Laugh Your Way to Lower Stress

Archive for March, 2011

Don’t guess my age

Don't hate me because I look 7

One of the organizations for which I blog asked me for a photo recently and I sent the one at left. I got a nice e-mail back saying I was clearly too young to write for the group because their demographic was 50+. I laughed and laughed.

AARP knows the truth — despite my ability to pass as a third-grader some days (perhaps its the fact that I dress like a third-grader and often my pigtails are so tight that not only is my face wrinkle-free, so are my knees) — I am actually almost midway into my 50s. It won’t be too long until I can get the “honored citizen” prices at restaurants. Will I get a certificate?

Sometimes I’m happy to pass for younger than my real age, but then people look at me funny when I say something like, “I’ve been teaching this class for 16 years” or “I’ve been owned by dogs for 27 years.” They assume I was either very young when I started or lying through my teeth (which I have been known to do — it IS the hallmark of being a comedian and comedy writer).

I teach classes at the University of Oregon and the majority of my students are in their late teens and early twenties. They clearly know I am older than they are and think I’m ancient — probably at least 35 or 40. To them, that’s the cut off. You’re either young, in your 30s to early 40s, or dead. If they figured out my real age, they’d expect me to show up with a walker or a “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up” button on a chain around my neck.

I can still walk across campus at twice the rate of speed of most of the students. Of course, it helps that my head isn’t bowed in “text-messaging is the new form of worship” position as I hike from one class to another.  That makes me feel young and healthy, despite the fact that I’m often out of breath by the time I get to the lecture hall.

But the feeling of youthfulness only lasts until I mention disco or Nixon (equally likely). Then the jig is up.

Can you smell me now?

Sometimes you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything for life to throw oddballs at you.

A few nights ago I was minding my Ps and Qs (but not Rs or Ss), sitting on the sofa vegging out after a hard day’s work when the phone rang. I have Comcast and can see the number on my television, so I could tell the call was from Indiana, but the caller him or herself was not identified. One of my exes is in Indiana (I tried to get them all to stay in Texas, but exes tend to be uncooperative), but we haven’t spoken in 12 or 13 years, so I was fairly certain it wasn’t him.

So I picked up. To the best of my recollection, this is the phone call I had:

Caller:  Hi, my name is Tom Annoying (name made up) and I read your article in Writer’s Digest last month.

Me: Thanks.

Caller: It said you do stand-up. Do you still do stand-up?

Me: Yes, when I get a chance.

Caller: Well, I wrote this great joke and I have no place to use it, so I thought I’d give it to you and you could use it in your next comedy set. But don’t tell anyone. It’s just for you.

Me: (rolling eyes) Fantastic. Tell it to me.

Caller: Okay, so, this guy is sitting in a theater trying to watch a movie, but the couple behind him are talking so loudly he can’t hear. Not wanting to get into it with them, he turns around and shoots them a look, but they ignore him.  Are you still there?

Me: Yes. (I wanted to add “unfortunately,” but didn’t).

Caller: Finally, the guy gets fed up, so he goes the the men’s room. When he comes back, he sits down next to the couple and farts.

Insert really really really long pause here. I am waiting for a punchline and giving him plenty of time to deliver it. He, apparently, is waiting for uproarious laughter.

Caller: You don’t think that’s funny?

Me: Where’s the joke?

Caller: He farts. To show them how angry he is.

Me: I get that. But it’s basically a fart joke. And I’ve heard, say, 41,383 of them this year.

Caller: But I elevated it.

Me: (trying to be nice, but get out of the conversation as quickly as possible). You know, men and women typically have different senses of humor. Guys will laugh at a fart joke anywhere at any time. For women, three’s about enough. And I’ve been over my limit for a long time.

Caller: Well, clearly you don’t understand the concept.

Me: (shaking head sadly from side to side. Not sure whether I’m shaking it for his cluelessness or the fact that once again I have allowed myself to get ensnared in something I’d rather not.) I’m…

Caller: I guess the next time I write a great joke, I’ll call someone else. Click.

That’s right, the guy hung up on me! I’m the poor recipient of a long-distance fart joke from a stranger from Indianapolis. I have patiently not told him how rude and socially unacceptable I consider his call. And he hangs up on me.

So, to exact my revenge, I’ve shared his marvelous joke here. Use it if you will. Say you got it from me. Let the chips — and the farts — fall where they may.

Things that go squish in the yard

I love spring... achoo

According to meteorologists, astrologists, and  people with joints that ache when it rains, spring is further away than it seems. The calendar says spring starts in a few days (March 20th), but our prognosticators think we can expect chilly and rainy days for another month or so.

To that, I say achoo! That’s right, I have my own system of determining whether warmer weather (try saying that three times quickly) is right around the corner and from my sneezing and feeling as if someone set a woodpecker loose in my sinuses, I’d say we northwesterners will be out squishing around in our yards with the slugs sooner rather than later.

Don’t just take my word for it. My dog Justin is allergic to spring. That’s right, the entire season. As soon as he starts scratching, that’s a surer sign of warmer days than the robins which hurl their bodies incessantly at our front window attempting to mate with themselves (which, by the way, is also already happening).

I’m ready too. I may have to wrap my head in a scarf filled with ice cubes to quell my achy temples, but at heart I am a dirty girl. If I have to go more than three months without soil of some sort under my nails and bark-o-mulch in my unmentionables (no, I can’t explain how it always seems to migrate there), I get antsy. And not in a good way.

Speaking of which, the ants have returned to my bathroom, which they only do when spring is well on its way.

I have three bags of bulbs on kitchen table and a newly drawn map of my yard to help me decide where to put them. Assuming the squirrels haven’t plant peanuts and filbert trees in all the remaining empty spots, I’m ready to head outside and … achoo… play in the mud. All I need is for the rain to stop, the temperature to move above 55 degrees, and that woodpecker to take a break for lunch.

The guilt gene

I accidentally overslept this morning and missed an appointment. I am ravaged with guilt. Not piddling, nagging guilt that occasionally rears its head in quiet moments (whenever those are), but wreaking-havoc-on-my-entire-day-making-me-think-I’m-a-horrible-person guilt. And I’m not even Jewish. Or Catholic. I can’t imagine the double dose I’d have in either case.

Why is it that some people can sleep around on their wives and mistresses, blame it on patriotism and travel through life guilt-free? And others who drink and drive, sell houses to people who can’t afford them, declare war based on fabrications, shoot wolves from helicopters… where is their remorse? Why aren’t they curled up in the fetal position, wishing they were better people with higher moral standards? Or at least some moral standards?

But no, those people seem just fine with their intentional and unintentional failings. I, on the other hand, still cringe when I recall having stolen two potholder loops from a boy in second grade. If I could find him on FaceBook, I’d track him down and return them. Of course, there’s a chance if I did find him, he’d think I was a psycho stalker, but really, I just feel guilty and would like to return what is his. Don’t even get me started on the time I fed doodle bugs to my sister and called them raisins.

Is there a guilt gene which you either have or you? I would feel better if science could find this gene so that I wouldn’t blame others who make stupid life choices and express no remorse. I could just say, “Oh, well, I guess Charlie Sheen was born without the guilt gene. It’s not his fault. All that tiger blood must have washed it away in utero.”

There are some advantages to having been born feeling guilty. It’s probably what has kept me from a life of crime. Well, that and sheer laziness. Who has the time or energy to plan out a bank heist, for example, and then figure out how to spend the money without getting caught? I barely remember to take my vitamins.

Guilt has also kept me in relationships until long after they were over. That might not sound like a good thing, but when I tell people I’ve been married three times, at least I can add, “I was married for 27 years.” That sounds impressive. No Hollywood, divorce him while the ink is still wet on the marriage certificate for me. Hell, I still answer the phone when my ex calls, despite the fact that all his calls begin with “When I die…” and go on to explain to me some complicated scheme I will need to follow to sell his Hot Wheels and gun collection after he’s gone.

I don’t think I’d want to be one of the guilt-free. How would I know where the boundaries are? I might just have to become slutty and take up drinking and check fraud. Nope, I’m pretty happy with my guilt gene. I apologize for that to everyone I’ve ever hurt. And if you need pot holder loops, I’ve got two you can have.

A Leg Up

We all need extra help as we get older. Dogs are no different.

My dachshund Justin is almost 12 — although he swears he doesn’t look a day over 7. And even though on most days he’s as rambunctious and randy as ever, occasionally he tweaks his back or his neck. I know exactly how he feels. I threw my shoulder out the other day simply trying to set a 20′ tall tree upright after a windstorm. Okay, who was it who said we get wiser with age?

My doxies have used a ramp to the get into the window seat I had built for them a decade ago. They also have a set of ramps leading outside and one up to my bed (despite the fact that it is on the floor). Let’s face it, when your legs are only 3″, if you can attain a vertical leap of twice that, you’re still not going to get up on the furniture.

I’ve had a step stool in front of the sofa to give them a leg up. I avoided a ramp there because occasionally I have people over and they also enjoy using  furniture. People are funny that way. A stool is easier to slide to the side than a ramp and it is less likely to lead to an accident that my liability insurance would probably not cover. “Plaintiff tripped over a 5″ ramp in the middle of the living room? I’m sorry, that’s a pre-existing condition!”

But after two trips to the doggy chiropractor (who, by the way, is amazing), I decided it was time to bring in ramp #4, guests be damned.

Off to the upholstery store I went, where I purchased $135 worth of upholstery foam (yes, it’s expensive, but take it from someone who knows, the good foam holds up much better than the cheap stuff). I had it cut into a ramp that just reached the top of the seat of the sofa so no jumping would be required for small dogs to find their favorite spots.

So how did Justin and his sister Penny respond? By looking perplexed and refusing to have anything to do with the new ramp. I even tried putting cookies at the top to encourage their using it — to no avail. Penny came halfway up, then walked quickly backwards toward the other end. Justin took one look at it, proclaimed it too steep a slope, and ran up the other ramp to the window seat.

Fortunately, the upholstery story was willing to cut the ramps down for free, which was good because after spending all my money on doggy chiropractors and the cushions, I need to save some dough for kibble and doggy spa treatments.

The less steep ramp has only been “installed” (meaning “placed in front of the sofa with a bath towel on top for traction) for the past hour and so far both dogs have used it once, but only to get to the cookies I placed at the top. Penny still has a quizzical look on her face and Justin is standing by the step stool, which is now sitting in the middle of the living room because I haven’t had time to move it to the garage.

Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. You just have to have lots of cookies in the jar. And very few friends.