarship to Harvard, or work to get to the NHL. Hard work is required. If you want to get to those high levels, you’re going to have to understand, other people want them to. They are going to try and get 1 more % then you on a math test. Or 1 more push up in a hockey training session. So you gotta want it. You are going to have to be passionate in your pursuit of your dreams.
I say, let the games begin.

Now I know we are all really eager to go dance with our parents but if you just bare with me for a couple more minutes, I wrote a poem
Some trees are tall, some trees are small.
Others have dreams to someday overlook them all
But one thing every tree has, compared to the rest
Is the one opportunity in life, the life test
Some will be successful, and leave others in plead
Plead for success, a helping hand indeed
Although the successful ones could leave them behind
They soon find, that they don’t want to leave them behind
Because what good is it, to do what was once done to you
And leave the whole forest in shadows, no, that would be cruel

For all trees to grow strong and tall
For happiness to find ALL
Although, this may seem unlikely, because some trees will not want to join the rest
“I don’t need a group,” they might think this idea is best
It is your decision for what traits you want to attain
Hard working, individuality, determination, just remember to sustain
For it’s these traits that get you places in life
Some will help you like spreading butter with a hot knife

Others may not, like shoveling rocks with a square shovel
And in this case, your going to have to find a way to get out of this trouble
You can take advice from your best friends, Timmy and Tom
You can also trust your family, like your dad or your mom
In the end it’s your life, so you should decide
Decide which path you want to stay on, while your alive
You could be a doctor, teacher, or come to the NHL with me
Just find something that you love, that is the key

You’ll find what you love, whether it’s under your nose, or carved in wood
Then you’ll take action, and think “WOW. Life is good.”

Wow, thinking back to writing that poem, it took me 3 weeks of hard work, trying to include every important point that speaks to me. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Dr. Suess to have written a whole volume of books.

Just as I mentioned earlier we start at the same place. We develop our roots, just like a tree and then begin to grow. Although we may all seem similar each one of us is special and unique on the inside. I hope every time you see a tree you will remember to strive to new heights.

I know I told you we all started from the same place and now I will let you know that we will all end at the same point.

It’s what we do in the middle that makes us who we are.

(Step away from podium)
(step back up to podium)

If I could just have one more moment of your time please….
In honor of the class of 2011, I’d like to present this tree to Mr.Frankovich to be planted on CRB grounds. To help us remember the great class of 2011.

Hope To See You Soon

Well with every hello there has to be a goodbye. It was kind of quiet in the car ride to the airport, a somewhat different energy was in this car ride compared to others. Over the past 6 days we travelled to all theses wonderful and picturesque areas in Wales and England. This car ride was different, we already saw this point of interest, although it was at night (3:30 am we had a little delay when we arrived) we knew exactly what to expect.

My son sitting in the back seat with his 17-year-old cousin – began to express his philosophy in only the way he can. Good – byes are always difficult but sometimes if we attach some hope to the next encounter it feels a little easier. There was a little discussion the night before that maybe my brother – in law and his family would go see his parents in Florida and maybe we could meet up with them. The other option was that maybe they would come to our house next summer. Either way we wouldn’t see them for a while.

On the way to the airport, Fraser broke the silence with one of his philosophical moments; he said to his 17-year-old cousin “rather than hoping to see you next summer, we should hope to see each other at christmas – then we won’t have to hope as long.”

You are in control of your hope so use it to your advantage, use it often and make sure the expiry date is short.

Sleepless Night

The amazing thing about anxiousness is it can be in the presence of good or bad events. It will be the first time in approximately – forever that I have left my practice for three weeks. I am excited about my journey but remain apprehensive about the time I will be gone. it’s not that I don’t believe that all will be fine when I get back – it has more to do with let go. Learning to appreciate that when things feel awkward and sometimes uneasy it’s probably a time of personal growth and relection.

Victory and Defeat

Well just an update – the Burlington Thunder lost in a shootout in the finals to a team from Spain. We did score a goal that was disallowed – don’t want to be complaining, but if I am able to attach the link I will post it. The shootout was thrilling they scored two goals and we missed all of ours (Fraser hit the post -blog post to come). The boys and their parents were able to experience victory 48 hours later when we all spilled into the streets and into the town square to celebrate Spain’s world cup victory. None of us will ever forget the experience. Win or lose our lives have been changed forever.