On The Brighter Side…

Sometimes life can be difficult to navigate and things always seem darkest before the dawn. I’ve had my fair share of difficulties in the past few years, and not all of them related to COVID-19. But if you take the time to slow down and pay attention, there can be some nuggets of golden wisdom among the dust. I recently reconnected with a friend from my childhood and he posted something that resonated with me. As a result, I’ve decided to share it here.

I wasn’t able to track the source of where he got it, and I’ll be translating it from French, but the message should be pretty clear. We often take things for granted and especially when things are rough, we ignore the good things in life altogether. With that thought in mind, I present for your consideration, 10 signs that things in life are actually going well:

  1. You Have A Roof Over Your Head: It’s appropriate that this one is first on the list. A safe home to live in is something that not everyone has the benefit of having. I can admit that even I have often taken going home at the end of the day for granted;
  2. You Have Food In Your Stomach: Next to having shelter, an empty stomach is a problem faced by more and more people. One wouldn’t think this would be a problem in modern society, but it is;
  3. You Have A Heartbeat: This one resonates most with me, because my brother and I have fought against health issues for our entire lives. The bottom line is that if you’re still alive, you can still fight the good fight;
  4. You Have Water: Hydration is the key to life. I’m sure you’ve all heard that you’ll live longer without food than you will without water. And that’s pretty accurate. Not everyone has access to clean drinking water;
  5. You Have Access To Personal Hygiene: Right up there with the previous four points, self-cleanliness is often taken for granted but provides so many benefits in one’s life BESIDES smelling nice…;
  6. You Have Friends And Loved Ones: There’s nothing worse than going through this life alone. Even people who claim to be loners will usually yearn for companionship now and again, so just imagine how lonely it is when you have no one in your life;
  7. People Love You: Okay, so this one kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point. But the lesson here is that the people in your life love you, and that’s not to be taken for granted;
  8. You’re Doing Your Best: This one is pretty subjective, but as long as you’re doing your best at whatever you do in your life, you’re doing okay. Trying and failing doesn’t make life tragic. Trying, failing and refusing to try again is the problem;
  9. You Have Clean Clothing: It’s one thing to be clean yourself, but being dressed in clean, properly-fitting clothes is not just a matter of image but a matter of health and wellbeing;
  10. You’re Still Breathing: I once read somewhere that if you want a simple test to know if you’ve completed all the challenges in life, it’s this: if you’re still alive, you haven’t. No matter what comes at you, always remember that you’re still breathing. You’re still alive. And as long as you’re still alive, there’s always hope.

I look at this nifty little list and I recognize that I’m blessed with all ten of those points. I have a home, a family, food in my belly and clothes on my back. I know my family loves me and have a great support system. And despite everything I’ve been through in recent years, I’m still breathing. I’m still here. It’s important not to take any of it for granted. Not everyone has the benefit of everything listed here. ☯

“Pump” Up The Insomnia…

It’s been an interesting change in routine, having started a new job last week and being half way through my second week. My wife was just commenting this morning that we seem to have developed a trend where our routine starts by waking up at 5 a.m. early in the week and on that evening, we’re so blasted from our “start of week” that we usually crash shortly after we put the kids to bed. This is followed by getting into the groove later on in the week, allowing us to stay up a bit later and completely throwing caution to the wind on the weekend, which likely leads to our exhaustion on that first morning. But I digress…

As much fun as I’ve been having, meeting new people and learning new skills, adapting my habits at home and getting proper sleep has been the biggest challenge. I’ve often said that technology is really only as good as the person wielding it and how involved they choose to be. But sometimes technology takes it upon itself to be a total pain in the ass, despite the intended programming. I faced just such a situation last night. Now, I know I tend to write these stories on occasion and it seems as though I’m just complaining about my condition. In truth, I write about these things in the hopes that other people with Diabetes will read them and relate to them, maybe acknowledge that they’re not alone in their situation. But anyway, here we go.

Finally coming down to normal

My wife was also exhausted last night, and we ended up crashing just shortly before 8 p.m. I know, I know… We’re like an old couple. Things were fine, we even allowed ourselves a brief snack in bed as we watched our respective streaming services and within the hour, I had fallen asleep. I performed a calibration of my CGM before bed, my blood sugars were normal and I anticipated a full night’s sleep. I anticipated wrong. At about 9:30 p.m., my pump began vibrating wildly. It woke me instantly and I checked what the problem was. “Insulin Flow Blocked. Auto Mode Turned Off. Consider Changing Infusion Set.”

