Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A mother's tears

Kids make mothers cry in a huge variety of situations - which I tried to remember last night as I left the dinner table in tears (a combination of sleep deprivation, hormonal wackiness, and a rude comment by my Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque 12-year-old). I've cried at sappy Hallmark commercials with cute kids saying goodbye to Gramma, at homemade mothers' day gifts, at aggravating arguments, and at unexpected sweet comments. I've cried from exhaustion, joy, and pain (3 bouts of mastitis with each kid, an excruciating milk duct infection whose treatment is - even more nursing. Ouch! And I've cried for my kids, feeling their pain when they get snubbed, or hurt, or treated unfairly by the lousy director who doesn't see their incredible potential just because they had a lousy audition . . . . (just kidding on that one).

I've been a confirmed weeper since childhood, and I firmly believe that by releasing all those stress hormones, my tears are buying me longevity and improved health - and even if that's not true, what the hell, who doesn't love the release of a good cry? It is a bit embarrassing when I can't stop, or when they start in public for odd reasons (weeping at a performance of Guys and Dolls because my kid executed a great double pirouette, even though 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight' doesn't usually elicit tears from the audience!).

My kids have gotten used to my crying, although it took a bit. A few years ago, when I was newly remarried, I came into our bedroom to find Scott (a.k.a Husband 2.0) in our bed with Ben, both reading and cuddled together so sweetly, I burst into tears. Ben was very concerned that he'd done something wrong, but I explained, "No, THIS time Mommy's crying because I'm so happy!" The message must have gotten through, because a few nights later, as I headed into our room, I could hear Ben directing Scott, "No, put your arm here, my head here, and let's make Mom cry again!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is funny?

Defining humor has been on my mind quite a bit these days for a variety of reasons. As a comic, I'm always looking for ways to turn my daily frustrations into good material, and as a blogger, I want to be as entertaining as possible for those three or four people who might actually read my posts. Then I've got two sons who have a very different view of humor than I do (which tends toward inappropriate and offensive episodes of Family Guy). Plus I'm starting to teach workshops to professional speakers on how to use humor - and as I've been researching the subject, trying to pin down 'what's funny' gets more and more elusive.

There are books and websites galore out there, analyzing humor's history and components (irony, slapstick, parody, incongruous juxtaposition). The more analysis I read, the more I agree with E.B.White, who said "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. No one wants to watch and eventually the frog dies." So instead of reading dry academic experts, I decided to see what made me laugh - and that's where YouTube is great. Sure, there are thousands of really inane videos of people burping or putting strange things in blenders, but there is a huge trove of old footage, everything from classic standup comedies to old sitcoms and TV variety shows. I spent an absolutely delightful half hour watching everything from Ernie Kovacs (weird, funny show from the 50s) to Carol Burnett Show out-takes, and I don't know if I gained any insight into how to teach humor, but I laughed until I cried, and therefore (according to all that dry academic stuff) I reduced my blood pressure, released toxic stress hormones, and lowered my neuroendocrine levels. (Or at least I didn't yell at my kids for a few hours!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


With all technical innovations (telephones, internet, lycra) there are bound to be a few problems that crop up (robocalls, spam, the roll of cellulite that pops out of my Spanx). We're used to unsolicited marketing emails and chain letters cluttering up our inboxes, but lately I've been getting a new type of more disturbing spam - gloomy economic news. You've probably seen emails like . . . . "WARNING - Use Your Gift Cards Now Before Home Depot, Target and Disney File for Bankruptcy!", or "REBATES CANCELLED - What can you do?," "PLEASE FORWARD - Your Savings Bonds are Nearly Worthless!," and "TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW - Banks are going under and B of A Has no Money!" What's next, "Fwd/Fwd/Fwd/The Sky Is Falling?"

I know we're in a recession, but come on folks, isn't this the 'fear itself' about which FDR once warned? Being prudent makes sense, and no one ever NEEDS a Birkin Bag or $500 stilettos. But panicking just makes people lose sleep and spend more on antacids. And I guess it's hard for me to take these dire emails seriously - they sound less like reasonable financial advice and more like those tabloid-esque claims; "Lose 100 lbs In A Week With Secret Fruit Extract", "Poisoned Apples Found at Most Major Supermarkets!" or "Obama's Muslim Poodle Exploded in Microwave!" ( is a great 'debunking' site for these types of urban legends.)

So stop forwarding those apocalyptic warnings; let's all take a deep breath, and stick to chit chat and funny photos of cats, plus maybe an occasional money-saving recipe or cheesy pun. I want my spam folder to go back to the good old days, with Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe scandals, genital enlargement pills, and 'Make Money On EBay with No Products, No Skills and No Time!' Things are bound to improve; our governmental leaders know what they're doing . . . . or if they don't, you can always respond to a great business opportunity, because 'Mr. Sunununu Sincerely Requests Your Gracious Help Needed for Nigerian Bank Account'.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hormone Hell At My House

I've always been a fairly emotional person, the type who enjoys both a deep belly laugh and a good cry at a movie. But as I approach middle age (kicking & screaming), I've noticed that my ups & downs have been more extreme. Being put on hold by customer service can get my blood boiling, landing a gig makes me want to whoop & holler, a rude remark by one of my kids plunges me into despair that I'm a horrid mother. And at 12 and 15, the boys are in their own hormonal maelstroms, so our house is a tempest of emotional outbursts. (I asked my mother how she handled us during her own perimenopause, and she oh-so-helpfully pointed out that when she was my age, I'd been out of college for several years, my brother was writing his doctoral dissertation, and my sister was on her first divorce. Thanks, mom.)

I guess the one advantage of this period of upheaval is that I'm truly looking forward to full menopause. (I want to be like Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give; when Jack Nicholson's lothario character is ripping off her clothes and pauses to ask what she uses for birth control, she answers, "Menopause", and they get back to business.) And I'm trying to find the humor in it - I decided to add a bit to my comedy show, where I rapidly go through all the various mood swings of a typical day. (When I told my husband about the idea, he said, "Can I write it?")

CONTEST RESULTS - We have our first winner (for submitting an embarrassing story) from "Losing It" who had a whopper of a mom moment in her car . . .
" My daughter was screaming her head off, like only 2 year olds can, so while stopped, I decided to find her sippy cup for her. Unfortunately, it had rolled down by the sliding door and I couldn't reach it. I very quickly ran around to the sliding door...and tried to open it. Much to my dismay, I found that door LOCKED, as was every other door to the vehicle, because I had inadvertently hit the lock button with my elbow while standing there searching for the sippy cup. I ran to a nearby house and asked a lady to call 911. She did, they sent out a sheriff's deputy who called a locksmith. I just shook my head at the deputy and said, "Don't even ask." He didn't."

Losing It wins a free CD - enter your embarrassing mom moments for the next week's giveaway!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah's ba-a-a-ack

The election is over, I celebrated sharing the historic moment with my kids, and shed a quiet tear because my days of fun & fame, imitating Sarah Palin, were through. Or were they? This morning, as I squeezed in a brief workout in front of the Today Show, there she was, in one of several exclusive interviews, deftly handling such hardball questions as "Did you feel bad when people said mean things about you?" Honestly, I thought Matt Lauer was a bit tougher!, but even he raved about how open and candid she was, not to mention so down to earth that she actually cooked dinner for her family.

Yes, I'm skeptical about some of the stories coming out recently from disgruntled McCain staffers (I don't really think Trig was Elvis's love child, but geez, her interview performances do make me wonder if she really thought Africa was a country, not a continent) - but what is indisputable is her absolute, pure belief in herself as infallible, and that's scary. At least in interviews, Palin hass no regrets; she believes she made no mistakes, and states that they would've won except for that darned economy, you betcha, and that blasted mainstream media which deceived voters into believing that McCain was at all like Bush (notwithstanding McCain's voting record).

Frankly, I envy her sense of self-confidence. I second-guess myself when I tell my kids to do homework or when I'm trying to decide how irate to be on the phone with the cable company, and I feel terrible when I forget someone's name or forget to pick up dog food. I can't imagine how I'd feel if there were thousands of youTube clips of me parading my ignorance and inability to form a complete sentence! So maybe I can learn from Palin's blithe conviction that she's always right, and act like I have a bit more faith in my infallibility.

My inner intellectual/liberal/leftist-socialist/feminist is appalled that she represents women on the national political scene, but at least my inner comic is thrilled that she's still out there providing me (and every other political humorist) with fresh material. (I've already learned to turn issues with my husband & kids into comedy fodder!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Embarrassing stories contest (win free stuff!)

I still don't quite understand how the internet works, to be honest; I started this blog as a way of venting and trying to keep finding humor in my insane life. However, there are zillions of bloggers and networkers out there, and one blogging network invited me to participate in this cool holiday gift giveaway program. So you can enter my contest (see below) AND go to their site to see what other bloggers are giving away as prizes. (The site founder does cool jewelry in New York - so you can go there and pretend you're a Sex In The City type, running around Manhattan in uncomfortable-and-expensive-but-really-cute shoes, wearing trendy fun jewelry!) SO - if you want to win free stuff from other sites, check out -
And if you want to win a free CD from me, here's the contest - submit your most embarrassing mommy moment as a comment (or if the site won't let you comment, you can do it through my website, Starting Nov. 15th, I'll pick one embarrassing story per week and send you a copy of "Return of Psycho Super Mom" to give as a gift or to keep for yourself.
Here are a few of my own (and I'll continue trying to uncover the ones I've repressed) . . .
- I went to a networking meeting when my youngest son was less than a year old, so with a toddler and a baby I was pretty frazzled. I met someone I wanted to stay in touch with, so I reached into my pocket for a business card and pulled out . . . a pacifier. (Fortunately, as a humorist, I was able to say, "Well, these events ARE kind of stressful . . ."
- When my older son was a preschooler, he was incredibly friendly; we were leaving a coffeeshop, where he'd bonded with the waitress, so as I was paying, he announced he wanted to say 'bye bye', which I thought was adorable, until I turned around and realized he wasn't just saying good bye to the waitress, he was trying to hug every single customer!
- I remarried 4 years ago and both my boys were in the ceremony. I wasn't going to see my husband-to-be before we started, so I handed my younger son, Ben, a pile of Kleenex, asking him to give them to Scott to hold for me. Ben ran around for awhile first, so by the time he got to Scott, he just said, "Here', and handed him a wadded up mess of Kleenex, which Scott assumed was garbage and threw out. I didn't know this; we got to the part in the ceremony where Scott & my boys exchanged vows, and I started not just tearing up but weeping, and I whispered to Scott, "I need the kleenex!", and Scott gave me a blank stare, so there I was, in front of our nearest & dearest, with a nose so runny I was afraid I'd have to blow it on our huppa (wedding canopy), until a fast-thinking friend ran up with some extra tissues. By that time, I wasn't dabbing at my picturesque tears, I had to do a loud nose-blow . . .

Okay, I've bared my soul, now it's your turn!