Getting Caught In The Mouse Trap…

I’ve been doing martial arts for a LONG time, as long as the median age of some of my readers. And I’ve had a lot of role models and inspiring people who have helped me along the way. As a child, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t inspired by some of the on-screen talent that I’ve seen. Some have been traditional, some have been a bit more, shall we say eclectic? And I feel that once in a while, I should pay homage to some of these martial artists, for they’ve done what many have dreamt about through their teens: they became famous.

There’s something of a stigma against on-screen martial artists. And this is for good reason. A lot of what we see on screen isn’t genuine, and is usually choreographed and arranged before being filmed. But once in a while, a little light shines through. And by “little,” I am referring of course, to one of my childhood idols, Michele “The Mouse” Krasnoo…

Due to licensing and copyright laws, I won’t be sharing an image of Krasnoo, but she can be found easily by Googling her name. Krasnoo is originally from California and began studying the Korean art of Tang Soo Do in 1980 when she was just 6 years old! She reached black belt level by her early teens, which although I’m typically not a fan of, she made it work for her.

Over the years that followed, Krasnoo studied and became proficient in a few other styles of martial arts (sound familiar?). She got into acting and became known for her intricate martial arts forms and the colourful use of uniforms. In 2006, she was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame. She’s also proficient in various weapons.

I first saw her on screen in the mid-80’s when No Retreat, No Surrender was released on tape (it was probably Beta cassette, just in case you’re interested in guessing how old I am!) I’ve seen her in a handful of other films, and she became a favourite of mine. I found myself able to relate to her because of her dedication, her study of multiple styles and the fact that she gained her nickname (The Mouse) due to her short height of 5 feet. Considering I’ve felt small through a good portion of my life.

As of the early 2000’s, Krasnoo held a 5th-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, 1st-degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu, which is a similar style to my own Uechi-Ryu, 1st-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a black sash in Wushu Kung Fu. She holds a ridiculous number of championship titles and despite her on-screen time, is a traditional martial artist in the most rudimentary of ways.

Krasnoo has moved on in her life, married with children and all. But she still does some acting and has been a source of inspiration for this martial artist for years. I still watch Kickboxer 4 on occasion and enjoy watching her kick the crap out of people three times her size. We find our role models in the least likely of places, but we take ’em where we can get ’em! ☯

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. ☯

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. ☯

Traditional vs. Modern Learning

Have you ever read Romeo & Juliet? I haven’t. Granted, I attended and graduated from a French high school and it likely wouldn’t have been part of the curriculum. But what if you have read it? Did you consider it useful? Or was it something you felt was a waste of your time? And most importantly, was it a waste of your time because you simply didn’t enjoy it? Or was it a waste because you felt you should be spending your time learning something more valuable?

Throughout the past decades, there’s been a trend where students (and adults) have a tendency of saying things like, “Why am I learning this? I’ll never use this later on…” Especially when it comes to subjects like algebra, advanced physics and even history, students feel that there is a significant lack in material taught in schools that could be more valuable to them in the future.

In some cases, many of them are right. Let’s say that you HAD read Romeo & Juliet. What value would it serve you, in your adult life? Well, if you chose to study something or venture into a career that involves literature, creative writing, philosophy or even journalism, it may have served an important purpose to your future plans. However, if you go into business, law of public service, the story of two star-crossed lovers bringing their respective families together through their deaths likely taught you nothing (hey, I may not have read the book, but I know the story!)

But many believe that there is an inherent value in ALL learning, regardless of it’s purpose or reasoning (I’m one of them). School is meant to provide a person with the basic skills and knowledge required to move on to their adult lives and pursue whatever careers they choose. In case you missed it, let me highlight the important word, there: basic. BASIC!!! A book such as Romeo & Juliet can teach a variety of important life skills that the reader likely never becomes aware of. Things such as enrichment of language, study of the human condition, and last but not least, time-management since you know damn well that some time-crunching teacher gave you a deadline to finish the book.

