Adaptation Does Not Mean Depreciation

I’m pretty late getting a blog post written today. That’s what happens when you waste away a cold, cloudy, autumn-like morning by laying in bed longer than you should, followed by dragging your feet at some errands before the work week starts. Luckily, once I was able to sit down in my rocker, play some daily crossword puzzles and get some caffeine into me, all was good.

Nathan and I started our day by having some breakfast (which consisted of cold pizza for me. What?! It’s the weekend…) followed by running to a local department store to grab groceries and items we would need to make it through the week. When we got home, Nathan was hungry again, which he practically always is. I fed him a snack and since the baby was in bed, my wife and I decided a cold, lazy Sunday was an appropriate time for a nap. I convinced Nathan to stay quiet for an hour so that we could lie down.

When we woke up, Nathan decided he wanted to go to the park. Since it’s the weekend and I have no reason to decline his request, I agreed on the condition that we take our bikes. I’m only about halfway towards my current virtual marathon, which requires 508 kilometres on the bike. I’m currently at roughly 200. Today should have been my day to break out a solid 40 or 50-kilometre ride, but the morning left me uninspired due to the cold.

Nathan and I donned our helmets and took to the streets, hellbent on making our way to a local park, which was about a kilometre away. Nathan still has his training wheels on, since he outright refuses to work his legs consistently to get them stronger. I’ve been threatening to remove his training wheels all summer, but I thought this would be a good opportunity for him to ride with me and get a feel for some actual biking that doesn’t simply include doing circles in the driveway.

Riding to the park with Nathan was a learning experience. For one, I got the opportunity to o learn how slowly I can cycle and still maintain my centre of balance on the bike. FYI, it ain’t very slow. But once on the street with me, Nathan gave himself the effort and started to push hard with his legs. He not only kept up at a reasonable pace, he overtook me a couple of times and the grin on his face was worth the slow speed.

His reward was playing at a local park with a batch of kids and making new friends. He even got to pet a dog. And despite not sweating through my fitness gear like I usually do, I added almost 3 kilometres to my virtual marathon. I’ll worry about great distances tomorrow. today, I got my son on the right track to start using his bike not only for recreation but as a source of transportation. And I can certainly appreciate the opportunity. ☯️

Moving Meditations, First Ride Of The Season

I’m not one for posting more than once per day, but today was particular… Anyone who’s been following my blog for a while is aware that I frequently posted about my bicycling milestones, all through out the summer and fall last year. Given that temperatures hit the high teens today, the whole family took advantage of the warm weather to spend some time outside. During this time, I opened up my garage and cleaned my SUV… You know, typical warm weather stuff.

One of the things I did was grease up the chain on my bike and inflate the tires to the proper pressure. Once that was done, I couldn’t resist taking a quick spin around the block to try the ol’ girl out. I was wearing a hoodie and jeans, completely unstretched and unprepared. But I managed 1.5 kilometres in just a few seconds over 5 minutes. I spent the early afternoon running some errands and picking up my Diabetic supplies, all the while thinking about my bike. Once I got home, I couldn’t resist changing into fitness gear and going for a more substantial ride. Especially since a snowstorm is calling for tonight.

My first outing of the season. Not bad for a first run.

My wife was taking advantage of a quick nap while the baby was sleeping and Nathan was occupied, so I threw in the earbuds, slapped on my helmet and took a ride. 10 kilometres in 37 minutes is far from my best time, and I can admit that I didn’t really do any cross-training through the winter months. But it felt nice to get out and peddle, listen to some rocking’ tunes and enjoy my first outing since snow hit the ground.

I don’t know if a snowstorm will hit as expected, as it’s still 14 degrees out and we’re slipping into the wee hours of the late evening. But once this weather starts holding permanently, I’m looking forward to training to reach my goal of 200 kilometres. This is the goal I had for last year, but I only ever reached about 75 kilometres before it started getting too cold to be out. I’ll try not to be a constant pain in the ass and post about nothing but cycling. But I intend on keeping track of my progress and hopefully reaching the goals I fell short on last year. ☯

When Pain Is Your Power

Sometimes I feel like an old country song. You know the ones… Where the job sucks, the house is flooding and fate seems hell-bent on bending you over the nearest bench and jabbing you up the rear end with a flaming red-hot poker… Oh, wait! That’s not a country song. That’s my life in general!

