Happy Birthday, Dear Brother…

On this day in 1972, my brother Stephane was born. Or rather I should say, my mother delivered him. A complicated birth, he was stillborn and doctors had to remove him through emergency C-section in order to save my mother. Although he came out without signs of life, they managed to revive him and thus my mother’s firstborn was here! His father, a deadbeat who considered my mother a one-night stand, denied his parentage of my brother, leaving my mother alone to raise a child during a time when such things were frowned upon.

Over a few short years, my mother learned to be independent of the world and protective of my brother, as he suffered double kidney failure while still and infant, developed cardiac issues and a condition called Fanconi Syndrome. It wasn’t until 1978 that my mother met my father, fell in love and claimed my brother as his own son. I was born months later. Please don’t do the math…

My brother and I, shortly after my birth, with my maternal grandmother

My brother was always a source of inspiration and a good example to me during my youth. Always in positive spirits despite the constant threat of death, he was always fast with a hug or an “I love you,” even to those who weren’t in his family. But maybe that’s the lesson; to my brother, the whole world was family. He was as protective of me as an older brother could be, despite the fact that in a few very short years, I outgrew and outweighed him by quite a bit. His body never grew beyond that of a small child.

I stayed by his side through most of my youth, watching his every move, learning valuable life lessons, never quite understanding the concept of mortality because even though he knew his death was imminent, he had a firm love and belief in God and knew where he was going. He also didn’t ever want to frighten me with talk of death or what he believed might become of him.

My brother lost his battle in April of 1991. It was a normal Monday; I was being prepped for school and he was getting ready to be brought to the hospital for weekly blood work. Even now, with everything I’ve learned, I have no idea what this bloodwork was looking for. I only knew that if the results were bad, he would be rushed by emergency flight to St. Justin’s Children’s Hospital in Montreal. On this one Monday, for whatever reason, he was admitted to our local hospital in Dalhousie, New Brunswick. He never came out.

Had he lived, my brother would be 49 years old, today. We often spoke of how things would be when we were older. He would buy a car and “let” me drive him around, unless he met a girl, in which I’d have to make myself scarce, of course. He continues to inspire me, even today. I always think to myself that if he could continue to fight through the constant threat of dying and still have the positive, outgoing personality he did, maybe my problems aren’t that bad. and if he could fight so vehemently, so could I. I carry that lesson, still.

Happy birthday, brother. You are still missed. ☯️

The End Of A Hairy Month…

I’m extremely proud of what I’ll be writing about today but not so proud of how much of a struggle it was to get here, so there may be a bit of a rant component built in. Buckle up! At the beginning of November, I decided to participate in “Movember,” which is a month intended to raise funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, men’s health and suicide prevention. It’s a solid initiative and I’ve been participating for years. For the most part, I’ve usually been a participant in someone else’s group. So I would donate my money, grow out my moustache in exchange for donations then shave on December 1st.

This year, I decided to play it a bit differently since I manage an actual staff. In response to this, I got a feel for everyone’s interest and it was decided I would lead the group in raising money and participating. We made our donations and started to eagerly grow our moustaches. In my zeal, I set our group’s goal to $500, which was a few hundred higher than what we had all contributed but quite modest when compared to how much others usually start GoFund Me’s and donation pages for. But to ensure my group’s success, I reached out on my social media platforms (here included) for help in reaching this goal. The results were disappointing…

Tom Selleck, eat your heart out! After photo, taken yesterday (I don’t have the before one available)

I’ve always believed that if one is able to help others, then one has a responsibility to do so. Although I totally understand that times are tough, I’ve never been one to ask for donations or help with fundraising. I give often, to different charitable organizations, even when I can only spares a few dollars. I’ve helped many, and despite the fact I’m writing the words now, I have always done so without the expectation of recognition or reciprocation. After all, why do something good if it’s just for some form of reward? At that point, it’s simply quid pro quo and not ACTUALLY doing something good…

So, why does it bother me so much that I had to ask repeatedly and often, across three different platforms containing hundreds of known associates, friends and family? The world has taken a significant hit below the belt in the past two years, but am I wrong to think that many if not most, could have contributed $10? $5? A dollar, even? If most of the people on my social media had done that, we would have no doubt reached and even exceeded our goal within the first couple of weeks.

