It’s not what you think

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The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

Chris Cornell, 1964-2017

Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning. His band Soundgarden played a show on Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Two hours after the show ended, he was gone.

For two days, I’ve been working on a piece to pay tribute to him, and it’s been a struggle. Usually when I have a problem like this it’s because I’m staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I want to say. That’s not the problem this time. The problem is I have way too much to say.

I’m not going to sit here and claim to have been a huge fan of Soundgarden. I didn’t dislike them, I just had to take them in small doses. I was a fan of Cornell. I love “Seasons,” the solo song he had on Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles. It’s a droning acoustic song about isolation and the…

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Thank You Canucks.

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Canucks,

I want to thank each of you for the last seven months. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my coaching career to have had an opportunity to work with some phenomenal teams, and players and I’ve had a blast in many of those years. However, I can honestly say the last seven months has been the most I have had enjoyed coaching minor hockey.  It was funny, the day after we lost out, or maybe it was that night. I can’t remember. I was just sitting on the couch with my wife, watching TV. And I recall just sighing in almost disbelief, and I just muttered… I loved that team. I didn’t expect any response from anyone. I was kind of talking to myself. But, Amanda turned… looked at me, and I could see just how proud even she was of us, and she just said… I know. I could tell all year how much fun you had coaching these guys. I know you enjoyed it. This exchange may not seem like much, but for me… it meant the world, because it was the honest truth.

 

I think back to the spring when I was first asked to coach Midget AA, truthfully, I let my ego get in the way and I declined. Thought, I’ve only ever coached AAA, I can’t do AA. It’s just not for me. Boy, was I ever wrong, and I am so thankful I was called a second time and asked again to coach this team.

 

It was important to me, as it is every year to create a team of character, and good people from good families so I did as much homework prior to the season as I could. Following tryouts, I was thrilled with the group we had, and knew… this is a special group. Now, though our season has ended two weeks quicker than we hoped, I still believe that. I couldn’t be more proud of this team, and every single player. I know for a lot of guys it would’ve been really easy to just pack it in and screw around all year long because it was “Midget AA” and that’s the stigma that’s often associated with Midget AA. But, you didn’t. Not even once. You guys gave us a chance to coach you, and trusted us. Even though I’m sure there were times you thought maybe screw this, or what the hell are we doing. I know we pushed you guys hard, and never once did you guys show any inclination of quitting, though it would’ve been the easier road. You didn’t. Even those late Friday night 8:45 practices, followed by Saturday 10AM practices, you guys gave us everything, and I know that we demanded a lot from all of you.  Everything we asked of you guys, you believed in the process and you did it. From dryland, to continually giving back to the community throughout the year. These aren’t things that should be typical of Midget AA teams. At least not in my experience, but you guys have set the standard in my opinion and I believe it all comes from the deep character of this group. It was refreshing to coach a group of kids who played the game hard, and for the right reasons, for their teammates, and for the love of the game. You just don’t see that very often anymore.

 

I want to thank you guys for everything. I hope that you have been able to learn as much from Geoff, Rye and myself as I can assure we have learned from you guys. Above all else, I hope you guys had fun playing hockey, and have found your love for this great game again and continue to enjoy the game. You’ve spent a lot of time putting in work to this game, and I believe it has the opportunity to take you to great places. Whether that’s on the ice, or off the ice. I truly believe that each and every one of you has an incredibly bright future with whatever path it is you choose. I’ve seen the character, I’ve seen the work, and I’ve seen the resilience. You guys are built for success, and it will find you. As we’ve said all year long, this is a truly special group. This is a group I would go to war with anytime.

 

Lastly, parents. I want to thank you for everything you have done for our team. You guys have been incredibly supportive; it’s been fun to watch. You’ve all done such a terrific job raising these young men. You should be very proud of each of them. They truly gave it all they could this season, and they did it with no one watching except you parents, and us coaches. That is what was so enjoyable. They weren’t playing for anyone or anything other than themselves, and their love of the game. I always believe that a group of parents can help make a team successful, and can often help sink a team even faster. But, I never felt that with this group. I’m sure there were many times you guys were pissed about something, and there were times we made mistakes as coaches but you believed in us and gave us your full trust, and support and I want to sincerely thank you for that. You’ve all done more for this group than you know.

 

I will always consider this group my extended family. I know we’ve been saying this to parents, and players since day 1, and I still mean this from the bottom of my heart, this is truly just a special group. One I will always remember, and always feel very fortunate that I had this opportunity as a coach. You guys have helped me find my passion for hockey, and for coaching once again. I am forever grateful to you for that.

 

Everything we did this year… all the work we’ve put in, all the triumphs from winning the Edmonton tournament, to our fifteen game undefeated streak to the struggles, the injuries we were always overcoming, trying to find our way after the Christmas break, and ultimately our battle with the Rangers that in itself was full of elation, and despair.   It’s all been worth it.

 

It’s honestly been such pleasure, I am forever grateful for the chance to coach this group; I think I speak for Geoff, and Rye as well. Thank you all for the opportunity. It’s been one hell of a ride. Every moment. Thank you.

 

We’ll always be family. Thank you.

 

Coach

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Last Night, I had a Dream.

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We all sat down together for dinner, for what seemed like the first time in forever.

It was different this time than last though.  Brody is now in grade 12, Abbey seems to grow a foot and some each day, as does her ever-flowing curly locks.  Me, well, I’m older too than before.  Perhaps a tad wiser, and mature.  Though some would argue.  But…  I’ve, well, we all have been through a lot the last ten years, and we’ve certainly each changed since we saw you last.  No one has really stayed much the same.  Mom, well, she seems happy, finally.  It’s been a long, trying time.  But she’s smiling more, and laughing.  Maybe it’s because I’m fully moved out, and on now.  Last time we spoke I was just testing the waters of being away from home.

But you… you look exactly the same as I remember.  Have not changed, not aged, not grown in the nearly nine years as the rest of us have.  You look young, hair still dark, long, and thick as ever.  You look like the only thing you know is to laugh, smile, and be happy.  You’re refreshing.  You speak only in jokes, straight laced jokes, or hidden sarcasm.   The Courchene Sarcasm.  I sit beside you to the right at the table in this Boston Pizza and I cling to every word, and every smile you let loose.  I’m not sure if this is real or not, but it looks real, and it feels right.

I see Brody, perched up in his seat, listening in as if he were a sponge, absorbing everything about you.  He hasn’t seen you since he was about eight, or nine years old.  His memories are likely distant, and vague just because he was so young.  He’s grown so much now, and I think he’s ever so curious about you and as mom told me recently, trying to connect with you on more of an adult level now that he’s grown out of his kid shoes.  So I watch him sit across the table, study every move you make, and every word you speak, and just soak this all in.

Mom sits to the right of me, diagonally right of you.  She’s just completely overcome with joy, and happiness.  Almost so much so she’s unable to speak.  She just giggles, laughs, and shakes her head in disbelief at some of the facetious dinner conversation, or perhaps in disbelief that this is really happening.  Either way, she’s often bursting out with laughter.

Abbey sits to your left, in between you and Grandpa.  She can’t sit still, bouncing all over the place.  Similar to Brodys memories with you, Abbey’s too are likely distant, if at all existent.  Last time you saw here, she was still a baby.  It’s amazing how much she’s grown.  Perhaps she has an idea of what you’re like through pictures, books, conversations we’ve had over the years.  Perhaps not.  I never really asked, though I always wondered.  Nonetheless.  It doesn’t matter to her, it doesn’t hinder her youthful exuberance from lighting up the restaurant, though perhaps a tad wacky.  She tries to compare how long her hair is with you by leaning to the right and putting her head up against yours, this soon becomes a game, and everyone leans there head into the next person.  I’m not sure why, likely just to irritate one another, but all in good humor.   Something we always do, and still tried to do while you were away.  Though you were the master of clever, sharp and witty retorts.   We all start leaning right.  Then, just to be difficult I go the other way and lean left.  I put my head against yours, and the creator of the game is none too thrilled.  Abbey yelps “heeeyyyyy” but laughs hysterically, she begins swinging at me like some kind of a kitten playing with yarn.  She’s had enough of me screwing up this assembly line, and game of hers all together.  So she leaps across your lap almost as if she’s free falling from the sky.  Payback received.  I get a mouthful of Abbey’s hair.  Great.  Yuck.

Meanwhile, while all of this madness ensues Grandma, and Grandpa sit across the square oak table that stretches across about six feet in the bright corner of this BPs.  Grandpa with his glasses, gold watch, his always white khakis, and a blue golf shirt… You know the exact outfit.  He sits unsteady, almost like Abbey, but he’s dancing, bee-bopping around diagonally left of you.  Grandma sits tight next to him wearing a bright sweater colored with green, blue, grey and white stripes.  She’s changed her hair style a bit since you’ve seen her last – it’s a bit longer, and lighter.  She looks amazing.   She sips on her coffee, tries to get us to keep the noise down so the attention of the other restaurant patrons is directed elsewhere.  Almost as if she knew we needed to keep discreet, and hidden to make this last a little longer.

Just as Abbey gets half settled after leaping across your lap, a few people walk past our table to the washroom.  Suddenly, one boy stops and turns around towards us, he seems frozen in amazement, or disbelief.  I am unsure.

“Jen… Is that you? You’re back! Oh my God, How are you, I missed you so much!”

You simply nod, smile and get up to give this young man a hug.  Though you remain happy, you seem a bit defeated that someone else has realized you’re back.  As if you knew something else too, just like Grandma.

I remember this guy from your party when I was a kid.  He was really nice to me.  He looks exactly the same.  In fact, I think he’s wearing the same hairstyle, and outfit he did that night sixteen plus years ago.  He stands to chat with you a bit, evidently he has no idea who I am.  I don’t blame him, or get upset… I am no longer ten years old and probably a bit unrecognizable since he saw me last.  Minutes pass by, and a girl walks by our table only to stop and do the exact same thing.  This one has dark reddish-purple hair in a ponytail.  I was always fascinated with your friends.  You guys were older, and cooler that I was.  I remember being the annoying little brother at one of your parties when I was about nine, or ten.  Oddly enough, I still remember that party like it was yesterday.  The people, what they looked like, who they were.  Like Brody now, I was a sponge. I admired you, and your friends, so I studied everything hoping to one day be like you guys.  As this ponytail girl in her leather jacket began to share similar sentiments as as the boy did, I sit there like a giddy nine year old again, and you make fun of me.  I am delighted.  You exchange conversation with this girl who too looks exactly as she did years ago as I remember when I was a kid – she too has somehow not aged whatsoever.  You tell her you’re happy, and you’re doing well.  She hugs you one last time, and carries on.

Grandma talks about how much she liked that girl, and always wondered what she’d been up too over these years.  I quietly nod in agreement.  I think she was my favorite friend of yours when I was a kid.  You knew that, and liked to tease me about it.  Brody stared in amazement as if he began to understand where I was coming from.  A few more minutes pass until a different girl comes by.  This one is taller, wearing a black jacket, jeans and a hat over her blonde hair.  She’s just got tears welling in her eyes, and says

“I heard you were here”

You turn around, see her, and nearly jump to the roof in excitement.  That laugh… there it is.  The laugh I pray every day I could hear just one more time.  I hear it.  As loud, and clear as ever.  You guys squeeze one another into seemingly the hardest, and longest hug ever.  She sits down with us begins talking to everyone asking how they have been.  You ask her how she knew you were back.  She chuckled, said

“Jen… everyone knows. They are so happy you’re back, we love you, and we missed you so much.”

Mom turns to Jen, and sternly jumps in

“See, Roo, I told you, you have so many people, they love you.  Everyone does.  You are loved”

I nod in agreement and stare at you as if this is the last time I’d ever get to see your smile.  I can feel Brody glued to you as well.  Abbey is confused as ever, surely wondering who these people are that keep coming by.  The energy at the table has changed, it’s intense.  Abbey despite her confusion carries on, almost as if she too is beginning to take this all in,  and absorbing what she can about you.  She’s confused, but she’s intently and sharply listening to every sound, and word.   As this girl tells you everyone knows you are here, you again respond in only subtle sarcasm, or blatant facetiousness

“oh just great!”

Almost as if this is overwhelming for you to see all of these people suddenly.  Almost as if you didn’t believe this many people cared, or loved you.  This girl laughs, and says

“oh Jen… there’s so many more.  There’s lots.”

Suddenly, I hear a bunch of cheering, and noise coming from outside.   I turn around to look outside the window see what the commotion is.  I’m in awe, but not surprised.  I turn back around to face our table, and mumble to my mom…

“Look.”