Yes, I’m feeling a little morose right now. I’ve been doing some reflecting, and maybe it’s the state of the world, maybe it’s my current perspective or maybe it’s the fact I can’t seem to get a damn break and sell my f&$kin’ house, but it has me down a bit and sometimes getting ahead of what’s getting you down isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

I came to a realization tonight while looking through some old memories from back home (Dalhousie, New Brunswick). I’ve forgotten and been forgotten by more people from my past than I will likely meet and/or becomes friends with in my future. I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s important not to live your life with regrets. Because every step you’ve taken, good or bad, has led you to be the person you are today. And to be honest, I kinda love the person I am today. I think my wife would agree…

But despite the fact that I may regret nothing, I still find myself contemplating and wondering about some of my choices and thinking about where I would be if I had made them differently. I’m sure that some of you have found yourselves in this position as well. And this is the step upon which I find myself sitting on this fateful night.

I’ve applied for a number of jobs back home. Ironically, I’ve found that the majority of these jobs are all located within the same southern New Brunswick city, which would be awesome to live in and work in. But I’ve built my life in Saskatchewan for the past eleven years. The jobs I’ve found all seem to be drawing me back to a specific area of New Brunswick and I can’t help but feel that karma is pushing me in a specified direction.

I’m tired of being tired. Recent obstacles have brought the past two years into question, but I can’t seem to sit back and admit defeat. I don’t think that any self-respecting person in my position could. Would you? Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, would you just throw in the towel and admit defeat? Can any strong person do as much?

Many people have told me that something good is just around the corner. That when one door closes, another door opens. I rather like to think that when one door closes you re-open the damn thing. That’s kinda how doors work. Maybe something good is coming from around the corner. But I don’t feel inclined to wait until that door becomes available. Maybe I need to start forcing open some doors of my own… ☯

I Dream Of Nihon…

I had an interesting dream last night about Japan. It was reminiscent of my trip there in 2001. Although it’s been almost twenty years, I still remember getting on the road in the early hours of morning before the sun rose to drive from my home town of Dalhousie, New Brunswick to Mont-Joli, Quebec where my team and I would grab the first flight of many that would carry us all the way across the globe to Narita, Japan.

It was a long summer before we travelled out in October of 2001. The world had changed about a month prior and I was curious as to whether we would actually be making the trip. But as it turned out, we decided to live life for the sake of living and risk it out. Although the rest of the team took the summer off, I trained hard as I anticipated getting my black belt in Okinawa. I was at the tail end of my time as a brown belt and this trip would provide the final step I needed to finally begin my journey in the martial arts.

Performing Seisan kata for Sensei and Nakama-Sensei at his dojo in Ginowan

We had a total of four flights, starting from Mont-Joli to Quebec City, Quebec, followed by a flight to Montreal, Quebec, on to New York before finally flying to Narita, Japan. We stayed overnight in New York and did the tourist thing. It was nice, and we even climbed the Empire State building. We dined at some restaurants and embarked on the fourteen-hour flight that would take us to Narita.

During that fourteen hours, our flight arc took us across Alaska. I remember everyone being fast asleep and the plane was dark and quiet. I was gazing over the snow-covered landscape that was 35,000 feet below me. I remember leaning my face against the window and thinking about how the world looks so peaceful and beautiful and serene from that high up… Then my bowels almost evacuated. The plane rocked violently and shifted to the side. It felt as though the plane struck something solid and I saw the port-side wing flex upward at what I felt was an impossible angle before settling back to its original position.

I sat there shaking, thinking about how close I came to dying. I looked around the plane and realized that no one had woken. I realized that if the plane had crashed, I would have been the only poor bastard awake to experience it. When Sensei woke up, I told him what happened. He got a good laugh at my expense as he explained that we probably struck an air pocket and dropped a few feet. Once the plane hit normal air, the wings would flex to accommodate the stress. If only I had known, I could have prevented making a fool of myself. It would be the first of many of those situations on this trip…

Nakama-Sensei’s senior class posing with us in Ginowan

We landed in Narita, Japan and stayed at a traditional Japanese inn. The rooms had paper walls and tatami mats for beds. Honestly, the most comfortable sleep of my life with the exception of my memory foam mattress. There was a public bath and meals were served by the inn’s owner who was also the front counter person. We stayed there for three days and visited Tokyo Tower as well as the Budokan and Kodokan Judo Institute. Believe it or not, I had my very first beer at a Japanese dignitary’s home during my time in Narita. I was 23 years’ old.

