Going With The Flow Doesn’t Always Bring You To Calm Waters…

As humans, we are pack creatures. No matter how much of a loner you may think you are, inherently you are designed to run with the pack and be among your own. This is why people have often used the expression “go with the flow”… Because it’s much easier to follow the pack than to stand alone.

Some good examples I can provide include that at some point in humanity’s history, the population believe that Earth was the centre of the universe and that the Sun revolved around us. This was eventually opposed in the 3rd century BC when the notion of the planets orbiting the sun was introduced. The population rejected the notion and fought against it, as a whole. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Nicolas Copernicus revived the notion and helped to prove it as the established standard. (This is known as Heliocentrism, you can Google it!)

Another good example is how people used to believe the Earth was flat! (I know that some people still believe this concept, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary. But I’m not here to argue against the Flat Earth Society!) The concept of a spherical Earth was proposed as early as 6th century BC by the Greeks, although it wasn’t accepted as a given until the 3rd century BC and only started to gain leverage as the standard after Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation expedition in the 1500’s.

For the longest time, the world’s greatest scientific minds believed that everything in the universe was made up of molecules and atoms and that these were the smallest particles! It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when they examined atoms up close and discovered the distinct particles that composed them. They found even smaller and weirder stuff once they cracked those suckers open and discovered sub-atomic particles, quarks and all that jazz… But enough of the physics lesson!

Even in modern society, certain histories and beliefs have been proven wrong or incorrect because of newfound evidence, lending to the premise that some histories need to be rewritten.

My point is, in order for humanity to continue to advance and become more than what we are, we need to keep our minds open to new ideas. Just because something has always been “the standard”, doesn’t mean that it will always be so. (Insert something here about teaching an old dog new tricks…) It is important that we be able to hear new ideas, acknowledge them and examine them, even though they may never be proven right. The concept of brainstorming is fast becoming a lost art in modern society, due to the availability of the world’s knowledge at our literal fingertips. But it’s up to us to continue to allow our minds to come up with, and share, new ideas and information.

The Weight of The World…

Stress. It has become a defining factor of modern day society. Unfortunately, you would be extremely hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t experience some level of stress in today’s world. In fact, even the wealthy and philanthropic have their own stresses, albeit stresses we likely don’t understand.

Some of my more religious associates would say that “God never throws more at you than you can handle…” If this is true, then I must have shoulders of fortified steel.

If stress simply involved worrying about something, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. The major issue with stress is the physiological and psychological effects it can carry with it. Sometimes, even the more trivial symptoms can be overlooked, such as a headache or back ache. But these physical symptoms can often be associated to the stresses on your life. Some of them can be more severe. Depression, change of mood or appetite and constant fatigue despite being unable to sleep can all be caused by stress.

So, what can one do to alleviate this? Well, the most obvious thing would be to eliminate the source of the stress. If possible, that would be the most effective way to reduce and eliminate your symptoms. However, when the stress in your life is caused by something you can’t eliminate, like perhaps your career that you’ve worked your whole life for, eliminating the cause becomes a little more difficult.

There are some traditional ways to manage stress. My obvious go-to and favourite one would include getting regular physical activity. Exercising releases certain hormones and helps to relax you. It also keeps your metabolism up and will help you sleep better. These are all things that will alleviate stress. I can certainly attest to the measurable benefits of working out on a punching bag.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga. But it sometimes becomes hard to focus and concentrate on these things, depending on what’s bothering you.

As appealing as it may seem, you want to try and stay away from hobbies that will leave you sitting idle. Binge watching television or surfing the Internet may seem like a distraction, but in the long term it leaves you in a position where you can dwell on the things that are causing the issue.

Last but not least, prolonged bouts of stress can cause some serious, life-threatening physiological changes. If you notice that you have taken steps to control your stress but it lingers on, it might be time to chat with your doctor. If you start experiencing chest pains, random sweats and dizziness, it could be a sign of a heart attack. Be sure to take good care of yourselves.

