Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

     I am approaching the final hour of 2011. I'm in a place with passed out people and balloons strewn around (translation: my kids are asleep and the remnants of Julia's birthday party are all about the floor). I choose to quietly ring in the new year as I sit in "Chaz," our chair and a half... Yes, I named a piece of furniture because I got tired of writing in my journal, "As I sit here in our chair and a half..." It was a quieter year for the Couch's, thank God, but there are still some monuments worth revisiting...



  • Marty became an adjunct professor at Western Seminary, her alma mater. My amazing wife is teaching graduate level courses. She's incredible.
  • I became a substitute teacher and passed my CBEST test, quite a personal accomplishment for me since math was involved.
  • Marty and I presented our ministry through seminars, sermons, speaking engagements and break out sessions throughout the year and continued our counseling seeing couples in need. 
  • Both Julia and Ella had pieces of artwork selected by their teachers to be displayed in the city's art museum. Only two kids were chosen per class, so to have both of my daughters in different grades selected made me right proud. 
  • Both Julia and Ella were given the President's Silver award at the end of the school year for academic excellence. Again, only two students per class are given these awards and, again, both my girls scored one (Julia's third to date). How did this Oakie get such smart yungins? 
  • Max graduated from Village Little Pre-school and became a model for the school when they blew up a banner with his picture on it and hung it on the front of our former church. He is literally larger than life. 
  • I became a US missionary with our denomination, specialized chaplaincy department, further defining our ministry and giving it more structure. 
  • With God's help, I was able to complete seven graduate courses going towards my Master's in Pastoral Counseling. Four more to go and I'll be done in May. So excited.
  • God has faithfully and miraculously provided for us as we have continued to walk by faith. I've heard others say "I don't know how we made it financially..." and that is our testimony as well. He is truly our provider. All thanks and glory to Him. 
Best Quotes of 2011
     Here are some nuggets I heard or heard myself saying through the year...

     "Don't be yourself, be better than that." - Jenny Conlee

     "You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." - Maya Angelou

     "The enablement derived from the experience of suffering permits us to minister to other people more effectively than the most powerful sermon." - Ronald Hawkins

     "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." - Mark Twain

     "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." - Helen Keller

     "Be profound, be funny, or be quiet." - Unknown

     "I can blame no one for what I do with (my life). I can blame them for what they do to me, but I cannot blame them for what I do with what they do to me. I am responsible for how I respond." 
 - Dr. Henry Cloud

     "Honest doubt may be a truer religious attitude than superficial belief." - taken from Old Testament Survey

     "Don't waste a perfectly awful circumstance that can push you into God's presence." - T.S.C.

     "Own only what is true about you, the good and the bad, and not what people merely think about you, the good and the bad." - T.S.C. 

     I don't believe in the sentiment "Happy New Year." The truth of the matter is there will be happy times, and there will be tears. So make it a joyful New Year no matter what it brings. God be with us.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Nine

     Julia's life didn't start out very smoothly. Marty had already suffered two miscarriages before Julia's conception, and anything that was out of the ordinary in that first tri-mester made us nervous. We had some tests done during the pregnancy and the results took us to see a genetics specialist. She told us our baby was missing something important and the result could be this or that and later on in life this could happen, or at the very least she could be a carrier of this.  That being said, she gave us the option to terminate the pregnancy. Of course we didn't even consider it, yet we prayed that Julia's life would be in God's hands.
     When she was born, she was beautiful, but doctors and interns kept coming in and checking her legs and it was soon determined that she had congenital hip dysplasia (the ball and socket in her hip wasn't done cooking since she was three weeks early). This meant she would have to be fitted for a brace to keep her legs in a position that imitated the womb so her joint could develop properly. Marty had this same condition when she was a baby and it led to her being in a half body cast for a good part of her toddling years, so we were a little uneasy about Julia's condition.
     At the age of two months, Julia couldn't hold anything down and started losing weight when babies are supposed to be gaining. After a trip to the doctor, they admitted her to Stanford Hospital because she was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis. A surgery was scheduled to fix the problem and then she was fitted for her brace.
     There were several follow up appointments for her hip and also for the original concerns when she was still in Marty's tummy. We were told to watch her at certain stages of her life, and if she was advancing normally, then no need to worry.
     Julia has grown into a beautiful and active young lady. When she was in kindergarten and turned out to be the tallest girl in the class, I remembered her backstory and the genetics counselors "offer," and it made me shudder. When she does cartwheels and backbends I recall the brace that held her legs in captivity when most babies that age are kicking their feet just because.
     Two years ago I was asked to speak at a High School Christian Club's event The gym was full of public school students and I was asked to share something about God that would possibly speak into these students' lives. I decided to tell Julia's story, from genetics counselor's office to that day, and I had brought a special guest with me. I pulled my daughter out of school to be my sermon illustration, and after the kids heard about her rough beginnings, I had Julia walk up and join me in that gym. As she did, the high school students started applauding and some were wiping their eyes.
     Afterwards, one of the leaders of the Christian Club told me that a friend had said he didn't really believe in God, but after hearing Julia's story and seeing her walk up there, he was starting to believe. She was already ministering as a 7 year old (and even before that).


     Today is my baby girl's birthday. She is nine, and I love her with all my heart. And, you know, I look at her, and it makes me believe in God, too. Happy Birthday, Babe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Stockings Were Hung...

   
     A few years ago, Marty wanted to get matching stockings for the whole family, but I'm very sentimental and nostalgic. Marty's stocking was made by her grandmother. It's a little tattered and worn but I love that about it. It keeps her grandma with us at Christmas. My mom made mine. Two pieces of felt sown together cut out in the shape of a stocking, my name written down the middle with a permanent marker and "God Bless You" at the top. Its a model no one would choose,  but it's the only stocking I've ever known and I cherish it. Mom also made all three of my kids' stockings. Julia and Ella have matching crocheted "slipper and sock" kind of style, totally made with love (I'm convinced that Mom used miles of yarn in her lifetime with all the things she crocheted).
     And then there is Max's. Kind of an updated version of mine. It probably wouldn't win any home-made stocking contests, but it's what's inside that counts, literally. Max was only a year and a half when mom passed, so he hadn't been in possession of his stocking for more than one year our first Christmas without her. When I went to hang his stocking, I felt something in the toe of it. I reached inside  and pulled out a note I had never read before.  It was from my just departed mom, to my son: "Dear Max, This did not turn out as good as I wanted it. I hope it's okay for now. I am still looking for my other pattern. I know you understand all this cause you are really smart. I love you. Nanny." My eyes welled up with tears as I looked at my mom's familiar handwriting. Knowing she wanted to make him a "better" stocking and that she didn't get the chance killed me. But knowing that the one she gave him was totally made with love makes it the best stocking he could ever have.
     That note remains in the toe of his stocking, and always will as long as I have something to say about it. Max didn't get a chance to know his Nanny, but I'm hoping that note will be a lasting indicator of how much she loved him while she was here.
     Needless to say, the Couch's won't be having matching stockings any time soon... unless there's a really big sale.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Cat

We have this cat.
He has a routine. Early in the morning he'll walk through the house and creak out his meow until someone feeds him. Once he's been served, he comes back in the house and yells at anyone who will listen to him.
Once the house is quiet (meaning kids have left for school), he settles in for his six hour nap.
Around 3PM, he gets up, stretches, and starts demanding to be fed again whether his bowl has food in it or not. If he is ignored, which he usually is because dinner isn't until 5, he'll take a few sprints in the hallway, the extent of his exercise regime, and end up in the living room, complaining about God knows what (probably about not being fed), as he looks out the sliding glass door.
From this point on, if anyone makes their way to the kitchen, he is right behind them, singing the same song.
Again, after being fed his dinner, he'll come back in and give us an earful as if he was starving.
Once the family has settled in for the night, he'll take any available lap and park it.
At bedtime, he'll either lay down with Marty as she unwinds with a movie or cuddle up with Julia in her bed.
Every night before I turn in I track him down and put him back in the garage where he sleeps for the evening.
I'd like to be the cat (except for the sleeping in the garage part).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And the Winners Are...

Ronda and Cheri! Sorry it took so long for me to post this. Life's been crazy, but it's still free stuff! Ronda, you took first prize, so email me (shaqne@gmail.com), or message me on facebook your address and I'll get out to you your choice of the Rose soap of the manly man one. Cheri, you'll get whatever Ronda doesn't choose, but email or message me your address. Congratulations and Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Black Friday" Giveaway

     I have a couple great stocking stuffers to give away, but a little back story first. At my former church, there was a very sweet lady named Veronica (I dig her name being an Archie fan and all). When I was going through probate dealing with my parents' estate, I needed a notary for several documents. Veronica made herself available to be my notary whenever and how often I needed her at no charge. In that stressful time in my life, she was a genuine blessing. I also had the privilege of being her son's youth pastor for a year before I left. Great kid! I miss them.
     I wanted to drum up a little business for Veronica. She's a single mom who started her own soap company out of her home. In the past, she has blessed me with her wares on several occasions for Pastor Appreciation month, etc., and she has sent me some free samples to give away here on my blog.
     The first item is a soap bar called "Rose." I'll let you read about it here.


     The second is an item for men, called "Rugged Man." Read about it here.


     Yeah, my blog is looking an little girly foo foo with this soap stuff on it, but giving Veronica a plug is so worth it. 
     To win a bar, post a comment here by this "Black" Friday. In your comment, mention the bar you would prefer to win. Winners will be chosen at random and first choice goes to first place with second place receiving the remaining bar. 
     Don't forget to visit Veronica's website, The Cupertino Soap Company and give her a little extra cash for Christmas this year. Soap's on!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Best Second Born Child In the World

     When we found out we were pregnant with our second child, we waited until the birth to find out if it was going to be a boy or a girl. Therefore, this little one's arrival was greatly anticipated because the birth day was going to be a surprise party as well. We already had one sweet little girl, and if I had another, that would have been just fine with me. When Ella popped out (Marty says there's no "popping" involved in child birth), I was so happy to be the daddy of another daughter.
     A month and a half after she was born, Ella and I were in a play together for our church's Christmas Eve service. I played a new dad and she played my brand new baby boy! In the monologue I recited lines from a memorized script that talked about hopes and dreams for the little one in my arms, plans to protect and teach and provide for, and a strong desire for this kid to know God as the heavenly Father He is. As I rocked in the chair saying my lines, I couldn't help but cry because these were my personal dreams for my baby girl (that was doing a fabulous job playing the part of a newborn boy!).  After the play, someone came up to me and said I was a great actor, probably because they thought I managed to produce tears, but there was little acting involved.
     Tonight is the eve of my second daughter's birthday. She turns seven tomorrow. As tradition calls for, she went to the bookshelf containing all my journals and picked out "the one." We climbed up on my bed and as she lay in my arms, I read her the story of the night she was born. She giggled at the name we picked out if she was a boy, she guffawed at how much she weighed at birth... and she was growing up so quickly lying there with me tonight.

   
     I wrote in her birthday card that she means the world to me and that she has my heart and all my love.  There's no middle child syndrome going on here. She is precious, she is treasured, and she is mine all mine. Happy Birthday, Ella Bella.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This is Halloween

   
     Some memories from childhood aren't so grand, but then there are those I cherish, like Halloween on Reimche Drive. My mom wasn't a big fan. She told me annually they weren't having Halloween this year.
     Regardless of her lack of enthusiasm, I loved this particular holiday. Walking into my classroom in grammar school on October 1 was always thrilling for me because the teachers at Turner Elementary went all out when decorating their rooms. After school, I would get on my bike and ride around the block to see who had put up there Halloween fare in the windows.
     Then there was the night itself. Had to eat dinner before going trick or treating, but I was too excited to be hungry (unless the menu included items such as little Snickers bars and the like). Speaking of Halloween candy, I always took umbrage at the label they stamped on the wrappers that indicated the product was the "fun size." Those tiny little offerings weren't the "fun size." Full size candy bars, even king size would be the fun size!
     Our neighborhood was perfect for trick or treating. My house was surrounded by neighbors with kids my age. We would gather with a designated parent and hit the streets. I'll never forget certain houses. There was the lady in the court who would grab a handful of candy and drop it in our pillow cases (pillow cases, to haul the most booty). Loved her. Then, on the corner the house that hosted a ghost that would come shooting out of the garage when we rang the doorbell. Took me a couple years to work up the courage  to call on that home, but eventually, the want for candy became greater than the fear of the flying specter.
     I loved our bravado. Once we went around the block and hit both sides of the street, we would go around again. Yeah, we were met with the occasional "Weren't you here before?" but that never kept anyone from giving up the goods.
     Then there was the Great Halloween Debacle of '78. On one particular porch, my pillow case split open and my candy spilled out like a pinata's innards. Kids starting grabbing my loot and stuffing it in their bags until my brother yelled at them to knock it off. The gang moved on while I was left picking up the pieces. I believe I trick or treated alone for the rest of that night.
     As a dad, I enjoy Halloween with my kids. I don't tell them "they're not having it this year." We start talking about costumes in May! Every year I say I'm dressing up like my kids' dad, and I wouldn't dream of not walking around with them through the neighborhood. A posse' will gather here on October 31, a group of school friends that will make our house home base, and after we've converged, we'll show no mercy! My kids have their favorite houses, too. The nice elderly lady with the laughing witch on her porch, and the "Pumpkin House" down the street that hands out goody bags with FULL SIZE candy bars! Redemption.
 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Let Me See It

     When I graduated college, my dad came up to me and asked to see my diploma... but it was in absentia. I still had one more class to finish so I didn't get the piece of parchment paper with the cool calligraphy writing on it that day. Rest assured, I did earn it later on, but I'll never forget my dad's face when he asked to see what was inside my degree holder. And the way he asked... there was pride gushing out of every mono-syllabic word: "Let me see it."
     Neither of my parents finished high school. Life threw them some curve balls and they swung as best as they could. They both learned to work hard, and not necessarily at jobs they enjoyed, but they needed to get food on the table, so they endured.
     They never pushed me to get good grades. In fact, they never sat on top of me to even get my homework done. As long as I wasn't failing, they were content. So I meandered through high school academically. I wasn't planning on continuing my education. My parents didn't push me to, either. They just wanted me to get a good paying job so I could take care of myself. So my Senior year of mostly electives was pretty cake.


     Obviously, Mom and Dad didn't go to college. So I was the first out of my immediate family to enroll in a four year academic institution. Therefore, my parents couldn't have been more proud when I walked the line at Bethany College. When Dad asked to see my diploma, it was like it was his chance to hold one of those things that he never got close to, not even once in his life. The rest of the day was weird with family dynamics in full force, but I'll cherish the moment my dad said, "Let me see it."
     With my family background, I'm actually kind of befuddled that I am working on my Master's in Pastoral Counseling. Up until this term, I was taking one class at a time, but I had to up it to two to get financial aid. That was initially worrisome for me. I have three kids under my feet. Others had posted on the Liberty University discussion board that they tried two classes at a time, but it was too much. Yet. this week I will finish out my first term taking two courses simultaneously. And I passed. And on this track, I will have my Master's in May. Un-stinking-believeable. I don't know how this transpired. I can only give the credit to God for seeing me through this process because I certainly wasn't cut out for it.
     It is in moments like these that I so wish Mom and Dad could know what I was up to. I would never wish them back to earth, they had enough pain here, but in May, I will be wishing for that phone line to heaven that doesn't exist so I could call them up and tell them I just earned my Master's degree. And, oh how great it would be to hear my dad say, "Let me see it."

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Week Worth Living

Last week was noteworthy (or blogworthy).
I got on a plane.
I worried about said plane crashing and leaving my children behind.
I settled in to my book on that same plane.
I experienced the kindness of strangers (willing to swap seats so I could sit with my wife).
I visited a town and state I've never been to before (Springfield, MO).
I anticipated great things.
I experienced God as He closed a door we weren't supposed to walk through.
I was affirmed in my ministry and calling.
I was un-friended on facebook.
I met some great people and made some new friends.
I was grateful, so very grateful, for the souls who offered to watch our kids while we were gone.
I slept in one morning ('til 10:30 Springfield time. It was glorious).
I was in a "Minute to Win It" competition and won an iPod (we can officially have Christmas now!).
I called an old friend from my hometown and reconnected just because.
I dined with people ready to pray at the drop of a hat (and we did).
I was reminded by a beautiful painting that some day Jesus will come back and take us home.
I witnessed my wife's compassion in action.
I took a swim.
I sat in a hot tub.
I finished all my homework assignments on time even while traveling for nine days.
I laughed.
I made people laugh.
I cried.
I bought a used book from a seminary library.
I journaled (it had been a while).
I missed my parents.
I missed my kids.
I talked to my kids everyday on the phone.
I heard my middle daughter say "I miss you" unsolicited... twice!
I watched some favorite TV shows.
I was commissioned as a US missionary with the Assemblies of God.
I celebrated my wife's birthday.
I approached a "stranger" in the airport because I had a feeling it was Thomas Trask (former General Superintendent for my denomination).
I got on a plane.
I worried about said plane crashing and leaving my children behind.
I settled into my book on that same plane.
I watched my kids run to us at the airport because they were ready for their parents to be home.
I hugged said kids.
I lived life last week. And here's another week worth living...


This pic was sent to me while we were gone. Apparently, my kids were living life, too.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tooth be Told

     The Five Couch's went to the dentist today. Since we were new to this office, we experienced a different way of taking x-rays (now digital) and some other technology that not only had my mouth wide open, but also my eyes. They stuck a camera in my mouth, and instead of just hearing a description of what is going on inside my dark pie hole, they showed me... and it was not pretty. It had been a year and a half since I had been to the dentist, and it showed. I saw for myself the tartar that was settling in like a retired couple in Florida. They pointed out my 20 year old fillings and how those will have to be taken care of someday soon. There were hairline cracks in some teeth, and the "F" on every dentist patient's report card... cavities! By the way, here's the score: Couch kids number of cavities - 0, Mom and Dad, two each! As mentioned, it was a mouth and eye-opening experience! Of course the assistant hygienist asked if I flossed every day and I brushed her lecture off with a "I know, I know." I think she actually thought to herself, "Brush off my lecture, eh? Just wait till I stick this camera in your mouth!" Needless to say, Marty and I were brushing and flossing and Listerine-ing our brains out tonight.
     I must admit, I felt a little shame around the whole experience. The results I saw in my mouth today were preventable. I told myself  when our insurance changed and we wouldn't have dental for a while that I needed to take care of my teeth diligently. But time passed, and I got typical. I'll admit, I even got lazy. When my bedtime hits, my eyes are drooping, so many a night I would walk right past the toothbrush, not to mention the dental floss, and just go right to sleep. I would brush in the morning, and everything looked okay in my bathroom lighting, but in the dentist's chair, the lights and camera showed the action that was really going on.
     It's a wake up call to take better care of myself and not just in the oral hygiene department. What else should I be doing that I know I should but I'm not? Am I resting properly? Do I spend time with friends that enrich my life? How am I doing spiritually? It's amazing to think that I knock myself out making sure my kids are taken care of, but I don't expend the same energy making sure I'm running okay. I know it's because I love them to death, but I need to learn to love myself a little bit more as well. After all, I'm the one with the cavities.

   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Got Beaned!

     Oh, the evils of facebook! Be careful what you share on social networks. It can definitely come back to "bean" you. I naively posted on my profile "I have a rule in my house: No more stuffed animals allowed!" But then I went on to share how I broke my own rule when Ella found a Raggedy Ann and Andy set at a garage sale down the street. She fell hard for them and I caved. Sweet little daddy/daughter love story, right? WELL...! 
     Last night I went into the garage to close the window and I noticed something taped on the outside of the glass. This wasn't there earlier in the day so I wondered if one of my kids posted some artwork there, as odd as a place it was to display one of their pictures. Regardless, it kind of put me on alert. I mean, we've been TPed, diapered, tennis balled, flamingo-ed, and even robbed, so forgive me for just falling short of grabbing my baseball bat before going outside to see what it was. 
     When I opened the front door, something fell down in front of me, potentially heart attack inducing, but I've been doing Just Dance on the Wii for the last 5 days. Ticker's in shape. Anyway... Someone who I will loosely call a "friend" on facebook had read my status and proceeded to print out guilt-inducing signs admonishing me to take in about 50 Beanie Baby animals that had been strewn all over my front yard! They were along the walkway, on the lawn, in the bush, sitting on the fence, perched in the bird feeder, taped to the wall, atop our garbage cans, and sitting on our cars! And can I just say I was in the house the whole time these shenanigans were taking place on my property. Disturbing! 
     Marty had just gone to bed but I had to get her up to see this... this madness. What kind of mind...? Sick. This is a sickness in the head to drive out to my home and break a sacred rule in my household that only I am allowed to break! "Friend" on facebook, HA!
     But, alas, I cleared the ones off the lawn so the sprinklers wouldn't get them and strategically placed them where they wouldn't get wet and I awaited the morning when my kids would wake up to yet another surprise in our front yard. Needless to say, they were thrilled. I, however, feel harassed and disrespected (and maybe a little loved). 





     So, now I have a new rule in my house: No more $100 bills allowed! 

Friday, August 19, 2011

No Children Allowed at the Kid's Table

     Stray furniture seems to follow Marty home. A couple weekends ago, I got back from running some errands and Marty said,"Something happened while you were gone. I tried to call you..." Yes, folks, we are now the proud owners of a used picnic table and benches that were no longer of use to one family, but ever so welcome in ours. Marty has an intricate "free" furniture tracking device, and while I was out and about, she was even able to get the previous owner to deliver the abandoned dinette set. "Free" furniture AND free shipping. How does she do it? She showed it to me and was very excited claiming that she always wanted a picnic table and benches (first I'm hearing of it). Yeah, I was tempted to roll my eyes, but it actually fits very nicely where the kids play house used to be that they outgrew. So we dubbed it the "kid's table."
     We have been barbecuing a lot this summer and the other night the kids had a friend over so we fired up the grill. We thought for sure they would want to plant it at the new kid's table, but they wanted to sit at the "grown up" patio furniture set. At first we were going to cram in with them, but Marty said WE should sit at the kid's table. Sounded good to me. We served the kids, bought two tickets to Paradise, and travelled 20 feet to our destination, and we had an adult conversation over our meal at the kid's table. It was very pleasant. It was like a date night. It was cherished. It is looked forward to again in the future. The kid's table is so underrated!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?

     I just wanted the world to know that I had a brother. He was two years older than me, but when we were young, people thought we were twins. Our relationship morphed throughout the years, but it started out typically. My brother was the king of the neighborhood. Truly, he reigned and I was safe in his dominion.  His friends called him "Couch." That's what cool kids did, they referred to each other by their last name. I was called "Shane." One time this kid called me "Couch," retracted it, then said, "I guess you're a 'Couch' too." At that moment I thought I had found the missing link.
     My brother and I were very different. As cool and as athletic and as influential as he was, he was very emotional, explosively so. We were watching the annual showing of "The Wizard of Oz" on TV and during the scene where Dorothy is locked up in the witch's castle and Auntie Em appears to her in the crystal ball, I noticed my brother was crying. Puzzled, I asked, "Why are you crying?" He yelled back at me, "Because it's sad!" I could have taken that info to the streets and caused quite a stir: "Scott Couch cries watching 'The Wizard of Oz.'" They probably wouldn't have believed me.
     There were times when we would pal around, like up at Gramma's house which was on the outskirts of town. There was no one else to play with, so we made the most of each other's company. Alas, he was two years older and while visiting Gramma, he challenged me to touch a set mouse trap and see if I could pull my finger away before it snapped on me. He made it sound like it was possible. A millisecond later I had a mousetrap hanging off my finger and I was screaming like a banshee while my brother just laughed. Once he stood in front of the closet door and invited me to hit him as hard as I could in the stomach. I wound up and let it rip but he jumped out of the way and I ended up sucker punching the door. Oww. He just laughed. It was my lot in life as a kid brother.
    The older we got, the more we grew apart. Our differences created quite a chasm between us. He had  a tumultuous relationship with my parents and moved in and out of our house. He "borrowed" my things, if borrowed means took without asking and ruined or lost my possesions. In the 80's, this was the drill: Buy a new pair of 501 jeans, wash and wear, wash and wear, and so on. Eventually they would fade and the more worn they appeared, the better. It took quite a bit of time and nurturing to get Levis to look just right. My brother "borrowed" my most prized pair of faded 501's, worked on his car, and got oil stains all over them. I was furious. He angrily offered to buy me a new pair. "That wasn't the point!" I informed him. See Levis 501 jeans routine above.
     I offered him a few olive branches in the course of our relationship, like asking him if he wanted to go see "Rambo" with me. He accepted my invitation, but his girlfriend ended up having some issues, so she had to come along too. At least I tried.
     The story takes a sad turn. My brother had a pretty risky lifestyle and it all came to an end in June of 1987, just two weeks after he turned 21. I was 19 and death had never hit this close to home or this swiftly. The news was numbing, shocking, unbelievable, and it turned our world upside down. After he died, I wished we could have been closer, but we just didn't have the ingredients for that. Or maybe I didn't try hard enough.
     It took me a while to get over my brother's tragic death and I've often wondered what it would have been like had he lived. Would he have stood next to me in my wedding? What kind of uncle would he have been to my kids? Would he have gotten his life straightened out?
     It's been 24 years since his passing and Im feeling... that I just wanted the world to know that I had a brother.
   
   
   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adventures in Santa Cruz

     My family loves Santa Cruz. We try to get there at least once a year, usually for a Beach/Boardwalk trip. I love pulling off Hi-way 17 into town and seeing that first Santa Cruz native. He/she lets you know you've arrived. As we were planning our summer calendar trying to keep the kids busy while school is out, I discovered the Beach/Boardwalk was hosting movie nights each Wednesday. They were showing "E.T." one evening, so I thought that would be a good flick to watch on the beach with the kids. It was also Pepsi can $9.99 wristband unlimited rides night, so we bought the kids the bands while we waited for showtime.
     It's interesting to see your kids grow up by the rides they graduate to. This year, the thrills were a little bit bigger, a little faster, but I enjoyed watching them laugh on not so kid-like rides such as the Tilt-A-Whirl. I'm waiting for the day when we're on the Giant Dipper together.
     Now, the boardwalk comes with traditions. Gotta have my corn dog and nacho cheese fries. And I don't know when the first time was exactly, but I started a tradition when I was on a trip with the youth group. Since Marty couldn't make it to those outings, I bought her a pair of earrings from the main surf shop just to let her know I was thinking about her. Ten, eleven pairs later,  I once again snuck off with Max, seemingly on a bathroom run, but that was a guise to go get Marty her customary pair of earrings, and as always, from the same shop (I said this was tradition). Max asked if he could deliver them to her. Sure. Earrings delivered, wife happy, worn the next day, success!

   
     We bundled up and settled in to watch the movie on a humongous screen. Snacks were served as we waited to experience Eliot and his alien friend break our hearts. I was really looking forward to Max's reaction to the movie. He's a 5 year old boy so being friends with an alien is pretty appealing to him.
     Right as the movie started, a local couple plopped down right next to me and I mean literally plopped since they were pretty plastered. She kept saying "I love this movie," and to her partner, "Shut up and watch the.... movie," yet with more color. I was worried Julia could hear them, but she was oblivious to their language.
     There's a crass line in the movie that I didn't want my children to hear, so of course I did the obligatory loud cough when that scene came on, but leave it to my drunk friends next to me to repeat it over and over as they laughed. Oh, well. We were in Santa Cruz.
     The idea of a free movie on the beach was a good one, but we left at intermission and didn't get home until 11PM. The kids didn't even take their sandy clothes off, just climbed in bed of their own volition. So I rented the flick the next day and we finished watching it at home. Much clearer picture, a sound system that I could more effectively cough over, and no drive afterwards. But I'm glad we did the beach thing. We made a memory and that's what I'm all about.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bad Breath Love

     I don't know about you, but I don't brush my teeth the moment I get out of bed. I meander into the living room and see what my kids are up to and they usually end up in my lap or on top of my person in some form. Almost daily, I hear from one of them (if not two or all), "Your breath stinks!" They are always quick to point this out, whether early in the day or at the end when the inside of my mouth hasn't seen a toothbrush since morning.
     Now, being told by your kids your breath stinks isn't the first phrase a parent wants to hear from their children, but as often as I've heard those blunt words from my offspring, I'm not hurt or put off by it. If my kids are climbing on me or tackling me or just sitting with me and are in close enough proximity to smell my breath, then I'm actually feeling the love. They want to be near me. We're tight, we're good, they want to hang with their dad. So I'm not hearing, "Your breath stinks." I'm hearing "I love you."
     Pass the Funyons.

Friday, July 15, 2011

And the Winners are...

The winners for the uber-cool journals as determined by random.org are commenters...
#5 The Braden Family, who wins A Fly Went By
#7 Dee Collins who gets the Arts and Skills of English book, and
#3 Aimee, who will receive the Cat in the Hat Dictionary
Timestamp: 2011-07-15 22:05:22 UTC

Congratulations! Message me your mailing addresses on facebook or email me at shaqne@gmail.com and your winnings will be on the way next week! 

A little secret... I have two more of these custom journals to give away but I'm saving that for later! Stay tuned. In the meantime, head on over to bookjournals.com and start shopping!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MORE Giveaway Madness!

     I have a new friend. His name is Jacob. I stumbled across his website when I Googled "cool journals" or "vintage journals," or something along those lines. And what I found were some very cool and very vintage journals. Jacob takes old books and makes them in to journals/blank books and the results are epic. Each one is hand made and has approx. 75 blank pages with pages from the original book interspersed throughout. This only ups the coolness factor.






    
     I searched the entire catalog at www.bookjournals.com because I didn't want to settle on one I liked, but  wanted to find the perfect journal. I found one he converted from a retro Sunday School book that had the year "1968" in pretty big numbers on the cover (the year I was born). The PERFECT journal!
     I emailed Jacob about how pleased I was with my purchase and he was kind enough to send me more to give away to my faithful readers and followers. Love to journal or wanting to start? What  better book to use? Need a gift? These would make great and unique presents for someone (a teacher would love the Arts and Skills of English title). Got an artistic kid? Perfect for the young artist to draw and create and design in.

  
     So I'm sharing the love. To get one of these little treasures, just comment on this post by saying which is your favorite from first to last. For example...
1. Dictionary (first favorite)
2. English
3. A Fly Went By
     Winners will be selected randomly and the first place commenter will get the journal of their choosing. Leave your comments by this Friday at noon and you will be entered for a chance to be one of three winners! And if you can't wait, hop on over to www.bookjournals.com and shop for the one that fits your personality perfectly. So many cool covers to look at. Hard to choose just one (so I bought two!).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

This is God

     I was running an errand with my 6 year old, Ella, and we took a detour to a store where they sell journals. Ella knows if we're patronizing this store that Dad's looking for a new journal so she asked if she could get one as well. Money's tight these days so I told her "Probably not." Lest you think me hypocritical about the possibility of me getting a new journal and Ella being denied, I just bought her an activity book at Barnes and Nobles not two hours earlier. As with many children, my "no" to her request was interpreted as  "You need to be more persistent, honey." So Ella responded, "But I love journals," and proceeded to pick up three or four really pretty ones that she asked if she could have. "Ella, you have journals at home that you haven't even finished yet." Again, lest you think me hypocritical, well, I was, because I have ten or twelve empty journals at home and here I was looking for another one. She found one that was marked $1.99, so I caved.
     Her new found treasure is a wish journal, prompting the owner to write down certain wishes throughout. This is Ella's first entry: "I wish for a lot of things. Today, God, I want to stay with you. I love you so much and you love me to. I love you more than ever." On the next page she drew a picture and wrote at the top "This is God." (The above picture is not Ella's depiction. Our scanner's not working. Dang).
     This is joy. She could have written a wish list filled with items from Toys R Us, but she didn't. This is parenthood, hoping and praying that your kids grow up to know God in such a way. This is humbling, since I almost prevented this moment from happening. And this is worth $1.99.
    

Friday, June 24, 2011

And the Winners are...

Hello, journal lovers, here are the winners to my journal giveaway determined by Random.org: 
Commenter #3, McLesP and
Commenter #1, Nikki D. 
Timestamp: 2011-06-25 00:56:09 UTC


McLes, you get the first choice, of either the New Yorker Dogs journal or the Elvis journal. 
McLes and Nikki, either message me your mailing addresses on facebook or send it to shaqne@gmail.com and I'll be sending you your journal goodness next week. Congrats and happy journaling.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm Just Giving Things Away Over Here!

     Hey, friends, my last giveaway was so fun to do I'm doing it again! In my ongoing attempts to proselytize and convert the whole world to journaling, I'm giving away not one but TWO brand new journals. The first is a journal from teNeues.
     This is a hard cover, lined journal with a magnetic flap cover. It's approximately 200 pages and a fun journal. The line on the cover says, "Bad dog, bad dog," she said. "We should have gotten a cat."
     The second journal features the King himself...
     Another hard back, brand new ruled journal with Elvis' autograph on the bottom right corner of each right page and includes a ribbon marker.
     To win, just leave a comment here at If This Couch Could Speak by this Friday at noon. Winners will be chosen randomly. Winner #1 will get first choice and the runner up the other journal. Once the winners are announced, message me your address on facebook or email me your address at shaqne@gmail.com. If you're not a journaler, try to win for someone who is. They make great gifts!
Thanks for stopping by, "thank you very much."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beautiful Marty

    
     Almost 21 years ago, I met a girl in college. Once we became friends, I started calling her "Beautiful Marty," because I thought she was, well, beautiful. And she was, inside and out. I called her that so much that other people started referring to her as Beautiful Marty as well. Once it stuck, I don't think I ever didn't greet her with this moniker I had bestowed on her. And, although we weren't college sweethearts, our love story was meant to be.
     We started dating after graduating. When I would be filling friends in on my love life and drop Marty's name, many of them would come back with, "Beautiful Marty?" Yes, Beautiful Marty. Just recently I read a transcript from a friend's book that's about to be published. She asked Marty if she could include a conversation they had in her upcoming release. Our friend the author mentioned in her writings that in college I referred to my future wife as "Beautiful Marty." I never knew how widespread that nickname had become, but why shouldn't it? It is a very fitting nickname.
     When Marty had her surgery in 2008, it initially changed her appearance drastically. At the time, we had been married for 11 years. I've said it before, but I have never felt more married to her than when she was in that hospital recovering. This was my wife. We had made vows to each other, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, that we would walk side by side through whatever. As I watched her endure the pain of her recovery, I felt my commitment to her come alive. It didn't matter what her appearance was. I had fallen in love with the beautiful person that she was (is) on the inside and I would be the stupidest man on the planet to ever walk away from such an incredible woman. Let's not forget that she's loved me warts and all and stuck by my side when I hadn't made it all that easy for her to do.
     We were talking in the car and I brought up her famous nickname. She thought I was just being nice to her back in college and that I meant she was beautiful on the inside (I assured her it was inside and out). She said maybe God allowed me to see her that way all those years ago knowing what we would be going through down the road. It's quite a thought, but all I know is I still think of my wife as "Beautiful Marty," because she is. It's a fact, and it ain't ever gonna change.
      
    

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Losing Bethany

     When I was still a student at Bethany College, I would go into the library and pick up a periodical or two and read them by the fireplace. One magazine I browsed through on a regular basis always had several ads for other Christian Colleges. Sometimes I would wonder what would have had happened if I had gone somewhere besides Bethany. Thinking about all the great friends I had made on campus would always put a stop to the wondering. "If I had gone to Northwest, I never would have met ______________ and I can't imagine my life without them." I know had I enrolled elsewhere, I wouldn't have known any better. I would have been oblivious to Josh and Marlon and Trent and Justin and Eric and... but since I knew them, I didn't want to think about not knowing them. And I never would have known these great friends were it not for a little college called Bethany.
     After 92 years of equipping, training, and sending people into all the world in the Name of our Lord, my alma mater is closing it's doors. I knew it might happen,  but when the official word came that Bethany would be ceasing operations, I was surprised by the emotion I felt about it. It is like a death in my family. I am mourning the loss of this great institution along with thousands of others. If you don't believe me, check out the Bethany Alumni group page on facebook. A funeral is taking place; people expressing their grief, some their anger and denial, but mostly a lot of memories and smiles are being shared. The only thing missing at this memorial service is the physical hugs and the spread. Otherwise, we've all pretty much gathered to say goodbye.
     But how? How do I say goodbye to this place that I called home for four years? That time shaped me, challenged me, stretched me, and prepared me for the real world beyond the classrooms. There's too much to say, too much to thank her for in one setting.
     My Bethany experience was redemptive for me. I hated Junior High. I was picked on and nerdy and loathed that place with every fibre of my being. High school was a little better, but I still kind of blended in, got lost in the crowd. Bethany was different. It was as if God was saying, "Let Me redeem those lousy teen years, and have a good time." And that good time started immediately my Freshmen year.
     For all the social experiences I had (including being socials director my Sr. year), the most impacting times were spent one on one with God. I loved walking down to the Redwood Bowl amphitheater and gazing up at the majestic redwood trees convinced that it was God's handiwork. I loved the little prayer room under Craig Memorial Chapel where I could sing my brains out in worship. And I loved that chapel, late in the evening when no one else was around. I would cry out to God for unsaved loved ones and ask for God's forgiveness and direction for my life. And He met me there time and again. I "built" many altars in that holy place, and I will mourn not being able to go back to revisit them.
     So, I'm losing Bethany. Yet no one can close down my memories, my friendships, the milestones, and the lasting impact that college had on my life. She was 92 when she passed, but her impact will touch generations beyond. Goodbye, ol' girl. You served us well and will be sorely missed.
  

The Bethany Ambassadors singing at Glad Tidings Temple in San Francisco, where it all began in 1919.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Big Two Wheel Deal


    There were certain milestones I was anxious about my kids reaching; potty training, losing that first tooth, being able to swim... and learning to ride a bike. About a year and a half ago, I took my eldest out for her first lesson in bike riding. It pretty much turned out as it did for the dad in the Berenstain Bears classic story, The Bike Lesson, except the child didn't learn to ride the contraption in the end. She was afraid of falling, naturally, and I went into cardiac arrest running behind her. It was an unfruitful first outing for us, yet the people lucky enough to be watching we're highly entertained, I'm sure.
     That bike sat neglected in the backyard for several months. Every once in a while I would ask Julia if she wanted to try again. Not interested. Then the anxieties began. What if my kid doesn't learn how to ride a bike? All kids eventually learn how to. It's a rite of passage. It's a kid's main form of transportation.   But what if she doesn't...? Would I be okay with that? I wasn't going to force her to ride her bike, was I? Should this be a "this is for your own good" scenario, or should I allow her to march to her own beat? I think the question I really wanted answered was am I a failure as a dad because I didn't teach my kid to ride a bike? I imagined Julia being 30 years old or so and in a casual conversation someone asks her. "You want to go on a bike ride?" and Julia replies, "I can't. My dad never taught me how." As Calvin once stated, "Egad! Bad dad!"
     In the last few days, Julia has had a renewed interest in learning how to master bike riding. We went down to the play ground, and this time, there was no middle aged man chasing behind his frustrated daughter. Instead, I encouraged her to push off the ground with her feet and get used to keeping her balance. Then I suggested she try and pedal. "Not yet," she responded. Okay. It has to be in her timing, so I kept encouraging her, saying she was getting the idea and was on her way. I did the classic parent thing, turned my back for a second, and then I heard Julia call out, "Dad!" I spun around to behold my daughter pedaling, balancing, steering, and not falling to the ground. Yes. Yes, yes, YES!! Now I have dreams of Julia giving her valedictorian speech and starting it with, "After my dad taught me to ride a bike, I knew I could conquer the world."
     Or, I dream of her growing up and having a career such as...


Friday, June 3, 2011

The Ugliest Thing Marty Gave Me

     Marty likes junk. She's always been so classy, yet she can find garbage in the street and see it as something worthy to be in our home. My mom would be so proud, and I tend to roll my eyes like my dad would. On Craig's List, she found what was advertised as "the world's ugliest desk," so ugly that it was free and the owner was willing to deliver it to get it out of his life. My wife took him up on his offer, and what one person saw as ugly, Marty saw as...


... my new home office. She set this up in the garage for me, and I must say, I think it's pretty cool. 


     Here's my boom box that I so appreciate because it's the only tape player in the house, and I have cassettes that still must be heard! And check out that lamp. I picked it as a white elephant gift during a youth Christmas party first try and instantly fell in love with it. Someone actually tried to steal it from me, but I knew their motives were sketchy so I broke the rules and took it back. Love makes you do foolish things. It is so hideous that it is beyond cool. 


This was a desk set I collected in the late 90's. Kind of forgot all about it until Marty pulled it out and set it up on my new desk. I still like it.

    
     These items are sitting on top of a very old record player, maybe from the '50's. It still runs, but the records don't sound too good. The nostalgia factor is through the roof on this one. The sun picture was made by Julia in Kindergarten. A note attached says, "Dar dad, this is speshul, made just for you." And that would be the Joker, Two Face, The Penguin and The Riddler standing guard (or scheming to swipe something, those rascals).


 Another shot of my new home office. This office idea caught on with my kids. Max initially set up his own  next to mine complete with army men, action figures and his journal. "Office Max" we named it. Then the kids started taking turns setting up shop in my mom's "little desk," (that's what it was dubbed years ago).


Julia has current possession of it right now. 


     Someday, I'll write about the big slab of wood Marty found in the gutter and prophetically called it a book shelf...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Melancholy (or Plaque Build-Up)

     I signed on to facebook. Within eight posts, three of them were about saying goodbye to someone who died recently. I hate death. I know loss too well, but it is a part of life. Add that to the possible closure of my Alma Mater and you get melancholy (plus the music I'm listening to isn't helping. Might as well be "Theme from Ice Castles"). It's been reported that if Bethany University doesn't receive a total of $500,000.00 by midnight tonight, the doors will close.  Sad. So very sad to me. I spent four years of my life there, made lifelong friends, met my bride, encountered God in unforgettable ways... But it's just a piece of property with buildings on it. Why would I get all worked up over that?
     As I mentioned, God met me in so many ways and in various places on that campus. In the Old Testament, people made altars at places where God had done something significant. I have many personal altars at Bethany. Since graduating it has been nice to be able to go back and visit them. So, that would be a loss if Bethany is no more. I would also have to give up the idea that my kids would attend there someday and have similar experiences as I did. Of course they will be on their own tracks and God has His plans for them, but it is still a nice thought.


     If the school does close, there's one thing I want. During my Sr. year, a friend of mine and I spent a Tuesday night walking around the campus and taking fun pictures in creative places. I was on senate so I had a key to the offices. We came across a plaque in the Sr. class president's desk that had the title "Seniors of the Year." Underneath the title were engraved names dating back several years of people who had been elected "Seniors of the Year." There was one blank spot left, and the last engraving was from the graduating class 2 years before ours. The tradition had obviously been dropped and the plaque tucked away, but we thought we had the perfect candidates for our graduating class. We took a piece of binder paper and wrote our names on it and the only adhesive we could find was band aids. So we "taped" our names on the last empty space, took some pictures then put it back in the drawer, all but forgetting about it.
     The following year the new Sr. class president came across the plaque with our bandaged self nominations. He assumed his predecessor just didn't get around to having the names engraved, so he took it upon himself to do so. Though our class had no idea, my friend and I were officially named "Seniors of the Year."
     I want that plaque. I have no idea where it is on campus or if it even still exists, but I want it. I want more for the school to stay open, and God can do a miracle in the next hour and forty nine minutes. But open or closed, I want that plaque. What a fun memory. And now that I've written about it, I'm not feeling so melancholy after all. God is in control.


UPDATE: They located my plaque! It's a little worse for the wear, but it still exists! It is now being held in Sacramento at the District Resource Center. I don't know what hoops I have to jump through or who's palm I have to grease, but let the jumping and the greasing begin!

Friday, May 27, 2011

And the Winner Is...

The winner of my first giveaway is commenter #3 (determined by random.org Timestamp: 2011-05-27 23:14:07 UTC). VERONICA, email me or message me on facebook your address and I'll send out your uber-cool Mr. Owl journal. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'll be giving away another journal very soon. Stay tuned, you never know what this Couch is going to say next!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moms, Dads, Please Read

     My 6 year old had a little run-in with a classmate today. The other girl wasn't treating Ella very nicely. Her offense got her sent to the office where she had to write Ella an apology note. In it, she wrote "I am rilea sarea! (really sorry)." She said some other things to make amends, but then she went on to break my heart. She stated "Ella! Quoot  Allison! uglea" (Ella, cute, Allison, ugly). I was so sad for this very pretty little girl. She is not ugly at all, but for some reason, her bad choice in how she treated Ella made her call herself ugly. Where did this precious kindergartner get the idea that she was ugly? Who sent her that defective message?
     This incident reminded me of the words of Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison: "When a kid walks into the room... does your face light up? That's what they're looking for. When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers, or if their hair was combed... You think your deep love and affection is on display because you're caring for them. It's not. When the kids see you, they see the critical face: "What's wrong now?" Then, if you let your face speak what is in your heart when they walked in the room... (I'm glad to see you). It's just as small as that."
     Sometimes I forget to live life this way. Too many days my dialogue is all about "Clean your room, stop running in the house, sit down, keep your hands to yourself, if it's not yours don't touch it, why aren't you cleaning your room, be quiet, have you done your homework, go brush your teeth, let's go, I don't have time, why is your room still not clean!" It's not that I don't encourage my kids but I want to make sure the scale tips way on the side of  love and affection.    
     I think of Ms. Morrison's words often. And when I do I make the effort to show my kids through my eyes that I love them and I'm glad to see them.  They need to get that message from me.
     I don't know much about Allison's home life. All I know is that somehow faulty thinking got through to this poor little girl. I hope she can hear from someone how valuable and beautiful she is, because she is far from ugly, but I don't think she believes that.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My First Giveaway at If This Couch Could Speak

     My friend Sue has a great blog where she frequently gives cool things away (if you're a girl, but I always try to win something for my wife). I wanted to get in the spirit of giving as well, but there's a catch...
     It is no secret that I'm an avid journaler. And I shamelessly try to impose the practice of journaling on others. The gifts for my groomsmen were a Pez dispenser, a pen, and a journal. I've handed out many journals as birthday presents, tokens of appreciation, and just because I found one that reminded me of someone and thought they would like it.
     My most recent attempt at proselytizing was this past weekend. We went to a wedding and I included a journal in the gift specifically for the groom. I encouraged him to start writing out their love/life story from day one of their marriage so their kids could read about their great romance someday. Since both of my parents have passed, I've found that a lot of history and details about our family went with them. I want to leave my legacy behind for my kids, and I encouraged this young man to do the same.
     So, my first giveaway is a journal...
     This is a brand new hardcover lined journal with Mr. Owl on the right hand bottom corner of every page. It has approx. 150 pages and is a cool retro book. For your chance to win, just leave a comment about this post on my blog and you will be entered. Winner will be chosen by random selection. All comments must be posted by Friday Noon, May 27, 2011.
     Since you're here at my blog, why don't you go ahead and follow it? Just click the "follow" tab and help me fulfill my dream of becoming a writer. Publishers want to know who your audience is, so that would be a big help to me.
     Good luck!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forget You, Mollie and Fred!

I love journals and I love retro comic book art. When the two are combined, I like very much. I'm constantly googling "Superman journal" or "Batman journal" to see what comes up. A couple months ago, I came across the following...


     I needed to calm down. I mean, I have superhero journals, but these were nearly perfect. The artwork couldn't get more vintage and there were TWO of them to drool over. There was only one problem: They were not available in the United States. The only website that had them for sale was in the U.K., Mollie and Fred dot something or such. I tried to order but their website got all snooty on me and said "We don't deliver to your kind of address." If an automated response was ever rude... 
     So I emailed Mollie and Fred. They invited me to with their "contact us" tab, so I thought it would be no time at all before I heard back. That no time turned into a long time, so I emailed them again explaining my plight. I would pay whatever postage required, so would they please let me know if they could accommodate me? Still nothing. What's up, Mollie and Fred? Your website seems legit. So I tried one last time: "Oh, Mollie and Fred, how you hurt me so. You have two journals that I've never seen anywhere else in the world that I long for so much it pains me! And yet, you do not reply to my emails. Do you hold it against a man for living in the United States and refuse to cater to his journaling needs? Will you not make an exception to ship to this sad California boy who wants to partake of the exclusive journals only you have to offer? You hold too much power over me to make me beg so shamelessly. I WANT THE BATMAN AND SUPERMAN JOURNALS!! Hear my plea. If you cannot grant my request, at least reply and say what I do not want to hear so closure can commence. Shane Couch" Still nothing. Rude. 
     A couple nights ago I was browsing on Ebay. I had a gift card and typed in the usual, and the journals Mollie and Fred were being so stingy with came up, and I hit that beautiful "buy now" button and got a confirmation that payment was received and my elusive European journals are on their way. 
     The story doesn't end there. Upon further searching, I came across this...


... incredible journal that was available for purchase from the same, NICE, European company that sold me the others. And so perfect since the Green Lantern movie comes out this summer. I conquered. I OWNED Mollie and Fred. Who needs them? So, forget you, Mollie and Fred, whoever you are. I got tiger blood in me. Winning!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You Know What I Hate About Mother's Day?

     I first felt it in May of 2008. I went in to the Hallmark store to purchase the annual cards for Mother's Day that I always had. Marty's always has to be just right. It cannot rhyme. As Hades says in Disney's "Hercules," "Oy. Verse." It cannot have too many preprinted words. The more typing on the card, the less likely it's going to express what I'm actually feeling. It cannot be cheesy, it cannot be cliche', it cannot rhyme (I already said that but I feel strongly about this)! It has to be just... right. The mother of my children deserves a well thought out and researched greeting card. I'm losing focus...
     But three years ago, I was offended. I was angered in the Hallmark store because I instinctively reached to pick out a card for my mom and I wasn't allowed. Since she had passed away the previous Fall, I was prohibited from ever buying her a Mother's Day card again. I hated that feeling. I hate that I'm not allowed to buy my mom a card this time of year. For 34 years, whether it was made in class or bought with my own money, that woman was getting a card from me. And she deserved every one of them. She absolutely should have had each of those crayon-scribbled "I love you's" and the hand -written "thank you for all you've done's."

  
      On Mom's last Mother's Day, we all gathered at my sisters house. When my family walked in the door, Ella, who was 2 at the time was a little overwhelmed by all the people watching our entrance. She hesitated  before going in, scanned the room, recognized her Nanny and proceeded to climb into her lap as naturally as breathing. I'm sure we had cards for Mom, but Ella acknowledging her Nanny in such a way without saying a word was probably the best gift my mom got that day. That's one of my favorite memories of my mom and my kids' Nanny.
     So, Mom, if I were allowed to write in a Mother's Day card to you this year, I would tell you I kept my promise when I told you before you left us that I would make sure my kids knew how much you loved them (screen going blurry for some reason right now). When I ask them, "Who do you love?" you are always on that list. They constantly say they miss you. Max even talks about "my Nanny" like he knew you even though he was so young when we had to say goodbye. And I miss you, too, Mom. There's so much I want to tell you. Wish heaven had a phone line. Happy Mother's Day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Married Superwoman

     14 years ago today, I waited with great anticipation to see my fiance' in her wedding dress walking down the aisle towards me. Part of the anticipation came from the fact that I was going to sing to her a song I wrote in the middle of the night a few months earlier for our wedding day. I had two prayers for that April 19th, that it wouldn't rain, and that I wouldn't cry when I sang to Marty. God acknowledged one of my prayers: It didn't rain. I choked, snotted and heaved through most of the song. I could hear the thoughts of the entire congregation as I bawled my way through the first verse: "Bless his heart." I cried the hardest at lines that meant the most to me. When I sang the lyrics "Can you believe here we are?" my voice went up five octaves to a pitch I've never hit before or since. Musically, it was abominable, but I couldn't believe there we finally were, at the wedding altar, pledging to spend our lives together forever. Plus, look at this beautiful woman standing before me! How did I land her??
     The second verse was about the future. "Like a shepherd, He'll lead us through whatever comes our way, just as His loving hand has led us here to this day." In 14 years, there has been a lot of "whatever." And I've found my wife to be the best partner in life I could have ever asked for. She is strong, stronger than she gives herself credit for. The fact that she pushed three human beings out of her body would be enough to prove that she is Superwoman, but she's endured so much more, like kidney stones and brain surgery, me...
     I never felt more married than when she was recovering in the hospital after a tumor was removed from inside her head. She was hurting so badly from the surgery and there was nothing I could do to take that pain away, but I knew I wasn't going anywhere, for life. She couldn't handle visitors, but she mustered up every ounce of strength she had to talk to our kids on the phone that were separated from us by hundreds of miles. Her voice was so weak, but the sound of love for our kids was so strong, and I was proud of her. I admired her as I watched her in that hospital room. Here she was facing the biggest trial in her entire life, and I had the privilege of being by her side. I felt honored to be married to this incredible woman.
     There were many obstacles for her to face once we returned home, deafness in one ear, dizziness and balance issues, paralysis in her face, ongoing pain from the incision in her head ("incision"... that's putting it lightly), and all with three little kids under her feet still needing her to be mommy. But she faced the challenges and continued to live life. And she continues to live life to the fullest, and I get to be her husband.
     Standing at that altar 14 years ago, I never could have imagined all that we would endure, but looking back, I can say the words I sang to her have been true. God led us through everything we have faced, and I can say now more than I did then, that it is truly "'til death do us part." I love my bride. Happy Anniversary, Beautiful Marty.