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Question: How are you?

If can’t complain, press 1

If fair to middling, press 2

If please don’t ask, press 3

You know me, dear readers. I’m always joshing. But I:

⬜ Usually

✅ Sometimes

⬜ On occasion

⬜ Once in a blue moon in a leap year 

…have a point hidden somewhere in that humor.

If you look at the headlines, all you’ll see is bad news.

Maybe we’ve gotten used to seeing that in our lives, too.

When someone asks “how are you?” we immediately run down the list of milestones in our mind to come up with a punchy headline.

  • Wife left me last month and took up with the mailman.
  • I almost hit the lottery but was off by one number. That’s what I get for using my wedding date!
  • Kid hit a baseball through my window yesterday.
  • Plus I had a wicked hangnail.

Somewhere lost in the sauce there: The couple had been estranged for years, and they were better off apart. Hardly anyone ever wins the lottery. The kid broke the window but apologized immediately and got a job after school to pay for it. The hangnail, the man deserved. Just kidding! He just needed a good nail clipper.

Check in with your blessings today. Even if you can’t say everything is all wine and roses right now, you can find one half-way decent thing to be grateful for. Maybe just a good parking spot or a semi-amusing blog post from your Kindly-Auntie.😊 Look around you today. Silver linings are everywhere.

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So you’re doing a spring cleaning and you want to get really efficient. An inspired idea occurs to you: Let’s wash everything all at once! We’ll throw in the clothes, the comforters, the curtains. Even the carpets! It’ll be great. Get it all done at one time. Now we’re on a roll!

Cut to: Washer breaks down because it was overloaded. Repair work costs you an arm and a leg.

Just as you can only wash one load of laundry at a time, it’s best to focus on one problem at a time. When you start to think of one thing that’s gone haywire in your life, it can often lead to thinking of every other pesky issue that needs attention as well.

Of course, you can’t solve all your problems at once. In fact, making yourself crazy by going over all of them in your head creates a new problem: brain overload. It’s like being stuck in the agitation cycle of the washer. It’s all coming at you at once, and your head is spinning.

Why not schedule an hour to brainstorm about that one thing that’s at the top of your worrying to-do list? Write down in a sentence what’s most troubling. Look at the problem as a project. Think of all the options. Make a plan. Google it. Take the steps you can take right away. Ask for help if it’s available. Once you’ve done all you can, let it go and leave it in God’s hands.

Mother’s Day is this weekend, so I thought I’d perform a public service and offer this sage advice: Ask your mother what she wants for a gift. You might think she’d love a box of chocolates, but she may be watching her weight. She might actually get mad at you, thinking you’re trying to sabotage her diet!

To me, the best gift is cash or a gift card. Some may find that impersonal, but I don’t. Here’s why: You’ll never be able to get me exactly what I want as a gift. Let me explain.

I want a nice cardigan sweater. Sounds simple, right? Anybody can find a sweater at the mall. Think again!

My ideal cardigan sweater is one that’s light enough to wear in warmer weather but, paradoxically, heavy enough to keep me toasty in winter.

No zippers, buttons or snaps. No belt or ties of any kind. No itchy tag on the back of the neck. In fact, I’d prefer tagless. Machine washable and dryable. Is dryable a word? If not, I just invented it. If you plan to use it in a conversation, please send a dollar. 💰 It’ll go toward my next seriously-specific sweater.

It should be made of luxe, soft material, but not so soft that you become a lightning rod for static cling in the winter.

The most important feature would be that it have pockets deep and strong enough to hold a cell phone. I need my phone next to me at all times, but often put it down and can’t remember where I left it.

All told, I’m not sure such a magical sweater even exists! In lieu of this perfect, if imaginary cardigan, I’ll accept — you guessed it — cash or a gift card. Remember this: If mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy!

On the news last month, teachers were interviewed about the walk-out in Los Angeles. “We’re striking!” one woman said. And I said back to the screen, “Wow. Conceited much?” 🙂 I jest, of course, and don’t mean to make light of this real problem. Teachers shouldn’t have to go without a raise for ten years. Or teach to a classroom of fifty students. Teachers should be treated like gold. And paid the same way! Still, levity always finds its way into our lives, and I’d like to propose that comic relief should be taught in schools as well.

There’s so much pressure on kids today. They’re mandated by law to go to a particular public school. All day long, at home and at school, every adult they see is their boss. And of course, as the law of the jungle says, every student in a higher grade is, too.

I think that comedy, in the right doses — and with only modest levels of snark — can be a form of communication, as well as a form of therapy. Maybe it should actually be part of the curriculum.

“I saw this sign posted once; it said, ‘Blasting Zone Ahead.’ Wow. Shouldn’t that read, ‘Road Closed’?” This joke is from one of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan.  

Telling a joke — and having it land — is both an art and a science. Maybe it can be quantified. Or maybe it can’t. Then it would also be philosophy. Comedy could also help with public speaking and socialization. And it’s the kind of homework students wouldn’t mind doing. In closing, here’s an oldie but a goodie: What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor? Make me one with everything. Ba-dum-bum. Good night! We’re here all week!

Plantie wearing her Crop Circle.

When I couldn’t knit using needles anymore due to visual issues, I decided to give the round loom a shot. That’s basically a plastic circle with pegs on it. You wrap the yarn around the pegs to knit, and there’s a tiny slot on each peg so that if you can’t see it that well, at least you can feel it with your knitting tool.

So I was knitting what I thought was a headband, but when I put it on my head, it flopped right off. Oh. I guess I was supposed to incorporate some kind of elastic element to keep it in place. I tossed it onto the table next to my plant. Her name is Plantie. Yes. See, I’m a writer. Good wit woids, as we say in Jersey. I wanted to name her Petunia, but that’s an actual name of a flower already, and she’s… I don’t know. Some other kind of green grow-y thing.

The vet’s office had sent Plantie to me when my KitKat passed away. I thought it was a very kind gesture, but I never could keep a plant alive. Still, I welcomed her, watered her, and tell Plantie every day she looks lovely and healthy. Give her a shpritz with the mister. (This may be risque for a prayer blog, but…why does that phrase sound obscene to me?😏)

One day I put Plantie in the center of the Unrealized Headband I’d knitted. Huh. That looks pretty decent, actually. Why, my word! That’s not a headband after all. It’s a tiny round knit thingie to adorn my plant’s basket. Let’s call it a Crop Circle! This could be a thing!

Every bit of your creativity has a purpose. Let it speak to you and find its own rightful place in the world.

Coaster, sans arachnid

Once, as I was watching TV, I reached for my hazelnut coffee. It was placed on a coaster that resembles a throw rug with tiny strings on it. As I drink my coffee, I have to make sure it’s centered so it doesn’t spill. Usually I just grab those little strings to adjust it. This time, I wasn’t paying attention. I grabbed the strings and tugged, only to look down and realize that it wasn’t the strings of the coaster I was pulling on. It was the legs of a spider!

Mildly freaked out, I said “Aaah!” He said the spider version of “Aaah!,” making a jerking motion with his legs. All those crazy legs. Mercy. He ran off and I started to go after him to squish him (there wasn’t time to capture him with my trusty Bugzooka and take him outside).

I realized that he’d gotten my message without my even trying.

He wasn’t coming around me again, not after that tiny torture session. Tickling my toes? What manner of fresh heck is this? What are you, giant creature with flame-orange hair?

As a general rule, impinging on my space will never get you a warm welcome.

This goes for spiders on my coffee coaster, of course, but also for:

  • People who decide to park their car in front of my driveway.
  • Salespeople peddling stuff I don’t need that I’ll end up putting directly into the attic.
  • Zombies sent to my house inadvertently by a faulty GPS (Gory People Search.)

The best way to make a point, no matter how important you feel it may be, is to give people their space. So if you’ve found faith and want to share it, be sure to ask permission. Respecting others’ decisions speaks well of your religion.

At the produce market, I got in line behind a lady holding a single avocado as if it were a precious gem. “Perfectly ripe,” she said lovingly. “Hardly ever happens!”

We started chatting, and I asked her what avocado tastes like. “Never tried it,” I said.

She looked at me, mouth agape. “That’s like saying you’ve never had an apple! You’ve never had an avocado? How can that be?!?”

Amused at her sweet befuddlement, I went on. “And I’ve never tasted guacamole either!”

She was aghast. “Oh, you must try it! It’s so easy to make. And you’ll love it. I promise!”

Now mind you, I’ve been offered guacamole at a party. And I’ve been near avocados, certainly. At the store. At friends’ houses. I mean, I’ve been avocado-adjacent.

I think I made up my mind when I looked at guacamole for the first time: I’m not gonna like that. Its insides are an unsettling shade of green. Chartreuse? Not something I’m intending to ingest.

The same thing with crustaceans. I’ve never had oyster, crab or lobster in my life. I got it into my head that I wouldn’t like the texture.

One day when I suddenly get rich (Might happen. Could happen. Yep.) I’m probably going to HAVE to eat lobster. Probably some kind of rule. That, and caviar. Tiny fish eggs? Yes, but why? Cuz they taste like salt? Why not eat a potato chip instead?

Now, I have to wonder: Have I done that with people I’ve met? Those times where I’ve made a snap judgment about someone based on next to nothing and decided not to trust them. Or maybe the set of someone’s face rubbed me the wrong way. Being aware of this all-too human habit may be a step in the right direction.

On a TV show, a character at a bakery was shown putting whipped cream onto a slice of pie. I noticed that the product name, Reddi-Wip, was featured very prominently. The camera even zoomed in. Well. That wasn’t obvious product placement for which the producers were going to be remunerated! Nah. It was organic to the plot. Not at all gratuitous. In the next scene, they gave the flippin’ container a close-up! Reddi-Wip will have to get credit for that cameo. Probably needs to get a SAG-AFTRA card.

I thought, that’s more than product placement. Might as well put it on a product placemat: REDDI-WIP! EAT NOW! STUFF YOUR FACE TO THE POINT OF GLUTTONY!!

Can’t we do that with positivity also?

So many times, people are pushing negative things for their own benefit.

Every news headline and most forms of entertainment nowadays seem designed to make us tense, even fearful. Can it be these shows are sponsored by pharma companies that manufacture antidepressants? Could there possibly be any connection? Who else runs commercials on these shows… Let’s see. Alarm systems. Identity theft companies.

That’s not to say we don’t need to stay safe. Or take medication. But with all these slings and arrows coming at us, we have to shore up our souls’ immune systems. Think about what’s good and uplifting as often as you think about what might go wrong. And pray without ceasing. Troubles won’t disappear, but you’ll find they’re not always as big as they seem.

Well, it takes a lot to get a kindly Auntie-type to the brink of physical violence, but it does happen. Years ago, a contractor that I’d hired to re-tile my bathroom trudged into the house carrying his equipment and the new tile I’d picked out. I noticed that he had a lit cigarette in his mouth. “Oh, this is a non-smoking house. If you would, please put that out,” I told him. He did, and I left him to his work. Hours later, I poked my head into the bathroom to see how the job was going. “Just checking in,” I said. “How’s it go-” I stopped mid-sentence. He had lit another cigarette and was blithely puffing away. “Oops!” he said sheepishly. “You caught me!” His face said, Sorry, not sorry.

I was livid and read him the riot act, but by then it was too late. He had puffed that smoke right into the grout of the new tile. As a result, the bathroom smelled like smoke for the next two months, even after I’d opened the window every day to air it out.

To me, this man’s total disregard for my wishes was a metaphor. When you put negative energy – or in this case, smoke – into a project, the end result usually stinks.

In my experience, a positive attitude and respect for those around you will lead to a better outcome. And, most importantly, you won’t get socked in the shoulder by an industrial-strength handbag (for you younger folks, that’s a purse – usually ginormous in size to accommodate Early Bird leftovers.🍝) This has been a public service announcement by the generally-mellow, neighborly Nanas who live on a street near you. We’re kindly, sure. But don’t cross us! PS Don’t slouch.

Credit: Elfie Hall

When my son was young, he asked me how to pronounce the name of a particular Egyptian pharaoh.

“Hatshepsut,” I said. “Friends called him Bill.”

He cracked up, so I had to keep going. “I mean, what else could they call him? Hat? Shep? Sut? Nah. Bill.”

Looking up the name on the computer later, I was mildly chagrined to learn that this ruler was actually a woman! Oh, blerg. Digging deeper, even that fact was in question, so I wasn’t too far off the mark after all.

History is fascinating – and often funny – isn’t it? And so is the future.

When the actor who played Steve on “Blue’s Clues” left the show, he seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth. Today I read that  a newly-discovered aurora borealis has been given the unlikely moniker, “Steve.” Coincidence? Perhaps. Now, I’m not suggesting that this light formation is actually Steve Burns in deep disguise, but let’s just say, I’ve never seen them in the same room together. 🤔

It’s one of life’s great joys to be able to laugh about silly things and spin a yarn. But when it comes to forgiveness, we may find it hard to let go and laugh things off. It’s as important to forgive ourselves as to forgive others.

If Bill is the past and Steve is the future, we could look upon them both more kindly. We might feel the same way about ourselves as we look back with regret, or look ahead with uncertainty. That’s the yester-you, and she did her best at the time. And that’s the you-to-come. She’ll do her best as well.

Be good to yourself and it’s a breeze to be good to others. There’s a word for that, isn’t there? Oh, yeah. Love.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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