Do Animals Have a Sense of Humor?

I cannot imagine going through life without being able to laugh.

The other day I was lying in bed, giggling helplessly at the memory of something funny my husband had said hours earlier. It still makes me laugh. Giggling is the best feeling in the world. I looked at my dachshund, who was eyeing me curiously, and I thought about the fact that he doesn’t get to laugh. He’s really missing out.

Do dogs have a sense of humor? I’ve had a few that definitely showed subtle signs of it. One liked to run his cold wet nose down my spine at moments when I’d least expect it, causing me to screech. Another hopped up on the bed while I was taking a nap and sat on my face. And refused to move. That’s a heck of a way to wake up. I could picture both of those dogs laughing inwardly.

Primates can laugh in their own way. And now that we all have video capabilities on our phones, we are capturing more and more evidence that animals like to play. Even the grown ups. There’s a crow here on my drawbridge that enjoys riding the bridge up and down, and spinning on the weather vane. If animals can play, they have a sense of fun. If they have a sense of fun, a sense of humor must not be that far away.

I cannot imagine going through life without being able to laugh. I’d feel like something really significant was missing. It’s a quality of life thing.

We all have that one friend…

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Fun Is Where You Find It

This was the most exciting thing I had done all week.

The other day, a mysterious package showed up at my door. They had our address correct, but we hadn’t ordered anything. And the person it was addressed to was someone we had never heard of.

In more stimulating times, we’d probably just write “return to sender, addressee unknown” on the package and let the postal service sort it out. But we’re under lockdown, just like everyone else, and frankly, I’m bored silly. So I decided to be super sleuth.

The person’s name was rather rare. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll say it was Kwinn Kovey. She shouldn’t be hard to track down in this age of internet. So I tried looking her up on Facebook. Much to my surprise, there were about 30 people with her name on there, and none of them identified our city. Well, shoot.

Then I tried WhitePages.com. Sure enough, there was a woman by that name in our city, but in order to find her address, phone number, or e-mail, I’d have to pay. Nope. I wasn’t willing to go that far.

So then I just googled her name and our city. It seems she’s on Linked In. She’s around my age, and it showed a local place of business. So I tried calling there. But they, too, are shuttered due to COVID-19. I thought of leaving her a message on Linked In, but I know that I almost never pay attention to my messages there (sorry if you’ve tried to contact me), and I didn’t want this box sitting on my back patio forever. And for all I knew it was time sensitive (although I checked the sending company and it was a cheap jewelry store, and the package weighed next to nothing).

I clicked on another link for a company that would gladly tell me everything about Kwinn if I was willing to pay. But this one gave me more hints. It gave me a partial e-mail. Kwinn*****@company.net. I noticed that the number of stars was the same number of letters in her last name, so I figured it was worth a shot. And sure enough, she responded immediately.

She was very apologetic for the inconvenience. But I actually thanked her for giving me something to do during this quarantine! She arranged for a time to come pick the box up, and I left it on the hood of my car, so we could remain socially distant. We got to wave at each other through the window, and she said thank you.

That was the most exciting thing I had done all week. Times, they are a-changing.

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Drunken Karaoke

It’s funny, unless you live next door and are trying to sleep.

I don’t drink, myself. And I’ve written about the havoc alcoholics can wreak. It’s actually one of my most popular posts.

But I don’t begrudge you your right to partake. Unless you get mean when you overdo it. There’s nothing worse than a mean drunk. If drinking lowers your inhibitions, and that was the only thing standing between you and being violent or destructive or cruel, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. I have zero tolerance for that.

People frequently use drinking as an excuse. “I was drunk. I’d never do that, normally.”

Well, I don’t think alcohol invades your body and turns you into someone else. I think it strips you down to your bare essence. Drinking lowers your mask. It’s kind of sad when what’s underneath isn’t pretty. (That, and nobody held your nose and poured the vodka down your throat. You chose to drink, so you need to take responsibility for your actions.)

I must admit that I do find happy drunks kind of amusing, within reason. I know some who like to have a party once a week in which everyone gets drunk and sings karaoke. They don’t drive. They don’t mean anybody any harm. They appear to be relatively functional the rest of the week. It’s funny, unless you live next door and are trying to sleep.

I know others who get all romantic when those inhibitions take a hike. Not that they can follow through, but at least it’s positive energy. That counts for something.

But when all is said and done, you need to make very sure your behavior isn’t negatively impacting others before you indulge. If you aren’t capable of doing that, then you should take a good, hard look at your life. Because it’s not only about how much fun you have, it’s about the legacy you leave behind.

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Take Your Marbles and Go Home

Dear President Trump:

Are you having fun yet? Are you getting tired of winning? Because you seem to be spending a lot of time in a rage or attempting to defend yourself.

And not a day goes by when someone isn’t either criticizing you or making fun of you in some way or another. Whether that’s “fake news” or not, it can’t be pleasant. I certainly wouldn’t bear up under that much character assassination, and I’m not even a classic narcissist.

I would think (because I’ll never know) that the whole reason for being rich is to be able to enjoy oneself. Otherwise, what’s the point? You should be able to golf on the weekdays as well as the weekends! Why haven’t you built a putting green on the White House lawn, at least?

Have you figured out what all of us already know? You’re being used. You’re the goat. The republicans can do their absolute worst without fear of retribution, because you will be there to take the blame. They’re laughing at you, Donald. And if you do get impeached in the end, they won’t care, because they’ll still be there. Nothing will have changed for them.

Why don’t you do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor: take your marbles and go home. (But wait. You lost them long ago, didn’t you?)

Surely this game has lost its appeal for you. Aren’t you bored? I suspect so.

But hey, if you do stick around, I’m looking forward to watching you defeat ISIS. Okay, I know you promised you’d do that in the first 30 days, but you’ve been busy, right? So anytime in the next month will do nicely. Seriously. Have at it.

Sincerely,

The Voice of Reason

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A Shout Out to Fair-Weather Friends

When I was young, I used to have such high expectations for friends. I thought that each one should fulfill all my emotional needs or they were somehow falling short. But that’s asking quite a lot of someone. By setting the bar that high, you will miss out on a lot of amazing people in your life.

With maturity came the knowledge that no one can be your everything. I certainly could never pass that litmus test for someone else. I’m inherently flawed, but I still think I’m a great friend. I therefore no longer insist on friendship perfection.

For example, I have one friend who has a really negative attitude. She views life through an extremely cynical lens. But she’s also intelligent and compassionate and is totally cool with my dark moods. She is not someone I would ever approach to brighten my day, but she’s genuine and sincere and can be counted on to say what she really thinks. She’s also a really good listener. I can say things to her that I’d probably never admit to anyone else. That can be refreshing.

I have another friend who is amazing and fun and kind, but she has demonstrated that she is not capable of being there for me in times of catastrophe. She just can’t handle it. That’s good information to have. She’s definitely not the first (or the tenth) person I’ll call when the stuff hits the fan. And while that might have been a deal-breaker in the past, it no longer is. Because, hey, I like fun as much as the next person. And fortunately I’m not always in the midst of a crisis. So, would I give her my emotional nuclear codes? Never. But can we hang out and laugh? Of course we can.

Fair-weather friends get a bum rap. If you keep things in perspective, what’s wrong with enjoying the fair weather with them? As long as you know who will stick around for the impending squall and aren’t neglecting those people, why not cultivate a few extra people for those sunny days?

I’ve found that it’s important to let people be who they are, and adjust my expectations accordingly. Everyone in your life comes bearing different gifts. Each gift has its own value.

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Bloggadocio

Recently I posted my 1,200th blog entry, and I received my 85,000th view. I’m rather proud of this little blog. Writing something new every day has been a challenge, to say the least, but it’s also been a joy.

People often ask me why I don’t switch to an independent website where I could financially benefit from my advertisements. I have considered it. I could certainly use the money.

But I fear that then this bright spot in my day would suddenly become work. I’d stress out over obtaining advertisers. I’d have to meticulously keep track of all my photo permissions. I’d also risk losing the nearly 500 followers I currently have, and I’ve grown quite attached to many of them. I’d also have to learn how to design and maintain a website. The thought of it makes me tired.

One reader contacted me and suggested I publish an anthology of my work, and said she’d meet with me to manage the details, as that’s what she does. That appeals to me more, and lord knows I have produced plenty of material, but she seems to have disappeared into cyberspace. But who am I to criticize? Other than this blog, I’m notoriously unreliable when it comes to follow through. I can only be counted on to keep promises to others, never to myself.

Besides, just because you love doing something and feel you’re good at it (even if I do say so myself), that doesn’t mean you have to profit from it. Sometimes pleasure is payment enough. Creativity is often its own reward.

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Spiritual Residue

Have you ever noticed that when a toxic coworker goes on vacation, the atmosphere at work visibly lightens? People are more relaxed. They are more prone to smile and be lighthearted. You actually hear laughter in the workplace again.

On the other hand, there are some people that can make you smile when you merely think about them. Others seem to bring energy into any room they enter. And still others seem to be a calming presence.

As unscientific as this will sound, I think we all have an impact that extends far beyond our corporeal beings. I like to call this the spiritual residue. It’s very important to consider the type of residue you leave behind.

Toxic people leave a sticky, unappealing trail much like that of a slug. If people tend to avoid you or dislike you, if you criticize more than you compliment, if words of encouragement are not in your vocabulary, you’re one of those slimy individuals.

I’d much rather be positive, upbeat and fun to be around. Instead of leaving slime, I’d like to leave a nice, fresh perfume in my wake. I want people to feel better for having crossed my path. I think that’s an admirable goal.

[Image credit: 7-themes.com]
[Image credit: 7-themes.com]

On Being Silly

From a recent conversation with a friend:

Me: “Why would anyone wash their hair with something that ends in ‘poo’?”

