The Diagnosis

The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.
— Brian Greene

His mother was laughing behind the one-way mirrored window separating the observation area from my therapy room. I was already struggling to keep a serious face, and hearing her didn’t make my effort to suppress the giggles any easier. I didn’t know what to say and as a speech therapist, to be rendered speechless could be lethal to ones career!

Fresh out of graduate school, my first job as a speech and language pathologist was at a communicative disorders clinic on the campus of Brigham Young University. I was responsible for everything including, scheduling appointments, conducting screenings, administering diagnostic testing, and providing therapy sessions, followed up with report writing and billing. The majority of my clientele were preschool or elementary aged children. 


On this particular day, I had a diagnostic evaluation scheduled with a young fellow who had difficulty pronouncing the ‘r’ sound. Most children were quite shy at our initial introductions, but I was usually able to put them at ease so we could begin the testing. However, this day was quite different. The young man who was presented to me in the waiting room was far from shy; in fact, he exhibited undaunted confidence that rivaled many a public figure. While his mother was being directed to the observation hall, I led this 6 year-old boy to my therapy room. Somewhere between sitting down and drawing a breath to start my instruction, this little guy took the lead, “OK…so this is my puh-wah-blem (problem). I cannot poh-nounce (pronounce) my ahw-z (Rs) because my tongue-bone is too weak. I cannot get enough pweh-sh-oh (pressure) to get the sound out po-wah-po-ly (properly). So if I can get my tongue-bone to be st-wong-goh (stronger), I will be able to say my ahw-z (Rs).” 

Huh? He totally took me off guard! With my mouth hanging open and his mother chuckling in the background, I mentally scrambled for a supportive response. I thanked him for his insightful ‘heads-up’ information and praised him for being so observant. I expressed sympathy for his struggles and agreed, where I could, with his conclusion. After all, he was right, the tongue is a main player in producing the  ‘r’ sound correctly. However, he was a little off in diagnosing and prescribing treatment to solve the situation.  

How often do we miss the mark—whether in regard to our own problems and faults or those of others around us? Do we ever make appointments with professionals and confidently walk into their offices with our issues thinking we know exactly how they are going to advise us? Then when their input meets our consciousness, we experience shock and awe because the answers they give had never penetrated our thought process before nor did we know the options they suggested were even possibilities? How often do we make similar judgments, looking from the outside in, with regard to the struggles and needs of those around us?

I estimate many a praying people, including me, have taken the same approach with God—the ultimate professional in all things. With personal concerns, accompanied by a ‘mortal menu’ of self-determined solutions, we say, “Here is my problem and this is what I want you to do about it.” This approach to deity, uninvited, may elicit a response similar to the one found in the Christian bible: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Striving to understand the ‘higher ways’ concerning our personal lives can certainly test our patience and faith, especially if it involves a waiting period. Impatience has a life of its own and persistently looks for a way out. Comedian, George Carlin joked about one of his favorite escape tactics, “The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept.”  

When our impatience is focused on other people and their challenges, it is tempting to skip over asking well thought out, open-ended questions to establish a mood of respectful consideration, and instead offer unsolicited, advice-filled responses like, “You should just…” or “You could just…” Or worse, we can level down to flaw-filled comments such as, “You should have…” or “You could have…” which leave behind a stink of unresolved regrets and helplessness.

When faced with puh-wah-blems (problems)—our own or someone else’s—perhaps it is better to function as the letter ‘l’ does in the words ‘should’ and ‘could’ by just being silent…silent until supportive, open-ended questions are formed and considerately asked, and until higher answers are revealed. Then we can confidently know, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

The Bad Hair Day

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise for which we are later, 
in the fullness of time and understanding, very grateful!
Oscar Wilde

Like a red velvet curtain descending toward a theater stage, my visual world was being deleted from top to bottom, until it went completely dark. Frantically, I turned in the general direction of our apartment building, and even though I couldn’t see, I started running, hoping I could somehow maneuver my way to a place where I could get help. I had no idea what had just happened, but I knew I was bleeding…


My early childhood years were spent with my family in Riverside, California. We lived there during the regular school term, but for several consecutive summers we would pack a trailer with basic personal and household items and travel to Provo, Utah so my father could pursue a master’s degree at Brigham Young University. Wymount Terrace was the name of the married student housing apartment complex where we lived. It was a community of cloned three-story, cinder block structures with balconies on the second and third floors. We always lived on the first floor because my mother had a difficult time walking due to the effects of polio she suffered as a child.

It was the summer of 1969 and once again I happily moved to Provo with my family. I was seven years old and the eldest child. Like many women of that era, my mother visited the beauty salon weekly to get her hair styled in the trendy bouffant way. On one visit, she thought it would be a cute idea for me to have my hair styled the same way. Being the center of attention in the adult world was never my goal, so I was less than enthusiastic to join in on this mother-daughter field trip.

(This is not me, but you get the idea.)

(This is not me, but you get the idea.)

I was totally embarrassed as I returned back to our apartment building looking like a ‘mini-me’ version of my mother. To avoid getting this moment forever recorded on film, and to distract my mind from focusing on how ridiculous I looked, I bolted for the playground as soon as my mom parked the car. None of my friends were there so to expand my search for someone to play with, I journeyed down the sidewalk in front of the apartment building that mirrored ours­—­the two separated by a large green space.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a group of children on the 3rd floor balcony having an impromptu ‘show-n-tell’ demonstration involving a glass paperweight. Huddled around the child who was holding it, they were mesmerized by the assortment of coins that looked to be magically suspended inside. Then one of them came up with an idea. “Let’s break it open so we can get the coins out and buy some candy!” Depending solely on child-like logic, they tossed the paperweight off the balcony aiming for the cement sidewalk below. Unfortunately, they had not noticed I was approaching the point of impact and would arrive just as the paperweight shattered. A chunk of glass rebounded off the sidewalk and imbedded itself into my forehead. I immediately felt the sensation of blood cascade down my face and into my eyes.

south wymount exterior.JPG

Despite not being able to see, I turned toward my apartment building and started running, hoping by some miracle I could find my way home. Thankfully, one of our neighbors spotted me as I hysterically stumbled across the green space. He scooped me up in his arms and quickly delivered me to my parents. My dad rushed me to the hospital where I received stitches to close the wound.

Upon returning home, I planted myself in front of the bathroom mirror to visually confirm I had truly survived this scary ordeal. I inspected the huge bandage on my forehead that would serve as my ‘white’ badge of courage for others to notice and ask, “What happened to you?”

Then gradually my vision expanded out from the bandage and revealed the whole image starring back at me.  I was happily stunned when I realized my bouffant had not survived the trauma. It was totally destroyed! Praise the Lord!

So what started out as a very bad hair day, that then took an even worse turn with physical injury, ended up with thoughts of relief and gratitude. Perhaps those thoughts of gratitude should have been focused more on the fact the glass had not entered into either of my eyes and I still had full range of vision; or on the fact the children who were responsible did not have to suffer the depth of remorse attached to a more serious outcome.

Regardless of how we feel about our current situations, the important thing is to somehow develop the humility and courage to look at our tribulations and notice any bit of good, no matter how minute. Unlike my experience with a bad hair-day, it may take months, years, decades, or even entrance into the next life to determine the good that comes from our trials, but if we watch and wait long enough, it will eventually come into our view. Our perspective will ever broaden, exposing the previously invisible connections between our past, present, and future.

(Note: To learn more about how to view difficult things in life, see chapter 14, “…But Not This Way,” in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World.)


I have learned humor from the bully,
Appreciative wonderment from the blind,
And wisdom from babes.
What are you meant to teach me?

—Melanie Tidwell

“Get out of my way pipsqueak!” was the greeting I received every morning as “Jackie” swung her muscular arm, like a bat meeting a ball spot-on, with the intent of getting a home run. And most mornings “Jackie” scored, as my body would slam into an unsuspecting locker, sounding a hollowed out, metallic alarm, followed by her menacing laugh. My 80-pound frame was no match for her brawny physique. Welcome to middle school. What was a skin-and-bones underling to do? Comedian and actor Robin Williams once said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”  Ideas have always been easy for me to come by; however, converting those ideas into words is a bit more challenging. But if I was going to change MY world, I had to find a clever way to deal with my bully—otherwise, attending school was going to be like running the gauntlet, and avoiding “Jackie” was near to impossible.

I spent time contemplating my idea, preparing my approach, and praying I would have the courage to implement my plan. On the appointed day, rather than slinking and hiding, I sought “Jackie” out, and with what felt like bold stupidity, I walked right up to her and said, “Hi Jackie! So did you hear the one about the….” and I told her a joke. At first she had a puzzled look on her face as she processed the unexpected breech of bully protocol—unless you were part of her posse, you were to never approach “Jackie” first. I stood there silently stiff, waiting for the verdict. Then it happened… “Hey, that’s pretty funny Pipsqueak!” And instead of backhanding me, “Jackie” started shoving and arm punching her fellow mobsters, “Hey don’t ya think? That was funny!” she said as they moved in masse down the hall. That was the first of many successful interactions with “Jackie.” From that day forth, I became a fan of every joke book I could find in the school library! 

“Get your brother and meet me in the car. We’re going to the airport to pick up a blind Eskimo.” What?! It was 1978. We lived in the small town of  Durango, Colorado. Although I was in high school, I had rarely gone to the La Plata County Airport, located 12 miles southeast of town in the countryside where the population farm animals far exceeded that of humans. My dad, who was an instructor at Fort Lewis College, had been asked to pick up and mentor a student who had been born and raised in the native Inuit communities of Alaska. 

It wasn’t difficult picking him out from the rest of the passengers as they descended the ramp onto the tarmac. He was of small stature, with shiny black hair and eyebrows. He sported a sparse mustache and his dark eyes were in continual, side-to-side motion—as if he was tracking a ball during a tennis match played at triple speed. And of course, there was the white cane. He was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and jacket. Everything he brought with him was in a pack on his back. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember he was friendly and excited for this new adventure. His rapid-fire questioning saved us from any awkward silences. 

I assumed he was totally blind, but when we got him in the car he immediately pressed his face onto the window and watched intently as the scenery swiftly passed by. “What’s that? Is that a cow? I think I see a cow. Is that really a cow?” Confused at his excitement we confirmed what he saw was indeed a cow—actually herds of cows. “I can’t believe it! It really is a cow! This is amazing!” With my face contorted in unbelief, I asked,  “You have never seen a cow?” With genuine enthusiasm he exclaimed, “No this is my first time!” What an odd reaction to such a common and mundane scene—a scene that, in my young mind, did not deserve such enthusiasm. It didn’t occur to me had there been polar bears sauntering along side the road, or seals sunning themselves on rocks, or whales breeching the surface of the ocean, there would have been a distinct reaction reversal on my part! Forty years later, I better understand that living with appreciation is a super power; it can instantly transform what is common and mundane to awe-inspiring moments.

Talmage's graduation day from speech therapy

Talmage's graduation day from speech therapy

He sat…he looked…he sighed, and then he repeated the sequence a second time, and then a third. His name is Talmage. He was 3 years old at the time and I was his speech therapist. Set before him was a worksheet picturing items that ended with the final ‘k’ sound. I pointed to each image and with accurately spoken responses, Talmage earned parts to a game. Once he had all of the pieces in his possession, we would play the game together. It was the last word on the sheet—a rake. He sat…he looked…he sighed…and just as I was about to give him the answer, Talmage offered one that has remained with me ever since. In a nonchalant tone, he simply said, “Nothing.” Or as some would say, “I got nothin.” After I revealed the answer and explained what a rake was, we practiced saying the word together and I gave him the reward because, really, his answer was authentic and correct on many levels. There is no shame in admitting we don’t know something. We don’t need all of the answers to live a happy, productive life. Just because we don’t have an answer now, doesn’t mean it won’t be made known to us at a later date. I love the following quote from Dick Van Dyke,  “Just knowing you don't have the answers is a recipe for humility, openness, acceptance, forgiveness, and an eagerness to learn—and those are all good things.”

These three vignettes from my life are just a small sampling of how EACH person who crosses my path has the potential to be my tEACHer. Isn’t it interesting the word tEACHer is a pregnant word (a pregnant word is a word within a word that provides additional meaning and depth to the original word) that confirms EACH one of us contributes to the learning of others? Eric Allen, a former professional American football player, is quoted as saying, “Everyone is my teacher. Some I seek. Some I subconsciously attract. Often I learn simply by observing others. Some may be completely unaware that I’m learning from them, yet I bow deeply in gratitude.” 

Whoever you are, thank you for being my tEACHer.

(Note: To learn more about tEACHers, see chapter 38, “Get Wisdom and Understanding,” in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World.)


Remove anything toxic, and cherish simplicity.
Because that's where genius lives.
—Robin S. Sharma

“Why do you do that? You are so weird!” was the response of a couple friends when I told them I was in the middle of a 26-day gentle detox using whole foods. It was the beginning of a new year, after a holiday season of overindulgent tendencies and enticements—a fancy way of saying I ate a bunch of junk food over the span of a few days. Frankly, I was feeling out of sorts and living with the tOXic reminder of why I typically strive to surround myself with things that are supportive to my wellbeing. It was time for cleansing.

Like many, I have studied the popular ‘Law of Attraction’—the art of inviting positive thoughts, actions, and people into our daily routine to help us create and achieve the best of what life can offer. And by so doing, we can give the world the highest version of ourselves. However when it comes to temptations that lead us to tOXic thoughts, people, places, and things, we may need a different approach—a different law…perhaps even a ‘Law of Subtraction.’

While in a curious mood, I ran an Amazon book search on the ‘Law of Attraction.’ It came up with over 9,000 hits, however when doing a similar search for the ‘Law of Subtraction,’ there were only two. I found the results as a bit strange because the act of subtracting harmful things from ones life can be just as important as attracting that which is beneficial. According to author Matthew E. Mays, the Law of  Subtraction is defined simply “as the art of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly . . . or the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place.” In short, “Just say ‘No’ to tOXic.” Yeah…yeah…I know, it’s hardly ever that simple. But perhaps if we keep in mind the deeper meaning of the pregnant word, tOXic, it can help us build a stronger resistance. (note: for an explanation of ‘pregnant words,’ see the blog post from January, 2018).


Hopefully by now you have noticed the word ‘ox’ residing in the womb of the word tOXic. To many cultures of the world, an ox is a bovine trained as a draft animal—a beast of burden that pulls heavy loads. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals easier to control. Ouch! Used as an adjective, to castrate means to deprive of power, vitality, or vigor. 

When we allow tOXic thoughts, people, places, and things affect our lives, we metaphorically become like the ox—a beast of burden bearing heavy loads, deprived of power, vitality, vigor, and self-control. How laden is your load? Whose load is it anyway…yours or someone else’s? Are other people placing their emotional baggage on your cart? What habits are draining your energy? How does negative self-talk invade your space and distract or disable you from moving forward?  The answers to these questions could fill a whole series of books, but my purpose here is to offer a coping method or two to get you started with the process of subtracting, attracting, and reclaiming all that is supportive to a healthy life.

Let’s look at tOXic self-talk. I recently did an online mini-course by Jim Kwik on brain function in regard to improving memory skills. One of the first things Jim addressed is our tendency to give audience to our limiting beliefs or what Dr. Daniel Amen calls “automatic negative thoughts.” The following are examples of typical automatic negative thoughts:

I’m not strong enough to tell that person “No.”

I can’t control my cravings for sugar.

I don’t know how to fit exercise into my daily schedule.

I can’t figure out a way to get to bed earlier.

I’m not good at managing a budget.

