Monday, November 14, 2016

Couchland: Part 2

In case you've missed/forgotten part one, here it is.

And now, for the conclusion of Couchland...

note:  sorry the format is messed up at times.  No idea how to fix it at the moment.  In the process of leaving Blogger as it no longer updates its mobile app, which is another story.  A different story than the exciting conclusion of...

Jimmy's mom finished tying the rope in a double knot around his ankle.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Jimmy?"

"No doubt in my mind, mom.  No doubt in my mind."

Jimmy was having a bad day.  Earlier in the day his neighbour had hooked him with a fishing rod and tossed him out of the mysterious Couchland world; the place where his Dad had been sneaking off to relax while he was stuck at home with the chores.

Jimmy still had the taste of the stale cheese-o in his mouth.  His mom had tied to rope around his ankle and he was ready to dive back in to Couchland. The only thing he needed now was for the door to open.

He had tried every button on the remote control, but the door to Couchland would not open.  He sat there on the couch, shifting and turning to try to squeeze himself down into the couch.  No matter what he did, he could not get through to Couchland.

Frustrated, he fell down on the floor and threw the remote on the couch next to his mom.  She turned the channel to her favourite show, Kitchen Killers. It's a show where a bunch of chefs cook meals really fast, then they all setup explosives and blow the place to smithereens.  It was pretty cool, but now it was on a commercial about sports. A man in a shirt and tie spoke into the camera.

"I'm Roddy Hotrod and this weekend it's all about sports.  Sports! Sports!  Sports! Turn on your T.V. and turn it to sports...

If you're not sporting this weekend then you better have a good excuse because sportsy sports sports sports..."

The commercial was distracting Jimmy.  He needed to think of a way to get the couch to open.  He needed a way to get that remote to work.

"Sports, sports, sports... This weekend... Turn it to sports, orts, orts…"

The commercial was ending and still Jimmy couldn't think of what he needed to do to get the remote to work."

"I'm Roddy Hotrod, and this weekend if nothing else works... turn it to sports!"

"That's it!" Jimmy jumped up and turned the channel to golf.  He pressed the button on the remote and the couch started up like a vacuum.  

He looked at his mom and she gave him a big hug.  "You go get that dad of yours and I'll make a mess of things here to give him lots of work to do when he gets back."

She held firmly onto one end of the rope and with the other end tied to his ankle, he dove towards the couch.

Just when he thought he'd hit his head again, the cushion gave way, like sinking into a big bowl of oatmeal.  He slowly seeped into darkness.  Then, the feeling started to smooth out as the slide began to form below him.  Down, down, he went.  He could see the trees, the forests, and the lazy, lazy dads of the world.

At last he fell off at the bottom onto the cushy cushions.  He got up to see a crowd had gathered around him.  Dads everywhere!  They stood there, smiling at Jimmy, holding their fishing rods and their beers.  Jimmy's dad poked his head out from the crowd.  He had sweat on his forehead and looked a little unsure of himself.

“Heh, um... Hi, buddy!  Thought I told you to wait for me back at home."

"I'm here to bring you back, Dad.  You know that this is not where you're supposed to be."

A large murmur rose from the crowd.  Dad's everywhere spoke up.

"Yo, kid.  What do you know, huh?"

"Yeah, mind your bees wax, pal."

Jimmy's dad chimed in.  "Hey fellas, don't talk to my boy that way."

Jimmy could see the conflict spinning its wheels inside his father's mind.  It was clear that he didn't want people to disrespect his kid, but on the other hand, he was having a good time fly fishing and he didn't want Jimmy to spoil it.

"Jimmy, come here."  His father walked over and threw his arm around Jimmy, motioning for all of the other dads to scatter.  Soon enough, they were alone.

"Now Jimmy, you need to understand something.  Couchland is bigger than you and me.  Couchland has been around for a thousand years.  Powerful people have worked hard to keep this place a secret and I'm sure that they wouldn't want you to be sniffing around causing... um, problems for them."

Just then, they heard a sound coming from the distance, beyond the trees and ponds.  A great wind rose from the distant mountains, bending around the trees and over the waters.  There appeared, hovering overheard, 3 giant hammocks.  They just floated in the air, not attached to a tree or anything else.

They slowly drifted down in front of Jimmy and his Dad.  Each hammock carried a man, laying back, sipping on a drink, with his legs crossed.  Down they came, landing on what seemed to be an invisible fluffy surface just 2 feet above the ground.

Each man, in his own way, rolled off of the hammocks and stood upright before Jimmy and his nervous looking father.

"Greetings, young one.  It has been many year since we have seen someone of your age here in the wonderful Land of Couch."  The middle one, a rather slim and tall looking chap, spoke.  He wore flip-flops, old, comfy looking jeans, and a t-shirt that read 'world's best dad'.

"We understand that you are unhappy with how we do things around here.  We would like to offer you a complete tour of our world."

Jimmy couldn't figure out how they knew he was in Couchland, or that he was upset.  It was as if they had been spying on him somehow.  Things were getting very strange, and Jimmy realized that this extraction was going to be a lot more difficult than he originally thought.

"What da' ya say, Kid?"  A chubbier version of the first man now spoke.  He sported shaggy hair, pink sunglasses and a muscle shirt with the words "Sometimes Dad's Just Gotta Kick Back".  The third man was wearing a suit, a black suit with a dark navy tie.  He was quiet and didn't say anything, though Jimmy was smart and could tell that just because the man wasn't saying anything doesn't mean he wasn't paying attention.  He seemed to be doing a lot of observing.  There seemed to be a clear expression of concern written on his face.

"Um, yeah.  Okay, I would love to see this place.  The whole place, right?"

Skinny guy spoke.  "Yeah, of course!  Let's go!"  The man whistled and
at once 2 more hammocks arrived out of the sky, ready to take Jimmy and his dad along with the 3 men.

Off they went.  Jimmy enjoyed the fresh, clean air of Couchland, though at times he could still detect the faint smell of his favourite spot on the couch.

The sun was high in the sky, lighting the vast valleys and hills that seemed to stretch on forever.  As they flew, Jimmy could see thousands and thousands of dads.  Dads everywhere.  Dads grilling burgers, dads playing video games, dads drinking beer, and dads doing... yoga?  "Well, okay." thought Jimmy.

Yet the most popular activity by far was taking place on what appeared to be the most beautiful and forgiving golf course that had ever existed.  It
had long fairways and smooth greens.  Yet, upon closer inspection, each fairway seemed to be tilted and slanted in a way.  Not unlike a great, big funnel.  Sure enough, Jimmy watched as a man teed off.  The ball sailed wide of the fairway and landed well off course.  Yet, wait a minute!  What was this?!  The ball started rolling.  Rolling back toward the fairway, down the fairway.  It rolled for over 200 yards!  It rolled right up on to the green.  It took a left turn and rolled straight for the hole.  Down it went!  Hole in one!  The man and his friends high fived and chest bumped each other as if they were celebrating a great athletic achievement.

"Those turkeys!" shouted Jimmy.  "They're even cheating at having fun?!  What sort of place is this?"

"This is a place of rest and relaxation," shouted the thin dad.  "These Fathers need their "me" time.  They need a place where the cards aren't stacked against them.  A place where their ball can get a lucky bounce now and then.  That's all."

"Oh, phooey!  You guys know good and well that this place is a big waste of time.  That there are people, mothers and kids, waiting on the other side for these dads to 'man up' and take care of their responsibilities."

Suddenly, all of the hammocks came to an abrupt stop.  The 3 men circled their hammocks and conversed with each other.  Jimmy's dad looked worried.  Jimmy was mad and he didn't care what these men were discussing.  He didn't care one bit if they decided to shoot his hammock straight through the sky and back up into his living room.  He wanted nothing to do with this lazy place and these lazy people.

"Come on, Dad.  These people are hacks!  They should not be here.  This place should not be here.  It's a nightmare."

His dad seemed speechless.  He just sat there in his hammock, with a look that seemed to anticipate some pretty serious ramifications for screwing up and letting Jimmy get in to Couchland.

"Listen, Jimmy." His dad whispered.  "These guys are serious business.  I know I shouldn't be here this much, but they force me to."

Jimmy glared at him, not believing one word.

"Okay, maybe they don't force me but... they, um, they have this power over me.  I don't know what it is.  I know I should do my chores, but when they come around I always find myself with the remote in my hand.  I... I..."  He broke down.  "I'm so weak, Jimmy.  You gotta help me!  Get me outta here, Jimmy!"

Jimmy felt pity for his dad.  His sad, little dad.  And just as he was conjuring up an escape plan, the 3 men floated over.

"Jimmy."  It was the man in the suit who spoke this time.  "We understand your frustration.  We want to let you know that we've decided that we'd like you to take part in Couchland as well."

Jimmy didn't know what to say.

"We know that you work hard, too.  And we've decided to let you in on a little secret.  The man held up a shiny, black remote control and pressed its big red button.

All at once, the hills and mountains dropped out of the sky, like a big curtain being dropped from a magic trick.  Jimmy couldn't believe what he saw.

It was a whole other world!  A world full of people, but not dads this time.  No, this world was filled with kids!  Kids just like Jimmy!

"Jimmy, may I present to you... Screenland!"

They all floated over into this new world, leaving the dads and their silly golf behind.  Now things were serious.  In Screenland there were screens everywhere!  For starters, each child had their very own tablet.  In fact, each child had their very own go-cart that they used their tablets to control.  Kids raced everywhere.  Left and right, go-carts zoomed around the open space.  Some kids raced each other, other kids seemed to have their go-carts on autopilot.  Yes, it was true!  He saw kids coasting around in their carts, yet playing a completely different game on their tablet.  And at times, they'd pause their tablet games to check their... wait, was it true!  Yes, they could check their very own cell phones!

Jimmy could feel himself salivate.  He couldn't believe all of the action.  Hanging from the sky, seemingly by some sort of invisible ropes, hung huge flat screen TVs.  Cartoons played high up in the sky as the kids raced around.  Some kids got out of their go-carts and sat down on huge, massive carpets.  They crooked their necks up at the screens and just stared at the shows.

"This place is heaven!" Jimmy said out loud.  He couldn't contain his excitement.  He could feel the heat from all of the radiation that flowed out of all of the devices.  Though the environment was full of birds and plants and a giant waterfall, all Jimmy could hear was the glorious hum of the electronic equipment.

"Jimmy, what do you think?" The suited dad spoke up.  "Isn't it amazing?"

"Oh, yeah it is!"

"Well, all of this could be yours.  All you need to do for us is to keep quiet about Couchland.  Tell your mom you fell through a crack in the couch, nothing more.  No big deal.

'Magical place'? you'll say.  'What magical place?  Mom, don't be so silly." he'd chuckle.  "Dad must just be at work.  In fact, I think I saw him cutting the lawn in the backyard.  Mom, you can do those dishes and that laundry by yourself, don't you think?'

Jimmy was already busy memorizing those horrible lies when his dad grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Jimmy, what's gotten in to you?!  Have you gone berserk!"

Jimmy couldn't hold back.  At once, he bolted towards the ground.  His hammock zipping away from the group.  His father chased after him while the other men smiled as they looked on.

"Perfect, we have Jimmy right where we want him."  And they all laughed like silly hyenas.

Meanwhile, Jimmy's hammock was close to the ground when his dad caught up to him and JUMPED OFF OF HIS HAMMOCK!  He flew through the air, tackled Jimmy off of his ride, and they both tumbled to the ground.

The smell of electronics filled the air as Jimmy and his Dad tussled in the grass.  His dad tried to calm him down by pinning his arms, but at the last minute Jimmy reached for an out of date tablet laying on the grass and smacked his dad right in the shoulder.  Schrump!  His dad flew back and Jimmy tossed the useless device to the side in search of a new, more effective one.

Suddenly, his dad was back on him, and this time with a little more gumption.  Jimmy felt his dad lean into him and smear his face in the mud.  Children all around were too fixated with their games and gadgets to even realize that this scuffle was going on right in front of them.  

Jimmy was down.  His father pinned his arms into the mud and pressed him down further.

"Jimmy, you gotta come to your senses.  This place, these screens, they're going to ruin you!"

"But what about you dad?  What about Couchland?"

Jimmy could tell his dad was thinking things over.  He could see it in his eyes.  All the relaxing, and the hammocks, and the golf.  All of the 'taking it easy'.  Was it worth it if it meant he was cheating his son out of quality time and his wife out of honest work?

He released Jimmy and helped him up.  They sat for a moment.

"Listen, son.  You're right.  This place, and Couchland... these worlds are bad because they make us weak and dishonest men.  We need to find a way to end it."

They got up and looked around.  The strange men were nowhere to be seen.  They thought that was for the best as they didn't want to be bothered by them while they were trying to ruin their worlds.

"Look, dad!"  Jimmy pointed up a high mountain.  Near the middle stood a giant HD TV.  Probably the biggest TV he had ever seen in his life.

"Jimmy, this is no time to watch TV."

"No, dad.  Think about it.  A TV like that's going to need a whole lot of power.  There must be a giant plug on the back of that TV and that plug is going to lead us to the...

The both said it at once, "source of all the power!"

At once they raced towards the mountain.  On the way they heard a noise from above.  The bad dad's were on the move!  Their hammocks swooped down and one just missed nabbing Jimmy with a long HDMI cable.  

Jimmy saw a boy playing a GameBuddy while riding on a hover board.  Jimmy pushed the boy off (and he didn't even notice he was so focused on his game) and Jimmy's Dad hopped on the back.  They raced towards the mountain!

A bad dad swooped down again and swung the HDMI cable.  Jimmy snatched it out of his hands.  Then he made a lasso and tossed its loop around the bumper of a scooter racing by.  The boy on the scooter was racing to the big TV to see the end of his favourite show.

Jimmy and his dad immediately sped up.  The cable acted like a bungee cord and they shot like a slingshot towards the TV.  In fact, they soared a bit too fast, flew into the air, and crashed right through the screen!

"Hey, what gives?!"

"Ya' ruined our show!"

"What are we gonna do without da' big screen?!"

Jimmy and his dad got up and looked around.  The cord lead up the mountain.  Yet, from around the front of the TV, a gang of kids had gathered.

"Hey, there they are."  A boy pointed.  "Get 'em"

Jimmy and his dad took off up the mountain.  After about 10 seconds they turned around and saw that they were not being followed.  The gang of kids, in fact, were all too lazy and out of shape to chase them.  Someone in the group had found an old GameSlug and the rest of the gathered around to watch.  Jimmy and his dad looked at each other, shrugged, then headed back up to the top of the mountain.

At the top, they found what looked to be a giant brick of power.  It was in the shape of a brick, it was huge, and it seemed to be radiating energy.  

They were about to step towards it when the Bad Dads showed up.  

"Well, well, well.  Looks like you two got smart and found the source of power for not only Screenland, but Couchland as well.  Too bad you're not going to get any closer to it."

"What you men are doing is wrong!" shouted Jimmy's dad.

"Wrong?!  Wrong?!  You want to know what wrong is?  How about having to do the dishes after your wife makes cheesy, slimy, sticky macaroni surprise.  Or how about having to mow the lawn with a mower from 1973?  You know how hard it was to mow the lawn in 1973?  It must have been hard because mowing the lawn now, in this year, with a lawnmower from 1973 is really, really hard!"

"You're right."  Jimmy's dad said.

"Wait, dad!"

"You're right.  It is hard.  Being a man is hard.  There is work to do.  It needs to be done.  If you're not going to do it, who else is going to do it?  You're poor, poor wife?  I'm sure she already works hard.  You're kids?  Well, I know how that works."  He looked at his son.  "I feel like nothing but a lazy, lazy little man.  And I'm sure that, if you gentlemen look inside your hearts deep enough, you'll find a real, honest, hard working man in there."

The Bad Dad's were quiet.  Their shoulders were slumped.  One of them was kicking the dirt in a sheepish way.  Another actually said "Awe, shucks".  

With tears in his eyes, the middle one spoke.  "You're absolutely right.  No question about it."

The men turned aside, making a way for Jimmy and his dad to unplug the worlds and end the madness.  

Jimmy's looked up to his dad, but his dad just pointed the way and encouraged Jimmy to do the honours.

Jimmy took a step forward.  He could still hear the sound of games everywhere.  Beeps and Bops, car-racing games, fighting games, games where you pretend you're a kid pretending to play a game you're a kid pretending to play.  That was Jimmy's favourite. He felt the lure.  He felt the urge to run back and get lost in the mindless, soul-killing act of life gaming.  He had heard about kids in Japan who had got into life gaming.  It's where you never stop.  You play and you play.  Cause if you stop, you're body can't handle it.  If you stop, you die.  

Jimmy gulped.  He knew what he needed to do.  He ran towards the power brick and reached for the cord.

With an instinctual last second change of heart, all of the men (including Jimmy's dad) ran after him.  "Nooooo!" they cried.  But it was too late.  A bright flash of light, and then it was quiet.

The next moment Jimmy and his dad were back in their house, sitting on the couch, watching the basketball game.  They both looked at each other and realized that it was all over.  Was it a dream?

Jimmy's mom was in the kitchen doing the dishes.  At once, Jimmy and his dad bounced up, turned off the TV, and hurried over to the kitchen.

"Here, let us finished up in here.  You go relax for a bit."

His mom was speechless.  Jimmy just grabbed her by the arm and gently walked her over to the living room and sat her down on her favourite chair.  She still didn't say anything.  She just sat there.

Jimmy and his dad scrubbed away at the pile of dishes.

"Was that real?" Jimmy whispered.  "I don't know," said his dad, handing him a plate to dry off, "but first thing in the morning I am cancelling my sports channels."


Monday, October 31, 2016


As I feel that I have settled well into my mid-thirties, I thought it pertinent to confide in you my top 10 musicians of all time.  Or at least up until now.

Back when I was a teenager, I thought I had arrived at the best music ever.  I believe my favourite band in high school was Buck-O-Nine, a ska band that sang songs about chicks and growing up.

Early twenties had me into Dave Matthews, Ben Harper, and Lauren Hill's unplugged album.  A little better but not even anywhere near where I needed to be.

In my late twenties, I swam in the never ending seas of folk rock.  Eventually, the names of the bands and the lyrics annoyed me too much.  I gave up and I realized that I had to stop letting a genre corner me into everything it had to offer.

I look back at early days.  When I was 10 I had a Beach Boys tape.  It made me feel great.  I sang along to it.  My mom gave me a DC Talk rap album.  Sure, why not?  It was fun.

Early teens, I had almost every Beatles record.  Good for teen me.  Then I got angry and went into Punk.  For some reason Ska was allowed to come along for the ride.

If you don't know what Ska is, good for you.  If you do, you probably remember the bands having 'yo-yoers' on stage with them.  Weird.

So now I'm sorta confident that I know what I'm talking about when I say that I know what I like.  I'm sure that 45 year old Brett will have a lot to say on the subject.

Musical tastes, like everything else within the human experience, evolves as it seeks fulfillment.  If I listen to Skynyrd and nothing else, then chances are that I am a stubborn person who would probably be very well glued to his opinions about everything.  I want to learn and grow, so I open myself up to music.

Miles, 2008

You might want disagree with my choices, but you can't... it's my list.  Go and make your own.

There is no particular order.  I have included a beloved song of each artist.

Leonard Cohen - Come Healing
Tom Waits - Anywhere I Lay My Head
Bon Iver - Re: Stacks
Feist - The Bad In Each Other
Hayden - Don't Get Down
Death Cab for Cutie - Binary Sea
David Bazan - People
Ryan Adams - Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.
Wilco - You Are My Face
Andy Shauf - Lick Your Wounds
The Beatles - For No One

Conclusion is that most of this music is pretty sad.  Sad music makes me feel good.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Jimmy was a hard worker.  His mom had a lot of chores for him to do, and he usually did them without complaint.  But lately things seemed to be getting out of hand.

You see, the problem was Jimmy's dad, Carl.  Carl had a lot of chores to do, too, but when Jimmy's mom came calling, Carl could not be found.  One moment, Carl would be sitting there on the couch, watching the hockey game, with a hot plate of nachos perched atop his belly, and then, when Jimmy's mom had a job for him to do, Carl was no where to be found.  This complicated mess meant more chores for Jimmy.

"Carl, can you please come and set the table?"

"Carl, can you please give the dog a haircut?"

"Carl, please go outside, lick your finger, hold it up, and tell me which way the wind is blowing."

Even though some of these requests seemed to convey that Jimmy's mom was perhaps a bit unreasonable with her chore list, the most amazing thing was that when she would say "Carl, can you please..." Carl would be sitting there, as usual, on the green couch.  Yet by the time she finished with one of her requests like "go and water the sidewalk"  or "go out and scream really loudly until the neighbours complain" Carl would be gone.  Like a ghost, he would vanish!


So, inevitably, Jimmy could be seen hosing down the dry sidewalk for some reason, or chasing around ol' Rover the puppy with a pair of scissors and one of those big backwards capes that hair cutters make you wear.  Like a cool Batman cape, only backwards.

One day, as Jimmy was taking the trash to the curb while Carl was off who-knows-where, Jimmy didn't see the giant pile of compost full of rotting turkey bacon sitting near the trash can, and he stepped right in it!


Jimmy had had enough!  Where on earth was his dad?  Where on earth was Carl?

Jimmy had a plan.

The next day Jimmy ate and ate and ate.

He had tomato soup, and chocolate flavoured pudding.  He ate cheese flavoured pizza and pizza flavoured cheese.  He had crackers and snackers, chips and dips.  Sausages and 3 kinds of sticky pickles.  He was stuffed!  And he made a big, big mess of things in the kitchen.

Quickly and sneakily, he hid behind the curtains next to the couch while his dad was watching the game.

"Jimmy!" His mother called, as she surveyed the mess of dishes.  "Get your little legs in here, now!"

Not a sound could be heard but for the noise of the game on the TV and a big, sneer, root beer burp from Carl.

Jimmy's mom shrugged and walked away as she said, "well, Carl.  Looks like this mess is yours to clean."

Jimmy kept a close eye on Carl as a magical thing happened.  His dad reached down for the remote and with his greasy finger pressed a strange looking button located at the bottom.  Slowly, like sand sinking through a funnel, Jimmy's dad began to seep in between the cushions!  Just as he disappeared into the void, Jimmy sprung from behind and dove in after him.

Suddenly Jimmy was sliding deep down into the couch.  It felt like he was sliding deeper down into the earth on a slide a lot like the one at his school playground.  Down, down he went.

After about a minute later, Jimmy fell off the end and landed on a pile of couch cushions.  He was dizzy because that was a really twisty ride.

He shook it off, looked around and realized that he was in a magical place.  

It was a giant field of grass.  Trees were everywhere providing shade to people who were sitting under them.  As far as he could see, in every direction, were beautiful trees and gardens.

Jimmy got up to take a look around.  He saw a man reading a sports magazine while sipping on a root beer.  He saw another man snoozing away under a great big palm tree.  He saw another man  sleeping soundly in a big, comfy hammock hanging between 2 oak trees.  It seemed that all of the people in this world were men.  Men that looked to be relaxing.  Men that looked a lot like the kind of person his dad was.  Men... running away from something.  Men... hiding from chores.

And just then, Jimmy turned to see his dad fishing in a nearby pond.


Startled, Carl dropped the rod, turned around, lost his balance and fell back into the pond.  


The noise startled some nearby dozers.  One of them flashed a grumpy frown, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

Carl pulled himself out of the pond.  As he was drying himself off, a fish came swimming up to him and slapped him across the face with his fin.

"Jimmy?!  Hey, how's it going?  Isn't this place great?"

"What is this place?!"

Carl hurried over.  "Shh, kept it down, will ya?  Some people here are trying to sleep.  This is Couchland.  It's a place for dads and, um, people like dads can get a break from chores and stuff."

"But, dad... this is where you go when it's time for chores?!  I've been doing your chores while you've been relaxing?!"

Carl stood there looking at Jimmy.  He smiled and scratched his head, thinking. "Ya, but... um, well, when you put it that way..."  He was stumped.  Only then did he just realize that he was in a tough spot.  That this was not a place he would like Jimmy to know about.

He looked over jimmy's shoulder to see another dad sneaking up with the fishing rod.  Jimmy didn't see that it was his neighbour Phil.  Phil hooked Jimmy's jeans and tugged really hard.

Immediately, Jimmy flew into the air, over the trees, and through the skies high above Couchland.  From up above he could see fields and fields full of lazy, lazy, men.  Men of all shapes and sizes, but mostly big and chubby shapes and sizes.  The kind of sizes that like to eat nachos and watch the game.  The kind of sizes that skip out on chores.

He could see Carl waving as Phil kept flinging the fishing rod up in the air.  "Don't take this personally, Jimbo.  Dad just needs some 'me time'.  Need to reboot the ol' batteries, you know?  Don't tell mom!  Our little secret..."

The blue skies quickly bleed to green, and Jimmy felt himself digging through stuffing and foam until he was coughing on an old cheese-o and climbing out of the crack in the back of the couch.

Jimmy's mom was sitting on the opposite couch, and immediately dropped her hot tea on the floor.

"Jimmy, what on earth?!"

He climbed up and caught his breath.  "It's dad.  He's lost his marbles!  He's gone Cu-Cu clocks!"

"What do you mean?"

Jimmy pressed the button on the remote and dove back towards the back of the couch.  Instead of a slide his head was greeted with the back of the couch.  Bonk!

Jimmy rubbed his head.  Why didn't it work?

"Jimmy, what on earth is going on?!"

"I don't know, mom.  But it's not on earth... It's Couchland!"

To be continued...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

35 thoughts on my life

This is an ongoing list that began on my 25th birthday back in 2006 in China.  Just something to look back on.  It's a bit of a read, but there are some nuggets in there.

(Edits made in May 2011.  More edits made May 2016)

1.) Not really a moment, but I really enjoyed the summer of 2000 when I got to get to know a really great girl. We worked at camp and it was fun working together and going to campfires together and hanging out on the weekend.  At the end of the summer I must have tricked her into being my girlfriend and now I am in the clear as we are married for almost 5 and a half years.

EDIT 2011: We have been married for almost 9 and a half years! Can you believe that?  Barbara is the patient, loving, tender, giving wife and mother of my dreams. And she’s had 2 kids and still looks very good looking.

EDIT 2016:  Still together;)  Planning a nice trip to Quebec for our 15th!  She's had 3 kids, 2 for us and one for her best friends, and she's still a babe.

2.) A moment I really enjoyed is playing street hockey this past Christmas with Bryce, Barry, Jeff, Rob, Mike, Brent, Jesse and Cody. We played until we could literally no longer see anything because it was so dark.

EDIT 2011: We played street hockey in China a couple of times.  Our homemade sticks would break all the time. An old man picked up a stick and tried it once.  A monk picked up a stick and tried it once.  I hope that I can get the hockey going again here.  Street hockey is my favorite sport and I have a lot of fond memories with it.

EDIT 2016:  Jonas is my hockey buddy.  He dreams of playing in the NHL.  His confidence is sky high.  He thinks that Eberle is a better skater than him, but he's convinced that he has a better shot.

3.) Playing poker with the boys in high school after basketball tournament and late on weekends.  One time I almost lost 7 dollars in nickels and dimes! Playing with Robbie, Neilson, Quincy, Kevin, etc...

EDIT 2011: We play poker here in China.  I learned a lot about the craft from local expert Dustin.  No matter who is in or out of town, we always find time to get a few guys together for a fun night of poker and Qing Dao beer.  It is a little sanity in the midst of what sometimes seems like a lot of insanity.

4.) Playing high school basketball in grade 10.  We lost to Spruce Grove in the finals every year of junior high, and then beat them in overtime in grade 10.  That was my favorite basketball team that I have ever been on.

EDIT 2011: Still a great memory. It was sweet justice for all of those losing seasons. Definitely a highlight of tenth grade.

5.) Driving down to Boston from Montreal for a day back in 2000 with Jeff and Gina.  We left Montreal at 8am with a rental car, drove through Vermont and the like, and then came to Boston much later.  We walked around Harvard, drove by Fenway Park and we ate pizza at a place with a bathroom in the kitchen.  I opened the stall door to a man cutting onions.  Jeff got a parking ticket.  Then we left Boston and drove through the night.  Jeff was speeding and we got pulled over by a highway patrol guy.  We prayed, he let us off and Jeff pulled over to sleep a little.  I was uncomfortable in the back seat so I stayed up and just stared out at the rain on the window.  A trucker pulled up, probably to sleep, but I thought he was going to kill us.  He didn’t and we made it back to Montreal with about 20 minutes to spare with our 24 hour rental.

EDIT 2011: Someday I will go to a game at Fenway Park and that will be on this list.

6.) We were little kids and dad would set up an open sleeping bag for Bryce and I to wrestle on.  It was like a wrestling ring and Bryce was always, and always will be, stronger than me.

EDIT 2011: I wrestle with Miles and Jonas now.  I still dominate them but they are only 1 and 3 years old so it’s not really fair.

EDIT 2016:  I can still out wrestle the boys, but Barbara has said more than once that they already "out-sports" her.

7.) One time when we were little, Bryce and I and the neighbor Doug all decided to have a picnic on the back of Doug's dad's cool work truck.  We all went in to get food from our moms.  Doug got something normal, like a luncheon meat pack or something.  But our mom made kool-aid and good sandwiches and other good stuff.  She made it all right away.  We gave her no warning of the picnic.  It took me a few years to be mature enough to realize what a great thing our mom did for us that day.

EDIT 2011: My mom loves me.  She gave me a Valentine in my lunch in high school.  On my 18th birthday so brought Dairy Queen ice cream pizza for everyone in my biology class.

Once again, a few more years of maturity and I learn to appreciate that stuff.  I’ll have to remember that with Miles and Jonas when I drop them off at college and want to kiss and hug them goodbye.  Jonas will probably literally murder me.

EDIT 2016:  Mom posted a baby picture of me on Facebook and gave me a nice card.  So that's still a nice thing.

8.) In high school our football team worked a concession at the Eskimo football games and we did concerts as well.  I signed up for the U2 concert (who wouldn't?).  Craig and I got there early to see the big Lemon being set up and the big "Pop Mart" arch.  All of our food was gone by the time the opening band was finished.  As we were cleaning up I enjoyed watching people slow dancing next to the trash cans outside our booth as Bono lent out his voice to another one of his ballads.  Later we watched the rest of the show from the side and I remember that as being the day that the song "where the street have no name" changed me.

EDIT 2011: No edit actually, that was an amazing night.

9.) Going to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's funeral by myself in Montreal in 2000.  Thousands of people and no room to move outside of the Church.  There were big screens set up outside and I watched one of his sons cry out a good-bye message to his dad in French, which I still do not understand.  A man my age was climbing up a power box next to me to get a better look at the celebrities coming out after the service.  He said Leonard Cohen was there.  I saw Fidel Castro standing 30 feet away from me across the stage from Jimmy Carter.  Then Castro got into a car and drove away.

EDIT 2011: I have since seen Leonard Cohen again, live in Edmonton. I was once again by myself. It was my favorite concert to be at and probably the only artist I could think of that I wouldn’t mind going to see alone.

EDIT 2016:  Leonard has since put out 2 more amazing records.  He is still my favorite.  You should listen to him.  The son reading the eulogy was Justin.

10.) Last summer I went with Barbara and her family to Manitoba to a reunion at a cabin.  The cabin was one that they went to for many summers.  The water from the lake is pumped directly into the cabin's taps and you can drink it!  The health people tested it and it is THAT CLEAN!  We floated on the lake, read books, and went storm chasing.  Summer nights on the Prairies are good nights to be alive for.

11.) Our wedding was nice.  I liked wearing a suit for the first time in my life and feeling important.  I remember Barbara all smashing and enchanting and I remember Dan Sabo's bow tie.  I thought that the video that Bryce made for us was classy and something to remember.  Later, we drove away and got a sprite slurpee from 7-11 in St. Albert wearing our wedding attire before driving to our apartment for the first time as a Mr. and Mrs.

EDIT 2011: I think our wedding cost $2500.  We cut corners and it still turned out to be quite a unique event.  Since then people have photographers that charge more than $2500.  Barbara wore a veil and people don’t do that anymore.  Things have changed in the wedding department.  I am kind of glad we got hitched before the expensive wedding trend.

12.) The Calgary Folk Fest last summer.  A picnic with 10 thousand of your closest friends!  We ate curry and Naan bread and laughed at Buck 65 and Hawksley.  Seeing my favorite singer Jeff Tweedy up close was a treat.  Dancing to Arrested Development on Saturday night was the best.  I’ve got a good picture of it.  That was the debut of my deer sweater.

EDIT 2011: I wore the deer sweater the other day.  It is still faithful to me.

13.) Driving in the city of Edmonton on a hot, hot summer's day with Bryce, Jeff, Craig S and maybe Brent.  We were at a stoplight thinking about getting ice cream when a truck turning ahead of us had a door fling open on the side.  It was a Haagen Daz ice cream truck and 2 quarts of Chocolate Thunder flew out the door.  Then the door closed.  We pulled over to pick them up.  One got squashed but Jeff grabbed the other one.  Then we went into the closest restaurant (Taco Bell) and ate it.  We had to use forks but it was cold enough to do that.  Someone asked us where we got it from and we told them it flew out of a truck!  I almost peed my pants that day, laughing so hard. That is a TRUE story.

EDIT 2011: This is the miracle that proves that life is meant to be enjoyed.

EDIT 2016:  Still feels like a dream.  I confirmed with Bryce the other day that this did indeed happen to us.

14.) Barbara and I were in the states at a wedding when we heard that her grandmother had died and we needed to go home on a Greyhound bus. Well, the bus driver never told us where to get off and we missed our stop on our way to Canada. We went from Bozman all the way to Spokane, Washington!  We needed to wait there for our bus back to Montana.  It would leave in 9 hours.  So Barbara and I shopped and she bought a hat she would years later forget in a Nepali Taxi.  We went to eat at Red Robbin.  A picture of us there was on one of our Jones Soda wedding favour bottles. It was a nice time to spend together even though the Greyhound people are cranky jerks, that is unless one of you works for them.  If so, then all Greyhound people are nice.

EDIT 2011: Still have not been on a Greyhound since.  China’s buses have better service than Greyhound.

The road shows who you really are, just ask anyone that has been on a missions outreach.  I think that this trip was a serendipitous time where Barbara and I were able to be alone together without people thinking that we were skanky.  We learned that we could keep each other company for long periods of time.  The rest is history.

EDIT 2016:  When speaking of this trip Barbara reminds me that, while on the bus, I elbowed her in the head multiple times.  I was just trying to put on my hoodie and misjudged how close she was.  Since then I have yet to elbow her again.

15.) Working with Grandpa Jack Derman in his backyard last spring. It was nice to hang out and work together and help out the old guy.  Grandma would make us a really good lunch every day and they insisted on paying me.  I joke that they were my grandparents and employers and that my employer made me lunch on dishes that my mother probably came home from school to eat on when she was a kid.  Grandpa Derman is one of the funniest men I know, and if you meet him you will agree.  Grandma is also very much the same. She is very thoughtful and remembers a lot of important things that most people would forget.  I have a picture of her on my office wall of her standing in Sunflowers taller than her.
G & G Derman with Miles

EDIT 2011: Beautiful Grandma Derman passed away last summer.  She was very thoughtful.  I gave her a gift of micro machines when I was little and later on, after I was married, she still proudly displayed them on a shelf in the hallway.  After she passed, Grandpa Derman gave us some Flintstones cars that Grandma had been collecting for the boys.  Where she got them, I do not know, but the fact that this cute, frail little lady thought that the boys would like them is amazing.  The cars are still apart of their vehicle fleet.

EDIT 2016:  Grandpa Derman passed away probably 3 or 4 years ago now.  His love was often hidden in his heart, so often difficult to see.  He cared greatly for his family.  The last time I saw him I kissed him for the first time.  He was surprised by it, but I hope it made his day.  I miss them.

16.) Playing soccer when we were 8 or 9.  I played with Reagan, Craig, and Brent.  We had yellow shirts and we beat everyone that year in the final tournament.  But since we were so young no one got any special medals because it would probably make the other kids cry.  But we beat them all and remember being so happy that we were so good.

EDIT 2016:  Miles and Jonas played a year of soccer last year and are now in baseball.  The circle of life.

Miles first goal ever!

17.) Having BBQ's on our balcony last summer when we lived at Sarah's apartment.  We ate hot dogs and smokies.  Sarah does not eat that kind of food anymore.

Edit: BBQs on the deck in China rival those ones.  I had a birthday party up there once.  I love BBQs.

18.) Christmas's when we were young.  We slept under the tree and by the fire.  We ate food with zero nutritional value.  Barry was so small that he slept between 2 mattresses.  One morning Bryce and I kept opening Atari games as presents and we were getting mad because we did not have an Atari.  Later, when we opened an Atari we felt a lot better and realized that that was dad's plan all along.

19.) So, when I was younger no one would want to play street hockey as much as me. So, I would dress up in goalie gear and go out and flick the ball at myself.  People laugh about it now but I liked it.  I always played hockey or football or basketball by myself.  I think it is because I had seriously convinced myself, for a couple of years, that I was going to be a professional athlete.  Even though I am now not a pro, I still do not regret shooting the ball at myself or kicking the football through the pine trees that looked like goal posts next to the Tober's house.

EDIT 2011: Contrary to popular belief, I am actually very proud of this one.

20.) At Christmas the cousins would go take out the skidoo with tubes attached to the back. That was fun.  Then when the winter's started getting browner and we all started getting busier/moving away.... we stopped.

21.) Working at the skate park with Brian and Becky and getting 10 and 11 year old kids to teach me how to skate while I was 23 years old.  I landed 3 out of 1000 kick flips and I could Ollie over a 2 by 4 once in a while.  But Becky and Brian and good people to work with and be friends with.  We had a lot of laughs.

22.) Football. City Champs in 1997. We were really good, but St. Albert was better and we did not make provincials.  It was fun and we were on TV sometimes.... because we were so freaking good!  Barbara thinks that she watched that final loss to St.Albert.  I think she was watching her boyfriend play.  Little did she know that she was also watching her husband play.  I had a crappy game though.

23.) Barbara and I were in Nepal and we had to get up at 6am to hike up a mountain to teach English in a village.  Barbara actually got to ride with Denny on the back of a motorbike and I had to walk.  It was always cool with frost on the ground.  The Himalayas kept staring at me as I rounded the northern part of the mountain.  A Buddhist monk would greet me sometimes and I got to take a short cut through the monastery.  We played volleyball at the top and once in awhile the ball would go about 100 yards down the mountain.  No problem though as kids would race to see who would would get to it first.

EDIT 2011: The vivid memory is walking along up the mountain, turning the corner, and in the quiet morning be greeted by the sun lit Himalayas.  It was personal.

24.) Going to Central Tibet last year on a bus for 20 hours. It gave me new ideas of what hell might be like. When I say that I am talking about the 20 bus ride.  You don't understand 18 000 feet elevation until you experience it.  I was sick from the altitude for 4 days and did not sleep a wink for 3 nights.  The forth night I slept through a drunken raging party across the hall, but I woke up to my alarm clock ringing.  It was a blessing.

EDIT 2011: It’s more coincidence than purposefully, but I still have not been back down that road.

EDIT 2016:  Never did go back.  

25.) Finally being here. We have our house all fixed up and people always coming over.  It is nice to see this dream come true and to see where it leads us.  Our house is in an area that is 2 blocks from the university yet on the outside of the city.  We walk through old soon to be redeveloped farmer fields to get to class.  It is nice to feel like we live in the country yet still be so close to the city.

EDIT 2011: Things change. Now in our 3rd apartment, we are directly across from the University.  The farmer’s fields are all done and replaced with a giant apartment complex where Barbara and a local are in the process of opening a Kindergarten.

EDIT 2016:  Whoa, man.  Big time changes.  Kindergarten was a success, but it signalled the end of our time in China.  Barbara put her heart into the school, and the stress and day to day dealings took a lot out of her.  She lost weight, she cried a lot.  In all honesty, it felt like someone had died.  It was pretty awful, but also good in a way I have yet to be able to articulate.

26.) A few weeks ago, Barbara and I went with Dustin and Ginny to the little doctors office down the street to buy some pregnancy tests for the girls.  But the “doctors” inside told Barbara that she should just take the test there in their office.  So she did.  The one doctor looked at it and said that Barbara is pregnant.  Barbara says that when the lady told her she had a concerned look on her face and was studying Barbara’s face to try to see what her reaction would be; if she was happy about it or sad about it.  She was happy, of course!  As the girls were inside, Dustin and I were outside tossing the football around, the one he got at Jennifer’s yard sale.  Barbara came out and as she quickly walked over to me I could see some tears and some smiles, so I knew.  So to celebrate, we took a picture of us in front of the doctor’s office and we had the football in our arms to “stand-in” for the baby.

After that we walked to the park.  We had some laughs and took some more pictures with each other and the football.  Now we have pictures of each of us and the “stand-in” for our future child.  That was a really good time, thanks to the football and the pregnancy test.

EDIT 2011: Football, pregnancy test and the Hendersens! They found out a week or so later that they would have Seth.  Soon after we all moved in together for what was to be some of our best times here.

EDIT 2016:  Good times with the Hendersens, Wilsons, Yorks, Lindemans, and the rest.  These people will always have a chunk of my heart.  

27.) Now for something that might be hard to understand.  We were in a dry place in our lives in 2009.  The Christian life was seeming to be an impossible hill to climb.  More like a cliff.  I had the weight of the souls of this entire Province on my introverted shoulders. I felt guilty.  I felt like I was some sort of soldier who just wanted to write poems and put flowers in the barrels of the enemy’s guns. I don’t know; be me.

Then we went to Thailand for a conference.  A man spoke at the conference.  A horrible speaker he was.  I had no idea what he was saying until it clicked on one morning.  That click did a lot for me.

To this day, hundreds of people will tell you that that conference was a waste of time, even detrimental to society as a whole.  Some would say that the man had a skewed view of God.  That may be true in some ways, but once things clicked for me I was on a new journey filled with a revelation of a glimpse of what might possibly be the tip of the iceberg of mercy and love.

All I know is that I was blind but now I see.

EDIT 2016:  Continuing the journey.  We have a great community out at Nakamun and a great Church to learn at Gateway.

28.) We are living with the Hendersens.  Barbara is in the bathroom.  The Hendersens and I are in the living room hanging around.  Suddenly, the bathroom door bursts open and Barbara spills out in a pile of tears and laughter.  She was pregnant.  Thus, Jonas Darrough came into our lives.

My second son was born less than 2 years ago but somehow I feel like he’s been with us all along.  He is the spark that sets our family on fire.  Miles has a good time with his bro, but boy does Jonas ever stir the drink.  I am sure that if he was not around we would be very boring people and Miles would already have skipped ahead into Harvard.

It is an honor for us to name Jonas after or great friend and mentor Kevin Darrough and his lovely wife Kim.  Kevin passed away a little over 2 years ago.  He was the funniest man I know and, right now, I am sure that he must still be pretty funny.

EDIT 2016:  Kim passed away from cancer, too.  Honestly, these guys were given a shitty deal with the C word.  They were the best.  They were so encouraging and challenging.  They were the best thing to happen to us out of YWAM.  I am so happy their name carries on with Jonas.

29.) The blessing of being handed film equipment to be in charge of led me to the manuals and trying to figure out how the stuff works and failing, thus leading eventually to a 3 month film course in Hawaii.  That was a great time and laid a foundation to what I hope will be even bigger things in the future.  It was great to be around 20 other people who love films as much as I do.  Totally worth it in so many ways.

EDIT 2016:  I am in charge of the film stuff at Camp Nakamun.  It's nice to continue to learn and continue to use the skills I learned from the film school.  Though, someday I still want to make a movie.

30.) Jonas is about as affectionate as a cactus.  Miles hands out kisses and hugs to everyone but Jonas is a closed book most of the time.  So today when I was putting him to bed it was nice to catch a little glimpse off his unique method of comradely. 

He insists that we sing the theme to “Little Einsteins” before he goes to bed.  I was singing it and then there is a part with a key change and you make the sound of a rocket going up in the sky.  My throat was sore so my voice kind of cracked.  Now, the whole song until then he was looking to the ceiling, listening to the song.  But when my voice cracked he looked at me like I was crazy.  Then he smiled and laughed at me a little.  Then he imitated my cracked voice to perfection.  I laughed with him and then went on to continue the song.  But he cut me off and made fun of me again, imitating me once again.  He was totally making fun of me. He was kind of bullying me in a way.  But I will take that as comradery and will hope to build on that tomorrow.

In all honesty, the boys are the best things that ever happened to me.  They are also the best things that ever happened to our marriage.  If I am depressed or worried about life, I can always be interrupted by Miles asking me where the Whoopee cushion is.

EDIT 2016:  Jonas loves me, this I know.  He wants to hang out with me all of the time.  He is sports crazy, so I do what I can.  At night, he gives me kisses so all is well.

Jonas out on the lake

New for 2016

It's hard to think of new ones since our time in Canada.  We've been here for almost 4 years.  Life is a lot busier here, so it takes longer to think back.

31.)  One of the reasons we came back to Canada when we did was to say goodbye to Barbara's dad.  He didn't have much time left, and when he went into the hospital one last time his girls took turns taking care of him.  I'd bring the boys in to see him from time to time, as they would take turns pushing him around in his wheelchair.  

I remember bringing in a gingerbread house that the boys had made.  They wanted to show it to him.  He stared at it for a moment, that cracked off a piece and crunched away.

The funeral was a celebration.  The place was packed solid.  He even had the foresight to make a goodbye video that I am sure gave people a lot of good feelings.  It's still a kick in the gut that his grand kids didn't get to spend more time with him, but at least they have a few good memories to look back on.

32.)  Working at Camp Nakamun.  It's been great.  Sharing a office with Luke and working alongside a bunch of great people is the right place for me.  We do a great thing there.  I hope to be able to continue to develop and understanding of just how significant it is to work at a place that's main purpose is to help kids grow and give them break from real life.

32B.)  Little Rosalie being born.  My little niece is so little, has always been, but that doesn't stop her from running around and being little cutie pants.  In fact, I am sure it is the main cause of her cuteness.

Little Rosie thinking of her Uncle Brett

33.)  Another thing that's really helped my life is running.  I've been running consistently since January 1, 2015.  Over 530 miles.  I feel a lot better.  It's fun to set goals.  I've raised a bit of money for a race and hope to do more.  

Seriously, though.  I feel healthier than when I was 30.

34.)  Gateway Alliance Church has been great for us.  I remember going there for the first time because we heard that they were going to show a movie that my teacher from the film course had made.  The movie is called Hellbound?  It's the kind of subject that the church should be encouraged to talk about.  And so I figured that the church would have that same feel.  They sure do.  

The boys love going to church and have invited some of their friends from school.  Barbara's friend has since become a part of the church.  It's a nice place to learn.  I am an introvert, so it will still take a while for me to get to know a few people, but that's okay.

35.)  Élodie Elaine Webb.  Barbara carried our friends' baby for them.  Here is a link to a video celebrating their friendship.  

When we decided to do this for them we agreed that it would be the coolest thing we've ever done, and 2 years later I still feel the same.  She is great.  Her parents are amazing parents.  It is only the beginning!

The boys with little L.