Tag: reading

Keeping a Humor Journal

Life is strange right now. But the isolation and huge disruptions to normal life are temporary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel (and no, it’s not a train).

One thing that has really helped me keep my perspective is to keep a humor journal. Every day I write at least one funny thing that happened that day. Sometimes the entry is just “I forgot to do the laundry again.” Sometimes I ask someone in my family if they can remember something funny. Watching for the humor helps. Rereading the entries is even better. Here are a few of the entries in my humor journal:

7-29-20

Yesterday, the school told us it will be online school in the fall. It will be quality education, they reassured us. Not like in the spring, they added.

8-3-20

As I was leaving the house to go grocery shopping, the kids were still calling after me the things they thought I should buy. “Is syrup on the list?” “I need shampoo and conditioner.” I think the list grew by 35% or so in the hour before I left.

8-10-20

I woke up and wanted to go right back to bed. I spent all day fantasizing about taking a nap. I’ll probably stay up late reading.

8-30-20

Our neighbor got a new mailbox, bigger than ours. Our mailbox used to be the biggest on the row. “Do we need to get a bigger mailbox?” I joked. My husband laughed. “Can you imagine escalating that until we’re getting our mail delivered to tree houses?” he asked.

10-27-20

My oldest child: Who has the dishes?

Me: You do.

My oldest child: But I did the dishes a few days ago!

Me: And it’s your turn again.

Adulthood: Finally realizing that chores are never ever truly done.

I’d love to hear some funny moments from your life! Please share them in the comments. And, if you have any questions about keeping a humor journal, please ask!

Charlie’s Room: An Unexpected Visitor

Marianne and Charlie loved to read. They would sit on the couch to read in the afternoon, and just tune out the world around them. When they were reading, they couldn’t hear anything.

The funny thing was that they would respond to questions, but their answers wouldn’t make any sense, and they wouldn’t remember later what they said. It was a little like sleep-talking, except they were awake. Isaac wondered if for them reading was like dreaming with their eyes open.

Isaac liked to read, too. However, he was able to hear the doorbell or the telephone when he was reading. If someone asked him a question, he could stop reading and answer the question and remember the conversation later.

One early December afternoon, when the weather was threatening snow but hadn’t yet delivered it, Marianne and Charlie were sitting side by side on the couch reading. They were bathed in the glow of the afternoon light streaming through the front window. Their eyes moved, and occasionally they turned a page, but otherwise they were as still as statues.

Isaac sat in a nearby chair. He had his book out, but he was daydreaming rather than reading. It was hard to focus on the page when there were so many things to think about. Just as he prepared to reread the third paragraph on the page for the fourth time, the doorbell rang.

Marianne and Charlie read on. Isaac sat up and looked around for a bookmark. He found a crossword puzzle magazine and closed it inside his book and set it on the low table nearby. And then he went to answer the door.

No one was standing on the doorstep. Isaac almost closed the door, when a giant white bird flew into the narrow opening and shoved passed Isaac into the house. Isaac pulled the door open a little wider and looked around quickly.

There wasn’t anything scary chasing the bird. There wasn’t anyone running around trying to find their lost bird. There weren’t any other white birds waiting for their chance to fly into the house.

Isaac decided to leave the door open while he found the bird and hopefully chased it back outside. First, he looked into the living room. Marianne and Charlie were still on the couch reading.

“Did the big white bird fly in here?” he asked.

“What kind of bird was it?” Marianne asked, still reading.

“I don’t know. It was big and white and inside the house.”
“Hmmmmm.” Charlie turned a page. “It was probably a chicken.”

“I don’t think so. I do know what chickens look like,” Isaac said.

“Of course you do,” Marianne agreed.

Isaac shook his head and left to check the kitchen. The bird wasn’t there. It was in Charlie’s room. Of course. It was in his closet sitting on a pile of shoes. It hissed at Isaac when he walked in the room.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to spend the winter somewhere else,” he told the bird. “I could maybe spare a corner of the garden shed, if you’re interested.”

The bird hissed.

Isaac left for a moment and returned with a large towel. “I’m going to drop this on you, and wrap you up and take you outside,” he said in what he hoped was a reassuring voice.