At the beginning of the lesson where Jim teaches the steps to remembering people’s names, he made the following comment that really caught my attention, “When you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them.”  Fighting for our limitations is exactly what we are doing when we engage in negative self-talk. So how can we use the genius of simplicity to surrender that fight to keep our limitations? The answer is to crack open the door of hope with one small three-letter word…‘yet.’

I’m not strong enough to tell that person ‘no’…yet.

I can’t control my cravings for sugar…yet.

I don’t know how to fit exercise into my daily schedule…yet.

I can’t figure out a way to get to bed earlier…yet.

I’m not good at managing a budget…yet.


Hope ends the fight for our limitations. Hope broadens our view and redirects our attention to solutions to problems and possibilities for progress. Maybe something as small as strategically posting the word “Yet” around the house or the work place or as screen savers can make enough of a difference to follow the recommendations of writer and motivational speaker, Robin S. Sharma, “Delete the energy vampires from your life, clean out all complexity, build a team around you that frees you to fly, remove anything toxic, and cherish simplicity. Because that's where genius lives.”

In the English language, the letters ‘O-X’ are symbols of endearment and affection, specifically hugs and kisses. The next time you see or think of the word tOXic, let it remind you to be affectionate and kind to yourself while you strive to get on the path of hope and work to lighten your load.

(Note: To learn more about the importance of setting boundaries when it come to tOXic thoughts, people, places, and things, see chapter 36, “Boundaries,” in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World.)

(Note: If you are interested in learning more about the 26-Day Detox my husband and did, go here.





Simplicity Is the Ultimate Sophistication

—Leonardo da Vinci

Pregnant is something I have never been, but oddly enough, I notice pregnant words everywhere! I’m not talking about the list of words an obstetrician rattles off to expectant mothers at every appointment, but I’m referring to words that act as gestational carriers for another word. Said a different way, a pregnant word is a word within a word that provides additional meaning and depth to the original word.  Before you labor (pun intended) further to figure out what I am saying, let’s get to this month’s blog post, a first in a series on pregnant words.

The word January is rooted in Roman mythology and is named after the god Janus. Janus is known as the god of the doorway, so naturally the month of January is deemed the gateway to a new year, and for many it represents a fresh start. On the American calendar, January is typically set apart from the other 11 months because our thoughts tend to be hyper-focused on setting goals of self-improvement. Thus is born a slew of resolutions that may or may not grow to maturity but aim to preserve and improve our lives as a whole.

How do we maintain momentum so our resolutions aren’t downgraded to just good intentions?  It might require a miracle or two. I believe mortals have a need and desire for miracles in their lives, but many are unaware that miracles are accessible through small, deliberate, and consistent means. Through her personal experience as an author, Julia Cameron knows that to “ ‘Get tiny’ is good advice for how to inch forward.” (Julia Cameron, the Complete Artist’s Way, pg. 617) This small and deliberate approach to life is also echoed throughout holy writ, “For precept must be upon precept…line upon line…here a little, and there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10)  Per Bristow, a world-renowned voice and performance coach, wisely advises his clients to approach goals and resolutions in eASy, small, and fun ways: “Starting small takes very little effort, but when done with enjoyment you'll automatically want more. Everyone wants more of what they experience as fun and fulfilling. The trap many fall into is that they fail to enjoy the process and therefore fail to create any momentum. Our daily activities become chore-like mundane things we ‘have to do.’ ”

One of my readers, Laurie Ogden, recently contacted me with a perfect example of  Per’s approach. Laurie has come up with what she calls the ‘mini-challenge,’ based on the book, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, by Stephen Guise. Once she sets a goal, she breaks it down to the tiniest bit and only does that tiny bit each day. For example, she made a resolution to drink one small glass of water each day—only one. After implementing this small step, she described what happened next was, “…just short of a miracle for me—I end up drinking five small glasses a day. [Typically] I rely pretty much on Diet Coke because water is boring! By concentrating on drinking one small glass of water, it raised my awareness, and when I am thirsty and want that Diet Coke, I think about which is healthier and what my body really wants—water. So a shift is happening!”

