I Wash My Hands Of It…

Proper hygiene is significantly important, and has always been so even before the advent of everyone finally realizing to WASH THEIR HANDS!!!! Seriously though, good hygiene and cleaning habits are an important part to staying healthy, and can have a significant impact on your overall health and every day life.

For example, did you know that depending on they type and thickness of your toilet paper, it can take up to ten layers to stop fecal bacteria from passing through? Kind of makes you think twice about walking out before scrubbing the ‘ol paws, right? Don’t stress too hard over it; there’s already bacteria on the toilet paper BEFORE you use it anyway. Oh, wait… That’s all the more reason to WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

Good hand washing practices have been pushed for decades, and has in fact been explained as one of the top ways people can easily prevent the spread of germs, bacteria and disease. It’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic for people to lose their proverbial shit and start washing their hands more often, hoarding and slathering layers of sanitizer to boot. If you want my thoughts on hand sanitizer, you can read one my previous posts here: Cleaning? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That…

Bearing in mind that you should be washing your hands properly and often, whether they’re dirty or not, what is the “proper” method? Well, according to the Centre For Disease Control, one should wash one’s hands for at least 20 seconds or more, using soap and fresh, running water. Close attention should be paid to ensure your scrub all areas of your hands, including between the fingers, back of the palms and under the nails.

The length of time depends on how dirty your hands may be, or what kind of filth they may have been exposed to. But once you’re done scrubbing, they need to be properly rinsed under fresh, running water. This is because soap will help to lift and remove filth, bacteria and germs from your hands, but then need to be rinsed off. Then, be sure to dry your hands properly as germs can be transferred easier on wet hands.

The article provides for both air drying or towel drying, and the jury is out on which one is optimal. Personally, I despise hand dryers in public restrooms as I’m not a fan of whatever bacteria ay be floating the washrooms being heated and blown across my flesh. But the jury is out on which method is optimal. The jury is still out on whether hot or cold water makes any measurable difference, but the reality is that hot water will at least help lift some of the germ-ridden oils from your hands that will remain if you use cold water. Additionally, some of the dirt-lifting properties of soap are deactivate by cold water.

Last but not least, remove rings and jewellery when washing. I once saw a television report where they coated the hands in a UV-sensitive chemical that would light up under a black light. They then had the person wash their hands and expose them to a black light. The hands were mostly clean, except for some spots he forgot to scrub. But when he removed his wedding band, a bright blue band of chemical was still present. The same applies to germs and bacteria.

Just to be clear, you’ll never eliminate 100% of bacteria. Nor should you want to. Your body needs some of that shit (pun fully intended). The biggest challenge I’m facing at the moment is trying to teach my 5-year old son the importance of hand washing. He’s of the opinion that if he doesn’t “touch himself” while using the washroom, he doesn’t need to wash his hands. He’s also terrible at understanding to scrub up when he comes inside from playing. Kids…

As usual, all of this can be easily applied to Diabetics, especially since we tend to be prone to infection and should try to keep clean as much as possible. This is especially important if you still use a traditional blood glucose monitor and prick your fingertips repeatedly throughout the day. You should wash your hands in hot, soapy water before and after testing. No matter the state of the world, everyone should be washing their hands often and properly. Not only for good hygiene and to protect yourself but because it also helps to protect others. ☯

Zen In The Apocalypse

It’s been a long couple of months, with the majority of the world doing their very best at staying isolated and social-distancing, and the small percentage of mouth-breathing idiots who are still letting their children play on public play structures and throwing parties and gatherings (I’m looking at you, Karen!). For the most part, the world has been doing what they have to.

Here in Canada, penalties and fines have been issued against quarantine violators in some of the more serious circumstances, and Provincial borders remain closed at most locations. Slowly but surely, governments are beginning to reopen certain semi-essential services, such as dentists, eye doctors and such, mostly on a Provincial basis. Back in New Brunswick, my family reports restaurants reopening with limited seating and families being permitted to travel to each other’s homes. No such leniency has taken place here in Saskatchewan.

But despite the progress that’s been made, it may still be a while before we can all romp in the outdoors and mingle with members of public like we used to. In fact, many believe that this may be the beginning of a new phase of society that could become permanent, with video meetings and working from home becoming the norm.

Despite the closing of businesses, suspension of many jobs and the financial strain that many are feeling as a result of the current pandemic, the aspect that people seem to be having the greatest difficulty adapting to, is self-isolation. Today’s society in general doesn’t do well with being told they HAVE to do something (a fact I’ve learned all too well over the past ten years), which is why we continue to have people who smoke in public places, litter and use their cell phones while driving. But I digress…

The point is, faced with the difficulty of being cooped up inside their homes on a near-constant basis with spouses and children has begun to take a toll on many, with things like cabin fever and quarantine fatigue becoming very real concerns. Emotions and frustrations are rising and the especially important detail of trying to keep children occupied and entertained when they don’t have school and can’t go play at the park can be a real challenge. And trying to stay Zen throughout it all can feel like scaling a mountain with a shard of glass in your boot…

First of all, people need to understand the difference between “quarantine” and “isolation.” I’ve been hearing folks use them interchangeably, but they both have distinctively different meanings. A “quarantine” is defined as a strict isolation imposed t prevent the spread of a disease. This usually involves isolating people who are known, believed or suspected to have, carry or could spread the disease, whether symptomatic or not.

“Isolation”, whether self-imposed or not, is a bit simpler in terms that it’s the separation of a person from others. That’s it. You don’t have the disease (that you know of) but you’re keeping yourself indoors to prevent its spread. Which is great, but it doesn’t mean you can’t step outdoors and it can have detrimental effects on your health if you don’t take steps for your own mental well-being.

The internet has done what it usually does, when something serious of this nature arises and expressed its displeasure with the propagation of memes, jokes and overall lack of seriousness for the whole thing. But the reality is that some families are ACTUALLY having difficulties being isolated together for long periods of time when the norm has been to have their own separate periods away form one another.

But what’s important to remember is that despite terms such as “quarantine” being thrown around, if you are simply self-isolating and aren’t asymptomatic or trying to recover from a serious illness, there’s plenty you can do to help stem the tide of building pressure within your household. Go take a walk. Many people take this possibility for granted, but there’s nothing stopping you from heading out and taking a nice long walk. Fresh air, alone with your thoughts and some mild exercise, it can go a long way towards saving your sanity.

Even just spending time outside, even if you aren’t doing anything, will be very helpful. Fresh air can be an incredible asset. Meditation and Zen can be difficult in a contained environment, especially with small children involved since they don’t understand when mommy or daddy need some “quiet time.” This is one of the reasons I enjoy cycling. Besides the challenge of racking up as many kilometres in as short a time as possible, the fresh air and the time to be alone with my thoughts allows me to engage in a sort of moving meditation.

So be sure to get out there and find yourself something that works for you. Even if you don’t practice Zen, everyone inevitably NEEDS Zen. Finding some balance and peace during uncertain times is important to everybody, and remember that no matter what responsibilities your shoulders may bear, everybody needs/deserves some time to themselves. Even during a pandemic. ☯

Diabeetus

This year will mark thirty-seven of fighting my way along with Type-1 Diabetes. For the most part, I’ve been fortunate. But I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t made some significant mistakes along the way. Ignorance, lack of education and simply being too young to properly understand, has often put me in a tight spot, as far as proper Diabetes management.

These days, I generally enjoy a slightly shocked look from individuals to whom I reveal my condition. This is mostly because I don’t “fit” the assumed image of someone with Diabetes. I have all my digits and limbs, I’m not obese and I’m not cursed with a plethora of visible symptoms or side-effects for people to pick out and say, “Wow, he must have Diabetes.” (Cue the Wilford Brimley jokes, here!)

But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been subjected to the typical questions and stereotypes that most people with Diabetes face at one point or another. I remember when Starbucks released their Unicorn Frappucino, back in 2017. Besides the ridiculous appearance of the drink, the carbohydrate count for it was astronomically excessive…

An example obtained from BeyondType1.org

BeyondType1.org posted a really good article about the drink when it came out. They display the above-included meme and some others, and goes on to explain how the internet basically lost its mind and started in on how sugar causes Diabetes. It. Does. Not. Period. But it sure doesn’t keep people from thinking it does and making fun of it. And 80 grams of total carbs? Whew, I feel my blood sugar rising just looking at that photo. I read a good joke while researching this post, about how the physical cup has less artificial ingredients than the drink does! But I digress…

The above is another meme I found. Seriously, poor Wilford Brimley! The man does one infomercial for Liberty Medical and the world’s been using his face as the butt-end of internet Diabetes jokes, ever since! But you can find memes like this aplenty, simply by searching “Diabetes memes” on Google. And the inaccuracy is astounding.

Consuming large amounts of sugar, having weight issues and a poor life style doesn’t CAUSE Diabetes! Some of those can certainly contribute to the onset of Type-2, but the jury’s out on even some of those aspects. I can guarantee that if you consume 29 candy bars, you’ll succumb to much different and immediate health concerns before Diabetes ever comes into the picture.

Although someone with Type-1 needs to focus on staying physically fit, eating well and minding their overall health, evidence to the contrary does not mean they have Diabetes. And seeing someone who has all of the above, physically fit, eating well and healthy, doesn’t mean that they do not. After all, even if you don’t see any casualties, it doesn’t mean the war isn’t happening. ☯

When You Never Throw The First Punch…

We live in a society where bullying has a very hot, bright spotlight shining on it. Back in the early 2000’s, anti-bullying initiatives started to take the world by storm and all sorts of different things, such as pink shirt day and anti-bullying day became a thing. Since then, heavy awareness has been brought against this pointless activity (the bullying, not the initiatives), even if it’s something that has always been around. This spotlight hasn’t done much to eliminate bullying, despite things like celebrity endorsement and attention, and the many valuable resources that have been allotted to it. And why is that?

I was bullied in my youth. And no, I don’t mean the typical, snowflake version of bullying that bothers most kids these days where someone has made fun of your clothing or appearance. Not to belittle their experiences, you understand. Every person’s threshold for bullying can be different, but I was bullied in such a way where I was often physically thrown into school showers, fully clothed. I was then forced to finish my day soaking wet with no way to get dry or obtain a change of clothes (sometimes in the depth of winter).

I had my lunch taken from me, numerous times. This doesn’t sound especially harmful, but when you happen to have Diabetes it can actually be detrimental to your health. There were days when I had to make my way home and forfeit the remainder of my school day, otherwise I’d suffer blood sugar issues that I knew my school was unprepared to deal with, as a result. I’ve had groups of four or five guys actually surround me and pound me to the ground until I prayed and wished to either black out or have a teacher come along to help. One never did.

“Courage Is Fire, And Bullying Is Smoke”

– Benjamin Disraeli

I even remember the one day where, once class had let out, I walked out to the student parking lot to find my car firmly wedged between two trees on the grassy median between the student and teacher parking lots. I was incensed, and immediately went to the principal’s office where the police were promptly called to attend. Of course, nobody spoke up to identify who did it and it wasn’t the sort of crime where the cops would dust for prints and call in CSI, so the school custodian had to count down one of the trees to release my vehicle so I could drive away. I never found out who did it.

Now if you’re clever enough to do the math, the fact that I had a car at school meant that I was at least 16. I had been studying karate since I was about the age of 10. So, many of you may be asking the question, Why didn’t you do something? Oh, trust me! That day came soon enough… But until my breaking point, I had been studying martial arts with the purpose of improving my health and overall well-being. Despite the study of a fighting art, I had never used the skills I had learned in a genuine fight, as was not my way. I was not enthused at the prospect of harming another person, even if it was in defence of myself. That all came to a screaming halt, one fateful spring morning.

I walked into a late-morning language class, which ran right before lunch period. I was almost ten minutes early, as it was my custom to typically avoid recess and the crowds of people it involved. There were a couple of students in the class who had also arrived early. Three guys, whom I recognized as being some of my most frequent oppressors, walked into the classroom and immediately spotted me at the back.

The taunting started almost immediately, with all three crowding down the row and heading slowly towards me. Some of their typical tactics took place; my books were scattered to the floor, I was grabbed out of my seat and shoved hard against the wall. You know, typical bullying behaviour. The lead bully’s taunting took a different turn when, out of nowhere he pulled out a pocket knife.

Now, to prevent any thoughts that I’m exaggerating, I feel it’s necessary to describe this “knife”. It was a small, folding 1-inch blade; the kind with a small loop and chain on it meant to be used as a keychain. It was hardly a bowie knife or a short sword, and there was no thick Australian accent telling me that “this is a knife!” But even the smallest blade can be deadly, depending on the intent of the user.

The bully smiled devilishly and held the open blade at my stomach and not only questioned what I was going to do about it, but my ability to do anything. Although it came out sounding more like “Whut are ya gonna do? Nothin’! Because you can’t…” I didn’t hear anything of what he said next as my world turned red. This was my breaking point. I had been threatened, beaten, my personal property had been vandalized and my formative years that should have been pleasant and educational for me were some of the worst of my life. Like a pressure cooker with a ruptured seal that finally blew, years of bullying and abuse finally surfaced. And it was directed against this young offender who chose to make himself feel like a big man by belittling someone else.

“Just Pretend The Guy Is Like A Balloon. If You Pop ‘Em Hard, These Guys Just Go Away…”

– Tommy Gunn, Rocky V

I moved. The movement was quick and semi-precise, and to this day I don’t recall EXACTLY what I did as I responded on instinct born from years of repetitive fight training. But when my red haze cleared, the boy was sprawled on the classroom floor with a couple of desks pushed aside. His wrist was broken and there were blood drops all over the floor. It took a moment for the adrenaline to die down enough for me to feel the sting against my flesh that made me realize that the blood was mine. I looked down and saw blood dripping from my wrist, where the blade had sliced. There was also a small cut in my pants, on the inner side of my knee, where the blade had apparently visited my leg as well. A physical shred of proof that shows that when bullying happens, EVERYONE gets hurt…

The other two guys backed away and checked on their friend, who was crying and cradling his arm. I sat quietly at my desk and didn’t move. The adrenaline dump and shock basically shut me down and all I could do was sit there. As luck would have it (my luck, at least), this was about the time the teacher walked in and saw all the chaos. My wounds were patched up. Visits to the principal’s office. Calls to the parents. A week’s suspension ensued. Not my shining moment…

Over the years when retelling this story, I’ve received a lot of mixed comments from people who believe I could have done many things differently. I could have implored my classmates for help, as there were a few people there. My response is usually that they saw the entire ordeal play out and stood by and did nothing. I’ve even had some people state that I shouldn’t have allowed myself to “suffer in silence” for so long and should have gotten faculty and parents involved. Trust me, I had done that a number of times by that point, which yielded negative results.

There are a number of reasons why people decided to bully others. And that’s the key factor; being a bully is a choice. Whether it’s for power or popularity, as a means of retaliation, seeking popularity or because one is venting the pain from being bullied themselves, none of the reasons are good. And eventually, an active step needs to be taken to make it stop. This is especially true in some of the extreme circumstances we’ve seen in recent decades where some kids have ended the pain through suicide.

I’m obviously not an advocate of violence. But the unfortunate reality is that sometimes, the only way to effectively stop the bully is to strike back. That’s the reality I faced over twenty years ago, and the same is true for many kids today. I plan on teaching my sons the same lesson that a friend of mine has taught his children. When someone does you wrong or bullies, always start by communicating with them. Ask them to stop. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to seek out a teacher or adult to help brings matters to an end. But if and when all those things fail, you still need to stand up for yourself and make the suffering stop. You should never be the first to throw a punch. But you should never accept to receive a second.

Psychology Today has a good article on the reasons behind bullying. It’s one of those things that has always been around. And unfortunately always will. Whether intentional or not, there will always be those who seek personal advantage at the suffering of others. The key is to protect oneself and in doing so, ensuring that one does not slip off the edge and become a bully themselves.

My experiences changed me. Decades later, I still have two physical scars of that encounter, and a number of emotional ones that have steered some of the decisions in my life. There have been a number of opportunities where I could have easily BECOME the bully. But bullying is a weakness, and it takes and creates more personal strength to be kind and understanding of others than it does to be a thug. ☯

Time For “The Talk”

Having children is an experience all its own. Some good, some bad and some memorable, they make life interesting in ways that nothing else can. Most parents dread the day that they’ll need to have “the talk” with their kids. The “talk” referring mostly to the birds and the bees and where babies come from. With my oldest son Nathan, I’ve been fortunate enough that he’s been able to observe my wife’s pregnancy and his baby brother’s gestation through to his birth. So he’s very aware that babies grow in mommy’s tummy, although not what GOT him there. (One battle at a time, people!)

But the talk I’m referring to, is the one where Diabetes needs to be explained. For someone afflicted with Type-1 Diabetes, having children brings on its own batch of concerns and worries. For example, the prospect that your child may have Type-1, as well. I’ve been fortunate thus far that my oldest son, Nathan, is showing no signs of being diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes. He certainly eats like he hasn’t got a care in the world!

But one of the issues I’ve had to face in recent years is explaining Diabetes and the reason behind it. I started pump therapy while Nathan was still an infant, so in the years that followed I had to start being mindful of his grubby little paws clawing at my tubing and grabbing at the pump. We’ve come to humorously refer to my pump as my “ouchie”, and Nathan has grown up understanding not to touch it under any circumstances and to be mindful not to sit/step or grab on or around it when we’re horsing around.

A few days ago I was behind my house doing some yard work. Nathan was playing contently in the dirt and it was a beautiful day. As luck (and bad timing) would have it, I started experiencing a low, right when I was in the middle of doing a task. I tested using my Freestyle Libre and sure enough, I was in the mid 3’s!

As is his norm, it took him less than five minutes to realize I had left the back yard and to seek me out in my home office. He immediately noticed that I was feasting on some jelly beans to treat my low. He asked if my blood sugar was low, to which I replied that it was. He asked me if he could have some jelly beans as well. Not wanting to have a five-year old Tasmanian Devil bouncing off the walls, I declined to let him partake… which pissed him off to no end!

He got upset and said it wasn’t “fair” that I got to eat candy whenever I wanted and he couldn’t (which is ironic as it’s pretty much the opposite). This is when it dawned on me that although he understands to be careful around my medical devices, he may not be inherently aware of why I have them. I decided that it was now time to explain why I wear a pump and exactly what Diabetes is.

I started by using Google to bring up a diagram of the human body with the pancreas highlighted. I explained that when someone eats, the pancreas works to control the amount of sugar in the blood (a bit on the simplistic side, but come on! He’s five!) If you have too little or too much sugar in the blood, the pancreas adjusts it for you. But my pancreas doesn’t function properly, so the pump does the job for my pancreas.

Since the pancreas is a natural part of one’s body, it knows how to adjust and balance things. Since my pump is a machine, sometimes mistakes are made, which is why I have to occasionally eat sugared foods to bring my blood sugar up. And jelly beans are usually the easiest and fastest way for me to do it. If I allowed Nathan to consume my jelly beans, I wouldn’t have them in the event that I suffered a low, which was why I couldn’t share them.

To my surprise, he took everything I told him pretty well. He even repeated some details back, which indicated his understanding. All in all, I was pretty happy and proud that he understood. We also briefly discussed that if he ever saw Daddy going to sleep suddenly or being unable to move, to run for Mommy right away for help. His attention and understanding were rewarded with the sharing of one jelly bean from my pile, which made him happy and sent back on his way.

It can be hard to give kids credit where credit is due. We assume that because of their young age, they may not necessarily understand. But allowing oneself to provide even a rudimentary explanation can take some of the anxiety and concern away, especially if your kids ever see you in the throws of a bad low or having to call for help. It won’t eliminate the worry of seeing a parent carted off in an ambulance, but explaining can at least stem some of it. If the sex talk turns out to be this easy for Nathan, I can breathe easy… Although somehow I doubt I’ll be THAT lucky! ☯

Sip Yourself To Sleep

Recently, I wrote about different types of tea in a post entitled “Let’s TEA Off”where I described the effects of some tea and the myth that some teas such as green tea, are caffeine free.  I had some misfortune in this area, as I foolishly consumed a cup of green tea late one evening, only to have it keep me awake through half the night.  I was NOT impressed!

I’m usually not one for endorsing specific brands and types, but I’ve come upon a blend of herbal tea that I’ve found not only delicious, but completely caffeine-free. Sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy a nice, hot cup of something in the evening while reading or watching a show. And since coffee and traditional teas are out of the question because of their stimulating effect, a natural caffeine-free herbal tea is the best alternative.

This is a can of loose-leafed cinnamon rooibos chai tea that my wife and I received as a gift from our friend Lavina, some time ago. I usually don’t partake of loose-leafed tea, since it requires an infuser of some sort and honestly, who has the time? But I’ve recently taken to using the infuser we do have and I have to say, this blend of tea has really sat well with me.

The cinnamon flavour is almost akin to chewing cinnamon gum, or having a shot of Fireball without the buzzing effect. As you can see from the photo, this particular can was obtained from DAVIDsTEA, which is a Canadian specialty tea store. They sell just about every kind of tea under the sun and stars, and often offer samples of specialty blends that they offer in-store. We have a location here in Regina and two in Saskatoon.

So if you’re looking for a warm, comforting drink in the evening, a steaming-hot cup of herbal tea is the way to go. ☯

When The Way Is Right…☸️

I don’t deny that one could say I became a Buddhist almost by accident. I hadn’t even HEARD of Buddhism when I started martial arts in the late 80’s, yet here I am. Decades later, constant study and trying to follow the right path. A good portion of my story is a prime example of cause and effect. As I progressed in the martial arts, I was introduced to concepts such as Budo, Bushido’s code and my first introductions to Buddhism.

Despite the accidental introductions (or not so accidental, if one believes that all things happen for a reason) there have been a number of measurable benefits to my years of Buddhist study and martial arts. I originally got into martial arts for the purposes of improving my health, and it has turned out to provide more benefit than that scrawny kid ever could have imagined when he set out on the journey…

There’s no denying that the martial arts has provided me with a number of significant advantages.  The physical requirements and exercise has helped to improve my insulin sensitivity and fight off insulin resistance.  The intense training has provided me with better blood circulation, which as most of you likely know, is VERY important to someone with Diabetes.  Measurable improvements in body mass and appetite followed, allowing me to survive well past the window of expectation that most of my doctors had for me in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

  When I started studying Buddhism, some of the most important aspects that I began to work on were mindfulness, meditation and control of my inner thoughts and emotions.  This is not to say that I don’t display emotions (my wife can attest to that), but my practice has allowed me to control how I externalize my reactions and emotions.  Over the years, this has allowed me to deal with problems and face issues in my personal and professional life in an almost detached manner that allows for logic to step in and for the emotion to come out at a later time.

Something I need to point out is that most people automatically associate Buddhism with meditation, but the truth is that you can reap the benefits of meditation on its own.  Not only from a Diabetes standpoint but for people in general, meditation can do a world of good.  This is becoming a well-known fact, and plenty of people are getting on board.  Meditation is offered/taught in some places of work, schools and a variety of classes where different varieties of meditation are taught.

And yes, there are different types of meditation.  Some of the most popular ones are transcendental meditation, focused meditation, mantra meditation and relaxation meditation are but a few, and it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the meditation that you do.  Just like there are a variety of types of yoga and types of martial arts. 

But some of the benefits of meditation can include lowering one’s blood pressure, controlling pain within the body, improving one’s sleep, helps one to focus and increase self-awareness and helps with stress and anxiety.  All of these things can be helpful with the control of blood sugars and overall Diabetic health.  You can find introductory classes on guided meditation in most major cities, and there are plenty of books on the subject as well.  Be sure to keep an open mind, and if it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t be afraid to  seek out different classes as every instructor or teacher may have a different method of imparting the knowledge.

I may have fallen into some of what I do by accident or coincidence, but I’ll never look back.  One of the beautiful aspects of meditation is that you can basically do it anywhere.  All you need is a comfortable place to sit/lie down, whatever your preference may be.  ☯