Category Archives: Family

Sometimes all you need is dim sum.

I love dim sum. It’s the best. My favourite part about it, though, isn’t even the food. It’s all about the people. It’s meant to be shared and it’s the quickest way to make a group of friends feel more like family, even when you welcome new friends to the fold.

Dim sum in the winter is especially delicious and enjoyable. There’s something about delicious bite size food keeping you warm in the cold and wet of winter that just makes you forget about the conditions outside. And did I mention the people? They’re the best. You talk about anything and everything at the dim sum table with friends. And you laugh at all of it. And the only silence you experience is the wonderful food silence that happens because all of the delicious occupying your mouth. Ah, food silence. It’s the most comfortable silence in the world.

My advice? Order everything. At least once. I haven’t done it yet, but one day, with a group of dim sum loving friends (read: all friends because who doesn’t love dim sum?), all the items will be on the table. All of them. Even the ones that I don’t like, because someone will inevitably try it and finish it. (Chicken feet lovers, you know who you are.) Admittedly, it’s a little harder on friends who are vegetarian/vegan. Okay, it’s a lot harder for those friends to enjoy it since nearly everything is meat based, but even then they can enjoy a couple of delicious elements of dim sum. Not much of it, unfortunately, but again, it’s about the people you bring to the dim sum table than it is the dim sum.

Don’t get me wrong: bad dim sum sucks. But unless you’re getting dim sum from the wrong places (i.e. not restaurants), it’s really hard to have bad dim sum. Even store bought, frozen-food section dim sum is good in a pinch. Really, there’s just good dim sum and great dim sum.  I don’t even know how I can say that “bad dim sum sucks” because I can honestly say I’ve never had dim sum I didn’t enjoy somewhat.

But then again, I always have good people at the dim sum table, and, again, that’s what it’s all about.

Go have some dim sum. There’s never a bad time to do it. And then invite me. I’ll be there.

And don’t forget that your fortune cookie fortunes aren’t complete sentences until you say “in bed.”


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The teacher in me.

I love to teach. Specifically, I love the feeling that comes from helping someone understand something that previously puzzled their brain, or in other words, those “eureka!” moments that come with learning. The funny part about it for me, though, is that I don’t want to be a teacher. Again, I love to teach, but it’s not what I want to do as a career. But it is a job that I would use (and have used and will likely continue to use) to help support my current career paths.

I’ve been teaching private music lessons at a music school just outside of the Greater Toronto Area for about 9 years now. In that time I’ve seen complete beginners grow into virtuosos, bands grow together into skilled show-stoppers, and adults (briefly) realize their dreams of finally learning how to turn those guitar chords into cohesive songs. (Some of those beginners-turned-virtuosos are even on my list of artists I’d like to have on my album.) My favourite stories from that side-career of mine will always be those kids who kept working hard to get where they are now, especially those who decided to continue their musical education into college and university. I guess I liken those students to my own journey through music lessons. (For the record, the school I teach at is a branch of the same school I trained at as a musician.) I basically continued through my music lessons until I felt I could play whatever music was put in front of me. I wanted to get into jazz, but at the time that I was ready to do that, the school didn’t have anyone trained in jazz to teach me. So I took up guitar instead, and stuck to that (and continue to stick to it) so that I could start to expand my musicality in other ways. But when I received the call from my guitar teacher to become a guitar teacher, I jumped in on a whim, and consequently stayed on since.

It’s not just music that I enjoy teaching. Any time I can offer suggestions for help or any time I’m asked for advice, I’ll always do what I can. I like to help guide friends and family when they feel like they’re lost, and I guess, in essence, that’s really what being a teacher is all about. Anyone can teach themselves things through reading, hard work, and practice, but we all need guidance and support at one time or another when we’re on the journey of education. I really enjoy teaching technology as well, specifically using creative arts programs with computers, and other music-related topics such as DJing, and Sound Design & Composition for theatre. When I can teach things like this and watch those I teach have their “a-ha!” moments, it’s like a confirmation that I really do have a solid understanding of what I’ve learned.

We’re all teachers, really. Every one of us has something that we’ve learned that can be useful to share with someone else, and that is teaching also. Some of us might be better at explaining things and helping others understand concepts quicker, but we all have something at which we’re an expert and we should never be afraid to share our knowledge to help others on their journey. Be a teacher in your own way, be a mentor when you can, and watch yourself and others grow.

