Category Archives: Humor

Controlling your thoughts can lead to a happier, more productive life

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This guy is either worrying about the bathroom habits of the bird or whether that fabric will fall.

When I was little, I could be alone in a crowded car. I’d stare out the window, dream of Tarzan, and be happy.

Today, I’m driving my four kids to Southlake Children’s Choir rehearsal. On the radio is classical music—what tiny Max calls “kitty running music” because it reminds him of a cat running on piano keys.

But I can’t hear that cat. The kids are too loud. Silence doesn’t compute for them: Born less than four years apart, none knows what it means to be alone.

I clear my throat. “Everybody, I’m not mad, but it’s important to be your own best friend. Sometimes it’s nice just to be quiet and think.”

In the rearview mirror, four puzzled blond heads stared at me. I tried again. “For the next five minutes, we’re not going to say anything. Got it?”

The heads nodded. “Great,” I said. “Ready? Go.”

Madeline’s hand shot up.

“Madeline, you’re not even supposed to ask questions,” I said.

Max tapped my shoulder. “Un, deux, trois,” he proclaimed, knowing he couldn’t get in trouble for practicing his French.

“Good job,” I said. “OK, everybody. Look out the windows at the budding trees; make up an imaginary world. But don’t talk.”

Again, the four heads nodded. And–silence.

Ten seconds passed. Twenty, thirty. Triumph.

And then. “Did I win the game?” Madeline asked.

I know I didn’t.

Americans don’t like silence, alone or in groups. On first dates, if quiet happens, we panic and figure the night’s a disaster. But silence could be a compliment that the other person is so comfortable, he doesn’t need to talk.

I thought I understood the power of the mind until I started running. On my first No Boundaries team at FleetFeet in Schererville, our beginning session consisted of running one minute and walking three. That first minute running was the longest of my life.

My second team started practicing about four months later. Now I couldn’t run one minute—I could run an hour. I started the run one/walk three sequence with my original mentor, Tracy Govert of Crown Point. She blew the whistle to start the minute, and then, seconds later, she blew the whistle to end it. The whole time, we were chatting.

“I’m sorry for distracting you,” I said. “That wasn’t a minute.”

Tracy showed me her running watch. “Yes, it was. It’s all in your head.”

She’d often said that, but I’d always dismissed it as rah-rah coach-y talk. Finally, I got it, and the statement’s reality stunned me: My attitude could deeply distort my perception of time. Now, whenever I run or drive a long distance, I bring a palm-sized notepad with lists of thoughts to examine, like counting my blessings. If I don’t, there’s danger my thoughts will turn negative.

The List

I spent 12 years teaching Interpersonal Communication—full time—at Valparaiso University, and I often used a textbook that cited a statistic that 90 percent of our thoughts are negative. The first time I read this, I considered this the hugest pile of poop, the biggest generalization—until I started monitoring my self-talk, which consisted of items like:

Can the driver in front of me go any slower? I’m so tired. I’ll never get the house picked up by the end of the day.

Stuff like that. I realized I was lucky if only 90 percent of my thoughts were negative. Now I listen to the messages I send myself and talk back. My all-purpose response is to remind myself that dwelling on the negative won’t make the day any easier: Negativity sucks away your energy, and I need all the energy I can get.

Anyway, I’m a very slooooow runner, and it’s tough to see everybody else taking off and leaving me behind. It might take me an hour to cover a distance that another runner would cover in fifteen minutes.

To keep my mind from working against me, I developed this list. I wrote it into a palm-sized notepad, and I carry it with me while I run to keep my mind busy. If you think the run will seem fast, it will; if you think it’ll seem slow, it’ll be slow.

To answer the below questions, I sometimes bring a cell phone with me and record my answers. Then, when I return, I play back the recording and write down the answers.

Feel free to add your own positive thoughts as a comment.

