Dealing With My Bully – My Other Prom Story

As we approach the prom season, I feel that I must share yet another prom story. This one, I’ve told many times, but now, I want to share it with everyone.

I met “JM” in Grade 6 after I moved to Toronto from Burlington. He was in a different class but we all moved up to junior high together.

In Grade 8, one of my friends tells me that he has a crush on me. Now, understand two things:

  1. I was not a popular kid at school…he was.
  2. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very approachable, so if he really was interested, he could come to me directly

He acted shy though I could smell a rat…or a trap…or a rat trap! We finally set up a date to go to the movies at the local movie house. Thank goodness I took my two friends with me as a back up because, as predicted, he stood me up.

A short time later, at Halloween, he and his buddies were outside of Lick’s, a busy spot in the Beach. As we walked away, they followed us squirting our asses with water guns. After we got across the street, I handed my candy bag to one of my friends, went back across the street and asked him to step aside with me so I could talk to him. Then I turned around and slapped him. I walked away before I could see him recover, but I didn’t hit him very hard. His friend chased after me and told me “You hurt my friend!” I replied (and my friends have never let me live it down) “Well, he hurt me emotionally!” We kept our distance after that…until Grade 9.

We ended up in the same math class and had to sit alphabetically by last name. I sat right behind him. I could have tortured him all year, but I took the higher ground and offered a truce. I figured we were stuck here for the rest of the year and had better make the best of it. He accepted and it lasted all the time in high school…until Prom.

I was setting up a shot of a couple of friends with my dad’s SLR camera. As I looked through the viewfinder, I saw someone jump into frame. I pulled to camera away from my face to see none other than JM standing in front of me and though I didn’t look down, I knew he was “all out”. I looked to my left to see my entire graduating class watching.

You know when you’re in a moment like this and you look back years later and wish you’d had the perfect line? This was not one of those moments. Almost instantly I said: “This is a telephoto lens, not a microscope. Put it away.” He turned red, put it away and everyone else laughed.

I still see him every now and then in my local pub. But everytime that happens, he leaves very soon after that.

I’ve recently read: “The best revenge is a vow to never be like the one who hurt you.” I believe that.


My Nana

Today would have been my grandmother’s birthday. Should would have been 87. So we’ll make sure to toast to her later today. For now, will light a candle. Her memorial is posted on my Princess’s message. She passed away just last month. Boy it was strange this Christmas with her not being there. But her spirit lived on.

On Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, there were always people over at my Grandmother’s house. We figured it would be just be me, my mother and brother and my uncle this year. A friend of the family said she was going to drop by later, so my aunt and her husband said they would too. She was going to bring some food, but I’d told her not to fuss since there weren’t many of us and it wasn’t going to be the usual gathering. She brought her daughter, my uncle’s girlfriend and her son came over too. His best friend from across the street came over and said that his mom was sitting alone and would it be okay for her to come over as well. Of course! Then the guy next door came over since his wife was working. So considering, we did pretty well. I guess Nan didn’t want us to be lonely on Christmas Eve without her there. And as my mother said on Christmas Day, “Raise your glasses to the founder of the feast. I give you, Mrs. Phyllis Mills” Bye Nana.

The Princess’s Annual Christmas Address

Well, true to form, the year has had it’s share ups and downs.

The last year, ended off with the passing of my cousin Neeta, a very young and sweet soul. It’s hard to believe it’s now been a year since she’s been gone. You can view the memorial video here: Remembering Neeta

Things started picking up at Ryerson in January as my responsibilities increased and I got to actually run some classes. I really need to help and teach in my life. I knew that already, but this just confirmed it. I am thankful that I’ve had so many champions that have given me the opportunities to enjoy this part of my life.

Around the same time, I had an old…friend come back into my life. It may have been short, but we both needed each other. And though I wasn’t the one, I knew I could be for someone. I may not have found them yet, but at least now, I have hope.

The summer started off slowly and I tried once again to convince Ryerson that they need me full time and see sense. I threatened to leave, and leave I did…sort of. It’s wasnt’ until a month after I joined one of the top three mayoral campaigns in Toronto that I was asked to return. How could I refuse? So I looked after 1500 first year students while working full time on the campaign.