The bird hissed louder and tried to peck at him. Isaac wasn’t sure he was brave enough to try to catch the bird in the towel. He’d have to go rather close to that largish beak.

New plan. Isaac retrieved his hidden stash of oatmeal raisin cookies. He would be happy to share his treats with a hungry bird, especially if that meant the bird would be able to continue whatever it was doing before it came inside.

He broke a cookie and tossed half of it in the bird’s direction The bird snapped it up and ate it. Isaac waved the other half of the cookie invitingly and backed up.

The bird flew at him, and knocked him over. Then it took the other half of the cookie and ate it. Isaac curled around the cookie tin and got up, backing out of the room.

He opened the tin and took out another cookie and broke it. The bird turned and looked at him. Isaac hurried down the hall. He made it to the entryway before the bird knocked him over and took both halves of the cookie.

Isaac stood and brushed himself off. Then he opened the tin, took out a cookie, and tossed it out the front door. The bird followed it out. Isaac closed the door. And then he locked it just in case.

He looked out the back door. No bird. He slipped out and closed the door. He left the shed door partly open, just as he promised.

Then he returned inside. He paused, waiting for a moment to see if the doorbell would ring again. Nothing. Perhaps the bird was really gone now. Maybe it was just hungry.

He returned to the living room and sat down. He picked up his book. The magazine slid out and he lost his place. He sighed and put the book back down.

Marianne closed her book and looked up. “What on earth were you doing?” She asked. “You’re covered in crumbs and you have feathers in your hair.”

“We had an unexpected visitor,” Isaac said.

Dragon Games

The troll scratched his head and looked around in confusion. It was his normal state anymore, ever since his first day as an exchange student at the dragon school.

“I thought we were going to play hopscotch,” he said at last. “Trolls are good at hopscotch.” This was, of course because they cheated. Goff probably knew a thousand ways to cheat at hopscotch. It made the game more fun.

This was not like any game of hopscotch he’d ever seen. The squares were too far apart. Some were on random floating islands. Others were on patches of lava. Goff wasn’t even sure where to begin.

The dragons all laughed. “This is dragon hopscotch. What did you think it would be like?”

Goff frowned. “How am I supposed to play this? I’m not fire-proof and I can’t fly.”

“I guess you can’t play. That’s too bad,” one of the dragons said in a sweet, entirely insincere voice. “Maybe there’s another game you’d like to play?”

“Rock, paper, scissors?” Trolls were good at that too. They cheated, of course. Troll sleight-of-hand was legendary. It was a slightly-less-well-known rule of thumb to never play rock, paper, scissors with a troll. Maybe the dragons hadn’t heard it yet.

“Sure, but we call it boulder, tree, spear,” the same dragon said sweetly.

“But it’s played the same, right? Rock, paper, scissors?” Goff demonstrated the signs. “Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, and scissors beat paper.”

The dragon smiled a wide, sharp-toothed grin. “Pretty much. But hand gestures are for weak little things like baby humans. Everyone go fetch your boulder, tree, and spear. It’s time for a battle!”

The dragons scattered. Goff watched a dragon wrench a nearby tree from the ground and sighed. He never got to play any dragon games. Why did he keep trying?

Life on Dragon Island continued, with everyone laughing at Goff and leaving him out. Classes were an exercise in strategic stage magic for the poor troll. He went through so many matches and hidden fireworks in flame-blowing classes.

Treasure hoarding was easier, because he just had to make things look sparkly to impress the teacher. A good coating of sugar syrup made even cardboard sparkle. Glitter was just icing on the cake, or rather added sparkle on the sugared cardboard.

It was gym class that was his personal nemesis. He had to focus all his energy and concentration in darting and avoiding and being somewhere else when flames and talons and giant, heavy, scary things were spinning in every direction. When he got home, he was going to be the undisputed king of dodge ball.

You many be wondering about the more academic subjects. Apparently, dragons didn’t read well. His host family said it was something about how the words on the page were just too hard to see. Dragons saw the world more with their heat sensors and sense of smell and such. So, dragons learned things like math and science and history by memory. At home.

Dragon parents didn’t want their darlings scorching everything in sight or ripping holes in the furniture, so they sent them away to school to learn those things. And it was always good to look at other hoards to get new ideas for their wish lists.

This meant that Goff, who was a wily, clever troll, never stood out at dragon school. And when the neighborhood dragons gathered to play games, he was left out yet again. Goff wondered who set up this ridiculous exchange program and what they were thinking.

And then it happened. Once a century or so, the negotiations with the magical creature council came up, and the residents of Dragon Island were required to send a representative. That was this year.

“None of us can read, dear,” Goff’s host mother said. “And all the contracts are written in teeny tiny words. We’re pretty straight-forward, and they’re always trying to trick us. That’s why we asked you to come. Can you get us a good deal?”

“You could have warned me,” Goff said. “I don’t know anything about international creature law. I’m still in school. Wouldn’t an older troll be a better choice?”

“This is how we’ve always done it. It worked fine before. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

And he was. Goff found thousands of loopholes and ran circles around the magical creature council. None of them had grown up as a troll, and they had no idea how to cope. Finally the head of the council snatched the contracts away. “Let’s just leave things the way they were. It’s been working fine so far.”

“That’s fine with me,” Goff said. Everyone else agreed.

And then all the dragons loved him. They even agreed to play the games his way sometimes. He always won, of course.

“I had no idea trolls had such hidden talents,” one of the neighborhood dragons said. “If we ever need help with rules or contracts, we’ll have to invite another troll to be an exchange student. This worked so well.” And thus history continued to repeat itself. Goff considered warning the other trolls, but then decided that the next troll might like a chance to play the hero. It was almost as fun as cheating at hopscotch.

Flashback Friday: The Trendsetter

This story was originally posted on December 2, 2016. I like the idea of fashion trends that aren’t meant to be taken seriously. I’m not so sure about the giant boot, but I would really like a day to stay home and read. Can someone make that the popular thing to do, please?

There was a time when, if you wanted to know what was popular right this second, you looked to Marley Christofferson. Marley posted constant tips about everything from fashion to breakfast cereals, and thousands listened. Some people insisted it was becoming a little ridiculous. At first, no one listened to them.

The first hint that something was wrong was the giant boot trend. Marley insisted that the popular thing to do was to shove both feet in a giant boot and hop everywhere. It caught on quickly. It was mostly harmless, except for all the uncoordinated people who kept falling over.

After that died out, Marley advised people to wear an oven mitt on one hand.   “I wasn’t so sure about that one,” one fan said. “I didn’t like taking it off to text, but I could keep my phone inside the mitt, so I didn’t have to reach all the way to my pocket to take it out. And I only had to paint the nails on one hand.   That was nice.”

It did make driving difficult, and made it harder to complete schoolwork. Many schools banned oven mitts.

Marley’s next big fad was conducting everything you say with a pencil. It led to people saying everything in a sing-song voice in an attempt to speak in the proper rhythm. Many older, less hip people found this trend especially irritating. “Marley needs to stop,” a principal commented. A few music teachers found a silver lining.   “My students have become well-acquainted with 3/4 and 4/4 time. I even heard one student speaking in 6/8 time. I was impressed,” a music teacher said.

This was followed by ending every sentence with “Yeah, yeah.” “It was even more irritating than the pencil thing,” the same principal said. This fad didn’t last long.

However, the next fad was particularly long lasting.   Beginning in November, Marley advised her followers to “Be festive and string bells on your shoelaces.” It caught on in a big way. People wore a variety of bells laced in complex ways into their shoes and jingle-jangled their way everywhere. “It made it easier to catch some petty criminals,” a police officer noted. It was months before the fad died down, and some people never stopped wearing their “bells on [their] toes”.

Next Marley advised people to peel and eat grapes slowly at lunch. Then it was putting make up only around one eye.   Marley spoke and thousands listened.   And then thousands more followed their example.

It was when Marley recommended staying home all day and reading a good book that her account was closed down. “She was just too disruptive,” officials said. “She couldn’t be allowed to continue.”

A year later, Marley finally agreed to an interview. When asked about the sources she used to decide what was trendy, Marley said, “I just shared what I liked.”

And the strange advice at the end? “I looked around and people were so serious and stressed. I was joking about the giant boot, but people actually tried it. I saw them smiling and laughing and happy. I just wanted to keep seeing people smile like that.”

Is that why so many people followed her advice? “I don’t know,” Marley said.   “I think people want to laugh and be happy. I think they also want to fit in and feel like they belong. I think fads and fashion should be able to do both.”

So what is next for Marley? “I’m at fashion design school now,” Marley said. “Wait until you see my first collection this fall.”

Will we have clown suits or mad scientist gear to look forward to? “Of course not,” Marley said. “Everything I design will be at the height of fashion right at the second I design it, of course. Just wait and see.”

Try, Try Again

When trying to learn something on your own, it is important to spend some time on figuring out how you learn best. I think that most people have a combination of strategies that they use when learning something new. It can be helpful to analyze why and how those strategies work for you so that you can use them more effectively.

Since I was young, I felt like I learned best from reading. This was especially true if there were pictures to look at. One memorable example was learning to knit from books. Books are still one of the first resources I turn to when learning something new.

One of the least effective ways for me to learn is from lectures. To compensate, I learned to take very thorough notes in school. It’s a habit that has continued, and I find that I remember and learn more by taking notes, even if I never go back to reread them.

Superficially, this would tell me to always learn new things from books and avoid classrooms altogether. However, this is not really the most effective way for me to learn. To figure out how I best learn, I had to analyze why books work so much better for me than lectures.

One of my cartoons. Find more of my humor on my Cartoons Page.

When I read, I pause often to think about what I read. I visualize the process. I think about how it connects to what I already know. I turn back several pages to check on something I remember reading to see if it relates to what I just read.

In a lecture, my mind is making all the same leaps. Unfortunately, the information keeps coming, even when my brain is on pause. When I take notes, it forces me to focus on writing down the information and staying on task. My mind still sometimes wanders, but it isn’t for as long, and I can usually pick up what I missed to fill in the holes in my notes. I have to think about the information later, often while checking back over my notes to make connections.

My way of taking notes.

When I am learning to do something new, my first attempt usually doesn’t go well. Failure, while not fun, is part of the process. I then go back to check what I learned to see where I went wrong. Books, especially books with diagrams, usually have lots of information that I can go through to compare to my attempt. I make a hypothesis on what I need to fix, and try again.

Lectures, because of time constraints, have less information to go through. An hour of lecture could fill less than a chapter of a good book. Books are more helpful when things go wrong.

A couple of my daily practice sketches from January 2019.

However, actually seeing something done really helps with visualizing what I need to do. Instead of trying to piece it all together through descriptions and diagrams, I can see exactly how it works. The problem is that demonstrations usually make things look easier than they are. It’s hard to reproduce that on my own.

Seeing something done, thinking it through and visualizing it, attempting it on my own, then getting feedback on what I did wrong, and trying again? That is really how I learn best. Books and lectures are just the vehicles for the information that I need.

Looking at that process, how I really learn, I can see many other ways I can best accomplish it. Finding a mentor might be the most effective way for me to learn. YouTube videos and google searches could be valuable if done right.

Knowing how I really learn best can help me be creative in how I learn. I can be more effective with the time I have. This is one of the great advantages of self study.

Practicing is a necessary step in the learning process. Samuel Johnson once said that, “By writing, you learn to write.” Putting what I’ve learned into practice is the ultimate test to see how well I’m really learning. If I can’t use the information I have, the information isn’t very helpful after all.

But studying is an important partner to that practice. Without new information, you are attempting to slowly reinvent what others have already learned and shared. Learning from the people who have gone before you can save you so much time.

I love to learn new things. There is such a feeling of accomplishment when I do something I couldn’t do before. That moment when I understand something that didn’t make sense to me, that feeling of the last puzzle piece clicking into place, is so rewarding. Learning how I learn best makes the entire process easier and less frustrating so that I can get to the good part of learning that much faster.

How do you learn best? Has that changed over time? Does it change depending on what you’re learning? Do you like to learn new things?

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