Posts tagged ‘Health’

Motivation comes in many forms

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Early today, I had what you can describe as a “difficult start” to a long morning. I completed about nine kilometres into my daily bike ride when I made a stop along the way. Upon my return, I see my back tire is completely flat.

What to do?

Options: I can call a taxi company to bring a van big enough to fit my bike. I can chain up my bike and send for Über. I can contemplate my options while I have a large Coke Zero at McDonalds. Don’t you just Love dollar drink days of summer?!

I take a look at my Fitbit, which was dead yesterday, to find out that I’ve fallen behind many of my friends this week. How could this be? Then I realize it’s because I’ve been riding my bike a lot and the Fitbit doesn’t count steps when riding.

Back to my dilemma. What do I do?

Well, why don’t I just chain up my bike and walk home. Nine-and-a-half km later, I can start my work day. What started as a difficult start, ended up being an accomplishment and a fantastic start to this hump day. Over 18 kilometres of exercise. Miigwetch, Gzhemnidoo.


Reflection

While I’m walking, I have a lot of time to reflect on… well, walking. Two people who have motivated me come to mind.

darrellbMy good friend, Darrell Boissonneau of Kitigan Zibi (Garden River). He’s always giving me encouragement over the years, in my career, as a traditional man, as well as to stay active. Darrell is a regular fixture along Old Highway 17 walking his many miles. In the years that I’ve known him, he’s traded his cowboy boots for running shoes. He’s traded the double-cheeseburger for a single mooseburger. Small changes for a good life.  Miigwetch, Darrell.

josephine_waterwalkOur number one door woman, Lodge Grandmother and Chief Midewaanikwe, Beedaasige. Josephine Mandamin has been walking the highways and byways of Turtle Island for many years through the Mother Earth Water Walk. It’s been a pleasure to carry the staff alongside of her through many of these journeys. But here’s what I’m always amazed by. I can walk alongside Josephine, but I could not keep up with her! I count ten kilometres as an accomplishment. Beedaasige would regularly double or triple that, day-after-day. Especially during those early water walks. I recall during the Lake Superior walk, and some of the other Great Lakes walks – she would not only carry the copper vessel of water, but also carry the staff. She would go through many pairs of shoes. All the while honouring the water, and walking for the Spirit of the water.  Miigwetch, Josephine for everything that you do.

I remember walking with Josephine one time and someone yelling at us to “get a job”.  We laughed it off, figuring “no, we’re working hard enough”.


To share, or not to share?

Social Media is a strange animal. I seems very self-absorbed, egotistical, narcissistic. Selfies. Status updates about yourself. Et cetera.

I feel kind of funny “sharing” my daily walk statistics. Or my bike statistics. So I don’t do it too often.

But I do realize, from your comments and messages, that it is motivating people. I guess that is a righteous purpose of social media. It’s not just putting up the dishevelled selfie of sweatiness.

If you’re interested check out Healthy, Active Natives on Facebook for many pics, updates and success stories of other skins who are working hard to be healthy, active and happy people. Nishin!

Our Momma has Dementia. But she’s still our Momma.

Bob_Momma

“I don’t know that guy over there,” she says with a curious smile.

The tiny, seemingly good-natured Elder motions to another Elder seated at the end of the lunch table.

We remind her of who he is – as some family members shift in their chairs. My aunties, also seated around the table, politely do their best to keep the rest of the conversation going. They’ve all seen it before.

“That’s Larry, Mom. He’s your brother,” my sister Phyllis says. She offers a brief nod of acknowledgement. Less than a minute later, the scene repeats itself.

“I don’t know that guy over there,” she points even louder.

She’ll repeat herself nearly a dozen times that afternoon.


Some time later, our mom is visibly agitated as we take her back to her room. Fortunately, she was pleasant for much of the lunch organized by Phyllis. But clearly she’s tired and out of her comfort zone.

Her routine has been changed.