Ah, yes…the campaign. That was the biggest curve ball I caught this year. I certainly learned a lot and met some wonderful people, especially the candidate himself, Joe Pantalone (@jpantalone – if he decides to pick it up again). I had the pleasure of working beside him for 12-14 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week for weeks at a stretch. But all good things must come to an end and I finally had to return the keys to the smart car. I’m not sure what Joe is going to do next, but I know he’ll land on his feet.Me and the Smart Car

And if all this wasn’t enough, I moved at Thanksgiving into my own apartment, two weeks before the end of the campaign. I haven’t lived on my own in 10 years, but I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it. Will try to have you all over sometime. (Don’t forget the wine.)

Unfortunately, my last grandparent, Phyllis Mills went to join her husband Gordon in eternal rest around Remembrance Day. As I did 12 years ago when Gradad left this earth, I got up as the eldest grandchild and read the 23rd Psalm. She led a full and great life. We are sure that Grandad was waiting for her when she arrived and said to her <insert Corrie Street/Ozzy Osbourne sounding English accent here> “It’s about bloody time woman! Where’s me tea?” We will still be having Christmas in her home this year, but it won’t be the same without her. Her online memorial can be found here: In Memory of Phyllis Mills. I’m going to update it in the coming months as I scan more photos for archiving.

So dear friends, as always there are more of you now than there were at this time last year; something I am always thankful for, especially at this time of year. And though the ones we’ve lost can never be replaced, I believe that the void that remains can be filled with the love of those that surround us.

As for the coming year, it can only get better. <Insert your divinity of choice here>-willing, my gradings will start again next September. Here’s hoping that with the new year comes new employment and good health.

I want to thank each and everyone of you that has taken time out of your busy lives, especially at this time of year to read this. If you are, you have touched my life and I am truly grateful. May you and those around you know peace, health and happiness all of your days.

With all my love

-Shanta Claus

aka: The Princess

2008 in Review

So here it is, another landmark year. Every year seems to be so, but for different reasons and each better than the last. This year was no different.

I started last year off having New Years’ in Hong Kong with my new friends, watching fireworks in HK harbour. Within days, I was in Beijing and crossed another item off the “bucket list”. I climbed the Great Wall. It took me forever and hurt like hell, but I did it. My last day in HK was spent packing, shipping and partying. I couldn’t get enough of the place. So much so, I didn’t sleep that night. I checked out of my room, went to the airport, couldn’t get my tai chi sword on board, so it had to stay behind. So, I guess a piece of me will always be in HK (Erin and Daniel: I don’t want to know what you did with it. Just let me have my dream. ) At least I got one sword over the border. That one came in from Texas and I have a hell of a story to go with it. Another day…

One of the most pleasant things to come home to was my brother, Ravi. How he’d changed and improved. I’ve never seen him so happy and so co-operative in my life. I have faith now that he will be able to live on his own. This is something that my parents never thought possible. Now it’s within reach.

I then spent the next seven months at StormFisher Biogas as the IT Specialist. I used much of my knowledge from CAP REIT and as a project manager. I never saw myself in a lead IT role, but I enjoyed it and gained even more knowledge.

The return to the Ted Rogers School of Management in the fall was the first time I’d attended classes there in a year and a half, but it felt natural. Seeing some familiar faces made it easier. This is my last year, so I have to make it count. No more exchanges, no more co-op. Just studies (and some training, hehe).

I was fortunate enough to grade for my second degree black belt in Kobudo in September. Not the best one I’ve ever done, but now I know how NOT to do a grading and will never do it like that again. With any luck, there will be a couple more gradings this year.

Recently, I’ve heard that the greatest and most important journey that you will take in life is the one you take to find yourself. I think I’ve finally done that. I’ve done a lot of soul searching this year and as a result have had the best full time semester in my career. I plan to graduate this year and like I promised my grandmother, by the time I’m 35 with my degree and get a real job!

