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 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 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 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 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 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.