Friday, August 29, 2014

I could resist no longer - I bought an iPhone

What can I say, I finally caved to the seductive lure of the siren known as technology and was sucked into the high-tech age of 2014: I got an iPhone.
I spent years resisting getting a cell phone and when I did, it was a basic, simple, old-guy phone that did two things: sent texts and let me speak to people.
What more could you want? It did have a basic camera, but no video capability and none of that fancy pants stuff my kid's phones had.
But it did what I wanted it to do, even if it was ancient in cell phone years. It was, after all, five years old.
"Oh, you still have a phone like that,” said a very high-tech co-worker when he saw my dinosaur of a phone sitting on my desk.
I just looked up at him, jumped out of my chair and punched him in the throat.
"Let's see you talk on your fancy pants phone with a crushed larynx, pal.”
I am kidding of course. Violence never solves anything – unless someone brings my daughter home past curfew, then it is the only way to solve things.
When my daughter does start dating (somewhere around the age of 25) I will greet her suitor while sharpening my knife collection and talking to a 'friend' on the phone.
"Ya, I miss everyone in prison too. I have been staying out of trouble, but then again, my daughter hasn't dated anyone since that last kid. Yes, he is eating solid food again – I think.”
Anyway, back to the wonders of cell phones.
My daughter lost her old phone so we got her an iPhone, which she is thrilled with. However, she managed to find her old phone, so I was going to trade in my dino-phone and use her android phone – which was much more advanced.
However, the android phone was experiencing some technical challenges. The stupid thing wouldn't turn on, so I took it to the place we have our accounts only to be told getting it working again might not be covered because there was a crack – just slightly smaller than a mouse hair – in the corner of the screen.
"That could void the warranty, so you may have to pay for the repairs yourself,” the little phone expert guy told me.
So I jumped forward and punched him in the throat.
Once again, I am kidding.
Because I had my dino-phone for so long, I actually had a bit of a credit built up from my monthly payments and found out I could get an iPhone for a mere $4 a month more than I was paying for the dino-phone.
I decided to take the leap forward in technology and now I have a phone that can do everything but wash my car.
As the phone expert guy was explaining everything my new phone could do, I was amazed at what the little thing was capable of.
It has talk and text – pretty much all I needed in the first place – but it also has a decent camera, video capability, weather information, access to the Internet, emails and if I punch in the right combination of letters and numbers, I am pretty sure I can launch a thermal nuclear strike on mainland North Korea.
But the more he talked, the less I understood.
He rambled on about sliding this over here to do that, and sliding that over here to do this.
By the time he was done, I was missing the old tin cans with a string between them I used to play with as a child.
I am sure once I get familiarized with the new contraption, I will be using it like a pro.
But until that day arrives (long in the future) I will pester my kids about how to use the stupid thing, because to them, cellphones are as simple as two tin cans and a string.

Copyright 2014 Darren Handschuh

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rodent running amok at work

There has been an unwanted guest running around the office the past few days.
It's small, it's a grayish-brown colour and it is freaking people out.
It is easy to tell when Mickey's cousin makes an appearance – just follow the screams.
メThat was gross. It ran right over my foot,” said a female staff member after an up-close-and-personal encounter of the vermin kind.
メWell, think of how scared the mouse was when it saw you,” was my soothing reply, but oddly enough she did not find it very comforting.
After all, a mouse is a tiny little creature that must see us humans as scary giants.
While the office is hardly infested with mice – a single mouse does not an invasion make – it is still creeping people out, so steps are underway to take care of the problem.
I suggested they bring in the Critter Assault Tactical Squad – CATS – to take care of the situation. There are a couple feral cats living in the alley behind the building that could dispatch of a rascally rodent in no time. All we would have to do is herd the cats into the building and let them do their thing.
Of course herding cats is slightly easier than raising a teenage daughter, but the cats won't burst in to tears every 30 seconds.
The other suggestion to get rid of the rodent was to arm a few select staffers with BB guns. My sons each have BB handguns and I could strut around like Wyatt Earp and hunt down the varmints like an old west bounty hunter.
While that would likely be the most entertaining way (for me anyway) to get rid of the beast, I suspect PETDLR (People for the Ethical Treatment of Dirty Little Rodents) would get their knickers in a knot and I anticipate a more traditional method will be used, such as people running around with hammers and hockey sticks.
I am kidding of course, all we need are hockey sticks.
Wait, I'm kidding again.
Although I am not privy to the inner workings of the rodent-elimination project, I suspect traps will be strategically placed to dispatch the rodent from this earth.
The Interweb is a gold mine of mouse-killing information with dozens of sites explaining the finer points of exterminating the little blighters.
Oddly enough, cheese is not recommended as the trap food of choice. It would seem all those childhood cartoons I watched lied about a mouse's penchant for hardened yellow dairy products.
The food of choice to catch the furry menace is peanut butter because it sticks to whatever you put it on, such as the trigger mechanism of the death machine known as a mouse trap.
There are also a bevy of elaborate mouse-killing methods available on the Net, but the spring-loaded trap of doom is still the cheapest tried and true method.
How many rodents have been sent to mouse Valhalla by the little piece of wood with a spring and metal attachments we will never know.
There are, of course, humane traps. This is where you catch the mouse alive, take it outside to release it and then you run like mad to try and get back into the building before the mouse does.
Someone even came up with a water bucket trap. This where you set up an elaborate string system over a bucket half filled with water.
The mouse will venture onto the string in an effort to reach the bait before falling into the water where it will drown – that is after spending who knows how long trying its best to stay alive.
Sounds kinda cruel to me. I much prefer the quick and painless of the good, old-fashioned spring-loaded dealer of mouse death.
You can try, but I doubt you can actually build a better mouse trap.

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

Friday, August 22, 2014

A sad week, but also an interesting one

I can say one thing about the past week, it has been interesting.
Often, one day blurs into the next as we trudge through our daily routines without giving life and what it has to offer much thought.
You get up, you to to work, you come home, you go to sleep, you get up, you go to work...
It's like being on a treadmill without the benefit of burning calories and losing weight.
Some people live more rambunctious lives where they are always going somewhere and doing something, but for the majority of us, life boils down to routine with the occasional break known as a vacation.
This is where we leave our big home to rent little homes in places we don't live in an effort to put the daily grind on hold for a couple weeks and get refreshed and recharged.
Sometimes we even bring little, portable homes with us to live in as we explore other parts of the world. Other times, we rent those little homes and who doesn't like staying at a hotel where you don't have to make your own bed, tidy up or even cook?
But this past week, the usual murmuring of my weekly routine was thrown into a tailspin by two events: one I had no control over, but the other was by my own hand.
The first was the memorial service for my mother in law. A much-loved member of our family, the service brought siblings, friends and family members from far and wide to pay their respects. My usually quiet home became the gathering point for many of the out-of-towners. It was good to see them and it definitely broke with routine.
The other event that changed my week was my column on depression that was published last Sunday.
The admission I struggle with mental health issues has put me in touch with a lot of people who walk a similar path.
It is a dark path and at times a very dangerous path, but what can be perceived as a lonely, desolate trail winding its way through the dark forest of an unsettled mind, is actually full of people all looking for the same thing: peace and freedom.
Many people relayed stories of their own struggles with depression and a couple even said I may have saved lives by writing what I did. I don't know about that, and never even thought of it in those terms. I just felt the time was right to bring the darkness into the light.
Many called it brave, but to be honest with you I never saw myself as being brave for writing about it.
I just wanted people to know they are not alone in their struggles, that help is available and that the narrow path is actually a six-lane super highway crammed with people walking the same walk.
It is not a case of misery loves company, but strength in numbers.
I have been encouraged, buoyed and, I must admit, a little relived to find so many kindred spirits out there.
It was interesting to hear from friends and co-workers who had no idea of the near incapacitating pain that accompanies me on so many occasions. I guess I really did hide it well.
I wonder how many other people suffer in silence. How many others are out there think they are alone. How any others are sitting silently, isolated by the darkness.
The issues of mental health were brought to the forefront by the suicide of actor Robin Williams earlier this month.
But it won't be long before the fervor calms down as the next topic of the day grabs the public interest and the focus on mental health will fade. But hopefully, out of the tragedy of his death can come the victory of awareness and healing.
Talking about it will break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and hopefully it will show people they are not the only ones and help is at hand.

