Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How do I feel? I feel like not talking.

I have never been really good at expressing myself.
Talking about 'feelings' was just something I never did growing up. It was a family tradition to keep your emotions bottled up because my parents, especially my dad, never talked about his feelings and emotions.
If he did not want to talk about something, he didn't. It was a simple as that.
Then I married my wife and was introduced to the very different side of the coin. While my family never talks about anything, her family never stops talking.
They talk about their feelings, emotions, thoughts and whatever else they can come up with – for hours on end.
They talk and talk and talk. And then they talk some more.
This was incredibly foreign to me. And the way my family dealt with things was equally foreign to my wife who would be baffled and often frustrated at the lack of communication of my kin.
But it was not just my parents, it has been going on for generations.
My grandpa came to Canada directly from Germany about two years before the Second World War started.
He could see what Hitler was doing in the country and as he was studying to become a Lutheran minister, he could not sit by and watch what the Nazi party was doing to the church, so he set out for the new country.
My grandma came from Romania and was a hard woman raised in a hard land. Neither were really in tune with their emotions and neither were really the touchy feely types so they passed that down to my father who passed it down to me.
I then ran smack into a wall of chatter when I met my wife and soon learned her family lineage took a much different and much more vocal approach to dealing with the issues of life.
They are not shy about diving into emotional oceans of any type and can't seem to let a matter rest until it has been talked to death.
This has taken many years to get used to as the Missus expected me to participate in the emotional love ins and express my deepest feelings.
Um, no. I don't want to – was always the wrong answer.
At first I was supposed to just 'share' and tell her how I was feeling, and how this made me feel and how that made me feel.
She expected all these sentiments and heart-felt thoughts to flow like water down a river.
She soon learned there was a drought in the Land of Handschuh and it took a lot of years before the rain began fall and the water started to flow.
She was determined to make me one of them – you know, the talkers.
To some degree she has succeeded. I am much more open to discussing things now that I used to be, but I am still a long way from the eloquent vocalization of her kin.
Oh well, we have only been married for 25 years. You can't rush these things.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Junior learns a life lesson

It's fun to watch one of your children have a life realization.
I got to enjoy one of those when Junior was talking about his menial part-time, after-school job.
But before we get to that moment, a little history is required.
My parents owned a nursery when I was growing up and that meant I was called upon to help out – a lot.
Being the first-born son I had responsibilities the eldest son was expected to meet. Basically, it was my job to help shoulder the load of running a business while my dad still worked full time.
Weekends and after school meant putting in some time on the end of a shovel, a rake, pruning shears or simply moving potted plants around. In general it was doing your best to make sure none of the stock died.
Oddly enough, people did not want to buy a dead tree – go figure.
I must admit, I was not always thrilled with the arrangement, but I sure did enjoy the income.
I was the only kid in Grade 8 with a job, but without that job I would not have been able to afford dirtbikes (which I loved), or cars (which I loved) or fancy rims for the car (which I loved) or a stereo so loud it would make your ears bleed (which I really loved.)
Yes, there were many benefits to working in the nursery. Of course, the downside was I had to work in a nursery.
And really, what teen actually wants to work.
I knew a guy who went off on me one day about all the stuff I had. At the time, I had a car and two dirtbikes, and he was envious of the cool toys in my possession.
After listening to him rant for a minute, I became somewhat agitated and pointed out that I worked hard for all my stuff and while he was sleeping in until noon on weekends, I was up and doing manual labour for several hours already.
He then looked at me with all sincerity and said, “But, I don't like to work.”
He believed if he did not like to work, he should not have to.
"Who the hell does?” was my exasperated reply. For some reason he felt he should have as much as I did without having to work for it.
Sounds like a prime candidate for the Senate if you ask me.
Anyway, because Junior wanted a car, ski pass, brand-name clothes and all sorts of things, he needed and a job and after sending out applications he would lament about how 'cool' it would be to have a job at your fingertips like I did when I was a teen.
Eventually Junior did get a job, a manual labour job and after one particularly boring day under the hot summer sun, he came home and proclaimed, “Manual labour sucks.”
This is that life lesson moment I was speaking of earlier.
I must admit, I pounced on that statement like a lion on a three-legged gazelle.
"Oh reeeeeaaalllly. So you mean it would not be cool to have a manual-labour job at your fingertips. It would not be cool to come home after school everyday and put in a few hours of work. Hmmm, interesting, because I recall you saying on several occasions how cool that would be.”
For one of the few times in his life, Junior had nothing to say.
But to his credit, he has stuck with his manual labour gig and purchased a car of his own.
He then was introduced the world of insurance, repairs and the ridiculously high price of gas.
He also learned how important an education is and the better educated he is the farther away from manual labour he will be.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A hunter, a killer, an angry furball

Gilbert the Cat is not a happy feline.
But his discomfort was caused by his own paw.
You see, Gilbert is a hunter, a killer, a wild beast that tracks, slays and eats mice and birds.
He does not have to because we do feed him delicious and nutritious cat food whenever he wants it, but that predatory heritage is hard to shake and he still prefers to grab a meal on the go whenever he can.
I watched him catch a mouse one day and realized cats are more heartless than a gas company executive.
He did not just catch the mouse – he tormented it. He would hold it down with his paws for a while and sit there and look around while the mouse said the rodent equivalent of a Hail Mary or two, or three, or a million.
He would then let the mouse go and the little guy would take off like his life depended on it, which it did, only to have the cat grab him again.
A couple times, Gil would throw the rodent in the air and try to catch it before it hits the ground.
He was having a grand old time. Gilbert that is, not the mouse who obviously went between moments of hope of escape to the dread of being captured time and again.
Then with a final crunch of his jaws, the mouse was done for. Gil chewed his head for a little while before grabbing Mickey's cousin between his front paws and essentially pulling the insides out. I did not know cats did that, but it seemed a very efficient way to prepare a meal.
The icky bits were left in a pile on the front lawn, while Gilbert strutted away feeling proud of his kill.
More than once I would head out in the morning and find a pile of feathers or mouse remnants in the yard, another victim of the killer cat.
They will never know it, but those birds, mice and whatever else the cat managed to catch, kill and ingest administered a measure of revenge in their deaths.
They gave Gilbert worms. Big, white disgusting worms. We did not know he had worms until he barfed one up the other day.
Yup, it was pretty disgusting. As if cat puke is not gross enough, to see a white wiggler writhing around in puddle of kitty barf takes it to a whole new level.
So we called the vet and bought some potion we have to squirt down his throat twice a day, much to his immense displeasure.
I don't imagine the stuff tastes very good and I am not about to try it to find out, but it is his own fault. If Gil wasn't so enthusiastic about hunting and killing things, he would not have to endure the eye dropper full of this brownish liquid.
I hold him wrapped in blanket while the Missus – who is a nurse and can transfer those skills to the animal realm – squirts the stuff down his gullet. He  makes a very unhappy sound while thrashing his head around and trying to spit out the offending liquid.
He then gives us an evil glare like it's all our fault he has worms. I am sure he is plotting some form of revenge and I always look in my shoes before putting them on.
The vet said he needs the 'treatment' for a full week, so twice a day I wrap him up, hold his head still and the Missus squirts the medicine into his mouth.
The vet said when the worms die they will come out in his poop.
“You should check his bowel movements for the next week or so and keep an eye out for them.”
I will simply trust the medication did its job and the cat is worm free because as fun as looking at a pile of cat poop sounds, I have other things to do – like anything.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's just a bruise, it's no big deal - isn't it?