In retrospect, if I’d been smart I would have gotten out of bed and dealt with the issue. But since I had already fallen asleep, I was groggy and pissed at being woken so I did the only logical thing. I jiggled the infusion set at the site on my stomach, acknowledged that it was likely due to my sleeping on it and reset the pump. Resetting Auto Mode involves going through a multi-level menu and turning it on, saving, then going back and providing a BG reading to get Auto Mode to kick back in. Although only a one-minute process, it’s a tedious one to perform when you’re barely awake. I also delivered a bolus to correct the fact that during this “block,” my blood sugars had creeped into the low teens, making me even groggier.

Once I fell asleep, I was once again awoken for the same reason sometime during the midnight hour. Are you kidding me??? Same issue, same error messages. Once again, the smart thing to do would have been to get out of bed and go deal with it, but I managed to acknowledge that I still had about 120 units in the reservoir, which I didn’t want to waste on a set change. I also managed to realize that if the insulin delivery had worked for the past few hours, it had to do mostly with my sleep position and less with the pump itself. I reset everything and provided a further bolus due to being in the mid-teens, and tried to will myself to stay on my back, away from the infusion site.

You can see the slight rise from my snack, followed by a bolus at around 9 p.m. when I was first awoken and how the night went to hell from there.

Just shortly after 2 a.m., the same issue happened for a third time, so this time I opted to leave Auto Mode turned off, make sure I was on my back and go back to sleep. At this point, I knew I only had a few hours left to productively sleep in some given way, shape or form, so I opted for rest over proper blood sugar control. Maybe not the smartest choice, in retrospect. But I stand by it. You can see in the photo above, how the pink drops disappear from the screen, shortly after 2 a.m. This is when Auto Mode was shut off. I also provided a bolus to help treat the fact that I was still sitting at roughly 14 mmol/L.

My alarm went of at 5 a.m. as scheduled and I turned and sat up, with my body protesting in the way it generally does at my age, when I’ve been woken every few hours. I tried turning on Auto Mode once I was standing up, but it provided the same error messages again so I called it quits and sacrificed the remaining insulin units in favour of changing out the infusion set. From the first photo, you can see that I’m slowly dropping back to normal. All I can say is that the Keurig machine in my office will be working overtime, today.

It just goes to show that Diabetes management can be trying and challenging, even during the nighttime hours when you should be able to get some sleep. And don’t get me wrong; I love my insulin pump. LOVE IT! I’ve had the best blood sugar levels and the lowest A1C results ever, this past year. But even with a device that’s as advanced as my current pump, there can still be some user error, issues and corrections that need to be made. And since life rarely cares about one’s plans, those issues can sometimes take place at night.

Moving forward, I’ll need to see about maintaining some infusion sites that don’t involve sites that are pressed against the mattress when I turn over at night. That should be pretty easy; I have plenty of real estate on my abdomen to choose from. But the Diabetes challenge never ends. The high blood sugars, repeated wake ups and required adjustments have left me feeling drained. Just one more day of battling the T1D beast! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a much-needed morning coffee calling my name. ☯

A Little Taste Of Electronics…

My wife and I are both avid readers, with thousands of books lining the east wall of our home’s living room. Lately, I can’t even be sure who’s coming out ahead on the number of volumes read, since I’m currently reading Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time series for the third or fourth time and it’s a large, 14-volume series with about 600 to 700 pages per volume. It makes for pretty long reading, especially with children in the house as a distraction. And no, my 6-year old doesn’t sit still for books, before anyone suggests that.

Anyway, I recently started taking public transit to get to work and since it’s about a 20 minute bus ride, a friend of mine recommended that I use that time to read. Although I’m inclined to agree that this is a better option than sitting idle or crying on the bus, I was faced with the prospect that I carry a pretty full briefcase and didn’t have room for the collector’s edition volumes of Jordan’s books. Even the average pocket book wouldn’t have much space allowed in what I currently carry.

My friend decided to be a smart ass and said, “There’s an app for that,” referencing my post where I wrote about the various fitness and health apps I use. You can read THAT post here. But then e-readers were brought up and I remembered that not only am I a big fan of e-readers but I have one of my own. And weighing at only a couple of ounces and thin as a wafer, I could easily slip it among the other items in my duty bag. Problem solved.

Me, with my e-reader. I look like Powder!

