Gentle Humor

Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog – I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: inspiration

Happy to Be Average

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about being average. I’ve had a little time to mull it over, and I wonder if being average is just being unmotivated, or not really wanting to work hard.

Nah, I don’t think so. 

It’s all relative, for one thing. Not all NBA basketball players are Steph Curry. Does he work harder? How should I know?  My point is that all the other NBA players work hard and are highly motivated, and are really, really good, but there’s only a star or two on each team, all the rest are basically an “average” bunch of very good players. 

Does hard work guarantee that you’ll be extraordinary? Nope. Hard work to me is getting up at the crack of dawn and digging ditches. It also means getting a medical degree, but even that doesn’t make you any better than every other doctor. There are only a few famous stand-outs like Dr. Oz. Isn’t he a wizard? (Okay that’s a bad pun and truly a stretch for a laugh but I’m writing about a serious subject and it is HARD WORK to find something funny about it.)

Face it, most of us are average. We may have an occupation that society holds in higher esteem, like doctors, but there are thousands of doctors, and only a few Jonas Salk’s (invented the polio vaccine). Are the famous ones any better than the one I go to who thumps my knee with a little pointed hammer and my leg springs up like a catapult and I nearly kick him in the… I’ve got amazing reflexes.  

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My Guardian Angels

I know it’s not cool to talk about religious beliefs, unless it’s about “the universe.” I’m not sure who “the universe” is – a distant planet, a committee of aliens – but for some reason “the universe” casts its random favor on people, helping them to avoid an accident or leading them to something. I have my own name for this guiding benevolence – Guardian Angels. I consider them helpers from God, like Clarence in the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Not only do they help me with the big things like avoiding a car crash (or speed trap), but little things that happen all day long.

Stading beside the garden trellis I built
My garden trellis. Thank you Guardian Angels!

Here’s an example. I just got a small garden plot at a community garden and wanted to make a trellis for cucumbers and tomatoes, and true to my character, I wanted to spend as little money as possible. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do it for the last couple of days, staying up too late looking at ideas online and lying in bed fretting, picturing amazing trellises I could make but everything idea was labor intensive and expensive. I want it now and I want it cheap.

Today I went to Home Depot and wandered around, hoping to get inspiration. I decided to build a wood framed trellis and create a lattice with metal mesh – anything I could find that wouldn’t cost too much. I looked all over for some skinny wood, called furring strips, recommended on a YouTube video, but Home Depot hid them somewhere. Seriously, I cruised the lumber aisle twice and couldn’t find them. But when I went to ask someone I came across the bad-wood pile and a heavenly sign that said “70% Off.” 

Guess what was in there? Go ahead, guess. I found 2” x 2” wood, more sturdy than the 1” x 2” furring strips I would have used if I could have found it. Granted, the wood was all warped and had knot holes and splits and broken parts, but it was perfect (cheap). And guess how many of them were in the pile. Go ahead, I dare you! There were twelve – exactly the number I needed in exactly the eight-foot length I wanted. They ended up costing me about fifty cents each. I tilted my head up and said an exuberant “thank you!” to my Guardian Angel.

Then I looked for the metal lattice and found concrete remesh that was way less spendy than fencing, but still $9.47 a panel, and I would need four panels. Way over my budget. Then a thought came into my head to use twine and weave it into a lattice. I sighed because it would take so long, but it would be a lot less expensive, so off I went to the garden section and what do you think I found? Take a wild guess. Okay, I’m sorry, it’s annoying, but it was such a surprise, such a gift to me. I didn’t find twine, I found a nylon net that was five feet by eight feet. Remember my warped wood? It’s also eight feet. This net was a ready-made trellis. I wanted to get down on my knees to thank my Guardian Angel when I looked at the price, only $3.98. It was a miracle, I tell you. My whole project would end up costing me less than $20, wouldn’t take a lot of time, and would be exactly what I wanted.