She’s quite abrupt to her daughter who she sees as a figure of authority. She murmurs abrupt commands along the way.

“Turn on my TV,” she says, slightly under her breath.

We take her to back to her room and comply. But TVO is only showing cartoons. Really, it doesn’t matter what’s on because she doesn’t watch television.  It’s all background noise for her comfort.

We tell her we have to go now, which seems to set her off even further.

“Where am I going to sit? Where are you taking me?”

As usual, she like to walk us out to the central hallway where she sits with her fellow residents at Cassellholme Home for the Aged.

We sit her down in an empty chair nearby her friends. She doesn’t know their names. But she doesn’t know our names, for that matter.

“Okay, Mom. We’ll see you again soon.”

“Turn on my TV, I said,” she says gruffly, no longer under her breath.

“We left your TV on, Mom. You’ll see when you go back to your room,” says Phyllis. She hugs Momma as we head for the elevator.

“TO HELL WITH YOU,” is her departing job.

We smile, reflective, that her sisters and her brother aren’t here to see this part of their brown-bag luncheon.


I’m not writing this to embarrass my family, or hurt my Momma’s dignity. I’m writing to open up a dialogue about the realities of dementia.

Dementia is a brain disorder that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia.

My mom, Dwyla, began experiencing symptoms of dementia about ten years ago while she was still living at home. It began with gradual, but noticeable memory loss. She adopted a number of complex rituals, involving the layering of tissue paper, organizing and obsessing with garbage and washing single items of laundry several times a day. She began talking to herself. Soon after, complicated further by several transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or “mini-stroke”), she was unable to care for herself including going to the toilet or taking a shower. She wasn’t able to make herself a ham sandwich or open a can of soup.

One terrifying incident involved her rituals around garbage. She got it in her head one day to take her bag of trash and throw it in the bush behind the house. She somehow made her way further and further back into the bush.  Yes, she’s an Anishinaabe woman. But she’s certainly not the trail-seeking, hunting, trapping and scouting type Indian. She wandered around for some time in the bush, alone and scared.  Luckily, she followed those voices out of the bush, only a few hundred feet down the Garden Village Road.

Most of her brothers and sisters and many of our cousins certainly were not aware that this was all going on. We kept it a private matter for so long, respecting her privacy and attempting to preserve her dignity. Many in our extended family probably wondered why she was in an old-age home. Some may have even second guessed our decision to place her there. After all, she was always the woman who took care of others. Why couldn’t we take care of her ourselves? My brother Dennis Jr., with the support of Phyllis and a host of personal care nurses did so for a few years. But the sad reality is that it was just not possible. Our Momma needed professional care.

I hope that this blog might raise some awareness about dementia and how it impacts our Elders, their families and Loved ones. Dementia not only inflicts Elders, but young Elders too. If you start to see these types of symptoms and behaviours, seek diagnosis, medical treatment and advice from health care professionals.

In our case, there was not much that doctors can do. Still, we are eternally grateful for the 24-hour care she gets at Cassellholme. We’re thankful to the many personal support workers, nurses and doctors who make life comfortable for Momma. They all call her by her name, offer her a smile, kindness and good care.

We’re also happy to see that Momma is quietly entertained by her many nameless friends who look out for her. She also genuinely enjoys her twice-a-week manicures.

Not everyday is filled with hostility or disruptive behaviours. She may not know our names, but she still lights-up when she sees us arrive for our regular visits.  Somehow she know who we are.  Those days are filled with her polite smile and genuine pride when she introduces us around the facility.

“This is my Boy,” Momma says to each and every staff member, resident and passer-byer.

Goulais will not seek election as Chief

Bob_Deb_Veahavta2A STATEMENT

 

Recently, I’ve had a chance to really appreciate the gift of asaamaa (tobacco). The other day, I had the privilege of giving a teaching for my family and friends – speaking of the origin of tobacco, the Creation Story and the story of Misko-gaabwid and Waynaboozhoo. During this time, I had a chance to sit with my tobacco, speak personally to Creator and the Spirit World, and ponder my journey in life. It’s been a great way to find clarity, give thanks and talk in a good way with Deborah and my family around me.

