Fueled by laughter

Driving home from a laughter-filled evening last night, my good friend told me a story about a seminar she’d led where she was asked, by way of introduction, to describe her sense of humor. This struck me as a most marvelous question: sharing what makes us laugh is surely a better way to get to know one another than sharing our favorite toothpaste or where we grew up?

It also got me thinking: how would I answer that question? The answer came fairly quickly: my sense of humor is fairly indiscriminate. As in, I will laugh at just about anything.

My husband describes me as a cheap date this way: not only can I not handle more than one glass of wine anymore, but I also have a rare combination of having both a great love of and also a terrible memory for jokes… which means, he cane buy me a $7 glass of merlot and tell me the SAME set of jokes every month, and I will laugh just as much. Every time. When I started this blog and had to come up with a tagline, the first thought that came to mind was “fueled by grace, caffeine, and laughter.” I think this is still true. I can’t imagine a day without any of these.

Maybe there was a time when being able to tell a joke straight-faced was seen as something cool to aspire to, but I gave up any hopes of being cool a long, long time ago and have since come to embrace that I am a person who laughs at her own jokes. I laugh at dumb jokes, pun jokes, and knock knock jokes. I laugh at slapstick humor and charlie chaplin. I laugh at cats on youtube who misjudge their jumping distances. I laugh at stand-up comedy (check out Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King on Netflix if you haven’t already as a great example.) I laugh at satire and SNL sketches and stories on podcasts. I laugh at clever turns of phrase (the Hamilton lyrics had me chortling throughout.) I laugh when anvils fall on cartoon character’s heads. I laugh at googly eyes on milk jugs and—I say this with some parenting shame—I laugh when my children fart. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. Every time.

And, I am no longer embarrassed about this. I used to be. I used to be embarrassed that often I was the only person laughing, and I would blush CRIMSON red on realizing. I still laugh when I’m embarrassed, and I still blush, too… but I’m a little older now and teasing doesn’t feel as heartless as it did then. My Mom always used to say there was a difference between laughing with you and laughing at you, and one of the delightful parts of aging is realizing she was right and even so… much of the time, it doesn’t matter.

Sometimes it does, though. I may find a thousand things unapologetically funny, but one thing I no longer find funny is humor that is made at someone else’s expense. I have no time for jokes with racist and sexist slurs. Political satire is different, I think: clever humor can add give both insight and levity to serious conversations. But jokes aimed at people of color or different cultures or where women are mocked as sex objects or men are vilified as dummies won’t get any laughter from me. People are made in the image of God and it just isn’t funny to me anymore to joke as if anyone is anything less than that. In these things, I’m decidedly NOT funny any more. Don’t you dare pull a sexually aggressive move on someone and then, when called on it, tell me “you were only joking”. Hell no. That isn’t funny anymore.

“So what are you, the funny police?” you might ask.

Not exactly. But I think of it this way: if humor is a grassy field – then I think of my sense of humor as being a big, wide, green expanse. Lots and lots of room for funny. Internet funny and book funny and fall-down funny and youtube funny and fart funny and pun funny. Bring it on. But my field has some distinct boundaries. Jokes that make anyone feel shamed or less-than fall beyond those fences.

But inside those parameters? Bring on the funny.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Howard.

Howard who?

Howard you like to hear another joke?

YES, PLEASE. And this time next month, you can tell me the same joke again 🙂 I promise, I’ll laugh.

Why I’m Glad I Broke His Favorite Coffee Mug

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This morning I woke up hungover from life and late night reading. I thumped downstairs and, amid the din of chatter, started to scramble through the morning routine. Reaching into the overhead cupboard to retrieve the life-giving coffee ingredients, my hand caught on something, sending half a dozen coffee mugs  crashing down on me like ceramic lemmings. I caught two. Three landed safely. But one, The One, didn’t survive the fall. Of all the mugs in the closet to break this morning, the one which shattered was my husband’s favorite mug of nearly twenty years: a Dilbert classic—the perfect combination of nerdy and hilarious.

Usually I am quick to clean up broken shards, but I left the remains of coffee mug out so that I could confess when he appeared at breakfast. “I’m sorry,” I said a few minutes later, “I broke your favorite coffee mug.”

“Oh no!” he said in surprise, “Oh well, everything is just trash waiting to happen anyway.”

I looked over at our kids, bent over bowls of granola, and in that moment my sadness was replaced by a tremendous gratitude that not only had my kids seen me break something, but they’d seen their Dad’s theology in action. We spend a lot of time talking about possessions in our house: trying to temper the wants generated by advertising and peers with conversations about stewardship and generosity. Our kids have heard us ask our one question we always ask when wondering “should we buy this?”, and have seen us try to put this into action.

And, again and again, they have come to their Dad in tears about a lost toy, a broken truck, a misplaced whatchamacallit; asking if we can please buy a replacement. The answer is almost always no, with this gentle explanation given: “I’m so glad you got to enjoy that for a while, but everything on this earth is just trash waiting to become trash.”

This morning I broke my husband’s favorite coffee mug, and our kids got to see him respond: first in disappointment, and then with truth. The things that really matter—every spiritual blessing which is his in Christ, and ten thousand more besides—will never perish, spoil and fade.

I’m sorry I broke his mug, but I’m so grateful my kids got to see what happened next. As great as it is for us to be positive role models of hard work, kindness, academic rigor and politeness, it’s important for them to see us make mistakes, burn dinner, experience rejection, lose our tempers and break other people’s favorite things… because it’s in the moments after everything comes crashing down, that character shines through.

Coffee Mug

 

Photo Credit: In Pieces (An Auditory Experiment) – Dusk Photography (Flickr Creative Commons)

 

On the fourth day

Photo credit: Ben Hwang - 8 Asians (Flickr Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Ben Hwang – 8 Asians (Flickr Creative Commons)

In the beginning of the week, the cupboards were bare and empty. And the woman said “Let there be shopping!” And there was shopping: bread and milk and coffee and fruit and every green thing filled the cupboards. And the woman looked at all she had bought and said “It is good.”

On the third day, the woman had a headache. And she said “let there be tylenol*!” And there, in her bathroom, was tylenol. And there was evening (more tylenol) , and there was morning (more ibuprofen): The third day.

On the fourth day, the woman still had a headache. And she considered her circumstances, and that perhaps, in all the shopping glory, the decaf coffee had been switched with the caffeinated coffee. And she said “let there be caffeine”. And so she mixed her two bags of unmarked coffee together – to make sure there was at least 50% caffeinated beans – and brewed it. And she took some, and gave it to the man who was with her. And the headache went away. And it was very, very good.