Just don’t be this teacher:

– Mickey

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The story of Poppy.

I got the chance to go up to Peterborough and hang out with my good friend Katrina and our goofball of a dog, Poppy. We used to live together as a couple and we adopted Poppy from a Toronto Animal Services shelter. We went our separate ways almost two years ago, but we’ve remained good friends and one of the biggest reasons we’ve been able to do that is because of Poppy (who still loves her daddy very much. Haha).

We actually meant to adopt another dog when we visited that shelter. Online, we found a husky/GS mix named Millie who we were set on taking home. When we arrived, there four dogs ready for adoption: Millie, another GS pure bred puppy, a big, jolly (read: overweight) golden retriever, and this skinny-looking, extremely nervous dog that the shelter had named “Nellie” (as in Nervous Nellie).

We immediately took Millie out for a walk in the shelter’s mini-park, and she was very playful, definitely still in puppy-mode, but was ready to go to a new home and just play. We brought her back in and decided to take all the dogs outside, one at a time, to be fair to all of them. Next, we took the pure bred GS puppy out for a walk. He was very much like Millie, and even had some training as he would respond to sit commands (most of the time). An easily adoptable dog, to say the least. Next up was Nellie. Katrina’s immediate reaction was that this dog was clearly going to be too much work, and just looking at her gave me the same impression as well. But again, to be fair to them all, we took her out for a walk. Unlike the two other dogs, Nellie didn’t rush to the kennel door when we opened it. She sat in the corner, scared, and it took her a moment to slowly walk out of her kennel. When we got her out to the park, she simply sat wherever we stood. The other two dogs ran around and smelled everything, just happy to be outside. Nellie was different. As we walked around, she just followed at our side. She was very obedient and clearly had some training as she would sit at the sound of a finger snap. This wasn’t a dog that would get adopted easily just based on her looks, but her looks alone would probably have you ignore her compared to the bouncy dogs beside her. As we knelt down to pet her head, her eyes said it all: “what do I have to do to make you love me?” This was a broken dog, an abandoned dog, scared of being disobedient, trained but not with love. The other dogs would easily get anyone else’s attention and probably find a home just as easily. This one truly needed a home. This one needed that chance. There was still the golden retriever to take out, and we did so, and he was just like the other two, playful, energetic, bouncy, easily adoptable. But we knew who had stolen out hearts already.

We told the desk that we wanted to take the nervous one. They looked at us questioningly, wondering if we were sure or just crazy. But we told them that we were set on taking her home. I thought there would be a couple of weeks of clearance and checks to go through, but to our surprise, we got to take her home that day. But we didn’t want to keep the name. When we got home, we tried calling her by a few names, seeing if maybe we could guess we real name. Nothing worked, but something about “Poppy” seemed appropriate.

And from that point on, Poppy has only lived and trained with love. She was only about a year old when we got her (she’s 3 and a bit now) so we had to do training and re-training, but what we have is a dog transformed. What used to be a dog who thought I was going to beat her with a stick the first time we played fetch, is now one who runs around at full speed gathering sticks for fetch and her own games she makes up. What used to be a skinny, emaciated, and nervous wreck is a boisterous, goofy, strong and healthy companion. And while she may still have some hurdles to get over — I’m the only male she completely trusts, but she’s making progress — she is family, my big little girl. I may only get to see her once every few weeks, but I’m so glad to visit every time.

My advice: if you’re adopting a dog, look at a rescue. They can change your life and bring you so much love and reward. Remember, you’re adopting a new family member, not just a pet. Take care of them and you’ll have a grateful companion for as long as they live.

– Mickey

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The family you join.

I’ve talked about the family we’re born into and the family we choose. But for some of us who are lucky enough, there’s another family that you join. It might start out as just another team you have to work with, but when everything clicks and the circumstances are right, that team becomes something much more.