At the end of the day, I can’t fault those who ignored my request for help… A big part of charitable giving is that it needs to come from the donor of their own choice. There can’t be an expectation. And I did have a number of people who provided donations and for that, I thank them sincerely from the bottom of my heart. My team and I are grateful and thanks to these donations, we reach $505 and I was able to shave this light-awful soup strainer off my face.

The experience has taught me a few things, including the fact that I believe next year, I’ll go back to simply being a participant instead of an organizer. I had deep thoughts about raising donations for Diabetes by cycling, but I think my place is to donate, not raise. Since I’ve never really done this before, I was somehow of the impression that more people would step up to lend a hand. Lesson learned. Rant over. ☯️

Lucky Number Seven…

Tempus fugit. Time flies. Yes, yes it does. Seven years ago I stepped into an entirely new world. I became a father. My son Nathan turned seven years old yesterday. At his request, we celebrated with pizza and a Spider-man cake. We also showered him with a number fo gifts, which included the Paw Patrol movie, a HUGE Paw Patrol vehicle (I can’t remember what they’re all called) and a visit from Grandma and Auntie. It was a good time and there’s no denying that he’s getting older. He’s coming into his own, developing his own personality and certainly challenges me on a daily basis.

Our first cuddle session, about a week after he was born. We were STILL in the hospital.

I still remember the day he was born. I should have been nervous and scared but I was more paranoid about what the hospital might do to him than his coming into the world. When he was finally out, my wife went to recovery and I stuck to him the whole time. He’s been a clingy, daddy’s boy ever since. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any kid, he drives me crazy sometimes. But I love him to alpha Centauri and back.

Proudly displaying his age, yesterday.
Being his usual, goofy self while I try on sweaters.
Let’s just ignore my double chin and that wound on my upper lip, shall we?

A non-stop dynamo of energy and motivation, Nathan has a wonderful view on life and is always ready with a hug or a long, convoluted story about what he believes the origin of a particular thing may be. If he carries this energy and imagination into his later years, he’ll go far in life. And I’m sure he will. ☯️

No Good Deed…

They say that no good deed goes unpunished…. I’m not sure I agree but some of the experiences I’ve lived through in the past three years would certainly seem to suggest this. But I was raised to believe that it’s important to help others if you can. In fact, my grandfather used to say that if you COULD help someone, you essentially have a responsibility to do so. For the majority of my life, that lesson has rattled around in my head every time I see someone struggling to carry something heavy, someone who needs help in a more ambulatory sense.

Last Thursday, I was at a retail location in the city and was walking to my car when I saw a small, silver Honda Civic sitting halfway out of a parking space and appeared to be spinning in place. Two guys appeared to be pushing at the front of the car and I thought to myself, Okay, they got this. I’ll just get myself home… Then I heard one of the guys say, “You’re hung up bad, dude. We can’t get you out.” And both guys walked away. What? you push once, car doesn’t move so you walk away from this guy who’s by himself? That dog won’t hunt, monseigneur!

I walked over to find a skinny, young guy trying to shovel himself out with a small shovel and appeared despondent. I offered to push while he gave the car small bursts of acceleration. I instructed him to cut his wheels a particular direction, but there was a significant language barrier and he basically just floored the accelerator and waited while I struggled against the vehicle. Now, I’m not an Olympian by any standard but I’m also not the smallest guy around. And a Honda Civic is a pretty small and light vehicle. That’s why it was hung up; it didn’t have enough weight to touch ground through the snow.

I heaved, pushing and lifting with my legs and giving it all my strength. My back popped and cracked and groaned in protest but the car started moving. trying to make the driver understand to allow the vehicle to rock back and forth to help get it out of its rut, but that wasn’t happening. He had me take the wheel, citing that I’d likely know how better to drive. not sure where THAT came from, but I gave it a try. When that didn’t work, I went back to trying to push.

The big problem is that he was blocking an entire travel lane for the parking lot and people were sliding around, trying to avoid his rear bumper and nearly colliding with other, oncoming vehicles. I felt I couldn’t just leave this guy to deal with all this alone. I also recognized that if it were my wife stuck in this situation, I’d want someone coming to help her if I wasn’t there.