Copywrite 2014 Darren handschuh

Friday, August 15, 2014

Time to talk about mental health

I am coming out of the closet.
While I am not gay, I have been hiding something from many people for many years: I have clinical depression.
At its best, I carry on like anyone else, enjoying life as it happens.
But at its worst I am consumed by blackness. Dark, dangerous thoughts permeate my mind – thoughts of self harm, thoughts of suicide.
The death of actor Robin Williams, who had battled depression and addiction issues for  years, has people talking about mental health issues, which is good because anything that is brought to the light can not remain hidden in the shadows.
I always said I would be open and talk about my own struggles with depression, but I must admit I have been selective in who I make this revelation too.
Some of my closest friends know, people at my church know, as does my family, but unless I want you to know, you most likely will have no idea.
I have become an expert at faking it. Even when I am recoiling in pain on the inside, I am witty and a jokester on the outside.
I can erect a facade few people can see through. There are people I have worked with for almost 20 years and I suspect they have no idea the internal struggles I wrestle with.
I have a family history of depression and I decided at a young age if I had it, I was going to admit it and do everything I could to fight it. Medication, counselling and prayer are all major weapons in the war against my inner demons.
But often those demons make a charge, they attack with an unrelenting and merciless assault. It is in those times when life is the hardest and most dangerous.
Dangerous to myself because the pain is so great, the isolation from the outside world so complete, I feel utterly alone and do not know how I will get through the next minute of the day.
The incredible sadness depression generates can be overwhelming and incapacitating. There has been more than one day when I have sat at this very keyboard and wondered how I was going to survive the next 60 seconds of my life.
I am on medication, I am in counselling and I have an amazing wife who is always ready to fight the darkness with me.
I have a God who will never abandon me, but still there are times when the pain is so great I want it to end by any means possible.
I have found the more I fight the depression, the shorter those dark times are. They still happen, but their duration is much less.
Through my years of struggle, I have learned many things about depression. The first and most important thing anyone can do if they have depression is to admit it and to seek help.
You have two choices when it comes to mental health issues: fight it, or lose to it. There are no other alternatives. If you ignore it, it will consume you.
The brain is just another organ in the body and occasionally organs malfunction. If you have heart problems you would not hesitate to see a doctor. The heart and brain are the same thing – organs that perform a specific job and when they are not doing the job properly, doctors can help.
The first step is to see your family doctor for an assessment. You must be completely honest or the results will be skewed.
You are not weak, you are not inferior and you are not crazy. You simply have a malfunctioning organ that needs a little help.
Depression is a nasty, brutish entity that wants nothing more than to destroy you. But it is a self-determined journey. Only you can admit you need help. And once you admit it, there is lots of help available.
And remember no matter how dark things look, or how isolated you feel you are not alone. Others walk the same path, it may not always be an easy path, but you, we, can do it.
For more information on mental health programs in this area, go to, or

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

Friday, August 8, 2014

Married adventures with drunk cowboys

It was one of the strangest nights of my life.
A storm was tearing through the land. Thunder and lightning of biblical proportions were wreaking havoc on the usually calm summer's night.
But it was not the torrential rain, the crack of thunder or even the deadly bolts of electricity that concerned me, it was being trapped in a cowboy bar without electricity and being surrounded by 300 drunk cowpokes that had me worried.
My wife and I were visiting a friend in Central Alberta many years ago and were spending a night on the town for a time of drinks, merriment and more drinks.
The first night club we went to was a kind of techno-pop establishment where after the first 15 minutes every song began to sound the same.
We weren't the oldest people in the room, but we certainly were not the youngest and the 'kids' bouncing around the dance floor really seemed to enjoy the um, er, music I guess you could call it.
With the thumping of the bass and what I assume was someone singing filling the room, I was reminded why I rarely went to night clubs anymore.
After some merriment and a few drinks our friend wanted a change of venue so we headed to an establishment that played much better music.
A few more drinks and a little more merriment later we once again sought a venue change and that is how we ended up in the cowboy bar.
Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against cowboys and I even wanted to be one for a good portion of my childhood. I have known a few cowpeople (to use a politically correct, but really stupid term) and they were all pretty cool. They were hard workers (and hard partiers,) but not the crowd I tended to gravitate to, mainly because of the music.
I am just not a country music fan. If cowboys listened to rock and roll, well then call me a cowboy. But I am pretty sure it is in the cowboy constitution that 90 per cent of the music they listen to must be country, which means I am not part of the club.
But on this night, I found myself in their midst. Shortly after our arrival, the storm knocked out the power, so now I was in a dark room with 300 drunk cowpeople.
This was fine, until, in the back of the room, someone started singing Delta Dawn – that old country standby – and the entire bar joined it.
We were not in our comfort zone to say the least.
My wife and I often revisit that night and we always get a chuckle out of the whole experience.
It is just one of many we have shared over the past 26 years of holy matrimony.
I have officially been married for more than half of my life – and all to the same women.
The little woman and I share a similar sense of humour, which is one of the things that brought us together in the first place, and we both found being in a darkened bar listening to a few hundred people warble their way through the Tanya Tucker standard very amusing.
After more than a quarter century of marriage we have many strange little tales to tell and, God willing, we will have many more years and many more odd little adventures to experience.
Has every year with my beloved been nothing but sunshine and lollipops? Um, er, next question please.
There have been times of great joy and times of great challenge. Moments when I wonder why I ever married her, but mostly I wonder how I could ever get by without her.
We are both human, we are both imperfect, but we are both devoted to each other and that means we can survive anything, including a drunken rendition of Delta Dawn.

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The lobster people are here

One of the things I always find amusing about summer is the Lobster People.
No, these are not people with weird deformities that causes them to resemble a delicious and expensive sea crustacean.
These are the people who are vacationing in our sunny climes and are as red as a stop sign from too much outdoor merriment.
It helps make tourists easy to spot as they look like tomatoes with legs (very red legs that is.)
Locals have either already gained a bit of a tan from the sunny-yet-cooler months of the spring and early summer, or they know enough to lather themselves in SPF 4,000 before going out.
But many of our tourists come from a flat part of the country (I'm not mentioning any specific areas here) where summer is typically a couple weeks in late July so getting out and enjoying that great big ball in the sky is too much to resist.
So they doff their work boots, jeans and hardhat in exchange for a bathing suit and a floatie, and splash around the lake as the sun slowly and subtly cooks them.
It is usually not until the next day they realize the folly of their actions. Then they grab all the after burn ointment they can find and cover every bit of bright red skin they can reach.
I don't even want to think about what happens to nudists.
They are exposing parts of their bodies to the sun that typically don't interact with that big ball of brightness.
I have never been to a nude beach, and the world is a better place because of it.
I could see myself ditching my swim suit to splash around eu naturale, only to cause the other beach goers instant blindness and nausea so bad not even Pepto would be able to help.
It would cause a mass exodus from the beach as if a land shark was gobbling up people like a fat guy at a buffet.
In other words, me running around the beach naked would be a bad thing.
I would also like to take a moment to apologize for any mental images I may have generated with the previous paragraphs.
Don't worry, with the proper amount of therapy and deep hypnosis the image will fade.

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh