Good People Exist

Person 1: “Did you hear about that shooting? A cop got shot.”

Person 2: “Which one? The one in Texas?”

It’s sad that tragedy has become so common. So when I encounter really nice people, it not only restores my faith in humanity, it reminds me to keep from becoming a cynic. It does matter what we do. The positive things we do – no matter how small – do make an impact on other people’s lives.  I also believe in karma. We do get back the good that we put out, like a boomerang. This weekend in my home city of Scranton, I met people who took a bit of my hardening edge off.

Saturday morning I ran. Naturally I encountered cheery people at the local running group, the Barrier Breakers.  When people  come together with a shared interest, especially running, you’re bound to have smiles, nice conversations and supportive comments. After I put in 8.5 total miles (2.3 by myself and the rest with a group), I decided that was enough. Even though I set out thinking I would do 9 miles, the heat had not been so kind to me and I felt that I could live with myself if I walked home the initial 2.3 that I ran to the trail head in Scranton.

On my walk home I encountered a man weed wacking and cutting grass. My first thought wasn’t a thought. It was a sensation. I love the smell of freshly cut grass. It makes me smile and think of 6-year-old Jeannine playing in the back yard for the summer wearing some 70s plaid Healthtex matching outfit.  I was already feeling positive when the man greeted me with, “How was your jog?”   I told him it was good but that I was kind of spent so I was going to walk home. He smiled and went back to his work but I was pleasantly surprised.  A complete stranger actually inquiring about my morning. That was nice.

I walked up the hill that I’ve run and cursed at many times – twice during the Scranton Half Marathons – and kept on walking through the “Bull’s Head” section of North Scranton when I encountered an elderly gentleman who wore a big smile and twinkle in his eyes. He asked, “How many miles did you walk?”  Mind you, I think he was asking so that he could tell me how many miles he walks but that was fine by me. I explained about my run and then my cool-down walk home. He proudly told me that he walks 5 miles every day. Then he turned to point toward downtown Scranton to tell me one of his routes. He grinned and said, “Not bad for a 72-year-old huh?”  I told him that must be why he looks so great.  Then he came closer and told me, almost as if he was revealing a secret, “At my age, there’s only two things I worry about: the man upstairs and my health.” After a few seconds, he turned again toward me to say, “Oh and avoiding stressful people.” He then talked about a woman who used to live in his building who was very negative. He said he was glad she moved because she was stressful but he added, “God love her.”  I told him to keep up the good work and that I hoped I would be as active at his age. Then I walked on.

My third encounter came when I was within blocks from my home. It was at that bridge that has been closed since Truman was in office. Okay I’m cracking wise. The Leggett Street bridge has been closed for about three years and I would not be surprised if it was never fixed. We folks in North Scranton have learned to adapt. We had to.  Anyway, this gentleman in his 40s or so, who was wearing a baseball cap and holding a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, was staring into Leggetts Creek. As I came closer he said, “There’ s a lot of fish down there.” I told him how I believe it’s spawning season or at least it’s coming soon because I know that no work is allowed on the bridge during that season. He seemed genuinely interested in that information and even more interested in appreciating nature. He looked content, smiled and turned back to see all the fish.

There’s nothing remarkable about these conversations but I was struck by the humanness of them. I was glad that people were being so neighborly. It felt nice because that’s not always the case.  Sometimes when I go or a walk or run through the city, my impressions are less than positive. Cigarette butts are a permanent fixture on our streets, along with litter and some people drive like they would earn points for hitting you. Many speed up when they see a runner coming…or it feels that way some times, even in cross walks.  Or there are the lovely foul-mouthed kids on bikes or cat calls from men in trucks and cars who feel brave as they drive by.  To be spoken to with courtesy, respect, and genuine friendliness was such a nice reinforcement of what we need to do more often.

My final example of proof that good people exist, is the story of Charlotte. Charlotte was a solid young woman in her 20s wearing a hoodie, glasses and a big big smile of warmth that you could tell was a regular accessory on her face. After watching two movies at the Circle Drive In Sunday night with my boyfriend, we were left with a dead battery in my dad’s Equinox that I borrowed (because I thought it would be fun to sit in the back with the hatch up).  After some grumbling expletives from my boyfriend and a sense of dread starting to creep into my belly, this young woman came to our rescue. She explained how this had happened to her once at the Drive In – just once – but ever since she has remembered to bring jumper cables.  We were all hooked up and we didn’t have immediate results – which wasn’t helping the demeanor of my boyfriend or I – but that didn’t affect Charlotte. She said she didn’t mind waiting if it took a while to charge. Oh, and she also offered to give us a ride if we needed it. Thankfully, the SUV battery charged and we were positive again – at least the vehicle was. Thanks to Charlotte. I thanked her heavily, asked her name, and thanked her some more. I hope that Charlotte receives a dose of help 10 times over when she needs it most. She and others like her are helping to make up for every piece of bad news we read.

Please don’t ever give up smiling at strangers, holding doors, offering change to someone at a meter looking frustrated. Our world needs you to remind all of us that we are connected and we do have the power to make humankind kind!

 

All Aboard the Trainwreck

 Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the laughs.

I did my first open mic while visiting a friend in Houston about 11 years ago. I had been writing jokes and ideas for jokes on anything that I had in front of me at the time: napkins, tissues, business cards, toilet paper – a practice I still follow today- but I had never had the guts to get up in front of people and say some of these jokes aloud. On my first visit to Houston I chickened out, even though my friend, Sahn, was very encouraging. It was on my second visit that she more or less threatened if I didn’t do the open mic at Laff Stop this time, I couldn’t board the plane to return to PA. I remember being so nervous back then that when I practiced in the dining area of Sahn’s townhouse, I made her sit in the living room facing the TV. Fast forward to that evening and my pregnant friend and her husband, Dave, were there to support me. My jokes – one about the baggage claim area of an airport being viewed like a ‘carousel’ and another about grown-up Happy Meals for depressed folks, – landed pretty well but listen for yourself. (Hang in there. It’s a bit rough being my first. Give it until minute 2:00.) I felt relieved. I felt proud. I felt beyond happy – no meal needed.

Taking the Stage

Fast forward a few weeks and I am driving about two hours from my job in Wilkes-Barre, PA to Northeast Philadelphia’s Comedy Cabaret to do open mic. I had some off nights and some really on nights. I got laughs that made me feel exhilarated.