Two other people finally came and helped me push and the driver’s vehicle finally got out. But the damage was done. My back flared and I could already feel a tightness beginning that I knew I would be paying for later. When i got home and explained to my wife what had happened , she quickly gave me some anti-inflammatory caplets. But the pain persisted and worsened as the evening progressed. The worst came when I bent over to hug my toddler and the pain flared like a bright light behind my eyes, to the point where tears started rolling down.

My wife asked if I needed a hospital visit. Not in today’s climate, thank you very much! Besides, I didn’t have four to six hours to wait in a triage room for the staff to send me home with ibuprofen. My back wasn’t broken, I likely just pulled something. It feels alright at the moment but I’ve certainly been taking it easy, the past few days. Winter has just started and this isn’t the time to be out of commission, considering that snow won’t remove itself.

Do I regret helping that person? Would I have reconsidered, had I known I would injure myself? In retrospect, it’s easy to say no but I likely would have altered how I would have given that help in order to prevent injury. But this taught me two things: I’m no longer young as springtime and my body has no compunctions against letting me know. It also shows that strength isn’t everything. Even if one is strong enough to do a thing, it won’t necessarily mean you SHOULD do a thing. But helping another human being is important, and definitely felt good despite the pain. Worth it. Food for thought…☯️

I Need Help With Movember…

For those who may not be aware, the month of November is known as “Movember,” where men from all over channel their inner 80’s porn star and piss off their respective partners by growing out their moustaches to help raise funds for prostate and testicular cancer, as well as suicide prevention and general men’s health. I’ve participated every year for more years than i can recall, but this year I decided to go in a different direction and established a team among my staff. We’ve all participated and made donations, setting a modest goal of $500 for the month.

My team and I have already managed to raise $290 in donations, but there’s only ten days left to the month! I’ve posted to Facebook and Snapchat as well, and it’s my hope that some of my followers can help by pitching in $5 or $10 dollars to help us cross the finish line. As a general rule, I never use my blog as a platform to solicit for things. But I could really use your help. Times are tough for everyone but every little bit helps. If you can find it within yourself to spare a couple of dollars, you can find my team’s Movember page by visiting the Movember Home Page, clicking on “Donate,” select “give to a person or team and search for me by name (Shawn Cook).

How can you say no to this majestic ‘stache?

I’m a firm believer in asking when you need help. If you can’t donate, no worries. No harm, no foul. Just scroll on by and tomorrow will be a new post with actual content. My word on it. But if you can/do donate, thank you. My grandfather had prostate cancer and several members of my family have had SOME form of cancer. We all know someone who does. Peace. ☯️

My New Basement…

It’s been a long, winding road for my basement… It started over a year ago, when our foundation shifted and allowed a bunch of ground water to seep into the open area of our living space. It damaged a bunch of personal property and basically rendered the basement unliveable, which really sucked since I had my workout area AND my home office in our basement. This would have come in handy for the months where my current organization allowed for work-from-home conditions. Your can see the original basement and some of the progress in a previous post entitled Home Is Where The Cost Is. But I digress…

This short video shows the finished (basically) product of our basement renovations. Not only do I have a second, functional bathroom once again but the completed renovations will also allow me to once again have a home office from which I can occasionally work. I’m quite impressed with the work that’s been done and I have to give a shoutout to Grasshopper Construction for all their hard work and skill. ☯

Another “How Did I Get Here” Moment…

As with all things in life, our motivation can change to reflect our current situation in life. When someone studies the martial arts for decades, their reason to continue doing it can be significantly different from the reason behind why they started. this can apply to a number of things in one’s life, not least of which is blogging. I bring this up because I realized this morning that yesterday happens to be my 1000th post since starting this blog. I could have posted about it yesterday, but since it was Remembrance Day, I felt the attention should go to that. But once again I find myself asking, how did I get here…

I created this blog for a number of reasons. These reasons included the public’s ignorance of my chosen topics, which are Buddhism, Diabetes and the martial arts, with a healthy sprinkling of health & fitness thrown in. I mean the term “ignorance” by its purest definition, that many people simply don’t know a great deal about these topics and a blog provides me with the opportunity to share the information I’ve accumulated over my relatively short (but still feels long) life. It’s not meant as an offence or to slight anyone.

