Just Read It…

I found this online a few days ago and I just had to share it. I forget where, it might have been on my facebook feed from one of my friends. There’s no branding to it and I honestly can’t remember, so let’s just enjoy the moment. Peace is important and in fact, integral to a happy life. Whether it’s world peace, peace in one’s own life or peace in others. ☯️

Jingle Hell, Jingle Hell, Snow Is On The Ground… 🎵

If there’s one certainty in life, it’s that fate conspires against us. For about a month now, I’ve been discussing with my wife how we need to empty and store our vegetable planters, buy some shovels and dig out the snow brushes in anticipation of the coming winter. My wife also needs a new pair of winter boots. One of the big things I’ve really needed to get done is to rake up all the leaves on the lawn so that snow doesn’t layer itself on top of them and make a huge fuckin’ mess that will need to be cleaned once spring comes…

I woke up on Sunday morning to find a blizzard occurring outside my kitchen windows. Considering NONE of the list written out above has been accomplished, it poses a bit of an issue. We usually spend Sunday grabbing groceries for the week, running errands and taking care of whatever’s needed in anticipation of the coming week. Since my snow brushes are buried somewhere deep in my garage, there are some challenges. Plus, our snow shovels are either cracked, broken or too small for clearing some of the wet, heavy snow that fell yesterday.

Despite the fact that it’s the month of October, winter is here. It’s one of those things where, during the summer we complain that it’s too hot out and once snow starts falling, we tend to think it’s too cold out. We’re never happy. But there are benefits to either season. The summer allows outdoor activities and travel. The winter allows my kids and I to pelt each other with snowballs. Win-win. There’s a distinctive beauty to a quiet snowfall. Too bad that beauty involves shovelling, wearing thick clothing and slippery roads. Balance, right? ☯️

Here’s To Ya, Lads…

I’ve always said that one should never have regrets. After all, it’s kind of hard to regret any choice or action, good or bad, that may have brought you to the here and now. After all, it would mean you may have become an entirely different person and that person may not be the awesome one we see, today. However, no regrets doesn’t mean no reflection and looking back on where you’ve been and what you’ve done is significantly important, if not only for the fact that those who forget the past may repeat it, but because reflection is important for self-development. But before I go too far into a philosophical post, that isn’t the purpose of today’s post.

A couple of decades ago, I made a life choice that would ultimately set me on the path of my current life. After a failed attempt at getting through college and no immediate direction in life, I made the choice to enlist in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was a difficult choice, since neither my family nor Sensei approved of this choice but it felt right for me. I signed up and attended an information session, which was said to be the first step in the application process. When the info session wrapped up, we were all expected to sign up for the written exam. When I found out the written exam was several hours long, I asked about accommodations for Diabetes, which led to the response that Diabetics weren’t accepted.

My grandfather and I, the week of my graduation.

Although my plans were essentially crushed, I considered them only to be “on hold.” As is the case with most things in life, nothing lasts forever and I knew that eventually I might be able to find a way in. Municipal police forces in New Brunswick required attendance at Holland College in PEI, which I couldn’t afford. So I had to bide my time and continue to develop myself, which I did. I focused on my fitness. I gained life experience and grew my professional portfolio. I took a lot of steps towards ensuring that if/when the day came that I would be a prime candidate, regardless of Diabetes. And sure enough, that day eventually came…

In April of 2009, I travelled from Dalhousie, New Brunswick to Regina, Saskatchewan to begin 24 weeks of intensive training that would mold me into a Mountie. It was a rough six months and my troop and I went through a number of ups and downs during that time, including the loss of some of our troop mates for varying reasons. But when we finally reached that initial finish line and received our badges, we stepped out into the world with the intention of doing whatever good we could. And that all started at graduation, on October 13, 2009.

My parents and I

It would become something of an ironic joke that I was posted in Saskatchewan, especially since I’m fully bilingual and there were seven bilingual positions available in New Brunswick and only four of us in the troop spoke French. But I accepted my posting with grim determination and accepted it as a way of starting a new chapter in my life and leaving behind some painful ones, back home. I was posted to a small town in west-central Saskatchewan called Kindersley. This would be where I would be posted the longest and where I would meet some of the best people I’ve had the honour of working with.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain that being a police officer isn’t all fun and games. There’s a lot of negative involved, including the constant need to be hard on people, dealing with death on a constant basis and often seeing the darker side of society, even when it’s from people you wouldn’t have assumed would be so. Couple that with the fact that policing is no longer a respected career path and people don’t give credit where credit is due anymore, made for some VERY choppy waters to navigate. But I’ve looked back on my policing career and have had the benefit of knowing that I’ve saved lives. I’ve prevented and solved crimes. I’ve found missing persons and I’ve trained others to follow in my footsteps, which up until recent years was the most satisfying aspect of said career.

My wife and I

My policing career also brought me a number of things in my life, outside the sphere of law enforcement. I met my wife in Saskatchewan. Both my sons were born in Saskatchewan and I’ve come to know this place as home. In 2010, the few of us from my troop who were posted to Saskatchewan met up and did a shot of Fireball to celebrate our completed year with the Force. As the years melted away, that number was increased to accommodate the given anniversary. Two shots at two years, three shots at three years, etc… It was a tradition that I had been keeping alive, but I’ll admit that at the 10-year mark, it was starting to get difficult, bordering on alcohol poisoning, to continue on.

As this year marks 13 years since I walked into the RCMP Training Academy at “Depot” Division, I don’t think I’ll be downing 13 shots of Fireball. I may just have to find some different way of celebrating and develop a new observance. As I get older, I’m realizing I don’t have the constitution of a teenager anymore. Hell, I didn’t have the constitution of a teenager when I WAS a teenager. But I digress… It’s been a hell of a ride and I’ll always look back on my time with the Force with pride and fond memories, even in the face of the pain and difficulty that came with the past few years. I don’t know where all my troop mates have ended up and where their careers have gone. But i know I miss them al and hope they’re being safe.

Here’s to ya, lads! I’d love to share a photo of my troop but knowing that some of them may be involved in dangerous assignments where their identities are confidential and everything on the internet is free game, I’ll reserve those photos for myself. Although I’ve set down my badge to pursue the next chapter of my life, my blood will always be blue. And I hope all of my troop mates are taking a moment to appreciate where they are, this day. Ironically, Troop 5’s 13-year anniversary on October 13th. ☯️

Happy Thanksgiving, Ya Hosers…

Happy Turkey-Day! I have to be honest, I spent my entire childhood and even the majority of my adult life having no fuckin’ idea WHY Canada celebrates thanksgiving. I mean, I get why the United States does it; it’s part of their history and an integral part of their story as to how they became a country (although not the greatest story, depending on who you talk to. But I didn’t think we had anything like that here in Canada. All throughout my childhood, I enjoyed the benefit of getting a day off from school on Thanksgiving without ever really knowing the reason behind it. And believe it or not, I would come to realize the reason for this holiday from the most unlikely source…

Believe it or not, I learned of the origins of Canadian Thanksgiving from the sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. In a particular episode, Robin Scherbatsky, played by Canadian-born actress Cobie Smulders, explains that Canadian Thanksgiving is the day of celebration of a explorer Martin Frobisher’s attempt at locating the Northwest Passage. Ironically, I’ve heard of this Northwest Passage throughout most of my life. This Frobisher character, not so much. Anyway, he apparently celebrated and have thanks for the first time on their ship in 1578 and the existing government decided in 1859 to celebrate it as a holiday.

