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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

  1. Seek and Ye Shall Find the Joy

    May 29, 2016 by Diane

    woman driving a toy car

    In my last post, I made a commitment to spend an entire week looking for things that bring me joy, rather than things that drive me nutty. For one week, I’d challenge the belief that the universe plays practical jokes on me alone, and test the theory that indeed it’s a benevolent cosmos, and whatever we desire is there for the picking.

    So off I roamed, in search of joy.

    Day 1

    To escape the stress of financial and job worries, I drive curvy mountain roads to the ridge line, strap on my hiking boots, and head up a narrow grassy trail. It’s Paris gray, moist and wispy with fog. It’s just me and the redwoods and pines, and the oaks sheathed in velvet moss. It’s just me and the scrubby sage bushes, and ticks waiting to latch on as I brush past, and the wayward mountain lion prowling for a snack.

    Look for joy!

    I pause at an outlook, and look.

    Now, if I write about the blue-green lake undulating in the sharp breeze, the bench at its edge that I hike down to, the Mallard duck paddling in a perfect rippling oval of water, the lilac and yellow and deep purple wildflowers dotting tall grasses, the call of a loon, the twitter of birds, then I would need to change the name of my blog to something other than Squirrels in the Doohickey, because there’s nothing squirrelly about this scene. It’s just me with my hands cupped, meditating.

    Until a jogger pounds behind me, his footsteps thudding on the wooden bridge. I hold my breath, waiting for him to zero in on me and do whatever squirrelly thing people who zero in on me do, but his footsteps fade on the trail.

    So far, so good.


    Day 2

    Off I go in search of a wallet. My own is splitting the seams. I drive to the shopping mall, browse the department stores, and find one wallet that might fit my various expired credit cards and business cards and savings club cards and crumpled bills and handful of pennies. I check the price tag. $185. For a wallet? What’s it made of, dinosaur hide? Overcome with fatigue, I stuff it back in its display and head to my car.

    And freeze.

    There, in front of my driver’s door, is someone’s lunch. Regurgitated.

    I remember the cat in the neighborhood who left a dead mole on my doorstep. A gift.

    This, in the parking garage, is no gift.

    Of all the cars, in all the parking garages, in all the world, someone had to spit up next to mine. It figures. The one thing, the ONE THING that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Spit up.

    It takes a balancing act to get over and around the mess, into my front seat. I check the bottoms of my sneakers. All clear. Just the usual grime.

    Joy, joy!

    Day 3

    At the library, I check out a three CD-set by Napoleon Hill, The Road to Riches. I want to be on that road. According to the copy on the back cover, the CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation was doing a bit of inventory and discovered unedited film reels of the old guy presenting his thirteen steps to success. So the CEO had these lectures transferred to CDs, with added commentary by today’s top inspirational leaders, and made a mint marketing the whole thing. Probably.

    My plan is to feed these wealth messages into my brain as I drive from work and back, to the park and back, to Target and back, to wherever it is I drive to, and back. I will fuel my mind with positive thinking, supplying what my brain is currently incapable of doing.

    It’s a far better thing to listen to Napoleon Hill than my own squirrelly thoughts.

    Joy, joy, joy!

    Day 4

    The traffic inches down the expressway. A five-minute drive takes thirty. I raise my hands in exasperation, pound the steering wheel, give a good show for the driver in front who watches in the rearview. But it’s just a show. Little does the driver know that I’m filling my head with prosperity thinking as Napoleon Hill counts down his thirteen secrets.

    Still, I’m late to my insomnia class. “Sorry,” I say. “I overslept.”

    Three people laugh. The other three look half asleep.

    Where is everyone? The first night was standing room only. Now, it’s a half dozen die-hard insomniacs sitting around tables, learning how to sleep.

    Halfway through the class, I start nodding off.

    It’s working!

    Joy, joy, joy, joy!

    Day 5

    As a member of the Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild, I have access to a stable of writers on the forum. I know none of them. However, they are writers, and likely candidates for what I’m currently experiencing, which is writer’s block so severe, I can do nothing more than sit in my chair like a sack of old potatoes.

    The stress, the lack of sleep, the muscle spasm in my right side, has drained every ounce of creativity from my psyche.

    “Not writing is causing me so much pain,” I post on the forum.

    Strangers whom I wouldn’t know if I passed on the street, leap to my rescue.

    “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” writes one.

    Another suggests that I cast my worries unto God.

    A third advises me to take a break, refuel, process my thoughts by writing them down.

    Even Jerry chimes in. “Interesting that pain has caused you to not write, and not writing has caused you pain. And then your virtual writing friends have come alongside you – in a writing forum – and given you advice about everything but the craft of writing, which may lead you back… to writing. And less pain.”

    Somewhere, someone is ready to catch us when we fall.

    Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!

    Day 6

    There’s a voice in my head. I can’t shake it. An old man’s voice: nasally, tinny, as if speaking on an old recording.

    It’s Napoleon Hill.

    It could be worse. It could be Donald Trump.

    Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!

    Day 7

    I walk to the vegetable market, about a half mile from home. Along the way, I talk to my mother on my cell. I tell her I need to learn to write fast. I’m too tense, hunched at the keyboard.

    “A blog post shouldn’t take more than one hour to write. It takes me a lot, lot, longer.”

    It doesn’t take longer,” she says. “You do. It takes as long as you take to write it.”

    A wise woman, my mother. A gift. From the universe.

    At the market, I fiddle with the knob on the metal toothpick dispenser. An elderly man stops to give me a hand. “I’ve got it,” I say, trying to fish one out before he can touch it, but my fingernails are too short. He pushes a couple of levers, and out the toothpick rolls, into my palm.

    An expert toothpick roller. What are the chances?

    It’s the universe, providing.

    Pick in hand, I make the rounds, sampling the fruits that the farmer in his green apron chops and displays under a plastic dome. The apricots, the melons, the strawberries, the blood oranges. The mangoes from Mexico fill my mouth with sweet juice.

    Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!

    Day 8

    The experiment is over. In spite of a week of gnawing physical pain, creative angst, and worry, I have come to the conclusion that I have the capacity to turn those blues into lovely hues. While nutty things do happen (fodder for a humor writer), joyful things happen on a daily basis as well. It’s all a matter of looking.

    Life is good, as my old pal Quinn, an ex co-worker, would say on a good day. On a frustrating day, he would drag himself into my office and curl into the fetal position under my desk. This is how he soothed himself. By escaping. It was done in fun, of course, but there was a sharp sliver of truth to it.

    Which brings me to my second conclusion…

    Finding humor in the nuttiness is a valuable skill.

    And with that, off I go, in search of humor.

  2. True Confessions: I Was Held Hostage by a Hypochondriac Dentist

    May 1, 2016 by Diane

    dentist chair

    Dear Dr. Lu,

    Every six months, after you poke at my gums and scrape and buff my teeth, I entertain the thought of finding another dentist. Not because you recline the chair to such depths that my head is in China, or because you mutter just loud enough for me to hear, “That tooth has twisted even more! It’s ninety degrees now!” The reason, Dr. Lu, is because if we were in a contest to determine who is the greater hypochondriac, you would win.

    I’m reluctant to walk into your lobby where the photos of perfect veneer teeth lining your walls mock me, where the samples of bacon-flavored toothpaste tempt child carnivores. I am reluctant to commit myself to your bright light and sharp implements as you feverishly hunt for something wrong. I am reluctant to be motored upside-down, although the thirty minutes of traction, paid for by my insurance company, is a bonus. I am slightly more reluctant to hear your warnings:

    “If you don’t get a mouth guard, you will grind your teeth down to the nerve!”

    Yes, Dr. Lu, I have heard your alarms. I have suffered your exclamation points. I am aware that if my teeth crack from the pressure, you might not be able to FIX them, a horror I refuse to contemplate—not because my teeth may be splintered, but because you would be the one I would be reaching out to in the middle of the night, a hypochondriac dentist from Hell. I am cognizant that a mouth guard will save my teeth, which is why I agreed to purchase the device.

    “Fine. I’ll get it.”

    “Think about it,” you said, practically purring with delight.

    “I’ll get it.”

    “Let me know, after you’ve thought about it.”

    “I said I’ll get the mouth guard!”

    “It’s five hundred dollars, you know.”

    As if I needed that parting shot. As if I needed to be reminded: well, there goes the retirement nest egg. 

    No, Dr. Lu, it isn’t the capitulation on my part to spend my last dollar on this robber-of-sleep that compels me to once again rethink dentists.

    It’s the hour-long torture I had to endure to make the mold for this five hundred dollar chunk of plastic. It’s the accusation that I moved my head when you held me hostage in the chair with that cold goop pressed between my clenched teeth. It was not I who moved, Dr. Lu. It was you. You, who held the goop in place. Yes, you—reaching for something the minute my teeth clamped down. “Don’t bite me!” you shrieked, and, “Hold still!” And then you reached, jerking my head which I tried desperately to immobilize. Oh, the glare you shot me after prying my jaw open and examining the smeared glob. “We have to do it again!”

    Five times, Dr. Lu. Five times you shoved that goop in my mouth. And every time, you moved.

    “I can’t make any more!” you wailed. “We’ve made fifteen!”

    Five. It was five.

    “I’m sure it’’ll be fine,” I told you, pulling from my Buddha-like self the calm that you lacked.

    But it didn’t end there, did it, Dr. Lu?

    Oh, no.

    When I returned for the final fitting of the completed mouth guard, the suction was so tight you had to brace your diminutive foot against the upside-down chair to pry it off. “That’s a good fit!” you said, your face aglow, as I had visions of calling 911 in the morning to get free of the thing, or roadside assistance, or someone with a crowbar.

    Yes, Dr. Lu, I have entertained the thought of switching dentists many, many times over the past ten years, dragging myself to your office, wondering why I am the only one coming and going. Did you display the bacon toothpaste, which now collects dust on your shelf, to lure a new generation of patients?

    Oh, I’ve tried to find a new dentist. I’ve searched Yelp, reading the reviews. But the only dentist available on my back-alley insurance plan is a man reportedly terrified of blood.

    So you may rest assured, Dr. Lu, I will continue to bare my teeth for you alone. Because a hypochondriac dentist seems like a much better bargain than a dentist who might blanche and keel over, leaving me with a drill spinning madly in my mouth.

  3. True Confessions: I Was Stood Up by a Fax Machine

    April 24, 2016 by Diane


    Black retro phone

    Do you ever get unwanted phone calls? Like, a heavy breather?

    Or that guy from the Police Activities League who wants to fund a baseball team for a bunch of skinny kids? “Your life savings, that’s all we need.”

    Or a survey-taker. “It’s only ninety-nine questions. It won’t take long.”

    Yeah. I don’t get those people.

    I get robo calls from a fax machine.

    Have you ever tried reasoning with a fax machine? You can’t. I’ve tried.

    The phone rings.

    I answer.



    Fax machine. I hang up.

    The phone rings.



    Another fax machine! What are the odds? I hang up.

    It rings again. I pick up.


    Wait a minute, this is the same fax machine!





    I slam the receiver down.

    The phone rings.

    I disconnect it.

    In the morning, I reconnect it.

    The phone rings.



    After three weeks of this, I call the phone company and talk to a woman in technical services.

    She wants to know my name. My phone number. My mother’s maiden name. The name of my first pet. The name of the street I lived on when I was five. The name of the thirty-fifth president of the United States. The name of the thirty-fifth president’s mother-in-law, her first pet, and the name of the street she lived on. By the time I’ve forgotten why I called, she says, “How can I help you?”

    “Uhh….Hold on, it’s coming to me. Oh. I’m being harassed by a fax machine!”


    “I’m sorry to hear that, Diane. Let me see if I can help. Do you have caller ID?” she says. “Let me check. No, you don’t. For an extra fee you could get caller ID.”

    “Wouldn’t I need one of those phones that displays who’s calling?”


    “I don’t have one.”

    “You could buy one.”

    I sigh. “Can’t you just trace the call?” I say.

    “No, I’m sorry. That department is gone.”



    The whole department?”

    “Yes. I’m sorry.”

    “Can the police trace the call?” I say.

    “Oh, no. If they need something traced, they call us.”



    “But that department is gone.”

    “Yes. Well. We can trace a call if it’s an emergency.”

    “This is an emergency. I’m being harassed by a fax machine. A fax machine. It’s driving me crazy. It calls over and over again–used to be every day– now it’s every Thursday night. Every Thursday night. I come home, I have messages from it on the answering machine, the phone is ringing when I walk through the door, and it’s the fax machine. This. This right here, is an emergency!”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” she says, “If you had caller ID, then for an additional fee, you could block the number. But that only works if the number is local.”

    I take a huge breath. “So you’re telling me I need to buy a new phone, and extra services which might not even work, all because a fax machine is harassing me.”

    “You could try dialing star-six-nine. But that won’t work unless you have caller ID.”

    “Thank you,” I say. “Thank you very much. I’M HANGING UP NOW.”

    I turn on my laptop. I’ll figure this out myself. I google “calls from fax machines.” I find forums where others are complaining about the same problem. The same problem! All over the world, fax machines are calling people. They’re on a mission to drive us all insane! I’m ready to up my medication when I see this post:

    “Hook up a fax machine to the phone to see where the call is coming from.”

    Brilliant! That’s what I’ll do!

    And then I remember.

    I don’t have a fax machine.

    I could buy a fax machine. But that would cost, like, ninety dollars. Or I could buy a phone that displays caller ID and pay the extra fees to the phone company, but that would cost, like, ninety dollars. Either way, I’m out ninety dollars.


    But wait.

    Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Maybe I need to think outside the box.

    Maybe this fax machine is looking for its mate.

    It’s like that owl in the back yard that goes hoo-hoo-hoo all night, all by its lonesome. It’s waiting for a response from a lady owl.  It breaks my heart! So I drag myself out of bed and stand on the lawn and make owl noises back, and we go on like that for a good long while, and it seems a tiny bit thrilled that I’m answering–although that could be my imagination. But after awhile, it stops hoo-hoo-hooing, and I go back to bed.

    Maybe I need to talk to this fax machine in its own language!

    So. On Thursday night, I come home from work and look for messages.

    I check the dial tone. All is in working order.

    I clean the bathroom, make dinner, watch a DVD, go to bed. I turn out the light and lie in the dark, waiting.

    Around 3:00 in the morning, I’m forced to admit: I’ve been stood up.

    It’s not me, it’s the fax machine, I tell myself.

    Still, it could have left a message.