These are all valuable skills that you WILL use later on in life, regardless of what vocation you choose. But typically, we fail to realize those “unspoken” lessons and focus solely on our struggles of the moment and struggling to stay awake through class. It’s comparable to the Karate Kid, where Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel by having him wax cars and paint fences. You know, the whole “wax on, wax off” thing? The protagonist totally didn’t understand why he was doing those things until it was shown to him in practical terms.

Don’t get me wrong; The Karate Kid is an excellent movie and reminds me of my childhood in many respects. It’s a feel-god story about the good guy winning, but it’s total bullshit. You can’t learn to block properly by waxing cars. Still a great movie. Jus’ saying… And I only use Romeo & Juliet as an example because it was one of the first that came to mind.

Something that I’ve often heard, from adults especially, is that they would have seen more value in learning things like how to draft a decent resume, write professional letters or how one does one’s taxes. But the problem is that these skills can and usually are, taught in post-secondary environments such as college and university. I remember when I was in college, we had whole classes just on how to properly apply for jobs, how to make our resumes look neat and professional and how to send correspondence. The material and lessons you learn through grade school and high school are meant to lead into that, since typically-speaking the learning is never SUPPOSED to stop.

Unfortunately, when one is competing against the likes of a society where people make a living and occasionally even get rich by being a “social media influencer” or having millions of YouTube or Twitter subscribers, learning proper math can seem a little mundane and may not have you seeing the value of what you’re learning. But the important lesson here is that in everything that is taught, there is something to learn. If you find yourself in the learning environment and wonder why in the hell you need to know this stuff, try and look beyond the immediate lesson into the skills and knowledge that may be hiding underneath. You may be surprised at what you find. ☯

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. ☯

Don’t Be Afraid To Mix It Up…☕️

I love coffee. If you’ve read some of my posts, you’re likely all aware of this fact. And although the current state of the world has prevented me from enjoying some of my more commercially-enjoyed coffees from chains who shall remain unnamed, I still have the benefit of enjoying coffee at home.

Our Keurig machine recently died on us (There Is No Keurig In The Apocalypse), which left me with a bulk box of K-cups sitting in our cold room. My wife usually makes a pot of coffee first thing in the morning, but our preference of coffee blend/strength differs enough that I usually favour an energy drink as opposed to a traditional cup of coffee.

But a few days ago, I found myself staring at an empty coffee pot. I decided to peel open a few K-cups and brew the grounds like a traditional pot of coffee. My bulk box is Kirkland’s Pacific Bold coffee, which packs a strong flavour and aroma. I absolutely love this coffee, even if it’s not the only blend I drink. I grabbed three K-cups from the box and headed upstairs. (I’ve done this with K-cups before and knew that 3 cups would be adequate)

Despite being a 110-cup bulk box that was three quarters full, I somehow managed to grab THE ONLY TWO K-CUPS THAT WEREN’T PART OF THE BOX!!!! As much as I hate how lazy it makes me sound, I was already upstairs and didn’t feel like running back down to switch them up. So I used the three cups I had.

The three K-cups I used included a Kirkland Pacific Bold, Van Houtte Colombian Dark and Van Houtte Original House Blend. I believe the last two came from my most recent hotel stay where I didn’t have the opportunity to make coffee. Despite the strange odds of me grabbing three different cups, I cut them open and brewed a full pot.

I gotta say, it came out pretty good. I had a couple of cups, and my wife even tried it. Depending on where you purchase, blending coffee is an excellent way to enhance and complement the flavours of each. You can do this with any two or more blends. Surprisingly, most chain-store coffees are a blend of some sort and you probably enjoy it and wonder why it’s so damn good, compared to your home brew, BECAUSE it’s blended.

For the most part, it can be difficult to get an adequate supply of a singular coffee blend to allow distributors to meet demand, so most commercially-bought coffees are also blended. Blending your coffees can be a great way to explore and develop a unique coffee flavour for yourself, whether you mix beans before roasting and/or grinding them, or simply mixing purchased grounds before putting them in the coffee machine. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! ☯

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! ☯