A modern solution to a small problem. I don’t know if I would necessarily say that not having something to read on the bus is inherently a problem, per say. But it’s nice to have the option. This damn thing is so small that I occasionally forget that I have it. And to the friend who reminded me, thanks for the recommendation. It definitely takes the boredom out of the bus ride. ☯

My Safety And Security Shouldn’t Offend You…

I had a strange incident happen to me at my local corner store a while back. I’ve always been the type of person who covers up his debit machine PIN pad when entering my PIN number. This is something that everyone should do. If you don’t, I highly recommend that you do. Having a random person obtain your PIN number can lead to a host of financial and identity theft issues that you’ll find yourself having to deal with. Not to mention that they’ll likely drain your accounts. But anyway, on with the story.

Even before the pandemic started, I’ve always been a fan of maintaining a reasonable distance form other people. There’s a variety of reasons behind this, including my chosen profession making me somewhat paranoid. But health and hygiene issues have always been a consideration, as well as the security surrounding when one is at a cash register. I’ve often found myself asking folks to take a step back, with chosen replies including “no problem,” all the way up to “go fuck yourself.” Some people just like to watch the world burn.

On this particular day, I was at my local convenience store, checking my weekly lottery ticket in the hopes I had a winner and purchasing a few days’ worth of energy drinks. Since I hadn’t won the lottery (imagine that) I asked for the next ticket and placed my energy drinks on the cashier’s counter. While I was doing this, a tall, scruffy-haired guy saunters up next to me with a slurpee and asks for a certain type of chicken wing they had in a warming display. The cashier asked him to wait a moment as she was currently finishing my transaction.

Not only did he seemed annoyed at having to wait, but he approached the cashier’s counter as well and kind of floated into my comfort zone. The guy, I’ll call him Scruffy Bastard, was close enough that I could smell his mixture of unwashed flesh mixed with cheap aftershave. I knew I was done and on my way out, so I didn’t bother to ask him to step back while I punched in my payment on the debit machine. I did, however, cover the key pad with my hand as I entered my PIN and turned my shoulder towards him. This is the exchange that ensued:

Scruffy Bastard: You worried I’m gonna steal your number on you?
ME: Excuse me?
SB: You’re hugging that thing like you’re worried I’m gonna grab it from you. You worried about me, or something?

At this point, I thought maybe he was just joking around. It can be especially hard these days, since everyone’s face is covered up and one can’t get a read on other people’s facial expressions. In the interest of avoiding an unnecessary conflict, I kept my response polite and mild.

ME: Nope, just being safe and protecting my PIN number…
SB: Funny you should do that as I walk up. Are you trying to say I look like someone who would try to steal it?
ME: (now realizing he was actually annoyed and not joking) No, sir. I’m not suggesting anything. It’s simply a habit to ensure the safety of my PIN number. It’s something EVERYONE should do.
SB: So, you do that everywhere you shop? With everybody who stands behind you?
ME: Yes, sir.
SB: Seems rude. As you can see, some people might take it offensively, as though you’re accusing them of being dishonest.
ME: Honestly, that’s not my intention. But I’d rather someone think that I find them dishonest than have my bank accounts hacked but someone who WOULD copy my number. I’m not accusing you, but I certainly don’t know you. And my security and safety isn’t something that should offend you.

I grabbed my stuff and walked out. I was leery for the few moments it took me to load my cans into my car and hop in to drive away, as I was confident based on Scruffy Bastard’s body language that would potentially come outside to confront me further. Then I remembered he was purchasing items the cashier had to get for him and it gave me the time to make my way out of the parking lot. I abhor fighting and I’m just as glad I didn’t have to find out if he wanted a further confrontation.

When it comes to protecting one’s interests, you can never be too careful. But I’d be lying if I said it isn’t very entertaining (and just a little bit sad) seeing people’s reaction to someone taking protective steps. The worst part is people like Scruffy Bastard would be the first to raise hell if they had their identities stolen or their accounts hacked. It’s surprising how many people get frustrated and angry at certain protective steps that are taken in their interest. But the Light help those same people when something happens BECAUSE they didn’t embrace those protective steps.

Maybe Scruffy Bastard was taking in too much sugar from the slurpee he was drinking. Who knows? Like most encounters of this sort (and I’ve had more than I care to admit) it left me with a small knot in my gut, wondering why someone would choose this kind of approach with a total stranger. For all I know, maybe he HAS been accused of something in the past and this is why he reacts this way. All I DO know is that like the old saying goes, I can only control my words and actions. Not how others react to them. ☯

Taking A Little Respite…

I’m an incredibly long way from what I would consider to be lazy. Between my continued efforts towards fitness, Diabetes control and giving my maximum in everything I do, I very rarely sit still. The fact I have difficulty sitting still in general tends to help, as well… But once in a while, even the most dedicated person needs to take a step back and throttle back on life and take a rest. And mental exhaustion being a very real thing, it can lend a heavy impact on one’s motivation.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself skipping karate classes and performed personal workouts a lot less than usual. I’ve had the pleasure of throwing a couple of quick, 10-kilometre bike rides into the mix, which was nice. But with the warmer weather coming along, the opportunity for different and increased number of workouts is becoming a thing. The recent heavy snows we’ve had in Regina notwithstanding, of course. But a severe lack of motivation has unfortunately thrown a monkey wrench in my otherwise rusty gears.

