Sunday, July 27, 2014

Grandma, you are simply the best

It was one of those moments you remember forever.
An instant in time seared into your brain with details as vivid and sharp as they day it happened – and I was only four.
Me, my sisters and a couple of cousins were visiting Grandma one hot summer day and we were playing a game where you could not touch the ground.
It was, of course, molten lava (like all suburban driveways are) so we would jump from the stairs to the hood of Grandma’s 1969 Chevrolet Impala.
There were no concerns about damaging the car. Those old Chevies were so tough you could drive a tank over them and, more than likely, you would damage the tank.
The game was simple: whoever touches the ground is turned into a flaming puddle of goo by the roiling ocean of lava that, although deadly, could not hurt a Chev Impala.
We were playing in the carport because it was pouring rain outside. There was also plenty of thunder and flashes of lightning, but we had bigger concerns. We had to survive the deepest reaches of the lava-filled jungle.
One of us would jump onto the stairs and the rest would follow, we would then jump back onto the car as part of our daring adventure.
In grandma’s backyard was a clothesline. One end was attached the house, the other to a large steel pole at the far end of the yard.
When lightening struck that pole it was the loudest bang I have ever heard in my life. (I still get a little freaked out by loud bangs.)
Grandma was looking out the back window and saw the 1.21-gigawatts of electricity hit the pole.
She watched as a surge of electricity spread out across the lawn in an electric blue colour. She saw it head along the clotheline – straight for the carport.
We heard the bang and saw a flash, but were unharmed because we were all on the car and the rubber tires insulated us from the free-range voltage.
We then screamed at the top of our lungs and made a mad dash for the safety of the house, and more important, the safety of Grandma who we knew was bigger and stronger than whatever it was that caused that bang.
We reached the door the same time grandma did and five scared, crying and very freaked out kids wrapped ourselves around her like we were made of Velcro.
With the right proportion of cookies and hugs, Grandma calmed us all down and we decided to spend the rest of the day in the safety of Grandma’s presence.
My children recently lost some of that safety when their Grandma, my wife’s mother, passed away.
It is a big loss for our family as she was a much-cherished member of our clan.
I poked fun at her on occasion in this very column, but she knew how much I loved her and how important she was to us all.
She was a woman of amazing faith and strong character.
She loved to laugh and had a wonderful sense of humour. I would like to say she lived a life of luxury and privilege, but it was a life of trial and hardship.
From losing her mom when she was nine and being raised in foster care, to struggling with a variety of health challenges, life was not always easy for Kathleen Rose.
She faced more than her share of hardships, but through it all she never lost faith in her God, she never put her own needs before others and she had a heart of gold like few people I have ever met.
It was a sad day when she passed. We walked around in a daze, not wanting to believe what reality was telling us.
Tears came easy those first couple of days, slowly replaced by the constant gnawing of knowing she gone.
I know the pain will subside over time, but I also know there will always be an empty space in our lives.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Surviving a week without the Lil Woman

"You know, they will probably starve to death.”
That was what my somewhat smart alecky daughter (I don't know where she gets that from) said to my wife as they were packing for a week-long road trip to northern B.C.
メI'm sure they will be just fine,” replied the Missus, in as believable a voice as she could muster.
Personally, I was not worried about the food aspect of their absence. I can order a pizza with the best of them, so the vittles were just 10 digits away.
Actually, I am fine in the kitchen – because that is where I leave the phone to call for pizza. Seriously, I can cook some rudimentary meals, but if my sons were expecting fine dinning, they had their expectations dashed.
Fortunately, they are old enough to pretty much take care of themselves. And we did have lots of ingredients they can put together to make food, so I knew we would be fine.
Although, within the first 24 hours of the Missus being away, both of my sons had already made a trip to a local fast food establishment.
I did go to the grocery store and picked up some easy-to-cook food. Not those dinners that proclaim they are for watching television while eating. Health wise, I might as well just inject glue into my arteries. One such 'meal' boasted 68 per cent of your daily intake of sodium in just a single serving.
Thanks, but I like my kidneys and would prefer to keep my blood pressure from blowing the top of my head off.
The easy-to-cook meals had to have at least some nutritional value. So after a bit of searching, I collected enough somewhat healthy food to keep three men eating for days, unless some of the teenage herd came by, then I estimated our food stocks would have run out in 67 minutes.
The food supply could also not include hot dogs. I am not 100 per cent sure what hot dogs are made of and that is why I prefer not to eat them. I have never been a hot dog aficionado, and even as a kid I preferred the avoid the quasi meat meal.
I can remember in elementary school when we had 'hot dog day.' For 25 cents, you could purchase a hot dog for lunch. I recall looking at this huge steaming, boiling pot of 'dogs with a thick layer of some sort of foam type substance covering the top and decided hot dogs were not for me.
I knew even without having to resort to ingesting mechanically separated meat products, the boys and I would survive the week of bachelorhood.
My biggest concern with the Missus being missing was the state of the house. With two young men and their friends hanging around all the time, I had visions of coming home from work to a smoldering ruin akin to Pompeii.
Or worse, a kitchen full of dirty dishes. With the Missus working part time, she has a little more time to dedicate to the keeping the house from collapsing into a dusty pile of wood, smelly socks and soiled housewares.
So as a preemptive strike, I had a little chat with the young lads.
メGentlemen, I am not your servant, I am not your house keeper and I am not your maid. No where on me does the word slave appear and you are expected to help keep this house tidy and orderly. Is that understood?”
They both acknowledged my little rant and did a pretty good job at pitching in and keeping our humble home from turning into a pile of rubble.
Of course the hours leading up the return of the Little Woman were filled with the traditional frantic dash to ensure the house was spotless, well maybe not spotless, but at least it was clean and tidy.
We all survived unscathed and well fed, but I am glad she does not go away very often, my dialing finger was getting sore.

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bugs: the bigger they are the more I hate them

Anyone who has read my ramblings knows I have a slight aversion to spiders.
And by slight, I mean the multi-legged spawn of Lucifer himself scare me stupid.
The technical name for it is arachnophobia, I call it spiders are icky and I don't like them-phobia.
As a full-grow, rather large human being, it does put a dent in my veneer of masculinity to utter a high-pitched, school girl-like scream when a spider actually manages to touch my skin.
God forbid one of the eight-legged monsters should somehow end up in an article of clothing where I could feel it wriggling around – just the thought makes me shudder.
The horror is simply too much to imagine.
But I am proud to report I had a very close encounter with a spider the other day and I did not panic, I did not freak out and I did not squeal like a pig caught in a combine.
Nope I casually looked at my tormentor as it crawled up my arm and calmly brushed it away.
Step aside Chuck Norris, the new icon of macho is here.
OK, that might be getting a little carried away because the spider was just slightly smaller than a kernel of corn.
But hey, it was still a spider and spiders are icky and I did not freak out in the least, so I am claiming that as a victory for the spider wimp crowd, of which I am a chartered member.
But it would seem my wimpy-ness is not reserved just for arachnids.
I was going for a leisurely stroll through the park on my lunch break the other day when something flew into my right ear.
It hit with a thump and had this horrific, deep buzzing sound as it fluttered around my ear region.
I knew it was large and at first I wondered how a bald eagle managed to fly up my ear, but deep down I knew what it was: a big, nasty, ugly, scary bug of some sort.
But I was not panicking, or freaking out. I just casually – some might say frantically, but what do they know – brushed the beast away. However, I missed.
As if terrorizing me with its kamakze assault on my ear canal was not enough, it then dropped straight down – into the collar of my shirt.
OK, now I was panicking. I had a monster bug of some sort trying to get way too friendly with me and I had no idea what kind of bug it was.
There really are only two types of bugs in this world: ones that will hurt you, and ones that won’t.
I did not know which type of bug it was, but I automatically assumed it was the painful type so I went in to full blown panic mode and danced around while frantically pawing at my collar to get rid of the horror movie stand in, all the while waiting for the pain of a bite, pinch, small arms fire or whatever else the beast had in its arsenal.
A split second later, this massive black form took off, the thrum of its eagle-sized wings echoing in my conciousness.
I watched it fly away and I was right, it was big and ugly and nasty, but apparently it was not a biter. Or if was, it took pity on me and flew away without inflicting any pain – any physical pain that is.
The psychological trauma lasted for several minutes as I relived the horror of the attack over and over again.
A cold shiver ran down my back, but at least it was not a warm feeling running down my leg.
So yes, it is more than spiders that make a 250-pound man jump around like he has electrodes attached to his nipples.
It is pretty much any bug that is big, ugly and nasty, and folks, that is a lot of bugs.

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

Friday, July 11, 2014

Deck reno complicated by 'matching' colours

As most people know, things rarely go as planned.
If they did, I would be hitting those six numbers at least once a year (no point in being greedy).
But after playing the stupid lotto for years and realizing the odds of me winning are slightly less than an Elvis comeback, I finally gave up on my 6/49 retirement plan.
Anyway, he latest intrusion of Murphy's Law into my life came when I was renovating the back deck. It is a covered deck which is very nice to shield my delicate skin from the Okanagan sun, but the carpeting was literally turning to powder, so the Missus and I decided we needed to replace it.
Actually the Missus decided it needed to be replaced and then she decided I was the one who was going to replace it.
We did not want to put in carpet again because carpet outside is little more than a giant dust collector. Even if the fibres are designed for an outdoor environment, they still get very dirty and are annoying to clean.
So we decided to rip the old carpet out – guess who got that job? - and sand the entire deck – guess who got that job? - and then resurface the entire deck – go on, guess who got that job.
If you guessed the tall bald guy, you would be correct.
I grabbed one edge of the carpet and gave a mighty pull, followed by a mighty cough as a dust storm similar to those found on the Sahara desert swirled around the entire deck, threatening to block out the sun.
And that was just the first of several mighty pulls it took to rip the carpet from the floor. Then I had to run around and hammer or remove the nails used to hold the carpet down before sanding off all the old glue the carpet installer had used.
I guess 623 nails were not enough to hold it in place.
Seeing as how we did not want to put in carpet again, we decided to put down a rubbery compound that goes on like paint, only a million times thicker.
We figured out how much we needed based on the size of the deck and the coverage rating of the can and decided two gallons should do it.
What we did not factor in was the wood on the deck was so dry it sucked the paint-like substance up like a frat boy at his first kegger. (except the floor did not barf all over its shoes at the end of the night)
This was the first part of the job to not go exactly as planned and the two cans did only half the deck. OK, no problem, we will just go back to the hardware store and get two more cans.
When we bought the first two cans I specifically asked the paint mixing person behind the counter that if we needed more, would they be able to match the original colour?
"Oh sure, no problem. It's all on the computer and we can match if perfectly,” she said in a chipper voice.
So we bought two more cans and headed home to slop it on the deck – confident in the colour matching perfectly.
Did I mention things don't always go as planned?
For some reason the new colour was a little darker than the original – so much for a perfect computer match.
I thought maybe when it dried it would match. Well, it has had several days to dry and it is still a little darker, so now I have to move everything from one side of the deck to the other – for the third time – and add a very light coat to make the colours match.
But what's a few hours extra work in the blazing Okanagan heat?
Annoying, that's what.

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gentlemen: listen to the smart brain, not the dumb brain

I can only speak about a man brain, but it seems the testosterone-infused members of the human race have two sides to their brain – good and evil, or smart and dumb – however you want to look at it.
We should always listen to that part of your brain that is filled with common sense and reason. We should, but often men do not.
Listening to the enticing lure of the dark side is more common among younger members of the male species.
For some reason, stupid ideas just don't sound stupid when you are a young buck full of energy and lacking in wisdom. In fact, a lot of the time they sound pretty cool.
“What could possibly go wrong? We tie the fireworks to that little tree over there, light the fuse and enjoy the show,” said an equally young and dumb buddy of mine many years ago.
“What if something catches fire?” was my reply as I looked at the tinder-dry mountainside we were perched on.
“Don't worry about it. It's a rocket and it will shoot eight bright balls of fire high into the sky. No problem,” was the reply.
“D'uh, OK, let's do it,” was my reply.
We lit the fuse and the rocket exploded where it sat, sending eight bright balls of fire in eight different directions.
I would have said 'I told you so,' but we were too busy stomping out eight little fires.
Stupid idea? Absolutely. We did get all the little fires out and vowed to never again play with fireworks (until the the next time we had some that is.
So yes, I have done my share of nutty (a.k.a. stupid) things and I have the scars to prove it, but with middle age strangling the bravado side of my brain, I now know better.
But even as you get older, the dumb part of you brain still chimes in with all sorts of 'brilliant' ideas.
The secret is learning to ignore the dummy inside and go with the mature, intelligent man you really are.
“Honey, do these jeans make my butt look big?”
Loaded question, I know, but a wise man will easily come up with the 'right' answer no matter what the answer really should be.
“Of course not Dear, you look fantastic,” said the smart man who ignored the evil voice in his brain and went on to live a life of happiness and marital bliss.
“No, the jeans don't make your butt look big, your butt makes your butt look big. It looks like two blue Smart cars trying to pass each other,” said the dumb man who now has to learn to sleep pretty much anywhere he can including on the couch, in the garage or even under the stairs.
The key is to listen to the smart man brain and not the dumb man brain.
The older you get, the better you should become at differentiating between the two.
After all, it is a matter of survival (and marital bliss.)

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Even more dummies in the news

Police say a man arrested for drunk driving blamed a turtle, a cat, a squirrel and an overhanging tree for a Central Texas wreck.
When police arrived at the scene, the 33-year-old slurring driver was still in the driver's seat and unaware of his location. A witness told officers the driver passed him on the right shoulder, hit a guardrail, left the road and struck a tree.
The man said he performed the driving maneuvers to avoid hitting the woodland critters that darted out in front him.
This was the second time the man had been in an accident while impaired. In the first incident he claimed a herd of pink elephants forced him off the road.
Police did not buy his excuse either time.
In other, more believable critter news, a bear got its head stuck in a cookie jar and had to be rescued – twice.
As people approached the baby bruin to help, it became scared and took off, eventually climbing a tree where it got wedged between some branches and was unable to move.
The bear was tranquillized, rescued from the tree and had the plastic cookie jar gently removed by firefighters.
Fire crews said the bear had buck teeth and kind of looked like Curly from the Three Stooges.
A woman walking along the ocean shore Washington State collecting sea shells, came across what has to be one of the strangest beach combing finds ever: a prosthetic leg.
The woman picked up the apparatus and launched a Facebook campaign to try and find the owner.
Another woman quickly claimed the leg and said it had fallen off while she and her husband were swimming.
The unidentified woman admits she was hopping mad when she noticed her leg was missing, but was happy to have it back.
In Maryland, a woman ordered a burger and fries, but left the fast food franchise with a little more than she bargained for: a bag of marijuana.
When the woman opened her fries, she found a small bag of pot. The woman called police and was angry because she said she ordered everything super sized.
OK, I'm kidding, but the woman actually did call the cops to let them know what happened. Police investigated and it turns out the pot fell out of an employee's pocket and into the bag of deep-friend artery hardeners.
The employee has since been fired, but business has increased at the eatery with people placing the same order: Yea, hey Dude, can I like totally get the 'special' meal?
Speaking of pot, a man was scheduled to appear in court on drug charges. When he showed up for the court appearance, he reeked of marijuana.
A deputy asked the man if he had any dope on him and the man replied he was "not a fool" and "would not bring drugs" to his court date.
The officer patted him down and several bags of pot stuck were found in the man's sock.
Along with the Meathead of the Year award, the criminal mastermind is also facing more drug charges.
Apparently, he was a fool (and not too bright.)
A zoo in Memphis has banned a woman for life after she climbed over a safety barrier and tried to feed cookies to the lions while singing to them.
A zoo official said the woman's actions were "dangerous."
In other news, a Memphis zoo official has been awarded a prize from the Obvious Statement of the Month Club.
In Alaska a seven-month-old dog brought home a wallet the owner did not even know he was missing. The owners of the dog contacted the owner of the wallet who was grateful it had been found.
All of the man's money and other items were still in the wallet, but a month later he received a credit card bill for 10 pounds of  sirloin steak, a dozen squeaky toys and from a website called Live Puppy Chat,

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh