Clarifying Expectations: Remedial Chores for Mama's Boys

Many of my friends and youth ministry colleagues know that I often speak about the importance of clarifying expectations. I learned this concept when I attended a Mike Patin workshop a few years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Simply put, setting clear expectations up front saves a whole lot of trouble, confusion, and hurt later. The importance of clarifying expectations is evident in all aspects of life: in relationships, in friendships, at work, and in ministry.

I will expand on this a bit more in my next blog that I’ll write later on this weekend. But for now…and as a prelude to “Clarifying Expectations…Part 2”, I would like to share what my lovely wife left for me to ponder as she went with Kayla to New York for 2 weeks.

As I write this, it’s been a whopping 60 hours since the Imoo boys said good-bye to their 2 lovely ladies at Sea-Tac Airport. Amazingly we are eating healthy and eating well, and the house is not in complete chaos…yet.

My extended family and friends have been awesome: checking up on us, taking us out, cooking for us, and most importantly, praying for us. Unsurprisingly, the majority of concerns have been regarding what we will eat. Now, I can make a mean bowl of Ichiban, but even the most hardcore noodle-lover would get sick of eating it every day after a while. Thankfully, my lovely wife left me a notebook full of instructions, tips and reminders for me so I won’t lose my way. Think of it as “GPS by Gail.”

Page 2 is titled “Food Choices available at home” and reads as a who’s-who of pre-pared and packaged food. My lovely wife spent all of Monday cooking for us, freezing stuff for us, and packaging stuff for us. Thanks to her list, I will never forget that adobo and salsa chicken is in the freezer, Kraft Dinner is in the garage, and Spam is in the pantry.

Page 3 is “Food to Buy” and lists things that Gail didn’t get a chance to purchase before she left. This page was hardly a challenge, as we took care of it Tuesday night after returning home to Richmond.

Pages 4 through 11 contain detailed, hand-written recipes and instructions ranging from the easy (rice and hot dogs…separately of course), to the challenging (bacon pasta and longanisa).

And as for Page 1…it’s simply titled “Reminders”:

1. Make sure Sean and Jacob brush their teeth
2. Feed them fruits every day
3. Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink; load the dishwasher
4. Clean up and keep the house tidy
5. Vacuum the house at least once while I’m gone
6. Do laundry at least once at least once while I’m gone
7. Don’t spend too much money (eat at home, go to the park, have friends over, find free entertainment)

For the average person, most (if not all) of these things seem like common-sense…or perhaps Remedial Chores for Mama’s Boys. Remember this when you read my next blog.

For now, I’m proud to say that we’re all over #1, #2, #3, #4 and #6. #5 is still unaccomplished, and the jury’s out on #7.

As I told my friends…we will not refuse any reasonable offer for dinner…we’ll even provide the entertainment!

Me and Mr. Mike

This week I was blessed to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana as part of the Diocesan Leadership Observation Track (DLOT) of ND Vision (for teens) and ND Vision CYM (for youth ministers and campus ministers). As a Diocesan Director, I had the ability and permission to in essence “bounce” back and forth between the teen and adult conferences. This unique perspective allowed me to better evaluate the entire program and also provide feedback to conference organizers.

I first heard of the ND Vision DLOT (dontcha just love how we use acronyms in youth ministry?) back in 2007 when Mike Patin was in Vancouver to serve as our keynote speaker for Youth Day. Mike was awesome with our youth and youth leaders (as expected) and also awesome with my family. We spent a wonderful five days together and became close friends (and have remained so ever since…praise God).

I learned so much from Mike just by being in his presence, and since then he’s continued to affirm me, challenge me, and encourage me…and not just because that’s what his website says!

Thus, I was looking forward to seeing Mike ever since I confirmed my attendance at Notre Dame earlier in the year. We exchanged a couple of emails and texts the week prior, wishing each other “Happy Country Days” on July 1st and 4th respectively. I also asked him to bring me a bit of merchandise as my “godisnowhere” t-shirt is getting a little faded (considering I wear it every time I give a talk). I figured that I would see him once or twice throughout the week. Little did I know that I would end up seeing him and enjoying a memorable moment with him each day.

Over the 4 days I was reminded why I (and so many others) respect Mike so much. His humour, his pastoral presence. His talent. And his vulnerability and humility.

On Tuesday morning, we first spotted each other outside of the Basilica. As I held the door open for conference participants to enter (trying to make myself useful), I saw out of the corner of my eye I relatively slender man with a moustache mimicking me, waving his arms in the air ala Vanna White. Now, usually I speak about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, but this was barely imitation and it certainly wasn’t flattery.

“Hello Mr. Mike” I said.

“What is this…a beauty pageant?” was his response.

We caught up for a few minutes (while hundreds of teens filed into the church) and then Mike handed me a package with my goods.

“I threw a little something in there just for you…check it out.”

Like a toddler on Christmas morning, I quickly unwrapped the package to discover an additional t-shirt. I laughed as I opened it up…it had a picture of Mike’s face on it with the slogan “Not Pretty, but LOUD.”

I didn’t even bother asking him why he was giving it to me…I already knew.

“Thanks a lot brother!”

“You’re welcome man…that’s a limited print t-shirt…I only made 36 of them.”

Wow…that made me feel pretty good. Not that I’m one of Mike’s 36 best friends. Just one of his 36 loudest. Or unprettiest.

He continued, “And 18 of them had to pay for it!”

I laughed as I entered the Basilica, quickly switching from play-mode to pray-mode. After Mass and lunch, Mike and I were among 50 or so people who prayed the rosary at the grotto. It was a very peaceful and reverent experience. I also finally met Megan, Mike’s beautiful daughter, who was attending ND Vision for the teens.

On Wednesday morning, both Mike and I sat in on the keynote talk for the teens. The speaker challenged the participants with a powerful talk about self-acceptance and self-love. After the talk, Mike noticed his daughter talking with the speaker. In the meantime, Mike and I chatted about the irony in having your own child learn things from another speaker instead of from you…even if you have spoken to your child about these things before. Mike was very honest and very vulnerable as he warned me that it will happen to me too.

He analogized it to God the Father trying to teach us as His children, yet we can be so slow to come around or to “get it”…sometimes even needing to hear it from someone else. But all along, He loves us unconditionally, faithfully trying to show us the way. That’s why I admire Mr. Mike so much…he readily and easily finds connections and teaching moments like this!

I was humbled as I saw Megan and Mike talk for just a few short seconds before embracing in a warm hug. I had seen Mike connect with thousands of youth at a national conference, and now I had just seen him connect with his very own daughter with barely anyone else around. It was a few minutes that I’ll never forget.

On Thursday night, I few of us gathered in a lounge to wind up the day and Mike apparently had to don a Chicago White Sox t-shirt after losing a friendly wager to another youth minister.

(As an aside, why do why do youth ministry people like to make friendly wagers on sports? Anyway…I digress).

So Mike put on his t-shirt, we all laughed, and thought that would be the end of it. Until I noticed the shorts Mike was wearing. Picture a pattern you might see on a tablecloth from the 80s. Then picture two skinny white legs coming out the bottom.

Making sure everyone else was listening, I asked Mike “So what bet did you lose to make you wear those shorts?”

The group broke into laughter (no exaggeration), with some people even giving my hi-fives and fist pounds. Mike slapped me across my back in what was slightly more than a love tap (no exaggeration) and proclaimed: “You’ll never work in this country again!”

I wasn’t sure how to react…nor could I come up with a good come-back, so I just grinned and continued sipping my Pepsi.

Friday morning, Mike gave his long-awaited and much-anticipated session for the adults…thankfully he was wearing khaki pants instead of the tablecloth-shorts. At one point of the session, Mike had us break up into pairs and discuss a couple of questions, one of them being “Where do you experience the presence of God?”