Being married to nurse has its good points and its bad.
The good is you are living with a highly trained medical personnel you can run to for advice and healing.
More than once our living room looked more like an emergency room as my son and his skateboarding friends all lined up to have their injuries tended to.
One day, there was four of them patiently waiting to have their wounds tended to.
Skinned knees, elbows, scrapes, bruises and a variety of other injuries were treated by my wife who has been a registered nurse for 26 years.
She has worked in the real emergency room of a hospital in a small town we lived in for a while, she has cared for seniors, palliative patients and for a few years she specialized in wound care.
This is where she would look after people who just had an operation or injury and got to perform such lovely tasks as draining a wound, which is actually more disgusting than it sounds.
I learned many years ago not to ask her what she did that day because the answers are not conducive to keeping your dinner down.
Tales of seeping blood, puss-filled sores (my personal favourite) and a whole raft of maladies are discussed by her and her nursing comrades with the aplomb of someone chatting about the weather.
To them, it is just another day at the office. Meanwhile I am huddled in the corner of the room with my hands over my ears trying to think of puppy dogs and sunny days to get the horrid nursing tales out of my mind.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
But when you are injured, it is great to have an expert on wound care living under the same roof – most of the time anyway.
The other day I bruised my leg doing martial arts. As the most senior member of the club (in age, not belt ranking) it can be a challenge to keep up with the young pups as they bounce around the training area with the kind of energy and agility only youth allows.
On this particular day I took a knee to the thigh, creating a rather large, purple bruise.
In the club I train at, a bruise or a black eye is referred to as a souvenier and I have had many souveniers over the years.
Anyway, the young pup I was training with accidentally landed on my leg causing a bruise I casually mentioned to my wife.
ÒYou should keep an eye on that. It could cause a blood clot.”
ÒIt is a hematoma, and if your leg starts to turn red and swell up, you better get to a doctor. There was this one patient I had with a bruise on his leg, got a blood clot and died.”
It took less than a minute to go from me telling her I had a bruise on my leg to her telling me I could get a deadly blood clot.
Up until that point I just thought it was a little boo-boo. No big deal.
Now I have to worry about a blood clot making its way to my heart or brain and sending on a one way trip toward the bright light.
I am really quite confident the bruise is just an minor 'owie' and nothing to be concerned about. It is not the first boo-boo I have had in my lifetime.
But when you are married to a medical professional, they tend to look at the worst-case scenario so they are prepared for any scenario.
The downside to being married to a nurse is sometimes she really freaks me out with all the possible medical disasters that could happen. The upside is, she knows about all the  possible medical disasters that could happen.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh 

Friday, April 11, 2014

My little girl is not so little anymore and I don't like it

I guess there is a double standard.
When my boys were younger, I had no problem with them growing up. Older sons meant more help for me around the yard (well, that was the theory anyway.)
It meant they could take on more responsibility, be more independent and with each passing day they were one more step closer to striking out on their own and forging their personal path through the world.
It is inevitable that they become masters of their own domain. It is repeated constantly throughout not only the human kingdom, but the animal world as well.
In certain animal clans, sons are eventually considered a threat to the papa and he 'encourages' them to leave the pack. Some animals take it to an extreme level.
If a papa bear finds another male in their territory, woe be to the invader. He will go after the other male with all the ferocity he can muster, no matter the age of the other bear and even if it is his own offspring. Momma bear will step in and defend baby bear. And papa bear better watch out because hell hath no fury like an angry mom.
We humans tend to be far less aggressive in encouraging our young ones to venture out on their own, but when they come home and find all their stuff in boxes, that is usually a pretty good sign it is time to go.
I have not done that (yet anyway) because I want to support my kids through post secondary schooling and other challenges, but rest assured there will come a day when I will go papa bear on them if they decide living in the parental den is easier than creating their own.
I may be human, but humans are mammals and mammals are animals and animals eventually kick their offspring out into the unsuspecting world.
So I had no problem with my sons soaring through their teen years. I had no problem with my boys becoming men. I looked forward to it on many occasions.
So what does this have to do with a double standard? I also have a daughter and for some reason there is a whole different outlook for 'daddy's little girl.'
I don't want her to grow up and become a teen and act like she is all grown up. I certainly don't want her to look like she is all grown up.
Some of what I am feeling may be because she is the baby of the family and it is hard to watch your youngest grow up, but a lot of it is she is my little girl.
It struck me like a freight train the other morning when she was heading off to school that my little girl is not so little anymore.
What was that stuff on her face? Make-up! What! She is not old enough for make up. She is barely in high school.
And what do you mean you and your friend want to meet a couple boys at Timmies? Boys are icky, remember? Boys are gross.
At one time, her room had pictures of fairy tale princesses on the walls, then it was teen heart throbs (such as what's-his-name, you know, that Beaver kid.)
Then one day she took down all the posters and asked if we had any spray paint. Um, OK, feel free to express yourself, it's your room. She invited me to look at her 'new' room and it was the bedroom of a full-blown teenager.
Posters had been replaced by groovy spray-painted drawings, there was not a dolly in sight and her music has gone from Veggie Tales to the latest pop songs.
I know my little girl is not a little girl anymore, but that does not mean I have to like it.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to put on my martial arts uniform and sharpen my collection of knives – one of those icky boys is stopping by.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You never know who you might run into

It was not the first brush with fame I have ever had, but it certainly was the most unexpected.
Up until this point, pretty much every celebrity or athlete I have met was through my job in the newspaper industry.
Many years ago I met and had my picture taken with Bill Cosby, one of the funniest men alive.
The Cos was touring and I wrangled a press pass to take some pictures of the legendary comic.
Each performer has their own rules for taking pictures, so I asked one of his managers to clarify what I was allowed to do.
I was standing in a hallway of a hockey arena when another man comes out of a dressing room and asks, “Are you the photographer?”
"Yes, I am.”
"Bill would like to meet you.”
My first thought was, Bill who? Was the manager's name Bill? Was the head of security named Bill?
They might of been, but the Bill who wanted to meet me was 'The' Bill. The Cos himself had graciously invited me into his dressing room for a a brief chat and a picture.
Now I know what a deer in the headlights feels like. I was stunned. Usually you can't get within 100 feet of the celebs before they go on stage and here was one of the biggest of all time inviting me into his room.
I entered and there he was, sitting on a couch, huge cigar in hand watching a boxing match.
I walked in, sat down and looked over and could not utter a single word. I mean, what can you say to someone of that stature.
His manager took our picture, I shook his hand and wondered off amazed at what had just happened.
It was a very surreal moment and one that did not fully register immediately.
I also walked straight into The Great One Wayne Gretzky a few years back when the men's Olympic hockey team was holding their tryouts.
Wayne was in front of his hotel signing autographs, posing for pictures and basically hanging out for a few minutes when he could have just walked past everyone and hid in his room.
After all, he is the greatest hockey player of all time and not some minor leaguer trying to work his way to the top. But there he was, glad-handing and chatting it up with a very enthralled group of people.
A class act through and through.
While those encounters were somewhat possible because I knew the celebs were in town, the one that happened in Vancouver recently was a total surprise.
His name is Norman Reedus and he plays a character named Daryl Dixon on the very popular and quite grotesque The Walking Dead.
It is a show about survivors of a zombie apocalypse and Reedus' character is the most popular on the show.
I was walking through a mall in Granville Island when this guy passed us who looks exactly like Norman.
My first thought was, “Naaa, couldn't be.”
But then I overheard someone say “signing autographs” and “Daryl Dixon” so I did a 180 and went hoofing after the man who was by himself wearing a backpack vest and baseball cap.
I caught up to him and said, “Um, excuse me, are you Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead.”
"Yes, I am.”
I could not think of a single thing to say after that. He shook my hand and I mumbled how cool it was to meet him, loved the show etc.
He too was quite gracious an posed for a picture with my son and I before shaking our hands again and going about his day.
Thanks Norman, that was very cool.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Longing for the good ol' days. Never saw that coming.