Aches and Pains, They Don’t just Happen To Old Guys Like Me!

People who practice a sport or martial art for any length of time will likely suffer from some level of sports injury at some point. Although I’m not a doctor, I’ve suffered my fair share and they tend to keep on coming as I accumulate a larger number to my age (insert “old dog” jokes here).

I think it’s important to understand the difference between an ache, which one might feel after a particularly intense workout, and pain, which can be the result of an injury. If you’re uncertain as to which you’re feeling, you just might have an injury.

Today’s modern lifestyle helps to encourage unfortunate injuries. Most people work a sedentary or desk position from Monday to Friday, then try to become weekend warriors by sliding into home base on the company softball team or laser tag! When we sit idle for long periods of time, our muscles tend to atrophy and tighten up, making it easier to get hurt once you DO engage in physical activity.

The most common injuries are sprains, which is the pulling of the elastic tendons connecting the joints and bones. But there are some common injuries that occur, such as ACL tears or strains, groin pulls, concussions, shin splints and Tennis Elbow. Those all sound pleasant, right? I’ve experienced all of those, on one level or another, EXCEPT an ACL tear.

If you wake up the following morning and your body and muscles in general just kinda seem to hurt, you’ve probably just gotten the ache of a deep workout. However, if you notice swelling, discolouration or excessive pain that feels as though lightning is shooting through the affected area, it signifies an actual injury.

According to an article on WebMD written by Matthew Hoffman, MD, mild injuries can be treated at home by following the PRICE method:

P – Protect From Further Injury: For more severe injuries, protect the injured area with splints or bandages. Obviously this would involve an open wound. Torn muscles or dislocations may simply require splinting or elastic bandaging until you can get to a doctor;

R – Restrict Activity: Stop doing what you’re doing! Continuing to work out when you have an injury will worsen or aggravate it. It’s one thing to “work through the pain”, but continuing to push yourself when you’re genuinely hurt can lead to permanent injury;

I – Apply Ice: Apply ice to the injury immediately. This will help reduce the swelling, which is common with sports injuries. Ice is considered a natural anti-inflammatory without any side effects. Health professionals recommend icing for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first two days. Contrary to some opinion, professionals don’t recommend heat as it can encourage further swelling;

C – Apply Compression: applying an elastic bandage will help to reduce swelling;

E – Elevate the Injured Area: Raising the injured appendage above the heart will also help to reduce swelling.

If you have aches and mildly pulled muscles, analgesic creams and warming blankets can help alleviate the pain. Over the counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen can also be useful in small doses, and only in the short term. Anything that persists for more than a few days should be examined by a health practitioner.

One of the best preventative measures is, of course to work out regularly. By maintaining a regular exercise regiment, you’re less likely to injure yourself. When you do work out, ensure to perform a light warm-up before starting. Once your muscles and joints are warm, they can be worked and developed with less risk of you hurting yourself.

I Promise It Isn’t A “Man Flu”…

So I took a nap, yesterday afternoon when I started to feel a bit sluggish. My blood sugars were fine and I was waiting for a buyer to come pick up some furniture I’m trying to sell. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was warming the living room and my couch was doing that strange whispering thing: “Go to sleep… Go to sleep…” No? Maybe that’s just me. So, anyway I fall asleep for a short nap. When I awoke a little while later, my head felt as though someone has tightened a vice on it and my throat felt as though it had been refinished with a belt sander. I had apparently caught a cold…

I know, I know… There’s a standing joke that when a guy catches a cold, he makes it seem like it’s the end of the world. Although I know a few guys who fall under this category, I assure you this isn’t the case.

One of the big problems with being a Type 1 Diabetic (Like there aren’t plenty!) is that it compromises one’s immune system and causes one to catch every little bug that comes along.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. It’s generally harmless, although symptoms often don’t make it feel that way. The average person recovers from the common cold within 5 to 10 days, unless it’s accompanied with a fever or other aggravating factors, and the symptoms usually show up days after you’ve actually caught the cold. The Mayo Clinic website explains this in further detail and can be read here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605

For someone with Diabetes, some symptoms become aggravated and blood sugar levels are often affected. This is because the body will release particulars hormones to help combat the viral infection. That added release of hormones makes it difficult for your insulin to be effectively used and can cause a raise in blood sugar levels.

Not that this doesn’t apply to non-Diabetics, but it becomes extremely important to consume fluids regularly to help prevent further issues. This will also help to better control your blood sugar while trying to combat the illness. unlike most people, we don’t have the benefit of a loss of appetite. Although you may not be hungry, a Diabetic needs to try and eat at least small amounts every hour or so.

Over the counter medications are doable, but one has to be sure to read the information label to ensure that they don’t contain sugar. This is especially the case with cough syrups and cough drops.

Test your blood sugar frequently and do your best to try and maintain your levels. The only thing worse than cold symptoms would be slipping into ketoacidosis, which would be side effect of dehydration during illness.

Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to curl into a ball on the couch with my blankie…

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother…

Wednesday was National Siblings Day, which I have difficulty believing I missed. Yes, it is an American holiday founded in 2015 and celebrates siblings much in the same way as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

A fact that isn’t known by most of my friends is that I had an older brother. Born in 1972, he was afflicted with complete kidney failure at birth, a result of a rare renal condition called Fanconi Syndrome. He also had a deformity of the legs, which required doctors to break and reset both his knees at the age of two. Besides spending his first two years of life on dialysis and facing multiple health issues, he lived well beyond his life expectancy.

Me at 4 years old on the left, my brother at 10 years old on the right

Through his first five years of life, he faced grave difficulties, which included a kidney transplant that ultimately saved his life. He spent a lot of time at St. Justine’s Children’s Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. During my youth, I came to know that hospital all too well.

By the time I was born in 1978 (yes, I’m old!), my brother was ecstatic at the thought of having a little brother. He took the role of being a big brother very seriously. From day one, he believed it was his job to take care of me and teach me the meaning of life.

My brother at 14 years old, believe it or not, and me at 8 years old!

Over the years that followed, my brother developed a number of health complications including but not limited to, Epilepsy, Type 2 Diabetes and Asthma. His growth was severely stunted and his health was constantly in jeopardy. Every Monday morning, he would take blood work at the hospital in our home town. Depending on the results that would ensue in the next hour, doctors would decide if my brother needed to be rushed by emergency transport to Montreal for treatment, or live another week at home. It was chaotic and stressful for the entire family. I remember a number of occasions where he would need to travel immediately to Montreal and money would need to be raised by the Catholic church or family to help.

My brother was on at least two dozen different medications and monitored by almost ten different doctors and specialists to ensure the balance and the function of everything he was on.

Me at 11 years old on the left and believe it or not, my brother at 17 years old on the right!

I’ll admit that I was at too young an age to understand all the different medical conditions that afflicted my brother. But I spent every waking moment that didn’t involve school or karate at his bedside.

Me at 12 years old and my brother at 18! This would be the last photograph we took together.

Although I had a number of health complications in my youth as a result of Type 1 Diabetes, it didn’t come close to comparing to the problems my brother had.

Despite all these problems, he had a love for life that I’ve never seen repeated by any living person. He was well known within our community; a firm advocate of helping people and speaking out for those who couldn’t speak out for themselves. Never since have I seen someone so small in stature have such a big heart and big character. Larger than life, he was an active member of his community and spent time with Lions Clubs International, where he served as their official mascot.

Always the business man, he started making Christmas crafts with recycled egg cartons, which he sold at very little profit. Some can still be seen adorning windows during the holiday season in Dalhousie, New Brunswick almost 18 years later. His name is still well-known by a number of people within the community, even today.