I work part-time with a very large group of people, all of whom I can easily call my family. Every single person there, including many of those who have moved on to bigger and better things, have helped to me to grow as not only a member of this company, but as a person. I’ve always been a confident guy, never backing away from a challenging situation or a performance opportunity, but I can definitely attribute this team to the increase in my confidence when it comes to confrontations, presentations, and simply the ability to build rapport with complete strangers every day. They encourage, motivate, and inspire me to be better than yesterday every day through their sheer talent, hard work, and openness. And while I’m definitely closer to some of them than others — even relatives are in situations like that — it’s amazing how easy it is to hang out and spend time with any of them.

We all got to spend some time together tonight, and it was a spectacular evening. There were laughs galore, creative talent in abundance, live music and even a short dance party. I was behind the turntables and the drums, and it was a pleasure to play for this other other family of mine. The smiles, the laughter and the overall feeling of celebration and togetherness is something that I never expected from this position that was originally just a shot in the dark for a little extra income. It’s one of the best unexpected bonuses I could hope for in a team like this.

You all know who you are. Thank you for being such a wonderful family to walk into and become a part of. I’m always learning from you all, and I love spending time with you on and off the clock. Friends. Family. For real.

– Mickey

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Happy birthday, Dad.

So today was the big 55th birthday for my Dad. We celebrated at a small, quaint banquet hall, about 85 of us, and it was a very fun, early evening (which, after late night last night, was a part of what made it fun). The dinner was great, dessert (I assume) was delicious, but as you know, I’ve been pretty good with my nutrition and decided to skip the sweets. And as I mentioned yesterday, the entertainment was a lot of fun because it was my brother and his girlfriend alongside Arlene Paculan and myself playing a couple of Motown hits as a full band for my Dad. (He loves his Motown.)

I love doing events like this, mainly because it’s family and if you’ve been keeping up, you know how strong of a connection I have with them. But there’s two elements that I realized today that I really enjoy. The first, of course, is family. (See yesterday’s post for more on that.) The second is the actual setup of the event. I was in charge of the entertainment and music for the evening, so that meant turning a bare dance floor into a stage for a band. I’ve done this many, many times in the past, but today I realized, looking at it all, that this was a setup completely done by me. My brother and my Mom helped by acquiring equipment to bring to the venue, and my brother and his girlfriend assembled her drum kit, but I pieced it all together and made sure everything worked, pretty much on my own. Again, I’ve done this many times before, but for the first time I actually stepped back and thought to myself, “wow, this is what I can do.” This isn’t to boost my ego, and this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a complete team effort when it comes to events like this, but it’s just a nice realization of the fact that I can do things like this like it’s second nature, and that I’ve come this far and learned so much over the years to get here. It was a nice little moment.

And when it comes to family, well that’s pretty much the best part of it all. It’s so rejuvenating and fun to be in a room with so many people that you get along with and trust. What really stood out to me, though, was the clear growth of the family and the many first-time connections with the next generation kids of the family. Of course I was ecstatic to see my littlest best friend, my little niece, as I love her to pieces, but I got to meet my cousins’ new babies and see how much some of their kids have already grown up. My favourite part about that all is that the trust was there, even though it was the first time meeting. It’s like they knew that I was family, even though they never really see me at all. It was such an amazing experience, and the bonus of it all is seeing them all play together. I was immediately brought back to the days when I was playing with my cousins at that age, and the cycle of it all had never seemed so clear than in that moment. Beautiful.

Happy birthday, Dad. Without you, none of this that I’m writing would have ever come to exist. I hope that I can continue to make connections like you have as I experience more and more of this life. Thanks for the great party.

– Mickey

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The family jam.

I’ve been fortunate to have a very strong relationship with my family. I know that not everyone has that kind of connection with their relatives and instead prefer to connect with their friends as the family that they chose, so I feel very lucky to have that with mine. I always look forward to going home, even though I consider my base to be where I live in Toronto. At the end of a long day, or a rough week, I prefer to be in my own bed, in my own room, in my own house. I don’t long for the comfort of the old house, but when there’s a family event happening at home, I’m very excited about it and can’t wait to see everyone. My brother, my parents, my cousins, their significant others and their newly expanding families, even close friends sometimes — those friends so close that they are my family — are all reasons to be happy about returning home, for me.

