The Eyebrow Incident

The wheels started to come off right away this morning when I moved a little slower than normal while getting ready. A little delay here, a little delay there and I found myself in a time crunch. And that’s never a good thing.

But, I figured I’d be OK. That I’d make up for lost time by moving a little more quickly than usual. And that’s when the wheels came off entirely.

See, here’s what happened: I was shaving. Quickly. And as I stood there in the bathroom, whipping the razor over my face in manic, almost jack-the-ripper-like fashion, I happened to catch a glance of something curious in the mirror. I brought the blade to a standstill, leaned in and, sure enough, there it was: a long, wispy hair shooting out of my eyebrow at a crazy angle. Hmmmm. Getting older seems to produce more and more of these.

Anyway, normally, I would have attempted a more precise method for removing the offending hair. Possibly a tweezers, maybe a scissors. You know, an implement with a little precision. Something with accuracy.

But, I was in a hurry. And hurry is the enemy of precision. And common sense. And a lot of other things. And so I looked at the razor in my hand, looked back at the eyebrow hair just standing there, taunting me, and I made a snap decision:  “Why don’t I just use this razor to mow down that one non-conformist hair? It’ll be quick and easy….”

And so I did it. And it worked remarkably well. I took that hair off at the base–right where it met the skin. A clean, precise cut. And then I looked in the mirror and realized that there was a white patch just a little smaller than a dime in the center of my eyebrow.

Shaving cream?

I looked closer and saw no shaving cream. Just a lot of skin. Pale skin peeking out around a dark ring of remaining hair, making my eyebrow look the head of a medieval monk.


The above is a recreation of the actual event. The results have been exaggerated in order to better reflect my humiliation….

I looked down at the counter and there it was: the rest of my eyebrow. It was scattered everywhere. Hairs here, hairs there.

Now, I have to be honest, my first reaction when I saw this was to carefully brush the counter with my (now shaking) hands and scoop the remnants up. And as I stood there, staring at all those hairs in my cupped hands, I began to wonder whether or not I could glue them back in place somehow. I’m not lying. My first thought was a reattachment procedure of some sort. But then sad, brutal, terrifying reality set in: you can’t glue your eyebrow back on.

And so I let the hairs fall back to the counter and I turned back to the mirror. Surely, it wasn’t as bad as I feared?  I leaned in, examined it closely, and discovered that yes, it was truly as bad as I’d feared. Possibly worse.

With only minutes before I had to march out the door, heading to work to deal with all the ridicule I was bound to receive, I started trying to get creative. Sure, the gluing it back on idea was dumb, but maybe I could just comb over the remaining hairs? It works for bald men, right?

I tried that for a minute, brushing and brushing, but the hairs were stiff and stubborn and refused to fan out to cover the bald spot. I thought about washing them and conditioning them to make them a little more manageable, but I discarded that as another dumb idea.

With my nose pressed nearly to the mirror, I stared at my eyebrow. Time travel would be awesome. But not possible. Yet. What else? Time was ticking. I needed answers. What to do?

As I stood there, staring, a seemingly reasonable voice filled my head: “I bet if you just removed that section over there, things would even out?”

I looked at the spot to which the voice had referred. Maybe he had a point. It could work. So, without thinking, I picked up the razor and went back to work on what was left of my eyebrow. Yes. I’m serious. I was in a fight or flight mentality and I needed solutions. Thinking things through never solves any actual problems, right? I needed action!

Well, it only took a couple more swipes to realize that now I’d removed another section of eyebrow further down. I think I heard that voice in my head chuckle a little.

Things were getting worse quickly. I set the razor down and looked back. And even now, in the midst of the situation, that same voice whispered enticingly: “you know, if you’d just hack off that other side, I think it would all balance everything out nicely . . . .”

I had the blade halfway to my face when a new voice sounded from the other part of my brain–the non-insane part.  This voice told me, in an authoritative tone, to put the razor down and step away from the mirror. I instantly listened because that part of me sounded like he knew what he was talking about. His tone was no-nonsense and I was honestly relieved. Finally. Someone was here to take charge of the situation. Someone was here to help.

“So,” I said to the sane side of my brain. “What do we do?”

“Let me think for a minute,” he said, strumming my fingers on the counter before snapping them in a gesture of inspiration. “Makeup! It solves every problem.”

And so I yanked open the makeup drawer and started digging through all these strange bottles and powders I didn’t understand. Finally my eyes fell upon an eyeliner pencil.

With shaky hands I colored over the pale bald spots where my eyebrow used to be and assessed my work in the mirror. Passable. As long as I kept my head turned slightly to the side while talking to people, I figured I’d get by until the hair grows back.

So, feeling somewhat relieved, I walked out, got dressed, and then found my wife in the kitchen. I relayed the story to her and then leaned in for a quick inspection. I figured I’d let her look me over to make sure I was alright.

So she leaned in and I stood there. Her eyes flicked from eyebrow to eyebrow before finally settling on one. I watched her fight against a smile that tugged at the corner of her lips and then, finally, she gave up and burst into laughter, shaking her head.

“Well, people may not notice, but you sure did a number on your eyebrow, that’s for sure!” She laughed, her eyes still focused on the eyebrow she found so hilarious.

I just stared at her. Watching the tears well up in her eyes as the laughter poured out of her mouth. Finally, I cleared my throat: “That’s the eyebrow I didn’t even touch.” I turned and walked briskly away to the soundtrack of my entire family cackling in a very immature manner.

And so, I sit here today, writing this post. I’ve got one eyebrow that I’ve nearly shaved off and another eyebrow that is apparently so naturally malformed as to be utterly hilarious when submitted to close examination. I’m sure the story will live on in in the family and will likely be used at my funeral someday.

At any rate, the scariest thing is that every time I step into the bathroom here at work, I stop by the mirror and give my eyebrows a once over. And every time I do, that same voice–the insane one–fills my head: “You know, if you would just razor off a little bit over here and a little bit over there, I think you’d have them both looking really, really good.”

I’m trying not to listen to him. But he can be very convincing when he wants to be….

Basketball and Decorating

caleb2Not too long ago, we purchased a portable basketball hoop for the kids. We figured we’d all have fun shooting hoops and doing all that “basketball stuff” in our driveway. I assumed it would be a great bonding time, would provide some excercise, and, above all, give us something to do outside.

Well, shortly after we installed the hoop in its place, I realized that it was very likely one of the greatest gifts anybody has ever given to his or her neighbors.  In the history of mankind.  Allow me to explain:

See, I’m short.  Let’s just get that out on the table.  And it’s not just me.  It’s my whole family.  We’re all short.  And when we set up that basketball hoop and extended the rim of the basket until it was regulation height, I realized just how short we really were.  We just stood there and watched it go up and up and up until it finally clicked into place.  I wish I had a snapshot of that moment–all of us looking straight up from our humble little positions on earth, some of us squinting.  You would have thought we were watching a comet.  Nope.  Just trying to see the basketball hoop.

Well, the insane height of the basket only frightened me for a minute or two before I steeled my nerves, grabbed the ball and started dribbling it.  It made a satisfying “thump” on the cement.  Made me feel like a man.

Bouncing the ball, feeling cool, I stepped back a ways, gave myself some space for a good running start, and I took off. My tongue was hanging out in concentration, the ball was thumping against the concrete, my child-like hands were slapping it down, perfectly in-sync with each pattering footstep.  It felt just like what I’ve seen on TV:  real basketball players, running down the court getting ready to impress.

My little heart was pounding as I reached that point when I had to jump.  My muscles tensed, my legs coiled and I launched myself into the air.  Flight:  it’s a truly amazing thing.  I felt the air whipping through my thinning hair.  My ears popped as I reached heights heretofore never reached.  I felt like superman.  Unstoppable.  And, best of all, it happened in slow-mo.

Well, in what felt like a long instant replay, I felt myself going up, up, up and I saw the basket get closer and closer and closer.  I reached up with the ball, prepared for the “slam”, prepared for the cheering, prepared for the moment of release… and then, suddenly, I was back on the ground again.  The basket was barely visible way up in the sky.  The ball was still in my hand.  My right leg hurt and I had drool on my shirt.  I was sweating.

Standing there, unsure what to do, I threw the ball as hard as I could into the air and pulled a muscle in my side as I did so.  The ball sailed skyward until it hit the bottom of the net–nuzzling it like a soft breeze–and then it fell back to earth, making an eery, hollow thump on the cement.

And then the kids started laughing.  I was told that in my amazing moment of jumping and “slamming”, I had never once been more than 3 inches off the ground. Never once.  I thought I had been soaring, but I’d actually only been skidding along.

Needless to say, the laughter went on for a while–until they started playing.  Then it quit abruptly because they realized they were no better.

And from that point on, we’ve spent many a day running beneath that insanely high (regulation-height) basket, dribbling big basketballs that look oversized in our small, child-like hands.  We run and jump and not a single one of us gets more than 3 inches off the ground.  It’s as if we’ve got invisible rubber bands strapped around our ankles and anchored into the ground.

And that’s why I say this was one of the greatest gifts a neighbor has given another neighbor ever.  It’s comic relief.  Whenever my neighbors are feeling down or are having a bad day, they just need to look out the window and watch the Hansen family running around the 10 foot tall basket, leaping and jumping and for all that hard work, never once getting more than a few inches off the ground.  It’s absolutely hilarious.  We’re that bad.

And it’s all because we’re not basketball people.  We’re just not cut out for it.  But even though we stink at it and even though we don’t have very many skills and even though we’re physically not capable of playing the sport competitively (or even casually) . . . we still do it and we still have fun.

And that’s the decorating point today.  So many times, I’ve talked to customers at RepcoLite who are picking out a color to go on their walls that’s the same color as the color already there.  It’s just a new coat–a clean coat–but it’s nothing different.

And they’re bored with it–I can tell that–it’s the same old thing they’ve always done.  But when you ask them and try to get them to step out and try something new, we often hear the same old excuse:  I’m no good at decorating. It’s not my thing.  I don’t know how to do it.

Well, I’m not good at basketball.  I stink.  And so does my entire family.  And yet, we’ve already made some great memories running around the hoop trying to throw a ball high enough that it has a chance to go in.

Just because you don’t think you’re good at decorating, don’t let that stop you from trying.  When you step outside of your comfort zone and start trying new things, you’ll discover how much fun it can be to take those plain walls in your home and start turning them into something that reflects who you are, who your family is.  So get going and give it a try.  And if you don’t know where to start, stop out at RepcoLite and let our decorators give you some advice.  You’ll be amazed how much fun the process can be.

Making “Big Red” Red Again

Holland’s Big Red Lighthouse, a landmark of the Holland area for years has recently been fading from the bright red icon we’re used to seeing at the entrance to the harbor to something more, how shall we put it…pink.

The last paint job on the lighthouse was in 2009 when, according to John Gronberg, secretary and commissioner of the Holland Harbor Historical Lighthouse Commission, “the most expensive paint we’ve ever used” (not supplied by RepcoLite, for the record!) was brushed and rolled onto the structure. It wasn’t long, the harsh weather conditions began to take effect. In the end, that high end and promising coating failed much quicker than expected and the “pinking” of Big Red was well underway.

Three short years later, in 2012, the members Holland Harbor Historical Lighthouse Commission found themselves actively looking for solutions to turn Big Red red again. Happily, working with Lamar Construction, we were able to step in and help.

Check out some photos showing the process and results!

big_red 10 big_red 4 big_red 5 big_red 7 big_red 8 big_redb big_red 13


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Dental Neglect and Home Improvements

toothbrush-571741_640The other night, we–my family and I–were sitting in the living room, watching the Tigers.  The kids were running around, driving us a little nuts and eventually there came a point when I stood up and put my hands on my hips.  (Which really, is something I wish I didn’t do because my wife and kids always mock me and laugh and say that I think I’m a Super Hero.  Which I don’t, the picture below notwithstanding.  I just happen to stand like one.)

At any rate, I stood up, put my hands on my hips and said, “Alright!  It’s time to brush your teeth!”

Caleb, my 10-year-old son, just snickered, nudged Andrew, his younger brother, and whispered in a too-loud whisper:  “Look, Dad acting like he’s Superman again.”

I looked down and realized my hands were on my hips and my chest (or stomach) was all puffed out.  All I really

Proof that I have a tendency to stand like a superhero.

Proof that I have a tendency to stand like a superhero.

lacked was a cape and tights.  And muscles.  And height.

I thought for a second about how sad a Super Hero I would actually make before returning to the issue at hand:  “Go!  Go brush your teeth.  It’s time for bed.”

Well, they scampered off–all 5 of them–like a small heard of domesticated beasts.  But amidst the thundering of their stampede, I heard something I couldn’t believe:  I heard Andrew–in confidential and extremely boastful tones–say the following:

“I haven’t brushed my teeth in four days!”

To which Caleb responded with:  “Wow.  How do you get away with it?”

To which Andrew replied, “I fake it.”

Well, at that point, I’d heard enough.  The last thing I need with 5 kids is for Andrew to start promulgating a gospel of dental neglect.  I stomped into the room, stood with my feet shoulder-length apart, straightened my back, puffed out my chest (or stomach), put my hands on my hips and said:

“Andrew Peter!  You will brush your teeth at least twice a day or…or…” I searched and searched for the right threat, the right punishment, the right ultimatum to level at this hygiene-negligent son of mine.  Ah, yes, that will do.  “Or, you will pay your own dental bills!”

Andrew’s face clouded over and he looked down in defeat.  Then, he looked back up.  “Where am I going to get money for all of that?  I’m just a kid.”

What?  Money for…?  He was trying to get me off-topic.  “It doesn’t matter where the money comes from,” I said.  “I’m saying you’ll have to find it and pay the dentist for all the bills that you rack up because you don’t brush your teeth.”

There.  A definitive closing argument.  Now, we should be able to move on.

“You mean ‘pay him’ like when I pay at the restaurant?  When you give me money and I pay?  Like that?”

His eyes were big and innocent and I couldn’t tell if he was really curious or if he was messing with me.

“No.  Not like that.  You’ll have to earn the money yourself.”

He paused.  Looked down, thinking.  Then his face brightened:  “Dad, the only money I get comes when I get Tooth Fairy money.  So if I’d lose all my teeth, I’d have enough money to pay the dentist, right?”  I started to respond that that didn’t make any sense, but he kept rolling.  “But then, I wouldn’t have any teeth to brush or any teeth to have to pay the dentist to drill, right?”  He was picking up steam now, the clear end of his logical masterpiece in sight.  “So then, I’d have all the money and I wouldn’t have anything to pay the dentist for and, I wouldn’t have teeth to brush.  I’d be rich.”  He finished with a flourish and I half-expected the other kids to rise to their feet, clapping.

I needed to end this and I needed to end it now.  I puffed out my chest one more time, struck my pose and said, “Brush your teeth” in a very no-nonsense kind of way.

Caleb, who’d watched the whole exchange, snickered and said, “Superman has spoken–we must obey.”

Well, that kind of broke the ice and we all laughed a little bit.  But I couldn’t shake Andrew’s desire to not brush his teeth.  I mean really, who intentionally tries to avoid brushing their teeth?  Who else but a kid would ignore such a simple project–especially when ignoring that project is only going to lead to expensive and painful work down the road?

I was just thinking those thoughts when the home improvement point hit me (yes, I’ve written enough blogs and radio segments about paint to see paint-related points in everything):  I’m doing the same thing he is–with the exact same consequences.

See, there are all sorts of little projects around my home.  A hallway ceiling that should be painted.  Kitchen cupboards that need to be touched-up.  Some peeling edges on my wallpaper that should be stuck back down.

I’ve got all kinds of little projects.  Some are bigger than others, but most are really, just 10 and 15 minute jobs.  In the grand scheme of things, they take no time at all.  They cost almost nothing and they don’t require loads of expertise or special tools.

And yet I routinely ignore them.  I do.  I don’t know why.  I guess I’m like Andrew–I don’t want to take the time to do these little fixes.  I just keep telling myself that it’s not a big deal, that I’ll get to it later.

But the problem with that line of thought is that failure to act now only causes bigger problems later.  Just like Andrew and his teeth, I’m saving time now, but I’m going to have to pay the piper, later.  And I’ll have to use my own money to do it.

For example, the peeling wallpaper is a perfect case in point.  The spot I needed to fix was about 3 inches long all along a seam.  Nothing.  It wouldn’t have taken any time or money or effort at all.  (Notice I’ve shifted to past-tense to talk about this).  A little dab of paste, some safe-release tape to hold it down for a few hours and it would have looked like new.  But I left it and didn’t do it.  I ignored it.

But Tessa didn’t.  She found it and, of course, figured it should be picked at, peeled, pulled at.  Well, one thing led to another and before long, she’d created a much bigger problem that took much longer to fix.  On top of it all, the fix I managed to come up with wasn’t nearly as effective as the easier, cheaper one would have been.

So now, that’s me and my family–what’s your’s like?  Are your kids brushing their teeth?  If not, do they brag about it, too?  Is that just a kid-thing?  Or do I have bad-hygiene kids?  And how about you?  Not so much your teeth, but do you have projects at home like I do?  Easy, quick projects you keep ignoring?

Well, maybe it’s time to tackle them.  Maybe it’s time to cross them off your list and deal with them on a more regular basis–before they become bigger, more expensive problems down the road.

Give it some thought!

New Year’s Thoughts: Grape Juice and Mt. Vesuvius

volcano-erupting-1056526_640On New Year’s Eve this year, my wife bought two bottles of Sparkling Grape juice. And as I popped them open at 12:01 am on January 1, I was suddenly reminded of a memory from my childhood.

See, it wasn’t for New Year’s Eve (because when I was a kid, I don’t know if we ever saw the clock hit 11:00pm) but for some other festive reason, mom purchased a bottle of Sparkling Red Grape Juice. (Truth be told, it was probably on sale).

Anyway, at dinner that fateful evening we ended with our little glasses of Grape Juice and then Dad crammed the plug into the bottle and asked me to put it in the fridge.

Everybody remained seated at the table while I took the bottle into the kitchen. However, part way across the room, I looked at the bottle.  Through the greenish glass, I saw the small amount of remaining juice sloshing around.  And then, after opening the door to the fridge, before I put the bottle in, I shook it.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because I was a kid and didn’t know any better.  Maybe because I wanted to watch it fizz in the bottle.  Maybe because I secretly hoped it would do what Champagne always does in the movies:  make a loud pop and then fizz and dribble out of the bottle.

I truly don’t remember what exactly I was thinking, but I DO remember watching the stuff in the bottle start to fizz and boil immediately after the shaking.  I then remember looking at the little plastic plug dad had crammed into the neck of the bottle. Then–and you’ve got to understand, things were moving quickly from this point on–I remember noticing that the plug was moving—out.

At that point, it was a foot race. I shot across that room like my life depended on it.  Because it did.

My little-kid-barefeet slapped the linoleum like a track star’s as I sprang across the room.  Wind whipped through my hair and my eyes teared (partly because of the speed at which I ran and partly because I was scared).  Using almost superhuman speed–like the Flash–I basically teleported across that room and ended up at the sink because, in my limited understanding of the situation, I believed I could contain the inevitable spill there.  Sadly, no.

As I arrived at the sink, that noble, brave cap gave up the fight and exploded from the bottle with the force of a cannonball.  It shot past my head, hit the ceiling with a loud thump and then shot off in another direction.  I don’t know where it went because, at that point, I had other problems:  immediately following the cap event was a volcanic eruption that most likely dwarfed Vesuvius.

It could only be described as an explosion.  It was over in less than a second, but it was devastating.  I remember standing there and looking at the curtains covered with red grape juice that looked like blood. I looked at the walls and saw them dripping with grape juice that looked like blood. I turned and saw that the floor was covered with red foam that looked like . . . blood. The cupboards were coated. The fridge was still open and was covered with juice—inside and out. And then, I looked still farther and saw my entire family staring at me.

I’ll never forget two things about my family as they sat there.  First, I’ll never forget dad’s expression.  It was a mixture of absolute shock, supreme sadness, and a strange delight in seeing the sheer awesomeness of the explosion.  (Because no matter how old guys get, they still like explosions).

The other thing I’ll never forget is staring at the back of mom’s curly head.  She didn’t turn and look at me.  She just sat there–looking the other way.  Hunched over.  Her back was coated in grape juice.  Her hair was full of it.  But she didn’t turn–not at first.  She just sat there.  Maybe she was counting–trying to remain calm.  Maybe she was recovering from the shock.  Maybe she was praying.  I don’t know.

All I remember thinking was that at some point, she was going to turn around and then, to paraphrase Ricky Ricardo, I was going to have a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Well, eventually, inevitably, she did turn around.  The entire family watched her with bated breath, though nobody moved a muscle. Their wide eyes followed mom as she slowly turned in her chair. Finally, after an eternity, her eyes settled on me. I wiped the grape juice out of my eyes so I could see my executioner. I knew I was toast, but I wanted to go with some dignity.

However, instead of launching into a tirade I would have deserved, my mom laughed. And then, of course, the whole family laughed. Except for me.  (Because I figured it was a trick).

Turns out, it wasn’t.  Oh, when we got to cleaning it up (and believe me, the “WE” I refer to was largely “ME”) it wasn’t all giggles and fun.  But still, mom never laid into me like I expected.  It remains one of the most unexpected reactions I’ve ever experienced.

And as we turn over a New Year on the calendar, and I saw those bottles of sparkling grape juice that my wife had purchased, it made me think about that whole event. It’s funny, I don’t remember the cleaning process very clearly. I don’t remember what happened with my clothes, the curtains, how long it all took, and so on. I don’t remember the details of the horror. What I do remember is not getting figuratively killed. Which was awesome. And it made me think about my kids and my wife and the people I encounter on a daily basis. How often do those same people cause way less frustration for me than I caused for mom? And yet, how often do I fail to cut them any slack?

The things people remember will be the times of mercy and kindness, the smile that came when a scowl was expected. Moving into this year, that’s going to be one of my goals. To extend a little grace. Even when my kids are as dumb as I always was . . . .