Get Back Up

As a young lad wanting to be a copper more than I even wanted to breathe oxygen, I both asked for stories and listened intently when they were delivered from my “Superman-like” (in my eyes, at least), Sergeant Dad.

One story or a bit of advice I remember getting, solicited or not, was about fighting. About your adversary getting the better of you. In part:

”When you are in a fight and get knocked to the ground, as you are falling to the ground, best you be screaming in your head, ’Get Up!’

If you wait until you are on the ground to realize it and then start screaming, it’s too late and the boots are coming next. You’re done.”

I thought about that a lot in the 30 plus years since I heard it. Employed it a few times. Always benefitted me. But never really thought of it, deeply.

I saw this picture on Instagram this morning, and while the advice is similar and presented in that trendy say we like to see stuff online these days, it really made me think about that sage advice from long ago.

We often wait too long to react. We over analyze, debate, fight internally. We need to do better at recognizing a dilemma and act. Respond immediately, appropriately and justly.

When looking at physical conflict, we speak of ”violence of action, ” but could this theory too not be employed in any conflict?

Seems to me that it would be beneficial to both sides, save protracted conflict, ensure effective resolution.

That’s my thought of the day.

”Get up. The boots are coming next.”


The Obesity Epidemic

In 1980 there was almost no type 2 diabetes in children.

By 2008, 1 in 4 teenagers were pre-diabetic or had type 2 diabetes.

Let that sink in for a moment, then continue.

My entire life I have battled fitness and weight loss. Some successes, some failures. As a result, as an untrained layperson, I’ve read and researched more than any nutritionist or exercise guru. Like most on the hamster wheel of life, I’ve tried most plans and programs. I’ve learned lots. Most is crap, some is good.

I went to my children’s Christmas concert the other night. Great time, but I left with the oddest observation. It was the biggest group of kids I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean in number, I mean in size. What’s going on?

We are long immersed in the digital age. Playing with your friends hasn’t meant kicking a ball around the yard for two generations now. It’s kicking back in the sofa, booting up the PS4, connecting to your buddy cross town or across the globe and gaming for hours. In my day, we played “guns” outside for hours. Now, my sons play in an online battleground, moving not their legs, but their thumbs.

Add to this lack of movement poor nutrition due to variety of factors. Busy lives, hectic schedules, convenience foods, processed and packaged “food like” substances, all come together in a perfect storm of metabolic disaster. We are teaching ourselves and our kids to be unhealthy and sick.

What’s the fix? First is a realization of the situation we are in as a society. We need to stop spending so much time worrying about “evil-doers” in far away lands and worry about what’s more likely to kill us. Our own poor choices in nutrition and exercise.

Second, it’s looking after our kids. Protecting them from themselves and our own bad habits. As parents, we wouldn’t let our kids play in traffic, so why do we let them lay around in excess and become sicker? Looking after them includes what we feed them too. We wouldn’t let our kids smoke, it’s bad! So why do we let them fill up on processed and refined and additive filled foods? The answer to both questions is a bit more complicated than we might think.

As a society, we are lazier than 2-3 generations before. That’s not purely a condemnation though. We lead busier lives than our grandparents did. We are always on the go, so we are always looking for ways to streamline, to make those busy days go more effortlessly. As a result, Sony parents (not babysits) the kids and Ronald McDonald feeds them. Easy! Off to the next life event! We have experienced a shift in societal obligations, which contributes to this epidemic.

What are we doing to ourselves and our kids and in turn to their future children? We are continuing to make a sicker population. So, what’s the fix?

I’m not going to write volumes on how to. We all know how to. It’s a matter of honestly realizing we need to. We need to realign our priorities to look after ourselves and those we love. We need to become unselfishly selfish. We need to pull back from those optional activities and focus on what matters, ourselves and our health, and the health of those that we care for.

Will it be easy? Nope, however I suggest anything worth doing comes at a price. The rewards and returns are priceless.

Take a few minutes. Get outside. Drag the kids with you. Breathe the air. Relish in it. Try an outdoor activity that uses muscles other than thumbs. Then find some real food. Something from nature’s packaging. Put the two together. Repeat. See what happens.