Wait a minute. What's going on here? This can't be right.
What is happening to my brain?
Since my children were born, I have always known the goal is to raise them as best I can and then kick them out, er, I mean, set them free to live their own lives.
I never looked back, never longed for days gone by. And I never had any concerns about the possibility of suffering from empty nest syndrome.
That is why the thought that assaulted my brain like Mike Tyson battling a blind, one-armed dwarf surprised me so much.
It happened during an innocent lunch-break walk. It was a path I had taken dozens of times through a local park complete with lake and sandy beach.
Other than dodging a few cylists and the occasional doggy landmine, the walks were generally uneventful.
That is why the assault on my happy little brain was so unexpected. There were not even that many people at the park, but a lady and her young daughter caught my attention and threw me for a loop.
The lady was laughing away as her daughter, who was around three years old, was throwing sand in the air, dumping it all over herself and in general having a grand old time.
I looked over and smiled, and then all of a sudden I desperately missed my own children being that young.
Whoa. Hang on. Stop it.
That goes against my never-look-back-longingly policy. But suddenly I remembered when my oldest was around two and we took him camping and he spent an afternoon pouring dirt all over his legs. He thought it was hilarious and the dust stuck to the suntan lotion and made a mess, but the Missus and I never even considered ending his fun.
After all, we were camping and part of camping involves communing with nature, even if that means dumping nature all over yourself.
My mind then went on a whirlwind historical revision of many past camping trips and vacations where the young ones did all sorts of silly things.
Then it happened, I longed, desired and, yes, even ached for them to be that age again.
What was happening to me? What about all the sleepless nights or the boogers pouring out of their infected sinuses like water over Niagra Falls. What about messy diapers, never having a moment to yourself, rarely eating a meal when it was actually warm and having to be constantly on the move to keep up to a little one who seems to have more energy than the Hoover Dam?
For a moment, those thoughts vanished. Poof, they were gone and replaced by a longing for the silly things children say and do, the innocence of youth, the way they discover new things in the world around them.
I must admit, those were some good days – boogers and all. So what does this mean? For the first time since having children I actually longed to turn the clock back and do it all over again.
That can't be right. I am a staunch pro-empty nester with no fear of the birds flying the coup.
But even I must admit the fun far outweighed the work of having children. At least that is how my brain is choosing to remember the past.
If I force myself, I can remember Junior leaving a trail like a giant snail had crawled through my living room because his nose was running faster than a gazel on steroids. I can recall poopy diapers, waking up far too early in the morning - every morning - and all sorts of child-induced forms of parental torture. But as the years go by, the fun memories come much quicker and much easier than the not-so-fun memories.
So does this mean in a decade or so I will miss the teen years. The raging hormones, the attitude, the rebellion?
OK, let's not get carried away.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How not to get a bleeding nose

I was reading one of those doctor advice columns about a man who had lots of bleeding noses over the years.
The good doctor rattled off several possible causes (including picking), but the last one seemed so obvious I didn't expect it to be mentioned.
Dr. Columnist said bleeding noses can be caused by trauma to the nose.
You don't say.
Actually I already knew that and the closest I have come to attending medical school is watching Quincy and ER.
He offered lots of doctor speak on how to prevent bleeding noses, but he did not discuss the trauma situation.
The answer for that scenario is simple: stop getting hit in the nose.
Problem solved.
I have had a few bleeding noses over the years. One was caused by my face and a baseball attempting to occupy the same space at the same time.
Just so you know, in this scenario the ball always wins and the nose always bleeds.
The last bleeding nose I  had was about a year ago when my nose hit a guy's knee in my martial arts class. Much like the ball scenario, the knee wins, the nose loses.
I have had three bleeding noses since I started training at this particular club, and all three have come from the same person.
They were all accidents (or at least he claims they were) and are part of the game, but I must admit to being a little more cautious when I train with him.
It is amazing how much a nose can bleed actually, mind you there are two exits so the blood can flow and flow.
The first time one of my children had a bleeding nose was at my parent's house. Junior was around five years old and on the deck when suddenly I heard him wailing like a pack of wolves had grabbed him and were carting him off for a little wolf dinner party.
I ran onto the deck to see him bawling his eyes out with blood running down his face. I looked around and there was no one else on the deck so I had to wait until he calmed down before I could find out what happened.
It would seem Junior was running across the deck with his eyes closed and ran straight into the railing.
He learned running with your eyes closed are not a good idea and I learned how to stop a bleeding nose while not smirking too much at the antics of a kid.
Personally, I prefer blood to stay on the inside of my body – where God intended it to be.
It doesn't always work out that way of course and I do not know anyone who has not bled the red at some point in time.
Often it is a sudden accident that is over before you know it. One moment you are fine, the next you are bleeding.
Such is life I guess.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh