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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.

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What will you be known for?  Last night, a friend and I were talking as we attempted a new craft.  While we worked we chatted about family and how we remember various people.  She mentioned that in all of the photos, her great-grandmother looked incredibly stern and that’s actually how almost everyone thought of her.  My grandmother was all over smiles with a great sense of humor.

Just then, my friend dropped a bead which she managed to trap against the table.  Proud of her accomplishment, she showed me the bead with a flourish which was when she smacked the open tube of beads across the kitchen table.  The patter of tiny beads raining down is a very distinct noise.  We laughed until our sides hurt.

I’m fairly certain this is how we will be known?  Laughter.  In fact, I’m sure of it.

On Sunday, we met our choir director’s husband.  “She’s told me about everyone but which one are you?” he asked me.  “Soprano.  And I laugh at everything.”  He looked confused because truly that describes both my friend and I.  I pointed at myself.  “I’m inappropriate laughter.”  “Oh, I know who you are.”

Yep.  That’s me.  My friend?  Over the top laughter.

Even when tiny green seed beads are raining down in my kitchen.  The sugar bowl.  I forgot to check the sugar bowl.

–SueBE

People used to ask me why I did’t camp with the Scouts.  Because when I did one of two things would happen.  It would rain.

As a Cub Scout mom I reconnected with another mom.  We had been Girl Scouts together.  We shared a tent on a Cub Scout trip and at one point she looked at me.  “Oh, right.  It did always rain when you were at camp.”  Some of us are just talented in unexpected ways.  What can I say?

Sometimes it would storm.  On my only camping trip with the Boy Scouts, we had three tents collapse.  Lightning was slicing through the sky as we put two new tents up.  Me?  I elected to sleep in the car.  My husband and I were the first two up come morning.  The sun was out and birds were chirping.  Then we discovered that one end of the dining fly had been smashed.  We managed to reach the camp stoves, the coffee pots and the doughnuts.  When everyone else got up we had the brew perking away.  “Why are you in such a good mood?” snarled one sleepy dad.  Yes, I laughed out loud but I also handed him a cup of coffee.

God made us so that we can laugh.  He also gave us the ability to cry.

When faced with a crisis, you can select which way to go. I tend to opt for laughter.  Sure, it annoys some people. But if you cry, you won’t be able to smell the coffee.  Me?  I’m opting to laugh with my fellows over a cup of coffee.

–SueBE

 

 

You know how it is. Some people instantly “get” you.  No explanations are needed when something cracks you up because they’re laughing too.

I had never thought about how this might look to others but then someone at church stopped a group of us.  “Do you know how worrisome it looks when you’re all laughing.”

Cricket.  Cricket.  Cricket.

Seriously?  Why would it be worrisome?

You see, he wasn’t joking.  This was one of those well-intentioned warnings.  “You must not know how this looks to someone else…”

Frequently, we’re laughing about something we goofed up in choir. “Oh, well.  Maybe no one heard.”

Does this mean we should stop laughing?

Nope.  Laughter is a gift from God.  When we can laugh at our own mistakes, and there are plenty of mistakes to laugh at, they become less worrisome. And who knows?  Maybe next time we really will do better.

Until then? We have the laughter which helps keep us positive.  And, apparently, more than a little annoying.

–SueBE

 

 

 

Last Sunday, we had a most interesting sermon.  It was all about laughter.  The basic idea was this – when we laugh, we connect to God.  Why? Because laughter is one of the gifts that he has given us.  When we forget how to laugh, we distance ourselves from God.

A smile.

A giggle.

A deep down belly laugh.

The shrieking, squeeling laughter of a child.

Don’t take yourself or your situation was so seriously that you lose this connection. Laughter is, as they say, good for the soul.

–SueBE

As often happens, Lori’s post spoke to me.  Our family has known a great deal of stress lately with my MIL’s hospitalization, emptying her house and moving her to St. Louis (in one week), cleaning out my father’s house another week, and my son not getting to go to the college of his choice.

In the midst of all this, I got one of those calls.  Alex needed a ride.  Oddly enough, my son’s name isn’t Alex, but Alex and his older brother are friends of my son. Their mom died this winter and dad got divorced this spring.  Good bye, Mom.  Good bye, Stepmom.  Dad found a new job but he’s working retail hours with retail pay. I found out what this means when I fed the boys mac-n-cheese.  It’s good but it isn’t pick-me-up-off-the-floor good.  Apparently they’ve been living on pizza rolls.

As my grandmother would say, that got my German up.  I’ve fed them three times in the past week and they’re on a weekend trip now with my husband and son. Alex is comfortable enough now to ask me for things himself, instead of going through my son, and even teases me about being short.

Amidst all of this, I made it to choir practice on Thursday.  It is our last practice for the summer because our director may be facing hand surgery.  She’s scared and stressed and it showed.  When she asked several of us to sing solos this summer, I knew how to make her smile.  I suggested songs from the Veggie Tales.

Our choir director had never heard the Vegie Tales so we sang various songs for her.  We learned that one soprano does a spot on Larry Boy imitation. She sang Oh Santa.  Another soprano sang The Hairbrush Song.  I launched into Terrors of the Sea (We’re Vikings). By the time we were done, everyone was in stitches.  Seriously, you’d have thought we’d been drinking if you didn’t know how silly we can be.  Even when feeding extra boys and facing surgery.

God gives us laughter and we’re silly not to use it.  Laugh and feel closer to the God who made me, at 5’8”, the short one in the house.  God really does have a sense of humor.

–SueBE

At the end of the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” Ethel Merman (playing her usual role, a loudmouthed nag) slips on a banana peel. The entire cast bursts into laughter. But the beauty of the scene is the state of those characters — they have been through unimaginable awfulness. They are bandaged, their limbs in casts, their marriages frayed, their careers at an end. And they laugh. Because what else is there left to do?

The scene is a metaphor my brother used recently in summing up what keeps him going. It was an extraordinarily bad week for his family, and his usual sunny disposition had cracked under the pressure. He had every right to throw in the towel, but he didn’t. He took a deep breath and pictured Ethel Merman slipping on a banana peel. In the midst of our greatest darkness, there is a ray of light. We just have to find it.

My personal perk-me-ups come from literature. I am terribly fond of this line from Joan Didion’s Democracy: “I’d be leery of those ice cubes if I were you, Frances. Ice cubes are not a national craft.” You have to know the context, of course, but it always makes me smile. As does the word “grape.” (Ellen Raskin fans will know why.) Sometimes I think God gave the author her entire oeuvre just so I could yell, “Grape Mrs. Carillon!” when necessary.

Oxymoronically, these “banana slip” moments don’t happen by accident. I truly believe the hand of God is in them, providing us with a glimpse of absurdity so as to leaven the loaf/load. It is when we fail to see these glimmers and allow ourselves to plunge into darkness that we have a real problem.

This is increasingly easy to do in a world that seems overrun by greed, lies, violence and terror. So I am suggesting this: Arm yourself in advance. Find your Ethel Merman moment and hold onto it. Then, when the chips are down, you have something to bring you back from the brink.

Of course, prayer does this marvelously well, too. But it’s nice to have options.

Because sometimes we all take ourselves just a little too seriously. Remember to laugh.  I’m sure God does (which will probably be my post for Saturday, sigh).

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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