Live Like you are Dying

I woke to some very sad news this morning. A friend of mine, who had been diagnosed just before Christmas last year with a very virulent form of cancer had passed overnight.

As I sit and reflect on this news and try to find out where it will assimilate into the fabric of my understanding of the human condition, some things have struck me that I want to comment on.

I first met him as an instructor when I was going through cadet training. This guy was so “out there” and “over the top”, the old man in me (second career after a long stint in another profession that has left me jaded) thought, “what the hell do we have here?”

During his time instructing us, he pushed, he prodded, he taunted. Sometimes I felt he was over the top. I remember the morning and the moment that I decided him and I were on different sides of the equation. I was standing in the cafeteria line and there were basically two menu options in front of us. Healthy and not so much. As I picked from the yummy, but not so healthy options, he came up to me. In his famously loud and animated voice, he asks, “Well, Cadet, what are we having for breakfast?” He then went on to itemize my fried eggs and bacon and sausage.. well, you get the point.

Would it surprise you to know that the next morning, as I recall now, I picked yogurt and fruit a cereal. As much as it annoyed me that day, seems he did “teach me something.” But the feeling remained.

Over the next seven years, we saw each other as work and training required. I think we respected each other, however there was no fear that we would ever be exchanging Christmas cards. We never acknowledged our differences. They just existed. But, as I look back at the last 8 years and our interactions and correspondence, I think we had developed a mutual respect and understanding of each other’s methods, intents and values.

It was in this last year that our friendship developed. We started texting each other. Telling stories and sharing thoughts. Not once did we speak about his illness or what was to follow for him. For those who know him or I, you know what we do and thats what we talked about. What we are, what we do and how it has formed us.

It was very educational and humbling for me. I slowly went from”what the hell do we have here?” to understanding why he was “how he was.” Everything he did was at 110% effort, speed and enthusiasm. Some of us didn’t get it, some of us never will, sadly. I learned this is a guy that wanted the best from everyone around him. He didn’t just demand it, but he would be willing to do his best to help you achieve it. Sometimes his methodology was misunderstood, mocked and ridiculed, but for those who were open minded and accepting of others way, it had its effectiveness.

Never let it be said that I think I am a perfect person. Far from it. I have guilt that I didn’t realize it earlier. I was one of those that for too long, ridiculed the methods and didn’t look at the accomplishments. Shame on me. I hope in this last year, I learned something from him.

The title of this post, “Live Like You Are Dying” it fitting for this man. He was always one of the most active people I know. He ran, biked and swam. He was active in his community, his church and his profession. He was a family man and a professional man. This was a man that I actually believe had no vice, no ill will, no malicious intent. Sickening to us mere mortals. I am sure he had faults, but really, what is the value in that analysis at this moment?

As we sat in class sipping our double doubles listening to some boring lecture, he was was off to the sit, doing dips off a chair, just because. As we took a lunch break, he took a run. Thats how he was.

In his last year, all I heard about from others (never from him) was all the things he was involved in. He biked, he bought a motorcycle, remained active in his church, and stayed involved with those of us at work. In short, that man lived more in his last year than most of us do in 70.

Again, for those that actually know him or me, you’d know that by virtue of our vocation we were brothers in blood. In spite of our differences, there existed an unbreakable bond between us.

He showed compassion when others wouldnt. My grand dad died while I was in training. He organized and lead an honour guard of pall bearers for my grand dad. He did without being asked. He did it because it was the right and proper thing to do.

About a month before his death, we got a message from a boss at work saying he would no longer be able to respond to messages, he was too sick to reply, but that his wife would read whatever we sent to him as he took comfort from what we sent. As such, I kept sending messages. The response was silence, but I remained hopeful that he was hearing what I sent.

Eleven days before he died I sent a message about a particularly hard work I had done that day. A few hours later, I received a reply:

“Bwahahahah. Anything that keeps you alive is good in my book. Just remember not to kill your self while your trying to get stronger.”