Now some of you will smile to yourself and and snort and say it was just a coincidence, that I couldn’t find the furring strips because I’m blind in one eye and can’t see out the other, that there just happened to be the perfect amount of wood in that reject pile, that the twine trellis thought only came to me because I’d already seen something like it online, that Vigaro makes twine trellises and Home Depot stocks them so it was inevitable that I’d “discover” them. All evidence that it wasn’t divine intervention but the natural order of things or some such hogwash. 

You’re wrong, This is typical of the “good luck” I have all the time, especially when I say a little prayer asking for help. Red lights are green when I’m in a hurry. I find something I’ve misplaced because I got a thought to look for it somewhere I never would have looked. These minor things occur all day long, and I actually feel like someone is practically steering me to good fortune. It never feels coincidental.

Some of you would say it’s “the universe.” I say it’s God helping me though my Guardian Angel. Which one of us is the craziest? Well, it’s not me.

So many people just seem to struggle and have a little dark cloud over their head, and I get that too. I feel desperate and stressed and exhausted and even unloved some of the time like most people do, I suppose. But there’s a fairly steady current of contentment that runs through me, and it sometimes escalates all the way to joy – especially at times like today, when my Guardian Angel led me to the bad wood pile and everything fell into place. 

On Being Average

In my youth people, strangers mostly, told me I looked like pretty, famous women: Sally Field, Cheryl Tiegs, and more recently, Joanne Woodward. I don’t, of course. I am pretty much average, don’t stand out in a crowd, the most un-famous, common person I know. Seriously, if someone wrote a book about average women, I’d be smack in the middle.

I wish they had some kind of “Oscar” for being a mom, good pet owner, or flower-planter. People have never come up to me in restaurants and said, “You deserve an award for the way you comfort your babies when they cry.” I never got any recognition for walking the dog every day and tying her toys on the end of a rope that I fastened to my waist so she could chase them while I was doing housework, making it a playtime for her. I got no trophies for the pretty flowers I plant in the spring. Actually, I do get an award of sorts each Mother’s Day when my kids give me cards that say, essentially, I’m the best mother in the whole wide world. They buy the sweetest cards.

I’m just an average person, and it’s a fine thing to be. When it comes down to it, almost all of us are average. Only a few people rise to the top, and I no longer feel inferior to them – they deserve to be there mainly because they worked really hard and had a lot of business savvy and other talents. They are single-minded in the pursuit of their dreams, where I have a mind like an octopus – lots of parts moving in all directions.

I read Kevin Hart’s book, I Can’t Make This Up, about how hard he worked to become a successful standup comedian. The great people of the world appear to be focused on achieving one goal above all others. But they also have to let something else go – there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I don’t know this for a fact, but when I read books about famous people, it looks to me like they just pursue, pursue, pursue, and they never get much sleep, they’re away from home and family a lot, they drink or do drugs to try to wind down. Being average is the curse of ambition, but being happy is a pretty sweet compromise.

My goal is to be single-mindedly average to the best of my ability. Someone else will always be better at just about everything. There are only a few spots at the top. I’m okay with just being good, I don’t need to be great.

If that’s what you want, and are willing to give up everything else for that top position, I say go for it. But if you don’t get there, either because you aren’t persistent, don’t work hard enough, don’t have the confidence, give up after criticism, don’t believe in yourself, or just change your mind – then you’re like most of us. We all have dreams of being the best, but the price of some dreams can be way too much.

I dreamed of being a singer, and I pursued by majoring in music for a couple of years in college, and I enjoyed it. But I was such an insecure little thing. Thank goodness I didn’t become the star I envisioned in my daydreams, because I would have worked too hard, probably gotten into drugs when the criticisms came in or my popularity started to fade and who knows what else. Rather than regretting that I didn’t pursue that dream, I thank the good Lord I did not even start down that path when I was so young and vulnerable.   

I’m average. I can take pretty good photos, write a story, sing a little, do some graphic design, play a decent game of golf, keep up with most people skiing, know a lot about raising kids and flowers, hiking, traveling, tutoring, volunteering. I’m happy I’m average at a lot of things. A jack of all trades and a master of none.

Ahh, it feels pretty darned good to say it!

Why Green Book deserved the Oscar

This post isn’t funny, but the movie is so that’s how I’m justifying this little dab of serious writing.

I can’t understand why people are having such a hissy fit over Green Book winning as Best Picture. I know the Oscar usually goes to a film that is stylistically different, so different, in fact, that common movie-goers like you and me leave the theater scratching our heads, wondering what the heck the movie was about. 

People denounced Green Book’s win, saying it was nothing more than a buddy movie. Oh, please. Yeah it’s about two guys from totally different backgrounds who, over the course of many amusing and dramatic experiences, come to accept and respect each other. But it’s definitely not “The Hangover.”

You’ve got a white man who chauffeurs a black man around the segregated south in the early 1960’s for three months. Where’s the humor? It’s in the characters – the white man is a street-wise, New York Italian nightclub bouncer, Tony, who talks like a gangsta with his mouth crammed full of Kentucky Fried Chicken, throws the bones out the window, doing and saying things that make us laugh though he’s not trying to be funny. A family man who loves his wife so much that he writes these just awful letters to her. When he’s approached by real mob types who offer him big money to work for them, he says no. So un-stereo-typical that it makes Tony intriguing on a much broader level than stoner, drunken buddies who get in outrageous situations designed for comedy.

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Rain and Heroes

It is raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock.

That’s one of my dad’s old sayings, and it seems to fit. I can hear the rain rapping on the skylight like a million pygmy fists. This dog of mine won’t go out in it to relieve herself before bedtime, so around 3:45 a.m. she’ll start whining to be let out because she can’t hold it anymore. And then she’ll come back in soaking wet and smelling like wet Fritos and furry musk, and she’ll slurp at her paws in the bed because she doesn’t like her feet wet.

And I’m supposed to go back to sleep after all of that?

Which is just nuts. I mean, licking her wet feet. If the dog’s foot is already wet, how does wiping them with a wet tongue help the situation? That’s like telling a kid, “Shut up that crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

This is one of the many mysteries I like to ponder during the day. Like how come, after decades upon decades of typing, I still can’t type without a typo every fourth word? If practice makes perfect, then I should be the world’s #1 typist. I actually get double practice, because I have to backspace constantly and retype my mistakes, so I’m typing twice as much as what shows up on the page. And yet the typos are pretty consistent no matter how many hours I live on the computer each day.

That rain is making it hard for me to concentrate. This is the kind of rain my daughter would run out in and stand there with her face looking up at the sky. She’s always liked weather anomalies. Sleet, hail, snow, and crashing rain consistently lure her out to the back patio, like a moth to a bug zapper.

We attended a function tonight presented by Morgan Stanley featuring a Medal of Honor recipient. He was in his seventies and fought in the Vietnam War. I had consented to go out of a sense of duty, and the offering of free food, without hope of being anything but bored. Gosh what a funny man he was.

This guy, who’s name I’ll add later when I get up and look it up in the book they gave us, was so humble and so witty. He got the Medal of Honor – the highest honor in the country, for flying wounded out during a ground attack and delivering ammunition when he came back for more wounded. He did it with another guy – both of them volunteering and getting shot at. He went through four different helicopters – when one got shot up he’d trade it for another. He saved over 70 lives that day.

He said he went to the White House for the Medal ceremony, and he was wearing a hat – some kind of uniform hat – and one of the aids told him it was not appropriate. “This isn’t the first inappropriate thing I’ve done, and it sure won’t be the last.” He kept the hat on, and President Bush said, “Nice hat,” when he hung the Medal on him.

He also got forty-eleven other medals, but the one that made him most proud was the Good Conduct Medal. He pointed at the Medal of Honor and said, “This one I just happened to get after a day’s work – the Good Conduct Medal took me a whole year to earn.”

I came out of that presentation a lot happier than I went in. I don’t know how men do it – go to war and fight and then come home and go about their business as if they hadn’t witnessed horrors you and I can’t even imagine. I’m pretty stoked to have had the honor of meeting this man, whose name is – let me get up, I’ll be right back – here we go, whose name is Bruce Crandall.

The moderator asked him if he got scared while all this was going on – he flew in and out of the battle zone 22 times that day. He said he was too busy to be scared. He just knew if he didn’t help those guys, they didn’t stand a chance.

This funny, fearless man who saved so many lives and stood up for his hat at the White House – he’s now my new hero and inspiration.

Just Like My Momma

I was listening to a book on tape today and the guy was lamenting that he had become just like his father.

I am happy to say that I’m like my mother in many ways. Like her, I try to see the funny things in life. Lord knows there’s plenty of not-funny stuff to draw my attention away and make me grumpy, but I try to find things that will amuse me whenever I can.

For instance, my son and I happened to be looking at the two giant goldfish we’ve had for about six years. One fish is way bigger, and he’s a bully.

“Watch that big one chase the little one away from the food,” I said.

“Keep watching, he’ll do it in just a minute, he always does.”

“Any second now.”

“He ALWAYS chases the other fish, every time I feed them. Just because you’re watching he refuses to do it.”

Of course the stupid bully fish decided to be on his best behavior to make me look bad. Every time I try to show someone something, it doesn’t happen.

“That fish is just like the dog,” I said. “You tell that dog to do something in front of anyone and she absolutely refuses to do it until the second the person looks away.”

My son chuckled. Music to my ears – making someone else laugh.

It’s the little things that make life delightful. My dog was with me in the car today, and I have a bag I put her in and sneak her into places so she won’t have to stay in the hot car. It looks like a ratty old purse, and it’s got some holes in it. Today I was going around to planning bureaus getting permits for the solar company I work for. As I was walking down the hallway I happened to look at the “purse” and saw a huge wad of black, curly dog hair sticking out. I laughed and turned the purse around so that the hair was hidden. It wouldn’t have been funny if someone else had noticed and kicked me out of the building for having a dog in there with all those, “No Pets Allowed” stickers all over the entrances, but even then I could have gotten some laughs out of it when I told the story to my friends and family. Busted at the City of Gresham for having a contraband dog.

Don’t get the impression that I’m always jovial. I’m most certainly not. But I’m looking out for opportunities to laugh everywhere I go. There’s a line in the Bible, “Seek and ye shall find.” It makes sense. If you’re looking for trouble, misery, or a fight, you’re probably going to stumble on to it sooner or later. If you’re looking to be amused, delighted, entertained, or to make someone else laugh, you’ll likely find that as well.

This is what my momma taught me just by watching her – be on the lookout for amusements whenever they present themselves. It makes the bittersweet parts of life a little more sweet and a lot less bitter.

Thanks to My Super….cious Readers!

We’re going to go downtown to the annual “Art in the Pearl” outdoor art exhibit today. It’s wonderful – lots of very talented artisans and craftspeople displaying their talents. The “Pearl” is a section of town. I think everyone must be juried because everything is so superbly done. If you don’t know what juried means, ask Google. No, wait. I’ll tell you, otherwise you might not come back because that’s the way you are.

If you want to know exactly what way you are, it is this. You are great! No, fantastic! No, you are supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Don’t know what that means? Or even how to say it? Or whether I spelled it right? Or how many stars there are in the sky? Do I have to explain everything?

It comes from an old Mary Poppins movie, and if you’ve heard it, even once in your life, you will be singing it all day today because it’s the kind of thing that sticks in your brain like the suction cups of an octopus.

According to Wikipedia, that brilliant encyclopedia of unverified information, the word, which has 34 letters, can be broken down as follows: super- “above”, cali- “beauty”, fragilistic- “delicate”, expiali- “to atone”, and docious- “educable.” This makes very little sense but so do a lot of words in the English language so I’m not going to hold that against it. According to the 1964 Walt Disney film, it is defined as “something to say when you have nothing to say.”

Well I have something to say, so that doesn’t apply either. Be that as it may, and albeit, you guys are super…cious because many of you are saying some very nice things about what you’re reading. For instance, Donna T, a member of my writing group, commented, “Too fun!” and “Wonderful, Suzanne, absolutely wonderful!” I am gushing and blushing as I type this – thanks so much, Donna. She just got published in an anthology of inspirational readings for soldiers. Whoo-hoo!

Elussyelalp left this comment yesterday, “It’s such a great site. fanciful, acutely fascinating!!!”

Aw shucks.

Linda Kuhlman, another friend in my writer’s group, had this to say, “”Love this, Suzanne! Your wit never ceases to make me chuckle, a welcome diversion from the ‘to do’ list I stare at every morning. I’m going joggin’ now!” This was in response to me writing about southerner’s droppin’ the “g” on “ing” words. BTW, good for you, Linda! You keep joggin’ and I’ll keep bloggin’!

Another reader said, “Shoes go and come every couple of years in the world of high fashion and they are a seemingly permanent fixture in catalogs from department stores ranging…” I get a few of these – comments that are totally out of context and are, I’m afraid, people who don’t even read my posts but just want to lure me to their sites, or worse, to spam me. I’ve got to tell you, I’m bruised and swollen from all the spamming I get. Like this comment from CLERGYWERWEDO (that’s his/her capitalization, not mine – I’ve got better things to capitalize): “Buy reductil online.” There is no way, in any shape or form, this could be a real response to anything I’ve ever written, so Mr. (or Ms.) CLERGYWERWEDO, take your reductil and shove it up your ASS!

I apologize for that. I know I’ve cursed and been crass in some of these posts, which is bad.

What did you say? I’ve also been very tacky? Well, yes, I guess on occasion I have.

What do you mean, “on occasion my ass – more like all the time?”

Hey! You want a piece of me? YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME????

Sorry, perhaps I’m getting a little too “fanciful” here. I have these conversations in my head all the time – where I have imaginary arguments with snotty people and I come off, in my head, as quite clever and winning the argument and they are reduced to a pile of smoking rubble or apologizing profusely and begging to be my BFF. This is what happened just now. I imagined that you, my wonderful readers, were criticizing me for being tacky, and I started fighting back and being the tough guy like on that Seinfeld re-run where Elaine gets in a verbal tiff with Mr. Castanza and he immediately escalates it to a physical fight by saying the “you want a piece of me?” line. Pretty funny stuff.

But I know your comments are sincere, and they give me warm and cozy encouragement that I very much appreciate, except for ALL OF YOU SPAMMERS !   I DO NOT NEED MY WEBSITE OPTIMIZED! I DO NOT NEED VIAGRA!

Oops, I got sidetracked on the “Art in the Pearl” topic. Good! Something to look forward to tomorrow.

Askar Addendum

If you read my last two blogs, you might get the impression that I’m a nice person. This is not true. I only did a little for Askar. I could have picked him up in the morning and taken him to school. I also could have given him money, grocery shopped for him, bought him clothes and any number of other things. I really did the minimum; so do NOT be hanging a Mother Teresa sign on me.

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about giving handouts. In contrast to Askar, I know a kid who is working at Blockbuster, a video rental chain losing its links to bankruptcy (get it – losing its “links,” like links in a chain, because it’s a “chain” store). You know a joke isn’t good if you have to put something in parentheses after it.

This kid is down to working about 8 hours a week, and his store is closing in a couple of weeks. Rather than looking for a new minimum wage, no-skill job (which are available because of high turnover), he is getting unemployment. He’s an able-bodied high school graduate who could easily sling hash, pump gas, or collect trash. Instead, with the help of your and my taxes, he can sit home all day and play video games.

I don’t know how the government decides who is deserving of a handout and who isn’t, but I can assure you that this kid is not deserving. At 21, it appears to me that he could be an expensive investment for our tax dollars without any return if this continues throughout his life. Giving him a job makes way more sense than giving him money. Couldn’t that money be put toward temporarily employing him to pick up garbage beside the highway of weeding our national cemetery for a few hours a day?

By now you must be asking, “What is her point, and how come it isn’t funny?” The answer goes back to Askar. I felt guilty not doing more for him, especially when I saw how tired he was, but in the end, if I had done more, would he have accomplished all he did on his own? Would he have had his picture in the yearbook or in the graduation handout or gotten the Mr. Perseverance award? Would the principal talked about him overcoming his struggles on his own and never giving in? She might have been talking about ME, for crying out loud.

There’s an old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” I believe I was put in Askar’s path and given just enough guilt to offer him the exact amount of help so that he would not lose sight of where he aimed to go.

If I had done more, would he have done less? I’ll never know, but one thing is for sure, I will always feel guilty about not doing more – if you’ve seen “The Blind Side” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Still, I will always feel proud that I did something, and that it turned out right.

About three weekends ago I forgot to pick Askar up after work at 11:30 on a Saturday night. I was home writing my blog and just completely spaced it. I remembered around 1:30 and sent him a text to apologize. He replied that he was on the bus heading home and not to worry about it. I continued to send one apology after another. I felt really bad. He finally replied, “Do not be sorry. You saved my life. I am so thankful for all you do.” Perhaps he was just trying to make me stop texting, but his message soothed my stupidity that night and has helped to ease my guilt at not doing more.

So please do not put a hero sticker on me, because I did just the measliest minimum to help a kid graduate from high school. As it turns out, that was enough, but I’m certainly no saint in so many ways, it’s not even funny.

Speaking of funny, thanks for indulging me while I told a remarkable young man’s story. I was just so proud of him that I got carried away and lost sight of where I aimed to go, which is to give you, oh faithful reader, a little dab of humor every day. I pledge to return to humor on my next blog, and I’ll try really hard to actually be funny.

Inspiration on a Tightrope

I’ve just been watching the coolest documentary called, “Man on Wire” about a guy who did a tightrope walk between the World Trade Center buildings just after they were built in 1974.

This guy is amazing. He could be a child, flitting around on a unicycle through the streets of Paris, dodging in and out of traffic as horns sound all around him. He’s exactly like one of those people who you would call weird in school and either avoid or stare at with your mouth gaping.

His name is Philippe Petit and he’s got a group of friends who are totally devoted to him and his schemes. They help him string a tightrope on Notre Dame’s cathedral, knowing full well they could be arrested.

I want friends like that. I remember my friends and I doing some pretty crazy stunts, but nothing like this. These guys have to plan for months to set up the wire, what it will anchor to, and so forth, and they are gleeful and very serious about it.

What is it about this tight ropewalker that inspires his friends to risk so much so that he can realize his dreams? They have nothing to gain – they aren’t going to be in the spotlight. I want to be like him.

On the other hand, people are always trying to talk me into doing things, and I’ve gotten so tired of it that I refuse to try and talk others into something. What I forget sometimes is that I get talked into things that turn out very well – like my daughter convincing me to go to Paris summer before last. I had a fantastic time, but she worked on me for months before I said yes. Now I’m inspired, again, to lead people. I used to have that ability, and generally practiced it to generate mischief or have adventures.

From watching him, he’s got this childlike wonder that is infectious. He’s not handsome at all, and yet he decided on a girl and pursued her with such enthusiasm that she jumped on board and allowed her life to meld into his.

He and his friends were practicing in a field what they’d need to prepare for the World Trade Center. They had to get the wire between the buildings – a space of 200 ft. – and came up with the idea of shooting an arrow across the distance with a string tied to it. The friend shot several arrows but they couldn’t go the distance because the string would snag. Finally they tried fishing line on a spool and it worked. The two men ran across to where the arrow landed and rolled in the grass with delight. They were grown men who let themselves be loose and free and delighted and excited enough to roll in knee-high grass. Oh how I envied them as I watched.

I am halfway through the movie and very anxious to finish. My brother was here tonight to watch the BCS championship, and he’s the one who told me about the movie. It’s on the Free Movies on the Comcast On Demand station, and it’s on the Sundance channel, and you can see a trailer at http://www.manonwire.com/

I am going to go and watch this wonderful little Frenchman achieve the impossible with no more than a dream and some very good friends who just want to grab hold of him and take whatever crazy ride he leads them on. I want to be him because he’s totally alive. I hope after I finish the documentary that I discover he still is…

Copyright © 2019 by Suzanne Olsen