There is a line of people that is seemingly miles long.  Thousands.  Millions.  Chanting, cheering.  The line is filed almost perfectly with a slight right bend towards the end of my visibility – there are more people, they are just lined up beyond the naked eye.

The tall blonde girl dressed in the black jacket, and jeans puts her hand on your shoulder, as if to say “I told you so” We all slowly rise from our seats at the table, and begin to turn towards the crowd.  There is this thin red carpet at our feet that trails back to the entrance about fifteen feet behind us to the right.  Weird, I don’t remember that carpet being there before, and ironically all the other guests in the restaurant have finished, and are gone.  The restaurant was bright before, but as we look through the large square gold window frame towards the people, the light intensifies significantly.  So much so, Abbey puts her hand along her eyebrows to shield herself from the beaming and glowing white light.

This girl, just stretches her hand out in the direction of the crowd, and says

“Jen…  “They love you, We all miss you, we all wanted to see you, everyone knows you’re back, and wants to say hi”

I turn over my shoulder to observe our table.  Mom has broken down into tears, though, it seems like joyful tears as if she’s realizing maybe you really are back.  Grandpa is being grandpa, giddy, and dancing though, never really take a step forward or backward in his still dance.  Grandma is intense, so I study her a little longer.  Her left arm reaches high across her stomach, while her right arm is extended above her left sipping her coffee.  She notices me studying her, and just shakes her head the tiniest bit, and gives me this… unique sharp grin that my grandma gives.  There’s your smile, and hers.  My two favorites.  As she grins my way, and appears to nod in approval yet disbelief, I start to cry.  I look to the right of Grandma at Brody, and he appears to be unable to control his happiness.  He is elated, with tears racing down his face.  I’ve never seen him this happy, not since he was kid.  He just says to me…

“Blair, I have a chance now.  I was too young before, now she’s back.  We can listen to music together, play piano, share nirvana albums, and books”

I just nod, and give him a wink in support, and mutual, shared elation.  Lastly, I gaze in Abbey’s direction.  She is standing straight as an arrow beside you.  She’s hardly left your side.  A big smile on her face, but she is in control.  She has her hand grasped tightly into yours, and her head tilted just a bit looking straight up at you.  She’s smiles hard, and I can almost see her and I sharing the same thought.  …Finally, life is right.  This is our family.  Normal.

Moments later, the intense light begins to illuminate even more, and seems focused directly on you.  You turn around to make eye contact with each of us, individually, though only for a second, it is intense and sharp.  You smile the biggest, hardest smile each time your eyes shift from each one of us to the next.  Either you nod, or give a subtle wink of your blue eyes.  Lastly, you look my way, place your right hand on my head, and give me a “nougie” like motion with your hand on my hair.  Now that you’ve completely messed up my hair…  You shift to face all of us, and softly just say with confidence

“I love you guys, it’s ok, look at me.  I’m good”

You take a step forward, finally your left hand and Abbeys let go.  I begin to heavily sob, almost in sync with everyone else.  As you’re about to take another step forward away from us, you stop for a second.  Look down towards Abbey, put your hand directly on her head.  She remains still.  As still as I have ever seen her.  You twirl her hair between your fingers gently.  You then take a knee to lean in and lock your arms around her, and give her a big kiss.  You slowly part some her hair behind her ear, and whisper,

“Abbey, my baby girl.  I love you so much.  I do.  I watch you every day.  You make me smile”

Abbey nods sharply, mutters something in response, though I can’t quite make out what she says.  You get up slowly, keeping your hand on her head, as if you don’t want to let go.  The people in the back outside, have not let up cheering for a single second.  Finally, you glance back over your shoulder, to see the people, and the strong light.  You kiss your hand and tap Abbey’s forehead.  You turn back around towards the crowd, and take a step forward, on the thin red carpet.  You’re only two steps away from us, but you seem almost gone again.  Mom grabs my hand, and Brody’s and clasps together. Grandma wraps both of her arms around Brody, and pulls him in to her side.  Grandpa is standing above Abbey with his hands on both her shoulders, he just smiles and says “It was good to see you, thank you, Roo”  Abbey is waving both her hands in your direction vehemently.  You take one more step, and pause.

One last time you look back at all of us, and reassuringly say

“Take care of each other, I love you all, It is OK, don’t cry.”

As you say “It’s Ok, don’t cry” Mom let’s go of our hands, almost in an uncanny time to symbolize it’s finally OK to just let go, and you can feel everyone taking a deep breath.

The tall, blonde girl in the black jacket and jeans with the hat steps back onto the carpet with you, and you both take a few steps forward toward the restaurant entrance.  You stop, the girl puts her hand on your shoulder and calmly says to you

“Thanks for coming Jen… now you can go on ahead, it’s OK.”

You nod in agreement, give her a long hug.  When you let go, you look our way once more, nod gently then turn back around to walk away into the cheering crowd.

 

 

Happy Anniversary!

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Today marks 1 year since the single best day of my entire damn life. Even though 365 days have past since reading our vows, and saying our “I Do’s”… I still find myself reminiscing just how perfect this day really was.  Often I catch myself giggling in almost disbelief at how perfect our day really was. I played in my mind what I thought the day would look like, how I thought it would go.  I envisioned it was going to be a great day. But, I never ever could have dreamed it was going to be as perfect as July 25, 2015 really was.

Amanda, Thank you for being my best friend, my wife, my rock. Thank you for making me laugh, and smile even when I myself can’t find the strength, you seem to find it for me. Thank you for being the glue of our little family.  Keeping us all intact, and functioning.  Without you the inmates would certainly be running the asylum.

Though we’ve been together for much longer than our one-year wedding anniversary.  I still can feel our bond growing stronger than ever.  We laugh as much as we’ve ever laughed.  We smile as much as we’ve ever smiled. We hold each other as much as we ever have.  We stay as close to each other as much as we ever have.  We have as much fun as we’v ever had.  It’s like that honeymoon phase they tell you about… it never really went away for us. The pride I feel in being able to call you my wife is truly immeasurable.   I still find myself waking up every day with an overwhelming wave of joy when I see you beside me.

Even after being together for thirteen years, and married for one.

I can honestly say I am falling more and more in love with you, each and every day.  

You said yes, I said thank you.

From that moment, twelve years ago… I knew I had found the love of my life.

Today,

I give to you my heart, and my hand forever as we continue to share this journey of life arm in arm.

I promise to love and respect you unconditionally, and to never leave your side no matter the triumphs, or tragedies that try to stop us along the way.

Your beauty, your strength, and your grace will be our navigator, and I will continue to admire your smile every single day.

Today,

I am the luckiest man in the world to call you my best friend, my anchor, and now my beautiful wife.

Happy Anniversary, I love you! 

Ohana

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Hi All,

Long time no talk… A few entries ago, I posted a short story my younger brother wrote, it was amazing.  Had lots of feedback from readers how incredible it was, and amazing a 16 year old rat wrote that, lot’s of people couldn’t wait for the next thing from Brody.  Well, I’ve been begging him ever since as he get’s my website hits up.  He claims he is working on another piece with words, but he threw a curveball at me again and sent me these pictures that he drew, and painted.  Have a look (see below).  Remarkable again.  Had no idea the kid was an artist with words, and images.  Very talented.

This blog has provided me many things in my life, it’s provided me solace, happiness and a sense of worth, and some feeling.  But, almost as importantly, it has brought me a stronger relationship with my brother, and taught me of a deeper connection.  We, of course, as brother’s will always have a tight bond, and when you start to count some of the stuff we’ve had to overcome together as brothers, and as a family, that bond is always strengthened, and will always be there.  We’re both wired very similar, and we wage our own personal wars in similar fashions, though likely unhealthy, we often think we can do it ourselves, and we’ll be fine.  Sometimes we are too reluctant to seek help, sometimes dangerously too reluctant.

It’s funny, I remember as kids, though there is a ten year difference between B & I.  I always wondered what is was we’d have in common when he grew up, and what would keep us close like most other brothers you see.  I always thought; hockey, of course.  It’s what I love, and it’s what we did growing up at home.  Mini hockey all the time in the basement, street hockey, I even helped coached one of Brodys novice teams when I was in Gr. 12.  It seemed like the natural course for us.  Connect through sports.

But, now, almost ten years later… at the surface, you wouldn’t think we have much in common, or to connect over other than being brothers.  There’s a wide age gap, Brody is far more masculine than I; he loves outdoors, and hunting.  I don’t know that I’ve ever shot a gun in my life that didn’t fire out Styrofoam darts, and I think my stomach would hurl if I even killed a squirrel.

On the flip-side, I am a hockey, and baseball freak. He’ll sit down and watch the occasional game while we visit, but I know it’s not his preferred activity.  I think for years, I always thought, well what the hell.. this kid brother and I, we got nothing in common.  I loved that he was into different things, I thought it was cool, and it opened me up to things other than a puck, and seamed ball.

But through this blog, I have learned that there is actually so much more that we connect on than a hunting rifle, or a Synergy Si Core.

For better or for worse, our depression.  We’ve both been there, and fought, had days where there seemed like no tomorrow possible.  We’ve both exhausted ourselves fighting ourselves.  We’ve both somehow lived to see another day, to smile another day, and to laugh.  Certainly, if I had a choice… neither him or I would have to live with this illness, and happiness would just come easy for us.  But, that just isn’t the “Courchene” way to do things.  However, it’s has in a unique way I think brought Brody and I much closer together.

Though it’s tough to have your deepest connection with your brother built around your mental illness, it’s brought out so many other things we’ve learned about one another, and been able to share; Art.  Music, words, and now drawings.  As much of a music nerd as I am, Brody is far more knowledgeable about it, plays an instrument, something I always regret not doing, and I am so happy he has chosen to do so.

We share the same passion for music, and what it means to us.  It’s not just a string of words matched to a guitar, it’s not just the bass pounding, or some song about going fishing in your big truck. It’s something far more thorough.

We’ve passed books along to each other of Kurt Cobain, and we have some similar art hung up in our homes/rooms.  Then, you throw the middle brother into it; Kyle and it’s the same thing.  We all have a little Kurt Cobain imagery somewhere in our home spaces.  I think of course… we all love Nirvana, who doesn’t? But, for us it’s more than that…  I remember talking to my therapist about this years ago, that I was freaking myself out with my fascination for Kurt Cobain.  I read tonnes of books about him, had pictures, read online for hours, and went to Seattle basically for a Kurt Cobain tour.  Hung around in Viretta Park for a bit, went to the EMP Museum and took 3,000 pictures.  Amanda had to literally drag me out of the Nirvana exhibit.  When discussing this with my therapist, she said it’s likely Kurt Cobain means more to me than just music,  I am further entwined because it connects me to my sister, because she was a huge Nirvana fan, and that it’s something Jen & I always shared, and can still share.  This made total sense to me, and I think it’s the same thing for Brody, and maybe for Kyle too.  I remember my Dad talking to me about Brody being overly fascinated with KC for awhile too and it freaked him out as well, and I explained to my dad just this, and I think it made sense to him as well.  It’s more than just Nirvana, It’s more than just Kurt Cobain and where he’s from and how he grew up… but, it’s our sister too, and somehow in this weird way that I can’t expect anyone else to understand… but it brings all together.

Beyond the passion we share for music, is writing.  I remember about two years ago, my mom texting me this hilarious story of something Brody said or wrote, something about a house cleaner, I think it was.  I wish I still had this little story she told me, but it was incredibly funny, and clever.  I remember thinking at the time… Man, I hope that kid starts writing.  He’ll be incredible.  Then fast forward to just a few months ago, mom text me “You have to read this story Brody wrote, I emailed it” …  You’ve all read this by now, I am sure, and had that same reaction as me.  Wow.

So while, I spent the first ten years of my younger brother’s life wondering what the hell am I gonna share with this kid, and then forcing hockey down his throat, and longing for us to connect over some stupid sport that I question if I even love anymore… It was all right there in front of me, every day.

We don’t have the relationship most brothers have. It’s hard to say we grew up together, I moved away when Brody was eight years old.  I’ve been home for a summer since, and some weekends.  So things, naturally become a little bit different in our relationship with one another.  Though, we only live four hours away from one another..  we still only manage to see each other a handful of times a year, this is sad when I actually think about it, and write it out, but it’s the truth.  I’d love to spend more time with him, but the same could be said my Kyle, and really, all of my family.  I really would.  But again… just that crazed “Courchene” way.  Together though, Brody and I have been through more shit together than one can imagine is fair for anyone’s lifetime, let alone a pair of brothers 27 & 16.  But, somehow it’s all helped form this unique relationship we have, that I truly believe is as strong as any despite the distance in age, and despite the distances we live.

Though it’s tragedy and darkness.  It’s kept the four of us together. Through the places we’ve come from.  Through where we are today, and how we got there.  Through the music we listen to, and share to connect and feel closer to those we’ve lost.  The war we face every day with ourselves.  Through the words, and images we compose just to try and heal ourselves.

It may be pretty, and it certainly isn’t glorious, or ideal… but it’s brought us here, in a unique, weird, “Courchene” way… it’s kept us all forever entwined.

 

Ohana means family.  Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten. 

Ohana.


Take a look at these drawings and paintings Brody put together.

Killer Whale Tank… Grace, Too

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As I sit here, watching “That Night in Toronto”; from the “Hipeponymous” limited edition box collection. I find myself stuck somewhere in the middle of something more.

Though the origins of how I claimed this four-set DVD already makes it a prized possession of mine. Today… it become even more valued, and prized.

When my sister passed away, there were no silver linings to be had, or found. None.   I always admired my sister’s taste in art, and in music. So I tried to mimic her interests as much as I could, with than came my love for certain musicians, and artists. Matthew Good, Tragically Hip, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Tool…etc. I first listened to these bands, because Jen listened to them. I think my mom, though she listened to the same stuff, she was aware that I was too picking up on the same things. I can remember when she was cleaning out Jens room…

 As an aside… Damnit, God bless that woman for having the strength to clean out the left behind remains of your own daughters room. I can’t even fathom. I can’t. The few times I’ve seen the doorway to her room since she’s left… it’s incredibly difficult. I won’t even try to find words to articulate what this is really like. I used to go in there and ask her about the pictures she had, what book she was reading, what albums she was into… Now… It just kind of… sit’s there. Door half closed. Stickers removed. What once lived? It’s hard. I think that’s why my mother is without a doubt, one of the single strongest people on the planet, and so admirable.

Anyway… I can half recall finding this black book like thing shortly after Jen’s passing. I pulled it out to see what it was. Almost looking like a bible, graceful, elegant cover. Gold images of doves, and inbetween it read “The Tragically Hip”. Opening this book, I see the contents of four DVDs – “Hipeponymous”.   I knew just where it came from. I wanted this.

“Mom… Can…. I umm… have this?”

“Yes, just please take care of it. That was Jens”

I can remember this as one of the single best days of my life following the passing of my big sister. I still, to this day can smell the cover of this book, and it brings back the scent of my sister. So, to this day… I have taken care of this item more than I have ever cared for anything in my life. Between this boxset, and an old hoodie of Jens, I keep in a separate closet, hung up by itself. It’s some of the few items I have that I can still almost smell her. Maybe that sounds weird, I don’t know. But, when you lose someone… as time goes, all you want is to hear their laugh, their voice, and to remember that smell that every person has. Well, this boxset somehow can still give me a little bit of that. As a result, it remains… a prized, sacred possession.

So… As I sit here now tonight, 11:20pm on a weekday… I look beyond the screen of this computer, and I see one of the most incredible musicians perform…. “Quickly… follow the unknown!”

My heart broke this morning when I read the news about Gord Downie. I don’t even know the man, but I swear… I felt like I had lost someone who was by my side. I have spent hours, by myself, with friends belting out the lyrics to “Little Bones” and many other classics. So many songs bring me back to a better day when my Mom, Jen and I would cruise down the highway to Victoria. Listening to “The Hip”. Or, when my mom would drive me across NE Alberta for hockey, blasting “The Hip” out of the explorer.

I grew up… with Gord and “The Hip”. As close as I feel to Matthew Good and his music, which has been well documented, Gord Downie and the Hip are a right there.  I think, and I hope that I do speak for millions of Canadians when I speak of The Hip having such a positive impact on my childhood, and my life today.

I can hardly imagine a life without the Tragically Hip, and I can hardly imagine a life without Gord Downie. This has been a horrific year for musicians, and the loss of all of them have hit me differently, but… this one… for me is different. Almost personal. My heart broke today. Fully Completely.   Broke.

I know upstairs… Jen is just putting together a concert for the ages. It’s the only thing that’s providing me solace through the seemingly bi-weekly news of another terrific musician lost. And, while… Gord is still with us today…

I just… I hope I can see him one more time before she does…

All the best to Mr. Downie and his family.

… Also… anyone that reads this… I have a few Hip Live DVDs.  I’d love to just flop over on the couch with a 6pack and watch if you want to join.  Anytime.

B

 

…AND THEIR VOICES RANG, WITH THAT ARYAN TWANG

Happy St. Patricks Day

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Hi Everyone,

Amanda has taken over my blog for the day, and has asked me to post the following piece she wrote.  She is one of the bravest, strongest and most courageous people I have ever met in my life, and I can not express in words just how lucky I am that I get to call her my wife, every day.  Thank you Amanda, for being you, for being so strong, and being here today!  We love you.  – B, Ku, Pu, Bubba, Roo

Please take a few minutes to read her post while enjoying your green beer.

Spoken – Short Story by Brody Lystang

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Below is a short story written by my younger brother.  Whom, after you read this will be astonished he’s only…  16 years old.  I read this last night, and it took me about an hour to get through it.  I had to stop myself every paragraph it seemed, and remind myself A) This was written by a 16 YO kid. B) This was written by my brother.

This is utterly amazing, and I can honestly say one of the best short stories I have ever read.  Have yourself a read.

Brody…  Great job on this.  I still can not find words to justify how incredibly good this is, and how proud I am of you.  I think you have found your calling.  Keep writing so I can retire in a few years! #HankMoody

SPOKEN
Written By: Brody Lystang  

                        Dry Hands cradled Jeremy’s head as he leaned forward in his chair, Streaks of red and thoughts of angst swarmed his mind only to be interrupted by the sound of a friendly yet unwelcome “hey!” Jeremy’s hands lowered to reveal a face of constant indifference as his eyes adjusted to the rays of light that pounded the carnival grounds his surroundings were revealed to him. He sat in a poorly built shack that housed the carnival game he was in charge of, across the front of the building hung a sign that read “2 in wins” this was accompanied by similarly decorated banners graced with the same slogan hung around the inside of the structure. Behind him lay a row of baskets and stuffed toys, all of which was covered by a even coat of dust. Jeremy slowly rose from his chair, stretched and stepped forward revealing the words “angry chair” carved onto his former seat “If ross catches you snoozing he will have your ass you know” Jeremy faked a smirk and wandered towards his dark haired friend “And if he catches you out of your stall he will have yours ” Him a Ron shared a laugh. “Pretty packed today huh?” Ron stated, Jeremy peered out of his shack and and nodded while examining the grounds, Carnival rides and and tents stared back at him along with the thousand or so attendees that accompanied them. The song “If 6 was 9” by Jimi Hendrix blared over the loudspeakers Jeremy smiled.

Jeremy sauntered home from work reflecting on the day’s events until he stood at the foot of the house that was his mother’s. he peered over to the driveway of the one floor building acknowledging the fact that his mother’s boyfriend had yet to arrive, he still had time. Quickly entering the home he was greeted by the aroma of alcohol and the sight of  his mother lying on the couch asleep he Shifted towards his room. The door was a somber grey and as he pushed it open the inner contents flooded into sight, paintings and drawings covered the room apart from a closet and a small dresser with medication bottles sprawled atop. The pictures consisted of hastefully drawn images of mountaintops dawning a lone man atop of them with human like figures lining the base of the mountain below. The one exception to this trend was a picture that dawned the resemblance of a women, blonde hair flowed towards the edges of the paper she donned a judgmental face with noticeably alive eyes that seemingly pierced the conscious. Jeremy glared back at her and his face of indifference changed to that of Longing and despair, he feared the oncoming day. His focus changed to a record player that lay beside his bed, vinyls stood stacked beside it. He walked over reaching for the first one, Large bold letters spelling the phrase “The Who” reached back at him, he slipped the record out of its sleeve and set it into the machine the song “Acid Queen” greeted him. He shuffled over to his dresser and searched throughout his medication, he raised a bottle labeled “Anti DeathPressants” and opened its cap. Removing its contents he placed a small purple tablet onto his tongue and proceeded to lay on his bed, closing his eyes he slipped into the void. Streaks of colors leaked into his mind and the once black vision became a flurry of colors, Images shot throughout his mind all adorning hues of blue and green. A distorted yet calming filter washed his mind clean and for the first time in the day jeremy was calm, he relaxed his body and fell further into his mind. A scene of people screaming as a red substance flew towards them played out in front of him until the the echo of a slammed door pulled Jeremy from his dream. Disgruntled Jeremy rolled to the side of his bed quickly raising the needle from the record. Rae was home, and Jeremy did not wish to draw attention to himself, slowly but surely the sounds that adorned Jeremy’s ears every night began to play out. What started with hushed aggravated voices turned into that of loud violent screams accompanied by the sound of objects being thrown and glass being smashed. Hate spewed from the two voices until the sound of skin slapping against skin silenced them both. Jeremy’s eyes wandered towards the raw skin adorning a purple bruise on his arm. Weeping could be heard and the male voice began to overpower the competition, the beating continued until a abruptly shut door gave way to silence. Jeremy rolled over and closed his eyes however this time there was no void to escape too.

Jeremy sat in his shack in anticipation listening to the loudspeaker at the carnival grounds, the song “I want you” by the beatles echoed aloud. The weather at Coney Island had cooled and the number of attendees dwindled. A figure approached jeremy’s stall, as she stepped closer jeremy could make out the blonde hair that he regularly admired. Arriving at the stall she stared at jeremy, she wore a familiar judgmental face along with alive eyes. Jeremy smiled and stood up to greet her for the last time “I leave soon” she said in a low tone “I know” Jeremy replied. They walked throughout the grounds and conversed on there dreams and aspirations, they spoke of her new home and the amount of pain they would suffer without each other, they spoke of their love and what they meant to each other, they joked about marriage and played out “what if” scenarios that most certainly would never occur. They did this until the sun set over the carnival grounds and Jeremy muttered the last words he would ever speak to the girl he loved, “Goodbye Sarah” and with those parting words she was gone.

Jeremy wandered into his house in disarray his mother sat at the dinner table with a bottle of whiskey propped beside her. At the sight of this Jeremy’s mind finally gave way, he strayed from his usually path towards his room and approached his mother. “Thats enough” he exclaimed reaching for the bottle, his mother put out a hand and gripped the bottle before Jeremy could. Jeremy pulled the bottle away from, her silence followed. His mother turned to face  the now heavily breathing Jeremy. dead eyes stared at Jeremy and as his own eyes widened, he recalled a similar look he had seen upon another’s face before. She raised her hand and struck him.

Alone in his room Jeremy sat upon his bed with his head in his hands, Tears soaked the bed sheets. The song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie blared from his record player, He brooded and pondered his situation for hours. The pictures once covering his room now all lay crumpled and ruined on the floor aside from the portrait of Sarah which was now missing from its spot, his pill bottles lay scattered and empty throughout the room. Jeremy raised his head and now like his mother dawned dead eyes. He walked over to his dresser and pulled an envelope from his top drawer along with a small circular object, He then took a deep breath and reached for his bottom drawer.

Jeremy arrived to the carnival grounds late the next day, he was greeted by Ron “Hey man where have you been?” Jeremy ignored his question “Hey can you do me a favor and mail this envelope for me, i’m not gonna be around after” Ron smirked and nodded “No problem man” Jeremy smiled and began to walk to his stall, he noticed that the loudspeakers were not playing any music. As he entered the shack a group of people arrived eagre to play, Jeremy set a black backpack he had brought with down at the back of the building and inspected its contents. “Hey! can we play?” a voice behind him asked, Jeremy ignored it “Hey! Kid!” Jeremy closed his eyes and replied “Yep just let me finish up” He pulled the gun from his bag and turned around placing it in his mouth, dead eyes stared at him, he pulled the trigger.

Sarahs mom entered her room, “A envelop came for you.” she said whilst handing it to her. Sarah tore open the parcel and emptied it onto her desk, a small golden ring fell out along with a large folded sheet of paper, Sarah lifted the sheet and unfolded it, alive blue eyes stared back at her.

#FREEJOHNSCOTT

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Ok. Rant Time… #JohnScott, #NHLAllStarGame.

First off, I must admit I have distanced myself from much of the All Star Game as a whole, and the John Scott disaster.  I think the game itself is a dollar driven waste of time put forth by Bettman & Co. It’s a long, grueling season. Guys have families they spend a lot of time away from. I’d sooner see the NHL just give the guys a week off of work. Monday – Friday. Though, as much as this may benefit the players, and their lives. It doesn’t benefit the bottom line.

If you’re going to have an All Star Game, have an All Star Game. Sure, let the fans vote. Let them vote on the jerseys, or give them a range of players to vote from. Don’t let them just vote for anyone. I thought we would have learned this lesson with Rory Fitzpatrick. If not then, I thought we would have learned from our peers mistakes in the MLB when nearly the entire KC Royals roster was the AL All Star Team. As much as we want to include the fans, and push for engagement, input and opinion… Fact is, the people voting this often are people sitting behind their keyboards with nothing better to do. I’d argue how much we should really invest in said fan.

As we know, there are three parties in this soap opera. John Scott. The Fans, and the NHL. I believe truly, all three have seriously dropped the ball, taking us to where we are. I want to feel bad for John Scott and his wife – pregnant with twins. I really do. But… I just can’t. The ounce of sympathy I have is derived from that he never should have been put in this awkward spot in the first place. If not for the mindless keyboard jockies clicking “Vote John Scott” continuously as they watch oil prices drop to a cent more than the can of dud beer in their hand, we wouldn’t be having this discussion anyway. However, John Scott should have bowed out of this thing many moons ago. And, if he choose to ride it out, he should have got off the horse at least when the rosters were released and he looked across his very own dressing room to see that he was going to the supposed All Star Game instead of his teammates… Domi, Duclair, Boedker, Hanzal, Doan, Rieder, and or Ekman Larsson. That should have been enough to say, ya ok…maybe I don’t deserve this as much as some other guys. Whether they want to be apart of it or not.

But… John Scott choose to go along with the whole thing, despite hush requests from team, and the league to quietly bow out of it. Then… John Scott get’s demoted to the AHL, then traded to MTL, then demoted to the AHL again.  In what some people saw as a way to bury him, and remove him from this mess if he won’t remove himself. This is where I couldn’t disagree more. Let’s take a look at Mr. Scott’s contributions to the Yotes…

1. John Scott has played 11 games. Coyotes have played 44. Ok. So he’s dressed in a quarter of his teams games.

2. John Scott has 1 assist in his 11 games. In those 11 games, the Coyotes have won 5, lost 6. This a team that is 22-17-5.

3. In Scott’s 11 games… They have managed to score 32 goals. Scott’s managed to get the puck to goal scorer once. Oh, and it was against the Oilers. Actually it was a great play by Scott. He nearly toe picked when he picked up the puck perfectly laid out by Chipchura. I think he was stunned that all the Oiler backcheckers just flew right by him, either that or he got dizzy.  Scott then shoveled one into Nilssons chest, and I mean literally shoveled it. If you can imagine the motion of shoveling snow off your driveway and flipping it into the snowbank, that’s what he did with the puck.  Honestly.. Nilsson for some reason proved doubt to the old mantra “every goalie has a good chest” and left out a brutal rebound. Goal. Assist to Scott.

4. He averages 6 minutes a game, in his 11 games played. 6 minutes… Without looking, I can imagine that none of those minutes are against any line other than the fourth, and half of that time he spends running around trying to hurt, hit or fight someone. He sure isn’t out there for any defensive, or offensive advantage.

5. Oh, in those 11 games… He has 6 shots on net, 3 blocked shots. Only in 3 games has he even thrown 3 or more hits. Only in 1 game has he thrown more than 3 hits. Against the gigantic Oilers. In fact… in 6 of the 11, over half his games.. has he thrown a single hit or less. On a team that averages 21.6 hits a game.

Oh.. and if you tell me he is only there to protect the stars, and fight… he has fought once this year.

The most useful thing John Scott ever did for the Coyotes was be part of a trade that fetched the return of Jarred Tinordi.

It’s incredibly clear that #JohnScott belongs… well, nowhere near anything remotely All Star related. It’s even more clear to see he likely doesn’t belong even in the NHL anymore.  Collecting a paycheck 1,000% more than most of ours.  Years ago when there was a need for a enforcer only type player, sure… but those days are gone. He has contributed absolutely zero to this Coyotes team. So while we are all appalled, and sympathetic towards Scott that he’s been “buried” from the All Star Game, and his NHL career may be over… I think we should be more appalled that this game not only is, or was taking someone’s all star spot away… More than that, he’s been taking a spot on an NHL roster from someone who is far more deserving than he is. To me, that’s the injustice, and that’s the crime here. I don’t even think the guy belongs in the AHL to be honest with you. So yes… #FreeJohnScott.  Please.

Now while, I agree with you the NHL botched this whole thing, and it’s probably humiliating for Scott and his family… He brought this on himself long after those boneheaded fans kept clicking vote when he then refused to say, thanks but no thanks and bow out.  I have heard He’s got twins on the way, that’s great. Very happy for him, I am sure he’s an excellent man, and an excellent father. However, I fail to see how this relates to his sudden omission from the ASG, and make’s it any more tragic.  Wouldn’t his time be better spent at home with his family? Perhaps now he can do that… Or, take the opportunity for a free holiday in Nashville the NHL has offered. Can’t imagine how many people, especially in these times would welcome a paid for vacation for their family in Nashville.

Mr. Scott… You took the job as a NHL player, and Mr. Scott you’ve been taking that job from someone far more deserving for far too long, and reaping the rewards. So I am sorry when I say you are now perhaps where you belong, and I feel very little sympathy to you. I wish you and your family the best, and hope that all goes well with your coming twins, but it’s the NHL, and you don’t belong.

Mr. Bettman & Co… It’s maybe time to clean this ASG crap up?

#NHL #AllStarGame #FreeJohnScott

All The Way From …”The Bright End of Nowhere”

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Hey, Mr. Chips,

As I sit there, In the midst of my umpteenth Matthew Good concert my mind begins to run as fast as my legs, and hands were jamming to the songs. Flooded with thoughts. Trying my hardest to keep my shit together in the middle of a rock show at a damn casino. …I couldn’t.

I began to think about Jen, and what Matt Good meant to her, his songs, his lyrics, his messages, and his fight. What it means, and has meant for me. My mom, brother, and soon enough… Jen’s daughter, Abbey.

I then think back to when I used to write somewhere between occasionally and frequently on my blog. About my grieving, my loss, and just my everyday fight to find another tomorrow.

THEN… I think about that night when I just about closed my eyes and let go on that highway years ago. Someone saved me. I went home that night, and finally found the bravery, and the strength to write about this very journey. Thinking that one day, maybe this would bring me joy, and hopefully in the process provide others with at least the smallest ounce of courage.

THEN… I just stopped… I stopped thinking at the show, and I realized I’ve just stopped writing all together almost. Why. It’s done so much for me. Tears began to well down my eyes even more, so I shut my eyes and swayed my head to “Advertising on Police Cars” and I swear for a moment, only Jen and I were at that show. She held my hand, and said… “Blair, Write..” I swear, I could hear her say those two words, and then boom, heavy guitar, and light show on the stage. Rock show was back on.

As the show progressed, I was, in a weird way forced to continue thinking a million thoughts, to allow myself to keep it together.   But, I then thought to myself… Really, why have I not been writing this year? It used to bring me so much joy, and so much strength, and others.

But, THEN, I dug at myself a bit more, and perhaps found the reason. Selfishly… I don’t feel that I have to in order to survive anymore. When I first began writing, I didn’t know if anyone was ever going to read anything, but I ultimately had to write to save myself. There were no other options.

I thought, maybe one day I will find solace, and content.

I have finally found just that. I can’t pinpoint the exact date, or time, or what it was that finally allowed me for the first time in possibly forever, to feel… Good, I felt content, and I felt good about myself. I began to not fear tomorrow. I can, and will say I do believe there was three particular events that occurred this year that I think really helped me get to “contentment”

 

  1. Professional Life. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know I hold myself to an absolutely unbelievably unrealistic standard, and am rarely, if ever satisfied with myself. I struggle with failure, and struggle with needing more. For the first time ever, I am perfectly happy, and succeeding in my professional life, and those feelings have slowly eroded, and gone away. It was 11:11 a couple months ago, and I couldn’t even think of wish. Then, I kind of chuckled, thought… Everything is ok right now. I have what I need.

 

  1. You may laugh, and it seems silly… perhaps it is a bit. But, I’ve always loved cats. Grew up with them. My whole family is full of cat people. Amanda, not so much. I’ve begged her, and begged our entire relationship to one day get a cat. Finally, I just gave up. Was convinced I would never have one. Then one day, she drove me out to the boonies and surprised me with a litter of Maine Coon kittens, allowing me to choose my very own cat dude. I couldn’t believe it. In that very moment, I don’t know if I have ever felt that much joy, and excitement. I could not contain myself. To this day, Kukui continues to provide endless amounts of entertainment, and joy to our family. Amanda included, who is absolutely in love with kitten. As much joy as this massive fuzzrat has brought me, I can say he’s done the same for our dog; Kona as well.

 

  1. July 25, 2015, and every day after. I got to finally call the girl of my dreams; my wife. I knew the day I asked Amanda out I wanted her to be my wife. Lofty goals for a grade 9 student, but I knew. We’ve been through hell, and back together a few times, so to finally marry Amanda, was simply a dream come true. Every day since, I put my ring on in the morning and I just feel like a different person.   I am beyond confident in myself; I am suddenly comfortable with myself, and for the first time ever… I feel proud of myself, and feel accomplished. Something that I have forever longed for.

 

These three events I believe have allowed me to find happiness and joy in my life every day. Sure, I still have shitty days… I think everyone does. But, now, just knowing you’re ok, can go such a long way when you’re having those shitty days. I never used to have that to help me get through times when I was down. I didn’t have many options on how to get myself out of ruts. I was trying to learn some different things. So I would write, and it almost always was able to pull me temporarily out of where I was. Then, I’d receive so many notes, messages, and constant feedback from friends, family and people I don’t even know about how much I was helping them, and I was able to feel for a moment, a small sense of pride. Though, it never lasted. But, it was all part of the process I think of getting to where I am today.

When I would write to save myself, as you know it was a tremendous process for me. It was emotionally, and mentally exhausting. So I would often times have to work myself up for it. I would race home knowing I needed to get to my computer, and write. Be it at 6pm after work, or at 10:30pm after something else. I ‘d stay up as late as I needed to till I could finally take a deep breath, go on with half a smile, and go to sleep not fearing tomorrow might be the same dreadful day. I would look forward to connecting with people who had read my post. But, there aren’t days where I race home to write, or go to bed longing to see the comments on social media in the morning. Or, since I felt better, selfishly, again… I was good with just that, and no more. There aren’t nights I come home anymore, and feel like I am two feet tall, and to get back to height, I need to light up the incense and type.  Now, I am able to come home to my wife, and my two boys and I feel like everything is going to be fine, no matter how shitty the day may have gone. I just feel stronger, and they always light me up with smiles, and laughter.

Another reason… This may seem weird; especially for those who know me really well, but if I am not within my circle of comfort, and friends… I am very quiet, and humble. I’ve been referred to as a sponge in these circumstances, quiet and absorbing.   I don’t usually like to take much credit for things, I don’t like much to talk about my successes, if any, and I don’t care to make myself feel superior to others, or boast about perhaps having more, or something someone doesn’t. Like… happiness. I know how hard that can be when you’re struggling, and people kick you when you’re down, even if they don’t mean to. I’ve been there. I do not want to humiliate anyone, and I don’t want to toot my own horn, and brag that I have finally found some piece of joy.

So as much bravery, and strength as it took for me to start this blog a few years ago, after almost letting go.   I’ve seemingly come 180, and now am learning to find the bravery, and the strength to write about my life now that I am holding on, and things are okay. It’s a different take on things, but it’s amazing how when I felt so desperate, lost, and out of control. I created GoneAwayBoys to talk about how I felt just that, but now that I feel in control, and happy… I don’t want to talk about it all. I want to just go about my business. Quietly.

It’s a different bravery I feel I have to find now, but for whatever reason it almost seems harder now. I was out of options when this blog started. I had nothing left. I almost let go. Now, I just… feel like I have so much.

As long, painful and strenuous as this journey from complete depression to happiness has been, being able to finally say that I am okay has not been easy. As I’ve mentioned I believe there were three big events this year that allowed me to write this, but more than that it’s been all of the little things along the way. I have worked so hard on getting myself better, and have been so cognizant of it. I can honestly say though, as much as this blog has saved my life… without the comments, the messages, and the feedback that I have received from friends, and strangers I certainly would not be able to write to you today. Everyone that has even done so much as liked a post I wrote, you’ve made a difference in my life. You really have. You have helped get me here today.

Even a year ago… I could never imagine saying some of the things I have said in this entry, and I certainly never believed this one as much as I do now, and that I will leave with you.

… It does get better.