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Loot from the seminar.

At an MS seminar today, I sauntered jauntily (is there any other way to saunter? Not for this lady!) through tables of vendors giving away freebies in exchange for my listening to them talk about their wares. “We’re the only company in the state with (insert unintelligible acronym here) certification!” said a representative of one company. “Not everyone can say that!” I shook my head and offered my own acronym: “TTFN” (Ta Ta for Now!)

I did enjoy the candy in the shape of internal organs that the MS Center of a local hospital was giving out. I’m sure this goes without saying, but nothing says “noms” like chocolate brains!

After a zombie-like chocolate feeding frenzy, it’s official: I now only have half a brain.

As I was walking past the tables, I thought, Hmph. They’ve all got an agenda. They’re just trying to sell me something! Of course they were. That’s their job. Besides, I’ve got an agenda, too: I want free stuff. Specifically, I was looking for free bags for the ladies in my round-loom knitting group to carry their yarn and materials.

Eventually, I was able to unclench my attitude long enough to listen to the shpiels with an open mind. As it turns out, there were a couple of products that might benefit me. 

It’s only fitting that we should each get something out of our interactions. It’s not wrong to earn a living by selling things, nor is it wrong to be skeptical when something sounds too good to be true. Sometimes, somewhere in the middle, there’s a chance to be kind to each other and listen, whether it be to a sales rep or those of a different religion or political party. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye to hear each other from the heart.

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles with the theme of scientists being taken aback by fascinating finds. First, they were “stunned” by the discovery of a black hole with a mass seventy times larger than the sun.  Next, they were “shocked” when they found a 2000-year-old mass gravesite of Germanic warriors in Poland, complete with “mystery urns.”  Then, they were “fascinated” by the research that shows dangerous bacteria communicate to avoid antibiotics.

(That last one makes me think of sinister cells in tiny leather jackets and tattoos, roaming around the body causing trouble. “Cheese it, pals, here comes the fuzz. We’ll meet back at the gall bladder later. Let’s am-scray!”)

I’ve also noticed that “breaking the internet” is a thing lately. For instance, Jennifer Aniston joined Instagram and broke the internet. Oh dear. I hope they can fix it by later today, cuz I’m planning to curate some more cat pictures for my humble bloggie.

Article writers use dramatic tags to garner more views, but the truth is that not everything is over-the-top and out-of-control. Hyperbole and hysterics only add stress to our lives, but the world still turns like clockwork every day. Seasons change on schedule. Most of the time, life is low-key.

It’s easy to forget the small moments of grace that don’t scream for attention, like the fact that the new mailman, Bob, brought the mail to my door this afternoon in the wake of recent snowy weather. “I’ll check in if I see you haven’t had a chance to get to the mailbox,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

Sage advice from a kind soul. All of those small moments of grace over the course of a lifetime add up to a good life, well-lived.

What I need in my life right now is a traffic jam, the wrong amount charged on my credit card, and a creaky kneecap, said nobody ever.

What I really need is to call customer service to get my bill straightened out. Except that when I do, I’m intercepted by an automated voice asking, “Tell us why you’re calling. To check your balance, press 1. To check your coat, press 2. To be dropped into an endless loop of lost calls, press any key, because we’ve all gone home anyway.”

The disembodied voice is like a bot-bouncer, deciding who earns the privilege of getting through the door to see the important people.

‘You want the Pistons and Widgets Department. Is that right?” she asks gamely.

“No,” I say angrily, repeatedly pressing “0” to no avail. “Representative!”

“Sorry, I didn’t get that. Let’s try again!” Why is she always so cheerful as she denies me access to my own information?!?

While on the phone with the digital gatekeeper, I walk over to a chair in the kitchen to sit down and realize my knee has just made a tiny, crunching sound. What the heck is that? I wonder. The knees don’t actually hurt, they just make a new, time-is-marching-on noise.

Okay. Let’s take a moment to meditate. Take some deep breaths. 

My visiting nurse Janice explained to me recently how to do a cleansing breath. “Smell the roses, blow out the candles,” she told me. Inhale through your nose as if smelling roses, then exhale out the mouth as if blowing out candles on a birthday cake.

Not to add one more thing to your to-do list, but do your Auntie a favor and try a cleansing breath or two. Being in a hurry just leads you to worry. Moments of repose take you from mindlessly stressed to mindfully blessed.

What is it about dogs and cats that we find so cute? The fluffy face? The wild whiskers? The twirly tail? Some of the things my pets used to do would be annoying if done by people.

When my dog, Sheena, wanted attention, she’d fall onto her side on the carpet, tail thudding against the shag. It was my cue that she wanted me to pat her. Being part Border collie, when she wanted noshes, she’d herd us into the kitchen by gently nudging us behind the knees. “Leftover ham patrol,” her body language would say. “Let’s keep it moving.”

If Bill from accounting nudged us all into the break room so we could share our lunch with him (“Is this hummus for anyone?”), it wouldn’t be as sweet!

Now, my cat, KitKat, had been a stray, so he had to get used to our outrageous ways: staying inside the house all night; paying no attention to random dust bunnies he’d capture at 4 AM while running with abandon into our rooms; and not being aware that his bowl was only half-full, when ‘full” is the only acceptable state of a cat’s bowl.

If a person showed up at your house at 4 AM demanding food and running wildly (“Who’s up? Let’s jog!), that would be a job for the local constable!

Don’t we all speak without words in our own way? The lady behind you in line as you scan your groceries, tapping her foot, arms folded. You know she’s in a hurry. The man with a crying infant rushing through the store, looking for teething rings. He’s clearly under stress. 

If only we could be as patient with people as we are with our pets! It’s not always easy to be tolerant of others, but kindness is key.

This picture of a ginger cat is a popular meme, and the caption reads, “How every 50-year-old takes a selfie.” At first I was offended. How dare they! 

But…then I remembered when I got my first smart phone at age 50. I was sitting in my car in the grocery store parking lot, trying to figure out how it worked and took my first (unintentional) selfie after randomly pressing buttons.

That cat’s my spirit animal!🐈

Sometimes there’s a grain of truth to memes, and the concept has become a part of the social vernacular. Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was asked how she thought she did in a debate recently, and she answered, “I’ll tell you later, when I see the memes.”

Not everything can be boiled down to a meme, but so much of our lives these days is documented, we may all end up in a viral video one day! If so, here’s hoping it’s for something uplifting, like this one of a sanitation worker helping an 88-year-old woman with her trash bin after she had a fall earlier this year, or this one of a man being reunited with family members after ten years apart.

Even if it’s captured on film, you can’t see the whole story behind the shot. If someone seems to be a sourpuss, who knows? Maybe they just can’t figure out how to work their new phone. A kind word, even in the face of a grumpy cat, might turn that frown upside down. 😊

donuts“A mini-bagel, plain, please,” I said to the clerk at my favorite bagel shop. “Okay, mini-bagel. What-” he replied loudly and stopped himself. “Oh, you want it plain,” he muttered. He’d started to ask what I wanted on the bagel, but realized I’d said I didn’t want anything on it. 

I smiled and said, “Jose, you were like, ‘You want a bagel at the bagel store? What?!? Next you’ll want a donut from the donut shop!’” This sent the clerk and the other customers in the store into hysterics. As I left, I continued my shtick and said, “I’m here all week! Good night!” 

It’s in those small moments that you realize humans have the capacity to connect. It might be for a brief moment, but shared laughter is like a virtual hug. It also helps to get to know the people who will be in your life on a regular basis, like the cashier at the bagel shop or your mail carrier. It often occurs to me that I could never do what my mailman, Calvin, does, just based on the sheer volume of letters and packages he needs to deliver on a daily basis. 

On some blocks in my town, there’s an ordinance that homes may not have mailboxes. This means that letter carriers have to deliver to those houses’ front doors, every day, rain or shine. Winters are the most challenging time for them, as you might imagine. 

All of us have a load to carry and things we’ve got to get done. So when you see the “regulars” in your life during the day, a warm word of encouragement can go a long way.

I was reading a book online and decided to put it on the “Read Aloud” option. A robotic voice named “Microsoft Mike” narrated the text without inflection and, often, incorrectly. When it got to the word “Malignity,” it pronounced it as, “Molly Good-Nighty,” which made me laugh. That sweet name sounds like the antonym of the word’s true definition, which is “malice or malevolence.” 

I was still cackling about “Molly” when I came up to a page break, which looks like this:

*****

And the robot-reader announced in its flat affect: 

“Asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk.” 

It was a book with a heavy theme, so these unintentional comic breaks were actually welcome.

A robot narrator has its limitations, and one of them is that it has no soul. It’s just reading a script as programmed. In real life, it’s hard to stick to a script. Days rarely go as planned. There are detours on the road. Unexpected delays on a project. 

When things get heavy, taking a laugh break might be just the answer. Laughing involves breathing (which we often forget to do fully when stressed), movement and social interaction.

Moments of levity can be the difference between going through the day on auto-pilot and feeling like yourself again.

person holding camera lensMy son knows when I happen across a spider in the house by the karate-sounding “ke-yai!” noise I emit. The spider is startled by me, too, but I’m sure its perspective is different.

Growing up, Mama Spider taught her son about humans: “Don’t stare honey. I know that’s a face only a mother could love, but God has a purpose for all creatures. Now let’s get out of here before that monstrosity squashes us!”

That seems to be how some religious groups see each other: If you’re not just like us, you’re a threat. The other day, my Lyft driver asked me if I was a Christian. When he went on to say something pejorative about Muslims, I knew we didn’t share the same perspective.

In photography, “perspective” is a term for a visual effect that causes objects to appear smaller as their distance from the viewer increases. In life, if you haven’t gone through a particular experience, it may seem far away and foreign to you.

Your perspective can change based on your status in society and net worth as well. Asked about how young comedians can get their big break, Jerry Seinfeld said, “The good thing about comedy is that anyone who’s talented usually makes it.” It must be spirit-crushing for struggling comics out there to hear their comedy idol make such a statement when they haven’t found success yet. 

The only way to keep your own karma clean is to assume there’s validity in the experience of others. So before you squash that spider — or another human being’s spirit — take a moment to adjust your lens. It might just broaden your perspective.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

“Mouthwash Cancels Out Benefits of Exercise.” Even before reading the article, it was clear the headline was misleading. Sure enough, hours later, it was revised to: “Mouthwash Cancels Out Key Benefits of Exercise, One Study Finds.

These old newspaper headlines show the importance of word choice:

Amphibious pitcher makes debute funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

Of course, sometimes, the editor is just having fun with wordplay, as in the case of the psychic who couldn’t predict her own arrest.

Choosing just the right word is an editor’s job, but it’s just as important for you and I to give consideration to the impact of the things we say to one another.

With all the negativity in the news lately, it’s more important than ever to choose your words carefully. You never know what someone’s going through as you encounter them in the course of a day.

So if the cashier should have said, “Thank you, have a good day,” but didn’t, maybe she just can’t wish you what she doesn’t have herself. Maybe her baby wouldn’t sleep last night and the dog wouldn’t stop barking. Perhaps when she got to work two minutes late, the boss read her the riot act. It’s possible she can’t find the energy to have a bad day, and at the same time, wish someone else a good day.

If you’ve been there yourself, try to find it in your heart to forgive these minor infractions. Your kindness could be the catalyst that enables her to have a good day, and in turn, wish a good day to others.

Time, Scholarship“Gravity” would be a great name for a girl, like “Charity” or “Felicity.” And you know, Gravity used to be my friend. We could hang, she and I. But lately, she has not been kind to me. Just like Time used to be on my side. Now, he just keeps rushing past, like he doesn’t even recognize me!

To tell you the truth, my old pal Gravity has just been bringing me down. As you get older, you realize that “the tincture of time” only applies to broken hearts. Not faces, hands, and…other assets. 

But Gravity’s just doing her job, and Time is on the clock, too.⏰ They all work for Providence. Nobody can play a role for which they’re not designed. The same is true of humans; we were made to live the full spectrum of experiences, including aging. 

At least it rolls out slowly, like a grey carpet of sorts. At first, you think, “Grey? Where’s the red carpet treatment?” On second thought, you realize that grey is a great choice for a carpet. Hides the dirt. Goes with every kind of decor. It’s soothing.

So, eventually, you’re going to look older as you age. I know that’s no great newsflash, but until you experience it, you may not realize it can affect how you feel about life. 

But you’re still the same person you always were. Gravity and Time may be contractually obligated to do their jobs (as an older person, I’ve realized they must be Teamsters), but Providence is ageless, and there’s no expiration date on Grace.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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