I’m a big advocate of pushing oneself, and of making an effort to workout, even when you don’t feel like it. Given the nature of Diabetes and the effects it has on a person’s body, it’s no surprise that there are days where either the body or the mind simply don’t want to put in the effort. I had both my body AND my mind gang up on me in recent weeks when I’ve skipped the majority of my workouts. Even while acknowledging that I should have been doing something, I just didn’t want to. To use the vernacular of today’s younger generation, I can’t even…

And you know what? That’s okay. Even if it may feel like you’re being lazy, stepping back and taking a break from your fitness habits can have a lot of benefits. Yes, yes, I know… The benefits of doing SOMETHING definitely outweigh doing NOTHING. But here are some quick benefits that I’ve noticed, whenever I’ve taken a break:

  • You Can Relax: I think we can all agree that being “switched on” all the time can take a toll. There is such a thing as over-training, and it’s important to recognize that point. Taking a break week can let your body fully recuperate and allow you to relax a bit and maybe focus on other interests, such as reading or playing with your kids;
  • You Can Regroup: Honestly, there’s something to be said for having the time to just sit back and contemplate things. Whether you want to take the time to meditate, focus on work or even come up with some new workouts, taking a break can allow you the time to figure it out. Personally, I get bored of doing the same workout over and over and I like to design new circuits and try new things. Otherwise, I feel my fitness is becoming stagnant;
  • You Can Heal: Constantly working out can be taxing on the human body, and even more so when you’ve reached my age. Even though you can continue to work out with mild injuries (with limitations), it can be nice to allow some extra time for the systems on your body to reset themselves and for any outstanding injury to heal completely.

Given the particular life changes and adjustments tat have taken place within my household in the past week, it’s no surprise that I continue to be exhausted. Like many people, I’ve spent the last little while hibernating at home while COVID-19 has marinated on the outside. The result of this has been that waking at 5 in the morning every day is no longer something I’m used to. I’m slowly getting adjusted o it, now. But I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been sneaking off to bed as soon as my wife and I get the kids down. Surprisingly, my blood sugars have fared quite well during all of this. I think that can be attributed to routine, since I eat my meals at pre-planned times and don’t snack or eat outside of those times.

As one always does, I’ll adjust. I usually find that taking a “lazy week” once in a while will allow me to reap all those benefits mentioned above. The important thing to remember is not to go on some sort of junk food bender while you’re sitting around doing nothing. And I’m definitely not saying that you should do this indefinitely. Or often. Especially since a sudden change in your level of fitness and activity will play hell with even the best balanced blood sugars. But if you allow yourself the occasional break, it can even help improve your mood and energy levels for when you DO get back to it. And one always needs a little time to adjust to any new routing. Food for thought… ☯

A Little Inspiration From Confucius and Clark Kent

I’ve always said that inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. Based on today’s title, one could say I’m definitely reaching both extremes. Confucius is well and widely known for his philosophy and is responsible for the way of life known as Confucianism. Clark Kent is, well… Superman. Although a fictional character, inspirational quotes and knowledge have often come from such sources, albeit never credited to the writers who actually created the script. But I digress… My point is that both these sources have used a quote that I’ve been pondering of late.

“It May Be Easier To Hate, But It’s Stronger To Love”

– Clark Kent, Smallville Finale

Although I had firmly stepped away from social media in all its forms about three years ago, I’ve been allowing myself a soft return to the uncontrolled arena. This seemed like a natural next step to help share this blog, as platforms like FaceBook allow sharing on a broader scope than simply hoping people will like and follow directly from the blog, and my YouTube channel allows me to provide some “in person” perspectives on certain topics that don’t require me to cite sources or quotes.

For the most part, it’s been reasonable. I’ve even managed to make contact and reconnect with some people I haven’t spoken to since high school, which has been motivation enough for me to actually spend time on my personal accounts as opposed to interacting solely as The Blogging Buddhist. In recent weeks, I’ve come to notice a trend of negativity from a select few that I’ve known as friends for some years. As many of you are aware, the elimination of all forms of suffering is kind of my thing and negativity is very much a means of causing further suffering in the world.

The big problem is that despite being consistently negative and more often than not, spreading hatred, these select few don’t necessarily seem to be aware of it. But the effect is palpable. When you log into a social media platform and realize that every little thing a person posts is calling out, complaining, hating or boycotting something, it begins to weigh on you. Even when the topic of the post may not be about you. Negativity breeds negativity, and the more someone feeds negative energy into the world, the more it will negatively impact the people around them. It usually doesn’t matter if that negative energy was MEANT for a good purpose.

I found an article posted by the Psychology Spot that explains that psychologist from Harvard University concluded that “negative emotions are like the flu: the more friends you have that have the flu, the greater the chances of getting infected, the same applies to sadness and despair.” It’s pretty hard to disagree with that, when you can be in a perfectly good mood only to be brought down or “bummed out” by the simple act of someone else’s constant negativity. Negative energy is infectious and spreads like a virus.

“It Is Easy To Hate And It Is Difficult To Love.”

– Confucius

It can be difficult to be around such people when they breed negative energy on a constant basis. It’s even more difficult when they refuse to acknowledge or recognize their negative behaviour and consider it a personal attack on them when it’s brought up. I was the recipient of just such an attack recently, when a long time friend took my attempt at discussing an issue as a personal attack and began berating me for bringing it up. I didn’t necessarily oppose this person’s view, I was simply trying to offer up a perspective to help this person understand why the anger and hatred wasn’t necessary. The unfortunate side effect was damage to a long-standing friendship that could have been avoided.

So what is one to do about such situations? Block or unfriend such people? Delete all social media once again? It can be rough waters to navigate, but my main concern is wondering what’s gone so wrong in these peoples’ lives that cause them to be in a constant state of anger and hatred. Setting aside for a moment the fact that I’m a firm advocate of the “scroll on by” theory, where if one disapproves or is unhappy with something posted online they should feel free to simply scroll on by as opposed to becoming an armchair warrior and try to argue the point. But the reality is that if/when someone posts something on a social media platform, it needs to be understood that they’re inviting and even welcoming comments and discussion. If one does not want comments and discussion on a particular topic they post about, then the simple truth is that they should not.

Obviously, this is all opinion-based and it can be difficult to discern where the line is between one’s opinion and common sense. But there seems to be a growing trend of people constantly using social media platforms to spread their anger, hate and misinformed opinions. In both my personal and professional life, I’ve always considered it of the utmost importance to get the full story before taking action or speaking out against someone/something. But misinformation aside, the physiological and psychological effect that a constant state of anger and hatred has on one’s own body is measurable. The effects it has on those around can also be noted.

There are always battles to be fought. Such is the world we live in. But knowing how to pick your battles and being reasonable and level-headed about them are of paramount importance. Especially when it may lead to suffering and loss. As for myself, it’s given me a significant wake up call in regards to navigate the world of social media. I’m once again on the fence as to whether I’ll close up shop and walk away or if I’ll weather the storm and simply filter out the bad. Time will tell. ☯

Death: Science vs. Religion

Christopher Bullock, a British actor once said, “Tis impossible to be certain of any thing but death and taxes.” And this much is inevitably true. If there’s one thing that every person in this world has in common, it’s the fact that we’re all going to die someday. I was exposed to death at an early age, given the passing of my brother before I had reached my teen years. From that point on, my perspective and interest in the topic of death has followed me throughout my entire life.

Most people in general avoid the topic of death as they prefer not to think about the prospect of their lives coming to an end. For the most part, this is because of the fear that accompanies the unknown circumstances surrounding death. After all, no one truly knows what happens once the body dies. The thought of simply ceasing to exist is frightening, to say the least. It’s frightening, even to me. And I’ve had a LOT of experience witnessing and dealing with death.

So what’s the real deal? What happens after death? The physiological results are well-documented and well-known, so I’m just going to go ahead and ignore those since we’re focusing on what happens to the PERSON after death. Not the body. I read a great blog post over a year ago, where the author went into detail about how at this point we should be acknowledging the existence of an afterlife, based on how many accounts there have been from people who have reached the brink and peeked through. The post explained how it should be a foregone conclusion of SOMETHING that occurs after death, as opposed to wondering IF.

Some have even come back with information and details that they wouldn’t have known otherwise, unless they had spoken to passed relatives and such. Could some of it be coincidence? Maybe. It wouldn’t be the first times that a person was made privy to information that they heard on a subliminal level and only remembered when hitting a comatose stage. It’s possible that the person is remembering a detail that they didn’t know they had heard. But coincidence will only take you so far, with people admitting to hearing and knowing details discussed outside the room while they were clinically dead, etc.

