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