  1. Count your blessings.
  2. Now, thank God for your blessings.
  3. Pray for people who need help. (Note to readers: In your notepad, you can write a list of prayer intentions so you can remember them day after day.)
  4. What will you eat the rest of the day? Make it healthy.
  5. What will you accomplish the rest of the day? Make it positive.
  6. What do you need to accomplish tomorrow?
  7. Check your body. What parts of your body are unnecessarily tense? Relax them.
  8. Focus on your form and breathing.
  9. Notice the world around you. Are the birds singing? Trees budding? What’s beautiful? Enjoy the silence.
  10. (Note to readers: On my notepad, I write my goals. Reviewing them daily keeps me accountable. I ask myself how I can improve them and how I’ve already accomplished them.)
  11. How can I be compassionate to everyone I meet? Who particularly needs my compassion?
  12. What is my mission in life? How can I accomplish it?
  13. If the timing is appropriate, do stretches while you run.
  14. Do I harbor negative feelings about a person or event that can be dealt with more constructively? How?
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Mama’s aching tootsies

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This is a picture of when the kids took me tent camping at Holiday World. Aren't they darling?

In my house, everybody has a job, including my kids. My duty is to nibble truffles. Jake fetches my chilled Evian, and Josh waves a palm frond over my fevered brow. Madeline gives me a French pedicure, and Max sings selections of sacred hymns–in Latin, of course.

As your facebook friends say, hahaha. Many caregivers I know are surprised by just how beat up they feel at day’s end. Their feet hurt from standing; they’re bruised from little elbows that poke arms or eyes. When I spent eight hours a day nursing my twins, my back constantly ached.

Jessica Anderson of Sole to Soul Healing feels your pain. The Schererville reflexologist has lots of tips to ease muscle soreness or stress–and she knows stress. Jessica works at the town police department, but perhaps more anxiety-inducing, she’s a soccer and basketball mom.

Anderson first recommends soaking your feet before bedtime in a hot, lavender Epsom salt bath. The lavender soothes and relaxes, and any pharmacy will carry the Epsom salts.

Anderson also advocated going for a nature walk. “Walking is a great stress reliever, and at the same time is meditation in motion,” she said.

She also advised moms to take advantage of naptimes and soak in a warm tub with a good read.

“Reflexology can be used on both the hands or the feet,” Jessica said. “Use the thumb in an inchworm-like movement firmly across the bottom of the hands or feet, which will hit the nerve endings of vital organs and glands.”

Of course, the spine reflex helped me; Jessica pressed the inside of my foot, from the heel to the big toe and back down again. I couldn’t believe how effective her work was. As she pressed my feet, I could actually feel tension leaving my back.

She also mentioned that infant massage helps quiet colicky babies. “The soothing touch helps to almost instantly calm children down and sometimes even helps to put them to sleep,” she added.

When the aforementioned Jake was born, I made a harp of gilded mahogany and played the tyke ancient Celtic lullabies (hahaha!). Really, though, I did take a class on infant massage. And OK, OK, I did play whale songs in the background.

I performed daily infant massage on all four kids, so I can definitely attest that parents feel more relaxed after giving Junior a good rubdown.

For the price of a dozen roses, Mom can get maybe the best Mother’s Day gift ever, and first-time clients get a grown-up treat bag to take home.

To book a session with Anderson, call her at 219-306-6033, or visit http://www.soletosoulhealing.com. You can also facebook her at Sole to Soul Healing.

Weep and wet your pants at these new monsters

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Take me to Soldier Field. I'll feel right at home.

I was pants-wettingly terrified of all the unknown threats lurking amid the Midwestern cornfields that alert readers e-mailed me. Here’s a sampling.

Many readers catch my column on my blog at www.wormsoup.wordpress.com. Mike Rabe of Indianapolis writes, “I nominate the hump-backed Hoosier haunting Hopewell Cemetery outside of Hemlock in Howard County as a good starting point.”

Mike’s comment was so impressive, a single tear ran down my cheek, twice. His humpback hints of a tragic backstory and combines eerieness with social commentary: How would the humpback’s life be different today, with better medical care and hopefully more evolved attitudes toward people with disabilities?

But all of you–you, you, and you–I’m watching you, you know why–should be comforted that normal Americans are creating tomorrow’s paranormal today. 

Susan Ball of Cleveland writes, “I am furious that downstate Ohioans so callously waste their resources. How I hope the rest of the Midwest will not consider all Buckeyes the same. Is it any wonder our jobs are lost overseas when countries like Scotland skillfully exploit the ambience that Americans destroy with every strip mall we build?”

She continues, “Cleveland is bedeviled by pollution, so I patriotically told my friends this story while we were doing shots at Applebee’s yesterday. They believed every word.

“My friend’s friend turned on her faucet, and a green gel spewed forth, getting on her fingers and eating her entire body like acid. Turns out, so much fluoride is in our municipal water supply, Cleveland’s collective paranoia coagulated it into a monster that may ooze from your faucet anytime.”

Susan adds, “I now buy distilled water and use that instead of tap water. It’s worth the extra money to be safe. I also go to the bathroom at the big oak tree behind my house. It gets smelly, and the neighbors don’t like it, but–acid eating my rear end? I don’t want to die that way.”

True, Susan. Nobody does.

Susan’s story was shocking–I haven’t been that shocked since I missed the tiny toilets in Miss Sweeney’s kindergarten bathroom and ended up on the tile floor. Which was last Thursday. Anyway, Cleveland’s distress demonstrates anxiety still seethes under our nation’s new civility. It also creates jobs for scientists, government workers, and distillers.

Ann of Highland writes, “I’ve lived in the Region all my life, yet I still don’t understand the street number system. Merrillville has 73rd Avenue, but where is First Avenue? Hammond has 165th Street, but where is Main Street?

“My neighbor told me Freemasons devised the Lake County street number system. When you graph all the streets, they point to a signaling device that Freemasons will use to call UFOs to help them take over the world.”

Dang, Ann, that is scary. I use those streets every day, not knowing my tax dollars will destroy life as we know it. But incidentally, I’d like to remind the Freemasons that Indiana’s tax rates are now much cheaper than Illinois’.

Gross parenting

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Obviously, the photographer who shot this clip art did not have a child.

Hey, kids, you think your Don’t-Step-on-My-Manolos mom is grossed out easily? Riiight. Here’s some stories from an average parent (me) that will turn your poop purple with fright, and I’m not talking about icky-cute stuff like when my toddler daughter saw a fast-food sign and chirped, “Subway! Eat flesh!”

Fate warned me when my husband and I were lying in bed with our soft, cuddly puppy between us and dreaming of a rosy-cheeked infant to hold. “Oh, yes,” I breathed. “I can’t imagine how much our lives will change when the baby is born.”

“BRAAAP,” barfed the puppy, all over the bed–and my hair.

I discovered parenthood was a parade of yuck. After that first baby, Jake, was born, we eventually took him on a family promotional tour. The first stop was my brother-in-law Tom, a tough country doctor who’s seen–and dissected–it all.

We discovered there is one thing that revolts Tom.

We met Tom at some anonymously fabulous restaurant, and we all ordered Manhattan clam chowder. Tom didn’t have kids back then, and we were all bouncing Jake on our knees, exclaiming what a good baby he was, and trying to convince Tom how much fun! parenthood was.

As our entrees arrived, Tom took Jake into his arms–and Jake barfed clam chowder all over Tom.

Cousin Tommy wasn’t born until many years later.

Back then, Jake was our only child, so we saw nothing wrong with painting the nursery walls a delicate yellow and starching the curtains. That changed one day when I was slow with the diaper, and with a small but resolute squeak, Jake projectile pooped six feet onto the walls and curtains.

Today, I own four black dresses, and I haven’t bought white clothes in five years.

When my twins were born, my family now had three sons and an alpha wolf daughter. Our salon featured witty repartee in which the de rigueur trope was the fart joke. Last year, second-born Josh wore a whoopee cushion costume on Halloween. After trick-o’-treating, we visited Chela’s, a Mexican restaurant in Griffith, with a rollicking party in the bar area. When the revelers realized a live whoopee cushion was eating beans, they asked me to bring Josh to the door.

I did. The crowd was awed. “Would you–?” they asked Josh.

He agreed, and a hush rippled through the throng. I put my arms around Josh and squeezed. He puckered his lips and went, “BFFFP.”

Cheers rocked the room. Josh was a star. Somebody even paid for his meal.

Now that my kids are past diapers, I try to avoid That Which Nauseates, though I still ride in the teacup on the Westfield mall carousel. I consider it a great gift of love that I’m willing to spin until I hurl to make my child smile.

And today, Tweety Bird-lookalike Max told a little girl, “I just farted.”

“Max,” I scolded, “That is inappropriate.”

“All right,” he said. “I burped in my butt.”

Obnoxious, cute kid stories, I know: Every parent has them. And every mom has eaten food half-digested by her child because she didn’t have time to make something for herself. Getting poop on their hands is routine for many parents. Remember all this, kid, before you even consider any acts that might lead to parenthood.

See, most moms don’t tell you how disgusting parenting can be–I tell my kids the doctor just “unzipped” my tummy during my C Sections–but here’s a secret.

Your Halloween costume won’t scare your grandma. But the things she’s seen might give you nightmares.

Parent Olympics

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This is not just a toilet. It's a starting block.

I always watch Monday Night Football with cynicism because parents accomplish harder feats every day, but without the glory. With all respect to the Paralympics, I propose a Parent Olympics for extreme sport fans. Let’s see that 18-year-old childless linebacker try these.

Twenty-yard dash. Athletes sit on a toilet. After hearing a baby scream, they must finish their business, wipe, pull up their pants, and run to the baby. Fastest person wins.

Diving. Athletes must get a family of six to work and school in the morning. The athlete who washes his hair, shaves, and soaps applicable body parts in the shortest time wins.

Floor exercise. Wearing faces of grim determination, athletes must navigate a supermarket for an hour with two kids. Athletes must evaluated purchases, determining if coupons are worth using and comparing price per ounce and nutritional value of all purchases while kids pester parent for Fruity Pebbles cereal. Athletes win points for remembering coupons and reusable shopping bags and lose points for feeling bad because they didn’t use them.

Swimming. Parents must keep working despite nagging kids to do homework, brush teeth, and go to bed, all while hearing “Mom” 97 times a day.

Marathon. Athletes are pregnant teachers or waitresses with older kids capable of walking and hence, creating messes. Athletes must work a ten-hour day on their feet, go home, and be chipper and energetic for existing child/ren. All contestants win gold medals.

Downhill skiing. Nursing mothers dodge obstacles throughout the day, synchronizing their lives according to babies’ feeding schedules, determining how much they can accomplish before the baby needs to feed, and ransacking their memories for places to nurse that aren’t truck-stop parking lots.

Wrestling. The winner is the athlete who navigates a double stroller through a door without handicapped access in the shortest time. Contestants must also carry a 20-pound diaper bag and a toddler screaming he’s hungry.

High jump. Athletes win points based on how high they jump after stepping on a sharp toy with bare feet.

Archery. Parents must try to hit a moving target, their budget.

Hurdles. Parents win points by determining how many requisites for children they remember. Did they remember to clean Bobby’s glasses? Vitamins and medications? Balanced meals? Lunch money? Permission slips? Tooth brushing and flossing? Double-knot shoelaces? Library books? I’m sure you could add your own hurdles.

As founder of the Parent Olympics, I set the rules. Consequently, I automatically award gold medals to all foster parents, single parents, homeless parents, and parents of kids living with disabilities.

But all the stress is worth it. Your gold medal is that your family will remember your name long after that linebacker is ink in the record books.

Eat squeaky: the sensuous art of bellydancing

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I felt this ridiculous.

Three baby chipmunks frolicked around my front door this week, completely innocent that inside dwell a kitten and terrier genetically programmed to Eat Squeaky.

I was tossing footballs with my oldest son when a twin left the garage door open and one Squeaky darted into the house. I wondered if I should call Animal Control, but it was Saturday. Besides, maybe I could extract Squeaky myself. I worried he would starve, but my kids’ grandmother assured me Squeaky can survive on crumbs.

Back up two days. I was in Borders when I spied the Belly Dancing Book & Kit for $9.99. With my perpetual interest in exercise and the exotic, I figured belly dancing would finally get me the zero-percent body fat of Sherry Jeffries, alias Ankestamen, the sinuous dancer on the box.

The kit contained zills—finger cymbals—but I still needed a veil for arm work. Despite my soccer mom rage, I’m uber-feminine, so I visited the fabric store and selected an iridescent pink swath of silk. Eagerly, I read the spiral-bound book about belly dancing being a practically prehistoric art. I told myself I wasn’t exercising; I was reaching across the river of time to my ancient sisters.

