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. ☯

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. ☯

In Memoriam

Siblings can be a Light-send, despite the occasional rivalry. Not only do they share blood ties, they can be your backup in times of trouble, a welcome celebrater in times of joy and a tandem member of the same generation with whom you can grow up and share the memories of life with. This makes it all the more tragic when one of these siblings leaves this life before they were rightfully intended. This also brings me to my older brother, Stéphane.

On this day 30 years ago, in the early morning hours, I was awoken by my mother who told me that we had to get dressed and get to the hospital as my brother was comatose and would likely die before sunrise. Being as I was only 13 years old, my concept of death held no comfort for me and in fact, simply told me that I would be losing my only sibling and never see him again after this visit. This was mixed with the unhealthy belief I had developed from years of seeing him “on the brink,” only to come out of it and be released from the hospital a few short days later. The first night of my life that I was wrong would prove to be the last night of his.

We arrived at the hospital shortly after midnight. We were met at the elevator as we exited on my brother’s floor, by our family doctor and long-time friend, Dr. Edward Furlong. Some readers from New Brunswick (if there are any for this post) may recognize that name as he was also the Minister of Health and subsequently, Minister of Education for New Brunswick during the first decades of the 2000’s. He greeted us solemnly and walked us to my brother’s room. We could hear his moans floating down the hallway, which elicited my first and only question of the night: “I thought he was in a coma?” The doctor explained that he was, but that some unresponsive people could still make sound, under certain circumstances.

I walked into a scene that until that point, I had only seen on television. My brother was lying on his back with his head slightly elevated. He had tubes coming out of both arms, his nose and all about his head. There were multiple machines with displays, beeping and moving with a measurable rhythm. And once or twice every minute, a low moan of pain escaped from my brother’s unpainted lips. The scene immediately melted any illusions I had for his survival, as similar scenes I’d scene in movies were usually one that accompanied death, soon after. I broke into tears at the realization that this genuinely was the last night I would see my brother alive.

My parents discussed providing me with a private room so that I could potentially get some sleep as it was expected to be an extremely long night. My parents held fast to the belief that my brother would pull through, so they had unfounded expectations I would be going to school the following day. I was brought to an unoccupied room on the other side of the hospital’s wing, a fact which would become important, later in the story. I took off my shoes and slipped under the starched hospital sheets. Although it was the middle of the night and I was exhausted, I obviously couldn’t fall asleep.

I was pretty much a sobbing mess, thinking about all the times when I’d been frustrated and angry with my brother. Instead of focusing on all the good memories, thoughts of all the times we fought or disagreed came to mind, generously sprinkled with the number of times I said harsh or cruel words to him. I instantly regretted each and every one of them and swore a silent oath to make it up to him if I were ever given the opportunity, painfully unaware the chance would never present itself. I was visited frequently by either of my parents, Dr. Furlong and the score of nurses who were keeping an eye on me. I couldn’t hear my brother from where I was, but the constant visits kept me on edge as I kept expecting every person to be the one who would ultimately bring bad news.

Short minutes after the 3 a.m. hour I finally fell into a peaceful sleep, which would be immediately interrupted by my father who had come to announce that my brother had passed away, almost to the very minute that I had fallen asleep. At the risk of sounding creepy, my mother’s side of the family has been often known for strange coincidences such as this. But even the nurse who had been keeping an eye on me was able to confirm that I had fallen asleep almost to the minute that my brother finally passed. I like to think of it as his way of sharing some much-needed peace as he finally obtained his.

The weeks that followed were a blur and quite surreal. At my young age, I had unfortunately attended funerals before but never for a member of my immediate family. During the funeral viewings over two days, I sat a chair next to his coffin and never left his side, painfully aware that once that lid was closed I would never set eyes on my older brother again. It was the greatest sense of loss I had ever felt in my life to that point, for a much needed life lesson that nobody wants. Once the funeral was over, my parents and I took a trip up the Gaspé coast to get away for a bit. It was a pleasant trip, but there was always something to remind me that our family unit was a member short. And always would be.

So, why would I choose to write about this today? Well, besides the fact that today marks the 30th anniversary of his death (despite not being something one celebrates) it also dawned on me that I usually observe this day privately and I’ve never written my thoughts on how that night impacted me. And I believe it’s important. I’ve written about my brother before, and I can tell you that his personality and willingness to fight to live and survive was passed on to me. He is the biggest inspiration in my life in relation to fighting the odds, no matter what. I attribute my ability to never give up and think positive to him. He was certainly more of a teacher to me than he was ever aware.