Over a period of time of almost three years, I’ve made connections and touched base with like-minded people through the blogging world, and I’ve learned a great deal as well. My presence here has enabled me to not only increase and maintain my writing and research skills but has allowed me the opportunity to become a follower to many very talented writers who share information in much the same way that I do. It’s been an added benefit of my continued efforts to post material on a daily basis, despite the increasing daily grind of life.

Hitting 1000 posts

I’ve noticed that one of the beautiful things about blogging, other than having a forum to express oneself and share information, is that there are a number of important milestones that the author can enjoy. These include number of followers, number of posts, length of time writing and more. It makes it easy to always find something to motivate one to write. My blogging journey has inspired me to better things and has even encouraged me to start gathering some thoughts of writing a book. Light help the world if someone actually decides to publish something I write.

Either way, it’s been an amazing journey and it’s far from over. My hope is that someday my children will be able to read these posts and gain some insight into their old man from way back when. Thanks to all those who have been reading and following, including my YouTube channel (also called “The Blogging Buddhist”). Y’all keep reading ‘em. I’ll keep writing ‘em. here’s to the next 1,000 posts. ☯️

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day always holds a bit of a special place in my heart. It’s a day dedicated to the memory of armed forces members who have died in the line of duty. It’s always been special to me, even during my childhood, by virtue of my grandfather being a veteran of World War II. Given that this is the first year that I am a veteran myself, the day takes a bit of a deeper meaning. I could into detail about the origins of this day, including how it was established by King George V after World War I in 1919. But instead, I really much rather focus on my grandfather…

My grandfather Lionel Poirier, in uniform

My grandfather was old school. He worked all the trades, including carpentry and blacksmithing. He worked for the local paper mill, back home in Dalhousie, New Brunswick. He ironically met my grandmother when he was arranged to marry her sister. Obviously, things didn’t go as planned. They got married shortly before my grandfather shipped out to Europe during World War II. When he returned home, he and my grandmother grew a large family that included seven children, one of which is my mother.

I grew up listening to my grandfather’s stories about the war. He was never shy to provide explicit detail despite my age, claiming that shielding me from the realities of what freedom cost was foolish and that I deserved to know what it took to keep the world free from tyranny. I sat quietly and listened to his stories while he worked the wood he used to build furniture, which he sold. His wooden swings and lawn chairs can still be seen here and there in the North Shore area of New Brunswick. I have no words for the love and admiration I have for that man.

In some ways, a lot of ways, my grandfather was the inspiration for the direction my life has taken. Wanting to help and protect others became an ambition for me, thanks to the stories and the bravery instilled in me by his example. That’s why this day is important. More than just an excuse to wear a poppy or attend a public ceremony, we get to enjoy many of the freedoms we have today, thanks to brave individuals like my grandfather.

Sadly, my grandfather passed away in 2013. But his example and influence lives on in me, as I’m sure it does with the others in our family. To my Canadian readers, takes time to observe this day. Stay away from Christmas decorations and other social focus and remember those who left their families and loved ones behind to go keep the world safe. War is never a good thing. But if and when it happens, we can all sleep a little easier knowing that men like my grandfather fought to end it. ☯️

Be Wary Of Your Vices…

I was pretty much a stranger to alcohol until much later in life than any of my peers. I had my first beer at the age of 23, when I travelled to Japan. Prior to that, I had never consumed alcohol as some of my family members had faced alcoholism and had medical complications as a result. Being as that I was finally controlling my blood sugars and making some headway into proper health by my early 20’s, the last thing I wanted to do was introduce alcohol into the mix.

Once I had travelled to Japan and Okinawa, where the refusal of something offered is frequently seen as an insult, I allowed myself to enjoy some drinks and came to find that there was nothing to it. In fact, I even got reasonably tipsy on a couple of occasions and never really noticed the negative effect it was having on my blood sugars. Even when I brought up the fact I shouldn’t be drinking beer to the Okinawans due to my Diabetes (which is called toonoogio in Japanese, FYI) they offered me sake instead, claiming it was better for someone with my condition. Alrighty, then…

When I returned to Canada, I slid off the rails a bit. I may have written about this before but to be honest, who remembers? So confident had I become in my newfound enjoyment of beer and alcohol, I started enjoying it liberaly, much to the dismay of anyone in my immediate surroundings. Things came too a head one night at a party where I decided to fight some guy who was hitting on the little sister of the girl I was involved with. The evening pretty much ended there and it was a bit of a wake-up call for me.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy the occasional drink when out playing pool or something. But that first incident showed me the potential danger I could be to others and how vulnerable I was leaving myself. Things didn’t TRULY reach a head until some time later, when I was at party in the woods at a small cabin my friends had nicknamed “the camp.” This was a small , homemade log cabin built by one of our friends and his brothers and was the usual site for any social get-togethers. it’s main feature was that it had power and a wood stove, and a small fridge for storing beer and drinks.

I mean, what could go wrong? Cramming a dozen teenagers/20-year olds into a small wooden structure in the woods and let them drink copious amounts of alcohol, right? As one might reasonably expect, there were fights, arguments, uninvited groping and people drinking far more than they should then wandering off into the woods to alleviate themselves of their liquid burden. It was late fall and although there was no snow, there was a frost on the ground and it was cold. The path to access the cabin required a ten-minute walk at sober speeds and led to the house of the guy who had built the cabin.

That’s when it happened…. One of our friends, I’ll call him “Luke,” was sitting on one of the old truck benches we used as a couch and was staring off into space. When I say staring off into space, I don’t mean the kind of idle staring that you get from being bored or thinking deep thoughts about something…. I mean his head was lolled to one side and his gaze was empty and without conscious substance. A couple of us approached him and asked if he was okay. No response. I pinched the loose skin at the side of his neck in an effort to elicit a pain response. Again, no response. Then his gag reflex kicked in and he trickled vomit out of his mouth like a baby spitting up.

This was the final sign to what I feared; Luke had alcohol poisoning. When someone isn’t conscious enough for the vomit to actually fly out and it just comes out at a slow trickle, you know it’s bad! I didn’t know what he had drank or even how much. I only knew that his life was in danger and I was one of only two people among the group who were sober. I was completely sober for two reasons. The first is because I drove to the location and if watching multiple after-school specials during my childhood has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t drink and drive. The second is that I’m extremely paranoid and worry about being in the forest while intoxicated, as you never know what might happen. Who’s laughing now, everyone who’s ever told me to lighten up?

I enlisted the help of my sober counterpart and a couple of the others who weren’t falling all over themselves. Luke was a bit of a hefty fellow, to say the least, and I would never have been able to get him down the walking path and into my vehicle without some help. It took about half an hour to get him through what would have been a 10-minute walk. Time was ticking and I knew that if I didn’t get him to a hospital soon, he could potentially die. We got him loaded into my vehicle, which was a 1983 Toyota Tercel hatchback. There was only room for four people, so I took the sober guy and one other.

It was the fastest I had ever driven in my life, prior to becoming a police officer. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel and since we were on the Quebec side needing to cross over back into New Brunswick, I kept praying I wouldn’t encounter any law enforcement as Luke’s life could literally depend on NOT being delayed. I crossed the bridge to New Brunswick and gunned it to Campbellton, which was where the hospital was located. I made it there in just over half the time it would have taken, under normal circumstances.

When we arrived at the hospital, I took responsibility for Luke by digging out his wallet and finding ID and a health card and contacted his father to attend the hospital. He was wheeled into the main area of the hospital where I couldn’t follow. When his father arrived, I explained what had happened and how we came to be here. He was brought back behind the door I couldn’t access to be with him. At the time, I remembered thinking how rude it was that he didn’t thank me for saving his son’s life. In retrospect, I realize he likely had bigger concerns on his mind…

With nothing left to do and no one who needed me, I left the hospital. I dropped off my passengers and headed home. I didn’t sleep that night as my mind was occupied, wondering what had become of Luke. Had he survived? Was he okay? Was he conscious? I considered calling the hospital to ask then reconsidered since I was not a member of the family and it was likely that no information would be shared with me.

It took a couple of days for my stomach to unclench and it really only happened when I had gotten word at work that Luke would be absent for a few days to recover. We worked at the same place, in case vI hadn’t mentioned that. This meant that he had survived. It wasn’t until a week later that he caught with me at a local magazine store. I remember that I was reading an article on Wing Chun in an issue of Black Belt Magazine when he walked up. He shook my hand and thanked me for saving his life. I rather think the hospital staff saved his life, but I guess it’s a matter of perspective. He asked me how he could ever thank me and all I could think to say was, “Don’t ever put yourself or anyone else in that position ever again and we’re square.”

