Moments of Joy: February 2016

Blessings abounded last month, as they always do, but it was nice to share my awareness of them with you.  Any time you get the chance, it’s beneficial to meditate on the good things around you.

This month has gone so fast for me, even with an extra “leap” day added, that as I begin this post, I’m not sure where it will end up…Hmm…I’m thinking back over February.  I have several possibilities in mind to share with you…

How about we enjoy an “aaawww” moment this month?  Oh, and maybe a little laughter, too.

pink collage of Valentine photos, with the words "Family, Friends, Love, Kindness, Laughter"

My hubby started a tradition many years ago of cooking a special meal for me on Valentine’s Day.  When our daughter was quite small, she began donning her favorite apron and “helping” him prepare the meal.  Now she is a teen, and her cooking skills are improving all the time — she’s especially good at making bread and rolls!

The last couple of years, she and her best friend have completely taken over preparation of the traditional Valentine meal, and it has grown to include all the grandparents, too.

It’s quite an undertaking these days: everyone is banned from the kitchen the morning of the meal as the girls bustle around the room prepping the food (making messes?).  The table is complete with special decorations, including long-stemmed glasses with hearts all over them.  This year, caramel-filled chocolates are scattered across the table for a splash of color.  I’m a big fan of that one!

The sound of clanging pots and pans echoes through the doorway to the living room.  Occasional shouts of “Oh, no!” catch my attention, followed by “Don’t come in here!”  The girls giggle and laugh as they set the table and place decorations.  Good smells begin to waft through the house. The dog paces back and forth, smacking her lips, and staring meaningfully at each one of us.

When the meal is set and everyone is assembled, the most entertaining part of the event begins: attempting to take the family’s annual Valentine photo.

Why is my daughter’s plan of taking a photo so funny?  You see, dabbling in photography has become a bit of a hobby for me.  So, I often play around with my camera’s settings for different types of lighting and shots; yet, every year we forget this fact when my daughter sets the camera up on the tripod for our family photo.

(You will be able to view samples of my efforts in a week when I participate in the WordPress Photography 101 class…again.  You can click on the Blogging University symbol in the sidebar on the right side of your screen to learn more about the different WordPress classes; they are fun and free for anyone to participate.)

Sometimes we notice this fact while attempting to take the photos, other times we get a surprise.  For example, we also take a photo of us at the table for Thanksgiving.  When we pulled last year’s photos up onto the computer screen, we saw that I had apparently been playing with the shutter speed.  Each family member who moved in any way was blurry, while those who smiled politely and sat still were in perfect focus.  In one photo, my mother-in-law looked like her face had been smudged out for the witness protection program or something.  (Hey…I’d better keep a closer eye on her!  ha ha)

On this Valentines Day, it is the timer delay which has been altered.  My daughter carefully aims the camera on the tripod and indicates who needs to scoot in or out to get every face in the shot.  She pulls out the chair closest to the camera so she can easily sit and smile before the shutter goes off.

“Everyone ready?”  She pushes the button, steps toward her seat, and the camera says “Everyone say cheese!” followed a split second later by “Click!” as the camera flash nearly blinds her.

(When I first got the camera years ago, I discovered a setting where you can record a sound and replace the camera’s typical notifications.  I’ve had a laugh several times when people around me would suddenly look my way and say “Did your camera just say ‘Click’?!”)

“What?!” my daughter laughs.  Obviously this is not the 10 or 15 seconds we were expecting to elapse before the photo was taken.

She messes with the camera to adjust the timing, but the family is hungry and neither one of us can remember how to get to the correct menu on the camera screen to add more time.  “I’ll make it work!” my daughter exclaims while everyone is giving her advice at the same time.

A second attempt is made by clicking the button and leaping into her chair.  Her rear is almost in the seat this time before the photo is taken.

She checks the results.  Everyone is smiling and seated perfectly, except for my husband who is half-hidden behind me.  And except for the fact that my daughter’s hair was still in mid-spin and is standing straight out from her head.  It looks like she was having a severe static electricity problem, or maybe that a freak windstorm had brewed up just around her chair.

“No, no, I can do this!” she laughs while prepping for the third try.  She pokes the button while simultaneously twirling toward her seat with a slightly-manic smile already plastered on her face.  Yes!  Success?

This one is better, but we have a little problem getting my husband in the right spot.  It seems that no matter where my daughter places me to get out of his way, he leans that same direction during the photo.  What a mess that man is!  Lol  Finally, my father grabs him and bear-hugs him to hold him still. That particular photo is one of the best ones!

After a few more attempts, everyone is turning bright red and falling all over each other with laughter, so we give up and start the delicious meal:  baked pasta, homemade bread, special fruit punch in our new punch bowl…Yum!

Best of all is the celebration of the love of our friends and family.  That is something to cherish every day of the year.  Oh, and my husband even did the dishes afterwards — score!

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Sharing that story has made me hungry, so I think I’ll go have lunch!  Thanks for reading!

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Links to Joy: A Sense of Humor

Life is laughable 99% of the time, I think.  Even in tough situations, I’d rather choose to laugh than cry, wouldn’t you?  During the darkest times in my life, I have found silver linings in the clouds, or at least an ironic aspect of the situation to amuse me.

A few days ago, a new friend I’m just getting to know wisecracked about my clothing, then suddenly looked surprised and apologized.  We have developed a running gag about her disdain for wearing socks with flip-flops and the fact that my feet are frequently garbed in that very fashion.  (I even buy special flip-flop socks.)  Maybe she thought she had gone too far this time by moving on to other articles of clothing?  I chuckled and told her I’m not easily offended.  With a relieved expression, she said, “Good!  I wouldn’t joke with you if I didn’t like you!”  It’s funny how many times I’ve heard that phrase.

humor is healing -- "A merry heart does good like a medicine" Proverbs 22:17

I was raised in a house full of humor.  My father, especially, has always been a big jokester.  Surviving certain unique friends during junior high school (what an awkward time of transition!) also added to my slapstick slant on life.  After being antagonized and embarrassed to a certain level by those classmates, nothing phased me anymore.  Strangely, it seems I can embarrass myself constantly, but the things others say to me rarely ruffle my feathers.  Ok, I’m rambling; back to the topic…

Have you ever met (or been) someone who has absolutely no sense of humor?  I have encountered a small handful of these personalities before.  These are the people, in my experience, who stay grouchy — angry, even — almost as if they prefer to be miserable.  Or, they are those who go through every moment somberly and react as if speaking with levity is degrading or hurtful.  These latter are the ones who overhear a friendly jibe, throw their hand over their gasping mouth as their eyes bulge in surprise, then furrow their brows in confusion when the recipient of the joke laughs.  With these types of people, I reign in my urge to quip, so as not to upset or annoy them.

Then there are those who seem to enjoy humor but aren’t completely sure how to participate in the fun.  This idea brings a funny story to my mind of an experience I had while shopping in a home improvement store.  My husband and I were seeking to purchase a new toilet (the highly-chlorinated, terribly-hard water in our town ruins toilets and water heaters).  While standing with our heads tipped way back, examining the signs beside the shiny porcelain bowls mounted way up on the top shelf, a couple approached and assumed the same position.  One sign amused me because it sported a large photo of a bucket of golf balls that it claimed could be easily flushed down due to the commode’s extraordinary flushing power and capacity.

The lady nearby asked me which one I was thinking about getting because she couldn’t decide what kind of toilet was the best.  Leaning in closer to her while pointing at the sign I was studying, I replied, “I don’t know, but if you’re really wanting to flush down a bucket of golf balls, I’d definitely go with that one.”

Her gaze briefly focused on the sign.  Then she straightened up, took a small step back, cocked her head and stared at me for a second.  I thought, “Oh, no, I guess I shouldn’t have said that.”

Suddenly, she smiled from ear to ear, reached out her arm, and gently slapped me across the shoulder.  “You’re…so…funny!” she slowly ejected in a high-pitched voice.

I had never had anyone react like that to one of my lame jokes, so I just stared at her with my eyebrows raised.  “You are!” she reiterated while wagging her finger accusingly toward me.  I composed myself enough to thank her, and we proceeded to discuss in detail the merits of several toilets.

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This post was not intended to be an analysis of humor, but rather a simple declaration of appreciation for it.  I guess I’m doing more of a freewriting or stream-of-consciousness writing style today.

The thing I was originally intending to write was a story about my cute daughter.  Though she is homeschooled, she takes choir class at the local public school.  On the drive there today, I was telling her about a funny conversation I had with photographer/blogger Willis Kier in the comments of his recent post.  I facetiously accused him of getting angry when he was too cold.  He concluded that if hungry + angry equals “hangry” then cold + angry would equal “cangry.”  My daughter thought that was funny, too.

I thought to tell her about the conversation because of how she was dressed.  Though it was 40 degrees outside and she was in a short-sleeved shirt, she would not follow my recommendation to grab a coat.  (Sometimes with kids, you have to ask yourself, “Is this really worth the fight?  Maybe she needs to learn this one the hard way.”)  As she climbed out of the car, cold air rushed in.  I called to her, “Hey!  Don’t get all ‘cangry’ now!”

Her laughter mixed with the sound of the car door slamming.  She quickly leaped onto the sidewalk in front of the car, pumped her fist into the air, and pretended to shout at me.  With one foot forward and her front knee bent, she looked like someone stepping out of their vehicle in a fit of road rage or like a Viking warrior raging on the bow of his ship.  I roared with laughter as I imagined a horned Viking helmet atop her head.  I’m very thankful for my girl; she’s so fun to be around!

Do you have your own version of a “cangry Viking” who keeps you laughing?  Please tell me about them in the comments below because I love happy stories!

Thanks for reading.  Here’s wishing you a beautiful, laughter-filled day!

Moments of Joy: November 2015

Last month, I offended your eyes with monstrous mullets, so I will share a more lighthearted and pleasant tale today.

person in Darth Vader costume having lightsaber battle on a barren planet

What an amazing woman my mother is — the way she overcomes through daily trials, a recent family tragedy, her long-term health problems.  Over the years her level of health has varied.  The last few weeks it seems to be on an upswing, and I’m so happy to see it.

I have grieved for my mother because of her health and all the tough times she’s been through, during the past few years especially.  I have grieved because of her suffering and sorrow and because there is so little I can do to lighten her burdens.  Everyone has burdens in their lives; I realize that.  But this is my mom, so naturally I want her to have no burdens!

On this brisk, sunny morning my parents surprise us by stopping by to say “Hi” on their way home from a shopping trip.  Just the fact that my mother can run to the grocery store makes my heart happy after watching her spend months at a time being house-bound due to her illnesses.

Mom walks in with a smile on her face and a (slight) spring in her step.  It’s a good day for her today.  I smile in return as I welcome her with a hug.

Upon entering the living room, my mother spies a heap of Star Wars figurines piled in the middle of the floor.  She asks my daughter what they are and promptly plops down on the floor and starts sorting through them.  (On the floor!)

My daughter shows Mom how her big space ship toy opens with all it’s banana-headed droids inside.  Then she explains each action figure as my mother holds them up with questions like “What is this creature?!  Is that its brains or its hair hanging down the back?”  My father and I look over her head at each other and grin.

Soon, my mother notices a larger item lying to the side of the pile.  “Oh…a lightsaber!”

A few seconds later, she and my daughter are up on their feet, cloaked and masked, engaged in a wild one-on-one battle.  I carefully grab my camera to capture the scene.  After a few quick snapshots, my father and I concentrate on protecting ourselves from the wildly waving plastic weapons while we laugh at their antics.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my mother “playing.”  So fun!  I hope today’s happy moment is one of many more to come…

Moments of Joy: September 2015

A big surprise party was the topic for last month’s happy moment.  This month I’d love to share a comical moment to elicit a laugh and brighten your day.

photo collage of people laughing

A sweet young friend of mine often has the same “problem” that I did as a child:  frequent bouts of the hiccups.  I don’t remember my hiccups sounding as varied and unusual as hers though.  When she starts, everyone in the room often ends up laughing at the sounds she makes.  I used to chide her for making strange sounds on purpose, but over time I’ve come to realize these are genuine hiccups for her.

One sunny day at my house, she gets a loud string of hiccups going while I am working on my laptop in the same room.  I stealthily use the recorder on my computer to capture the hilarious sounds, knowing that some day it will come in useful, even if only to give myself a good laugh.

After experiencing another giggle-fest with her recently, I’ve decided it’s time to share these funny sounds with the world!  There are even more bizarre sounds than the ones on this video that have come out of this girl in my presence.  I wish I could have captured her craziest hiccups!  Sometimes it sounds like she’s speaking in another language.  It’s just too funny to me!

Have you ever heard anyone who hiccups like this?

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Quick tip:  My daughter has a hiccup cure that has worked effectively for her since she was tiny.  She puts a drink of water in her mouth, lies on her back on the bed or couch with her head hanging upside-down over the edge, swallows the water, and rests there for a second or two.  When she sits up, her hiccups are gone nearly every time!

Her daddy helped her devise this trick by using her sippy cup when she was a toddler.  I’ve tried that cure myself, but all I ever do is choke on the water! Lol  Thankfully, I rarely ever get hiccups anymore.

Do you have a trick that works to cure your hiccups?

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Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery…

…or it’s just plain funny!

The message behind this song can be interpreted in a positive way: show people your love through your actions because sometimes words alone are not enough to solve a problem.

In a 1991 newspaper article, Extreme’s guitarist described it this way:

…a lot of the time [love] isn’t real…People use it so easily and so lightly that they think you can say that and fix everything, or you can say that and everything’s OK.  Sometimes you have to do more and you have to show it — there’s other ways to say “I love you.”

~ Nuno Bettencourt

 

In other words:

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

~ 1 John 3:16-18

Moments of Joy: January 2015

The first month of 2015–also the first month of my acquaintance with the art of blogging—is drawing to a close.  Things may feel differently for you, but for me the days spin by so fast I can hardly keep up.  I thought in order to help appreciate my blessings more, I would look back when each month ends, think of some of the happy/funny moments I’ve experienced, and share one with you.  You may get a chuckle out of this laughter-filled moment from January:

photo by alexkerhead

photo by alexkerhead

My daughter and I are going to exercise while listening to music on our stereo system.  We don some workout clothes, turn on the ceiling fan to whisk away the anticipated droplets of sweat, and grab the stereo remote to tune in to a radio station.

For years I had been mildly curious how high the stereo volume could go, but never turned it up too high for fear of blowing out the speakers.  When listening to a radio station, I would turn the dial until the stereo displayed around “22” or so if I wanted to really rock the house and hear the music well from other rooms.  A couple of days earlier, my mp3 player had finally helped satisfy my curiosity.  I had used a cord to attach my mp3 player to the stereo and could hardly hear what was playing.  I wanted to listen to it while I cleaned the kitchen, so I kept cranking up the dial until it stopped at “50,” which was barely loud enough to hear over the clanking of dirty dishes.

So, here we are a couple of days after that, ready to tone up and dance off some flab.  I push the power button on the remote and hear nothing.  “Oh,” I absently think, “it’s still set on ‘music port.’  Where’s the button for the radio tuner…there it is.”  A split second later, an eardrum-bursting blast of sound sends us both reeling!  My daughter screams in terror, or so she told me later (though she was right behind me, I didn’t hear her), as I see her fists shaking rapidly above her head.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see our bewildered dog running around the living room in crazy figure-8’s with her tail scooped under her belly.

My arm draws up in front of my face as I frantically punch on the remote control to try to turn down the volume.  “Why do the numbers change so slowly?!” (Later, as I nurse my cramping arm, I realize it would have been much smarter to simply switch it to the music port setting again to silence it before turning the volume down.)

After recovering from shock, my daughter and I collapse on the floor laughing for several minutes.  (You know that rapid, uncontrolled, almost maniacal-sounding laughter?  Yeah, that’s the sound we’re emitting.)

We debate with the idea that maybe our hearts have had enough of a workout for today, but decide to begin our dance exercise after all.  Our dog humbly curls up in the corner to recover and watch our antics.

Note to self—always turn the volume back down before shutting off the stereo.