We took a short flight across the Ryukyu islands to land in Naha, Okinawa. this is where we would be spending the following weeks of our stay. We checked in to the Oasis Hotel in Naha, where I would be sharing a room with the two other guys in my team while Sensei and his wife had the second room. As of the following morning, our schedule went a little something like this:

  • Wake up at 6:00 am;
  • Brief breakfast of whatever foods we purchased from a local grocery store and ate in our rooms;
  • Three to four hours of karate classes in the morning before breaking for lunch;
  • Afternoons to ourselves, which included laying on the beach, shopping at the local markets and visiting museums;
  • No supper, because heavy shit was coming;
  • Another three to four hours of karate with the senior class;
  • Beer and food at Nakama-Sensei’s home afterwards;
  • Ceremoniously pass out from exhaustion;
  • Wash, rinse and repeat.
Uechi-Ryu’s original dojo in Futenma City, Okinawa

It was a gruelling few weeks of training and running around. Although it was October and considered to be the onset of the colder season for Okinawans, it was 40 degrees and hotter than hell for us. All the beer and sake we drank never came out. I could include a lot of the incidents that took place during our trip. The fact that Sensei filmed one of the other male students applying sunblock on my shoulders while at the beach, getting drunk in front of that aforementioned dignitary since it was my first time drinking beer and accidentally screaming “I love you” in Japanese to a fifteen-year old girl… Yeah, I wasn’t proud of that one. Y’all can tell me in the comments which of those fuck-ups you’d like to hear more about!

Left to right: My Sensei, Nakama-Sensei and the head of the Okinawan Karate Association

Out of everything I experienced in Okinawa, watching Sensei receive his 6th Dan was by far the most rewarding. Combined with a couple of Okinawan elders trying to set me up to marry their daughters and bring them back to Canada, it was a memorable night. It was also a fantastic way to wrap up our trip. I even got the opportunity to visit some Buddhist temples.

I miss Japan and Okinawa greatly. It was mostly a month of good times and good memories. It only surprises me that it’s taken me this long to dream memories of the place. Sensei has returned to Okinawa every two to three years since then. He keeps going back and all I’ve done is dream about the memories I’ve made. Perhaps someday I’ll go back.

I didn’t get my black belt in Okinawa like I planned. In fact, I only got it the following year in Sensei’s private dojo in my hometown. In some ways, a lot of ways, that suited me better. Would it have been memorable to get it in Okinawa? Sure. But I wouldn’t trade the memories I gained in Okinawa or the experience of my black belt test for anything in the world. ☯

Through My Father’s Eyes

How ironic is it, that today happens to be Father’s Day AND the day I write about the people who have most inspired me throughout my life? First, let’s cover off the details of Father’s Day, shall we? Father’s Day was created by Sonora Smart Dodd after sitting in church listening to a sermon about Mother’s Day. She decided she wanted to create a holiday allowing her to honour her father’s memory as he had passed. The first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 9, 1910. It took a long time for the holiday to gain popularity, and it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed Father’s Day into law as a permanent, yearly holiday.

With all that being said, can you take a quick stab at who I’ll be writing about today? I would be remiss if I passed up the opportunity to write about one of the most influential men in my life: my father. His name is Peter Cook and he was born on May 4, 1952 in Saint John, New Brunswick. My father’s life did not have an easy beginning as he was given up at birth. It wasn’t until almost two years later that my Grandmother Anna and my Aunt Iris went to the orphanage and found him. My aunt took one look at him and said, “He’s smiling at me like Peter Rabbit…” And so my grandmother decided to name him Peter.

My father, feeding me in the middle of the night upon returning from a night shift.

