Laughing Fits


Anderson CooperThe Ridiculist

I will never forget the time Mr. Brickhouse and I attended a weekend Pre-Cana retreat as a requirement to marrying in the Catholic church.  Many other couples were in attendance at this beautiful old Monastery.  Of course, the boys slept in one building and the girls in another.

Why my thoracic diaphragm decided that on that weekend it would go haywire and erupt in involuntary audible contractions, is beyond me.  It started with short little random outbursts.  I remember thinking, Brickhouse get it together, the priest is addressing the group. We were at the beautiful church attending a Mass when I made the fatal mistake of looking over at Mr. Brickhouse.  He looked back at me and that was it.  The levee burst breached so forcefully, that no amount of sand bags could have possibly stopped the blast of laughter that erupted out of my small Catholic mouth.

Shhhhhhhhhh, pleaded Mr. Brickhouse, in a look of horror.  Nope.  There was no shhh-ing to be had.  I tried looking down and staring at the pews.  I tried thinking of horrible tragedies I knew about. There was no turning back.  I covered my entire face with the palms of both my hands in an attempt to muffle the gurgling sounds.  That did not work.  I tried burying my head in Mr. Brickhouse’s jacket but that only brought more attention my way.  

God, please make it stop! I am so sorry for sinning in your house of worship.

My shoulders began to shake uncontrollably as I gasped for air.  The side of my stomach ached and the tears of laughter came  gushing down my face.  I am pretty sure there was a lot of snorting going on as well.  As tough and poised as Mr. Brickhouse tried to remain, I broke him down.  Now, we were two Pre-Cana students hysterically laughing in the middle of Mass where the echo only amplified our seizure-like movements and noises.

That we were awarded the Pre-Cana completion certificate, was truly miraculous.

And then there was the time my mother accompanied me to one of my birthing classes because Mr. Brickhouse had a meeting that night.  I was pretty pregnant by then, as were my classmates.  I was aware that pregnant women came in all shapes and sizes but, WHOA.  This one particular woman had a rather peculiar shape.

Rather than her baby bump protruding from her stomach and thus the front of her,  somehow, the protrusion came entirely from her derrière.  There was hardly a pregnant tummy to be seen.  The almost at-term baby, seemed to be resting comfortably inside her buttocks. From the looks of it, it was going to be a rather HUGE baby.

Well, I was used to her unique shape from earlier classes but my mature and dignified mother, had never seen anything like it.  All it took was a loud whisper (because my mother never learned how to whisper softly) in Spanish from her, commenting on the baby coming out of the woman’s butt, to open the gates.  How my water didn’t break right there and then is incomprehensible. 

The instructor stopped the class to ask if we were alright.  We had to step aside and leave the room, for the night.

They say that laughter produces endorphins which can reduce pain, increase blood flow, reduce stress hormones and boost our immune system.

What they do not warn us about is that it may cause long-term embarrassment, child-like behavior, loss of bladder control and high likelihood of offending others.

However, the side effects seem to be a lot less severe than the side effects I get from my cocktail of medications.  

Maybe laughter truly is the best medicine.

Here is Anderson Cooper ‘losing it’.

And make sure to click on this video of the immensely talented, Tim Conway & Harvey Korman in ‘The Dentist Skit’ where Harvey actually wets himself from laughing when he wasn’t supposed to!

What laughing-fit stories do you have?

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The Swim to My 50s – No, means…Watch Me Try


No.  Such a short and simple word.  Grammatically pleasing and a guaranteed spelling bee winner.  But boy, the power it possesses.  Too often,  it is a word that shatters our dreams, desires and passions and one that can limit our path into our future.  A word we love to hate and one that is a prerequisite to rebellion.

No, can also mean the difference between life and death.  We learn from a very young age to obey this word to keep us safe.  No, can be the welcoming news we anxiously want to hear after a medical scare and a word we rely upon to protect ourselves and our bodies.

For me, No means – watch me try.  I believe I was born rebellious and ready to question it all.  As a baby, I refused to eat my food (too bad that stage ended).  I would shut my mouth very tightly, making it impossible for my father to get the spoon of baby food into my mouth.

As a young girl,  I became unhealthily attached to a large metal hair barrette I owned.  By attached, I mean that I wore this barrette day and night – every day.  You see, I hated my wavy short hair and was convinced that this barrette, would hold down the curls and keep the top of my hair flat and straight – for ever.  No one could take it away from me and I refused to give it up.


No comment…


As a teen, I decided that my strict parents had this whole child-rearing thing, all wrong.  I made sure to tell them that children had rights too and that we mattered.  I quoted psychologists and studies that proved my theory, only to be shut down and told to go to my room.  Ok, so I was bratty about it and always had to have the last word, but I did not give in. To the detriment of my then obeying siblings, I made family dinners, an argumentative unpleasant experience.

Fast forward to today.  I still cannot hear the word, No.  It makes me cringe, sweat and causes smoke to come out of my ears.  I am however, wiser and understand that the word has to exist.  Especially, when having to use it on my own teenage kids.

Where my rebellion has helped me tremendously, is in how I approach life.  This stubbornness has made me the strong woman who I believe I am.  It has helped me fight my Rheumatoid Arthritis and opened up doors and opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I had just accepted No, for an answer.

I have tried to instill this in my children.  I often tell them to respectfully (this is critical) explore the reasoning behind the No, they have encountered.  Is it an absolute?  Did accepting the status quo come from their own insecurities and assumptions that what they want, is not possible?  Have they tried everything in their power to make it work?   What do they have to lose?  If they try and it still does not work, at least they know they took it to its furthest level and tried.

