Category Archives: Humor

Fear of Driving

Fear of Driving

This article was first published on Doing Life Together.

Doing Life Together

I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19.

I got my first learner’s permit when I was a senior in high school. My dad took me out driving several times in his huge Buick LeSabre. Our sessions usually ended with him red-faced and shouting at me, and me crying. At the time, I didn’t understand why Dad was so frustrated.

The day of my scheduled road test was also the day of the first blizzard of 1970. I had no experience driving in snow. Even though Dad promised the test course would be plowed by the time we got there, this was not the way I’d imagined it. I pictured myself driving us to the Motor Vehicles office on non-scary, dry roads. I didn’t want a last-minute lesson on driving on snow-covered roads. So I refused to go. Dad said I could call and reschedule, but I just…

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The Day Milo Went AWOL . . . by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

The Day Milo Went AWOL . . . by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

An oldy, but a goody. Un-smiley face graphic by Kaz Vorpal.

Doing Life Together

California King Snake California King Snake

As I was readying to leave for work one day fifteen years ago, my daughter Erin, then fifteen years old and the last of our children to leave for school in the morning, breathlessly announced, “There’s a snake in my pants!”

Now, in some homes, a statement like that might be alarming. However, in our house, it was pretty typical.

Firstly, my kids tended to keep their clothes on the floor. Secondly, although we live in Arizona, we are surrounded on all sides by the greater Phoenix metropolitan area—unlikely a wild reptile wriggled in from the desert. It would probably be one of our resident serpents.

You see, my husband, Greg, an elementary school teacher, collected critters.

So my very logical response to Erin was “Who is it?”

“One of the black and white ones.”

Boy, was I ticked. I had recently flown to New Jersey to…

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How to Write Funny

How to Write Funny

One of my goals for 2016 was to put humor into my writing. (Still working on that.) I asked my critique group if anyone knew a book on writing humor, and my friend Betty offered to lend me her copy of How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba.

Sticky notes and tabs stuck out of Betty’s book, passages on many pages were either underlined or highlighted, and the margins held scribbled notes. I began reading with a notebook and pen close by. After I’d read two pages, I already had a page of notes. I knew then I needed my own copy.

funnyToday, my book is heavily annotated, adorned with different colored stickies, and whole sections are starred for further review and reference.

How to Write Funny is a collection of twelve essays by different authors, some of whom I’m familiar with, and others I’d never heard of. Also included are fifteen interviews and a roundtable panel. Jennifer Crusie also contributed a comedy “workshop,” complete with exercises I’m planning to try.

To give you an idea of the scope of the book, here are some random quotes I underlined in my copy:

  • “The comic point of view is essentially that of the stranger or alien.” (David Bouchier)
  • “…people laugh at two things: surprise and misfortune.” (J. Kevin Wolfe)
  • “Exaggerating the literal truth, if it’s done well, shows us the emotional truth of a situation.” (Connie Willis)
  • “Humor observes, analyzes and comments on the human condition.” (Esther M. Friesner)
  • “…the day I walked the entire length of the English Department at Ohio State University with my skirt caught in my panty hose, wearing no underwear. And nobody I passed said a word.” (Jennifer Crusie)
  • “…column humor comes in only five forms: 1. The anecdote 2. The one-line joke 3. Overstatement 4. Understatement 5. Ironic truth” (Mel Helitzer)
  • “At its best, humor evokes humane laughter at the universality of worldly frailities.” (Patricia Case)
  • “You can probably skewer a politician or personal injury lawyer with abandon, but you should be gentle when mocking the common man.” (Dinty Moore)
  • “…imagine what’s in the cupboard of a serial killer.” (Lee K. Abbott)
  • “Jokes are poetry…a joke is always succinct.” (Sherman Alexie)
  • “…real humor has to come from the same place your passion, your fear and your obsessions come from: your parents.” (Tom Bodett)
  • “…people laugh when they have the shock of recognizing the familiar under an unexpected light.” (Andrei Codrescu)
  • “For me, humor can fail if it’s ‘mean,’ if [it] is vengeful or sexist or defensive.” (Denise Duhamel)

The authors of the segments mentioned some of the same humorists over and over: S.J. Perelman, James Thurber, P.G. Wodehouse, Calvin Trillin, and Erma Bombeck. I bought some books by each of these authors, and I found them dated and unfunny—even Bombeck, who delighted me in the 1970s and 80s. How to Write Funny came out in 2001. I guess 16 years is old in comedy years.

Nevertheless, I recommend this book for writers who wish they were funny.

What about you–do you use humor in your writing? Do you have any hints you’d like to share? Have you read this book?  Respond in the comments below.

Caroling, Caroling

Caroling, Caroling

The first time I ever went caroling was as a Brownie Scout in 1960. Armed with our carol booklets, provided by the John Hancock Life Insurance Company, we went to the homes of people in the community who had chronic illnesses. We sang Here We Come A-Wassailing and O Come, All Ye Faithful and finished up with Silent Night, our shivering bodies crowded together on the front porches of each house along our route. After serenading half a dozen families, we returned to our Scout meeting room for hot cocoa (spiked with candy canes) and home-baked cookies.

Photo by The Wu's Photo Land

Photo by The Wu’s Photo Land

For the rest of my childhood and high school and college years, going caroling was, if not annual, at least often a part of my Christmas season. And groups of carolers occasionally came to sing on our front porch.

Alas, not all of my contemporaries partook of this tradition.

When Greg and I had been married for a year or two, he bought me a Wurlitzer electronic piano that fit in our tiny living room and could be easily transported. Planning to spend Christmas Day with my in-laws, I insisted we bring the piano along, so we could all sing carols together.

What a bomb. My husband’s family would rather stick needles in their eyes than sing around the piano. They were quite content to let me play while they conversed. I felt like a lounge musician.

Many years later, our doorbell rang one December afternoon, and when Greg answered the door, carolers burst into song. Greg shut the door on them, causing me to feel mortified. “Hey, they were trying to walk into the house,” he said. (It turned out they were my neighbor’s out-of-town relatives, who thought it would be fun to serenade the cul-de-sac.)


Photo by Mike Renlund.

These days, my caroling cravings are satisfied at Christmas carol services at church, but I long for the olden days when going door-to-door was common.

Do you go caroling? Do you have any caroling memories? What are your favorite carols? Share in the comments below.

The RIGHT Way to Serve Cranberry Sauce

The RIGHT Way to Serve Cranberry Sauce


Last year about this time, I read an article that upset me greatly. In fact, I saved this link so that I could respond to the article when the time was right.

I know cranberry sauce is considered a Thanksgiving food, to go with turkey; but in my family, the Thanksgiving menu and the Christmas menu are indistinguishable. So, if you got it wrong at Thanksgiving, after reading this article you’ll be able to get it right for Christmas.

If you have not read the above-mentioned article, in it Tamela Hancock Murray purports to know the correct way to serve cranberry sauce (the jellied kind that comes in a can). Everyone knows, she says, that “you must slice the cranberry sauce so it appears in rounds and then you serve it in an oblong dish.”


This is how you serve cranberry sauce:


In a green footed bowl used for no other purpose than serving cranberries. (Full disclosure: even though many years ago the bowl came to me filled with a floral arrangement, I knew at that moment that it was born to be a cranberry dish.) After opening the chilled can, shake the cranberry sauce into the dish without marring its cylindrical form. Allow guests to serve themselves with a sterling silver cranberry sauce slicer. (I know for sure this slicer was made specifically for cranberry sauce. It has a circle of cranberries etched into the surface. It was my mother-in-law’s. I gave it to her, and it reverted back to me when she passed away.)

Some of you are undoubtedly dying to tell me that jellied cranberry sauce from a can is far inferior to the other kind. Don’t tell me—tell my husband. It’s what his mother always served. Old traditions die hard.

I have tasted the whole-berry kind, and I love it. I have even made it from scratch, and it was heavenly. I even tried serving it in alternating years.