So, let’s examine the difference between the scientific approach and the religious approach. Catholicism is pretty straightforward and you can learn everything you need to know about death by reading the Holy Bible. Easy-peasy. Heaven, hell and the related steps are pretty clearly outlined for someone willing to read through it. Most Buddhist sects have a pretty firm belief that the end of one life simply transitions you into the next, with the person’s spirit leaving one body and finding a new life to live.

Some sects also believe that one’s reincarnation will depend on what kind of existence you led in the previous life. Bad people will become dung beetles. Good people become something better and so on and so forth. There are deeper details than that involved, but I won’t get too far beyond the fact that we believe in past lives and reincarnation. Of course, different schools of faith will have different beliefs but Buddhism and Catholicism is what I know. So there. The bottom line is that if you’re a believer in faith, life after death is a possible belief you carry. The only way to know whether it’s true or not is to take that last Nestea plunge. And then you’d be in no position to actually share the information anyway.

From a science standpoint, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are all energy. And that’s not just a Buddhist perspective; we literally are made of energy. We’re composed of atoms, which are made of energy. Pure and simple. Electrical and chemical reactions within the body have been said to be enough to produce approximately 100 Watts of power in the average human body. Before I go down a rabbit hole of biology, let’s take a look at physics, instead. Depending on what level of physics you may be/have studied, the First Law of Thermodynamics tells us that energy is always conserved and can be changed from one form to another; never created or destroyed.

What does this mean for the human body at death? From a scientific standpoint, one would be inclined to believe that one’s energy will need to go somewhere and become SOMETHING. We simply don’t know what. If your belief is from a more theological standpoint, then the belief in an afterlife is a given and your spirit will depart the body and go up or down, depending on your specific beliefs. So one way or another, it would be reasonable to say that you’re covered. You’ll move on to a “next stage” after death. I should probably point out that this is all speculation on my part. I’m no theologian. And I’m sure as hell not a scientist. But I think that examining a subject that most people try to avoid such as death, is a good way of dispelling some of the fear and anxiety that comes along with it.

Last but certainly not least is who a person is as an individual. Our consciousness and self-awareness is something that is very hard to believe will simply blink out of existence at the point of death. I think, therefore I am, right? Consciousness needs to count for more than just a bunch of chemical and neural components of the flesh. I would think. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure will be to take that final road trip to whatever awaits. I’m sure as hell in no hurry to take that trip. All things in time. But to quote David Bowie, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” ☯

Your Money’s Worth…

Do any of you remember what certain things cost during your childhood? I remember SOME of them, and the difference is shocking. A lot of schools used to have that assignment where you had to figure out how much certain cost for our parents as opposed to what they cost now. I don’t know if they still do this, but it was pretty shocking to see the difference. It’s definitely something that today’s youth should recognize as it might curb some young peoples’ tendency to take their possessions and resources for granted.

For example, gas only cost 59 cents per litre when I was in high school, as opposed to the current 121 cents per litre in Saskatchewan. Car fuel is always an easy way to compare the increase in price of things, as it has consistently risen for decades, despite some mild back and forth. Another good example is bread, which only cost about 90 cents back in New Brunswick when I was growing up. This is compared to the fact that a loaf of bread is almost 3 dollars at today’s prices.

I remember my grandfather and father telling me stories during my childhood about how “in my day, things only cost THIS much…” I never thought I’d find myself in the same ballpark as them, but I’ve found myself using that very line in recent years. For example, some find it shocking when I mention that I’d get a weekly allowance of only 5 dollars when I was a kid. But the reality is that for 5 dollars, saved over three or four weeks, I could go to my local convenience store and pick up the latest Superman and Spider-Man titles, as well as indulging in a bag of chips and a sugar-free soda and have money left over. Not to mention that the original Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade comic arcs came out in early 90’s before the MCU came along and altered a whole bunch of shit about the storyline. But I digress…

My point is, inflation has made a person’s dollar more important than ever. And it’s all the more important to make every dollar count. That’s why it becomes important to take advantage of certain opportunities that present themselves. Talking about finance on my blog isn’t usually my “thang,” but I got to thinking about some of this stuff. Here are my top opportunities to save a few bucks when out and about.

