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.

And I Would Walk 10,000 Steps (A Fitbit parody)

Fitbit 500 miles parody

I am one of the 18 million people (!!!) who got a Fitbit last year: a little device on my arm that functions not only as a watch, but also counts my steps, and tracks my heart rate, sleep, exercise and a host of other things. Apparently 10,000 steps is the goal we should be aiming for in our daily activity levels, and I can’t thinking of that old Proclaimers song “500 miles”. So I thought I’d share with you the crazy ditty that’s been floating around my head the past two weeks:

“I’m Gonna Be (Ten Thousand Steps)”

When I wake up, well, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the one who slept more thanks to you
When I go out, yeah, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the one whose heart rate gets tracked too
If I eat out, well, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the gal who’s counting cals with you
And if I make goals, hey, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the one who’s watching stars accrue But I would walk five thousand steps
And I would walk five thousand more
Just to be the one who walked ten thousand steps
To earn one green star more

When I work out, yes, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the one with calories burning fuel
And when the bar charts come in for each work out new
I’ll tweet every single sessions’ stats, its true
When I come home (When I come home), oh, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the one who’ll step home wearing you

And if I’m still short, well, I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the one who’s stepping to Hulu.
But I would walk five thousand steps
And I would walk five thousand more
Just to be the one who walked ten thousand steps
To earn one green star more
Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)
Da-da-da dun-diddle un-diddle un-diddle uh da-da
Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)
Da-da-da dun-diddle un-diddle un-diddle uh da-da
But I would walk five thousand steps
And I would walk five thousand more
Just to be the one who walked ten thousand steps
To be a Fitbit bore
Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)
Da-da-da dun-diddle un-diddle un-diddle uh da-da
Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)
Da-da-da dun-diddle un-diddle un-diddle uh da-da
But I would walk five thousand steps
And I would walk five thousand more
Just to be the one who walked ten thousand steps
To be a Fitbit bore
Image Credit: Julien Doclot/Fitbit Charge HR from Flickr Creative Commons/edited by moi on canvas.com.

The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea 
   In a beautiful pea-green boat, 
They took some honey, and plenty of money, 
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note. 
The Owl looked up to the stars above, 
   And sang to a small guitar, 
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, 
    What a beautiful Pussy you are, 
         You are, 
         You are! 
What a beautiful Pussy you are!” 
II 
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl! 
   How charmingly sweet you sing! 
O let us be married! too long we have tarried: 
   But what shall we do for a ring?” 
They sailed away, for a year and a day, 
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows 
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood 
   With a ring at the end of his nose, 
             His nose, 
             His nose, 
   With a ring at the end of his nose. 
III 
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling 
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.” 
So they took it away, and were married next day 
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill. 
They dined on mince, and slices of quince, 
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;   
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, 
   They danced by the light of the moon, 
             The moon, 
             The moon, 
They danced by the light of the moon.
by Edward Lear: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)
illustration by Corrie Haffly

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My Dad loved this poem (loves it still), and when I think of it, I think of him: grinning from ear to ear and dancing around the kitchen: “the moon, the moon, they danced by the light of the moon.” In fact, “you elegant fowl” is still a compliment trotted out on formal occasions.

I need to learn this poem by heart, and dance around the kitchen as I recite it to my kids, for I would love them to have such a sweet memory, too.

Your Laughter (Pablo Neruda)

Your Laughter Pablo Neruda

Your Laughter

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die. 

Illustration by Corrie Haffly || Made with Paper/fiftythree.com

************

How have I never read Pablo Neruda before? I don’t even know.

But this poem—Oh this poem!—undid me as I read it and I wasn’t half way through before I had a lump in my throat and tears welling. For it reminded me of a time, years ago, when I walked into a coffee shop tucked away next to our bible-college-on-sea, and tucked myself away in a corner: a cove within a cove. Usually I came with a friend, but on that day I was alone. Someone new came over and welcomed me as a first-timer. Just then, the older waiter called over: “oh, she’s a regular. She’s the one who laughs.”

The thought that this wild, untamed, often-inappropriate laughing habit of mine could be not just a hallmark, but a beloved one, leaves me breathless.

Ugh. All TMI. You see what reading poetry is doing to me, friends? I’m a WRECK.

Three Words To Sum It All Up: Lessons from a 3000 Mile Roadtrip

We took a 3,000 mile road-trip this summer. We packed camping gear and snacks and clothes and kids into the back of our minivan, and headed towards Yellowstone: the oldest and most prestigious of America’s National Parks.

We saw dinosaur bones, and glaciers, and sharp jagged teeth of mountains jutting into the air.

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We saw sulphuric pits spewing dragon’s breath, and colossal geysers.

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We skipped stones and paddled canoes, we huddled against each other as it hailed. We took photos of all things brights and beautiful, all creatures great and small.

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We paddled on the most tranquil of waters, and picked our way through intricate subterranean lava caverns.

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We laughed with friends old and new, and collected family stories which we will tell, and retell, and retell.

At the end of our trip, I collated our photos and uploaded some of them onto Facebook so our far-flung family could share in the sights of a land they’ve not seen. And of course: put like that, in a photo album, it looks like the trip of a lifetime. And, perhaps it was.

But really, that’s not the whole story. I joked with a friend a while ago that if I were to start this blog again, perhaps I would call it “Not Pictured”. Because not pictured in that photo album were the many hours we spent driving. And driving. And driving. And how we had to stop every thirty minutes because Mommy, I need to pee.

Not pictured were the tantrums. Or the whining faces of Are we there yet? Not pictured was the sweat of pitching and striking a tent every one to two days, while we swatted away kids and mosquitos to get the work done faster. Not pictured were the potty accidents. Or the hours we spent in dingy laundromats on the road, having rooted around in our bags to find the least stinky items of clothing to wear during the wash.

Not pictured were the bouts of anxiety our eldest struggled with as we moved through campsites with bears and thunderstorms and hail, culminating in her asking one morning with tears brimming: “Mommy, did you know there would be storms out here?” I told her we didn’t know exactly what the weather would be like, but that we had prepared for a number of possibilities. She was having none of it. “Didn’t you think of the children at all when you planned this trip?” she accused. Also not pictured: me sniggering instead of comforting my tearful daughter.

And so, when we returned home, people said: “How was your trip? Your pictures were amazing!”

And truthfully, I had to answer: “It was great. Except for the parts that were boring or terrible.”

In the weeks since we returned home, our days have fallen the routine of the school year. We have sourced shoes one size bigger, figured out the car pool, and developed a rhythm for the various activities that have been dropped into our calendar like tetris time capsules. We have first-day-of-school pictures and slowly-growing art folders to prove it. And now that we are settling in, people are asking: “How are you guys doing? How’s the school year?”

And truthfully, the answer is the same: “It’s great. Except for the parts that are boring or terrible.”

I’m thinking that maybe these are the three words that are true for all of life, pictured or not. The blessed life is one which is “great, except for the parts that are boring or terrible.” For none of us, no matter what story that pictures tell us, are exempt from suffering, and none of us lives a life which doesn’t have stretches of the just-plain-boring. There is nothing exciting about loading and unloading a dishwasher. Or learning your times tables. Or flossing your teeth. But that doesn’t mean life isn’t as great as it can be.

One day, of course, our firm hope is that we will be with God, and the “boring parts” will all be rest, and the “terrible parts”  will all have been wiped away as tears from our eyes. When we see him face to face, it will be great all the time.

But until then: this is how it is, and really this is the most this one blessed life could hope to be: Great, except for the parts that are boring or terrible.

In defiance of the muffin top


Have you ever deleted a photo of a happy occasion because you didn't like how you looked in it? I have. But I want to defy that...

 

We hosted a barbecue for some friends and co-workers today. It was a festive, delicious, happy affair: the lawn freshly mown, kids jumping on the trampoline, and stories shared over a potluck feast.

My husband and I had been happily hosting: each attending to kids and guests and let-me-show-you-to-the-restroom. We crossed paths while lunch was being served, and I leaned in to hug my partner and love. We stood there a minute, enjoying the scene of people feeling at home and savoring the buzz of happy chatting.

Our son was underfoot: taking his new LEGO creation on a maiden voyage. We scooped him into our arms, asking him if he would like to be the peanut butter in our parent-sandwich. He giggled and told us he couldn’t be peanut butter because he had a rocket in his hand, and my hubby and I joked that maybe we should change to being a roast beef sandwich, because beef goes well with rocket (hardy har har – I’m lame like that). Our boy snuggled and giggled and pressed in close… while unbeknownst to us, a friend saw our montage and snapped a photo, melting over the cuteness of the moment.

She sent it to me later.

muffintop2I nearly deleted it on the spot.

Confession: I was horrified to see what a pronounced muffin top was showing over the top of my jeans. My outfit had passed the once-over test in the mirror this morning, but I had no idea I looked like that in action, and I was ashamed. The ten or so pounds which have been sneaking up on me stared accusingly at my from the photo, and my finger trembled over the delete button.

But then I looked at the photo and saw a glimpse of what my friend had seen: not a photo to shame me, but a moment she was celebrating for its love, joy, and rightness…. and I realized I was missing it: I was blinded by an extra inch of muffin top.

In truth, this photo is all sweetness. My boy will one day be too big to pick up and press into a sandwich, and we will look back on these days with misty eyes and hearts swollen to bursting with remembrance. Of all the things that are significant about this time: surely my waistline should not factor into my reckoning?

I looked at the photo several times during the afternoon; trying hard to quash the accusatory thoughts and to focus on the good ones. It is hard, repetitive work this: this teaching myself to be kind to myself and my body. I struggled with me all afternoon.

The guests were gone and we were chatting with our kids before bed time. Our youngest asked for music (“Pandowa?”), and the eldest quickly rallied: “Dance Party!” I considered the moment. The last thing I felt like doing was shimmying my fat, but  recalling that I was trying to mark the day with mommy-win-moments rather than mommy-shame-moments, I jumped up and joined her as we let Miley and Beyonce and Maroon 5 belt out tune after tune.  We twirled and jumped and kicked our legs high, and then I scooped the boy child into my arms and twirled him until he giggled drunkenly.

Mid jig(gle), I looked up and spotted a dozen or so flies on the ceiling, miscreants who had obviously sneaked during the earlier festivities. “We have to interrupt our dance party and get those flies!” I yelled to the kids. “Yeah! We’re a SWAT TEAM!” shouted my son, and I belly-laughed at the awesomeness of his pun. Armed with fly swatters and rolled up dish towels, our Swat Team of 5 launched a full-scale attack on our little winged enemies.

Our youngest began to get frustrated that he couldn’t reach, so after a while I offered to be his portable crane truck. He swatted haphazardly, chortling with joy all the way. Again, a photo was snapped.

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Again, I noticed the muffin top. But this time, I also noticed the smiles, felt the joy, savored the moment.

I post these photos and write these words in defiance of the muffin top. We moms need to do a better job of staying in the picture, literally. The photos of my children’s childhoods should not just be documenting their joy and smiles, but who they were joyful with (me!) and who they were smiling with (me!) These are photos of triumph, not shame. No one else is looking at my waist. 

I dare you. Post a photo in defiance of the muffin top. Because really, it’s the least important thing in that picture.