The only problem with that arrangement is, no one else in my family will eat it. So canned jellied cranberry sauce it is. It’s the only way.

Creative Juice #15

Creative Juice #15

Fifteen extraordinarily inspiring articles:

Creative Juice #8

Creative Juice #8

Feed your soul (or just LOL):

Did you read (or write) an article this week that would interest creatives? Please share a link in the comments below.

Where the Magic Happens #ALWorkMagic

Where the Magic Happens #ALWorkMagic

Today’s post comes with a special blogging *challenge. But first, some background.

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but I procrastinated because my office was such a mess–I didn’t want to post a picture of it.

But then I figured out I could just spiffy up the desk where I write, paint, and draw. You don’t have to see the stacked boxes o’ stuff I’m trying to find places for. (Yeah, I know, not that spiffy, but it took me a week to get it this organized.)DSC02747

There’s my laptop, open to one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Pinterest. The pink flower behind it is actually a pen stuck in a vase. To the right, you can see some of the many receptacles for pens, scissors, paperclips, etc. The ubiquitous water bottle–a must for writers everywhere, but especially in Arizona. In the cubbies, a stack of salvaged notebooks, all kinds of sticky notes, index cards, scratch pads, and thank you cards.

Under the light is a panel from a birthday card Greg gave me years ago with a picture of a little boy singing his heart out (who looked remarkably like one of my kindergarten students, so it spent a few years on the wall of my classroom). Below that, a postcard my friend Judy sent me from Florence, Italy several months ago. To the right of that, a list of my creative goals for 2016 (you’re working on yours, right?), with sticky note addenda attached.

Can you see on the perpendicular surface to the right the post card from the Cloisters of one of the Unicorn Tapestries (to inspire me to work on my mystical fantasy-in-progress)? And to the left of the singing boy, two pages from magazines reminding me of places I need to go for photo-essays I’m planning.

On the top shelf of the desk are art supplies, a box of greeting cards, boxes of envelopes, some supplements old ladies take, a picture of Greg when he was a little boy (because he was so stinkin’ cute!), some toys that used to belong to my kids, tissues, hand sanitizer, a mini-stereo (I must have music when I write! You can see the slots where I store some f my favorite CDs), and a Scripture-a-day calendar.

I am fascinated with seeing the workspaces of writers and artists. You, too?


John Singer Sargent’s studio


Mark Twain at work


Paul Cezanne in his studio


Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio

To see more, check out these articles on creative workspaces:

Do you have the freedom to do this in your workspace?

And here are workspaces of some of the people who have been featured on ARHtistic License.

Artist (and writer) Robert Holewinski:

Jewelry designer Shirli Matatia:

Artist Michael James:

Not exactly a workspace picture, but here is artist Jeremy Kirsch at work:


Woodcarver and furniture maker Scott Zuziak of Lazy River Studios:


Artist Rachelle Levingston: Rachelle Levingston's studio

*And Now, Presenting: The ARHtistic License Workspace Challenge

Fellow bloggers, let’s take this workspace sharing one step further. Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to show us where you create. Here’s all there is to it:

  1. Between now and September 30, 2016, take a picture of your workspace, and post it on your blog. Tell us what you create there. Do you write, design greeting cards, manufacture household gadgets? You can even tell us the special significance of the objects in your photo(s), or why you’ve set up the area as you have. How does it inspire you? Help you to be productive?
  2. Somewhere in the post, include this sentence (cut and paste so that you include the link–when your post goes live, it should automatically generate a ping-back to your post in the comments below): This is my response to the ARHtistic License Workspace Challenge.
  3. Share your article on social media with this hashtag: #ALWorkMagic.
  4. Optional: to spread the word, share this article on social media with the hashtag #ALWorkMagic. Cut and paste this shortlink: or use the sharing buttons below.

I can’t wait to see where you work!

Creative Juice #5

Creative Juice #5

Let’s celebrate Friday with a bunch of articles to jump-start your creative week-end:

In the Meme Time: I Need This Mug

In the Meme Time: I Need This Mug

Found on Pinterest: