Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dear winter - you suck

Once again the grip of winter is firmly upon us and I for one say ba-humbug.
That is not a negative remark toward Christmas, but it is a comment on that dreaded, frosty, icy, cold, miserable time of year that happens every year no matter what.
You would think being born and raised in Canada I would be used to winter and cold and snow and all the other miserable aspects of the non-summer months.
I am used to is, but that does not mean I have to like it.
I am just not a fan of winter.
Running out to your car in the morning as your breath transforms into ice crystals and the boogers in your nose freeze is always a fun way to start the day.
If the lock on your car is not frozen, you can enter your vehicle with relative ease, but then you make the mistake of letting that crystalizing breath collide with the windshield and suddenly you have ice on the inside of your car.
But first, you have to get rid of the frost on the outside so you start your car, crank up the heater – even though for the first few minutes it is blowing cold air – and then climb out and start scraping away the handiwork of Jack Frost (who is a jerk by the way).
If you are smart and plan ahead, you will have an ice scrapper handy. Which I do, unless one of my kids have gotten their grubby little paws on it then who knows where it has ended up. (I suspect the back seat of their own car.)
I am pretty sure anyone who has ever owned a car has had to dig into their wallet and pull out a credit card or something similar and scrape the frost away as you lose feeling in your fingers in 1.2 seconds all the while muttering something about children, ice scrapers and why you should not have had children.
With the outside mostly scraped clean, you once again return to the inside of your vehicle that is just slightly warmer than the outside.
The inside of the window is still covered in man-made frost, so you dig out the plastic card again and scrape the inside of the windshield causing the dash to be covered by an interior snow storm.
But because you continue to breath and fill the car with humidity, it just frosts up again, so you end up driving down the street scrunched up in your seat so you can see through that little spot at the bottom of the windshield where they heater is finally starting to gain ground on the assault from that Jack idiot.
The more you drive, the bigger the clear spot gets and the entire windshield will typically be completely cleared about three seconds before you arrive at your destination.
But on occasion you forego the scraper altogether and opt for a liquid assault on Jack's handiwork.
You can use the windshield washer fluid to remove the frost for you, but as we all know, the plan is flawed because the washer fluid freezes on the windshield and while it does create some pretty patterns it is not conducive to roadway viewing.
So what do you do?
You spray even more windshield washer fluid in an effort to rid your viewing portal of the frozen fiasco that is part of the joys of winter.
Sure you don't have to scrape, but you end up using half a gallon of windshield wiper fluid just to get down the block.

So, no I am not a fan of winter, but I know this too shall pass – and the sooner the better.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Friday, December 18, 2015

A few 'unique' gift ideas

What do you get for the person how has everything?
Nothing, they already have everything, adding more stuff to the collection would just be greedy.
But if you are looking for gifts that are, well, a little out of the norm for someone who does not have everything, then keep reading.
There is no shortage of strange, bizarre and downright weird gifts out there.
How about a potty piano for the music lover in your home?
This is a little plastic mat keyboard you put in front of the toilet so the sitter can make merry music while having a little personal time.
Why you ask? I have no idea. I could not even guess how this would make the world a better place or who would want to play the piano with their feet while they, um, er, well, you know.
Not strange enough for you? Not a problem.
How about a full-size Krampus Christmas demon costume. Nothing says peace and goodwill on Earth like a horned, fanged, fur-covered monster toting a red sack full of body parts.
This is an especially good idea if you have children.
“See kids, I told you to behave and you didn't so this is what you get.”
It will give them hours and hours worth of things to talk to their psychiatrist about when they are older.
Have chocolate lover in the house? Then you need a big ol' hunk of Cricket Crunch Bar.
As the name implies, it is a chocolate bar filled with nutritious and delicious crickets.
The sales pitch goes: “Crickets are a popular snack in many parts of the world, and have a texture like puffed rice. Plus, they have fibre and protein.”
Do you know what else the chocolate bar is full of? Bugs, that's what.
Scurrying, scampering, multi-legged insects do not belong in my chocolate – ever. Maybe I could save some money and throw a few dozen grasshoppers into a pot of melted Hershey bars. But I will admit I do not know if locusts have the same nutritional value as crickets so the health nuts among us may want to stick to the cricket diet.
Feasting on insects not pleasing to the pallet? How about a piece of chum-flavoured gum? Yes, that is a real item that you can put under the tree for Christmas.
I have no idea what chum tastes like and I am pretty sure I would like to keep it that way. I wonder how the people who made the stuff knows what chum tastes like. On second thought, never mind.
Tired of giving your wife or girlfriend the same old boring jewellery for Christmas? How many diamonds can she wear anyway?
So, instead of diamond earrings, how about a nice set of squirrel feet earrings. These are real squirrel feet the discerning woman in your life can dangle from her earlobes.
Nothing says Merry Christmas like strapping some animal parts to your head.
The sad thing is, there will be all those squirrels running around the forest with prosthetic limbs.
And as the world descends ever deeper into the unrelenting grip of the bacon craze, a ridiculous amount of bacon-related items can be purchased.
There is bacon-flavoured toothpaste for some reason. And bacon-scented soap, so you can walk around smelling like a BLT all day. There is also bacon jam, bacon relish, bacon-flavoured bacon, and, of course, bacon-flavoured ice cream.
My mind says no, but my taste buds say mmmmmm-good.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Have a very PC Christmas

