Tag Archives: humor

Funny Face


Mama always said it might freeze like that…

Digital photography is a marvelous thing.  It allows us to see immediately a captured image, edit/correct it on the fly, and even delete it if editing cannot save it and make it presentable.  What we used to have to wait for, sometimes for weeks, we can now see and share with lightning speed.

It has started me thinking about my face, and the faces of other people in my life. I’ve seen some pictures of myself in the last few years that range from OK to hilarious to horrifying.  When I was little and I made silly facial expressions, I remember Mama telling me,  “You better be careful or your face might freeze like that!”  The advent of digital photography has allowed the face-freezing-like-that phenomenon to happen, and it allows us to see the aftermath instantaneously!  Below are some examples:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will state that I posed for two of these, while the other two were captured without my knowledge.  I kept them all because they made me laugh even though they aren’t necessarily flattering.  Funny isn’t always “pretty”, and in my own case and face, I value the funny at least as much.

My friend (and first ever work husband) Martin once said that laughter is the most intimate of emotions.  I agreed with him.  Genuine, unself-conscious laughter, the kind where I throw my head back and clap my hands, or I laugh so hard I lose my breath, or laugh till I cry or pee my pants, or both…moments with laughter like that are about as intimate as it gets.  Unguarded, open and real.  And if I can evoke that kind of laughter in another human being, it feels like the most lovely of accomplishments.

So if my face freezes in a less-than-flattering moment, it’s just for a moment…and if that moment makes me or someone in my presence laugh, then it’s worth it.  Because if I am being honest, laughter IS beautiful.  Intimate, genuine and beautiful.


How To Make Hot Tamales


It’s not about the recipe…


Making hot tamales is a process

First, you gather in a loved one’s kitchen

and find the well-worn recipe

Stir up the cornmeal, shortening and hot water

while you laugh about how

the generation before you used to

perform this same ritual


Next it’s time

to roll the meat for the filling

and laugh some more

because somebody thought

the meat logs were funny


Then comes the assembly line

of putting the cornmeal mixture

onto the tamale wrapper

sticking the meat log inside

and wrapping it all up

repeating until we’re done



We congratulate each other

saying “these look like

they turnt out right” and

laughing about how

someone ended up with

cornmeal in her hair

Then it’s time to

boil them all up and

smother them in the chili

that’s been patiently waiting

And savor this

Belly-and-Soul-warming meal

seasoned with










Not Just Goofball Funny


Thirty years and counting…

Yesterday was a special occasion as Sweet Pea and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  I remarked on social media that when my parents had their 30th anniversary, they seemed like such…ADULTS.  And they did.

I have rarely felt like an adult during the course of our marriage, and I mean that in a positive way.  Jeff, my wonderful husband, has the best sense of humor of any human I’ve ever met, so that has made our time together way more fun than I think most people are blessed to enjoy.  I remember once, when Jeff and I had been going out for a few months, coming home from a date and sitting down with Mama in the living room for a glass of tea.  Jeff had spent a decent amount of time with my family by this point, and Mama said, “You seem to laugh a lot with him.”

She was right, of course.  But it took her saying it to make me realize how different being with him was from the other fellows I had dated.  I had only had a couple of “boyfriends” prior to Jeff, and those relationships were not marked by laughter as much as by angst, jealousy and my need to assert my freedom as they tried to assert their control over me.  This thing with Jeff…this was definitely different.  Laughing with him led to loving him, a kind of love I never imagined and still marvel over.

Even after 30 years of marriage and 4 years of dating/engagement prior to that, Jeff can still explode with some kind of off-the-wall remark that makes me laugh so hard I cry, or pee my pants, or both.  And since he is the funniest human I’ve ever met, it gives me a special kind of joy when I can make HIM laugh.  Has our life together always been a barrel of monkeys?  Of course not.  Have we dealt with issues, tragedies, losses, illnesses and all the other not-fun stuff life is made of?  Definitely.  Has our ability to laugh made the not-fun stuff a little more bearable?  YES.

I know I come with a lot of baggage and I am no picnic to live with.  I can be stubborn, overly emotional, petty and selfish.  Sweet Pea has his hands pretty full with me.

Here’s the thing.  A good sense of humor speaks to all the other qualities that make my husband special and wonderful.  I think–and this is just me, I realize—that someone who’s genuinely funny also possesses strength, intelligence, compassion, generosity and warmth.  I think those qualities are prerequisites for real wit, real funny-ness.  Not just goofball funny, but loving-smart-strong-warm-funny.  I give thanks for a partner who embodies such attributes.

And as we begin another year of life together, I pray that I can be for him a fraction of the wonderful things he is for me…smart, strong and warm. Loving and kind and generous.  And not just Goofball Funny.


June 21, 1986.


June 21, 2016.


Happy Leap Day


Why it’s special to me…

My whole life I was blessed to have not one, but TWO, Uncle Johns.  Uncle John Flanigan married my precious Aunt Ruby, about whom I have written numerous times.  Uncle John Bryant married my larger-than-life Aunt Martha, about whom I have also shared memories here.  Uncle John Bryant was unique in several ways, not the least of which was his birthday, February 29, 1928.  Just as Mama’s July 4 birthday and Aunt Martha’s May 5 “Cinco de Martha” birthday seemed to foreshadow their personalities and idiosyncrasies, so did Uncle John’s Leap Day birthday.  He was without a doubt one of the most fun people in our family.


The above picture was made in 1971, with him and Aunt Martha all dressed up fancy for either an Eastern Star event or, more likely, a Lion’s Club function.  He was a longtime member/officer/President of his club in Knoxville, an organization which devotes itself to helping people with impaired vision and blindness.  One of the ties in my ugly necktie collection has a lion embroidered on it, and I think it might have been his.  The above picture also shows him the way I always think of him, goofing off and cutting up.

He and Aunt Martha were a huge influence on me as I grew up, especially in my love for dogs.  They never had human children, choosing instead to be dog parents, and the first dogs I ever remember getting to know belonged to them.  Very early in their marriage they raised a Fox Terrier named Trixie, but the only dogs I remember are Chihuahuas.  Susie was the first I remember, followed by Buffy and then Ginger.  (Chihuahuas and other small breeds have long life spans, so Aunt Martha and Uncle John’s dogs were with them for a long time, with the exception of Tina, of whom I have no pictures and Aunt Martha always swore that the vet killed.)





His way of showing affection was teasing.  For much of my childhood before Granny died, he and Aunt Martha would come over almost every Friday night, Susie, or later Buffy, in tow, wrapped in a little red flannel blanket (which I now own and sometimes put in Roy’s dog bed).  He was a big barrel of a man, about 6 feet, 4 inches in height and carrying all his weight around his waist.  He’d come ambling into the house laughing and saying, “What are you up to, Rastus?”  (I’m not sure where the name Rastus came from.  The only thing similar I’ve ever heard is the name Erastus in the Bible.)  His odd sense of humor became more finely honed once he went to work for the funeral home.  Those fellows developed an unusual sense of humor in response, I think, to the sadness they saw so much of the time, as well as to the frequent overnight shifts they worked.

Around Christmas every year, Aunt Martha would get her promotional funeral home calendars, share some with the kinfolks, and then mark her copy every three days for the nights Uncle John would be staying over at the mortuary on call.  Often, when his overnight fell on a Friday, I’d go and spend the night with her and the dog.  Sometimes those Friday overnights were when Mama, Aunt Ruby, “Mamaw” Allred and I would pile into the car and head up there for a late-into-the-night quilting party.  He was a bit superstitious about Friday the 13th, and when his overnights were on that date, Aunt Martha sometimes would call him and, in her best scary voice, remind him, “It’s Friday…the 13th!!!!!”

Sadly, I lost both of my Uncle Johns within about 6 months of each other.  Uncle John Bryant was semi-retired, and had gone in to work at the funeral home one chilly day in January, 1992, when he had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and was taken to Baptist Hospital, lasting for another 8 days but never to awaken.  Not long before he went into the hospital I remember telling a friend at my job how cool it was that in 1992 Uncle John would get to have another “real” birthday.  He spent that one and all the ones since in Heaven.  I spent his next to last night with him in the hospital, and he began what I now understand was the active dying stage while I was with him.  All I knew then was that the nurse said I should call Aunt Martha and have her come as soon as she could, but he held on for many hours after that.  I was not present for his death and that bothered me for a long time.  Now I know it just wasn’t meant for me to be there, and that’s OK.  I’ll see him again someday.

He loved the Tennessee Vols and the Lion’s Club.  He loved going to the 1982 World’s Fair and seeing all the sights there.  He loved to joke about retiring and opening up a hot dog stand outside Neyland Stadium and becoming a millionaire.  He loved to joke, period.  He loved the succession of little dogs that were part of his and Aunt Martha’s family, and they both passed that love of dogs down to me.  He loved Aunt Martha and her kinfolks.  And he loved me.



The Comfort/Sanity/Happiness Kit


Because we all need our marbles…

I enjoy giving goofball presents to people who appreciate my sense of humor and understand the spirit behind the gift.  Gag gifts between me and Reed at Christmas happen from time to time, although it is not an annual occurrence.  He started it when we were kids and he bought me a Chia Pet.  Over the ensuing years various crazy presents have passed between us, such as monkey dishes (I gave him a set the year after he presented me with a monkey lamp), bright pink slip-on sandals from him that decorated my office wall back when I had an office, and an extremely ugly “giggle jug” lamp that I gave him which had a goofy smiling face on one side and a frowny, but hilarious, face on the other.  My crowning goofball gift to him happened the Christmas I was able to obtain a beauty school head that a friend’s sister-in-law had worked with as she completed her training to be a hairstylist.  Score!  It was by far the goofiest gift I have ever given to Reed, or to anybody for that matter.  One Christmas, Reed overwhelmed me with 4 additions to my ugly necktie collection!  I actually wear my outrageous ties now and then, so this gift was priceless.

I have been working on an idea for a comfort/sanity/happiness kit to give to friends and family who need one or all of those things, especially in times of sadness or stress.  It would contain things like bubble wrap for stress relief (who doesn’t LOVE to pop bubble wrap?!  Again, when I had an office, I kept bubble wrap in it to work off my frustration);  A Slinky, for the soothing sound it makes as it passes from one hand to the other; and some jingle bells for those moments when a little music is needed.image

And definitely some marbles.  Who among us doesn’t occasionally feel like we have lost our marbles?  The gift of marbles assures the recipient that, no, you haven’t lost your marbles, because right here they are!




The comfort/sanity/happiness kit might contain other items like bubble bath or a scented candle, a mix CD of music tailored for the recipient (a few people still actually use CDs, I think!), a book the recipient might like, a special snapshot, a recipe, or a jar of bubble-stuff to blow bubbles at the world. It’s a lot better to spread bubbles than profanity (although, I’ve been known to spread both!).  The only limit to the kit is one’s imagination and the desires/tastes/needs of the person who will receive it.

What would be in YOUR comfort/sanity/happiness kit?

The contents of mine would vary day by day…but I would always want, and need…

My marbles.



The Mystic Chords Of Memory


Music, moments and bringing Mama along…

I have just returned from what can only be described as the adventure of a lifetime.  Knoxville Choral Society took a group of singers to New York City to premiere local composer John Purifoy’s “Chronicles of Blue and Gray” at Carnegie Hall!  We met up with several other choruses from around the United States to rehearse for a couple of days and gel ourselves into a unified chorus to perform this masterpiece, the first major work of its kind in choral literature in that it commemorates the Civil War period of American history.  Knoxville Choral Society commissioned this work in honor of our esteemed conductor and artistic director, Dr. Eric “Doc” Thorson.  Without him, and the desire of so many people to honor him, this work would not exist and our Carnegie Hall pilgrimage to premiere it for the New York audience likely would never have happened.  John Purifoy’s labor of love in crafting this poignant and moving work has touched many people and I pray that it will touch many more for generations to come.  It deserves to be heard my as many people, in as many places, as possible.

There are so many moments from the trip that I will always remember, the first being a “wow” moment in my ongoing weight loss journey.  For the first time ever, I flew in planes where the seat belts not only fit around me but had room to spare.  As large as I was, for as long as I was, this was a huge relief.


I made the acquaintance of a number of our singers I did not know before (and who are now Facebook friends as well, so we can continue getting to know one another better).  I am short, so I generally sit down front and don’t see a lot of the people behind me. That will change when we start back for the fall.  I will venture out of my section more and try to be more social.  And several people I knew casually became wonderful friends on this trip.  My friends Jenny and Jere graciously welcomed me on their pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, my one for-sure bucket list item. As we walked around that magnificent place, I was astonished at the beauty even amid all the scaffolding there right now for renovation.  And my friends stood by as I lit a candle and offered a prayer in that sacred space.  We stayed for mass as well, my first Roman Catholic mass ever.  And at St. Patrick’s to boot!  Even a sarcastic varmint like me can find holiness in a place like that, and since it was our first night there, it helped to set the tone for the rest of the trip for me.


I serve as Chapter Mother for Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity at  Carson-Newman University, my alma mater and the chapter I was initiated into as a college student.  Two of my Delta Omicron students made the trip with us. Katie Brown and her mother came and sang, and it did my heart good to see a mother and daughter joining together for this experience, even as I missed my own precious Mama.  Katie Jo O’Neal came as well and I had the pleasure of sharing a hotel room with her.  She and I really had the chance to get to know each other, for which I will forever be grateful.  We are goofball kindred spirits, bonded together by music, faith and humor.  Seeing young musicians grow and stretch makes my heart swell with pride.


(Katie Jo, me and Katie Brown—I’m the filling in the middle of a Katie sandwich and it’s awesome!)

Katie Jo and I shared a room with Rebecca, a lovely woman who was a pleasure to get to know.  She and I shared some wonderful, meaningful talks in the evenings while Katie Jo was still out and about town.  We more “mature” ladies tended to return to the room earlier to settle in for the night!  Also, we need to take “selfie” lessons from Katie Jo, the undisputed master of the art form!


(Selfie fail with Rebecca)


(The Roomies)


Another mother-daughter team made the trip as well, my friend “Queen” Elizabeth Partridge and her sweet Mama, Susan.  Susan did not sing with us but she enjoyed the trip plenty, sightseeing, shopping and graciously sharing a couple of meals and a lovely carriage ride around Central Park.  It was so sweet to see their relationship, and it made me wonder what mine would be like with Mama if she were still here.  I’d like to think we would get along as well as Elizabeth and Susan do.  It was generous of Elizabeth to share her Mama with us.


(Elizabeth, Susan, Katie Jo and me)


(Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mother Susan)

Elizabeth has lost a significant amount of weight in the last year as well, and another bucket list thing I wanted to do was get all dolled up in our Bombshell dresses and have a night out for dessert.  (I know, it’s paradoxical.  Don’t judge me.)  A little treat now and then is not only OK, it’s necessary.  We were completely overdressed, but we went to Junior’s Cheesecakes for dessert and sashayed in like we owned the place.  Dessert was delicious and the company was delightful!  Afterward we walked around, shopping and taking in the sights, sounds and aromas of the Theatre DIstrict and Hell’s Kitchen.  We both enjoyed playing dress-up and, if I do say so myself, we cleaned up pretty well.  And another “wow” moment was that we walked around for about an hour and a half, and I was wearing heels! Before surgery and weight loss, that would have been unthinkable.


I shared a story with John, the composer, when the idea of a trip to Carnegie Hall was just being discussed, over a year ago.  Back when Mama was still with us, Knoxville Choral Society talked about a very slim chance of taking a trip there.  When I mentioned it to Mama, she was over the moon with excitement.  She said, “If you all take a group up there, you HAVE GOT to go!  Daddy and I will help you pay for the trip, whatever needs to happen, if you have a chance to go to Carnegie Hall, you’ve got to do it!”  That trip ended up never happening.  In the ensuing years Mama became ill and died, I let singing go for many years and that dream was all but forgotten.  

Flash forward 20-some years to now, when I finally made it to Carnegie Hall.  I told John and numerous other people I’d be bringing Mama with me the only way I could—her picture in my folder as I sang.  I carried her and others along as well: Sweet Pea and Our Boy Roy, Aunt Ruby, “Doc”, who for several reasons did not make the trip with us, and Dr. Teague, my college voice teacher.  But Mama was the one who held the Carnegie Hall dream in her heart.  We finally made it.  

On concert day, John and I spoke before we entered the hall and he reminded me of my story and asked to see Mama’s picture.  I was humbled that he remembered such a detail on what had to be one of the most monumental days of his life!  And I was proud to show him my folder and all the people I brought along.




Mama was with me.  She is always with me.  We are indeed surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses”, as John and I reminded each other before the concert.  Mothers and daughters, the ones together on Earth and the ones separated briefly between here and Heaven…musicians past, present and future…the bonds of faith…the melody of music and the harmony of humor…the mystic chords of memory.