Don’t Freeze Your Bits…

Ahhh, winter… The season of freshness. The season when everything is covered in a cleansing blanket of white that seem to invigorate… And take one’s breath away! Of all the things that affect people who live with Type-1 Diabetes, cold is one of the least considered, though it should not be forgotten.

Last Monday, I had my usual bimonthly eye injection appointment in the neighbouring city. As is my habit, I checked into my hotel a bit early so that I could park my vehicle in the relative safety of their parking structure and walk for approximately fifteen minutes across a public park to reach the hospital. This is usually done due to the lack of availability of the hotel’s shuttle and the fact that I’m too cheap to pay for a taxi.

Once I checked in, I took my first few steps in the cold, -40 degrees celsius of Saskatchewan winter. That first breath caught in my lungs and caused me to choke. But the first few steps were bearable. Then, as I continued, my limbs and face started to object to my being outside. They almost seemed to form a linch mob hell-bent on making me regret every step I took in the “great” outdoors.

By the time I had reached the hospital, two things happened: I was frozen to my core despite wearing appropriate winter apparel, and the battery on my insulin pump died on me. It shouldn’t have, since it was barely half used. But exposure to the intense cold caused the battery to bottom out.

This leads us to an important reminder about the cold. First and foremost, extreme cold forces the body into a fight-or-flight state, which can cause the release of adrenaline and similar hormones, which will cause the release of glycol for further energy, thereby affecting blood sugar levels.

There are a score of other problems that spending too much time in the cold will cause. The most important thing to remember is that although insulin is meant to be kept cool and/or cold through refrigeration, it can’t be allowed to freeze. Insulin is a protein, and if it is allowed to freeze it’ll break down and won’t function the way it should. Once broken down, it won’t lower blood sugar the way it’s intended.

As far as equipment goes, the manufacturer’s information for all things Diabetes-related, such as your blood glucose monitor and insulin pump, will indicate that you shouldn’t expose them to extreme cold. The problem I faced, in regards to my pump’s battery, is that the freezing temperature will cause the composition of the battery to become ineffective and possibly even rupture. I was lucky that my battery didn’t pop inside the pump.

If you find yourself having to venture out in the freezing, Saskatchewan winter, be sure to dress for the weather. Dress in layers, stay hydrated to prevent dehydration and cover up to prevent frostbite. But most of all, keep your equipment and insulin shielded from sub-zero temperatures and freezing as much as possible. And certainly not least, trust your blood sugars frequently to ensure you’re staying on top of it. ☯

It’s Not Their Fault…

We all know that there’s suffering in the world. I think this goes without saying, but sometimes we encounter these prozac-dosed individuals that walk around with tweeting-bird sounds floating around their heads who seem to think that suffering doesn’t exist. In all honesty, good for you if you can truly believe this and live your life in that mindset; even if it’s false.

My point is that for the most part, we are all firmly aware that the world contains suffering. And we all endure some of that suffering, as much as we would prefer not to. As sentient beings, we have an unspoken responsibility to do our part to reduce and/or eliminate this suffering in the world, which leads one to wonder why any individual would intentionally CAUSE it…

“Pain Is Inevitable; Suffering Is Optional”

David Kessler

A few days ago, I was out running errands with my family. We rarely all go out together. Especially given the labour-intensive process required in getting an infant ready and out the door during winter months, and trying to maintain control over the destructive force of nature that is my five-year old son… But as usual, I digress…

During some of our errands, I will occasionally run in quickly without the rest of the family in order to complete one of the quicker stops. This is where the subject of today’s blog post took place.

I grabbed the couple of items I needed from this particular business and headed up to the checkout, which included two tills and two employees. There was a man there, and he was trying to return something without a receipt. I think we’ve all been there, but one also needs to understand that many locations won’t accept a return WITHOUT the receipt from your purchase. This was the case for this particular gentleman.

He immediately became belligerent and started arguing with the cashiers, which included grabbing another package off the shelf to “prove” that he had purchased the item at this specific location. The cashier calmly explained that although it was an item they carried, they couldn’t prove he had purchased it there and that it was their store’s policy not to accept a return without proof of purchase; something which was out of the cashier’s control.

The man became angry and started yelling that he had grabbed the wrong one by mistake and that it was absolutely imperative that the cashiers allow him to exchange or return it. The cashier, who to her credit maintained her calm throughout this entire exchange, explained once again that it was the store’s policy and that she had no authority to go against it.

Now folks, I can understand the frustration on both sides of this equation. I’ve tried to return items without a receipt and I totally understand how angering it can be when it doesn’t work. I have also worked retail and can tell you for a fact that in Canada, with the exception of some specific commercial laws, retail locations are under NO obligation to accept a return or issue a refund. Once the sale is made, the sale is made.

All this being said, despite the fact I try to exude calm as much as possible I have very low tolerance for people who cause suffering and cost others their time for trivial things. Especially an item that’s only $14.99 and especially when you’re tying up both cashiers with your stupidity, holding up the four people behind you. I kindly asked the gentleman to set aside his complaint for a few moments so that the staff could clear the line. This snapped the cashiers out of their stupor and one of them called me over while the other continued to deal with this angry man.

As I was finally and thankfully exiting the location, the cashier was trying to convince the man in much calmer terms that his incorrect choice did not constitute a problem on her part and that she could get him the number for the store manager and he could deal with the matter this way.

For most people, things tend to dwell on our minds. If these two employees were having a decent day, this jackass and his negative energy likely damaged or ruined these poor peoples’ afternoon. Now, I’m not saying that this particular exchange wasn’t important to this person. Maybe that $15 was the last of his money for the week and he really needed the item he sought. But one needs to acknowledge that his approach not only DID NOT get him what he needed, he spread the suffering in the attempt.

Even while dealing with something or going through something negative yourself, take a moment to consider how your actions may affect others. You have the same responsibility as the rest of us in preventing the propagation of suffering. ☯

Much Like A Coat, Your Opinion Should Be Checked At The Door

It continues to blow my mind how brazen and “cheeky” some folks become when protected behind a keyboard in the safety of their home. Even with some of the more enlightened societal concepts that have supposedly become the norm, many still believe in calling out others and speaking against them in online forums.

I recently read a post by someone who had been listing some homemade clothing and purchases they had made at a thrift store. Almost immediately, someone hit up their comments section and started calling the person out, claiming that wearing second-hand clothing was disgusting as you had no idea where it came from and that the writer should know better. This was apparently even someone who KNEW the writer.

This is a pretty tame example and they tend to get worse. I, myself, have even had people commenting and arguing with me in relation to martial arts and Buddhism on this blog! Kind of hard not to, I guess, since religion is one of the most disputed topics of conversation out there. But I’ve even had it where I’ve been verbally insulted and attacked on my blog posts. I tend not to allow an argument to ensue and simply block person and their comments as I don’t abide by unnecessary negative energy.

It’s almost a safe bet that if you go online (on any forum) and say left, someone will say right. Then they’re usually game to argue their view to the point of becoming insulting and belittling to the writer. So why are people like this? For the most part, I can almost guarantee that the same people wouldn’t be arguing like this, if they were face-to-face with the person in question.

The popular term that has labeled to this phenomenon, is known as “trolling”. This is not to be mistaken with people who genuinely want to discuss and even debate their opposing view through your comments section. Trolls basically take the time out of their day to comment in a negative fashion against anything they find online. They usually make it a point to make their comments as insulting as possible and are actively hoping to elicit a reaction from people.

An article posted on PsychologyToday.com states, “[…] trolls have markedly different personality styles: they are more narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic and sadistic.” This basically means that they comment for their own self-gratification based on the responses they elicit as opposed to actually contributing to the conversation. Nice, eh?

The article goes on to explain that the best thing you can do with trolls, if you find them commenting on your post or article is to simply ignore them. This can be quite difficult, if your post is of a personal nature or you’ve vested yourself in the message you’re sending. But if you don’t engage them, you essentially take away their influence against you.

Here’s the article, if anyone wants to give it a read: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/significant-results/201408/what-you-should-know-about-online-arguments

For those who may not be a troll, I like to use a popular term I’ve found often online: “Just scroll on by…” Basically, if you don’t like what you see or read, there’s nothing wrong with just scrolling past. There is no genuine need to comment. Unless of course, you wish to genuinely debate. In which case, let me grab you a coffee! We’ll be here for a while… ☯

Balancing What You Eat Can Help At Balancing Your Life

“Wow, my blood sugar is great, right now! Time to f&*k it up with lunch…” This is a typical line I often say to my wife when I test my blood and find it sitting in an ideal range. Having Type-1 Diabetes makes it reasonably difficult to find balance. On the one hand, some food items have some very clearly defined carbohydrate counts. On the other, depending on your current state of health, mood, hydration and the weather (I wish I was kidding), the same food item you ate yesterday can have a measured difference in effect on your blood sugars from the day before.

Finding a diet that works is very subjective, and having that diet work in relation to your blood sugars is by no means an easy task. For example, did you know that about a cup of a rice krispies cereal has about 25 grams of carbohydrates, whereas the carbohydrates in something less generic, like Special K is about 22.75 grams? (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/best-low-carb-cereal-brands#medium-carb)

Although this doesn’t seem like a HUGE difference, a two or three gram difference in your meal’s total carb-count can make a big difference in the overall blood sugar levels of the day. But are carbohydrates the worst concern in your diet?

Carbohydrates are fuel. That’s the simplest way of looking at it. Along with protein and fat, it is one of the essential aspects of nutrition that’s required. The problem with carbohydrates is that some of them will burn much slower than others. This can play hell with your insulin dosage. If you take X number of units for Y grams of carbs and it has a measured effect on your blood sugar curve, you may see a noticeable difference with the same amount of carbs in a food that’s processed slower.

For example, if you compare 100 grams of red meat against a half cup of beans, the beans clearly win out where total nutrition is concerned. Beans will have more protein, almost four times the iron and magnesium and contains none of the cholesterol that you’d find in meat. However, that half-cup of beans will have 22 grams of carbohydrates to bolus for, where the meat will have none.

The difference is you CAN take insulin for the carb in the beans. Fighting off the long-term (and sometimes not so long-term) effects of cholesterol are a little more difficult; not to mention the effects on the cardiac system and your overall health.

Another good example are eggs versus tofu. I’m gonna start by saying I am a diehard hater of tofu and I refuse to even have it in my house. Although very nutritious, I’m not a fan of eating something that either has a gelatinous feel or looks like something I scraped out of the lawnmower. But I digress…

While half a cup of scrambled eggs will certainly have less carbohydrates than tofu, it also contains more than three times the amount of saturated fats as tofu. I’m still not eating tofu! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!! (Hides under the covers in his bed and pouts)

Last but not least are chick peas. I have a friend back home who is a big fan of chick peas, and for good reason. If you compare equal amounts of chick peas with let’s say, chicken breast… chick peas will have an almost equal amount of protein as chicken but with none of the cholesterol. Chick peas also pack a decent amount of fibre, whereas chicken has none. And fibre is one of those dietary staples that most people seem to neglect.

There are plenty of sites around the internet where you can get nutritional measurements for common foods, so I’ll leave it to you to find your own information. Your family doctor or medical practitioner should be able to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist if you have questions or concerns related to your food intake.

The bottom line is that in the face of all these fad diets and nutritional trends out there, you need to find a balance in what you eat. Lower carb counts can help to lose SOME weight, although this is only in small amounts and usually doesn’t last. So choosing foods high in protein and minerals that your body needs may be worth the added two or three units of insulin you have to inject at mealtime. The key is knowing how your body will metabolize the specific carbs you’re eating, and distributing your insulin accordingly. ☯

If The Smell Doesn’t Kill You, The Benefits Will Heal You…

Yeah, it isn’t the prettiest fragrance in the vegetable world, but damn is it delicious! I’m a big fan of garlic, and I use it in most of my cooking. Garlic comes in many forms when used in the kitchen. You can buy garlic butter, garlic powder and even garlic spread. And that’s on top of the usual fresh whole cloves and chopped, freeze-dried garlic.

Most people obviously know that garlic is a vegetable (I hope), but something many don’t know is that it’s related to the onion. And on top of the delicious flavour it adds to my stir fry, it has a number of proven benefits for the body, as well.

Garlic contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals, including some B vitamins, calcium and potassium.

Fresh garlic has been studied and shown to boost immune systems, reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart issues. Taking garlic supplements has even been shown to help reduce pre-meal blood sugar if taken over long periods of time.

According to an article posted on WebMD, there is a bad side to garlic. Considering it has the potential to lower blood sugar, it’s definitely something to watch if you’re eating it in large amounts. Other problematic issues includes heartburn, bad breath and a distinct and noticeable door of garlic when you sweat. Lovely, eh?

There are also some medication interactions to watch for, if you eat large quantities of garlic. You can check them out here: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-300/garlic

At the end of the day, we mustn’t forget the most important benefit of garlic: it’s delicious! Fresh, chopped garlic always adds a little “je ne said quoi” to your meal, whether it’s a stir fry or a meatloaf. Did I mention it’s delicious? I recently found an in-store made garlic spread that’s pretty good on toast. The best part is that my son seems to have taken to it and can’t get enough, as well (the five-year old, not the three-month old).

So, garlic it up! Just don’t forget to keep your toothbrush close by to eliminate that death-breath afterwards! ☯

There’s No Crying While Meditating…

You know, there’s a reason why monks prefer to live out their lives within the walls of a monastery. Sure, some of them do it as part of a vow of silence, some do it because they prefer to live a simplistic life of minimalism.

Living a monastic life has some measurable benefits when it comes to meditation. For the most part, monks have an easier (notice I said “easier”, not “easy”) time finding harmony and inner peace, thanks to the quiet and serenity that comes with living within the boundaries of a monastery. Although finding one’s balance and harmony is possible even when one does not live within a monastery, there’s a hiccup to modern life that the monks likely didn’t anticipate: kids!

Picture this, if you will… You settle into a comfortable position, perhaps cross-legged, perhaps sitting on your knees. You close your eyes and start taking several deep, steadying breaths. Maybe you even have a bit of relaxation music playing in the background. As you feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into your meditation, you feel a shift in the air. A disturbance in the Force, if you will! You have your suspicions about this disturbance, but you continue to concentrate and focus on your breathing.

Then it happens: you feel a light, nasal breathing against your face, followed by a soft whisper, “Daddy?” This is accompanied by the typically expected poke of a small, bony finger; perhaps against my cheek and if I’m a real winner in tonight’s story, perhaps against the eyelid. “Daddy, you’re a statue…”

You try your best to stay focused and concentrate, hoping that your first-born will take a hint at your lack of a response and back the hell away. But of course, my offspring is stubborn and tenacious and refuses to surrender. Especially when faced with the mystery of what daddy is doing (I have no idea where he gets THAT from!) He’s fascinated at what his father is doing and wants some answers.

Just then, salvation comes in the form of my wife who steps into the basement and softly whispers that Daddy is meditating and that he should leave me alone. The boy responds, “Daddy’s not meditating, he’s a statue!” My wife agrees that it’s fine, I’m a statue but to leave me alone nonetheless.

Just then, my infant son who was until this point quietly cradled in my wife’s arms, decides to burst out with a mighty wail equivalent to someone getting their family jewels stomped during a mosh pit. This effectively dissolves my focus with the imaginary sound of a shattered pane of glass.

Meditating is already something that requires a deep level of focus and practice. It takes time to find your groove, become comfortable with what your doing and get to a point where it provides you with any sort of noticeable benefit. So learning, practicing and becoming proficient is all the more challenging when attempted in a modern family setting.

Eventually my son may come to learn and understand what I’m doing and respect the need for a few moments of silence. In the meantime, be sure to find time for yourself in order to search for harmony and inner balance. As the skills develop, it will become easier even WITH all the “little distractions” that come with life. ☯

Sprinkle A Little Of That Goodness…

When you have Type-1 Diabetes, you have the unfortunate requirement to pay attention to everything you eat, everything you do and the activities in which you participate and monitor your body closely. Most things tend to hit us harder, and we’re not only hit with a shorter life expectancy but our organs all tend to play Russian roulette with life.

Luckily, some of the things we need to watch for do apply to non-Diabetics as well. One of these things is the intake of salt. For many years, it was believed that the best course of action was to eliminate your intake of salt as much as possible. This is a flawed logic and including salt in your diet is actually important.

First of all, let’s clarify: there’s a difference between salt and sodium. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride, as well as trace amounts of other minerals. Sodium is a stand-alone mineral, and is usually what is measured in terms of dietary and daily intake requirements.

Salt, as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this post, is a catch-22 seasoning. Too much can cause a score of health and medical issues. But believe it or not, completely eliminating salt from your diet can cause a number of issues for you, as well.

But since people in general tend to think that salt = bad, let’s examine some of the benefits of including salt in your diet. Some of these healthy uses of salt include:

  1. Dental Hygiene: Swishing a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of water can help with good oral health by helping with infections, mouth sores, wounds and some forms of gum disease. It’s also a dentist-recommended natural treatment to help heal canker sores, which are a real sore spot for me (see what I did there?);
  2. It’s a natural disinfectant: It’s no mystery that salt has been used for centuries as a curing and/or preserving agent, as salt prevents certain bacteria from growing and spoiling food. But soaking certain wounds (especially those on your feet) in warm salt water can help with healing;
  3. It eases sore throats: Gargling with salt water can ease swelling and irritation caused by sore throats;
  4. It can ease cramps and dehydration: I know that most people tend to think that salt dehydrates you. And this may be true, if you consume heavy amounts of it. But healthy amounts of salt will actually help you to stay hydrated and by proxy, eliminate muscle cramps during physical activities. Salt is an electrolyte and is required in order to keep you hydrated;
  5. It can help clear your sinuses: Using a saline solution can help to alleviate sinus issues caused by colds or allergies. You can find over-the-counter saline bottles at any pharmacy or if you want to be totally disgusting, you can use a netti pot to pour salt water into your sinus cavities to wash them out.

There are a few good posts that cover further benefits. WebMD has a good one and can be read here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-salt-uses. HealthLine.com also has a good one and can be read here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad

As far as eating salt is concerned, the average person pretty much consumes their maximum recommended amount of salt through most of the foods they eat. But if you drink plenty of water throughout your day and are not faced with any outlying medical conditions that prohibit the use of salt, sprinkling a lit bit of goodness on your food is not a big deal. It’s one of those “happy medium” situations where too much is bad, but too little can be just as bad.

According to the HealthLine.com link I provided above, reduced sodium intake can lead to an increase in heart issues, LDL and Triglyceride counts as well as an increase in insulin resistance. So one would likely not want to cut out salt COMPLETELY.

Last but not least, when it comes to choosing your salt, natural salt wins over common table salt. Like most things you find in a consumer’s world, table salt is processed and has a negligible mineral content. Natural salt includes types such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.

With salt, much like everything else in life, moderation is key. Although you don’t want to be pouring that stuff freely onto everything you eat, you certainly don’t want to eliminate it completely either. Your doctor or health practitioner should be able to tell you if you need to reduce or increase your sodium intake and as with everything else, drink plenty of fluids along the way. ☯

To Be Born Twice…

When I take stock of my life, I realize that through time and circumstance I have experienced something of a rebirth on more than one occasion. In my youth, the path of my life and how I grew up was determined by a single diagnoses of Type-1 Diabetes at the age of 4. I’ve often reflected on how differently my life may have been had I not been diagnosed as such.

Later on, I would start my training in karate; a move that I would ultimately come to see as a rebirth. The person I became and the health I gained showed a marked departure from where I began. It also helped define the kind of drive and ambition I would have in almost everything I’d do in my life.

My chosen career, although started later than most, was most definitely a rebirth. It was almost like being under water for so many years, only to finally come up for air. When you finally find what you were meant to do, it seems like a perfect fit and everything else seems to melt away.

But sometimes, these rebirths don’t happen on their own. Sometimes you have to take yourself in hand in order to make them happen. I’ve often said that life doesn’t are about our plan. Things will happen in due course, but this doesn’t mean you should just sit back and wait for it happen.

Change may be organic to life, but POSITIVE change requires your active involvement. You can’t remake yourself by hiding away from the outside world. You are part of the living organism that is the world, and the only way to have a positive impact is through positive thinking and positive action. ☯

Getting Ahead Of The Curve

About three weeks ago, I wrote a post about what I intended to do for my New Year’s resolution. It’s pretty ambitious, considering most people will choose one thing or another, such as losing weight or eating healthier, joining a gym or quitting booze or smoking. I chose a rather elaborate spreadsheet that included the following steps:

  • No alcohol;
  • No tobacco;
  • Minimum of 3 workouts a week;
  • No soda;
  • No processed carbohydrates;
  • No junk food (yes, there’s a difference);
  • No added salt;
  • Minimum of 3 litres of water a day; and
  • Taking only the stairs where possible.

My intention had been to start it on December 29th as this is the Sunday that encompasses the January 1st week. However, I read someone else’s post about New Year’s resolutions and I was reminded of a couple of things.

Although it can be great to take yourself in hand and make a resolution in order to better yourself, if you wait until New Year’s in order to make that change it’s likely not important enough to you. The other aspect one needs to consider is, why wait?

I think the post I read said it best when they explained that if your resolution is to join a gym, why walk in as the new guy on January 1st when the new people will walk in and you’re already a regular? In that spirit, I started my New Year’s resolution on December 15th.

My first two weeks of the challenge

As you can see from the spreadsheet above, it’s pretty straightforward. At the end of the Saturday evening, I put green checks on the items I accomplished and a red “X” on the items I did not. The workouts have been rough, considering karate has been shut down for the holidays. Otherwise, I’d be hitting four workouts for both those weeks. Plus, it’s the holidays! I’ve been a little a little busy focusing on the actual holidays and on family.

Although there is already a touch of red on my ledger, the important aspect to remember is that a resolution is intended to help improve oneself. I’ve also been allowing myself a “cheat day” on Fridays. From what I’ve researched, folks have a better chance of sticking to any sort of regiment or major change in lifestyle and diet if they allow themselves a touch of indulgence once in a while.

I won’t bore all of you by posting updates on this every week, but I’ll provide some updates every few months to show my progress. We’ll see how long I can tough it out… ☯

Hindsight is 2020

Welcome to the New Year! It’s the beginning of a new decade, the return of the Roaring 20’s and the beginning of a fresh 365-day batch of opportunities. Hopefully everyone isn’t suffering from whatever celebratory choices you made last night and you can walk into the New Year with a skip in your step.

The past two years have been a bit of a challenge. After a lifetime of work, sacrifice and learning from mistakes, 2018 saw me get struck down in the prime of my chosen career by a selfish individual motivated by their own goals. I was taken away from my place of work and assigned elsewhere. I made the best of a bad situation and met some of the best people I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

2019 saw disappointment as I travelled the country in search of a different venue in which to continue my career (a fact I chronicled in my posts entitled “A Strange Odyssey” from last September) which yielded no results. A family member recently passed away and my wife and I have failed to sell our house. But through this disappointment, I was blessed with the birth of my second child, Alexander.

There have been ups and downs, happiness and disappointment, laughs and definitely some tears. But as hard as these difficulties have been, I have the benefit of knowing that there has always been some positive to go with the negative. And there usually always is!

And this is how you should face 2020. Take the time to focus on your health, your happiness and some goals for this year. And once you’ve established those goals, work hard until you achieve them. There’s really no other way to live.

And finally, a word on the title… I’ve always said that one can’t live life with regrets, that every choice you’ve made, good or bad, has inevitably led you to the wonderful and awesome person you are today. There genuinely is no way to regret that. But don’t forget to take the time to remember and contemplate some of the mistakes you’ve made in the past year. Not only will this prevent the possibility of repeating those mistakes, you may learn a little something about yourself to pave the way through a smoother year, this time around. ☯