Excuse me, can I have your autograph Ms. Schumer?

Fast forward about a year or two (I admit to not keeping a diary so the dates are not iron clad; don’t quote me on them) and I’m doing a seven to 10-minute comedy set at a club called the River Street Jazz Cafe in Wilkes-Barre on a Sunday night. It was this new weekly thing that my comedian friend Tony LaJeune organized. I performed with fellow comedians Brad Todd, CJ Hood and a few others. The crowds were sometimes light but I was getting stage time. I was learning. One night Tony brought in Jessica Kirson to headline the show. She had come to Wilkes-barre before. She’s got a real presence on stage. She’s funny! Well…she brought along a friend from New York City to open up for her. And that friend’s name was Amy Schumer. If I only knew then what I know now …

Courtesy of Citizens Voice

Courtesy of Citizens Voice

Amy was funny but a little too edgy for me. Let’s face it, I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic School from kindergarten to 12th grade. Oh, and I was a good little Stepford student. I listened to the nuns, had plenty of guilt, fear and remained a virgin until my senior year in college. So her abortion joke gave me pause. Even though I was not quite ready to appreciate her humor then, I knew that she was a professional and seemed very confident on stage.  But I am shy and this was long before everyone took selfies of everything with everyone, everywhere they go. So I have no proof that evening performing on the same stage as Amy Schumer existed. Technically I could put on my resume that I opened up for Amy Schumer but that’s not completely accurate and the nuns’ voices still haunt my mind like insomniacs roaming the hallway of an asylum.

Militia of Sisters

I’ll hop aboard that train for laughs.

Fast forward another eight years or so and Amy Schumer is comedy’s ‘it’ girl. And while I have to say that I haven’t watched her comedy show and never thought too much about whether she was funny or not, I now have an opinion. She IS funny. She IS smart funny. And it IS a big deal that the movie SHE wrote, Trainwreck, is hilarious and being very well received at the box office. I went to see the movie Saturday night with my boyfriend and we – and the entire audience – laughed out loud, a lot! The jokes were funny to both genders because they were real. Yes, some of the subject matter is risque or crude, but it happens. It is honest. And parts of the movie, particularly about her relationship with her father, were very touching.

Real Trainwreck

Spoiler alert. Don’t read if you haven’t seen Trainwreck yet.

So here it comes. My but. I enjoyed the movie. I laughed a lot. I am thrilled that a female comedian (I hate adding this description, but this is the reality. There is still a lot of “Women aren’t funny,” B.S. out there.) wrote a funny, smart movie that is receiving financial and popular success.  But … I was slightly disappointed that the movie had what I’ll call a Hollywood, formulaic ending. Amy’s character could be viewed as a hot mess who sleeps around and then ‘gets her life together’ when she meets the right man. Or, she could be viewed as a woman who just wants to date and not get serious. I think the bigger point is that regardless of the man situation, she IS a talented writer and a good, caring daughter and sister who is funny and perhaps just afraid to get hurt so she hides behind a sarcastic, ‘whatever’ attitude. I applauded when she yells while watching gyrating basketball cheerleaders, “You’re gonna lose us the right to vote.” Then by the end of the movie, she dons the same cheerleader costume, learns a choreographed dance and gyrates to music to prove her love to her man.  Don’t get me wrong. I think it would be fun to do a group dance and I get why she wanted to do something nice to patch things up with her boyfriend. But it’s okay to get annoyed or miffed at the sight of half naked models, dancers and actors, etc. and believe that they are not helping women’s rights. And, it’s okay to express a thought or opinion about that to someone you are close with, like your boyfriend or best friend. If we have to stifle gut reactions and feelings in our bones, that’s not very healthy. With that said, I do believe that as a true ‘feminist’ (whatever that word really means), we must support choices made by every woman, no matter what they are. As long as they are not hurting themselves or anyone else, it’s all good.  I know this.

How Pat Roberts defines feminism

The other disappointing scene in the movie came when Amy spoke to her sister, apologizing for things she said to her and explaining that she does want what her sister has – a husband and kids – but is defensive about it because she doesn’t know if she deserves that kind of happiness.  (I am paraphrasing but that’s the idea.) This scene in the movie is harder for me to accept because it’s a cliche, like every other RomCom out there. In the end, all Amy wants is to be loved by a man.  I wish she relished the fact that her career was bright – her article was published in Vanity Fair – with as much earnest.  All in all, I still give this movie an enthusiastic two thumbs up because it was fun and it made me laugh.  I guess after reading the hoopla about Amy Schumer being the feminist comedian, I was expecting a different ending. In all fairness, no one, neither Ms. Schumer, nor anyone else, should have the burden and responsibility of representing or speaking for our gender. And… if Ms. Schumer’s happy ending in real life is to marry and have children some day, that’s great.  And… if Ms. Schumer is smart enough to know that happy RomCom endings are what will put money in her bank account, even better!

 

Wo Money

 

 

Yes, and… Five Rules of Improv Help in Work and Play

I used to get a knot in my stomach on Monday afternoons as I anticipated that evening’s comedy improv class about nine years ago. I wanted to be in the class and loved performing in the shows at the Comedy Dojo in Scranton (when people laughed at what I did on stage) but I was still a ball or nerves before class. I was doing the exact opposite of what improv represents. I was not being in the moment. I was worrying ahead of time about what I would say and do, what interesting choices I would make that night in class. But to quote my instructor at the time, Chris Barnes, (and I believe he was quoting someone else when he said this) “You have to walk through the fire to get to the cooling water.”

No matter if it’s an improv class or some other activity or event that takes us outside of our comfort zones, we need to get through the pain, discomfort, difficult stuff to get to the other side where we get to feel cool, calm, relaxed, even proud and let out an “ahhhhhh.”

As I prepare to present a workshop at a conference for administrative professionals using improvisation to address communication, conflict resolution and collaboration, I’m reminded of the valuable lessons the rules of improv can teach all of us… for life.

  • Yes, and… is the one unbreakable rule in improvisation. It means that we say “yes” to what our fellow actor has given us. We accept their words as a gift or treasure and we add “and,” which shows our commitment to contribute something just as valuable that will help us move forward.  Consider saying “Yes” in life more often. Imagine the possibilities. Too many times we disagree with ideas and just say “No.” Or, we want to appear agreeable so we say “Yes, but…” which is basically saying, “I hear what you’re saying but my way is better.”  So the next time your coworker asks “Are you looking forward to that meeting?” Instead of rolling your eyes and saying “No,” try smiling instead and say, “Yes, and I think I’ll suggest we start the meeting by each sharing something fun we did this weekend so we can start on a happy note.”
  • Make unusual or unexpected choices. This improv guideline isn’t something you can apply to every part of life. Attempting to pay your bills with magic beans is not likely to work but there are many instances in which you – and people around you – can benefit from a choice that is different from the status quo. Instead of complaining that it’s Monday and you’d rather be in your garden or on the golf course, CHOOSE to be happy that you are working and doing something that not only affects people’s lives but also allows you to buy that new driver you’ve been scoping out online.  Or, instead of putting in your headphones at your desk so you can tune out your loud, gossiping coworker in the cubicle next to you, listen! Maybe you can learn something that will help you improve your relationship. Take an opportunity to engage her in conversation about a movie, new local restaurant or any topic other than the number of different cars she sees in her neighbor’s driveway on the weekend.
  • Be in the moment. This popular advice is key to the success of improv performers on stage because the scene they create for their audience is so much more interesting when it happens right there and doesn’t reference a past that the audience cannot see or a future that has yet to unfold. Search through any list of self-help books and this theme appears. Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” effectively addresses the value and absolute necessity of living our lives in the present. It boggles my mind how simple an idea this is but one that eludes so many of us. It just makes sense that we can only live in the present moment but I can’t tell you how often I live in the past as thoughts in my head (usually negative) race around as if on a track like horses trying to win the Triple Crown. All those hooves galloping kick up quite a bit of mud. I am far, far away from mastering the concept of being in the moment. It takes effort to make sure you are in the moment. Practice it. If you’re like me, you can read a magazine article and not know the full meaning because your mind went somewhere else by the second paragraph. “I have to call to reschedule that doctor’s appointment. I wonder if the new “Orphan Black” is On Demand yet; I want to watch that tonight. Oh crap, I forgot to get gas last night, that means I have to leave the house early today so I’m not late for my meeting.” Practice being in the moment!
  • Show. Don’t Tell. When improv actors create a scene on stage, this is key to believability and much more interesting to the audience if they show activity rather than talk about. For example: Actor A says, “I am not going to walk toward you, place my hands around your neck and pretend to choke you.” Actor B responds, “I’ll stand here and wait for you to do that and as you approach I will bug my eyes out as if I have a look of fear on my face.”  The scene should just happen. If you see it, you will have a much better experience than if you hear about it.  In life this comes in handy when we communicate. Many of us have different communication styles and we may not get someone’s wordy explanation but if they show us how to do something we might have a better time understanding.  And at a higher, loftier, Ghandi-esque level, it’s a good idea to SHOW, not TELL in the manner in which we live our lives. It’s great to teach your children to be honest. It’s good to tell your employees to be productive and do their jobs with integrity but SHOW-ing your children what honesty looks like and SHOW-ing your coworkers what integrity looks like, are much more effective. Ghandi said it simply, “Be the change that y0u wish to see in the world.”
  • Bring something to the party. This is something that improv instructor Barnes used to say to us as we were about to enter a scene. He would remind us that we should bring something to the scene. Yes, it slightly contradicts the idea of not planning what you will do or say in an improv scene but it worked and made sense. He wanted us to think about what we were seeing on stage. What did our fellow actors create already in this scene and what could we bring to it to help it move forward?  When you are hosting a party and everyone brings chips and dip, your menu is going to need help. The next time you enter a room, whether at work or at a social gathering, see what you can add.  Is someone upset, recounting a story about her husband leaving her? Is someone consoling another person who just received bad news from his doctor about cancer? Is someone raising his voice at another person who just offended him?  Your attitude and words can help or hurt the people you are about to engage with. Be aware of other people’s feelings and the situation in front of you and bring something to this party that will help, not hurt or destroy it.

Am I happy that it’s Monday and it’s gray and rain is predicted for tonight when I run a 5K?  Yes, and… I won’t need to wear my sunglasses or worry about getting too hot while I run. The rain will feel refreshing.

10 Reasons Why the World Needs A Day to Laugh

If I haven’t gotten around to mentioning it (but I believe I have), I am a procrastinator.  This blog should have been written before May 3 but alas, it wasn’t. The annual celebration of World Laughter Day was held this year on May 3. As I do each year, my business, Laugh to Live! sponsors a free community event in Scranton where people in the area come out to sample laughter yoga, kids tell jokes and get prizes for their bravery and promotion of healthy laughter and we raise money for the nonprofit Humor Therapy Fund of the Scranton Area Foundation. I do this to promote therapeutic laughter and humor in Northeastern Pennsylvania to enrich the community where I live because I want to see people lead healthier and happier lives. Laughter can help people achieve that.

Here are 10 reasons I’ve come up with, why the world needs at least one designated day to laugh.

10. ISIS. When I attempted to write this blog last week I had trouble with WordPress. My web guy told me that there were major WordPress and Woocommerce security updates last month that were made to all sites because of ISIS hacking many U.S. websites. These updates caused a little conflict that prevented my blog platform from working. Who would have imagined such a day? I know that the word ISIS is not usually followed by laughter but this group is dedicated to hate and terror. What breaks down hate and comforts people in times of fear or uncertainty more than love and laughter?

9. Potholes. I’m sure that every state across this great nation has potholes but I can only speak to the ones I see and drive on every day in Scranton, PA. Let me tell you. We have some real doozies. On my third trip to the dentist last month, another one of my fillings was knocked loose. I love what this group is doing to help us use a positive attitude, humor and laughter to deal with these bumps in the road. Check back to see my submission. It’s going to be the most fun you’ve ever had with potholes.

8. Litter. I admit. I DO NOT laugh when I see litter everywhere in my community. And I’m definitely not laughing as I drive by a street that my boyfriend and I cleaned up only two weeks ago to see it now littered yet again. But it’s the ugly parts of people and the Earth that need more beauty. Laughter can help us bring that out. Get a group of friends, coffee, gloves and garbage bags and head out one weekend morning to clean up a messy lot or street where you live. Share a few but-gusting stories while you pick up someone else’s butts. Smile and be an example of the world you want to live in.

7. Dating and Relationships. When I was playing the field I met some really nice men and I met some men who were just, well, misguided? clueless? What woman really wants to be picked up for a date by some guy’s mom because he lost his license to a second DUI? Women appreciate a man who knows the value of a dollar but I don’t think they love it when he offers up his coupon to them to pay their half of the bill. Let’s say I had enough material like this to write a book called “He’s Not Prince Charming When…” Now that I’m in a serious relationship I need the follow-up book. The problem isn’t that I don’t have enough material, it’s finding the time to sort through it all.

6. Health Care. Not to get political or anything, but there’s a lot of red tape, waste and frustration in the health care industry. Just a few recent examples in my own life include:  having to call a dental insurance company five times about bills for a plan I was no longer enrolled in; having to call my doctor’s office at least three or four times and visit in person when no one answered or returned my calls about a bill that was to be paid through my auto insurance after I was hit by another vehicle seven months ago because the doctor’s office never submitted it to my auto insurance company and .. well, I could go on but we all have our examples of bills, phone calls, automated systems where you need to press 10 different buttons before you get the pleasure of speaking with a human.  I attempt a laugh after using every curse word I know and inventing several new ones. I guess that I should skip straight to the laughter and forget the cuss’n.

5. Summertime Noises. Some people don’t appreciate nature’s alarm clock – by which I mean the chirping sounds of birds. I love bird noises because it IS life to me and it means better weather. The summertime noises I need laughter to help me cope with include: the sound of dirt bikes that ride a 150-foot long dirt path back and forth and forth and back only 40 feet from my window and the chimey/crib mobile sound of the ice cream truck. I know. I know. I probably seem like Cruella Deville for not liking the sound of the ice cream truck (if it’s any consolation, I don’t wear fur) but it’s so repetitious that I just can’t take it after 15 minutes. I’d like to buy each child in the neighborhood a cone or frozen ice before I go all nutty buddy.

4. Rainy days. It’s a nice idea to advise people to not let things we cannot control – like the weather – affect our mood but it’s not realistic advice. For some people, weather has actual, physical affects on them. Let’s face it, thunderstorms can be fun to listen to and watch but most of us would much rather a sunny day than a rainy one. So the next time it rains, smell the wet concrete, remember that the grass and trees need to drink and then pop in a comedy with the lights off. Let laughter brighten up your room.

3. Facebook. You don’t need me to tell you why this provides many opportunities for laughter, right? Don’t get me wrong. I use it. I am addicted to it too. But it really is pretty amusing. People say some of the meanest things to other people that they would never have one ounce of courage to ever say to anyone’s face. It can be every coward’s best friend. And then there are those people who show you their cyber life, which tends to look nothing like their real life. Telling your husband how much you love and appreciate him in a post when he’s probably in the arm chair in the next room? Um, okay. I’m surprised you have time to type that…what with all of the love and fabulous stuff you have going on.

2. Politicians. Again, as with social media, I don’t need to point out why politics and laughter are such good friends. In fact, as we get further into the campaigning for the 2016 presidential election, number 3 and number 2 will form one giant powerhouse of a reason to laugh. Let the name-calling and unsolicited opinion sharing begin.  You like Hillary? What are you some tree-hugging, Communist, femi-Nazi? You vote Republican? You must drive a pick-up with a gun rack to church services and to your anti-Gay rallies.  You jerk.  Btw, see you at soccer practice. I’ll bring the flyers for the pasta dinner fundraiser for new uniforms.

1. YOU – you should be the number one reason to laugh.  Research by actual doctors – not just people congregating on street corners – shows that laughter is good for the mind, body and spirit. It helps with heart health, the immune system, cancer, diabetes, burning calories, an improved mood and more.  (Don’t you love the “and more”? No, I’m not throwing in an extra Ginsu knife if you laugh really hard but you should laugh really hard anyway).

Give Humor A Job in Your Office: Five Roles Humor Can Fill

When most people think work, they don’t think fun. That’s why terms like rat race and daily grind are commonly used to refer to the office. Of course, I have also heard people use terms like circus and zoo to occasionally describe where they work and those are fun places to visit, but usually when someone says it was a real zoo or circus at the office, it refers to some kind of chaos that is not enjoyable. What I’m using probably too many words to say is that when we think of work, we don’t think of fun when perhaps we should. And I can’t think of a better time for this topic to be considered than April, which is National Humor Month.

I can tell you someone who didn’t have enough laughs at work. Jack Torrance. He moved his wife and son to the Overlook Hotel in the remote mountains of Colorado to be a caretaker for the desolate winter season in the movie “The Shining.” If you aren’t familiar with his film, the bottom line is Jack typed “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” and by “dull” he meant violent, angry and nearly insane. I’m not saying that if you don’t laugh enough that you’ll become anything like Jack Nicholson’s character in this movie but I do agree that all work and no play tends to make us not only dull, but stressed out and less than what we can be.  Play, laughter and humor are great resources to help adults recharge, to awaken their creativity and work through stress toward healthier living.

Let Humor be the “new guy” in your office. Here are five roles that humor can fill at the workplace.

#1 The Mediator –  When there’s tension, discord, or personality clashes, a little dose of humor can work as mediator to get people talking. A good laugh can cut the tension and help people feel better physically and mentally.

#2 The Entertainer – There’s no law – at least none of which I am aware – that says it’s illegal to have fun for fun’s sake at the workplace. Employees who work hard deserve to be rewarded with a little entertainment. While it’s true that humor can be risky because some jokes are considered offensive and everyone has a different sense of humor, laughter and fun do have a place at the office. There’s no harm in telling a clean joke, reading the comics or watching a funny youtube clip. It makes for a healthier break to clear your head than having a cigarette or drinking your fifth cup of coffee.

#3 The “Empower”er – Humor isn’t just the class clown. Humor is a warrior of sorts, a survivor. When traffic is stopped, when the computer shuts down and you haven’t hit save in a hour, when the lid on your large coffee isn’t tight and it spills on your new pants …when all of these things happen, you might scream or curse. But then what happens? Do you stay in a bad mood? Do you pass that negative energy on to the next person you see? Humor doesn’t change what just happened but it does give you strength to deal with it and change your perspective. You don’t have to be a victim. You can be in charge. Feel empowered. Make a joke about your misfortune, clumsiness, life happening that happens to everyone and acknowledge that you are safe and will survive this small hiccup. People have used humor to survive much bigger challenges. People like author and psychologist Viktor Frankl tapped into the power of humor during his time in a Concentration Camp. He wrote, “It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

 #4 The Connector – Humor bonds people. When we laugh at a joke with someone, we share an experience that brings us closer together. Camaraderie at work can help to boost morale, strengthen team work and ultimately help a company’s bottom line.  Experts say that humor can help couples in a relationship work through their issues and some of the same principles apply to other relationships like the ones in a workplace. Let’s face it, you spend a lot of time at work.

#5 The Communicator – Humor can be used to open the door to delivering difficult news but it must be done carefully. I’m not suggesting that you break really bad news through humor but humor can help ease tensions and get people talking. Humor puts people on the same playing ground or level.

Wherever you gather at your business, whether it’s near the water cooler or Keurig coffee maker, or in the board room, be sure to give the new guy, Humor, a chance. Don’t dismiss Humor until you’ve given him a fair shot around the office. Humor has great value. Put Humor on the job!

Painting Nails, Pillow Fights? No, but We Laugh!

Last weekend I hosted a “big girls” sleepover. And by that I mean an overnight gathering of grown women. That is not a reference to body shape in any weigh, I mean way. Not that size has anything to do with my blog today. It’s about connecting with people who matter to us.

The children of one of my friends teased her that she was going on a “sleep over” at her age. I believe her son even ribbed, “How old are you?” We are women in our 40s who still make time to spend with one another to reminisce about the 26 years we’ve known one another, to talk about our lives today – or at least as much as each of us can get out before the topic swings in another direction- and we laugh!

We didn’t tell secrets, braid each other’s hair or engage in pillow fights (sorry to break the perpetuated stereotype that some guys like to imagine of feathers flying and tickle fights as Jerry Seinfeld indicated in “The Pool Guy” episode of “Seinfeld” in response to Elaine’s comment about doing “girlie stuff”) but we did do some of the same things that young girls do. We shared stories about the “boys” in our lives. We ate junk food. We watched a movie. We stayed up past our bed time (which is probably earlier than many kids these days – kids lead pretty mature lives with all of their extracurricular activities and texting to all hours of the morning). We shared more serious stories about personal health concerns, financial issues and relationship struggles. We connected. That’s what people do. At least that’s what people used to do…more often than we do these days.

I don’t want to sound like the stereotypical crotchety grandpa sitting in a rocking chair telling his grandchildren how in “his” day he walked to school uphill both ways in thread-bare shoes in the snow, but I am developing that “things aren’t how they used to be” mindset. When I went back to school to take my first graduate class at Marywood University in 2000, while working full time, I was required to read “The Naked Sun” by Isaac Asimov. It’s not the type of book I would have selected for myself but I enjoyed it and found it to be relatively easy to read. Although this book was published in 1956, the author had a pretty good vision for what the future would become with technology.  More emotionally disconnected for one.

There’s no doubt that we are now more connected with people around the world but have we lost the deepest connections in our lives? Do we value intimacy with close friends and lovers as much as we did in the past? Or… has that always been an illusion? A fairytale for leather-bound books and movies? I don’t have the answer. But I do know that we need to continue to work hard to stay connected with people who matter to us. A little handheld computer may be able to show you the temperature, time, texts from friends, sports scores and pictures of what your co-worker ate for lunch all on one screen at the same time, but can it do for your heart and soul? Will it ever make you feel alive the way that a hug or kiss can?  The way that holding hands or having your arm caressed can? Can it physically lift your mood the way a booming laugh that fills your stomach and lungs and then bursts out into the air can? I’m sorry but I don’t believe that any app can ever do that!

Let’s stay connected. Let’s laugh today and every day, no matter how many versions we have iEverything!

An apple a day is healthy but laughter throughout your day can be transformational.

An apple a day is healthy but laughter throughout your day can be transformational.

Love and Laughter Are the Couple to Admire

In the public relations class I’ve been teaching, we’ve talked about doing what’s called a SWOT analysis on businesses/organizations so you understand their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats before formulating a message or messages to an audience. We also talked about how it can be beneficial for us as individuals to do a SWOT analysis on ourselves – in preparation for a job interview, before making big life decisions and just to do some self-reflection. I can tell you with absolute confidence that I am a procrastinator. I am someone who loves to write but who hasn’t written a blog in several weeks. I’m hoping that my strength of good writing will entice you to read on about why we should pair love and laughter this month … and every day really.

February is chock full of celebrations and fun characters,  from Phil, the beloved groundhog who “predicts” our weather, to cupid who spreads the spirit and message of love from one person to another. Wait that sounded almost creepy, like a virus.  Let me try again. February is about celebrating love – the love we have for those who are special to us and the love we have for ourselves by taking healthy actions to keep our hearts strong and healthy. That’s right, in addition to celebrating Valentine’s Day, February also recognizes National Heart Month. While it’s important to be concerned about heart health – and health overall – every day, it is nice to have a month in which we wear red to raise awareness and remind people of things like the fact that heart disease kills more women than breast cancer, than lung cancer and other diseases. No, it’s not a competition. But it is important to be educated on the facts and to be informed so we know how we can live healthier and how we can help the ones we love lead healthier lives. That’s what February celebrates.

One thing you can do for your heart, is to laugh. Research shows that people who laugh are less likely to have a heart attack (yes there are always other factors like family history, etc., but a laugh is good for this organ) and that laughter helps our heart perform better. Dr. Michael Miller of the University of Maryland did this important research. To read all the details click here.

Over the years, laughter has been the subject of much research and the findings are great. We don’t need a prescription from our doctor. We don’t need to worry about side effects like loose stools, fatigue or loss of appetite.  You may suffer from wet undies if you are one of those laughers with a sensitive bladder, but otherwise, it’s a safe activity and healthy resource.

I’d like to close this blog with a tribute to my uncle Bob Johnson who died two weeks ago today. He was buried last Monday. He had an illness that was associated with his heart but I know he doesn’t want us to think of him in terms of his illness or a “bad heart.” He lived nearly 87 years of a wonderful, happy life. And his heart was one of the best you’d ever want to encounter. He would always greet me with his infectious smile, bright blue eyes and a warm greeting like “Hey darlin…” He was my opponent in our ongoing verbal chess match of politics where there were only winners because of the time we spent together and the enriching encounter we shared. I believe it was laughter and his great attitude that contributed to the full life that he lived.

Always smiling, blue eyes always twinkling... he was my political discussion and wine buddy!

Always smiling, blue eyes always twinkling… he was my political discussion and wine buddy!

I had the honor of writing the story of his life in his obituary that I share here.

Many of you didn’t know my Uncle Bob but I know that you each have an Uncle Bob (or Tom, or Saul, or Sam or Aunt Sue or Aunt Kathy or Nana Maria or Grandpa Rick or… ) in your life who embodies joy and laughter. Whether they are with you here physically on Earth or are here in spirit, celebrate them with some laughter.  Honor your love for them and do a kind act for your heart and those around you who share in the laughs!  Laugh to Live …. happier, healthier and in the moment!

Laugh. Then, Let it go. Let it go.

On Thanksgiving Eve I was watching the news feeling pretty content. I was safe and warm in my home and we had about seven inches of snow on the ground in Northeast Pennsylvania. I was happy about seeing extended family on Thanksgiving and felt a little extra joy seeing the twinkle of Christmas lights reflecting off the first real snow of the season. Then my glimmer faded as I heard a news story about a new “illness” or “problem” we have here in America.  I’m going to paraphrase. It’s basically Envy Caused by Social Media Posts.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Really Jeannine? You couldn’t think of a clever acronym for it? You’re a writer and a comedian. Ugh!”  I know. I desperately wanted to create an acronym that I believe fits the new disorder.  I was thinking of something like PUHLEASE,  UKIDDN or REALE, to express some things I was loudly saying to the TV screen when this story aired on ABC.

The story basically reported that women are feeling extra pressure these days and feeling financial envy because of posts to Facebook and other social media sites by women showing how “happy” they are and showing all of their great vacations, toys they buy for their children, etc.  Yes, “experts” were interviewed.  I believe the one woman interviewed was a psychologist who said that women are feeling incredible pressure when their 6-year-old wants to know why mommy can’t afford what other kids’ mothers are buying.  I was a bit thrown by this because I couldn’t for the life of me understand why a 6-year-old is seeing Facebook posts. Isn’t it enough that young children see so much reality on TV and in life around them. They  need to see the drivel that gets posted online too?

Then I got to thinking.  I believe that what’s at the heart of the matter is that grown women are seeing happy posts by their peers and feeling pressure to keep up and fear that if  they “fail,” they will become outcasts.  I’m sorry if I offend anyone here because let’s face it, I couldn’t possibly understand what they must be going through – you know, not being a mom and all, I never feel pressure to compete or feel less than or feel rejected, not good enough, unloved, etc., uh huh – but how is this any different than feeling like an insecure child at the lunch table in grade school or high school? I understand that there may be more deep-seated issues at work but trying to “keep up with the Joneses” is nothing new.  It was a challenge long before the Jones family could post pictures of their trip to Disney World or videos of their daughter draped in Elsa garb belting out tunes from “Frozen.”

Here are a few tips I have to help moms (and dads) who might be “suffering” from any feelings of financial envy or pressure to not only get the best seats for the Frozen on Ice show but to also post pictures the minute they’re in those hot seats to show everyone what good parents they are and how happy their child is:

•Imagine your child’s face when you tell her she is not going to see Elsa and the gang. Sad right? Now imagine her face if she had to go to bed hungry or if she was turning the light out from a hospital bed.  Some children struggle to see another day, never mind a theatrical show.  Does it add any perspective?

•Imagine a world without Facebook and Instagram. Think of times when you only showed people pictures of your children on your phone. Or think back even further to a time when you only shared pictures of your family with those who visited your home and could see them hanging on your walls. That’s a more intimate, meaningful world isn’t it? Do you really need a “like” from the Crossing Guard at your niece’s school in another state? Do you really care that the barista from Starbucks loves the costume you made for your child? Or doesn’t, because he made a better adult size Olaf costume with beads and glitter?

•Tune out people who are out of your circle of family and friends so you can actually tune in to people IN your family and circle of friends.  Spend time with real people. Don’t POST to their timeline; rearrange those letters and STOP by their house or workplace to say “Hi.”  Make plans and KEEP THOSE PLANS to have coffee, a glass of wine, a walk around the neighborhood, a play date.  Be with real people and BE IN THAT MOMENT. Don’t share the moment online.

•Know that your children (and others) learn more about you by spending time with you than from anything you post.  At the end of the day, your children will be more influenced by your actions than any nice lessons that Elsa or Anna impart through their show tunes.

I know this is easier said than done. I care what people think too. I post pictures and updates like most red blooded Americans do.  I love when people like what I post and it means something to me when they make a nice comment. But let’s not get carried away.  I have a hard time feeling empathy for someone who has a bad case of  “financial envy” because of what she sees on Facebook. Everyone could be suffering from something.  Think of women who desperately want to be mothers and maybe after years of trying fertilization procedures, can’t. What kind of envy do you think they might have when they scroll through Facebook? I’ve more or less chosen to be childless so no one is going to cry for me Argentina, but it does make an impact on me from time to time when I see every mom post every imaginable moment day after day.  Thankfully I know that I have the choice to sign out from Facebook, look only once in a while or just look, but choose to not let it mean more to me than it should.

So I say, let yourself get worked up with envy (or whatever you feel after looking at social media sites) for a few minutes (or a week), and then, LAUGH at your silliness, count your true blessings and let it go, let it go!!

 

 

 

Five Tips to Keep Things Light This Thanksgiving

Sitcoms, movies and comedians have long cooked up jokes about the holidays – especially Thanksgiving – because we gather with family we typically do not see much throughout the year, often by choice.  At least that is what the jokes imply.  Case in point: Jim Gaffigan’s take on Thanksgiving. We see cards and clever napkins with depictions of people stuffing themselves, plying themselves with wine and then passing out on the couch in front of the TV, only to ignore the very family they’re visiting.  So what gives?

I don’t think people should ever feel obligated to gather family for dinner just because it’s an American tradition.  They should be with people they love … and genuinely like. I happen to love, and like, my family so it is fun to see them at the holidays (and throughout the year). And yes, I some times drink too much wine, but it’s not because I don’t like my family. It’s because I happen to really like wine.  But some families can become like an infected cut or inflamed sore.  Wine + long-held grudges = trouble. And some family members don’t help things by reopening old wounds.  One never knows what will come out around the Thanksgiving table.

So here are a few tips for you to digest to help you keep things light this Thanksgiving.

#5 If it seems like cousin Tom just can’t quit his habit of ‘playfully’ harassing uncle Frank about his beloved Eagles, don’t let it escalate to the point of them each giving the other the bird.  Swoop in with a picture on your phone of Kim Kardashian’s latest, slippery photo shoot. Then she’s the only ass you’re looking at.

#4 Help keep your mom from getting upset when Aunt Louise slanders her stuffing, saying it’s too dry, by having a water balloon at the ready. Offer a solution to your aunt’s problem that will probably help her to get over it and may amuse your mom.

#3 Everyone eats too much at Thanksgiving dinner and most people complain about it afterward with regretful words like, “I can’t believe I had that third helping of mashed potatoes and gravy. I’ll have to hit the gym five times tomorrow just to burn those calories off, and I don’t even have a gym membership.”  Help everyone avoid the discomfort of  that tight/ready-to-explode feeling by passing out sweat pants with an elastic waist band before dinner.   Just think, if you all wear a pair, then you can share a special bond and even look like a sloppy gang ready to hit the aisles of Walmart.

#2 I love good conversation. Art. Pop culture. Religion. Politics. News. Style. Home decor. You name it and I love to share my opinion on it …and even listen to other opinions on occasion. But be careful at holiday dinners. Think of the rules you would follow on a first date: no talk of religion, politics or other potentially controversial topics. Let the turkey be the only thing that gets burned on this holiday. If Uncle Fred or Aunt Wilma share their views on gun control or immigration and you disagree, just smile and nod. Let your ego take a nap early. You don’t need to share your opposite view or to ‘school’ anyone on the ‘right’ way to think. Instead, start a debate about which flavor ice cream is the best to serve on the apple pie. That way, there’s no real winner… or loser.

#1 No matter how you spend Thanksgiving – whether you have to work, you choose to be alone or with only a few people, or you visit lots of family – remember that there is no amount of laughter that is too big to serve. Laughter not only doesn’t contain calories, it helps to burn calories. And anyone who doesn’t like to laugh is … well…I hate to say it, but a real turkey!

Laugh Your Worries Down the Drain

Hair salons and barbershops have long been thought of as places where gossip is  exchanged. If you want to know the latest rumors, ask your local hair stylists and I bet they can tell you stories more colorful than the coifs they dye.  Gossiping, which is not exactly a kind activity, is something most of us have engaged in at one time or another but the bigger, better activity that happens when women get together, is laughter! That happens a lot when women have the opportunity to sit down, relax and talk while they restore some of their outward signs of beauty with hair cuts, colors and blow drys.

I have been experiencing laughs with a good friend who is not a hair stylist but who unofficially, as we joke, runs the “Waterboard Salon.” It’s our nickname for her bathroom where she sticks my head under the bathtub faucet dousing me with generous servings of water to ensure that all the hair coloring is properly removed. She is thorough alright. I’ve only almost drowned a few times.  The way I see it, even with the water up my nose and in my lungs, it’s still a better experience and more cost-effective than going to the snooty salon I used to go to – back when I could afford hair services that cost more than a Benjamin. When I worked in the corporate world and took home a healthy paycheck for over 11 years, I didn’t mind paying a lot of money. I had also grown accustomed to the stylist who did my hair. (This is a relationship that most men won’t understand but ladies know that sometimes breaking up with a hairstylist is harder to do than ending an intimate relationship. After all, we have to endure those awkward times when we run into her – or him- at the supermarket with our cute new pixie cut that is clearly not their handiwork. You try to hide behind the avocados but she comes rushing across four produce aisles just to say hello and make a point of letting you know that she knows what you’ve done. It does get easier after that.) But when I left my well-paying job for something more satisfying: investing full time in my business, Laugh to Live, I knew that I had to make some cutbacks. Considering that the majority of salon employees at the “it” salon where I used to go acted like real bitches who were doing me a favor by simply acknowledging my presence when I walked in for my hair appointment, it wasn’t too devastating to leave.

Fast forward four years and I couldn’t be happier with my arrangement. I get my hair cuts from a completely skilled and affable woman who has her own salon in her home and my friend Stephanie, does the coloring. Thank you L’oreal Couleur Experte for giving me the rich chocolate cherry color with highlights for the past few years. Not only have I saved a few hundred dollars each year over the past four years, but I’ve created a special tradition with my friend – a time for laughs.

Not to sound odd, but there’s something warmly intimate about someone washing your hair. While she puts the color on, we talk about everything from the latest music she’s discovered on satellite radio to movie quotes and references to the latest YA book she’s reading. I’m not proud of the fact that I don’t enjoy reading all that much so I enjoy listening to her tell me about the latest books on the “it” lists that ultimately get turned into movies … books like “The Hunger Games,” “The Fault In Our Stars,” “Gone Girl,” and so on. I tease her about having the same reading interests as her daughter’s tween friends but still enjoy hearing about what the characters are up to and I even go to see some of the movies once they’re in the theater. (Another fact of which I am not proud, is that I attended a marathon viewing of all the Twilight movies two years ago. I love movies but there was something about spending more than 10 hours in a dark theater that made it akin to torture. And in case you were wondering, I’m Team Edward, not that it matters anymore.)

While I sit on her stepladder with the blue, dye-stained towel (my towel) wrapped around my shoulders to catch any rogue red dye, we chat with coffee cups in hand and laugh at the latest Jimmy Fallon clip she plays for me. This type of gathering isn’t an official “girls’ night out” or anything that most women would mark in their planners but we thoroughly enjoy ourselves. I know that my visits to the Waterboard Salon never leave my spirits dampened. Instead, they lift my mood and have me feeling rejuvenated from the pick-me-up that my hair and soul get.  And thanks to one of my visits this past year when Stephanie shared a funny Fallon clip, I now know what to play on youtube when I’m feeling bummed about things like the change in seasons (less daylight), the challenges of running my business or my pants getting tight.  I’m happy to say “I’ve got my tight pants, I’ve got my tight pants on.”

The Smell of Leather Saddle Shoes in Autumn

I love these August days. Maybe it’s because I’m a Virgo and I associate this time of year with many years of happy birthday celebrations … for me, and for years, celebrating with my grandmother, a fellow Virgo.  Another reason could be that I was what one might call a bookish, kind of dorky kid who enjoyed the back-to-school season like any other joyful, colorful holiday. One of my favorite memories is that of the annual event of shoe shopping with my grandmother that took place around this time of year. It was exciting because it was one of few opportunities to express my sense of style. Because I attended Catholic school and wore a uniform from Kindergarten through 12th grade, there was little room for freedom of fashion other than choices like: cardigan or V neck? And white or maroon knee socks?

I also enjoyed picking out notebooks, pens and erasers. I treated those as fashion accessories. A simple joy in grade school was getting pencils and erasers that smelled like grapes, bananas or chocolate. And don’t get me started on the scratch n sniff stickers that were all the rage to put on notebooks. If I close my eyes really tight, I can smell the salty pretzel sticker. I also remember the fun I had getting a notebook in high school bearing the “dancing baby” from the TV show “Ally McBeal.” It was a conversation piece that always made me grin. I think little things produced  much more joy back then.  Today I do gain joy from simple pleasures like a good cup of flavored coffee, a sunny day and the smell of autumn in the air, but I think I recognize these opportunities for joy less as an adult. And when I do my allow myself to enjoy the moment, the moment goes quickly. The good news is that I’m aware and I am working to change that. Or at least I’m aware that I want to work to change that. I’m enjoying a good cup of coconut coffee while I type this. There’s a start.

Today I have the freedom to dress how I want for back-to-school season (as long as it’s in good taste, I am teaching at a Catholic college after all). I no longer carry on the tradition of shoe shopping and I don’t buy notebooks, pencils and loose leaf paper. But this morning I did have that all-too-familiar nervous feeling of knots in my stomach that eventually morphed into excited anticipation as I taught my first ever college class. (I ask for some leeway when it comes to my use of the word “teach.”)  Since it was the first day, I eased students into this writing class. We just got to know one another a bit and talked about the syllabus. I guess, technically, I was teaching them about the course and what to expect, while learning from them what they wanted to gain.

Naturally I took the opportunity to introduce students to the concept of laughter yoga, because that’s what I do, and because laughter works as a great ice breaker and brings the level of stress down in a room instantly. I asked them to stand and take a few deep inhales and exhales of ho, ha and hee. I didn’t want to take them too far outside of their comfort zones but I think this was just enough to loosen them up a bit and elicit a few smiles. I’ll take them farther down laughter yoga lane another day. I expect that we’ll have times throughout the semester when stress will need to be let out of the room so we can relax, re-focus and re-energize.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some coffee-scented stickers for my academic planner.

Laughing Nuns Generate Catholic Flashback to Plaid & Patent Leather

For a long time now I’ve been telling people that I’m either an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert because I can get up in front of hundreds of people to talk about the power of laughter and humor and I can perform stand-up or improv comedy. But when I’m at a business mixer by myself it’s a real challenge to approach a stranger and introduce myself. And if I’m in an audience I will never raise my hand to volunteer or ask a question.  After taking an online quiz -and we know how accurate those are – I have determined to my satisfaction that I am an introvert.

When I was in kindergarten I had some serious social anxiety. It got to the point where my kindergarten teacher called in the big guns. She had the first-grade teacher, Sister Ann Marie, speak to me in the presence of my mother. I won’t forget sitting on the curb in Holy Rosary School’s driveway as Sister told me, “We don’t take cry babies in first grade you know.” If I was a child today hearing that message, my mom could post on Facebook that I was bullied. I’m not so sure I think that it was that serious but it was kind of harsh. But it worked. I entered first grade and I was a champion. I no longer cried. When I donned my plaid jumper and patent leather shoes (alternated with saddle shoes) I became the good Stepford Child. “Yes sister.” “No sister.”  “The answer is …” I was even the kid that was asked to stand in front of the class to keep the peace, so to speak, when sister had to step out into the hall. It didn’t make me popular with the other kids but it did put me in Sister’s favor and I still had lots of friends so I was fine.

Fast forward about 35 years and put me in front of an audience of nearly 400 nuns. That was the scene about two weeks ago when I spoke at a conference for sisters gathered for two days at Misericordia University. I was there to share my message about the power and value of laughter and humor and to lead them in some laughter yoga. Now I had presented to conferences for Sisters there twice before but it had been about three years or more and for some reason I felt extra nervous this time. I felt unprepared and just didn’t have a great feeling in my stomach. I think part of that had to do with some personal things on my mind but I can usually separate that from my business.

When I saw the huge dining hall where the nuns had just eaten I got more nervous because I wondered if all the Sisters would be able to see me and if I would engage them enough.  I heard a few of the women talking in the lobby and one asked “So what’s next? The laughter lady..what’s that about?” And the other woman said, “I have no idea.” At first that made me worry but then I thought, “Hmm, if they don’t know what to expect then I can’t really fail to meet their expectations, right?”

After being introduced I had some technical difficulties with the lavalier mic but fortunately the handheld mic was given to me within a minute or two. I had my index cards and some other papers on the table near me – I tend to use these as a safety net although I rarely ever look at them during a presentation – but I got comfortable early in the presentation and just talked. I started off okay and when I saw the smiling faces of the Sisters and received the warm response from so many of them, something happened that rarely happens.  I relaxed enough to speak from the heart confidently and comfortably. The core of my message is always about the same: laughter is powerful and we need to use it more because it’s good for us. Scientists tell us that and real people validate how good we feel after laughing. And my laughter yoga exercises are usually about the same. But the part of the presentation around that, where I want to engage them and keep their interest with some humorous stories that are about my experiences, changes. This time it felt spot on because the Sisters were connecting and loving it… and I felt truly at ease, in my element.  I told them about my kindergarten order to lose the cry baby thing and they all seemed to go “oh….” with disapproval. I told them how I don’t really attend church these days and added, “I can’t help it, with so many nuns staring at me, I feel the need to unburden myself.”  And they laughed loudly. My personal favorite moment was when I said I earned a Masters of Communication Arts from Marywood University in Scranton and they politely and playfully booed. I laughed and told them I didn’t realize there was this “east coast versus west coast thing” going on between the orders of Sisters at Misericordia and Marywood. I wasn’t sure if they would get the reference but they laughed.

The Sisters were all good sports about getting on their feet and laughing with me and doing chants of “ho ho ho, ha ha ha and hee hee hee.” Many participants came up to me after the presentation to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how important it is to laugh, saying that the work I’m doing is important and necessary.  I felt more than relief. I felt pleased and proud. I felt like these Sisters were my peeps! When I got home I almost slipped into my plaid skirt but decided to just dress myself in the memories of a good evening of laughs and fellowship shared!