There have been numerous examples of how persevering and not giving up has paid off.  After managing a bank branch for many years and understanding the importance of customer service, courtesy and mutual respect, I learned how to approach a No, more effectively.

I remember when my credit card company threatened to raise my interest rate just because they could.  I searched for the name of the CEO of that company and wrote him a personal respectful note asking him to reconsider.  The interest rate was not raised and he even put a cap on my account so it would never go up. 

Or when I called Mr. Dell’s (yes, from Dell Computers) office after my brand new computer had a faulty mother board and customer service refused to replace it.  

A few years ago, my daughter applied to attend a summer theater camp that cost more than we could afford.  When she saw the cost, she immediately accepted the fact that she could not attend.  I then asked how badly she wanted to go and encouraged her to write a letter expressing her desire to attend.   It turned out that they had extra funds and offered her a scholarship. 

When my son was a senior in high school, he applied to the many scholarships available through the school and town for those students going on to college.  When it was time to attend the awards event in which the winners are announced, he did not get the mandatory letter from the school letting him know that he was a recipient of one of the awards and therefore, should attend the ceremony.  He immediately accepted the fact that he would not be awarded a scholarship.  I told him that we should call the school to verify.  Sure enough, it had been an error and his letter had been lost in the mail.  He ended up getting the highest monetary award presented by the principal of the school.  Had we not checked, he would have missed such an important ceremony.

I am by no means advocating breaking the rules, yelling, harassing or threatening in order to get your way.  After all, there are laws and rules we must accept.  I want my children to know that they should not give up at the first sign of a struggle. That even if it involves extra work or time, it is worth a shot. 

Often times, the possibility and probability that it will work out for you, are there.  But, you have to ask for it and you have to try.  

The Swim To My 50s – I Prefer to Belly Laugh


When was the last time you belly laughed?  I mean, really laughed?  The kind of laughter that results in peculiar noises coming out of your mouth, nose or any other orifice, that you can’t believe can come from your body.

It had been a while since I had one of those times, that is, until last Thursday.  I will spare you the long details but let’s just say that my girlfriend and I could not look at each other without bursting into a hysterical seizure-like fit consisting of coughing, wheezing, snorting, choking, passing gas (not me, my friend) and crying.  It came over us like a tsunami and there was no stopping it.
Let me tell you, my abs were aching for the next couple of days.  That’s when it came to me.  Who needs sit ups {I wasn’t going to do them anyway} or swimming when you can laugh hysterically 3-4 times a week?  Yes!  What better way to welcome my 50s in September, than with tight-ass abs!!
As I continued inspecting my body in preparation for the big day, I had to address my mid-section.  It’s definitely been through hell and can be called a war zone  The first battle occurred at the age of 10. 
We had just moved to Amherst, MA from Puerto Rico, after my father had gotten a position at Umass.  We understood some English but were not even close to being able to form intelligible sentences.
My siblings were all playing inside and I wanted to play outside.  I went outside and saw that my next door neighbor whom I will call Steven {because that was his name} was also playing.  I believe he was a year or two older than me.  I decided to approach him and for some incredibly bizarre reason I’ve yet to understand, ask him if he wanted to fight me.  In my broken English, I dared him to hit me first.
Now, before you go judging me, I was very much a girly girl growing up.  I loved my Barbies,  my Easy-bake oven and everything pink.  I have no idea where this tough tomboy-ish persona of mine had been hiding and why it decided to come out on that day.
Steven was terrified.  Probably because he knew of his demise once his very strict German father heard that his son had hit a girl or equally terrified by the realization that my two very protective brothers and strict Puerto Rican father, were nearby.  But, I continued to egg him on.  Com-on, es-Steven, ju no hit me?  He kept shaking his head no, but after a while, I could see that he was considering it.
Finally, after my relentless harassing, he took a strong (and may I say quite painful) swing with his fist and punched me right in the stomach.  I stood there in paralyzing pain, wanting to double over, but did everything in my 10-year-old power NOT to show that I was hurt.  I simply smiled at him and told him that I had to get something in my house but that I would be right back.  I walked calmly towards my front door, opened it, stepped in, closed the door and gave out a screeching earth-shattering wail, from the intense pain I felt.  Needless to say, I never went back out.
As predicted, poor Steven got quite the talking to by his German father and my brothers and strict Puerto Rican father, did run out to yell at him after seeing me so distraught.  Even after admitting to everyone that it was my fault and that I had started it, he was punished for hitting a girl.  Oops.
My other mid-section battles were not brought on by any tomboy-ish tendencies.  One battle in particular was brought on by the complete opposite.  It was inspired by a strong maternal, womanly desire to make babies. After three pregnancies and two beautiful children, the scars speak for themselves.  These are not scars from a C-section since I did not have one, but scars from the dreaded stretch marks! Just so you know, I am first on the list at my cousin’s plastic surgery practice, to go under the knife when they figure out a way to get rid of them!  
To add to my diverse looking stomach, I have since had gall-bladder surgery and a splenectomy (removal of your spleen).  Yes, you can still live without these two organs.  But, can you live with the scars?  🙂  The splenectomy scar is a doozy and takes over my entire abdomen.  Not a pretty sight and the main reason I do not have a belly button ring!  I feel so deprived of this right to bear rings!
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Above is a picture of me during a Halloween party sporting my one and only, ‘belly button ring’ (nice bikini, huh?).
I have come to accept the looks and shape of my mid-section and will continue to belly laugh all the way to my grave.