My brother Stéphane (Left) and I

At the end of all things, his cause of death was heart failure, despite the multitude of health issues that could have done him in sooner. There is great irony in the fact that despite being a young man with the biggest heart, his heart was what finally gave out. I guess that makes sense as his heart was always what he used most. Even now, 30 years after the fact, I’m still brought to tears while writing these words. Considering I’m not the most emotional dude on the block (some rocks show more emotion than I usually do) this goes a long way towards showing the impact he had on my life, for as short a time as we were together.

Hold your loved ones close, dear readers. I often say that life doesn’t care about one’s plans. And we never know when we may lose someone near and dear, or when this life ends for ourselves. It warms my heart to know that my son Nathan now has a younger brother, Alex. Whether he realizes it or not, it’s comforting to know that he’ll have some backup, should anything ever happen to my wife and I. Even now, I pray you’re resting in peace, brother. Whether in this life or the next, I’m confident we’ll see each other again. ☯

Letting Me Off My Leash, Free-Range Diabetic

I don’t think I need to explain that people take most common, everyday things for granted. I experience this a lot because despite the advancements I’ve lived through in the past 38 years, it’s difficult to move around without a SIGNIFICANT amount of supplies. The fact that I’m fed up of it likely makes it sound way worse than it is. But eventually, a guy gets tired of carrying around a man purse just so that he can run some errands throughout the morning without concern. The “for granted” aspect comes in because most people fail to recognize how lucky they are to be able to just step out of the house with abandon.

A week ago, I decided that I would sit through a specific bus route that I would be using for work. This was so that I could time out my entry into the city in the mornings without the concern of being late. Alexander was napping, Nathan was gone to school and my wife was hard at work in front of her own computer, so I felt it was a good opportunity to go out for an hour or two. I started to pack my usual shoulder sling of supplies, when a wave of impatience struck me and I decided to go in a different direction.

I tested my blood. Perfectly normal with no insulin “on board.” Good. I took some sinus medication so that I wouldn’t suffocate through the wearing of a mask in public for a couple of hours. Excellent. That shit’s supposed to last a few hours, anyway. I had my wallet and identification, and I grabbed a face mask and stepped out the door. I waited a matter of minutes at the bus stop and after a 22-minute bus ride, I was in the downtown core and stepping into the local shopping centre.

Not my mall, by the way. I didn’t want to be the creepy dude snapping photos in the mall.

I spent about an hour and a half downtown, walking around and browsing through some of the shops before grabbing the bus for the return journey. My blood sugars didn’t bottom out, I didn’t die and I didn’t find myself needing anything that I would usually pack and drag along. It felt really nice, being able to just step out of the house and go somewhere. It felt “non-diabetic.” I’d like to say it felt normal, but I’ve had Type-1 Diabetes for so damn long that being Diabetic feels normal to me.

I’ve managed to compress what I carry throughout the course of a day into one small, single-shouldered sling and it usually contains the following:

  • Fast-Acting Carbohydrates: I favour jellybeans as they seem to work fastest for me;
  • Nasal Spray: I’ve had some mild sinus issues since childhood and occasionally need a spritz. Wearing a face mask also makes it harder to breathe;
  • Blood Glucose Meter: Besides the fact that my insulin pump seems to be a temperamental bitch who screams at me every couple of hours despite smooth blood sugars, frequent blood sugar testing is still required to ensure the proper calibration of my CGM. Plus, should there be an issue with the CGM, I need to have the ability to properly ascertain my blood sugar levels; and
  • Extra Supplies: This is a broad one, but it can involve anything, including spare pump supplies, extra insulin or added lancets and strips. There can be a lot more, depending on the situation.

Most of the time, it’s just for when I go out. But realistically, when I travel to Saskatoon overnight, I often opt for something small and portable to carry. Considering I travel up, get the injections, sleep it off then drive right back down the following day, I make a point not to pack a huge suitcase. There are no nights out on the town, requiring extra clothing or special stuff. But when I make a point to stop and take notice, I really never leave the house without bringing a whole shwack of crap! This comes from years of situations where I’ve developed a “better to have it and not need it” mentality, as it relates to Diabetes.

It felt nice to be out for a few hours without dragging a bunch of stuff. I almost felt normal, walking among people. Note that I said “almost.” Besides, as I said earlier, I’ve had Diabetes for so long that it seems normal to ME. I can hear some friends thinking, “Shawn? Normal…?” Come on, guys! Give me a break! I’m about as normal as I’m ever going to get. But seriously, if you’ve ever had a friend text you to randomly go for coffee or you’ve decided to go sit through a movie on a whim, appreciate that freedom for what it is. There are so many things that a Type-1 Diabetic needs to consider before leaving the house that it almost makes it tedious to do so. Don’t take the little freedoms for granted. Sometimes, they’re the best ones. ☯