As we reconvened, Mike asked the participants to share some of the answers. My partner Tom offered “My partner is Clay and he experiences God in spending time with his wife and children.”

Mike replied “I’ve met his children.”

Cool…I thought…a shout-out from Mike Patin!

Mike continued, “They’re cool kids.”

Even better…a compliment from Mike Patin to follow the shout-out!

Mike went on, “And they’re FREAKS!”

As the participants erupted into laughter, I shot back, “No wonder they like you so much!”

More laughter.

Then, without skipping a beat, Mike answered “Yeah…they come down to my level really easily.”

As the participants continued to giggle and chuckle, I couldn’t help but marvel at Mike’s comedic genius and timing. To no one’s surprise, he delivered an absolutely stellar session, full of affirmation, challenge, and encouragement.

My daily encounters with Mr. Mike ranked highly among the many blessings I received from my week at the University of Notre Dame. He once again proved why he is the best among keynote presenters, and more importantly, why he is such a great friend and mentor.

I’m just surprised he didn’t call me Kneejerk.

My Groom's Speech (from 9 years ago)

As Gail and I celebrate 9 years of blessed marriage today (July 8), I felt inspired to post my speech from that evening’s reception at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The first part, called “I am Married” is a spin-off of the popular Molson Canadian “I am Canadian” commercial.


Hey…I’m uh
Not a Father or a Grandfather
I won’t live with my parents, make them cook for me, or clean up after me
And I’m not marrying Andy, JJ, John or Julie Ann although I’m certain they’re really, really nice.

I have a wife, not a husband
I speak English, though I’m probably going to have to learn some Filipino and Chinese
And I pronounce it marriage, not mirage.

I can proudly say my wife’s full name without messing up
I believe in faithfulness, not cheating
Selflessness, not selfishness
And that our pug Shaila is a truly proud and noble animal.

Marriage is a sacrament, given to us by God
And it is pronounced matrimony, not alimony…matrimony!
From now on we are one, we will love one another
Til death do us part
My name is Clay, and I am married! Thank you.

Glad to have gotten that off my chest. Family and friends, thank you so much for sharing this most special day with us. What we have shared today is the culmination of a lot of planning, hard work, and late nights and I want to recognize everyone who has made this day so special.

Firstly, Mom, Dad and Jason. Wow. You have been the model of unconditional love. You have put up with my tantrums, my mood swings, and incoherent thought processes. I’ve never seen you happier than you have been this past week and especially tonight. Either you’re really happy for Gail and me or you can’t wait til I get out of the house. Probably a bit of both. Thank you for never following through on the multiple ultimatums, especially when it comes to cleaning my room (give me 2 more weeks….I promise). I appreciate all of your support and encouragement, especially with my involvement with the Church. You have made me who I am…and I’m sure Gail will forgive you for that eventually. Thank you, I love you.

Next, to my new family. We’ve come a long way since my first visit to your home in January 1990. I will, as I’m sure you will too, always remember that first visit. Andy was making fun of my haircut. JJ was scheming of how to take my wallet without me noticing. John and Ann, we played the longest game of “run back and forth” ever known to man. And as I sat at the dinner table…I can’t believe what I said. I took a bite of the delicious food, sat back, looked around at the pleasant surroundings, and replied to my future Mother and Father in law…”What a great place. I wish I could have a house like this.” To which you both replied, I think in unison “Not so fast buddy.” It’s been an exciting and sometimes intimidating journey. From “Uh….Hello” to “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Limtong” to “Hello Tito Harry and Tita Julie” to “Hello Mom and Dad.” I think that’s the first time I’ve said that! Anyway, thanks for the guidance, I have learned a lot from all of you (and I admit I probably still have more to learn). Thank you for hosting me and my entire family in the Philippines this past Christmas. I promise that I will do everything in my power to bring much joy and happiness to Gail’s life, and look after her financial, physical, mental, and especially spiritual well-being. I look forward to more trips to the Philippines, more lessons in tradition, and more death-defying fireworks displays.