It’s the family jam. It’s the Christmases and New Year’s Eves together. It’s the spaghetti dinners with the “kids” at one table and the adults at another. It’s the karaoke sessions, the board game laughter, and the movies in the living room. It’s the annual Father’s Day cottage weekend, the road trips to the States, and the annual late summer vacations abroad. It’s the afternoon dim sum, the barbecues on the porch, and the ball game on TV while waiting for the turkey in the oven. It’s the time together you can’t wait to spend and the looking forward to the next one when it’s done. It’s all love.

Sometimes it’s an actual family jam. My brother and I both grew up playing music and getting very skilled at it so when we get together, it’s easy to pick up a song or two, learn it, and have fun playing it. We actually did that early this evening with his girlfriend on the drums, him on the guitar, and myself on bass, as preparation for my Dad’s 55th birthday party this Sunday. There have been many a Christmas Eve multi-instrument duet learned just a day or two beforehand performed by us during the holidays. It’s definitely one of the highlights of coming home when he’s home from his base, much like myself. A real family jam.

Regardless of which family it is, blood, chosen, or both, never miss those special events, if you can help it. There’s a reason they happen, and it’s because of the energy that you feel once you’re spending time with those closest to you. Again, that doesn’t mean it has to be relatives. We’ve all been that teenager who wishes they were out with their friends instead of at Aunt or Uncle So-And-So’s weekend dinner, myself included. But our family changes over time, and what was once the most boring get-together can turn into a can’t-miss reunion. As long as it’s all love, then you’re with your family, blood ties or not. The family you choose is based on that love. I just happen to choose my actual family, with a few “adopted” family members added to the fold over the years.

The family jam is a unique energy. It replenishes your batteries when you’re running low like nothing else can. Love that time together whenever it happens with whoever you consider your real family. There’s nothing like it.

Photo by Trevor Allen

– Mickey

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What nonsense word did I just write up there? Well, it’s a fulfillment of a direct request from my little sister  — she’s my cousin, but she might as well be my adopted sister — to write about our family get together for Easter. And this year, that family get together included a lengthy session of Boggle. And now I’m blogging about Boggle. Bloggle. (Admit it, you giggled a little.)

If there’s one thing that I love about hanging out with my family — let’s face it, there’s really many things — it’s the fact that, no matter what the occasion, there is always really loud laughter (which explains a lot about me based on a recent previous post) and that normally comes into play during some sort of game or competition. It’s always been this way with my family. I remember being a kid and being excited that the mah-jong table was coming out because I knew that if my parents were playing mah-jong then it must be because my aunts and uncles were coming over which of course meant that I’d get to play with my cousins. And while the mahjong table doesn’t come out as often anymore, the “kids” (some of which now also have kids) are still excited to get together because now we provide the community gaming experience.

For this Easter, it was Boggle. Normally, I wouldn’t be too excited to play Boggle, especially after spending Saturday evening before my gig playing one of the best games ever, Cards Against Humanity, with my other family, but with five players already enthralled by the game and an empty seat with my name on it, I couldn’t turn it down. And truthfully, it was a grand ol’ time. We played with a scoring system of most rounds won (as opposed to total points) which meant going head-to-head with my little sister’s little sister multiple times in a tie break. We pretty much just made up the rules for the tie break rounds, including “Longest Word in 30 Seconds” and “1-Minute Speed Round”. In fact, her and I were winning so much that we were completely shutting out three others at the table in terms of score. (We had to do a head-to-head Boggle battle between the last two players to go without winning a round to see who the final “loser” was in our rankings.)

The laughter and hilarity came from the number of made up words that more than one player would have sometimes have, the discovery of words we thought weren’t real but turned out to be real, and of course, the really obvious or awesomely not-obvious words that everyone but one player missed. My personal favourite, however, was the “are you sure that word was there?” skepticism which, for the most part, resulted from a clear case of somebody imagining that letters were connected, but were in fact a “jump” away. (This happened more than once. From the same person. And that same person happened to lose the “loser” battle. LOL.)

All in all, it was a wonderful evening full of laughs, smiles, delicious turkey, my littlest best friend, and Boggle. I can’t wait until the next get together. Maybe I’ll bring Ticket To Ride. Or Cards Against Humanity. (We’ll just have the parents go play mahjong if I bring that.)

And that’s today’s Bloggle. Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

– Mickey

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