At first, I was amazed and moved that he replied. I figured, “must be a good day for him.” In the days that followed a new realization emerged. He was taking whatever opportunity he had left in him to educate, to cheer, and to help better another. That one message encapsulated how he approached life. I never got it until far too late. My loss.

I don’t write here to entertain. Mostly its to sort out my own thoughts and understanding of things. I felt the need to hash this out and pass it along.

Take the time to understand each other, to help and develop each other. Pass on what you know. Look for the good.

And live like you are dying.

God speed, my brother, rest easy, we have the watch from here. God bless.


Love the Police, Hate the Police

Let’s see what this post does for my popularity.

Recently a local cop was featured in the news for being investigated and charged criminally. Immediately, the public “experts” are running their mouths. Both about this guys presumed guilt, but also how cops, none of them, can be trusted.

Cops are always in the news. For good and for bad. Always. They bring in ratings. And don’t kid yourselves. In this highly competitive 1000 channel world, the news organization with the best story makes the money. Come up with a better, juicier story, and you sell your channel. That’s the bottom line.

What’s the result? When cops make mistakes, being human, they are paraded out in public to be beaten down BEFORE convicted. And their peers, who go to work, stand the line, serve and protect, get pulled into the fray.

Question to ponder. If the UPS or Purolator driver gets charged with DUI, does that mean that all drivers for those companies are drunks? It appears not. Papers don’t even pick that stuff up. Why? Read up. It don’t sell. But make it a scandal, make big inflated claims, and just watch the ratings soar.

Resulting from the media slant (sales), is the public, God love them, sheep being led to the slaughter, believing the hype and running their mouths on social media. Not a clue of what they are posting, retweeting, sharing or otherwise propagating. There seems to be some correlation between a single person being charged or investigated and the integrity of the entire collective population.

Let be honest and ask ourselves. Does any other profession suffer this? If a delivery driver runs over a pedestrian, does every driver get pegged a killer? If a doctor touches a patient in a “bad place”, is every doc a diddler? If a grocery clerk steals, is every store clerk a thief? Nope. Nope. Nope.

Remember one VERY important fact folks. In spite of this, when you’re in need and dial 911, they will arrive to save the day. Every faux corrupt one of them. Guaranteed.

I challenge anyone critical to be honest and assess whether they would survive the scorn and ridicule and general disrespect that “good people” laud upon them? I suspect not.

Be vigilant, have oversight, but be fair. It’s easy to criticize with limited information. The mob mentality runs rampant in social media. One mouthpiece shares their opinion and many pick that up as fact.

Parting thought. Don’t like how the police protect YOU? Feel free to pin on a badge and strap on a vest and gun belt and stand the line. Let’s see how good the view is from the not cheap seats.

Autistic Kids: The Square Peg

I saw this pic on my IG feed this morning:

Its not the first time I have seen this exact pic or read the meme enclosed in it, but it got me to thinking, “How do we prepare our kids for the world that is very much like that hammer in the pic?”

I know a young lad, who has, what I like to refer to as “a touch of Aspergers.” He is delightfully quirky. Intelligent as all can be, funny as f***, and wise well beyond his years. Scarily so.

I often refer to him as a 70 year old trapped in a teen body. Why is that? Cause he has one way of doing things; his way. Heaven help those who don’t play by those rules.

So how does he prepare to head out into that unforgiving world of hammers and round holes? Thats the million dollar question. If you ask the “experts”, they suggest that the world will somehow accommodate him. Wrong. We all know how the world favors the majority.

Its a challenge to slowly get him to accept other opinions, methods, options, strategies. Hes pretty good at once he is “guided” (read, pushed) into trying something new, of assimilating it into his practice. You need to be smart though. Not fool him, as such, but finesse the situation that he wants to try it.

Rest assured, he still has his way of doing things. Sometimes elegant, sometimes awkward, but always his. I envy his ability to be like Sinatra and do it “his way.”

I hope that he will keep exploring with guidance, new ways to tackle problems. But hey, like Huey Lewis sang, “Its Hip To Be Square.”