Her: “It’s a sham.”

Me: “I know, right? It’s not even real poo! It’s sham poo! If you’re going to do it, shouldn’t you go with the authentic stuff?”

Her: “Eeeew.”

I love conversations like this. Wordplay. Imagination. Humor.

Allowing yourself to be playful transports you to a different plane. For a brief, shining moment you get to remove yourself from the harsh realities of life and just have some fun. You also make someone else laugh, which is a delightful bonus. You can think back on the conversation during hard times and smile.

I’ve known people who couldn’t, refused to, or didn’t know how to be silly. I’ve always felt sorry for them. Silliness gives you opportunities to bond. Silliness makes for happy memories.

I was once washing a car with a guy and I squirted him with water. The way I was expecting it to go was that he’d chase me around the car, splash me with water, and a full on explosion of soap suds would ensue. We’d have created a memory. I’d be thinking of it right now and get a warm feeling about that person.

Instead, he froze, and looked at me with tears in his eyes. I apologized, and I never tried to be playful with him again. I felt bad, and I felt sad, but mostly I was hugely disappointed. Because I could see all the missed opportunities for happiness in our future. And I felt that loss acutely.

[Image credit: academy31.com]
[Image credit: academy31.com]

Mandated Joy

For those of us who struggle with depression, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time of year. In any other season, the thick blanket of painful sadness, when it descends, seems almost like a natural, albeit unwelcome part of the life cycle. Friends and family find it easier to avert their gaze, and we can sort of settle in and be one with our gloom.

Ah, but ‘tis the season to be jolly! Joy to the world! Eat, drink and be merry! Fa-la-la! Oh what fun! When you are depressed, those statements sound less like rallying cries than accusations. What’s wrong with you? You’re supposed to be happy! It is, after all, a Wonderful Life, so snap out of it already!

Then add to that the increased stress of shopping and decorating that you really don’t feel like doing, and mandatory office parties and family get-togethers and financial strain and the fact that families are now suddenly supposed to act all loving and functional and yet can’t always quite get to that place, and you get a potential toxic waste dump of despondency and disappointment and nostalgia for better, more innocent days. I wish I still believed in Santa Claus.

And of course, your therapist, if you are lucky enough to have one, is on holiday and utterly unavailable. Is it a wonder that the suicide rates spike at this time of the year?

I didn’t write this entry to take the sparkle out of your Christmas tree, or the happy out of your New Year. I wrote it to tell those of you who are lucky enough to not experience depression to please have a little extra patience and compassion for the rest of us.

And for those fellow travelers down the murky, swampy road of intermittent or constant despair, be gentle with yourselves. Make an extra effort to take time out to catch your breath, talk to someone who listens well, and remember that January 2nd is just around the bend.

You can do this.

You really can, you know.

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[Image credit: ptm.org]

Salting Pigeon’s Tails, and Other Games for Kids

My mother was one smart lady. She had three kids to keep busy and very little money to do it with, so she got creative.

We would often pack up a picnic lunch and go to the nearest cemetery. My friends think this is nuts, but I remember these as being very fun times. When you live in the city, a cemetery is often the closest you’ll get to the country. We were outdoors. We were enjoying our lunch, feeling the sun on our faces, and we could often glean stories from looking at the various headstones. For example, if a lot of the family died within months of each other during a certain period, it was probably one epidemic or another. And different symbols on tombstones mean different things. History, deductive reasoning, poetry, art…there is much to learn in your local bone yard.

She would also take us to parks, armed with nothing but a salt shaker. She would tell us that if we were able to put salt on a pigeon’s tail, we’d get to keep it as a pet. We’d toddle around for hours, wearing ourselves out and having a wonderful time, never quite salting that desired pigeon, and then we’d go home and sleep without complaint.

And you don’t have to buy bubbles and a wand to blow bubbles. You can use dish soap and water and glycerine a piece of bent wire.

One of my mother’s best purchases was a book of the local birds. While we were out on these forays, we’d often consult this book to determine the name of the various birds we’d see. I still have this book to this day.

Another book that I still have is the one describing a wide variety of card games. We could have fun for hours just playing cards.

Some of my favorite toys were the “blocks” that she had someone make by sawing up the remnants of discarded two by fours into various angles and shapes, and the collections of little bottles that I would fill up with various combinations of food coloring while pretending to be a mad scientist.

She’d also call leftovers “Dinosaur Meat”, thus igniting our imaginations and gaining our cooperation on eating the same meal for a third day in a row.

Sometimes we’d make candles out of our shortened crayons, or fry marbles or carve apples into shrunken heads. She’d somehow obtain the ends of rolls of butcher paper, and we’d draw for hours.

You may think it’s important to keep your child supplied with the latest electronics, but sometimes the greatest lesson a kid can learn is how to have fun with next to nothing.

bubbles2[Image credit: marvelousmommy.com]