To extended family on both sides…thank you for the love and support. Though I may not always say or show it, it is very appreciated.

To all my friends, from childhood, school, work, and my church community, I consider each of you and your friendship a true gift from God. Along with my family, you have truly molded me into the Clay that you see in front of you today. Hahaha. Some of you I’ve wrestled and played hockey and football with since elementary school. Others I’ve worked with you in school projects, including nasty accounting assignments. Some of you, I met through work as I toiled through the accounting ranks. And many of you, I have ministered to and with over the past 7 years. Thank you for so much: everything from letting me try my new jokes on you, to sharing deep and often emotional talks, to smartening me up, to just plain goofing around. Michael W. Smith wrote a beautiful song called friends, and in it he sings “Friends and friends forever…and the Lord’s the Lord of them.” I thank God for your friendship and I pray that He will continue to bless our relationships.

To our primary and secondary sponsors. Gail and I chose you because you are indeed role models and mentors to us. Thank you, and please continue to guide us as you deem appropriate.

To the whole bridal party…thank you for giving so much of yourselves. I am blessed to have known you all and I look forward to creating even more memories tonight…the night is still young.

I think that’s about it so I’m gonna go home now….oh wait…my new wife….Mrs. Gail Imoo. Aah…..I like the sound of that!

What can I say to the woman of my dreams? I could go on all night….or at least for the next 3 minutes or so. This is your day Gail. This is our day. Just think when you call me DORK or GEEK now it’s gonna mean so much more now that we’re married!
You are so beautiful. Our videographer John Porter is gonna have to do some major editing I think on our video tape cuz I was (and still am) simply stunned by your beauty. But you know what, it’s more than how you look. It’s who you are Gail.

I have so much to thank you for. YOU are the one who introduced me to the Catholic Church and Jesus. YOU are the one who stuck by my side as I struggled with my professional exams. YOU are the one who taught me how to eat with a fork and spoon (what no knife?) YOU are the one who clears my path of spiders big and small.

Mostly, you are you. I look back at our 10 and half years together and there is so much to share and remember. You must be something special, cuz I did things to impress you that today I can’t figure out why or how I did them. Was that me dressed up as a Lumberjack and dancing the Happy HoeDown in our school musical in Grade 10? Was that me dancing and rapping Bell Biv Devoe lyrics trying to wow you? And was that me butchering a doo-wop song last February in an effort to come up with a romantic proposal?

The answers are yes, yes, and ohh yes. Gail, I thank God for you everyday, and I will continue to do so. You are the biggest blessing in my life and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you. The nickname that I half-jokingly give myself truly belongs to you: You are the best thing going. I love you.

Now I can truly say that my name is Clay….and I AM MARRIED!

Jason's Best Man Speech (from 9 years ago)

As Gail and I celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary today (July 8), I wanted to post what I consider the best speech I’ve ever heard at a wedding.

Now, I am likely biased because it’s from my wedding and it’s by my brother, but Jason had everyone in stitches with his speech, in particular his Top 10 List.


Loyal, trustworthy, dependable, friend…these are all words that come to mind when I think of our dog Shaila. Man, Clay loves that dog… Anyways, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jason, and I am Clay’s best man and brother. When Clay asked me to be his best man, I was extremely honored and I jumped at the chance. Now, standing in front of 350 people, I starting to rethink my decision. I’ve tried to memorise the speech, but forgive me if I look at my notes every 3 to 5 seconds. We booked a cue card guy, but he turned out to be a Hyatt union member.

When I first started brainstorming ideas for this speech (at about 11:00 last night), I thought to myself: “how can I make this speech really personal and meaningful? It had to been tailor made for Clay and really capture his essence.” Then the answer came to me…I went to the most useful resource I could think of…The Internet. I put the words “best man speech” into the search engine. Hmmm…lots of websites, so I clicked on the first one with breathless anticipation…Speech For only $8.95, can help sort out what you want to say in your speech, arrange your stories and messages, and make sure you earn that big round of applause from wedding guests…please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. The timing didn’t quite work for me.