Where that job will be and in what, I don’t know. But it will be great. With all the new friends I’ve gained, I can go almost anywhere in the world and have someone I know. Since there are so many more friends in far off places and the Christmas card and present list is now so large, I made my shopping this year very easy (procrastination paid off this time). In lieu of gifts this year, I decided to make donations to some worthy causes. In honour of all the friends and family around the world, near and far I have given $50 to each of the charities and causes listed below. I have also given the links to each in case you decide to make one yourself. Best wishes to you all for this year and years to come.


Good Neighbours Club ( – Supports for older and homeless men in downtown Toronto. Dad and I have both served on the board and we usually give our old clothing, etc., to them. They also have a partnership with a women’s shelter where they give the women’s clothing they can’t use.

Sea Shepherd ( – Protects animals worldwide, including whales, sharks and seals. This organization is supported greatly by CMAC.

The Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund ( – Gives gifts to children who don’t have a Christmas in Toronto.

Surrey Place Centre ( – Provides services to people with developmental disabilities of all ages in Toronto. Dad was on the Board and is on the Finance Committee, Ravi is a client, Shelley and Adrian were on the fundraising committee and my teammates from Ryerson and I are working with their team for our final year project.

The Return Home

Well, I’m home finally. Not sure how I feel about it. Just seeing the expression on my brother’s face picking me up at the airport was enough to make me glad I came home. But part of me is wondering: “Why did you come home?”. More on this later…

I think I’ve kicked most of the jetlag. Staying awake for 24 hours before I left helps. Slept for a good part of the journey home, hung out in Chicago O’Hare for a few hours, then caught the flight to Buffalo where Ravi and Mom met me. They weren’t able to find my coat so, no photos of the “I am Canadian” parka with the Chinese hat just yet. Grabbed my stuff, crossed the border (easily) and then got some dinner. By the time I got home, I’d already fallen asleep in the car. Slept most of the night with one or two wake ups. Damn I had missed my bed.

The first morning so far? Didn’t have to make my bed for fear of someone walking into the room. I can just SHUT THE DOOR! haha! Needed properly brewed coffee (not Starbucks) and Cinnamon French Toast with MAPLE syrup. So that’s what I’m doing…;) First meal I’ve actually cooked (other than soup and noodles) in five months. This could get addictive. I’m sure Shelley and Dad would have heart attacks right now reading that.

So much for being on top of the jetlag. I fell asleep this afternoon and slept right through Tai Chi class. Now I’ll be up most of the night. At least that gives me a chance to catch up on the journal as well as some photos or something.

Dad is crankier than ever. I can’t think of one really nice thing he’s said since I’ve been home. He’s already got a list of things for me to do. What the hell has he done without me for the last five months? He’s complained about almost everything we have discussed in the last 24 hours. Moving out has been a serious thought. I think I’ll spend tomorrow doing my job searches. Get me outta here!

Have spent much of my day sleeping. So much for kicking the jetlag.

The Update – December

I think I finally have a chance to breathe!

It has been a long time since I wrote, partially because there hasn’t been much time and partially because there is nothing to tell except “studying”.

I can tell you that I’ve never studied so hard in all my life. I think this experience has strengthened a few wise words that have been imparted to me over the years:
1. Trust no one.
2. If you want something done right, do it yourself.
3. Don’t reserve a place in a party reservation unless you have the money in hand.

Group work here is extremely painful, with locals or otherwise. I’ve also decided just now as I write this, I need to spend more time on my own. I haven’t done nearly enough. Even if it’s finding a little hole in the wall bar, having a drink and reading a book. This may not be entirely by choice since everyone else is leaving.

My adventures the other day have helped me to come to this path of thinking. Last night I had dinner reservations with some family friends and ended up there quite early. So I took a walk around exploring an area of town I had never been in, Soho and the Mid-Level escalators. You can see those photos in my December album in facebook (

Tonight, I spend my first night alone in the room. No roomie, no neighbours. It is a nice feeling for a change. I know it won’t last, but it is peaceful.

Part of me just wants to sit here for the next few weeks, just making day trips out as the fancy takes me while the other part says “you’re in China…go and see the rest of it.” I know that the latter will be the result, but I’m having trouble finding the motivation. Maybe it’s just a temporary burnout. Tomorrow, I’ll go to Monkok, do my search for the books I want, Ravi’s gift and get some ideas for my shopping in Shenzhen on Monday. Go on Monday to Shenzhen, get my clothing, my shopping done and a massage! Then do New Years in style. Pick yourself up and git ‘r’ done! Going to get started on it right now as a matter of fact. See you all in a couple of weeks!