Soon I was clanging zills in the rec room while my pets watched. My Jack Russell Terrier, Bandit, wore an expression that read: My ancestors left the royal estates of Britain for this?

My kitten, Piki, looked alarmed, yet awed. I imagined the Egyptian goddess Bastet invaded his brain and was thinking, My! I’ve never seen a beginner with such dangerously perky hips!

In five minutes, I looked back at the kitten, and Piki was asleep. Oh, God. I bored to sleep a cat whose definition of entertainment is chasing raisins across the kitchen floor. But perhaps I did bewitch Squeaky; in the midst of The Half-Moon, Squeaky ran over my foot. Bandit and Piki’s heads sprang up, millennia of genetics commanding them to Eat Squeaky.

Squeaky ran across the room, then terrier, then kitten. Bandit barked like Satan was at the front door selling chocolate for his son’s Pop Warner team. Poor Squeaky! I crated Bandit and Piki, but Piki howled. Bandit bit and clawed his crate’s bars.

If you’ve ever shared your home with a Jack Russell Terrier, you know they have more tolerance for pain than an elite MMA fighter on meth. I was terrified Bandit would split open his gums or paws, so I released him. Piki mewed pitifully, so I let him go, too.

Nervously humming “The Circle of Life,” I resumed belly dancing. I tried to create a sensuous mood while Bandit thudded around the house, frantically seeking Squeaky. My cat thought, Whatever, and he wound himself around my legs. He tangled with my veil, which tangled with me. Cat, veil, and I fell to the ground.

I wonder how many minutes it’ll be until Animal Control opens on Monday.

Nota bene: Despite the drama I doubt my ancient sisters experienced, I still enjoy belly dancing. It’s the most vigorous core workout I’ve ever gotten, better even than the time my bodybuilder friend Yuri swore we could do 1,000 crunches in a row. Still hate you, Yuri.

Reader poll: Does Mom get a sick day in your house?

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Ugh, warm drool on a black satin pillow–not the best way to start a sunny Saturday. Scrubbing crusts off my mouth, I shuffled downstairs and tossed something in the toaster for the kids–could’ve been gummy worms for all I knew–and returned to sleep to fight off the bug my children gave me.

After I slept in, Mother’s Day came early as my children surprised me with breakfast in bed. “We’re going to make you feel better, so you won’t die,” Joshua proclaimed.

The breakfast consisted of two measuring cups of Grape-Nuts, two cups of strawberry yogurt, four slices of whole-wheat toast, four baby carrots, and lingonberries left over from the Swedish Night I had for the kids at home last week. We’re not Swedish; I just thought it would be a good idea.

I ate all I could, politely refusing the rest. “With this much fiber, I’ll be pooping all week,” I exclaimed, and they giggled.

“We’re going to give you a spa day,” Joshua announced.

Jake brought me coffee–thank God! Madeline rubbed lotion on my upper arm, and Grape-Nuts got mixed in. Jake stuck cotton swabs in my ears. Toast slathered with lingonberries flopped upside down onto the snowy white down comforter.

While Jake performed the Electric Slide for my entertainment, Madeline did the Chicken Dance. Max wandered aimlessly through it all, eating applesauce.

To relax me, they turned on a TV music channel–Honky Tonk Tavern. During “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Jake appeared, dressed in his blue Snuggie. “I’m the wizard of massage,” he proclaimed.

My dog jumped on the bed and stole a slice of toast. Displaying the survival instinct that preserved his species through the millennia, my cat watched the party warily from outside the door.

Then it struck me–all this would make great column material! I picked up my laptop and started to type. My kids giggled as they punched keys here7 aCnd there*. Then they ran yelling from the room–why, I didn’t know.

I heard them screaming as they streamed through the house, and I told myself, “At least they’re alive.” They streamed back in. Meowing, Max did a bobblehead dance, and I laughed, because he looked like Tweety Bird wearing glasses.

Outside the bedroom door, I saw a rocker in the hall. I’d just cleaned the entire house yesterday, and already it looked like government agents in hazmat suits would storm through the house seeking E.T.

I sent Joshua for another cup of coffee.

My dog started barking. I looked over, and I realized somehow he got hot pink underwear on his head. I liberated him.

Then I went to the bathroom. At 9 a.m., it was the end of Mama’s sick day.