The second site was a little bit more helpful. It actually had a ready made speech! It went something like this: “and then, with proper violence, she clubs the bow that hulks behind the artful bunting; the crows erupts, wine flies, the shuddering hull rocks with impact, slowly settles, is still.” Not bad, except I couldn’t understand a word of it. I could see I was gonna be on my own.

So I started thinking…thinking about all the guests coming to the wedding, all touched by Clayton in some way, whether it be from church, high school, family trips to the Okanagan, church, University, or church (He spends a lot of time at the church; it’s true, it’s true). I realised what my unique perspective of him is; for the better part of my life I followed him through all his years, one step at a time, from infancy to man-hood every step of the way.

Clay has come a long way over the years. At young age, it was apparent that he was extremely bright. He learned the alphabet by the time he was 2, could read by the time he was 3, and was a back-seat driver by the time he was 4. However, it took a little longer for us to mature socially, as my parents were always quite protective of us. I think a lot of his maturation had to do with what one of his teachers said to my mom. To set the scene for you, my mom went to pick him up one day from school. She was quite worried when Clay’s teacher Mrs. Hunter approached her with a concerned look on her face. So my mom asked her what was the matter. Mrs. Hunter replied, “Clayton had trouble doing up the zipper on his jacket, and he started to cry. He is also one of the only kids who still wears diapers. At this rate, he will never make it through University. You need to untie the apron strings.”

Mrs. Hunter was Clayton’s Grade 10 science teacher…actually, she was his kindergarten teacher, but even back then she could see the potential in him. Clayton would go on to make a huge impression on every teacher or student that crossed his path. As evidence, in my elementary and high school days, teachers called me “Clayton” more often than not. In fact, someone here called me Clayton 10 minutes ago. Seriously though, it really goes to show you the impression he can make on people. Long after he left somewhere, he always left his legacy behind. People talked about him, and fondly remembered him.

I learned a lot from over the years…So I call this “Top Ten Things I Learned Growing Up in Clay’s Bryant Reeves-like Shadow.”

Top Ten Things I Learned from Clay

• Lesson #10 – Concealing the Evidence – I learned this lesson from Clay way back when I was 4 years old. That’s when I found out that if you accidentally burn a hole in the carpet while playing with matches, a big cardboard box goes a long way towards hiding that little secret.

• I also learned Lesson #9 – Volunteering Information, really quickly: when your mom asks what a big box is doing in the middle of the room, the wrong response is “We didn’t play with matches! We didn’t play with matches!”

• Lesson #8 was learned over the years…Phone Manner. I think I’m gonna have to go into Clay imitation mode…

• Example… If it’s guy phoning, and Clay picks up the phone, it would sound like this: “Hello? Heeeyyyy…what’s up?”

• If it’s a girl phoning, the answer would sound more like this: “Hello? Oh hiii…how are you???”

• Lesson #7 – How To Get What You Want – If there are two pieces of steak, one of which you have to give to your little brother, the best way to make sure you get the piece you want is if you lick all over it. He still uses that technique to this day.

• Lesson #6: You can be a 26 year old man, a professional, and role model, and still enjoy wrestling as much as you did when you were 10 years old

• Lesson #5: It’s okay to say “no” when offered an alcoholic beverage. And if they try to force it on you, it’s okay to run away, or physically hide. When we were in Vegas for his stag, we were visiting one of the local clubs. Midway through the evening they announced over the loud speaker that for the next 60 seconds, tequilla was free! Mark, Brian and I walked around looking for Clay, but we couldn’t find him. We found out later that he was hiding in the bathroom.

• Speaking of bathrooms, Lesson #4 is that as far as toilet paper is concerned, money is no object. Word of warning to Gail, he uses half a roll every time he goes.