I’ll always remember when I reached my pre-teen years and started going to school dances. He brought me into his room and explained the concept of “girls” to me, and what I should do to find a girlfriend. He spritzed me with cologne and helped me apply deodorant, years before I would need it. He actually told me that the only price for his help was to bring a girlfriend home for him! It’s hilarious to me, looking back on it now. But at the time, he was my role model, guide and everything that it was to be teenager. Fond memories flood my mind as I type this…

Sadly, he passed away in April of 1991. He was 18 years old, and he ironically passed away of heart failure, as opposed to any of the other congestive medical conditions he suffered from. I was by his side when he passed away. He was no bigger than a juvenile at ten years of age but was an actual late teenager. I have carried the weight of his death with me ever since and it haunts me still…

His life has been an inspiration for me ever since. If not for his example, I would not have achieved black belt in karate. I likely would not have become a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and I likely would not have achieved EVERYTHING I have achieved in life. Despite his health problems and the constant fear of death, he had an extreme love of life, family and God, which he took with him to his final moments. He gave me all the drive I would need, for a lifetime. Although I have never believed in regrets, my only regret in life is that he would never get to meet my wife, his sister-in-law, or his nephew, my son.

His name was Stephane, and I will miss him for as long as I live…

His death and funeral were difficult for me. As a pre-teen, I couldn’t quite understand the injustice of allowing someone so full of life to pass on, when people who took life for granted were allowed to continue on. I would give the world’s riches to allow me to have five minutes to see him again.

After his death, my parents and I left the New Brunswick area for a while. We travelled and got out of the area to allow our heads to cool. I got to see wondrous things for a pre-teen, but the only thought I had was wondering if my brother could see me from where he was…

In later years, I was gifted to have someone step up and try to fill my brother’s shoes. No one ever could, but Guillaume would be the only one who could ever come close. He approached and became my adoptive brother.

Guillaume and I in 2000, one year before i would travel to Okinawa

He would go on to teach me to play guitar, enjoy life, and would follow me on so many adventures that filed some of the gaps that were left by my brother’s passing. I don’t think Guillaume himself even knows the amount of influence he has had on my life. Being the son of my karate instructor, he’s often been a shoulder to lean on in some difficulties in life.

Although I’m a day or two late, I think it’s important to acknowledge the role siblings play in our lives. That role is important in our lives and development; more so than we often understand. I can only hope that the whatever the next stage of human existence involves, that my brother is able to see what I’ve accomplished and is proud. The anniversary of his death was on April 4th. It’s always a somber day for me, but I take comfort in the fact that I carry many of his teachings and influences with me.

R.I.P. brother…

Don’t Forget The Good ‘Ol Days…

I’ve always been an avid reader. As a child, I would often have two, three, often four or five books on the go at once. I still do. When my folks would try and get me to bed at night, they never had to read me a bedtime story as I would already be curled up with a paperback in my hands.

This isn’t to mean that it was all constructive reading… I would often read Archie comics or regular comic books. These numbered in the thousands by the time I reached the end of my teen years. But the reading was constant, and even the comic books helped to develop my imagination and creativity. My grandmother worked as a nurse, back in the days when nurses did a lot of the work that doctor would do, simply by virtue of availability. As a result, we had hundreds of medical textbooks from the 60’s in our home. And since there was only one room with enough space to fit a bookshelf to place them, they ended up in my room. My father wasn’t overly fond of me reading them, but I used to love going through them and seeing how the human body functioned. I think that may have been one of the divining factors behind my fascination with science (that, and Star Trek).

One of my mother’s biggest pet peeves when I was a child, was my tendency to bring books to the table. Although quiet and well-behaved (at least according to her) I had a tendency of having a book in front of my face as soon as I sat at the table. Both my parents would insist I cast the book aside to allow me to spend the meal with them. My parents believed that mealtime was an important time for a family to speak with one another, discuss the day’s events and simply be in each other’s presence. They were right.

How a Family Dinner Should be. That’s not me, by the way!