Praising Older Kids

We have two different sub-generations of children in this house. We have a daughter thats 16, son thats 14 and two sons that are 8 . This brings new adventures as well as new challenges. Like most parenting, not every challenge is anticipated before it happens!

We are very fortunate that our daughter is very mature for her 16 years. She helps out above and beyond, she is opinionated as f***, and very wise. As such, sometimes its hard to remember she is one of the children too and our job of nurturing is not over.

As they get more independant, parents are no longer checking kitbags, writing in journals, asking about marks, at least as much as they used to. Its part of allowing the child more independence, however, it reduces the feedback that every child and every adult needs. (Hmm, Maslow, maybe?)

A few weeks ago, I scolded her about the condition of her bedroom. Lets just say its a “busy” decor. As I was lecturing, per the instructions in the parenting handbook, she put up her hand. As I stopped speaking, she said, “Dad, I don’t do drugs, no booze, and you never have to wonder where I am out running around, so how about we don’t worry about my room?” (I said she was outspoken!)

I had no reply to that. She was correct. I cannot expect perfection, and she is pretty close to the mark. My reply? “You are correct. Thank you for being a great kid. Carry on.”

Today as I was drinking my morning coffee at the counter, I looked across the kitchen and spied this, attached to the fridge:

Funny, we seldom have tests on the fridge. What’s more important that the tests themselves us the mark on each one, 87% and 93%. Grade 11 Physics and Math. I considered myself fairly well off with these subjects in school, but never got marks like that.

I thought to myself, “Did I tell her ‘Good Work’ on those?” Not being able to remember, I assume the answer is no. Bad dad.

So, I write this entry, both to publically (my limited exposure) congratulate her, and to remind other parents, your kids are never too old to praise, never too old to hug, never too old to reward and make feel special. Celebrate the wins, don’t fret the challenges, forget MOST of the losses.

Good work, B! Dad is proud of you.


The Neurological Gluten Connection

Many words have been written of late about gluten this and gluten that, or gluten free and gluten sensitive. In some cases, gluten-free lifestyle has become the new “froo-froo” way to be, which sometimes serves only to weaken the case for those truly suffering from gluten sensitivity and Celiac.

What I am going to write, is by no means a thesis on the topic. Only the ramblings of an observer to someone who suffers from this (legitimately) and has done some reading to better understand this existence.

Most of the research and writing it seems, on the “glutenitis” (as I like to call it), is about the gut disturbances and such. The upset bellies, pain, and of course the unpleasant trips to the loo. Much less seems to be out there about the neurologic aspect to it all.

Much to my own surprise, after 15 years in EMS, I had never seen personally or heard of a case of neurologic dysfunction secondary to gluten exposure. As such, one summer day, when faced with a friend suffering from slurred speech, left sided weakness and accompanied tremors, it “must” be a stroke, or at the very least, a TIA. Well, after a visit from local EMS, a drive in an ambulance, examination, CT and the battery of first line neurologic tests which showed nothing short of a miraculous recovery, the peanut gallery was stumped as to what had happened.

Early in my career, I realized sometimes even better than a thorough physical examination, a complete probing examination of history, both past medical and situational histories, shed a light on the cause of a patient’s presentation. In this case, in the 4-5 days prior to this stroke like presentation was a relatively decent exposure to gluten. in the form of, all things, pepperoni.

I take great interest in this episode, as I may have played a direct part in the exposure, well meaning as it was. Long denied a favorite treat, I thought I had located a source of pepperoni made without any wheat or other gluten sources. My friend, when presented with this seldom treat, indulged. Within short, they determined that in fact, the clerk at the deli was wrong and the pepperoni was indeed made with wheat binders. The inevitable occurred within short, followed by this frightening experience a few days later.