April Fool’s Day

Believe it or not, April Fools, which is an unofficial holiday celebrated on April 1st, has been around for hundreds of years and is observed across the world by playing pranks or jokes on an unassuming person. This is usually followed by yelling “April Fools” when the prank has been executed. You may not get this unless you speak French, but I found an article on History.com that explains that the origins of April Fools potentially dates back to when France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. Those who were behind the times and still celebrated the New Year during the last week of March/first week of April were considered “April Fools” and would often have pranks played on them, such as sticking paper fish on their backs. This is why in French, these folks would be called “poisson d’avril,” which would have been nice to know when I was a kid. But I digress…

I thought that today, instead of a top-heavy post with tons of information, I’d keep things light and share some of the pranks I’ve had played on me through the decades. I can honestly admit that I was never one to play the pranks, myself. I usually found myself being on the receiving end. So without further ado, here are some of the top pranks I’ve had played on me by others…

Years ago, I was a manager for a fast-food chain and was working a tandem shift with another manager through a reasonably busy dinner period. Some of the younger staff knew me as an easy-going supervisor and had no qualms about pranking me. At one point, I get told that the employee at the drive thru window badly needed change for the customer currently at her window. They said it was a rush, since it was holding up the line. I responded accordingly and ran down the drive thru hallway, which my loyal staff had sprinkled with floor soap (without the water). The result was my so-called “no slip” shoes sending me careening down the hallway and slamming into a wall, with half a dozen teenagers laughing hysterically as I picked myself up. I thought having them mop up the soap would have been deserved justice, but they considered it a small price to pay for the laughs they got.

Some time ago, I was working at my computer and I had my supervisor come running past me while strapping on his gear saying, “Come on, Shawn! We have an emergency, we gotta go!” I jumped out of my seat, grabbed my coat and slammed my arm through the sleeve only to be rewarded by a showering spray of shredded paper flying out of the hand-hole and littering the floor. My co-workers dropped their panicked facade and doubled over laughing, once again making me the butt of the joke. Don’t even get me started on how my field coach used to throw a quick squirt of pepper spray into my morning coffee when I wasn’t looking…

There’s a lot more, but some of it isn’t suitable for print and some are rather embarrassing. I know, I know… That’s probably the good stuff you’d love to ACTUALLY hear about. But I also want to keep this post reasonably short. The point is, I’ve never really been much of one for playing pranks, but they can be fun in the right context. The important thing is to make sure you do nothing that has the potential to cause damage or injure anyone. And if playing pranks on your co-workers, be sure to keep it appropriate to the work environment AND the person you’re doing it on. We don’t all have the same sensibilities… ☯

A Little Something To Inspire…

I usually write my posts ad nauseam, and often require a number of edits to eliminate them being twice as long as they are once they’re posted. Once in a while, I like to post something that simply to look at, without all the necessary background, citations and references. So, here’s what I found last week while randomly surfing the web…

I forget exactly where I found this little gem, but I’ve seen it floating around in a few places. What I love about this photo is the absolute look of intensity and determination on the kid’s face, despite the fact he’s tethered to what appears to be an oxygen tank. I’m ignoring the fact that he appears to be one belt shy of black, despite his young age. Let’s not go there.

But it goes a long way towards showing how much determination can pay off in the long run, and the fact that motivation has to come from within. This little guy reminds me of myself when I was younger. All guts and determined to live and grow stronger, despite the pitfalls and medical challenges that life threw at me. As long as you keep fighting, may lose some battles but eventually you’ll win the war. ☯

Two Strikes, You’re Out…

I think it’s a pretty fair assumption to say that war is a horrible thing. Although will will, by definition be a winning side and a losing side, I think we can all agree that everyone loses when war becomes the only viable option. It should be obvious that I would oppose war, given that it kind of goes against the whole “don’t spread suffering” thing that we Buddhist likes to tell people. But in an effort to let go of this morning’s sarcasm (like I could ever do that), there have been countless wars throughout human history; many of which we don’t even know about as they haven’t been covered by mainstream media.

Every war and/or battle has its horror and losses, but few have resonated with the world quite like the dropping of the atomic bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. Japan has always held a special place in my heart, as I’ve grown up and been exposed to its history and culture almost more so than my own. And once in a blue moon, while researching one thing I’ll stumble upon something else. This brings me to Mr. Tsutomu Yamaguchi.

I was following a routine for a while where I would write about an influential martial artist that either inspired me through their films or impressed me and drew me to the martial arts through their skills. But it dawns on me that the martial arts incorporates a lot of values that are rarely discussed. Things such as indomitable will, perseverance and survival instinct. And those values can be inspiring as well. Yamaguchi’s story resonates with me, because it shows how indomitable a person can really be, even when faced with lethal devastation.

To provide a bit of background, Yamaguchi was employed by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as an engineer. On August 6th, 1945 he unfortunately found himself in Hiroshima when “Little Boy” was dropped. He had been in Hiroshima for a period of time on business, and was a only a couple of miles away from the spot that Little Boy exploded. He suffered several injuries, including temporary blindness, ruptured eardrums and radiation burns. But he managed to make his way to a bomb shelter and take refuge. He spent the night in this shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day, which is where he lived.

Now, I want all of you to think about this for a second… A massive explosion takes place, miles away from where you’re standing. Not only does it still manage to knock you off your feet, but you find yourself temporarily blind, deaf and burned. But you still have the sheer strength of will and wantonness to survive and crawl yourself to a shelter. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty badass, all things considered. I don’t know if I’d have that much fortitude and I think that a good percentage of people in today’s society would likely curl up into the fetal position ad wait to be rescued. I’ve seen some people do that for non-lethal injuries. But I digress…

On August 7th, 1945 Yamaguchi returned to Nagasaki and on the morning of August 9th, he reported to work. Are you kidding me??? I’ve seen coworkers of mine call in sick because their SPOUSE didn’t get enough sleep but this guy survives a nuclear bomb drop and goes to work just over 48 hours afterwards, despite being injured? Like I said… badass! Anyway, to add salt to the wound, Yamaguchi was at work describing the Hiroshima blast to his boss when “Fat Boy” was dropped on Nagasaki. Once again, he found himself at a couple miles away from the blast and survived once again.

Despite being present at both atomic bombings, Yamaguchi went on to live a long and reasonably healthy life before succumbing to stomach cancer and passing away in 2010 at 93 years old. He kind of reminds me of my grandfather, with the exception that my grandfather was a soldier when exposed to war. The takeaway is that Yamaguchi was an engineer, a civilian and the unfortunate reality is that the innocent always pay a cost when wars are fought.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi’s story is inspiring to me because he continued to push on and fight, despite the deadly adversity he faced throughout that period in history. He was a husband and father of two daughters and live nearly a century. His will to survive was incredible and if nothing else, the man deserves a tip of the cap for his work ethic. I’m pretty certain that if an atomic bomb got dropped in Regina today, I likely wouldn’t be reporting to work a couple days later and discussing it with my boss as though it was nothing.

There were apparently many people to survive both bombings, but Yamaguchi became the only one recognized by his government as having done so. Either way, he may not know of the impact and influence he’s had on the world as a result of his will to survive. But he definitely inspired me. It’s important to keep on fighting the good fight and survive no matter the obstacles you face. You’ll be all the better for it. ☯

Virtual Karate Dojo

It should come as no surprise that just about everything has moved to some sort of online forum in the past year. In my household, we’ve even started doing some shopping and Costco orders online and had them delivered; something we had never done prior to the pandemic. Considering that most things have been slowly moving towards online options in the past decade or so, the pandemic has been that last little push that was needed to force us to do everything else without face-to-face-contact. This week, the karate club I train with started having classes on Zoom.

Our Zoom Meeting Dojo (That’s me in the blue!)

It was a strange and different experience, that much I can say. As you can see from the image above, we all met via Zoom and took instruction from Master Harding as he guided us through an hour’s workout. It was interesting to see everyone who had made do with whatever space they had available in living rooms, basements and home dens. I was among the lucky ones that had a large, open space to work with that included my black, foam workout mats. But as I’ve written in previous posts, karate doesn’t require much more than a four by six-foot space to train in. And the group proved that, over the sixty minutes that followed. ☯

International Women’s Day

You all know that I have a tendency to rag on most of these modern, Westernized holidays. Especially when you get these ridiculous ones, like National Donut Day, Coffee Day, Beer Day and Poutine Day… Granted, I LOVE all of those things, so I’m more than willing to observe such days, despite the frivolousness of them. So it dawns on me that it’s SUPER easy to observe a day dedicated to the aspect of my life I love the most: my wife. Today is International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day actually came into existence in 1911 in Canada, and is observe in order to celebrate all things woman! And there’s a lot! I’ve been lucky enough to grow up, work and befriend so many strong, capable women in my life. And even luckier still to have found and married the best one. In the daily grind of our lives, it can be easy to forget or miss just how much the women in our lives do for us. I, for one, am grateful that I found a woman who shows me every day that despite the lonely nature of life, I never have to face anything alone. ☯

How I Discovered I Had Type-1 Diabetes

I’ve been a huge fan of Cobra Kai since it was released to YouTube and I was absolutely over the moon when it came to Netflix and even more so with the release of Season 3. About a year ago, I scribe to Mary Mouser’s channel and discovered that she was Type-1 Diabetic as well, and she had made a rather heartfelt and emotional video about how she was diagnosed and how’s it’s affected her life. In that spirit, I decided to do the same and the video below explains the when and how that I was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes in 1982, and the impact it’s had on me. Enjoy! ☯