There have been a number of studies in recent years related to the development of our children and the use of electronic devices. Although not inherently bad on their own, most professionals agree that child development depends on touch, visualization and speaking; many aspects we don’t get from a tablet. Even if your child’s device is “blessed” with educational app and games, their frequent use, especially at the dinner table and out at social gatherings (restaurants and get togethers) damage the child’s ability to develop certain social functions required as we grow into adulthood.

Mari K. Swingle, PhD. wrote a book on the subject called “i-Minds”, which covers the use of technology and its effect on our brains as well as our health and happiness. It will be released at the end of this month The National Post website has posted an interesting article, which cites some of Dr. Swingle’s concerns and can be read here: https://nationalpost.com/health/kids-are-getting-too-much-screen-time-and-its-affecting-their-development

My wife and I recently started imposing a “no devices” policy at the dinner table. It hasn’t been easy, and my son has often balked at the prospect. He’s even taken to using the trick we’ve often seen joked about online where he puts the iPad just outside the dining room but still within viewing distance. It’s been a challenge, but he is starting to have his meals on a more consistent level and chats with us at the table.

Nathan, chasing ducks.

This morning, I took my son to Wascana Lake. Situated in Regina, Saskatchewan, it’s a man-made lake that was created in 1883 and it sits just north of the Parliament Building. It contains a lot of avian animals and is usually a favourite for people who run, cycle and take photographs.

Nathan was doing fine until the goose hissed at him!

Now, I could have shown Nathan some photos of the Parliament Building on his device. I could have looked up ducks and geese on his iPad and explained what he was seeing. He would have enjoyed it and would have “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” at seeing the animals. But it certainly wouldn’t have substituted taking a walk together, approaching and seeing the animals in real life and interacting with them. His laughter and enjoyment, coupled with running and fresh air has no comparison!

Although fun to look at, these large buggers can be aggressive

Technology and smart devices can certainly make life easier, in some respects. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of planting Nathan in front of his iPad on occasion in exchange for a few moments of peace and quiet. And while the advancement of technology has aided society in many ways, it’s important that we not lose sight of our humanity. Sit and talk with your children. Spend time doing things with them. This is how we will ensure the continued growth of our society. Not through the screen of a smart device.

The Child Mind Institute has also posted a wonderful article on Understood.org that covers the subject of devices at the dining table and its effects on children, as well as their parents. The article can be read here: https://www.understood.org/en/family/events-outings/family-dinners-and-dining-out/should-i-let-my-child-quietly-use-his-phone-at-the-dinner-table

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand…

Abraham Lincoln made the above noted comment as the opening line to his acceptance address for the Illinois Republican Party in 1858. Although I’m not referring to anything political today, I want to discuss foundations.

A good foundation is the basis for any house. And no matter how big and luxurious the house, it will eventually falter if the foundation is weak.

When getting into any kind of sport or martial art, it’s important to bear in mind that you need to learn the basics before you learn what most people consider the “fun stuff”. In my experience, I’ve found that people will often walk into a karate dojo hoping to do flying spin kicks and back flips within their first month. (For the record, in thirty years of karate I have never done either of those as they are all but useless in an actual fight)

One good example is the originator of my karate style, Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948), once explained that when he went to Fujien Province and learned Kung Fu, he spent three years training and practicing Sanchin kata before the monks would teach him anything else. Can you imagine? Doing the same structured form, over and over again, for three straight years before learning something else? Today’s modern student wouldn’t stand for it. But the monks at the monastery swore that Sanchin was the foundation for everything that followed and needed to be mastered first and foremost. Master Uechi went on to share this belief when he propagated the style in Okinawa.

When studying any martial art or sport, it is of the utmost importance that students learn and master the basics before moving on to something else. One would think this is common sense, but I’ve seen far too many students walk away once they realized that repetition was a constant within the dojo. Repetition is key in mastering any movement.

So, make sure you lay your foundation before building your house, and make it a strong one. This will guarantee that no matter how big your house gets, you can count on it being held up by the foundation you’ve taken the time to master.