Enough of the story. How does this occur? Well, my friends…

For the purposes of this rant, I am, quite unprofessionally, directly copying, what I read in the article:

“All in Your Head: Ataxia and Untreated Gluten Sensitivity” by Alicia Woodward, GLUTEN FREE AND MORE

Gluten Ataxia

Gluten ataxia, a disorder of the immune system, belongs to the same spectrum of gluten sensitivity as celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. In these conditions, a heightened sensitivity to gluten, the protein in wheat, barley and rye, creates an increased level of allergy-fighting antibodies (specifically, anti gliadin IgG and IgA) that turn on the body and attack it.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can be numerous and vary widely from individual to individual. Generally speaking, celiac disease is evidenced in the gut by damage to the small bowel. Dermatitis herpetiformis is evidenced on the skin by an itchy rash. With gluten ataxia, the focus of disease activity is in the brain, specifically the cerebellum, the center that controls coordination and complex movements like walking, speaking and swallowing. Often, the peripheral nerves located outside the spinal cord are also involved, leading to chronic and progressive neuropathy, a disease affecting the nervous system that results in feelings of numbness, tingling or pain.

Ataxia means clumsiness or loss of coordination. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity with neurologic manifestations are slurred speech, loss of coordination in upper and lower limbs, difficulty with normal walking, ocular problems, chronic headaches. It may affect the fingers and hands, the arms or legs, the body, speech or eye movements. In children and young adults, gluten ataxia can also cause developmental delay, diminished muscle tone, learning disorders and ADHD.

Recent studies indicate that gluten ataxia is a common cause of sporadic idiopathic (of unknown origin) ataxia, accounting for up to 40 percent of cases. Yet despite its prevalence, the disease isn’t well known and diagnosis is frequently missed. The reason? Doctors often look for gastrointestinal distress before they will consider the possibility of gluten sensitivity.

“Gluten ataxia is out there but so few of us have seen it—or perhaps recognized it,” Schwarz says. “If you see a patient who has malabsorption problems, they can’t tolerate this or can’t tolerate that, if they have gastrointestinal complaints along with neurologic symptoms, then you order the antibody tests. Yet most patients I see with neurologic manifestations of gluten intolerance don’t have a lot of GI symptoms, if any.”

According to a 2003 study published in Brain, gastrointestinal symptoms are present in only 13 percent of patients with gluten ataxia. “It’s been estimated that for every one patient with celiac disease who presents with GI complaints, there are seven patients with celiac disease who have no GI symptoms …. Only a proportion of patients presenting with neurological dysfunction association with gluten sensitivity will also have GI symptoms.”

The bottom line is that gluten sensitivity can be primarily—and at times exclusively—a neurologic disease.

“This is a disease that’s difficult to diagnose unless you maintain a low threshold of suspicion,” Schwarz says.

The blood panel to screen for gluten ataxia is the same used to ascertain gluten sensitivity. It measures the anti gliadin antibodies (IgG and IgA) circulating in the blood, along with the endomysium and tissue transglutaminase antibodies. “A small bowel biopsy is not needed if symptoms are neurologic and antibodies are positive,” Schwarz says.

“If antibody results come back positive, I’ll send the patient to a gastroenterologist to do a small bowel biopsy to check for classic changes attributable to celiac disease, but even if this is normal, I will still recommend a six-month trial on a gluten-free diet,” Schwarz says.

Research by Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou and colleagues published in Brain in 2003 states, “…. IgG antigliadin antibodies by definition remain the best diagnostic marker for gluten ataxia.”

Again, I make no claim that this is my work, but thank you Ms. Woodward for explaining it so succinctly.

The most amazing part in the entire clip is the statistic is that the VAST majority of patients with this disease which has been, for me at least a, GI thing, HAVE NO GI complaints!! Who would have thought? Little did I know that is was so much more neurological in nature. I suspect that the general public is in the same boat as this humble observer.

I share this bit of trivia and study to shed light on what is an elusive diagnosis. If you read the entire article, you learn that the patient in that case went to 4 neurologists for a diagnosis that made sense. My friend went to their GP, a neurologist, GI specialist, and finally a rheumatologist before determined that they were not going crazy, but, in fact, suffering from a real thing.

Humbling that this know it all can still be taught something after all these years.

Keep reading, keep asking, keep learning.