Archive for February, 2013

The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter


laughter1Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.   Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.Quote from

My rule is, if it makes me laugh out loud, especially when I’m alone, I keep it and/or share it.  Hence, my offering of some allegedly true stories: 

AT&T fired their President after nine months, saying he lacked intellectual leadership. He received a $26 million severance package. Perhaps it’s not the president who was  lacking intelligence. 

Police in Oakland , CA spent two hours attempting to subdue a gunman who had barricaded himself inside his home. After firing ten tear gas canisters, officers discovered that the man was standing beside them in the police line, shouting, ‘Please come out and give yourself up.’

An Illinois man, pretending to have a gun, kidnapped a motorist and forced him to drive to two different automated teller machines, wherein the  kidnapper proceeded to withdraw money from his own bank accounts! 

A man walked into a Topeka , Kansas Kwik Stop and asked for all the money in the cash drawer. Apparently, the take was too small, so he tied up the  store clerk and worked the counter himself for three hours until police showed up and grabbed him.

Police in Los Angeles had good luck with a robbery suspect who just couldn’t control himself during a lineup. When detectives asked each man in the lineup to repeat the words: ‘Give me all your money or I’ll shoot’, the man shouted, ‘That’s not what I said!’ 

A man spoke frantically into the phone: ‘My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart’.
‘Is this her first child?’ the doctor asked. ‘No!’ the man shouted, ‘This is her husband!’

In Modesto , CA , a man was arrested for trying to hold up a Bank of America branch without a weapon.. he used a thumb and a finger to simulate a gun. Unfortunately, he failed to keep his hand in his pocket.  In a similar incident, a man, hoping to rob his bank, wrote the “this is a stickup” note on a deposit ticket and handed it to the teller.  Unfortunately for him, the deposit ticket he used was for his own bank account.  So it didn’t take the police long to find him.

Last summer some folks new to boating, were having a problem.  No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get their brand new 22 foot boat going. It was very sluggish in almost every maneuver, no matter how much power they applied. After about an hour of trying to make it go, they putted into a nearby marina, thinking someone there might be able to tell them what was wrong. A thorough topside check revealed everything in perfect working condition. The engine ran fine, the out-drive went up and down, and the propeller was the correct size and pitch. So, one of the marina guys jumped in the water to check underneath. He came up choking on water, from his laughter:  Under the boat, still strapped securely in place, was the trailer! 

laughterSo go have a good laugh! 

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.


February 14 was a very big event when I was a little girl. From the G.C. Murphy Five and Ten Cent Store, our parents would help us purchase little boxes of valentine cards, each with a folding envelope.   From the box we painstakingly selected a card that exemplified each classmate (that was of course in our 7-year old minds) and on the morning of the 14th, we went to school with a burgeoning packet of cards that said I like you or Be My Valentine. That’s the equivalent of today’s text message to your BFF.  (We hadn’t yet perfected the art of being mean.)

Awaiting on the teacher’s desk was the most magnificent box, with slots on all four sides.  It was elaborately decorated with red crepe paper, strings of pearls, doilies, large red construction paper hearts, all lovingly adorned with sparkles, bits of ruffled lace and red ribbon.  Every child stuffed their valentines in the box, and we all suffered the interminable wait until afternoon recess, when the teacher handed out those horrible candy hearts with little sayings like “Sweet Heart.”  The two best students received the honor of “delivering”  all the valentines to the rest of us.  Every child, still a generation away from today’s harsh realities, received cards from each classmate and we left school that day, wrapped in the innocence that we were loved by the whole world.bemine

At home that evening, I would  ooh  and ahh over my treasure trove of cards while my big sister helped prepare the evening’s meal by putting red food coloring in everything.  We dined on roast beef, red mashed potatoes or red applesauce, red salad dressing, followed by red angel food cake – all savored in the glow of red crêpe paper draped over the lamps.   I promise you, for a second grader, it was magical day.

For many years back on the East Coast,  I had the honor of serving on a non-profit board whose mission was to provide health care and support services to the homeless and those at risk for being homeless.  The people who quietly served that board, both Directors, and Staff alike, were among the most dedicated, selfless people I have ever known.

homeless1This week, as I address about thirty silly and expensive Valentine cards to my extended family (Hallmark hit upon a good thing half a century ago)  I am thinking about the  homeless who were undoubtedly once 2nd graders who received and sent valentines.  Today I’m not sure they’ll be on anyone’s valentine list, and they won’t likely have the feeling of being much loved by the world.   But that can change.  Here in the Coachella Valley there is a wonderful organization that I’ve been working with called The Well In The Desert, whose mission provides daily nutritious hot meals, emergency food assistance, weekly supplemental food distribution, and access to community services to those affected by poverty, including the working poor, the homeless, seniors, the handicapped and others in need.


There are more people facing homelessness and hopelessness, now more than ever, but if we all lend a helping hand, and share whatever we can, it will help.

So this is my valentine.

If you would like to make a cash donation or if you have some gently used clothing or non perishable food that you would like to donate,  please


contact me, or go directly to the The Well In the Desert by clicking this link.   If you are a business and would be willing to donate something of value to The Well Annual Fundraising Silent Auction – Fool’s Folly on April 1, all the better.  Just reach out for me at my blog, or e-mail me at and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

Whatever you can do to help those who are truly less fortunate, it will be the best valentine you’ll ever give and I promise you, it will be waaay more magical than red food coloring.  Besides that food coloring turns your teeth really red!

HOCAnyone who has ever attempted to build a house with playing cards knows the intense focus it takes.  Not one intruding thought can be allowed to disrupt the absolute concentration required.  That intense concentration is offered by the two main characters – unctuous Congressman Francis Underwood, he a boy of the South and his cool-as-ice wife, Claire – in Netflix’s impressive new series House Of Cards, loosely based on the BBC series of the same name.

With this new 13-part series,  completely available for your marathon viewing, Kevin Spacey gives us the ultimate anti-hero in Congressman Underwood. One reviewer aptly described Spacey’s character as “a politician on the make, he is evocatively deadpan and sad-eyed, as if he wished this wretched world didn’t justify his deeds but will damn sure make the best of it.”   

After a betrayal of Presidential proportions we are the lucky voyeurs who get to watch The Congressman and his lobbyist wife Claire (played with brilliant restraint by Robin Wright) build their intricate house of cards with infinite patience and religious-like dedication to the “family business,” glimpses of which are tantalizingly doled out as the series unfolds. Never has television given us a more clear understanding of the way government really works, all intelligently packaged in a crisp script that simmers and crackles with all our inherent moral flaws. We have surely reached the tipping point when nearly every review of House Of Cards begins with the words  “a journey to the dark side.” Indeed.  This is The West Wing up to its neck in Congressional sludge.


Everything about this slick production is calculated for the ultimate effect: to make the worst possible expectations of our government decidedly palatable and definitely enjoyable.  It’s a visual banquet filled with tasty morsels we’d ordinarily find disgusting.  In the opening credits, time-lapse photography reminds us that the orbit of any individual or thing is secondary to the institution of governmental power.  The music is haunting.  The set decoration is cool and murky, nuanced by every possible shade of gray. Every action is darkly paced and, like a skilled lover, makes us breathless with anticipation.

But while the Tony Sopranos, the Walter Whites and the Dexters are compelling anti-heroes,  they aren’t exactly our next-door neighbors.   The Congressman hits us right where we live as he jerks the shroud off the putrefying body of government and forces us to face with a macabre sense of relief, the awful truth that corruption is necessary and required.

Just as Lord Acton paraphrased in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

But we knew that, didn’t we?  Thank heavens the truth has been dragged from the closet and given yet another airing.

So cancel your weekend plans, order sustenance and settle in for the most compelling, spell-binding, unrestrained tale of legislative debauchery ever dressed up and tricked out in Sunday’s best go to meet’in finery. You cannot watch just one episode at a time.

Movie Review:

A quartet is a composition for four instruments or voices; a group of things that are considered a unit, or that belong together.


And so it is that this Quartet is the most endearing of films and it’s that belonging thing that tugs at your heart throughout this thoughtful, touching, charming story about living in the moment, no matter how fleeting those moments are as we face the final chapters of our lives.

A home for aging musicians on the magnificent grounds of “Beecham House*” is the setting for three of the most delightful aging stars in the opera firmament: Tom Courtenay as Regie, Billy Connolly as Wilf and Pauline Collins as Cissy.  Enter the diva of all divas, Maggie Smith as Jean, who cannot face the realities of her reduced circumstances –  financially, professionally, physically, emotionally – but then, who of us can do it with much aplomb?

Dustin Hoffman directs this story of love, humor and reconciliation with a concert master’s touch.  Tom Courtenay’s kind and aging gigolo is completely charming without lurching into lechery; Cissy’s addled memory-lapses are the perfect foil for tension breaking; and Reggie is perhaps more devastatingly handsome with age.   The apex of their collective operatic careers was their performance in Verdi’s Rigoletto and its famous act III quartet “one of the finest examples of ensemble writing in all of opera.”

The annual fund-raising Gala is looming.  Diva Jean’s arrival introduces the irresistible possibility bigger donors if the quartet will only reunite.  Will they do it?  Can they do it – will their voices hold up?  And what of the smoldering love once felt for two of our stars?  Can they be reunited as well?

BeechamHouseGive yourself a treat and see for yourself.   Tears, laughter, lovely sentimentality, compassion, glorious music, human emotion, happy ending.  This quartet definitely belongs together.  What more could you want?

* Hedsor House was once the home of the Dowager Princess of Wales, mother of George III, (aka Beecham House in the film) in Buckinghamshire, England.  It has only been open to the public since 2008.

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