My father grew up on the island of Grand Manan, which is island in the Bay of Fundy on the south-western corner of New Brunswick. It’s a very small island, but my grandfather was a fisherman and my grandmother was a nurse at the local hospital. My father spent many a day walking along the beaches, exploring the sea and joining my grandfather on fishing excursions.

My father developed a strong love of nature, which he ultimately passed on to me. He moved to the main land and graduated high school in Sussex. From there, the following years are a mystery as he took to travelling around the province with a backpack. He’s never told me the tales of what took place during those wandering years, but he made his way to the North Shore and found himself in Dalhousie, where he got a job with the Province’s power authority: NB Power.

He met my mother through some mutual friends and within a year they were married and had me. My mother already had a son from a previous relationship, my brother Stephane. He immediately adopted my brother once they were married and my brother became his son. As I’ve written in previous posts, my brother was afflicted with several serious medical conditions that required constant care and medical attention.

My father and I watching Star Trek on a lazy Sunday

My father didn’t hesitate for a second, and spent most of his time working overtime to afford sending my mother and brother to Montreal, where my brother received treatment by several specialists. The important thing is that my father always made time for me when he got home from work, no matter how busy or tired he may have been. But he sacrificed just about every part of himself for his children.

In the early 2000’s, my father began developing severe pain in his back. Although many people experience back pain, his would turn out to be far more extensive. Within the years that followed, my father would develop Degenerative Spine Disease, which would result in the loss of the use of his legs and confine him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.

My mother and father as they are today

My father is currently living in a care home in Northern New Brunswick. He lives out his life in a wheelchair, but makes the best of it. Like most Cook men, he has a fiery temper and does not suffer fools lightly. He gave up all of himself in order to provide for his family, and never spoke a word of regret. Despite the lot life has thrown him into, he’s never voiced that he would have done anything differently or any regrets he may have. Oh, sure… he bitches about his food and living conditions CONSTANTLY, but who wouldn’t?

My father is a gentle giant… A massive man who speaks softly but isn’t afraid to let his voice boom when the situation warrants it. A strong love for nature and for family, coupled with his ability to keep pushing no matter what life has thrown at him has made him one of the most inspirational men I know. And that’s important isn’t it? Everybody has heroes and it’s nice to look up to them. But I was lucky enough to be raised by mine. ☯

The Crack That May Break Your Back

Do you crack your knuckles? A lot of people do. In fact, I have a hard time sitting up and stepping out of bed without my body imitating the sound of 500 mouse traps popping simultaneously. The jury’s out on whether cracking your joints is considered “safe,” but most people do it at some point or another.

Cracking your knuckles and joints has NOT been proven to be harmful. There are various studies that I’ve recently read, and rather than try to link them all here, I’ll just let y’all Google “is cracking joints dangerous” and you’ll get a bunch of articles from peer-reviewed sites that will lend their opinion.

There are different theories as to what causes joints to crack, including the release of gasses between the joints, tendons and other tissues snapping one way or another. The consensus is generally the same no matter what article you read: So long as the cracking in question doesn’t cause pain, steady discomfort, discolouration of the joints or inflammation, you’re good to go.

Depending on the study you research, you may find conflicting information, but cracking your knuckles has NOT been linked with arthritis or any associated condition. However, if any of the symptoms I provided in the previous paragraph occur, it may be a sign of some underlying pre-existing condition.

Now setting side the knuckles for a moment, what about other joints? Such as the neck? I have a nasty habit of cracking my neck, and although the practice isn’t inherently dangerous in itself, frequent neck cracking can pinch nerves and cause damage to blood vessels in the neck over time. This can lead to all kinds of nasty symptoms and conditions.

Cracking knuckles and joints isn’t inherently good or bad, but for some (such as myself) it can lend some augury of relief. If it comes to something delicate like your neck, seek treatment by a trained professional, such as a chiropractor. They’ve been medically trained to know how to alleviate the pressure that can cause discomfort in the joints, neck and back. And it’s much safer than whipping your own head around. ☯

When, If Ever, Does It End?

It’s important to have goals. Ultimately, there is no hard and fast rule in regards to when you should get something done in life. Some people are of the opinion that one should be married with kids and potentially own a house by a certain age. But realistically, every person should progress with life at their own pace, no matter what others may say or think.

And while your life’s progression happens at your own pace, one needs to realize that life’s progression also never stops. Life only moves in one direction: forward. There’s no going back and there’s no doing it over. So for the most part, we consider it important to do it right the first time, because even though we should be ablate pick ourselves up and carry on, this isn’t always possible. As I’ve often said, life doesn’t care about your plan.

Sometimes we work really hard towards our goals and we actually achieve them. Dreams are based on something, right? But the mistake that most people make, is they stop or become complacent once they achieve said goal. It’s important to remember that life will continue to truck along at its usual pace, so you either need to MAINTAIN your goals or move on to the next one in order to carry on.

Working on life and having goals is a little like climbing a mountain. Doing so takes extensive training, planning and organizing. And once you’ve reached the top, it can be the best feeling in the world. But once you’ve climbed the mountain, the mountain doesn’t disappear. It still remains as the consistent obstacle that you first set to conquer. The same can be said for your goals. Whether you succeed or not, accomplishing the nice isn’t enough; because the obstacles you fought along the way will still be waiting the next day. ☯

Here I Sit, All Broken Hearted… 💔

You know, I consider myself to be a pretty reasonable man. I believe in hearing both sides of the story and getting to the truth of the matter. This is likely one of the reasons that I work in the industry that I do; because I like getting at the truth. So if there’s one thing that seriously grinds my gears, it’s a lack of communication or lack of clarity on someone’s part. Especially when it comes at my expense! You know, for a Buddhist, I sure do get angry and frustrated a lot… I think I have some work to do! 🙏

To make a long story short, I travelled back to New Brunswick yesterday for an opportunity that I had hoped would see my family and I move back here permanently. My intention was to share the journey with all of you, hence yesterday’s post “Here We Go Again…” The next few days were intended on being chapters of that journey, rather a bit like last September’s “A Strange Odyssey”. That’s not what’s happened.

I attended a scheduled appointment this morning in New Brunswick. That appointment was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and like the good little soldier that I am, I walked into that appointment at 11:15 and checked in at the reception counter. I was asked to take a seat and wait. So, I waited. 11:30 came and went. 11:45… 12:00… Something must be wrong..? What’s going on..? I text my wife and tell her what’s happening. She asks if I checked in upon arrival. I respond that I did. 12:15… 12:30… Something is definitely wrong… 12:45… Enough is enough. I ask the receptionist to call back and ask about this, because even if I’m the interviewee and should be a good boy and wait, an hour and a half beyond my scheduled appointment time is excessive, even if there is some kind of emergency. Someone should have come to find me by now.

The person with whom I have been corresponding, comes out and tells me that she never received my confirmation email that I was attending. I advise her that I sent one and was willing to show her. She advised that she had called the interviewer back and he would be back shortly. I started my interview almost two hours AFTER my scheduled time and if I do say so myself, crushed it! The interviewer was pretty clear that he shared that perspective. Less than two hours after the completion of the interview, I was emailed and advised that I wasn’t selected to continue with their process.

“I Mean, You Shouldn’t Be Asking People To Come Down Here And Pay The Freight On Something They Paid That Still Ain’t Good Enough. I Mean, You Think That’s Right? I Mean, Maybe You’re Doing Your Job But Why You Gotta Stop Me From Doing Mine? ‘Cause If You’re Willing To Go Through All The Battling You Gotta Go Through To Get Where You Wanna Get — Who’s Got The Right To Stop You? I Mean, Maybe You Guys Got Something You Never Finished, Something You Really Wanna Do, Something You Never Said To Somebody, SOMETHING! And You’re Told No, Even After You Pay Your Dues? Who’s Got The Right To Tell You That? Who? Nobody! It’s Your Right To Listen To Your Gut. It Ain’t Nobody’s Right To Say “No” After You Earned The Right To Be Where You Wanna Be And Do What You Wanna Do.”

– Rocky Balboa

Much like Sylvester Stallone’s character from the above quote mentioned, I fully acknowledge that the older I get, the more things I need to leave behind. That’s life. But eventually it gets just a little exhausting, burning myself out, burning through my family’s savings and constantly riding an emotional roller coaster, simply to have the rug pulled out even when I assume it’s going well and looks promising.

It would have been nice if they could have communicated more… Perhaps provide some reasoning as to why I would not be permitted to continue, especially when one considers flights, hotel, vehicle rentals and meals that are all out of my own pocket from the other side of the country! It’s definitely brutal.

Now, I sit in a hotel room, which was unplanned, to await my flight home to Regina tomorrow, which should have been when the next step in the process I paid the freight to attend would happen. Alone and disappointed; 3,600 kilometres away from my wife and children. Life doesn’t care about your plan. Light knows I’ve repeated that often enough, even in this blog. But man, would it be nice if karma would swing in my direction just once. That’s all I’m asking! Just once… ☯

Sometimes You Have To Take A Knee…

It’s been a rough few days, with the cold weather and snow finding a permanent home for the winter.  My knees feel as though they’re fighting against me, as far as movement goes.

The cold has a measurable and proven effect on one’s joints and tendons.  There are many explanations for this, including thickening of the fluids in your joints.  Thickened fluids will make the joints feel thicker and make it feel as though the joints are stiff.  Arthritis flare-ups and the expansion of tissue have also been known to cause pain. 

Whatever the reason, it’s a condition that has worsened over the years and I’m certainly feeling it today.  I missed a karate class last night, which irks me to no end.  But sometimes you need to know when to take a step back and allow the pain to pass.  What’s worse, classes have been cancelled for tomorrow night since it’s Halloween, but at least that gives me a full week’s rest before taxing my knees further.

Although there have been a number of studies performed in relation to joint pain during inclement weather, nothing conclusive has ever been proven.  Feel free to Google “joint pain when it’s cold” and you’ll find a bunch of articles…  Despite that fact, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate some of the pain.  

Obviously, some over-the-counter pain medications can help to some degree, depending on the exact cause.  If swelling is the culprit, ibuprofen can provide some relief.  Keep your joints warm…  I find that a heating blanket for short periods of time, helps to reduce the pain in my knees.  Make certain that you dress warmly, especially if going outdoors.  As usual, exercise and proper health management are always my favorite go-to’s when trying to prevent any sort of complication.

Hopefully once the weather becomes consistent, despite the cold, my joints will adjust and feel better.  In my case, some of it may be age-related.  But the bottom line is that even though it’s important to learn how to “fight through the pain”, it’s just as important to know when to back off and take it easy.  For the immediate moment, it appears that I’ll just have to take a knee… ☯

The Cost Of Making Life Work

Life is not an easy journey. There are risks, dangers and pitfalls that accompany you along this journey and tragedy awaits at every corner. Some people manage to live a life of relative ease, while others seem to have a bit more difficulty. Sometimes, the sacrifices required in order to live a peaceful life require a cost that most people are not willing and/or able to pay.

And then there’s me… I had a pretty difficult childhood, considering both my brother and I spent most of it in various hospitals. My family had fairly limited means, since we had to travel to children’s hospitals in Montreal for my brother fairly often. Despite this, I never found myself wanting for anything. We always had food on the table and a place to live, and this was ultimately what was important.

I’m currently on a journey of self-discovery and reinventing myself. It’s a difficult journey, and the sacrifices have been great. Even more so today… But if I can succeed, I will guarantee some security for my family. I had the opportunity to sit with Sensei last night. He made a cogent argument by pointing out that even though it causes us suffering, the situations we face in life are laid before us for a reason. Even if we don’t always believe or acknowledge that reason doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Today, I am faced with just such a situation. I’m not accustomed to dealing with scenarios that I can’t solve in some fashion. This leaves me feeling as though control is spiralling out of my hands and makes me anxious. Despite how unhappy this makes me, I also recognize that it’s a learning opportunity. I need to learn to unclench. Not only do I not have to be in total control all time, I honestly can’t be.

This is an important lesson for all of us. As much as we’d like to maintain control over everything in our environment, there will always be things that happen that are outside our control. This means that there’s no point or advantage to pining over it or allowing it to cloud our judgement. Even the worst of situations eventually find a resolution. As the old saying goes: This too, shall pass. ☯