Category Archives: Laughter

Friday: Photo & Bliss

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

This week’s Photo Friday Challenge was “Handsome”. This is the type of challenge that initially frustrates me. I immediately thought “portrait of handsome man”, which would be problematic for me as I don’t typically shoot portraits. I have a great photo of my son, taken two years ago, in which he looks, in my opinion, very handsome. He dislikes the photo because he is unshaven, and he thinks he looks like he has a double-chin. I wouldn’t post at anyway, because it is a rule that we have that I won’t do that. My next thought was that I could post a picture of a Handsome Cab, but then I remembered that it is HANSOM CAB, not HANDSOME Cab, and I’m not nearby any place that would have such a vehicle.

And then, this story landed in my lap in the most unexpected place: my aunt’s funeral: My cousin gave the eulogy. He reminded us of how his late father would come home each evening and, smiling, announce “Handsome’s home.” This was quite the joke with his kids as they grew older. Several years ago my aunt, coming out of anesthesia, asked a nurse, in the silliest of ways: “Am I beautiful?” This was repeated to her later, after the drugs wore off. It, too, was a joke with her children. The nicknames “Handsome” and “Beautiful” stuck with them for the rest of their lives. It was a beautiful memory for my cousin to share about his parents, who were lovely and loving people who lived long, happy lives that touched many people.

My aunt loved birds. As I was thinking about her and this story, I thought of this photograph that I took earlier in the week of two Canadian Geese, sitting quietly on a small island in a pond. I had been taking pictures of the water when I realized the birds were there. Canadian geese mate for life. These two seem like a content couple, happy to be blending into the background. My aunt and uncle were just two normal people. In a crowd, you might not notice them. To each other, though, they were Handsome and Beautiful. In honor of my aunt & uncle, I name the geese in this photo Handsome & Beautiful. My aunt would like that I think — and would likely have something quite witty to say about a goose being named after her!


On a completely different emotional note, here is my bliss list, in no particular order, for this week. See links to others’ lists here. Thanks, Liv Lane for sponsoring this.

1. Having the time to take long walks this week.
2. Hearing the frost melt in the woods.
3. Getting such wonderful feedback from visitors to my blog on my photographs.
4. Spending time with family. (Son home from college this weekend = smiles.)
5. Sharing laughs and fond memories with extended family. There are always more laughs than tears at funerals in my family. I think that it should be that way.

For the Birds?

Apparently, many people were upset after reading William J Broad’s article
How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. I missed the original article, but saw enough headlines by the end of the week that I decided I needed to read it. After all, what if I was missing out on something valuable, if for no other reason than to keep me from not returning to yoga classes. Even though I haven’t been in — ummm….let’s see…three years?

When I started yoga a few years ago, I initially thought that it could help me recover from a serious foot injury that had left me in an orthoboot — something more akin to a 5 pound metal bucket than a boot — for five months and needing a cane to keep my balance when walking. I think I secretly held out hope that I might also recover my 19-year-old self — or at least her body — that took Yoga for PE credit in college, and then continued to go to the class twice a week the following semester, even missing out on dinner and the dorm community’s ritual of watching M*A*S*H reruns before the evening news, because there were a few cute and seemingly cool guys in the class. Turns out one was a real stoner and the other two were there to pick up cool, cute girls — cool, cute girls who were not me. The yoga helped for a while, but mostly just the tree pose which my physical therapist had also shown me without calling it “Tree” and without telling me to envision my chakras while standing like a tree. Months after standing in tree pose in my office during lengthy conference calls, my foot began to feel like its old self and I began to believe that dreams of wearing fashionable heels again in the future might really come true.

But I didn’t keep attending yoga classes. I stopped going when my instructor recommended that I seek treatment from an “alternative holistic” who would do some sort of non-invasive bloodletting of my foot while drinking tea. I really wanted to tell her about how I had had a Lisfranc injury which didn’t happen too often but, interestingly — at least to me — was named after Napoleon’s gynecologist. I thought this was a funny oddity. Napoleon’s gynecologist that is, not the injury. Ms. Yogi just sniffed about the medical establishment. I asked her if she had a cold. I don’t think that she missed me. I never found out if the holistic practitioner drank the tea or if I would.

Several weeks ago, another blogger pointed me towards this article by Sarah Miller Why Yoga Can Be So Irritating, Although You Should Go Anyway in The Awl. I laughed so hard I almost choked on my coffee. Instead I spit it through my nose. I’ll get some good stretches in when I get around to scrubbing the coffee stains off the wall. Good thing I wasn’t doing a head stand at the time. I recognize most of these yoga class-related issues. But, in fairness, I should point you to Miller’s follow-up (also in The Awl) to the NYT article: Six Reasons to Ignore the New York Times Yoga Article

Despite this, I am considering returning to a yoga class. I can’t say whether it is good or bad for you. Like most things, you should know your limits — and it shouldn’t take the wisdom of an advanced yogi to know them. Chances are, if you want to scream in pain or giggle uncontrollably, you probably aren’t in the right place to do a specific pose. If you must find an excuse, be sure to tell the class that you aren’t in the right place — then ignore their hugs and well-wishes that you make your peace with the pose.

My limits, as far as I can tell, involve being careful that my lunch doesn’t make an expelling noise while doing downward facing dog. And finding a place in the classroom where I won’t be downwind of others with the same issue. Or learning to really relax during the relaxation at the end of class, rather than being so concerned that I might fall asleep and begin to snore. And finding the place in room with the best access to the air conditioning. Along with no mention of alternative wacko bloodletting practitioners, if I could have these things, I think I could do yoga classes again.

On the other hand, though, I look around and wonder if yoga isn’t just for the birds:

What's the name of this asana?


Between the 3 of us in this house, I think we have one flu bug. Ugh! But, this made me smile!

Some days are just like that!

Haven’t made out a New Year’s Resolution list yet — still have about 26 hours to do that — but I think finding something to laugh at each day should be high on everybody’s list.

Happy penultimate day of the year. Achoo!

Photo Friday: Glowing

When I read this week’s Photo Friday prompt, I immediately thought that I didn’t have anything that fit the prompt “GLOWING”. If that were really the case, I would not have spent the last two hours looking through folder after folder of pictures that I could have used. I finally settled on this one — over glowing sunsets or harbor mornings, over bright, sunlit clouds and bright lights of Big Cities reflected in building windows — because I like the way that the girl’s dress has the same colors as the light sculpture behind her and that both sets of colors are reflected in the water. I also chose it because I suspect that the children’s faces are glowing as well. Can’t you see that in this picture?

Glowing Feet; Glowing Faces

Taken May, 2010, Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, Chicago, Canon Rebel xSI, 1/400, f5.6, ISO 400

>Last week, the evening before an important business meeting, I tired of thinking about doing any further prep work for a presentation that wasn’t likely to assist in maintaining my job past an upcoming merger. So, what to do, when one is in New York, doesn’t have room in luggage to carry home lots of books, and hasn’t scored tickets to Shakespeare in the Park in the virtual raffle: find a play with affordable tickets 20 minutes before the current rises. My choice: Nora & Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore.

The play, really a reading of several monologues by five actors, had some funny lines but dealt with a predictable catalog of “women’s” issues surrounding careers, marriages, children, and health, divorce and death. While I enjoyed my evening, I not likely to remember much from the play in a week. But, later that evening, when I was unable to fall asleep, I decided to try to draw some examples from my own wardrobe over the years. What works as a device in the play, similarly, provoked me into thinking about various episodes in my life.

I’m not skilled at drawing, but voila! It is what it is.

As an adult, I came across a photo my father had shot one Easter morning.   Alongside my 3 sisters, I sat on the porch, posed for the camera.  We all were in brand new dresses and shiny patent leather shoes, with matching hats:  four little ladies — almost. From left to right, Michele, Helene, & Patrice sat primly, smiling, legs crossed demurely, their hats seated jauntily atop neatly brushed curls.  At the end of the row was me:  knees apart, dress rumpled and grass-stained, socks fallen, mud-covered shoes, straggly hair, hat in hand, unable to hide the fact that no amount of AquaNet could keep the curls from fleeing as soon as I went outside.  

 I suspect I never saw this picture when a child because my mother was aghast when she saw it.  Many of the pictures from my childhood were similar.   I knew from an early age that I didn’t have a career in modeling ahead of me.

One of my favorite dresses when I was 6. It’s was a hand-me-down and you can find a picture of the real dress in an earlier post.   I felt like a princess in this dress, the green velvet vest the most luxurious item I owned.  I thought I was beautiful! I wore it for every holiday for a few years, long past a proper fit.

It was certainly different than the scratchy wool uniforms we wore to school: Red plaid, white blouse with peter pan collar, navy blue tie, navy blue socks, serious looking shoes. I think they were saddle shoes, before those became retro and cool.   We drew bell bottoms & flower power signs in our notebooks — the closest we could get to dressing how we wished.   Just before the start of the school year, all the moms would gather in the gym for a uniform exchange.   For some girls the jumpers were too big at the start of the year.  For petite me, they were too big and too long all year. There wasn’t a chance in the world that I would ever fail the nuns’ random tests to be sure that your skirt was only so many inches from the floor when you knelt.  I detested the color red for years.

In Jr. High, my parents’ placed me in a public school.   Nobody knows me, I thought.  Here’s my chance of being cool.   That lasted until my mother came home one day with my new school clothes.   She also had a special surprise:  she had my sister sew an outfit — a pantssuit, with bellbottoms! — for me.   Nearly 40 years later, I still don’t know what she was thinking  and wonder if my sister really hated me that much: 

Red and mustard colored paisleys on a sea of brown. Brushed velvet. Pants and vest, worn with a bright yellow blouse. I think the idea behind the vest was to hide my blossoming bosom.   My hopes for being considered cool were gone before I got on the bus.  Years ago, when I taught school, I thought that the years between 12 – 15 were like walking down the school hallways naked, one’s emotions so exposed , a chronic state of being self-conscious.   And then I think about the 7th Grade Pantsuit.   Naked would have been better.  

I still feel horrible if I wear yellow.  

At the start of 8th grade, I told me mother that The Pants Suit didn’t fit me any more. It stayed in the back of the closet until it found its way into a GoodWill bag, with the aid of a younger sister who would have received it as a hand-me-down. My clothes weren’t more hip, though I did have Five Minutes of Sartorial Fame in 8th grade during a 50’s Day contest.   Happy Days was the new rage, and somehow dressing up in our parents old clothes was suppose to show our school spirit.   I was never much for those types of events, but I decided to wear one of my mother’s dresses.  While every one else was dressing in poodle skirts or leather jackets & rolled up jeans to look like Erin, Richie or The Fonz, I wore my mother’s “Going Away” dress, the dress she wore when she & my father left for their honeymoon.   I thought the deep purple, ribbed knit dress was lovely.  It had sparkling rhinestone buttons and a short matching sweater.  I wore my mother’s matching pumps, the highest heels I had ever worn.   With an china pencil, I drew seams on the back of my hose.    To complete the June Cleaver look, I wore my mother’s pearls and my Grandmother’s fox stole, complete with —shudder — feet.  I think my school might have had Tim Gunn’s soulmate on the staff:   I won the faculty award for best dressed and was given the title The Queen of the 50’s.  

More fun than actually winning, was the taunting I received from the popular mean girl who thought that she would win with the custom-designed poodle skirt her mother had made for the day. I can still hear her saying: You really shouldn’t have won; I gave the idea for the contest to Student Council and I was supposed to win.  You were suppposed to dress, like, you know, a KID from the 50’s, not somebody’s MOM from the 50’s!

I started my first post-college job in the early 80’s.  Like everyone else, I wore serious looking suits, which meant that they looked like men’s suits, with big shoulder pads.  And silk ties, tied in neat little bows, to look feminine.  Yeah, um, no.   I’m hopeful that look is never revived. 

I started branching out a little in the late eighties, wearing dresses, even though we were told it was very MidWestern, and not very chic.  

I had a teal skirt and blouse, that looked like a dress, that I thought looked really great. 

And a more “professional” looking dress.   Why more professional?   Probably the damn bow.  It took me a dozen years to realize that I look good in Red.

Eventually I moved away from the bows, and thought I was daring if I showed any cleavage, like the pink & blue dress that I was wearing when I met my first husband.   He invited me to a Halloween party the next weekend, although it was actually the weekend after Halloween. I wore green pants and sweater strung with christmas lights and candy canes.   This was before there were battery operated lights, so I had to plug myself into a wall socket so that people knew I was a Christmas Tree. I got lost on the way to the party and had to stop for directions.  They might have been tempted to direct me back to the insane asylum.  I later thought of this as the Nightmare Before Christmas Costume

As I moved into middle age, my wardrobe became more monotone.  While there was the occassional purchase of something really awesome, like the Beautiful Green Suit, made from a brocade like fabric with small gold buttons,

mostly my closet reflected only one color:  Black. 

My husband once asked me why I needed 7 black skirts/dresses. Just because they are the same color, they are not alike. Since I know he knows how to count, some of them must look the same to him.

And, of course, the LBD:

These days, I work in an office with a casual dress code. 

It’s casual, not business casual.   I could probably show up wearing exercise cloths.   If I did, they would be black.

>The Fall Will Probably Kill Ya?

>When I was in college, girls in the dorm who liked to put movie star posters on their walls, usually had one of two posters: the forever handsome but dead James Dean looking pretty cool in a motorcycle jacket with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, or a nearly black and white photograph of a very young, handsome Paul Newman, the only color in the poster being his ice-on-fire blue eyes. I was never inclined to put celebrity posters on the wall. No matter how handsome the subjects might have been, I didn’t want photographs of movie stars on my walls. I thought it was uncool, something contrary to the intellectual type that I wanted so much to be. I wasn’t a swooning teen, adoring a photograph of someone I would never meet.

Ten years later I bought my first house. It was an old house — about 75 years — in a very trendy neighborhood. The house wasn’t quiet old enough to be inhabited by ghosts, but certainly old enough to have ‘character’, in real-estate parlance. That character and charm came with dozens of coats of paint, splintered floor boards, a maze of leaking pipes, a large family of mice, a 45 year old furnace the size of a minivan, and 15 beautiful cultivated rose bushes in the yard. And one poster of Paul Newman, his icy aqua blues sexily watching over the washing machine.

Since I was moving in as the previous owners were moving the last of their belongings, I reminded the woman that she had left her poster in the basement. “Blue Eyes?” she said. “It was there when I moved in. Been there for ten years before that according to the last owner. I just never bothered to take it down”.

So I was left with the last thing in the world I would have doled out money for — a celebrity movie star poster. “Must be hiding something on the wall”, I thought, “maybe a Hole in the Wall”. I peaked behind it. Just wallboard, slightly different in color than the surrounding wall. When I took it down the wall looked empty. That corner of the basement seemed mustier, darker, with a few more cobwebs. It was already spooky enough, as the laundry area was adjacent to a room with a dirt floor and an ominous “TS” spray painted on the wall. Maybe there could have been ghosts there. Or the skeletal bones of someone long forgotten. I put the poster back on the wall. I needed sexy blue-eyed Paul to look over me while I washed diapers and bibs.

I remodeled most of the house before I sold it. I had walls cave in after I discovered that, along with the mice, living in the walls was a termite colony. I tore out walls and floors and frayed electrical wires. I retiled the bath. I created a terrific kitchen with lots of light, new appliances and surplus counter space that any chef would give up her best knife for. I rescued the decorative tile around the fireplace, hidden for years under paint. I found glass doorknobs that matched at a flea-market and heating grates at a place that specialized in rescuing architectural gems from soon-to-be demolished old homes. Nearly everything changed — except for the poster of Mr. Newman.

Mr. Blue Eyes guarded my dirty laundry for seven years. Some of those years were difficult ones for me, but seeing the poster over my washing machine frequently made me smile. It became a joke among my friends — Paul watching me wash my lingerie. I didn’t know much about Paul Newman then, other than he was an actor. His food company was only a few years old. I had never tasted his salad dressing, or marinara sauce, or popcorn. When I moved out, I thought about taking the poster with me. But Mr. Blue Eyes seemed to belong there, waiting for someone else’s laundry. I think that presence is what has been missing from all the laundry rooms in the houses I’ve owned since. They have just been utilitarian laundry rooms with detergent, fabric softener, and hangers.

Several months ago one of my book groups read Newman’s memoir Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, co-authored with his business partner, A. E. Hotchner. Unlike a Hollywood memoir, the book barely mentioned that Paul Newman starred in movies. The title of the book is also the motto of Newman’s Food Company, Newman’s Own, a venture that he started as a joke. Never expecting to make any money, Newman and Hotchner decided at the onset that they would donate their profits to charity. While others might have thought that they were jumping off a cliff like Butch and Sundance, they went into business to have fun and to do some good. And good is what Newman’s company has done by donating over $250 million to charities in the last 25 years.

I didn’t have a poster of a movie star watching over my laundry after all. I had a picture of the kind of person who deserves to be a celebrity not because he was an actor or a race car driver (he was pretty good at that too!) but because he was an humanitarian.

Just for fun, in memory of Paul Newman:

The cliff scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

Have some Newman’s Own popcorn while you watch the clips.

Next time that you think about doing something to help someone, remember that despite the risks, you probably won’t drown and the fall probably won’t kill ya. Even if it is risky, take the chance, dare to do some good, and have fun.

>Hands in the dirt and a trip to Chicago

>Today was gardening day. While I only have one flat of flowers planted so far, my guys and I did a lot of shoveling of dirt today. There is something invigorating about the smell of dirt and worms on a cool, sunny Spring day.

Here are some pictures from the garden:

It’s going to take more than one flat to cover this hill side, newly without ground cover because the landscapers cleared the wrong area. That’s okay, though, it allows for adding some color on the wooded slope. Complements the sign too!

I found this delicate little wildflower in the woods as I was planting the begonias.

Right now, standing on my porch or walking down the driveway, is a sensory delight, with the honeysuckle in bloom. Some call this a weed. While it is invasive — it’s even banned in Illinois — I like it a lot. Lonicera maackii:

Speaking of gardening and gardens, I was in Chicago last week and had the opportunity to walk through Millennium Park. Lurie Gardens is beautiful.

I was with a Dutch friend who especially liked the tulips:

As we approached Jaume Plensa’s Crowne Fountain, I thought maybe they had changed it. I liked the changing mural of flowers on the glass wall, but was a little disappointed that it wasn’t what I expected.

Then, the picture changed:

How can you not smile at this? Even though it was cold, there were children splashing in the water. How can one resist laughing?

From Carl Sandburg’s poem Chicago:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Since I was with friends on their first trip to the US, we did the tourist-y thing and went to the top of the John Hancock building. I haven’t done that since sometime in the 1970’s. We also walked on the beach for awhile. Although they live on the Indian Ocean, my friends were amazed by Lake Michigan.

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

One last view of the City of Broad Shoulders.

>Glad they found it before it threatened me!

>Posting a bit of satire as I’m just not yet ready for work on a Monday morning. Researchers Discover Massive @$$h013 in the Blogosphere

DEFINITELY NSFW! You’ve been warned.

For something just as funny, but safer (depending on political winds), you can listen to this: Congress Overrun by Wolves. Great soundtrack in the background.

Much better than listening to BillO on Fixed News.

>I’m Still Laughing

>Last night, after dinner, my sisters and I were talking about silly things our kids had done. My youngest sister made a comment revealing that she didn’t know something that most everybody — boy or girl — would know by about age 5. Something that if you read in a novel you wouldn’t find believable, unless the character had just woke up from a decades-long coma. And had functional amnesia. And been raised by wolves.

I never thought about it. she said. I can’t help it that I have a boy.

I laughed so hard I peed my pants.

As we were laughing my brother calls. Little Sister tells Big Brother why we are laughing. My brother, as usual, is taciturn. I imagine the quizzical expression on his face. I think I hear his brain churning as he struggles to make sense of this.

Finally, he breaks the silence. Even though the phone is not on speaker, I hear him stammer: But…But….You’re a DOCTOR!

I say: Medical license? How in the hell did she even get a driver’s license?

Even a nun would know this. Sister #2 says.

How do you think I felt? It was my kid. Sister #4 says.

Her concern is ignored. The funny story about her kid has been surpassed for the rest of family history. If it is remembered, it will only be as the setup for “…and then Aunt B said….”

How do you think I feel? She’s my kid — the Doctor! my mother spurts out between gasps and giggles.

Reader, understand: this was not an issue about anatomy, physiology, or psychology. This is not something taught in school. This is something every Westerner would know.

Or so I thought. I still can’t wrap my brain around this. Or stop laughing.

I’m glad that her husband is the stay-at-home parent.

I’m glad that Little Sister doesn’t know about this blog. I would be deep in dirt with her. But maybe she has no recourse now that she has revealed what I can only think of as The Ultimate Stupidity.

This could be source material for Blond Jokes. No, no. It’s too unbelievable.