  1. Free Samples: The pandemic has eliminated this opportunity, but I’m hoping that there will eventually be a return to the practice. Going to Costco on an empty stomach was always easy when your could walk the store and sample meats, granola bars and cereals as you walk around. You’d essentially be full by the time you reached the cash register. Top it off with a sample of juice along the way and if you still find yourself hungry, grabbing a $1.50 hot dog on the way out is guaranteed to put you over the top; especially given the size of Costco hot dogs. Although this is the more prominent location for trying free samples, a lot of retail locations offer samples and allow you the opportunity to lessen the sting of one’s overall shopping bill. Too short term or in the moment? Alright, then. On to the next one…;
  2. Using Coupons: If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be saving and/or using coupons, I’d have called you hilarious (or an idiot). I happen to hate flyers and junk mail, but if you’re willing to sift through weekly flyers and useless crap, you can find a lot of coupons that will save you a great deal of money, overall. My wife is part of some mailing lists that send you small sample packs along with coupons for purchasing the actual product. We’ve gotten free samples of coffee k-cups, laundry detergent and dish soap as well as a variety of products. And the accompanying coupon is sometimes exceptionally reasonable. Including a decent dollar amount deducted or certain percentage off the retail price, I’ve even gotten some that get you one for free. We recently got a coupon for a free package of paper towel rolls. It stands to reason that you have to use these consistently over time, in order to reap the money saving benefits;
  3. Free Refills: Why people ignore this one has always baffled me. When you consider that the average cup of coffee will cost you about 30 cents when brewed at home, paying 2 dollars at a coffee shop for a small cup of coffee may seem ludicrous. And it is. Coffee costs pennies to brew, but most locations sell it at a several hundred percent markup. This is why you should take the sting out of your overall costs by taking advantage of free refills. Not every place does this, but many if not most do. It can be difficult to get a free refill if you’re grabbing tour coffee on the way to the office, but here in Saskatchewan there are a few locations that will grant you a refill if you present your receipt and it’s from the same day;
  4. Check in Early And Check Out Late: I stay in hotels quite frequently, especially since my eye injections happen about three hours away and dragging my children with me to make it a day trip causes unnecessary suffering. So, I usually stay in a hotel room for the night. Now, I don’t think I need to explain that hotel rooms are expensive. But they are. Most locations are willing to accommodate an early check-in, so long as you give them advanced notice. Some may even want to know why but in my case, telling them I have a medical appointment shortly and need to check in prior as I won’t be able to once it’s completed usually satisfies them. And I like to make a point of waking up a bit on the later side and enjoy a quiet coffee (which is usually included in the room) and I never check out until the actual check-out time or later, if they’ll permit. This guarantees that I’m getting the most bang for my buck. Not least of all is the fact that most hotels will offer things that also help mitigate cost, including free sundries, complimentary breakfasts, water bottles and as I mentioned previously, coffee. Gotta have coffee!

There you have it. It’s a short list and it won’t make you a millionaire, but every little bit can help, right? Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to save a few bucks here and there, but with the rising cost of everything, it can be worth shopping the sales, using coupons and taking advantage of free items. What are some of your favourite cost-saving methods? Feel free to share some of them in the comment section. ☯

Rules Are Meant To Be Imposed, But At What Cost?

We live in a society of rules, with the regulation, application and enforcement of said rules being a dominant trait in the modern world. If you don’t believe me, just try to walk through a populated street without a facial covering right now. I, myself, have always been a firm advocate of following rules. But sometimes I can’t help but ask myself if the overall cost is worth the reward in relation to some rules and how they are imposed. If you live in the world of martial arts, the existence and in fact, necessity of these rules can be like swimming through murky waters without a flashlight.

I always refer to my karate as a “traditional” martial art. And what’s usually meant by this is that our students follow traditions and training methods that are as original to the style and methods of when karate was created as possible. When I used to train in Sensei’ dojo, everything was done pretty much on par with how the Okinawans developed it and how they still do it to this day (or at least as they were still doing it in 2001 when I was there, last). But as time has gone by, certain rules and regulations have become part of the martial arts world. I always like to say that it only takes one idiot to ruin things for others, and this is where I’m going to vent about some of those.

Setting aside for a moment that karate is a fighting art… Yes, it is… YES, IT IS!!! As much as I prefer to focus on the “art” aspect and not so much the fighting, the reality is that karate teaches you how to fight. And unlike most traditional sports where contact with another person CAN occur, karate is something where contact SHOULD occur. If you’re in my dojo, contact WILL occur. I bring this up because there seems to be a growing number of dojos that have abolished physical contact; and I don’t mean because of CoVID-19.

When I came up in the dojo, we used to have many practices that involved things that could be painful. Body conditioning, checking, semi-contact and full contact sparring… There were plenty of activities that had the potential to bruise, pull and crush muscle tissue. And we sometimes got injured, albeit lightly. But it was a common understanding that this is something involved with learning a combat art. Like Mr. Miyagi mentioned in the first Karate Kid movie, it’s difficult learning karate from a book. Training in a combat art without striking and/or being struck will leave definitive gaps in one’s ability to properly learn their respective art.

In recent years, there’s been a tapering of such practices, especially since society is quickly developing the inability to let things go and become offended and affronted by almost everything. In the final years before he closed his dojo, Sensei halted all body conditioning and sparring was a rare thing, except with other black belts. His reasoning was quite simple; when new students would get those first whacks on their forearms or legs, they’d soon quit. In my day, we toughed it through because the end result was worth the momentary pain.

But now, there a number of different reasons why dojos have reduced or eliminated contact with students except for the occasional sparring match with senior belts, which often and usually includes the dojo’s insurance policies. Yup, that’s right! Most modern karate schools have “sport insurance” where an injured practitioner can be compensated for specific things, based on the circumstances of the injury. I think that this is a fuckin’ joke as it relates to karate… I don’t understand how you can properly learn WITHOUT some form of injury. But I’m old school.

I once read the stipulations of a particular dojos insurance policy that read (and I’m paraphrasing) that the policy wouldn’t pay out if the injury was found to have been caused by an intentional strike. FOR A MARTIAL ARTS DOJO!!!! Every strike is intentional… So this policy was restrictive to the proper teaching of the school and would not even cover a martial arts-related injury. This is just one type of “modernization” that is slowly eroding the fabric of traditional martial arts, which makes me sad since I’ve spent my entire life training in one.

An easy comparison is to look at it this way: If you join a knitting circle, you don’t expect to get a black eye. It wouldn’t make sense, as it has nothing to do with the skills you’re practicing and using. But if you join a FIGHTING ART, the safe assumption is that you’ll be getting struck at some point. Imagine someone going into boxing with the expectation that they’ll never get hit? Same kind of dynamic. The problem is that some person at some point, made a big stink after getting struck/injured while training and it caused a shit storm from the insurance and/or liability standpoint and many modern dojos have had to adapt.

As I mentioned earlier, this kind of adapting or “modernization” is slowly killing traditional martial arts. And if it continues in this direction, “contactless” dojos may become the standard as opposed to the exception. If that happens, most arts that have seen their teachings watered down in recent decades will suffer even further. And this is one of the reasons why I’ve opted not to bother opening my own dojo where I am. I would never allow myself to teach karate in any other way than how it was meant to: unfiltered and unabridged. The last thing I would need is some snowflake suing me or my dojo because they couldn’t take a hit… ☯

A Gentle Change Of Perspective

Sometimes it feels as though I’ve worn a uniform my entire life… From a very young age, I started wearing a karate gi. Throughout my teens and twenties I found myself falling the old school route where I wore a fast food and a pharmacy uniform as I worked jobs to get me through high school and college. I started wearing security uniforms in my 20’s during the chaotic period when I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. The, I stepped into my chosen career and the wearing of a uniform became second nature, despite the fact I had been wearing one in some way, shape or form for almost twenty years prior to that.

Yesterday, I started a new job in which I get to enjoy the pleasure of being dressed in a very different kind of uniform. Some may look at this photo and say, “That’s not a uniform…” And you’d be right, in the traditional sense. But how one dresses for a job is a representation of the quality of work one intends to DO on the job, and I feel it’s important to dress well for one’s position. Plus, I love suits. I F&*KIN’ LOVE SUITS!!!

There’s nothing complex or complicated about this morning’s post. No deep-rooted philosophical lesson or long-winded explanation about some function of the body, a martial arts technique or what Diabetic issue is currently throwing a monkey wrench into my life. Just a quick, simple post to share a happy moment with all of you. Yesterday was amazing, albeit a very different kind of exhausting than I’m used to. I have some excellent and professional people I work with, which made the first day all the more smooth. But it didn’t help that I missed my scheduled bus to get home, meaning I had to stand in a snowstorm for about twenty five minutes until the next one came along. Live and learn.

It’s a new routine for the entire family, with everyone making adjustments as working from home is solely my wife’s arena, now. But by the time I finally DID get home last night, it’s a fair assumption to say that we were both exhausted and we crashed very shortly after the kids did. That’s usually a sure sign of a day’s work well done. Now, as I step into my second day I have a clear idea of how my day will go and what to expect. Adjustments will be made, systems will adjust and a routine will develop. All will be well. Except for the snow. The snow needs to take a snow day. Pun fully intended. ☯