Who knew that despite the comedic nature of the scene, it was based on actual information? Anyway, I hope y’all are having a good weekend and enjoying the extra day off from work. It’s been a nice weekend of spending time with my wife and toddler, Alexander. This afternoon, we’ll be travelling to grab my first-born son, Nathan, from his grandmother with whom he’s spent the whole weekend with. As much as I love my son, I have to admit that it’s been a quieter weekend. But I’m very much looking forward to having him back. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! ☯️

A Little Water Goes A Long, Long Way…

Years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a a fun weekend the likes of which I had never experienced before and haven’t quite experienced since. I’m talking the weekend I canoed down the Restigouche River. By the time I had reached my teens, I had the opportunity to camp overnight in commercial campgrounds and do SOME things outside, but I had never truly experienced the outdoors and surviving on my own until I had the opportunity to paddle down the river with one of my oldest and dearest friends. He likely won’t be reading this so I can flip some shit about him but I’ll mostly be focusing on our first trip down the river.

When my friend first suggested this trip, it was described as a 3-day ordeal of paddling and exposure to the elements. I wasn’t quite on board, especially since it would involve missing some karate classes but he finally convinced me. My friend’s family owned a rental company so we had the benefit of getting the canoe, supply barrels and various equipment for free. His mother took both our wallets with the thought that if we lost it in the river, we’d be screwed. As good a thought as that was, at the time, reflection on that aspect decades later tells me that if something had happened to us on the river, authorities would have had no way to identify our bodies. But it all worked out, so I guess I digress…

We were driven north-west by one of my friend’s sisters and dropped off at a launching site. The adventure started when we realized that we would be hit by a solid bout of rain before we got on the river. I foolishly thought that we would throw in the towel but my friend pointed out that it would be pretty silly to sacrifice 3 days of fun on the river for a little rain. I agreed and we cast off. Although we immediately got drenched by the rain, we had a blast. We paddled for a number of hours before we found a spot on the river that was out of water and safe enough to set up camp for the night.

Restigouche River, taken from Wikipedia

We got a fire going, set up the tent and had an hour of quiet reflection as we chatted and snacked on the side of a river. The following morning, we shared the chores of getting the camp taken down as well as making a makeshift breakfast in a cast iron pan over a roaring campfire. It was a fantastic morning. We even had a forest ranger come visit and chat with us over coffee for while. No devices, no internet, no distractions. Nothing but good conversation and the open river.

We took to the water early on and started paddling down. We arrived at a part of the river where there was a deep, clear pool of water. We parked the canoe and tied it off and got in the water and floated down river in our life jackets for a bit. We were able to see so many freshwater salmon rushing around us. It was a fantastic experience. We set up camp for the second time that afternoon and spent some time swimming, laughing, signing A Cappella and enjoying the silent peace of the wilderness. It made me wonder why I had never done anything of this sort before. Then, I remembered that I was a Type-1 Diabetic and my parents were paranoid and shielded me from life. But I digress.

We reached the shores of Atholville, which meant that my friend’s family would be around to pick us up shortly. We were dehydrated, exhausted but happy. Our 3-day transit was a combination of intense exercise from the paddling and being in the elements. Packing up the canoe and our equipment almost felt like a tedious endeavour and took forever. That ride back into town felt surreal; like being in the civilized world was something we had left behind. But it didn’t take long for us to get back to my friend’s Apartment where a hunger the likes of which I haven’t felt in forever took hold.

It was hard getting back to normal after that. A few years later, we would follow-up with a second trip down the river. It’s fantastic fun. I highly recommend enjoying some time in the forest where you ACTUALLY have some time to connect with nature and disconnect from modern life. It’s been a couple of decades since those two river trips and all the fun we had. Maybe sometime ion the near future, I’l need to find a way to introduce my sons to that same level of peace and nature. ☯️

A Quieter Weekend…

So for some reason, my son had yesterday off from school. He still had the Monday holiday off, but he was given Friday off, as well. I don’t know if my parents thought this, but I can’t help but feel that he gets WAY more days off than I ever did when I went to school. Anyway, because he had a four-day weekend, my mother-in-law agreed to come to Regina and pick him up for the weekend. The result is one less child in the house for the weekend. This posed an interesting opportunity since I typically have a pretty fixed weekend routine. Friday night is when Nathan and I have our boys’ night. Saturday night is when my wife and I have our movie/tv night. Sunday is for laundry, grocery shopping and prepping for the week to come.

With Nathan gone, my Friday night suddenly became open. I’m a creature of habit so I don’t do all that well when there’s a change in my routine. What would I do? An extra movie night? Play with the baby? maybe if I had something resembling a life outside of work, home and karate I would go out for drinks with friends. But I’m not one of those people. Then my wife had an excellent suggestion; I should still have my “boys’ night” but with Alexander. He very rarely gets to hang out in the basement with me and he’s always calling for me when I’m in the house so it made sense and it was a good suggestion.

As much as I love him and as much as I hate to admit it, Alexander often gets overlooked. The reason behind that is quite simple; he and Nathan usually can’t be in the same room for extended periods, lest they harm each other or destroy their environment. I would expect no less from my loin-fruit. But because of this, Alexander is usually relegated to the living room where his toys and the television is located. I’d hang out in there more often but my OCD can’t handle the mess he makes with his toys and when I DO hang out in there, Nathan usually comes to the gate to get my attention and causes all sorts of chaos.

I know, I know… First world problems, am I right? I have two strong, healthy children and that should be enough. But controlling them both is challenging and frustrating, which usually leads to me hanging out with Nathan downstairs while Alexander hangs in the living room. Not last night. Oh no, sir! Not last night… Last night, I had the opportunity to spend some time downstairs with Alexander without Nathan upsetting the delicate balance of tranquility and quiet enjoyment of my toddler. We watched cartoons, played some games and enjoyed some cuddles. It was nice but more than anything else, it was important.

Life goes by in a flicker. A very short flicker. Alexander just turned 3-years old a little over a week ago and it seems like time has just flown. I honestly never knew time could fly by so fast until I had children. But appreciating the little moments makes it all seem better. Alexander and I had a fun night, last night. I’m sure my son Nathan had a god time with his grandmother, as well. Making time for both my children can be challenging but so rewarding and important. ☯️

Size Matters Not…

One of the big things that makes karate so particular, is the fact that you don’t have to be big and strong in order to study and practice it. I still remember asking Sensei’s son, back in the late 1980’s about what it takes to be successful in karate. The conversation went a little something like this:

ME: “What do you need to be in karate? Do you have to be strong?”
HIM: “Nope.”
ME: “Do you need good speed?”
HIM: “Nope…”
ME: “So, what do you need?”
HIM: “Just concentration.”
ME: “That’s it???”
HIM: “Yup, everything else comes later…”

It would take a year or two before I would realize that he was right; despite the fact I was a scrawny little punk with no constitution and no bodily strength, I started to gain mass, speed and precision, all of which started increasing exponentially based on how hard I focused my attentions on my training and concentrated. Who knew he’d be right? I guess it was bound to happen once, right? (Just kidding, Guillaume! Please don’t track me down and kill me…)

Size and strength goes a long way. After all, if two people square off and one is 6-foot-5 and 230lbs and the other 5-foot-7 and 185lbs, there’s a VERY strong likelihood that the bigger guy’s strikes will have more of an effect than the little guy’s. But the eventual development of speed and accuracy is what closes the gap. It’s like basic, high school physics teaches us; if two objects of different mass are accelerating at the same rate of acceleration, the one with the heavier mass will have the greater force on impact. Or similarly, if an object with half the mass accelerates at twice the rate, it will have the same force on impact as the larger one.

I don’t want to muddy the waters with a bunch of physics (I’ve done enough of that in other posts). My point is that the smaller and less imposing opponent can still pose as much of a challenge to defeat as the larger, more muscular one. That ability comes from consistent commitment, concentration and focus on your art and skills. I have to say that a great demonstration of that concept comes from the most unlikely source: Star Wars. In Empire Strikes Back, Yoda makes a point of telling Luke Skywalker, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not.”

That was in 1980. Imagine my surprise and the collective gasps and surprise everyone had, 22 years later during Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where Yoda fought against Count Dooku and suddenly emerged from the diminutive, walking cane-carrying little green character to an absolute whirlwind of flips, acrobatics and lightsaber techniques. Given his limited screen exposure during the original trilogy, it came as a pleasant surprise to see him using his Jedi skills in all their glory during the prequel trilogy. This was reflected further during Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where he fights against the Emperor.

The lesson here is that despite his small size, Yoda turned out to be amongst the most skilled and capable of his peers. The same concept applies to karate. When I look back at the weak, tiny and physically unimposing stature I had when I first started karate as compared to how I am now, I recognize that concept within myself. Granted, some of my mass and stature can now be attributed to my dad bod. But I digress… This is one of the things I enjoy about Cobrai Kai, as well. Some of the main characters were presented as having been what some consider to be skinny nerds, only to eventually turn out to become champions.

It shows that you should never allow what you perceive as your limitations to hold you back. Where you go and how your progress is entirely up to you. Karate has a place for anyone who choose to commit to it. Although different styles will suit different people, once you’ve decided on karate, you can go a long way towards building yourself up and achieving your goals. All you need is focus and concentration. Food for thought… Hey, look at that! I wrote a post that combines my martial arts and my nerdy, geeky side! Go, me! ☯️

Just For Laughs…

I gotta say, sometimes I just have to post something I’ve found because it makes me laugh or smile. Hey, they can’t all be long-winded explanations for shit, right? I found this while surfing other blogs and galleries. It took me several minutes to stop laughing over it, so here we are. Enjoy… ☯️

Tempus Fugit…

It seems like just yesterday that my wife announced we’d be adding a second bundle of chaos to our merry-go-round of a household… How in the light have we reached this point already? Yesterday marked my toddler-no-more Alexander’s third birthday. Because I’m busy and rarely on the ball, I didn’t post about it yesterday. And here we are…

There’s a lot to love about my chunky little red-headed ball of DNA. Besides his endless locks of bright, red hair (an aspect he inherited from both his mother and I) or the fact that he has some reasonable heft and weight to him that makes him formidable to handle, his slowly expanding vocabulary has started to make things interesting as he has begun to express himself and communicate more.

That, and his complicated and often violent relationship with his older brother keep things noisy and “interesting” within the Cook household. Although both brothers whine and pine for each other’s company, they rarely last more than ten to fifteen minutes before one of them ends up in tears. Such is the way with brothers, I guess. But I digress…

I still remember when Alexander was born. I was stuck in New Brunswick on a work-related trip and my wife went into labour during my absence. It took her, her mother and my mother to convince me that even if I jumped in a car and left for my departure airport that very moment, I still wouldn’t make it home in time. I was stuck on the other side of the country when my youngest-born came into the world, no doubt kicking and screaming. The light bless my mother-in-law, who came to my wife’s side and was there when I couldn’t be.

Since then, Alex has present a positive presence in our home. Always quick with a hug or kiss, he has a strong love for fighting and wrestling, hinting that he may be the successor in the martial arts that I’ve been wanting. He has a firm love for all of his family members and will usually get upset when he realizes that any one of us has left the house without him. His sneaky smile when he refuses to comply or listen is even adorable.

Happy birthday, Alexander! I can’t stress enough that I can’t believe it’s already been this long but after only three years, you’ve firmly rooted yourself in our lives to the point where I can’t recall how life felt before you came along. Such is the beauty of children. Here’s to many more happy years, my little peanut! ☯️

Cobra Kai Season 5: A Review (Major Spoilers)

As not only a life-long martial artists but a practitioner of karate, Cobra Kai holds a special place in my heart. The Karate Kid movies (not including that piece of shit with Jaden Smith in it, of course) introduced me not only to a genuine representation of Okinawan karate but the sequel introduced me to the beauty of Okinawa itself and firmly implanted itself as the place I would eventually wish to travel to, as I reached adulthood. I accomplished that dream in 2001 when I travelled to Japan and subsequently Okinawa with my Sensei and a couple of other students.