It’s been abundantly clear to us that there are two things that are most important in life: health and family.

As a result of these deliberations, I’ve decided that I will not put my name forward to run for Chief of our community.

I want to gchi-miigwetch (thank you) for your kind words and pledges of support. I continue to be overwhelmed by the almost daily messages of encouragement by my fellow community members.

Despite your encouragement, right now, I’m not willing to sacrifice the wonderful life that I have with my family.

I enjoy the time I am having with my boys. Zoon Gaabow and Miigwans, with their football ambitions and our adventures together. I’m enjoying my time with my daughter, Waabgwaniis, who has made my dreams come true again by being my almost daily companion. Of course, I enjoy spending time with my beautiful wife, Deborah and Jasmine and Fiona. If I was to be elected Chief, I would most certainly have to divide my time between being Chief and balancing their companionship. I cherish my family above all and this is not a sacrifice I am willing to make.

I also want to be able to support Deborah, as she continues to serve as Deputy Minister. She does such amazing work and I want to be there to be her strength and be there in her times of need.

Our family’s health is important as well. I am committed to improving my own physical health by maintaining good control of my diabetes, losing a few more pounds and becoming physically fit. I also want to be there to support someone very close to us that is struggling with mental wellness. Finally, to be there for my Mom, as often as I can, in her waning years of her life.

Finally, I am really enjoying being a entrepreneur. My business, Nbisiing Consulting Inc., is starting to take off in a few great, new directions. I want to give it my full effort in helping First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities in improving social conditions and building their economies.

Maybe one day I will run for Chief. When the time comes, hopefully, I will still have your support. Until that time, I will continue to assemble that bundle of overwhelming gifts to help our community of Nipissing First Nation become a strong, thriving, self-governing Anishinaabek community.

Mi iw. Miigwetch.

Bob Goulais

Towards a Longer, Healthier Life

A couple of weeks ago I began Weight Watchers.  Deborah and I agreed to join together and support each other in our bid to live a longer, healthier life.  A noble goal, for sure but painful as all heck.

But I’m not writing this to gripe about hunger pangs but to share my good experiences so far.

As of this morning, I’ve lost eight pounds.  I’m far from being a slight man – but closer to my immediate goal of my last known football playing weight, circa 1994.

Weight Watchers is pretty simple plan.  Upon checking in at the tao of badass our weekly Weight Watchers meeting, we are given a weekly allotment of points to manage our daily food intake.  It’s important to track your food intake and stay within your daily points allowance.

“Points Plus” values are assigned to all foods based on their fat, protein, carbohydrate and fibre content.  The handy guidebook they provide has all the essentials.  The online “E-tools” has a fairly significant database of foods, restaurants and recipes and is a great way to keep track of your points consumption.  If you are unable to find the Points Plus value – you can always calculate it manually using e-tools.

Each and every food you buy at the grocery store has a mandatory nutritional facts label.  It’s good to know – even if you’re not on a diet – how much fat and other nutrients are in the foods you are eating.

I’ve had a couple of issues though.  For the last two nights, I’ve awoken to low-blood sugar.  As a diabetic, I’m used to regulating my blood sugar according to my old, less-than-healthy diet.  In a bid to accelerate my weight loss, I’ve been attempting to cope with eating less than my daily Weight Watchers point allowance.  Probably not the best idea.

Despite my recent blood sugar issues, it’s actually been a fairly easy ride for me.  Because of my weight, height, age and body mass index – I’ve been assigned the task of eating 62 points per day.  I feel bad for my Honey, who has to graze on a meagre 34 points.  But we are also given 49 weekly points as a supplement, or to use for treats and dining out.