Tai Choon – Follow up

It turns out that contrary to my belief that no one witnessed our midnight training session during the typhoon in September, that someone did in fact see us doing tai chi. I talked with her a few nights ago and we started talking about the workshop that I am going to be running in a few weeks and she begins to tell me about this crazy thing that she saw during the storm a few weeks ago. “Was that you? I thought I was seeing things!” Guilty as charged. I think she might even sign up for the workshop. 😉

Another good day…and the one after that…

As I said on Friday night “It is a good day.” And today is no exception. It started out with a tour of the Chi Lin Nunnery and Ni Lian Gardens. Very beautiful and peaceful. Yan Ling joined me on this wonderful adventure. We had lunch with a few of the others at the Elmerry Cafe. Came back to the hall and got in about 2.5 hours of good training. I had put together a CD to play, but it kind of worked in the opposite order than what I wanted to do, so it jumped around a lot. Other than the standard meditation go to do a little cleansing of the mind with some music blaring and no one telling me to turn it down. Amazing how therapeutic blaring music in a dance studio with the lights of at dusk will do to clear your thoughts. I have to admit, I was a little ticked off that no one else showed up, but hey, we all have lives.

Sunday was supposed to be for studying and it wasn’t really productive. I did do my laundry first thing to try and start my day off right. Nothing sunk in. I even cleaned a spot on my whiteboard for a quote of the day. Sensei would be pleased, as long as I do what I came here to do.

Speaking of which, I am following his advice. I haven’t been to the Uni’s tai chi class in weeks. Partly because of classes, partly because I wasn’t comfortable. I think I’ve found a solution. Last week when I came back from shopping there were 3 ladies doing tai chi fan. It couldn’t have been much closer, because it was right outside my front door! They told me to come at 8.30 next Monday. So I did. I left class and went to the martial arts supply store. I picked up a set of fans (left and right), a weapons bag, and some dvd’s on tai chi, sword and fan. I showed up at the appropriate time and in addition to the three ladies were two gentlemen, the two students’ husbands’. After discussing for 10 minutes, I get the impression that the teacher, Mrs. Ho, isn’t sure what to make of me. She lets me join them for that evening and still doesn’t know what to charge me since they belong to a parish all together. We do some fan for 20 minutes and then go into some tai chi which is in Yeung style. This style appears to be closer to what I know already, but the forms are very different: 24, 28 and 108. They take me through the first two and most of the third. One of the men comments on how well I did the sets and asks how long its been since I did them. I said I’d never seen them before. The movements are familiar but the patters were not. Most of the students coming back from their classes had the pleasure of observing me with some of the locals. I think Mrs. Ho is at least satisfied that I’m not some new kid on the block and that I could be a decent student. Now I’m looking forward to this. I may even drop the one at the University. If it doesn’t make me happy, why do it? This one is closer to what I know and right outside my door. Someone’s trying to tell me something. It would be stupid of me not to listen.

A Good Day

As Katsumoto said in The Last Samurai, “It is a good day.” Any day that you get a whole ‘dojo’ to yourself without interruption to go through almost everything you know, it is a good day. I haven’t let out a good kiai for months. Boy, does it feel good. For those who haven’t held onto a kiai for that long, you will know what I’m talking about. I didn’t know why I was so…incomplete the last few months. Tried to get as much training in as possible, but something was missing. It felt good to be able to train in bare feet again, to sit in meditation in the quietness and reflect. Now that I have access to one of the activity rooms to do this, I will take full advantage.

How did I get this room you might ask? Go on…I volunteered to run an introductory workshop on martial arts in November. Cheryl and I will be doing a 2.5 hour session with tai chi and karate, with some weapons demonstrations in the middle. You guys know me well enough by now that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this. When they ask for volunteers in the hall to run a workshop of “cultural exchange”, I couldn’t resist. Besides, it might give Cheryl some clients and it gets me my practice room. Wooden floor, mirrors on either side, natural light, sound system, air conditioning…Jealous? 😉 Well, I know that Sensei would approve. It’s not entirely selfless and I’m getting my training in while doing what I enjoy doing. I have to help others learn…it’s what I do and how we roll.