• Lesson #3 – Procrastination is okay – I learned this last night, or more accurately, this morning. There’s nothing wrong with procrastination…as long as you get it done. Both Clay and I were up to the wee hours of the morning writing speeches…it always seems to work out in the end, though.

• Lesson #2 – There’s nothing wrong with wearing clothes that you’ve owned since you were in grade 8; I guess it helps if you haven’t grown since grade 8…

• And the #1 and most important lesson is a one that Clay truly believes in, and he lives on a day in and day out basis: there’s nothing wrong with sticking with a haircut that works. Anyone who has seen his pictures from grade 11 knows what I’m talking about. That’s when he decided to experiment with the “perm” look. Most of you probably haven’t seen pictures. There’s a very good reason why.

In all seriousness, Clay has been in ideal role model and tremendous friend for to everyone he’s encountered in life. From family members, to life teen members, to his friends…I don’t think there’s one person in this room who hasn’t learned something from him.

I used the words loyal, trustworthy, dependable, and friend to describe our dog Shaila. All of those words describe Clay as well, but I would like to add a few to that list: words like role-model, teacher, friend, loving son, brother, and now husband.

I may be the best man in name, but I think the real best man got married today. Thank you.

15 Things about the Imoo Family

I vowed that I would never do one of these things about me. But I never said I wouldn’t do one of these about my family.

Here are some things you may or may not know about us. Enjoy!

1. Kayla is the first Imoo girl in 75 years (she broke a string of 12 straight Imoo boys). Since then, my brother Jason had son Matthew…so it’s back to the boys!

2. Jake presently claims to have 12 girlfriends, a near 50% drop-off from his peak of 23 girlfriends last year. Don’t ask them to name them though…he’ll get stuck after about number 6.

3. Sean quit pre-school because in his words “It was too easy.” Now, every parent should think that his or her own kid is smart…but this kid is really smart.

4. Gail doesn’t know how to ride a bike. Not gonna touch this one…let’s just say that it’s too dangerous to ride in the Philippines.

5. Clay is mentioned in the liner notes in Matt Maher’s album “Empty and Beautiful.” I pushed for a song credit but that was asking a bit much.

6. Kayla starred in her first video before she was a week old (Ultimate
Canuck Newborn.
) She didn’t really have a choice…I think she slept through half of it.

7. Jake has won the Ultimate Canuck Fan contest twice (along with Sean). People have actually stopped him and Sean on the streets of Vancouver, recognizing them as the Ultimate Canucks Fans!

8. Sean met Canucks broadcasters John Shorthouse and Tom Larscheid after winning the Ultimate Canuck Fan contest. It was pretty cool…we got to into the broadcasting room at GM Place!

9. Gail survived a cancer scare when she was 12 years old. Original tests on one of her moles came out positive for cancer…thankfully the test was proven wrong. Holy Moley!

10. Clay can’t blow gum bubbles nor whistle. Just add them to the rather large list of things he can’t do…right behind cooking or swimming.

11. Kayla got her ears pierced at 4 months old. You’ll rarely see her with earrings now however, as she yanks them off (just like her shoes).

12. Jake broke his arm as a 2 year-old when he fell off our kitchen island . For a pretty darn good-looking guy, he’s bashed his face up pretty good.

13. Sean has had 2 oral surgeries removing a total of 7 teeth. We learned the hard way (for Sean) that letting him fall asleep with a sippy cup of juice probably isn’t the best strategy. His teeth are growing in nicely now!

14. Gail originally wanted to be a dentist. Too bad she didn’t wind up being one…she could have worked on Sean.

15. Clay actually enjoyed dancing when he was in high school (as opposed to now, where he avoids it like the plague). I was part of a singing group called “Gentlemen in Effect”, and I even shaved the letters G.I.E. into the back of my head! That was when I was young, impressonable, and immature. Now, I’m older, still impressionable…and…uh…

Thanks for reading!