I have had to give up the high-fat foods.  We have resorted to packing a lunch, mostly leftovers and low-point snacks, instead of dining out everyday.  It really requires a change of attitude but it’s still quite as fulfilling.

The best part of the diet so far are the new recipes.  Deborah has been cooking up a storm for the past two weeks, trying new things, fresh ingredients and new recipes.  I think she’s enjoying it as much as I am.  Deborah is an amazing cook, much like her mom, Wendy.  The incredible taste is second only to the Love that she puts into her cooking for the girls and I.

Last night, Deb prepared roasted chicken with fennel.  To be honest, I was sceptical of the onion-like look and texture of the cooked fennel.  (I appreciate the taste that an onion adds to cooking, but dislike actually eating them.)  However, I quickly got past the look and texture and rather enjoyed this new dish.  I’ve included the recipe below.

I can do without the potatoes on consecutive days though.

One of the best recipes Deb made was the 0-point vegetable soup.  When I first started Weight Watchers I lived on that stuff.  Not only was the soup delicious, it was hardy.  Full of cabbage, carrots, zucchini and all matter of assorted veggies.  It was what really filled me up, long after the single-cup portions of brown rice or whole-wheat pasta had disappeared.

Portion control is something that I’m learning.  Along with keeping track of the food and points you consume.  Thus far, these have been the keys to success.

This week I’m going to add regular exercise into my plan.  I’m going to start with some cardio, three times per week.  Just 20 or 30 minutes at a time.  Eventually, I’ll add some strength training – which I really enjoy anyway.

It’s been well over a year since I hit the gym.  It was so much easier when I was on the road and was able to use hotel fitness facilities.  These days, the challenge is going to be to fit exercise into our work and commuting schedule.  I think that’ll be the toughest challenge.


Roasted Chicken and Fennel

Chicken and fennel is a fresh, flavourful combination. Put some potatoes in the oven on another rack and you’ve got a delicious roasted meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound(s) uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 Tbsp table salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed
  • 1 large red onion(s), thinly sliced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb(s), (reserve greens for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup(s) white wine
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Rub 1/2 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes on both sides of chicken.

Place onion and fennel on bottom of a roasting pan; place chicken on top. Add wine and roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken from pan; stir vegetables and place back in oven. Reduce oven to 325ºF; roast vegetables, uncovered, until completely caramelized, about 35 to 40 minutes more.

Roughly shred chicken with two forks.

When vegetables are done, remove pan from oven and add chicken; toss well to coat. Drizzle with oil and season to taste with remaining salt; toss to coat. Garnish with fennel greens.

Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

For a more colourful meal, add 4 julienned carrots with the fennel and onions. Finish the dish with a sprinkling of minced parsley.

Olympic torch carries diabetic message

The Olympic torch relay means different things to different people.  Some First Nation communities embraced the torch as it passed through their community.  Some communities used the torch relay to hold protests.  Others use the opportunity to highlight messages that are much more personal.

For Helen Bobiwash, the Olympic torch is a beacon on hope for herself, her family and her community.  The opportunity to carry the torch was an opportunity to spread the message of awareness of best budget elliptical trainer, physical fitness and type-2 diabetes.

“Coming from a family with a whole lot of diabetes, I realized that I didn’t want my son to grow up worrying about me like I did my mom,” said Bobiwash, a member of Thessalon First Nation.  “While my mother was alive, I worried a lot about her heath and the toll that diabetes was taking on her.”

Bobiwash, a 42 year-old, strategic consultant and finance-whiz, carried the flame on January 2 in Mississauga First Nation.  She was one of 12,000 people across Canada to carry the flame during the Olympic torch relay.

Although Bobiwash does not have diabetes, the disease has affected her intimately.

Helen’s mom, Alice, lived with the complications from diabetes until she passed away at the age of 73.  With the loss of her mom and with the passing of her brother, Rodney, at the young age of 42, Helen became motivated to change her life.

“I wanted my son to grow up with a healthy mom,” said Bobiwash, the proud mother of five year-old Mzhiikenh.  “The only way that I knew that I could make a difference with my health was through physical activity.”

Helen, admits she wasn’t exactly the typical athletic type.  In 2007, Helen was overweight and was recovering from a car accident when her mother died. She realized quickly that she couldn’t continue living like she had been for so long. She needed to make a change.

Helen took up the sport of triathlon –a gruelling multi-sport race that combines swimming, cycling and running.  It is a demanding sport that requires endurance and speed, as well as a great deal of determination.  It is not for the faint-hearted.

“I decided to go for it and see if I could challenge myself.  I started training using some advice from the YMCA.  I also found a local triathlon clinic and joined a team,” she said.

She has competed in 14 triathlons, mainly in local events all across Ontario.  She’s hoping to challenge herself further by doing more cycling events this summer, and perhaps competing in Olympic distance in the triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km ride, 10 km run) as early as 2011.

And she’s motivated.

“If a 40 year old overweight mom can turn their life around with physical activity to stave off diabetes, a lot of other people can,” concluded Bobiwash.

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games are set to begin with the opening ceremony and lighting of the game caldron in Vancouver on February 12.

For Helen Bobiwash, her new-found passion for physical fitness and her new outlook on life with her son is symbolized in the Olympic flame.

The Olympic flame is a flame of hope, a symbol of achievement and doing your best.

It’s a flame that will never be extinguished in our lifetime, and can be passed on one-person at a time.

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Bob Goulais, of Nipissing First Nation, is the author of the Anishinawbe Blog.  He writes about politics, culture, spirituality and other stuff.  He has type-2 diabetes.  www.bobgoulais.com

Canada’s Dirty Little Secret

Tiger Woods isn’t the only one with a dirty, little secret.

Canada still has fundamental human rights challenges. This is related to the conditions and history of Canada’s First Nations people. Sadly, these challenges are not generally known outside of Canada. Even some Canadians have blinders on. Many try to refute the truth and the statistics while never stepping foot in a remote First Nation community.

Today is International Human Rights Day. 61 years ago, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlining the 20 fundamental human rights that every human being is entitled to. According to Guinness World Records, it is also the most translated document in the world.

I wish it could only be translated into Canadian.

Last week, Stephen Harper was carrying his message of human rights to China – while fully ignoring the realities of his own backyard. Canada is not squeaky clean when it comes to human rights.

Here are just a few of the main human rights issues faced by Canada’s First Nations:

Third World Conditions – Canada currently ranks 4th in the world on the United Nations human development index. However, when Indian and Northern Affairs Canada entered First Nations-data only in the index, Canada ranks 63rd. Officially, this places Canada’s First Nations firmly in the realm of third world conditions.

Quality of Life Indicators – Infant mortality, life expectancy, homelessness, inadequate housing, incidents of tuberculosis, health disease, HIV-AIDS, diabetes – First Nations in Canada are near the top of the statistics. Suicide is the leading cause of death among First Nations between the ages of 10 and 24.

Aboriginal Women – Article 3 of the Universal Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Yet, in recent years, there have been over 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Most are the most vulnerable people in Canada, forced into homelessness, prostitution and unsafe situations. Many women and children are forced away from their homes, due to inequalities under the Indian Act and lack of matrimonial property laws. Once again, article 17 of the Declaration states: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

Residential Schools – Article 5 states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” For decades, First Nations children were forcibly removed from the homes, families and communities and forced to attend government sanctioned, church-run residential schools. Inside they were subject to systemic assimilation, physical abuse and sexual abuse. Entire generations of people endured inhuman and degrading treatment on behalf of the government and in the name of the Lord. First Nations survivors and victims were only given an apology in June 2008. Individuals and affected families were provided long-awaited compensation. Many more are still unresolved. Many thousands of Elders, the survivors, have died in anguish without any acknowledgement. Yet, the government has yet to deal with multi-generational trauma and the affected of residential school on language and culture. A truth and reconciliation commission will be travelling throughout Canada documenting the stories from Canada’s saddest chapter in it’s history.

Child Poverty – According to Campaign 2000, one in four Aboriginal children grow up in poverty. That is utterly signficant. Canada has attempted to address child poverty, and in 1989 passed a motion in the House of Commons to rid poverty by the year 2000. Not even close. Statistics are not improving.

Child Welfare – The Assembly of First Nations is currently before the Canadian Human Rights Commission after filing a complaint against the federal government over child welfare. There are over 27,000 First Nations children in care which is considered by many to be a state of crisis. Former National Chief Phil Fontaine described the conditions as a “national disgrace”. To this day, funding of First Nations child protection agencies is woefully inadequate to address the current need, much less lead to proactive, preventative measures. The situation is similar to what was referred to as the “Sixties Scoop”, another Canadian historical taboo. In the 1960s, thousands of First Nations children were removed from their homes on reserves and placed into non-native care. Many of those children never reconnected with their First Nations culture and roots. Others were adopted out to non-native families without proper consent.

Education Inequity – Article 20 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to education.” But apparently this right is provided in varying degrees, at the discretion of the Crown. First Nations students going to school on-reserve are funded at least $2,000-$5000 less than non-native students attending public schools. On-reserve school facilities are inadequate and in many cases unsafe. As a result, the drop out rate for First Nations students is three times the Canadian average. About 70% of First Nations students on-reserve will never complete high school. This is all according to Government of Canada statistics.

Clean Drinking Water – Article 25 states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,” However, there are still hundreds of boil water advisories in First Nation communities. That is boil water advisories for the entire communities, affecting every single home, affecting every single man, women and child. There is a fundamental lack of funding, standards and training for First Nations, much less the infrastructure needed to treat water and wastewater. Schools do not have clean potable water.

Indigenous Rights – Canada and the United States continues to refuse to be signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights. This document entrenches the aspirations, values and rights of First Nations people including the right to have full enjoyment of the Rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, not to mention the right to self-determination and self-government.

Perhaps, this message needs to be sent out during the Olympic Torch Run, leading up to and throughout the course of the 2010 Winter Olympics and perhaps during the Pan-Am Games. The message should be loud and clear during the upcoming G-8 meeting in Huntsville and the G-20 in Toronto.

I suggest that First Nations, as represented by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) should join the fledgling “G-77”, the group of seventy-seven on the world’s poorest countries as a means of contributing to world affairs and gaining international attention to Canada’s dirty little secret.

In recognition of International AIDS Day

Today is International AIDS Day.  Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Since we were young, we’ve been hit over the head about how we can reduce the risk of getting the virus that causes AIDS, the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Certainly that it’s important.  But so many of us have forgotten about the plight of those living with HIV-AIDS, both victims and survivors.

We think of the millions of people in Africa that are living with HIV and AIDS.  In South Africa along, almost 6 million of their 50 million population have the affliction.  Many of them young children, who contracted the virus as babies.

But we also have to remember that a huge number of First Nations people are living with HIV and AIDS as well.  Many are terminally ill.  Many others have even succumb to their illness.

Statistics say that First Nations people account for 20 per cent of over 20,000 AIDS diagnosis in Canada.  Many thousands more have been infected with HIV.

We must do what we can to protect ourselves and our communities.  We need to learn as much as we can about AIDS and HIV.  Practice safe sex or abstinence.  Don’t share needles.  Don’t engage in risky behaviour.  These are mantras we know well.

However, we also cannot forget about those living with HIV-AIDS.  They need to support and comfort from friends, family and society.  We need to see most research and development in new kinds of pharmaceuticals and therapies.  Work must continue to find a cure.