I moved on to different things and different people after that. The event seriously altered my perspective on the people I surrounded myself with, and the activities that I allowed to happen around me. I became the puritan who opposed the consumption of alcohol and the use of drugs in my presence. This made me an outcast in the groups I had previously associated with. But I didn’t care. I had been scared straight and didn’t want to ever expose myself to that kind of a situation again. Even today, I usually won’t enjoy a drink outside of my home. And when I do, I have my one drink and be on my way. The world is too dangerous a place to allow anything more.

I think about Luke once in a while and wonder what ever became of him. Did he change his habits? Turn his life around? The focus of this post isn’t about my intervening in the situation. It’s about how quickly one’s vices can get out of hand, often with deadly consequences. Most people will be inclined to defend their choices. But it isn’t until you’re in the mud that you realize you’re sinking. And by that point, it can be too late. Moderation is key. I often enjoy a glass of wine of a vodka soda in the comfort of my home. I do so for the relaxing effect, the flavour experience and because I feel safe at home. But i have the distinct pleasure of knowing that I‘ll never find myself in that kind of a situation unless it’s to once again come to someone’s aid. And neither should you. Food for thought…☯️

Letting Sleeping Ghosts Lie…

So, my October 13 celebration/grieving was a bust… My wife warned me that this would happen. Another testament to how one should always listen to one’s spouse. Typically, I would have a home office in which I could write, stream some shows and be alone with my thoughts. This usually allows me to reflect and think back on my past experiences and what has brought me here. This year, since our basement isn’t completed, I had nowhere to go besides our living room. And that seemed to fall short for what I’ve usually done in the past.

Once supper was served, I was able to coax my son Nathan with the promise of holding on to his device if he completed a couple of homework tasks on it first. He agreed I got him squared away in his room with water and snack. Check. The youngest, however… Our evenings are typically on the quieter side since Alexander is usually pretty calm when his older brother Nathan isn’t in the picture. But for some reason, either because there was a full moon I was aware of or some stars aligned against me, or perhaps we can simply go with my usual belief that life doesn’t care about one’s plan, he was a roiling Tasmanian Devil of energy and was destroying everything in sight.

By the time we managed to get him to actually go to bed, I was physically and emotionally exhausted (not from him) and just wanted to go to bed. Which I did. Like an old man. Then I slept for over 11 hours, leaving behind the last instance of celebrating the day I completed basic training and took to the field. I’d like to say it was a restful sleep, but I woke up the next morning feeling as though I had been struck by a freight train. This is a testament to the fact that one can potentially sleep TOO long.

I did get one silver lining on Wednesday, which came in the form of an old troop mate reaching out to me: Randy Tabada. Y’all may remember Tabada, if you read the post I wrote back in February of 2020. If you didn’t, you can read it here. Tabada was a member of my troop during basic training. Our bunks were across the aisle from one another and he was one of the few select people from our troop that I actually spent time with, outside of the training environment. When he came back to Regina in February of 2020 to take some courses at the academy, I had the opportunity to share a meal and fond memories with him.

It was wonderful to get his phone call and reconnect with him. We discussed a number of outstanding issues that we’ve both been facing and we agreed how it was a little sad that out of a troop of 32, neither of us really had contact with anyone besides each other. I recall making an effort to reach out to everybody prior to our 10-year anniversary with the intention of organizing a reunion. I sent out a feeler email to see who would be amenable to getting together. The negative response was almost unanimous, which was a little sad.

At the end of the day, I didn’t get to observe my special day the way I would have chosen. Such is life. Although my intention is to rediscover myself and find out who I am outside of my previous career, I knew there wouldn’t be some climactic revelation or fireworks involved. But given that I’m now a veteran, it would have been nice to reminisce in my own way, one last time. Especially since my intention is to prohibit Fireball (or most other forms of alcohol) from ever entering this house again. I’m a veteran. It feels weird to say. It’s a title I usually always associated with my grandfather, but one that I’ll carry with pride. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to step out into the world and discover who I am. Or rather, who I may become…☯️