When Cobra Kai was originally introduced on YouTube, I was cautiously optimistic. The idea of a show based on what happened to Johnny Lawrence, decades after losing the big tournament was about as original and interesting a concept one could hope to have. Although a bit slow on the start (and limited to only two episodes without subscribing to youTube’s streaming service), it delivered some characters from the original movies reprising their roles 30 years later, and their roles appear to be reversed, with Daniel Larusso having become a successful business owner and Johnny Lawrence having fallen down on his luck and being essentially penniless.

The end of Season 4 sees all antagonists and protagonists facing off once again at the All-valley Karate Tournament, with Cobra Kai squaring off against Miyago Do and Eagle fang karate, led by Danial and Johnny respectively. A challenge was laid that meant the losing dojo would have to close its doors forever, leaving the valley to whatever karate dojo came out as winner. In an unexpected and refreshing twist of fate, the good guys actually lose, and Cobra Kai takes over the valley as its only karate dojo. The season closes out with Daniel speaking at Miyagi’s grave, about how he can’t honour an agreement made with someone who has none. He then asks for help in cutting the head off the snake and Chozen is revealed to be with him.

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s chat about season 5, which was conveniently released only a couple of days before my birthday. The season begins with Daniel and Chozen doing their best to try and derail Terry Silver’s plans, which also involved sending John Kreese to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, at the end of season 4. One of the things I enjoy about this series is that there’s a greater element of realism to it, than others series and movies. Granted, some of the multiple strikes to the head and prolonged fights are a bit of a reach but overall, it does a pretty good job. Cobra Kai and Eagle Fang’s use of high-reaching and spinning kicks speaks to its Korean background, which is also reflected by the style’s founder sending his granddaughter to assist Cobra Kai.

The series reaches its climax by having Daniel square off against terry Silver and delivering his well-known crane kick for the first time in 30 years to defeat Terry at the end of the season. The season ends with plenty of open opportunity to explore the characters further, especially since we see John Kreese escape from jail at the end. The crane kick was bittersweet… It was an odd mixture of excitement at seeing him use the technique and disappointment at how ineffective and stupid the crane kick is. This may be an unpopular opinion, but coming from a genuine martial artists, hear me out…

The crane kick is a ridiculous technique because you start by staging yourself on one leg. This is something that is incredibly dangerous to do against an opponent, especially one that means to do you serious harm. Although one could easily argue that all kicks involve putting all of your weight on one leg, the crane kicks requires you to visibly stand on one leg as your opponent approaches. Dumb. And unnecessary. Next is the placement of the arms. Holding your arms out to the sides like some drunken bird while exposing both sides of your rib cage is ridiculous. The entirety of the move leaves just about every aspect of one’s body exposed in a ridiculously unnecessary way.

I’m going to stop analyzing and simply go back to discussing the show, shall I? All in all, it was worth the wait for the season to release and one episode even brought tears to my eyes. There’s an episode towards the beginning of the season where Daniel decides to give up and throws in the towel, conceding and letting Terry Silver keep the valley. It isn’t until his wife brings him back to Mr. Miyagi’s old house, the dojo of Miyago Do, and talks him back into it. She opens the doors out to the dojo grounds to reveal not only all of his students but Chozen and Johnny Lawrence, as well. It was a dramatic reveal. If you haven’t watch ANY of Cobra Kai yet, first of all, come out from under the rock you’re living under. Then, grab some chips and a warm blanky and binge your way through the series. If you were an 80’s kid, it won’t disappoint. ☯️