It is probably the most beloved and well-known Christmas tale ever told.
Well, for a non-biblical story anyway.
It is the story of a secretive old man who breaks into people's houses one night of each year to leave items that are made in China, er, I mean his workshop in the North Pole.
I am talking about the time-honoured poem T'was the Night Before Christmas.
The grand tale of jolly old St. Nick as he works his yuletide magic around the globe has been shared for generations.
The poem was written in the 1800s by Clement C. Moore who also wrote a whole bunch of other stuff as well, but I doubt many households read those stories aloud once a year.
I recently re-read the poem and it got me wondering what it would be like if it were written today.
There are so many politically incorrect aspects to it, someone somewhere would have objected to it, because in this day and age pretty much everything will offend someone.
'Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot...' – whoa, hang on, wait a minute.
You mean Santa Claus massacres defenseless animals for clothing!
PETA would be marching to the North Pole in protest and dogging him at every stop along his Dec. 25 route if he tried to get away with such barbarism in modern times.
'The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...' sounds like a potential fire hazard. Let's just put those stockings in the middle of the room away from the open flame.
'The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.'
What! Santa smokes! How can a role model for millions of children around the world indulge in such an unhealthy habit?
I read recently where a group wants to have that part of the poem removed altogether because they say it will encourage kids to smoke.
I know lots of people who believed in Santa as a kid and none of them started smoking because Santa had a nic fit in every house he visited. They started smoking because they were idiots and the big man had nothing to do with it.
‘He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf; And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.’
So let me get this straight, people are laughing at someone because of their body type; because they are overweight.
Perhaps he has a thyroid condition, or some other medical ailment that causes him to gain weight. Perhaps he is very sensitive about it, maybe it is something beyond his control.
Perhaps that should be changed to 'He was a weight-enhanced gentleman, who, in spite of his challenges, maintained a good mental attitude.'
'A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.'
That line might read a little different in a modern United States: A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread because I had a bead on him with my 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and if he so much as wiggled his nose he would have more lead in him than a toy from China.'
Not a warm and fuzzy Christmas tale, but probably accurate.

So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and thankfully his story was told long before it was subjected to the political correctness of modern times.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cheer up, it's Christmastime

“You know it must be near Christmas because people are getting grouchy.”
A buddy of mine made that comment after a grueling afternoon of gift shopping. It certainly does not fit with the spirit of Christmas, but I it does hold a sliver of truth.
Many people are filled with the joy of Christmas and the blessings of the Yule Tide season, but there are a few who are full of something else.
After my Scrooge-like friend made the comment I spent some time a local shopping oasis – the mall – and dang it if he wasn’t right.
Some people were a little on the grumpy side - especially when it came to finding a parking spot. Yikes, some folk out there are downright nasty in their quest to park as close to the front door as possible.
Personally, I could care less if I have to walk a block or so to get to the front door, but in just a few minutes I observed some very Grinchy behaviour among the festive season shoppers.
“Hey, I was going to park there!”
“Too bad, I got here first.”
“Yeah, well, then ‘bless’ you, pal.”
Not exactly a Disney Christmas moment.
I even had a kindly, grandma-type lady yell, scream and make a rather unpleasant gesture because I got to a parking spot 10 seconds before she did.
I clearly got there first because I had my car turned off before she even pulled up, but I guess her Granny vision saw the spot from a distance and knew it was destined to be hers.
However, in the spirit of Christmas, I started my car and reversed out of the spot, while giving the universal signal she can have the spot with a wave of my hand and a smile on my face.
She replied once again with a different universal signal while pulling her car into the now-vacant prime parking space.
Even after I gave her a really good parking spot, the Granny from Hell was still not feeling the festive mood. I wonder what she was shopping for - rat tails and eye of newt, no doubt.
Were the Wisemen riled up because they had a hard time finding a parking space for their camels when they went to the manger to see Baby Jesus?
Of course not, and these guys did not have to walk a block to get to the front door, they had to ride stinky, uncomfortable camels for who knows how along across the blazing desert just to deliver a few gifts to a baby. Mind you it’s not every day the son of God is born so I guess it was worth the effort.
Since that hallowed day, the theme of Christmas has been peace on earth and good will toward man. Not ‘50 per cent off selected items while quantities last’ as it has become in more recent times.
Or being barraged by ad campaigns that brainwash your child into needing a certain toy or they will grow up bitter and warped and put you in an old folk’s home first chance they get.
But even I am letting the Grinch in me come out as I bemoan the lack of Christmas spirit. Not everyone is miserable during the happiest time of the year – only those who get swindled by the nonsense of the season rather than enveloped by the joy. There is still a lot of good will out there. Many people smile a little easier, offer a friendly ‘Hello’ to those they don’t know and even go out of their way to help others with no expectation of personal gain.
Which is exactly what Christmastime is supposed to be like – remember, good will and all that stuff.
If the opposing forces stuck in the trenches of the First World War can put down their guns and stop killing each other for a day to share the joy of Christmas, surely we can be civil to each other in the mall parking lot.
That is not too much to hope for, is it?
Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grandma Dynamite at the wheel

It was one of those things that is so odd it's funny.
I was driving down the street a while back when a little old lady in a silver car pulled out in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid some up-close-and-personal interaction with granny.
I managed to slow down and swerve to the point where the collision was avoided. You could say I was a little annoyed at the almost accident, until I noticed it was a kindly, little old lady behind the wheel.
That changed my attitude rather quickly because who could possibly be mad at Granny. And besides, stuff happens and no one is perfect and I was sure she simply did not see me. No biggie.
I gave Granny a couple of little toots on the horn just to let her know I was there and we almost got to exchange phone numbers and insurance information.
This sweet, kindly, granny-looking little old lady, peered into her rearview mirror and proceeded to flip me the bird.
I must admit, that was probably the last thing I expected a little old lady to do. Granny is not supposed to do that. Shouldn't you be at home baking cookies for the grandchildren, or knitting something instead of making an obscene gesture? Especially when you consider it was Grandma Dynamite who was at fault in the first place.
And this was not a quick flip of the driving finger, this was a prolonged hey-butthead-behind-me-I-got-your-granny-greeting-right-here kind of gesture.
It took a couple of seconds before I fully realized what was going on. At first, I thought she was waving to say sorry for almost causing our insurance rates to go up, but most people use all five fingers to do that.
I stared for the duration of the salute and sure enough Granny was giving me the what for with a certain finger reserved for non-verbal communication of the unpleasant kind.
So I did what any other driver would do, I got in close, hit her car from behind and spun her into the on-coming lane where she was creamed by a dump truck.
I'm kidding of course. It was a cement truck.
In reality, all I could do was look on in a mild state of shock at what I was witnessing.
I pulled up beside the car to make sure it really was a granny and not a teen wearing an old people costume, but sure enough, this was a full-fledged grandma-type driver.
I tell you, seniors are getting harder and harder to raise these days.
Once the initial surprise wore off, I had to chuckle at granny for not taking any crap from one of those young whippersnappers.
Now, I have never snapped a whipper in my life, but according to Hostile Hilda in the Honda, I was just some punk kid with an attitude. A punk kid who, at the time, was in his mid 30s.
What is the protocol in that situation? I couldn't give her the finger in return. Flipping Granny the bird would be too strange and just seemed plain wrong.
Two wrongs do not make a right, no matter how good that second wrong feels.
Eventually, Granny went her way and I went mine, both with stories to tell.
Hers was of some jerk in a little red car who was harassing her with his horn.
Mine was of a member of the blue hair crowd who gave me hope that when I become a senior, I won't have to take any guff from some punk on the street.
You go granny.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ode to the nerd

I had to stop by an elementary school the other day to drop something off and was amazed at how little had changed since I was a member of the early education system.
I don’t mean the actual building, but the kids themselves.
Within minutes I could spot the nerds, cool kids, bad kids and the jocks.
Nature just has a way of separating the herd into appropriate clusters. It’s the whole birds of a feather thing.
I began to look back on my elementary years and all sorts of memories came flooding back until I was once again curled up in the corner of the room, rubbing my head and chanting, “make the bad thoughts go away, make the bad thoughts go away.”
In case you haven’t figured it out, school was not exactly a great time for me. I know I hide it well, but sometimes people can guess school was about as much fun as eyeball surgery without anesthetic – only more painful.
As if nature did not already have a way of sorting things out, there were all these little rituals that helped place the students in their appropriate groups.
Elementary school is a prime example of the strong shall survive and the weak shall be picked last for every sporting event.
I am not sure who came up with this one, but when I was in school this is how teams were selected for a lunch-hour game of football or whatever: the two top jocks would start picking kids and the lesser players would all huddle together, each secretly hoping they weren’t going to be the last to be chosen.
One by one, names would be called out until a handful of sad, pathetic athlete wannabes were left standing in front of everyone looking not unlike puppies in the store window hoping someone will pick them.
The worst, of course, is being the last one to be called.
OK, I choose Tommy.”
Tommy? You chose Tommy over me? He has two broken legs and a neck brace on.”
I know, and your point is.”
It’s not good for your self esteem when a kid who was hit by a truck and spent three weeks in a coma is thought to be more beneficial to the team than you are.
Not that I am speaking from experience or anything. I heard about it from some one, yeah, that’s right, I heard about it.
I was never picked last for anything actually, which basically means I was not even a good enough nerd to be the chief nerd, I was kind of a middle-of-the-road nerd.
Unless you are among the first half or so selected, it is a cruel way to pick a team. As the numbers dwindle, it sort of turns into a nerd parade, where people driving by in their cars glance over and say, “Oh, look honey, it’s a flock of nerds. Get the camera.”
The non-nerds will tell their children tales of the nerd herd.
Yes my son, there was a day when nerds roamed this land. They were all over this field, free range nerds I liked to call them. Yup, it was quite a sight to see.”
Due to political correctness, I doubt there are any official nerds in the school system anymore.
I am sure there are a lot of cool-challenged kids out there who are also suffering from a social skills deficiency, but actual nerds, not any more.
A nerd by any other name – will still likely be picked last for a sports team.
And there is nothing wrong with going to the junior high school dance by yourself. I read that even Brad Pitt could not get a date for his school’s big dance.
OK, I made that whole Brad Pitt thing up, but a guy can always hope can’t he.
Entering high school proved interesting because with three elementary schools funnelling into one melting pot of youthfulness, the nerd population grew accordingly.
We, um, er, I mean the nerds, would spot each other in the hallway and have an instant comraderie born of the need for survival.
Life could be hard for the nerd and we, er, um, I mean they often travelled in packs for self defence as much as mutual bonding.
The weaker nerds would get picked off by marauding gangs of jocks and be stuffed in garbage cans while the stronger nerds made good their escape.
Eventually, the nerds grew up, became computer experts or whatever and hired the jocks – who failed to take their sports career beyond high school – to mow their lawns and wash their cars.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sorry ladies, we really don't know how you feel

Ladies, if I may, I would like to offer some free relationship advice.
I would like to talk about communication between men and women - neither of whom actually speak the same language.
Men can communicate, but not in the same way you ladies can. When guys get together there is tremendous communication about important things like hockey, cars, the job and other matters men can relate to one another about.
What men rarely talk about is emotions.
"Y'know Bob, when you said my moustache looked cheesy, it made me feel all bad inside. It made me feel less attractive."
"I'm sorry Frank, I meant it as a joke. C'mere, gimme a hug. I love you, man."
I have never, and I mean ever, been a part of such a conversation and I have been a guy for as long as I can remember.
Because men rarely talk to each other about emotions and feelings and all that gooey stuff, we are not very good at talking to our spouses about those same topics.
Women talk freely about their feelings and emotions and how their emotions make them feel.
Practice makes perfect, and when it comes to talking about inner-most feelings, men are sadly out of practice, while women could make it an Olympic event.
My wife could easily make the national team on sharing feelings, while I would be relegated to the water boy.
So here is where I will impart my meagre wisdom upon the world whether they want it or not.
When it comes to talking about feelings and emotions, ladies, I implore you to talk slowly, use simple terms and most importantly of all never assume we know how you feel, because we don't - ever.
It is not that men are dumb (I know, there's lots of room for argument there), or we don't care (still more room), it's just we can't pick up subtle hints the lady in our life thinks is a blaring clue as to what is wrong.
If there is a problem, subtle hints work about as well as trying to knock out an elephant with a feather.
But if you say it in simple, straight-forward terms, the chances are much better our man brains will be able to connect with that little, tiny, minuscule part of our gray matter that controls emotions.
Yes, men (most men anyway) do have an area where they can look at and examine their emotions. It is typically buried under a pile of brain clutter consisting of information about motorcycles, hockey, movies and why beer and nachos are possibly the greatest food combination ever devised by the human race.
But once you get through all that stuff, the emotional brain does exist. Subtle hints have little chance of penetrating the man brain and getting past all the other stuff we men find interesting and important.
Not that our significant other's feelings are not important, they are, honest, really, I mean that, but over the centuries men have had to concern themselves with matters other than our emotions such as hunting for food, defending their land from attacking hoards and watching the play offs.
I doubt there is a man alive, now or through out the history of time, who has not had the line, 'Well you should know how I feel' dropped on them.
We don't know. It's that simple.
After more than two decades of marriage, I can tell when something is bothering my wife, but she has also learned after 27 years subtle hints don't work and the direct approach is most often used, thus allowing me to detect how she is feeling.
See how it works? My wife tells me how she is feeling and I recognize how she is feeling and then we have a big, happy talk about how she is feeling, I apologize for whatever it was that made her feel that way and life can get on as normal.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Time to play 'What's your ailment?'

Anyone who has been to a doctor knows an appointment is more of a guideline than an actual time you will see said practitioner.
Appointments are made so people can rest assured that eventually, they will get in to see their doctor and are not just hanging out in a public waiting area half the day for the fun of it.
I can appreciate how busy doctors are and I understand stuff happens and appointments get delayed, so my new goal is to have as much fun with the waiting process as possible.
The challenge is to have fun in the mind-numbing vacuum of boringness that is a waiting room.
I can remember when doctor’s offices used to have National Geographic, or some other cool magazines.
The last time I was waiting for a doc, the magazines were the most uninteresting pieces of glossy fluff I have ever seen.
The lets-visit-the-doctor routine goes pretty much the same way every time it happens.
I check in with the receptionist upon arrival – because the sign tells me to and if I don’t will be lost in the waiting room black hole forever, which I am convinced is what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. He’s probably still in a waiting room, reading the latest issue of Modern Unions and Mobsters because he did not check in with the receptionist.
So after I check in, I spend a couple of minutes looking around before seeking out some reading material that will help make the minutes fly by.
In one doctor’s office I was impressed to find the magazines actually had a protective plastic binder around them.
That makes sense. You wouldn’t want that vintage May, 1972 copy of Better Quilts and Pillows to get damaged. How else would you know what kind of throw pillow goes best with orange shag carpet?
Fine literature like that deserves to live for all eternity (and probably will in the waiting room.)
After spending 18-43 seconds looking over the magazines and realizing watching a fly crawl across the wall is more exciting, I begin to check out my fellow doctor seekers.
This is a more in depth scrutiny of my waiting room brethren than the cursory glance I give when I first arrive.
That initial check is an absolutely vital part of the waiting room experience. Remember, these people are here to see a doctor because they are ill, and that means the room is full of koodies (which I believe is an actual medical term.)
The initial glance when you first walk in will give you some idea of the people you do not want to sit beside. The lady with the tissue permanently welded to her nose is the first person to avoid.
As is the guy who is coughing to so much his face has turned so red it could guide Santa’s sleigh.
Once the room is surveyed and you have checked in with the receptionist person, it is time to select your seat based on your cursory examination of the room. This is a very important decision because that will be your seat for the next seven to 10 days, depending on how far behind the doctor is running.
Once a chair has been selected and having exhausted the thrilling and educational stack of magazines it is time to check out the crowd and play ‘What’s your ailment.’
Mucus girl and phlegm boy are easy to figure out, as is the kid with cast and the lady in the neck brace, but there are always a few people who look absolutely fine.
Those are the ones I decide to give an ailment of my choice to. 
“Really. Wow, not many people contract malaria in Canada."
“Diphtheria. Now there’s a disease you don’t hear nearly enough about.”
I don’t even know what diphtheria is, and if it wasn’t for spell check I wouldn’t know how to spell it either, but being married to a nurse I hear about all sorts of nasty diseases that I can’t spell or pronounce and certainly do not want to contract.
During the wait, people come and go and every time the receptionist grabs a file you secretly hope it is your name being called so you can get out of the germ factory and on with your day. You know eventually your name will be called and when it is, it is like winning a mini lottery.
But, having your named called is a little misleading because all that happens is you leave the big waiting room and end up sitting in a smaller room that, without the doctor in it, is essentially another waiting room. But at least I know I am getting closer to my end goal so I cheerfully flip through the latest edition of Modern Squirrels and Muskrats while waiting those last few minutes for the doc.
For some reason that kind of wait seems limited to when I go to see the doctor.
When I go to the dentist, I am ushered into the chair of terror .04 seconds after walking in the front door.
I haven’t even taken my coat off before the receptionist starts dragging me into the room where people are going to stick sharp objects into my gums.
I don’t even know if my dentist has magazines because I am never in the waiting room long enough to read one.
I appreciate their efficiency, but when it comes to seeing a dentist I am an abject coward. I do not like going to the tooth doctor and I actually don’t mind waiting for a while, it gives me time to psych myself up.
It’s kind of a ‘Rah-rah, you can do it’ time.
The ‘What’s your ailment’ game cannot really be played at the dentist office anyway because I know what people are there for – their teeth.
The upside is, the sooner you get in, the sooner you get out, and when it comes to the dentist, getting out is all that matters.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Friday, October 30, 2015

Life lessons for my fellow husbands

One day, when my children were little, they wanted to do something they were not allowed to do and I informed them of this.
“But why can't we? Why? Why? Why?”
OK, now husbands please pay attention to this next bit, because the answer I gave is so far from the correct answer it is not even on the same continent.
With my young children questioning why a certain rule is in place, I responded, “Look, I don't make the rules around here, alright. Your mom does.”
Warning! Warning! You have just foolishly stepped into the how-to-make-your-wife-madder-than-a-fat-guy-at-a-salad-bar zone.
Upon hearing my answer - which was said before I really thought about it - the Missus turned an interesting shade of red. The vein in her forehead was not only pulsing, it was taking on Incredible Hulk-like proportions.
For a brief moment I was mesmerized by what was happening, but that fascination quickly turned to a sense of 'I think I just screwed up.'
I was right, I did screw up.
I knew I had made a mistake of epic proportions and quickly filed the information under the don't-ever-do-that-again category ñ with a big read sticker on it, flashing lights and siren should those words ever attempt to escape from my vocal chords again.
I have been known to be a little on the sarcastic, smart ass side of life and this is one of those times it did not bode well for me.
It was an attempt at humour, but it was an attempt that failed, resulting in a closed-door 'discussion' with my better half.
The Missus was not impressed that I would make her the bad guy, er, gal, and blame her for being such a stick in the mud and creating all those rules that were repressing our little ones.
She failed to see the humour for some reason. Needless to say, the Missus was not too thrilled with the man she chose to be her lawfully wedded spouse until death do us part.
And if looks could kill, the parting would have happened and the young 'uns would likely have a new daddy right now because the original daddy didn't know when to shut the hell up.
You see, kids will believe pretty much everything you tell them - when they are young anyway - so the Missus did not want the wee ones blaming her for all the silly rules in our home, like brush your teeth before going to bed, no chocolate before breakfast or no setting things on fire.
It is very important for a parental unit to be united when it comes to setting rules and enforcing those rules and apparently I broke that iron-clad bond when I blamed mom for all those rules I was talking about.
“Parenting is a partnership. We are in this together. We must be united, and if you say that again you will find out how comfortable it is to sleep in the shed in January,” was sort of how my wife explained the situation.
Of course, when children reach the teen years it does not matter what I tell them because they know everything there has ever been, or ever will be, worth knowing.
When the children are young, parents must be united on matters of discipline so the children grow into fine adults. When they are teens, parents my be united as a survival tactic more than anything else.
United we stand, divided we end up debating our teens about why they cannot leave their room in a state that most civilized nations would declare a disaster zone.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Teenage crisis averted - for now anyway

It was a disaster of near biblical proportions.
A calamity so great it threatened to destroy the very fabric of existence: Teenage Daughter missed her bus.
Oh, the humanity. The horror, the...wait a minute, that's not such a big deal.
Well, it may not be a big deal to an old guy like me, but to Teenage Daughter it is a catastrophe of Red Cross levels.
You see, because she missed the bus she would not be able to meet up with her friends, and if she could not meet up with her friends then she could not hang out with her friends and if she could not hang out with her friends, her life would be over and what's the point of carrying on.
Hearing the devastating situation brave Teenage Daughter was facing, I jumped to action. I dropped everything I was doing, ran to my car, hit the gas and raced to where Teenage Daughter was so I could re-unite her with her long-lost friends, thus preventing the fabric of human existence from being shredded and life on the planet would not cease to exist.
You are welcome.
I suspect the non-parents out there don't appreciate just how close the human race came to complete annihilation.
Missing that one bus could have set in motion a series of devastating events akin to the Mayan 2012 predictions of global doom.
Or at least that's how things were playing out in the mind of Teenage Daughter.
While I have never been a teenage girl myself, I am the proud father of such a being.
Teenage Daughter is a bright, funny, beautiful young woman who has such raging emotions and hormones she can go from cheerful one second to her head spinning around and puking green stuff the next.
Such is how the teenage girl mind works.
I did not know any of this when she was born. The day she arrived on this earth I saw a perfect little human. After having two sons, I was thrilled to have a daughter.
I literally wanted to run up and down the hospital hallways shouting “It's a girl! It's a girl!”
But, considering she was born at 1:20 a.m., I do not think others on that ward would have appreciated my jubilant display of joy.
It was a moment I will remember as clear as day for the rest of my life, as I will the birth of my sons.
When my boys were going through the teen years I thought, “This isn't so bad.”
For about year, each boy went through a phase where they were angry all the time, always at odds with us and each other. But that passed and some very charming young men emerged.
I soon learned having a teen daughter was a little more um, how should we put this - involved.
With the runaway emotional freight train that is a teen girl, it took some getting used to the rapid mood swings and outbursts of tears and laughter in the same 60 seconds.
Everyone I talk to with daughters share similar stories of woe and strife.
Apparently that is just how the teen girl brain develops as they struggle through those emotional days of not quite being an adult and definitely not being a child anymore.
But in the midst of the teenage-generated disasters, there is a wonderful young woman emerging. One who is fun to hang around with, one who is witty and charming and has a real heart for helping others, especially children.
Yes, somewhere under that emotional hurricane is an amazing young woman.
I know the days of chaos and strife will pass and my daughter will break free from her teenage cocoon an incredible young lady.
With each passing moment I know that day is getting closer.
In the meantime, I will continue to do my best to keep the fabric of the universe from collapsing and killing us all.

Again, you're welcome.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Think before you answer. Trust me on this one

Gentlemen, here is a piece of advice from a married man: think before you answer. Think long, think hard.
The question, "Does this make me look fat?" is always, without exception, answered with "No, of course not" which is the correct (and life-saving) answer.
Do not ever - even jokingly - answer, “The jeans don't make you look fat, but your ass sure does."
No matter how many blankets and pillows you have, the couch is just not a comfortable place to sleep.
But my wife does not ask that question very often, and when she does, she knows the answer she will get.
The correct way to answer that question is universally known and it is likely the only time a pastor would tell a 'little white lie' rather than risk getting a 'little black eye.'
There are other answers that are not so easy to provide.
For example, my wife has asked me if something were to happen to her, would I remarry.
The first time she asked this question I answered, "Depends, are there going to be any hot chicks at the funeral."
Sometimes having a sense of humour can be hazardous to your health.
After calming the situation - and dodging several items thrown at me with the velocity of a major league pitcher - I decided on a different tact.
"Of course not, Sweety, you are the only woman for me - forever."
"Good because, if you do remarry I will come back and haunt you."
Actually, the little woman insisted I find another Mrs. H - after an appropriate time of mourning of course, like 30 or 40 years.
When I asked her the same question, a slight smile came across her face and her eyes glazed over as if she was envisioning a wonderland in some distant Nirvana.
"Um, er, ah, of course not, Sweety, you are the only man for me - forever."
Let's move on, shall we.
Another common question, "What are you thinking?"
Well, based on the last set of questions and answers I am thinking it might not be a good idea to have such a large life-insurance policy. It is not easy to sleep with one eye open.
My wife has said she would never divorce me, but hey, accidents happen and people strangle themselves in their sleep all the time.
"I don't know what happened, officer. I woke up and he had somehow smothered himself with his own pillow. It is strange for sure. Say, I noticed you are not wearing a wedding ring..."
I kid of course, I have been married for 27 years and they have been the best 22 years of my life.
But here's a little tip for all you ladies out there, if you ask the 'thinking' question and your significant other says “nothing,” he means it.
It is actually possible for men to think about nothing. This has been scientifically proven. Why do you think NASCAR is so popular?
A man can sit and watch and think of nothing for hours on end, while still taking in a sporting event.
The real danger comes when the little woman wants her man to tell her how he is feeling.
Gentlemen, we're are in some tricky territory here.
I have learned it is important to tell her how you are feeling, but it is even more important to make sure how you are feeling is how she wants you to feel.
This is a vital skill every man should learn - trust me on this one.

I hope these little tips will help the male brethren out there, now if you will excuse me, I have a lot of nothing to think about.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, October 17, 2015

OK, so I'm not a cowboy

I have never felt more like a city slicker in my life.
I grew up in a rural area with hills to climb and creeks to fish in, but after spending four days at a ranch, I realized I am seriously out of place on a real, working ranch.
We were visiting relatives who owned the ranch which was a fair drive down a winding, forest-lined road.
The ranch house was an amazing log home, and the 400 acres came with a full compliment of ranch-type critters.
We arrived in a mini-van loaded with people pulling a tent trailer loaded with stuff.
We don’t visit, we invade.
Working on one of the corral fences when we pulled up, was a cousin who was in amazing shape. He had spent the last few years working hard at the physical job and it showed. I am not gay or anything, but damn….
He, of course, was shirtless and I figured the only way I would take off my shirt was if it was on fire. And even then I would try to roll around and put it out first, lest the people and animals be frightened by my pasty white complexion and hard-earned layer of flab.
We said hello to everyone and set up our trailer before exploring the wonderful world of ranching.
Among their stock were a few cows, a bull, seven big dogs and a quite a few horses.
On the second day of our visit, there was a commotion near the barn. One of the horses had gotten out of his stall and was having words with another male horse.
The alpha male horse – the one who got out – was not taking kindly to this upstart pony trying to muscle in on his ladies, and he was not shy about letting his feelings be known.
He was huffing and puffing and clomping his feet on the ground while the other, and somewhat smaller horse, did the same in an effort to save face in front of the girls.
If it came down to a good old fashioned horse brawl, I had my money on the alpha male.
The ranch hand cousin then stepped into the middle of the melee and tried to herd alpha male back to his coral.
Being all worked up, Alf, as I started calling him, was not interested in being confined and trotted around in a show of horse defiance.
We were asked to stand between two fences with our arms outstretched to make a human fence, while Cuz’ tried to move the beast into his pen.
For a brief moment Alf ran straight at me. This was the biggest horse I had ever seen and I figured if it got any closer, I would keep my arms outstretched, point to the wide open hills behind me and say, “There you go” while stepping to the side to make room for him.
However, he decided to go back into his coral, only to escape again a couple hours later. It would seem Alf had figured out how to undo the latch on the gate. Smart horse.
The latch problem was soon solved, but my personal interaction with ranch animals was far from over.
The next day I was walking with my then 10-year-old niece, when I noticed the bull had gotten out of his pen.
“What is with animals getting out of their confines around here? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of a lock?”
Anyway, I was looking at this bull and he was looking at me. The day prior, I had pulled a muscle in leg and could barely walk let alone run, so I calmly said to my niece to slowly move to a nearby fence, crawl through it and we would be safe.
Just as I said the word “safe,” I looked over to see a trail of dust as my niece sprinted for the house faster than Elvis heading to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
This got the bull’s attention and left me and the beast in a classic stare down. Let’s just say I blinked first and hobbled to the fence as fast as I could while he strutted over to check me out.
Safely behind the fence, I felt a surge of courage, and besides, the ranch hand cousin had shown up on his horse and was moving the bull back to the coral.
In both cases, I felt rather inadequate and thought maybe the ranch life wasn’t for me, at least not a ranch that has animals on it.
I don’t even know if I could handle an ant farm.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A stunt skater I am not

I know, and you are right, it was a dumb idea.
I also know I will have to narrow that down a little as I have more dumb ideas than a politician (if that's possible).
The dumb idea in question was from a few years back when I took my kids to a local skateboard park.
No, I did not jump on a skateboard after a 30-year absence and hurt myself - that would be really dumb.
Instead, I threw on my in-line skates and hurt myself.
While the kids were rolling along doing all sorts of neat little tricks, I was calmly skating my way around the outer perimeter of the skateboard park.
I watched as they went up the quarter pipe and down and around and thought, “That doesn't look so hard.”
I have been ice skating since I was about five years old, so I feel quite comfortable on in-line skates, and this is where the dumb idea began to form.
Slowly, I skated closer and closer to the quarter pipe, while my brain lied to me and told me I could do it.
“C'mon, you played hockey for years. You are a master on skates. What's the difference between ice or cement?” challenged that little red, horned guy on my shoulder.
“How tough can it be for a super jock like yourself. You can do it. Go for it stud.”
The white guy with the halo on the other shoulder was trying to offer a cautionary word or two, but the red guy was making such a convincing argument.
“C'mon big man, you can do it. Go up, go down, it will be great. People will be amazed at your skating ability, especially for such an old guy.”
By now I was feeling pretty darned good about my skating prowess and even in my late 30s I knew I possessed the skills of a life-long stunt skater.
“I can do it,” I thought.
The plan was to start slow. I would just go part-way up the ramp, turn and come back down.
No problem, I can do it.
Once I completed the little warm up stunt, I would graduate to more challenging moves and before you know it, I will be the oldest guy in the X Games.
I can do it.
Apparently I couldn't do it. In fact, I could not even come close to doing it. In fact, I only made it less than two feet up the ramp when I realized I should have listened to the little white dude with the halo, who was now sitting back with a rather smug look on his face.
I quickly learned the difference between skating on a nice flat sheet of ice, and in-line skating up a sloped ramp.
My leading skate hit the bottom of the half-pipe and decided it would be best to go north while the rear in-line skate went east sending my stunt south.
I also learned I do not bounce like I used to. Instead of bouncing off the ground, getting up and going again like I did as a young lad, I landed with a thump that held absolutely no bounce at all.
I didn't even slide or anything, just - WHAM – and down I was.
I got up and tried to look cool, which wasn't too hard because people (much younger people) were falling around the place all the time.
The truly hard part was not showing how much pain I was in. I had a bruise on my hip that covered roughly 48 per cent of my body.
That will happen when you thud rather than bounce.
The pain in my hip could have been a lot worse had I not used my wrist, elbow and shoulder to break the fall. Fortunately the fall was all that was broken that day.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bear with me while I grow a brain

The more I think about it, the more amazed I am my friends and I never landed in the emergency room.
OK, well, a couple of us did, but considering all of the stupid stuff we did, the ER-to-stupidity ratio is stunningly low.
Reading a story about bear sightings triggered a memory of one such act of stupidity.
I was dirt bike riding with a buddy of mine named Rob. We were 14 years old, invincible, wise beyond all human understanding and had way more testicular fortitude than brains.
The way we used to ride should have been enough to warrant several interactions with someone in the emergency medical field, but somehow we managed to escape every situation unscathed.
From clipping a cow at 50 mp/h and walking away – after I was done tumbling through the field that is – to being run over by my own motorcycle, there was no shortage of situations that should have ended badly.
So what does riding a dirt bike like an immortal have to do with a bear? I'm getting to it.
You see, one of our favourite riding activities was exploring. We would find an old trail, path or logging road and see where it went.
On this particular warm summer's day, we were several kilometres deep in the bush and had not seen another human for quite a while when we came across the wild version of Winnie the Pooh.
This was not some cuddly, loveable bear. But a wild beast, and a fairly large one at that.
We roared up on our bikes, the bear saw us and immediately took off into a tree-filled gully.
We stopped our bikes and watched the beast smash its way through the trees.
We looked at each with the same look: wow, is that ever cool.
Then one of the dumbest ideas of my life formed and was quickly spoken: Hey, let's see where he went.
I know, I know – pure stupidity.
We hopped off our bikes and began working our way up the gully. We could not hear the black beast anymore, which meant it has run far enough away we could not hear it, or it had stopped moving and was somewhere ahead of us.
Now, I have never claimed to be overly bright, as I am sure this tale is validating, but even my teen aged brain had a moment of reason.
About 50 metres into the woods, we both stopped, looked at each other and agreed this is one of the dumbest things we have ever done.
Suddenly, bravado was replaced by near panic as we made out way back to our bikes. Slowly at first, then running as fast as we could as we were positive the creature was only a few feet behind us, angry at the intrusion and thirsting for our fresh, teen age blood.
The bikes were sitting at the side of the road and we jumped on them, pulled out the kick start and prepared to make a fast getaway.
Except for one slight problem: my friend's bike would not start.
We were dead. That's it, the bear was going to come out and get us both because my buddy's Honda decided it did not want to come to life.
He jumped on the kick starter with a ferocity I had never seen before. Sweat was pouring out of his helmet as we both kept a close eye on the forest around us.
Kick after kick, the bike would not start – until he noticed the engine kill switch was engaged.
He flipped the switch, the bike started and we took off like a couple of escaped criminals.
It was years before I told my dad about the bear story, and he looked at me with the same look I am sure many of you had throughout this tale of idiocy.

Did I mention I have never claimed to be overly bright?

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Little cat loves to torment big cat

I am not sure, but I suspect my daughter's kitten may have a death wish.
No, the little squirt is not running with knives, or smoking cigarettes, but she will just not leave the big cat alone.
Before Lisa the Kitten showed up, we had Gilbert the Cat. Gil is now 12 years old and is in no mood to play with an energetic little ball of fluff that bounces around house like a furry tornado.
Gilbert is much more of a sit-back-and-relax kind of guy. He is the mellowest cat in the planet, which is probably why Lisa, or Squeak as I call her, has made it this far without serious harm or injury.
When the kitten was brought home, Gil was not too pleased. This surprised me because Gil is so laid back nothing riles him up – well, almost nothing.
There is one thing that sends Gilbert on the war path and that is another cat. He has been the feline ruler of our neighbourhood for years and still takes on all comers.
Gil is my son's cat and he is a rather large cat. One day he was sitting on the front steps, minding his own business when a new cat in the 'hood decided to take on the top dog, er, I mean the top cat.
When the intruder first came into our yard, Gil noticed him, but he played it cool, as he always does.
He made a low moaning sound as a bit of a warning, but the intruder car kept coming until he was within a foot of the Gilbert, King of the Kitties.
It was at that point Gil had enough.
My son was witness to the event and proudly proclaimed, “Gil hit the other cat so hard, it pooped.”
And indeed he did. Gil smacked the invader upside the head with such force the cat dropped a boomer before fleeing as fast as he could. He never ventured into our yard again.
But fortunately for Squeak, Gil is also a gentle cat and when the little one decided the big one was a great play partner, the young one was gently educated.
Squeak ran up to Gil and pounced with all the ferocity a 10-week-old kitten could muster. Gil growled, moaned and hissed, but the youngster kept coming.
So, Gil smacked her upside the head. But it was not with nearly as much force as he used on the intruder and he did it without any claws.
It was kind of a warning shot across the bow. However, youthful exuberance has not yet made way to aged wisdom and Squeak still desperately tries to play with Gil, who will smack her with an open paw, but has never hurt her.
She will ambush him from the back of the couch – smack. Jump at him from around a corner – smack. Sneak up behind him – smack.
I believe Squeak has figured out Ol' Gil is a gentle giant – a grumpy gentle giant, but a gentle giant nonetheless.
And fortunately, she is also learning Gil is the boss, the Alpha cat and is starting to treat him as such.
And that is bad news for the the dog.
Murphy the Wonder Dog is now Squeak's favourite target and she will stalk and hunt Murphy every chance she gets.
At first, Murphy would jump up, down or sideways to avoid the attack, but eventually he realized the attacks of the little cat were nothing worry about.
Now when she attacks Murphy just looks at her and keeps doing whatever it was he was doing.
Squeak the Mini Cat does not care and bounds away only to attack again a few minutes later – when she is done attacking my shoes, or the curtains, or lint, or...

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, September 19, 2015

So long Junior, I will miss you. Who knew?

So my oldest child has flown the coop.
While hardly a kid anymore – he is 22 years old after all – he will always be a child because I was there when he was barely old enough to lay in a crib and wiggle.
I know many people who watched as their children spread their wings and took off, but to be perfectly honest, at the time, I really didn't understand what the big deal was.
I moved out when I was a young man, just like billions of other young people have done throughout the course of time.
As the papa bear, it was my job to raise my children to the point where they are able to move out on their own, then it was “Don't let the door hit your butt on the way out.”
I know a papa bear might not be the best example of parenting in the wild because an adult male bear will attack any other male bear that comes in his territory, even his own child.
But considering male lions eat their young, I think I will with the bruin analogy.
I have never attacked my kids, nor threatened to eat them, so I guess I am doing OK.
Anyway, Junior reached an age where he wanted to take off on his own, to explore new worlds, to live in a different city than the one he was raised.
It was a day I had been thinking about for years, but when the day came I was not doing cartwheels across the lawn – mainly because I am way to old to be doing cartwheels across the lawn - but also because I was not that thrilled with Junior jumping from the nest.
What? What is this? What is this odd feeling I have? I did my job, I raised him as best I could and now I should be able to sit back, wave goodbye and get on with getting the other two out of the house.
But instead of seeing a young man spreading his wings, all I could see was the little boy who held so many grasshoppers in one hand their guts were squishing between his fingers.
Suddenly, the big, tough papa bear was feeling more like a hormonal tween.
During the eight-hour drive to his new city – I helped him move like any papa bear would – all I could think of was the days gone by and the moments a father shares with his young son.
Was I sad Junior was all grown up, something I had worked hard to help make happen?
I surprised even myself because I was.
That can't be right. I'm the big tough papa bear. It was the mama bear who was supposed to be sad little bear is leaving the clan. Papa bear is the one who was supposed to hold the door as Junior made an exit before doing a little dance because it was one down and two to go.
But there I was, the big tough papa bear feeling very melancholy about Junior leaving the cave.
I know it is how life works: you are born, you are a baby, then a kid, then a teen, then a young man and then you move out.
I was ready for it, prepared for it, at times I was almost longing for it so imagine my surprise when I was saddened by it.
With Junior gone there would be things like left overs in the fridge, gas in my car and finally a spare room where I could put my treadmill – yes I actually use the treadmill for more than collecting dust.
Hmm, perhaps there is some good to Junior flying the coop and striking out on his own. I just wonder if his flight will imitate that of a homing pigeon.

I guess we will have to wait and see.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's just a boo-boo, they're fine

I saw a meme the other day that said it is a shame children today do not get to experience getting hit in the face by a big red ball during a game of dodgeball.
And they are right.
I loved dodgeball when I was in school, mainly because I was really good at it.
I could twist and turn and was rarely taken out of the game. I did get hit in the face a couple times, but that was just part of the fun.
We did all sorts of sports, games and goofing around that ended in minor injuries. It was called being a kid and it was something we all accepted as simply part of life.
In elementary school, we used to play tackle football at lunch without any gear. We could have played flag football I guess, but it was just not the same.
Following a rambunctious 30-minute game, just about everyone had some sort of minor injury from grass burns on our elbows to bruises and even the occasional black eye – which was worn as a badge of honour. But we were all ready to go again the next day.
Nowadays, teachers and parents are so worried about Junior getting a boo-boo they have banned pretty much all contact sports. One school even banned tag because a child might fall and hurt themselves while running from the person who was 'it.'
Really? Tag is nothing but running and fitness and building your cardio. And then they wonder why Junior is so, um, er, weight enhanced at such a young age.
I played hours of tag when I was a kid and I don't ever recall someone getting hurt.
If someone fell down, they dusted themselves off and got back up – simple as that. The worst part of falling down was it usually meant whoever was chasing you, caught you and now you were it.
No need to call the paramedics for that.
Another school banned soccer because – you guessed it – someone might get hurt. Here is another sport that involves nothing but running around a field. There is no tackling, body checking or any real physical contact, but someone was worried some how a child could receive a minor injury while having fun so they had better cancel having fun.
It's all part of the 'helicopter parenting' that has taken hold of North America in its overly cautious grip.
I admit, I too have been a hovering parent at times, but not so much when it came to letting my boys be boys.
Every parent wants to protect their child, but there is a time when you simply have to step back and them get a bruise or two.
It's part of life. I did it, my dad did it, his dad did it and so on and we all survived.
I am not saying to let them jump off a small cliff holding onto a bed sheet as a parachute because that really hurts, but a little rough housing is just fine.
Oh, and also maybe don't let them try to jump from branch of a pine tree to another because if they miss that really hurts too.
But my sons would often come home with bruises from skateboarding or crashing their peddle bikes – something I had done more times than my mom could recall – and they are now healthy adults with a few scars to tell stories about with their friends.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh