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Humor and your mental health

Con ChapmanI got the bad news the other day.

After noticing numbness in my left hand and stiffness when I turned my head to the right, I went to my doctor who ordered an MRI from the neck up.

After the results came in, he sat me down with a serious look on his face.

“You,” he said with a maximum dose of medical gravitas, “have an abnormal brain.”

I was speechless for a moment. Then, after taking a deep breath, I spoke with difficulty, barely concealing my sense of rage at life’s unfairness.

“Doc,” I said, biting my lower lip, “my wife has been telling me that for 25 years, and she doesn’t charge me a $20 co-pay.”

One’s sense of humor is as vital to the healthy functioning of the human mind as, well, other stuff that is also pretty important. According to folk legend, once you cease to dream, you go mad. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, once you cease to laugh, you go to work at the IRS.

An inability to control one’s sense of humor has not yet been classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a psychiatric disorder, but it seems to me that it’s only a matter of time.  Think of how many intense business meetings are disrupted every day by recollections of stray phrases from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” episodes from the ’60s.

FIRST REALLY INTENSE GUY: Acme Widget has hired Greenblatt, Schuster & Fox.

SECOND REALLY INTENSE GUY: Those guys are sharks — total a**holes.

THIRD LESS INTENSE GUY: Seems to me that Acme has surrounded itself with a cordon of nefarious henchmen.

(. . .)

FRIG: What the hell does that mean?

TLIG:  ’m not really sure . . . Bullwinkle J. Moose said it one time.  Also “A six-foot metal-munching mouse!”

What causes a man, when he sees a mail-in offer on the back of a Rice Krispies box for a “Shrek” inflatable boogie board at breakfast, to become lost in a fog for days, muttering to himself, “Why does Shrek need an inflatable boogie board, and how can I work that into a piece of approximately 500 words that will be of no interest to any print or online publication that pays in actual legal tender, as opposed to crummy promotional points good at a major bookstore currently in Chapter  11?”

I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I do have something to say to people who have the courage to create content that they self-identify as humor, risking the sneers of drive-by flamers, editors and other assorted wet blankets, in the hope that someone will click on a banner advertisement, bringing them a check that will cost more to cash than the face amount:

You have abnormal brains.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman
 is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). He is the author of 30 plays, 10 of which are published. His articles and humor have appeared in national magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and Salon.com, and he’s a frequent contributor to The Boston Herald.

Ice cream trucks and wino wheels

Abby HeugelAhh…summer.

The sound of birds chirping, lawnmowers buzzing and music like “The Entertainer” coming from a janky 1980s model white van driven by a creepy older male trying to lure children to his vehicle in order to sell them sugar-laden treats.

Oh yes, the ice cream truck.

As a kid I can remember the siren song of summer and how we would run outside and try to chase after a moving vehicle in order to procure many of the same frozen treats found in our freezers.

But when you think about it, ice cream trucks were  “trendy” ahead of their time. It’s like some marketing genius thought, “Hey! Just thinking out loud here, but how about a food truck marketed only towards kids! Instead of food, it sells nothing but ice cream!”

Running with the idea, they decided to play kid-friendly music on repeat—including completely nonsensical songs like “La Cucaracha”—and drive by the houses right about the time-harried parents are trying to convince their kids that eating the spinach on their plate will make them strong like Popeye.

(Popeye. Another theme song they used. Well played, Ice Cream Man. Well played.)

Because kids love anything related to sugar and instant gratification, the ice cream men decided to see just how much they could charge before the BBB got wind of their sleek operation.

A menu of carefully arranged the choices was painted on the side of the truck so that there are the plain popsicles or ice cream sandwiches that cost $2 — known as “boring and stupid” by most children — and then, right next to them there are the ones shaped like Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse with candy eyes and sprinkles for $5.

In other words, the price parents would pay for a whole box of the things. Frozen food truck or wizard on wheels? You be the judge.

But I think they’re really missing another gold opportunity with this one. Apparently when you reach a certain age, it’s “inappropriate” to go running out of the house with a five-spot, pushing small children out of your way in an attempt to flag down the ice cream man for a Bomb Pop.

Who makes up these rules?

Anyway, what they need to do is have a second truck creep about 100 yards behind the ice cream truck. Only this time instead of serving ice cream and blasting “The Entertainer,” this truck serves iced adult beverages and streams Bon Jovi through speakers.

Think about it. Parents will LOVE to hear the ice cream man come down the street and happily let their kids spend $4 for a sherbet push-up if they are secure in the knowledge that a drive-by wine tasting is only a few minutes away.

These Wino Wheels could easily expand their reach by parking down the street from ice cream trucks at youth sporting events, making those outdoor soccer tournaments and softball games a little more tolerable after a swig of chardonnay or a beer.

Everyone can enjoy a cold one of choice.

Happy kids. Happy parents.

Cheers to that!

— Abby Heugel

Abby Heugel is a professional writer and editor of trade publications for employment, but a neurotic humor writer the rest of the time for enjoyment. She runs mental marathons in yoga pants and blogs her brilliant insights. She makes you feel normal. She’s the author of Abby Has Issues and Abby Still Has Issues.

Life in the unemployment lane

Marcia Kester DoyleLast year our world was turned upside down when my husband lost his job unexpectedly. It felt as if someone had stomped on the brakes and we weren’t wearing any seat belts. Not only did we lose our income, but our health care as well. To say that life was a challenge is an understatement. A trap door opened under our feet, and the rope to climb out was within our grasp, but too hard to reach.

The situation rendered negative and positive thoughts on being unemployed:

 THE NEGATIVES:

*My husband, who was born during the Jurassic period, could not compete with the Generation X applicants clamoring for the same job.

*We could no longer enjoy a good, Porterhouse steak. We were reduced to eating Spam and baked beans, and even that box of doggie treats on the shelf started to look pretty appetizing.

*Instead of spending eight hours at a job, my husband spent eight hours digging under couch cushions or the car floorboards in search of loose change to play the lottery. He couldn’t walk past a vending machine without checking the coin return for stray nickels and dimes.

*My guy required a two-hour nap in the middle of the day after consuming mass quantities of cheap food to counteract his boredom. He stood at the kitchen counter and squirted cheese from a can directly into his mouth, then washed it down with a handful of crackers. Don’t judge.

*To keep himself busy, my husband trimmed all of our hedges into Disney topiaries, painted the shed in camouflage and dug up our yard for a new sprinkler system, which left it looking like a groundhog transit system.

THE POSITIVES:

*My husband tackled the pantry that I had neglected by alphabetizing and color coding soup cans, boxed meals and cake mixes.

*We had time to enjoy a morning walk together. The hubs was trying to work off his beer belly and the man boobs that bounced as he jogged (no money for a sports bra).

*The rain gutters and tile grout in the shower had never been cleaner. Even the dust bunnies under the bed packed up their suitcases and left.

*We had time to explore every chapter of the Kama Sutra book. Clowns and unicorns notwithstanding.

*We got to sleep in as late as we wanted. Whether it was five hours or eight, we still woke looking like disoriented patients after shock therapy. We had yet to invent a drip line from the Keurig machine to our mouths upon waking.

Eventually my husband found a new job, and life returned to normal. Sack lunches, regular income and juicy Porterhouse steaks. It was slim pickings for us that year, but we were grateful for whatever we had. As a family we were broke, but wealthy in all the ways that counted most.

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, staff writer for In The Powder Room and HumorOutcasts.com and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013. In 2014, she was named a Blogher Voice Of The Year.

 

Monkeys in the pharmacy

Anne BardsleyI was standing in line at the pharmacy, minding my own business. I was rocking my brown paper bag of groceries as I hummed, “Five Little Monkeys Jumping In The Bed.” Truthfully, I might have been singing it quietly.

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell out and bumped his head

Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed.”

I bounced my brown bag as I continued the song. I could feel a pinch in my knees, but I was lost in time and continued. I was in the fourth stanza with only two little monkeys jumping on the bed when a woman with a little girl passed and joined me in the last line. We pointed at each other and crooned, “The doctor said, no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” We laughed as she walked away grinning. The pharmacist gave me a questioning look.

There were three people in front of me in line. Patiently, I continued to bounce my brown bag. Before I realized it, a new tune had surfaced. This time it was The Wiggles’ “Rock-a-bye Bear.” I only remember my favorite lines so I quietly sang “La la la la la…hands in the air, rock-a bye bear, bears now asleep. Shhh shhh shhh, bear’s now asleep. Shhh shhh shhh.” At the shhhh part I put my index to my fingers to my lips…Shhh!  The pharmacist looked concerned as he stared at me. I smiled at him and continued to rock my brown bag.

My grandkids’ visits are way too short. My daughters both live plane rides away from us.  When we have time together, it’s like I won the lottery. In fact, if I win the lottery, I will buy a jet filled with toys and hire a personal pilot to jet us around for more visits.

Now my house is tidy (unless you move my furniture). The pots and pans are back in the cupboard. No more shrill clanging that runs bumps up my spine. The little bowls and spoons are tucked away. There’s not a single toy to step on in my living room. Even the dogs have searched for a toy to munch on, to no avail.  The net filled with Mickey and Minnie bath toys is tucked away in the toy box. The baby bath and lavender lotion are safely perched on a shelf. The musical books all have dead batteries from playing for hours. I have my morning coffee in peace now. There aren’t little hands reaching to play or smear bananas on my legs.

It was finally my time to check out at the register. I paid $40.70 for batteries. The cashier asked what in the world was I going to do with all of these batteries…silly girl. “My grandkids will be back soon, and we have dancing to do,” I said as I sniffled.

I stuffed them in my grocery bag and left the store. Then I cried all the way home.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

#funnytweets #humor

Sharon RuggieriSome people make their friends and family laugh so hard tears run down their  legs while others can claim success at causing laugh cramps and milk shots out of noses…

Me? My friend tells me she almost broke her leg on the treadmill and killed herself when she decided reading my status updates while doing her cardio work-out was as good a way as any to pass the time.

This coming at me three weeks after another friend told me he got caught laughing in the bathroom stall by his boss while reading some of my tweets.

And, come to think of it, I’m sort of proud of that.

What did I say to cause these mishaps? Well, let me just share some of my previous updates and you keep an eye out for something about lotioning my cat and sharing an anniversary with Atkins.

December 31, 2013

Son #3: Look mom…I have cheese nips.

Me: Well, gimme some…

Son #3: Mom, I said look…I have cheese NIPS! <Insert image of son rubbing little pieces of cheese on his nipples>

March 3

My kids just asked me what I was giving up for Lent…I said motherhood…

April 8

I just said “No and you can’t make me” to the 6-year-old, proving to her five older brothers that I also have a 3-year-old’s mentality.

April 9

How can anyone expect me go to sleep when this movie I’ve seen 30 times is finally on again?

April 9

Two things I’m thankful for: 1. My family and friends. 2. The “send to voicemail” button when they call.

April 10

Made pasta tonight…finally figured out how to measure the correct amount in two steps: Step one: Guess-timate based on years of experience. Step two: Wrong again…

April 11

Finally figured out Jesus’s middle and last name after I dropped a gallon of milk on my foot.

April 14

How one of my sons just described my best parenting style…”I’m trying to blog over here! Go help your sister!”

April 21

Now that I think about it… Facebook became popular ever since I made an account.

April 22

If hiding in my closet, eating a big Papa dill pickle and listening to my kids fight over where the last dill pickle went is wrong, then I don’t ever want to be right…

April 22

Everything I need to know about parenting I keep learning from my know-it-all teenagers…even now they’re correcting me on the number of raw hot dogs I should let my daughter eat before bed.

May 1

Things that don’t kill scorpions

1. Windex

2. WD40

3. Globs of Vix vapor rub

4. Screaming

May 6

I’d like to take a moment to say Happy Anniversary to the Atkins bar in my pantry…

May 8

Either I took waaaay too many benadryl or my goldfish is now capable of speech…

May 12

I hate it when my cat comes running into the room, hisses at me, tears out of the room and I end up in the closet with my Rosary.

— Sharon Ruggieri

Sharon Ruggieri is the author of Sharing Mom’s Madhouse — A Book With Sprinkles of Truth and has been blogging at Mom’s Madhouse since March 2011. She’s a SAHM with five boys, one girl and lives in Phoenix with her husband and children. Her blog was recognized as the Most Comical Blog of 2011, #2 Top Blog of 2013 and #3 Most Hilariously Funny Blog of 2014 at Voiceboks.com.

When hell breaks loose,
blame it on the tooth fairy

Jhanis V.It is with a heavy heart today that I announce, the tooth fairy has been unmasked.

I’ve been busted.

You can hand me the cone of shame anytime now.

We all know who the tooth fairy is, right? Sometimes it’s the man of the house, sometimes it’s the one who thinks she’s always right. Ahem. Whut?!

In our house, it has always been me. Why? Because I think I make a better looking tooth fairy. And all these years, due to unexplainable sentimental hoarding, I have kept my son’s teeth in a tiny tin box. If somebody out there is doing the same thing, I implore you, get rid of them NOW! I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but little people are skilled at finding stuff you don’t want them to see. My kids have proven this so many times, but it looks like I have never learned my lesson.

I’ve held on to his choppers.

The kid found the secret box.

And I lied my way out.

“Huh? What do you mean you found your teeth? Those are mine! And you are not supposed to touch mom’s things!”

“Why do you still have those?”

“Because my mom never told me about the tooth fairy and had I known, I would have been rich by now considering the number I have left. Pfft. “

“They sure look like mine.”

“All teeth look the same.”

When I got home from work yesterday morning, I asked my son to remove my dandruff pluck my grey hairs while I try to get some sleep. So I was sprawled on the bed, reading blogs on my phone, waiting for sleep to take over when I chanced upon Cristina’s post (which you should read, btw) where she spoke about parenting, teeth and the tooth fairy. Now, even if commenting using my phone requires mad skills, I just HAD TO COMMENT and share my expertise in these departments, too.

I kept all my son’s teeth and one day he found my secret box and confronted me about it. I told him they were mine, when he said they look like his, I dropped the subject. I’m classy like that. LOL

Now because of the sensitivity of the topic, I didn’t want my son to see what I was reading or typing in the comments, so I was holding the phone very close to my face, as close as I could without crossing my eyes, about three inches away from my eyeballs, but the kid still managed to read what I wrote. Gawd! This kid should be a spy when he grows up!!

“MOM! So it was just you!

And my heart stopped.

IT WAS YOU ALL ALONG!” Imagine this coming from a boy with a smile that refused to conceal the disappointment in his heart.

“Mom, it was just you!” He was laughing but I knew better.

“WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!? What are you doing peeking on my phone! You are supposed to be looking for my dandruff grey hairs!”

Groan.  Mama, you are BUSTED.

“IT WAS JUST YOU! MOMMY!!!! No wonder I only got 20 pesos!

Okay, I get that. I’m cheap.

“And one time, there was money under the pillow, but my tooth was still there! AND THE LAST TIME, THERE WAS NO MONEY AT ALL!!!”

Chill, kid.

Now, I am not good with confrontations and issues and when hell breaks loose, I get disoriented. When that happens, I  laugh.

My son was laughing, too, but there was something in his eyes that broke my heart. Sweet baby Jesus. Get me out of this predicament. Puhlease!

“Are you mad at me?” I managed to ask when laughing became too painful to continue.

“A little.”

I just hugged him and kissed him and hugged him some more.

“It’s because the tooth fairy stopped coming for your teeth when you turned 3.” 

Where the f*** did that come from?

“and I didn’t want you to feel sad so I made sure to put money under your pillow each time you lost a tooth.” 

GAWD. Liar. Just. stop. talking.

“Can I go now? I don’t feel like getting your dandruff grey hairs anymore.”

“Sure honey, remember I LOVE YOU.”

Isn’t parenting sweet?

— Jhanis V.

Jhanis V. shares stories from her third-world kitchen that will make you laugh. Or cringe. You will find more of her writings at The Vanilla Housewife blog. She’s featured in 2014 Top 10 Voice Boks — Comedy Edition.

Meet my new best friends

Judi VeoukasMy dentist sent a “friendly” reminder informing me I have an appointment within the next two weeks.  The word “friendly” really got to me!

I like my dentist and her staff, and if they sent a friendly reminder that we were all going out for lunch, I would love this thoughtful gesture. To be reminded, though, that I will be poked, jabbed, and scaled — no doubt because I’m lousy at flossing — doesn’t seem friendly at all.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate mail other than bills, pleas for money from politicians, and half-off coupons for mobility scooters. It’s just that a note from the dentist need not be so chummy.

On the other hand, I don’t want the reminder to be a surly, “Judi, if you don’t show up on this date, you will be in danger of needing an endodontic root canal treatment sooner than later.” Nor do I want it to be buddy-buddy as in, “We’ve missed you so much, and we are all looking so forward to your teeth.”

Something in the middle would be fine. Perhaps, “Don’t forget to come on September 28th.” Even if it continued with, “Also, remember that if you have to cancel, even if you are on your deathbed, please do so 24 hours in advance. Failure to comply will force us to charge you (or your estate) $50 for your missed appointment.” They can draw a smiley face with a tooth missing along with their message if they still feel the need to be cordial.

Our veterinarian used to send postcard reminders addressed to our dog, Waffles. There would be a picture of a teary-eyed animal doctor accompanied by the text, “Dear Waffles Veoukas: We haven’t seen you for so long.” Because the card was meant for the dog, I’d toss it to him and he’d promptly tear it to shreds. That probably saved us a heck of a lot in vet bills. On the other hand, the dog did die early on, perhaps of paper ingestion.

Still, I suppose mail reminders are better than the “friendly” robotic phone call, the ones that go like this:

Robot Voice: “Hell-o, this is Merry Meadows Medical Center reminding Julie Venitianoukas that she has an appointment for a prostate exam tomorrow at 1 p.m.  Press 1 if you paid attention to this message.”

What the heck do I press to tell them I don’t have a prostate?

I suppose soon there will be email appointment reminder messages too, allowing the sender, if he or she desires, to wax poetically at a select audience without the scrutinizing eyes of the mail carrier. I envision receiving something along the lines of:

“Just a friendly reminder for your 4 p.m. appointment next Tuesday!

Hi, it’s me, your gynecologist!
I’ve teamed with a fine psychologist!
So if you come in early, say about 3
You’ll get two for one — Dr. Angst AND me!”

 And now we get these darn reminders via Facebook. All the medical professionals need do is “friend” me and then most of my contacts can also read, “Judi, This is a friendly reminder. Do not forget you have a toenail fungal infection which will be scraped out next week on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Chicago office. Please bring your insurance and a picture I.D.”

I don’t think I can stand any more friendliness.

— Judi Veoukas

Judi Veoukas started writing at age nine, when she penned greeting cards and sold a few for a nickel at her maternal grandmother’s funeral, much to the consternation of her mother. Sadly, counting inflation, she is not earning much more as a writer now. Still her love of writing is equaled only by her love of chocolate. When she isn’t downing chocolate, she writes a humor column for two Chicago suburban newspapers, Lake County Suburban Life and Barrington Life, and submits to Funny Times (and has actually appeared in it twice). Much to her delight, she won an Illinois Press Association prize three times.  She was also a writing tutor for seven years at a community college with a varied curriculum. However, she couldn’t resist the desire to have students add humor to their papers. Assuring a student in “Intro to Surgical Technology” that humor would spice up his paper proved to be her undoing. Now she mostly hides in her office at home.

12 steps, the new guide to parenting

Sarah HeadshotLike in any 12-step program there is a key to success. Each step builds on the one before and you have to master them all in order for them to be successful. You have to spend time patiently working each step and stage. Reflect on what you have learned, share your story and what you have learned and if you are really commit to the program. Only after completing it you will find success.

There is no difference in the 12-step parenting. However, I’m not sure if you ever graduate or enter “recovery.” Even when your kiddos grow up and leave the nest, you still worry about them and their lives. It is just part of the program

This program works best prior to conception. However, it can be started at anytime. Follow the 12-step guide to parenting! Now, work it, commit to it and enjoy every minute of it!

Step 1:

Learn how to live off of as little amount of sleep as possible. And no, just for the record you will not sleep again after the first three months. That is false, people. The fears, worries and sleepless night do not end ever!

Step 2:

Learn how to toilet quick!  You will never toilet in peace. Forget about reading the paper. Your child will be walking in on you, talking through the door and yelling “hurry up, mommy”!  Farewell privacy.  Bye bye!

Step 3:

Master the art of making “things” disappear!  Like Houdini.

Step 4:

Forget how to change the batteries!  Especially in those loud obnoxious toys that Grammy likes to give!  Or throw out all the screwdrivers.

Step 5:

Learn how to make peanut butter & jelly, grilled cheese, hot dogs, scrambled eggs and Mac & Cheese!  Forget about your gourmet meals.

Step 6:

Master the art of ignoring. It can come in handy with spouses, too!

Step 7:

Be prepared to accept any bodily fluid or solid in you hand!  Don’t be shocked to be handed a piece of poop or to catch puke in you hand!

Step 8:

Master the art of seeing out of the eyes in the back of your head.  They grew when I became a parent!  And do not be shocked if child tries to glue some on the back of his head and on his ears!

Step 9:

Learn children’s songs and shows. And do not be shocked if you are watching them 30 minutes after your child has gone to bed.

Step 10:

Be prepared for public announcements. Usually at the most inappropriate times!  Like, random public check ins. “Mommy and Daddy do you have to go pee or poop?” or “Mommy doesn’t like that,” when being served something at your in-laws.

Step 11:

Always, I mean always, keep a bottle of wine or some kind of alcohol in the house.

Step 12:

Work hard and master each of these steps and you will be the best 12-stepper ever!

Parenting is no different than working the 12 steps in any other program. Recovery is possible. However, unfortunately it is only after your children have their own family and, let’s face it, recovery just does not really happen.  As much as you work the steps and commit to the program, you can never become a parent in recovery!

— Sarah Honey

Sarah Honey is the author of a lifestyle blog, “Thank You Honey,” where she writes about her adventures in mommyhood and everything in-between. You can also find her on TwitterFacebook or wrangling her toddler.

Reflections of Erma