And just think, I get to visit the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden tomorrow morning. Tea Ceremony at the Song Cha Xie, then training again tomorrow afternoon. It will be another good day.

Philippines 2

If you had asked me earlier this week what I’d be doing today, I could not have guessed that I would be looking into a volcano in the Philippines!

I arrived last night and Erin and Santiago met me at the airport. They already had a plan in place and the means to get there. I’m in Tagaytay now.

I have been in a taxi, on a boat, through a lake, on a horse, and in a van, all in 24 hours.

Santiago left his camera in the cab last night, so it has been a task to try and get it back. As of right now, he still has not gotten it back. The driver called us at 6 am to arrange everything. Our wakeup call never came, so we ended up being 2 hours behind schedule. they they cahrged us more for the room that was quoted. In the end it worked out. We got an extra breakfast that we needed out of it and we were good. Then the driver arrived to take us to the volcano. This takes about 30 min to where we get the boat to take us across the lake to where we get the horses which will take us up the mountain to the volcano. Truly worth the trek. We go back to the hotel and start doing research on our next stop while waiting for Arjun (the one with Santiago’s camera) to arrive. We don’t have much luck and decide to have some lunch. Arjun never arrives, the staff at the hotel think we’re being scammed for everything. The security guard, Alex, was our guardian angel.

He had gotten the licence plate recorded the night before and gave it to us so we could report it to the police if needed. Well, he never showed up, even with the promise of money, and Alex arranged for a van to take us to Laiya Beach which was our ultimate destination. We didn’t have a backup plan and that bothered me. We drove in this van for 5 hours, not knowing where we were, and neither did the drivers. I don’t know how many times we stopped to get directions. We stopped a second time to get beer and a washroom break. That ended up being in a jail/police station. They let us use it after cleaning up the floor for us. They even had prisoners in the cells, 10 feet off the ground. Now at least I can say I’ve been in a Philipino Jail! We finally arrived close to midnight and every hotel we went to had the gates locked up tight. It was looking pretty grim until one guard finally opened the gates to let us in. The relief was incredible. Like I said, I hate not having a backup plan. I’m glad it worked out for the better, but I wouldn’t do it like that again, especially when the locals don’t have a clue about where the place is.

The end result was wonderful. A little piece of paradise, and it was damn cheap. The first night, I was pretty tired, so I went to bed at about three. Next morning it rained. Santiago and I make our way to San Juan to get a bank machine, since the hotel didn’t take credit cards. It begins to pour again and about 5 jeepney’s go by and none are going to where we want. I’m suggesting that we go back to the resort and find somone to drive us into town. We’d already been waiting for more than 30 minutes and it was looking like it was not going to happen. Finally one comes along. We make it to San Juan, get to our bank machine and get the money we need. We now go to head back and the jeepney is full. Then the same one that took us there offers to take us back. We even get VIP seating at the front of the jeepney! Nice guys really.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I don’t like not having an escape route/plan. Until I have the means (i.e. money and worst case scenario method) I cannot relax. Once I had money and knew how long it would take to get back to Manila to get our flight, then I could let loose a little. It also didn’t help that I had little idea of how much things would cost.

I finally go into the water properly on the last night we were there. Amazing. I could see more stars than I had in ages. The water was so warm it was incredible. What I didn’t realize before, was that in the salt water, the bubbles become illuminated. I don’t know if that’s from the reflection from the lights off the shore, or (a suggestion that was made to me) how the salt water reacts with the human body. Either way, beautiful.

The next day, I was quite willing to hire a driver to take us to the Manila ariport. At then end of it, the route we took got us there ahead of schedule and cost us almost nothing. I now realize how paranoid I can be. I’m not saying that having an exit plan or worst case scenario plan is paranoid, but I really felt like I had to watch out for everyone. It’s better to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

As I said, one thing I learned, I am more paranoid than I thought. In addition, I’m wound too tight. I have to learn to loosen up a little.