It’s as eASy as one small glass of water…

Laurie also set a goal to smile once a day, “I used to be called ‘Smiley,’ and I am still smiley, but the goal went further…I don’t just smile but I pay attention to why I am smiling. When I honor the WHY, the reason for the smile, I ultimately look to God because most likely He has just sent me another tender mercy—which He seems to do by the boatload every day.”

It’s as eASy as a smile.

It’s as eASy as setting the alarm one minute earlier each morning.

It’s as eASy as reading one verse or one paragraph.

It’s as eASy as eating one bite of leafy greens.

It’s as eASy as walking to one corner of the block.

It’s as eASy as we can make anything…and that is pretty eASy!

The word ‘as’ is used in comparisons and to emphasize amounts. So when you see the pregnant word ‘eASy,’ remember, when working with resolutions and goals, keep it as eASy as possible!

(Note: To learn more about the importance of keeping things simple and eASy, see chapter 3, “Small and Simple Saves Souls,” in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World.)

A Day in the Laugh of... a Cambodian Orphan

She always signs her emails with, “Love and Light, Geraldine.” Love and light is exactly what this dynamic Australian woman has freely given over the years to 100s of Cambodian orphans.

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  (Yes Geraldine purposely dyes her hair this color—a story you should ask me about in person)

(Yes Geraldine purposely dyes her hair this color—a story you should ask me about in person)

At the age of 25, Geraldine Cox began her career in 1970 working for The Department of Foreign Affairs. Her first overseas posting was in 1971, landing her in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. With the Vietnam War pounding at the border, the country was in turmoil. Geraldine refers to this two-year assignment as an experience that significantly shaped who she is today.

Geraldine's early experiences in Cambodia never left her and while living in Australia in 1993, she helped establish the Australia Cambodia Foundation, which paved the way to set up an orphanage known today as Sunrise Cambodia. Geraldine became a permanent resident of Cambodia in 1995, and at the age of 72, she is still there activating miracles for many orphaned children and the surrounding communities. The children adore Geraldine and lovingly refer to her as "Mum Thom-Thom," which translates to “Big Mum.” I first met this mother to many in 1999. 

In August of 1997, I had moved with my family from Oregon, USA to Singapore. I fast became friends with Leearne, a woman originally from Australia. By the spring of 1998, she and her husband were pursuing an adoption of a baby girl in Cambodia. Leearne and I traveled to Cambodia in June of the same year with the hope of moving her adoption proceedings forward. While spending time in the orphanage, we discovered how easy it was to make a difference in the lives of suffering children. After returning to Singapore, we formed a service group called, “The Friends of Cambodia.” With the generous support of friends and family, our organization helped facilitate medical testing and sponsorships for orphans, adoptions, medical missions, several shipments of cargo containers full of donated supplies, the hiring of English teachers, and the expansion of a computer school.


Whenever a member of the Friends of Cambodia made a trip to Phnom Penh, I recruited them to take donations of cash and supplies to the various orphanages we helped support—Sunrise Cambodia being one of the recipients. Much of what we sent was clothing. It is not usual to see young children (mostly boys) in the city and villages ‘wearing’ only their own skin as a covering. The young girls usually wore a skirt or shorts—that’s it. But children in the orphanages run by people like Geraldine, were supplied full outfits, including underwear. 


Beyond clothing, there was much need for hygiene items. Many of our husbands had jobs that required frequent international travel—giving them the added benefit of flying business class. Consequently, our families accumulated a hefty supply of the complementary airline toiletry bags the men would bring home. The zip-up canvas bags contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion or cologne, a comb, socks, earplugs, and a sleep mask. Because we had to comply with weight limitations, I tried to ensure only essential items be included in our care packages. So when requesting donations of unused airline toiletry bags, I instructed the women in our group to remove the ear plugs and sleep masks and replace them with soaps and shampoos. You can imagine my confusion, followed by tearful laughter when I read the following email sent by Geraldine after receiving supplies designated for her orphanage. 

June 24,1999

Dear Melanie,
I have so much to thank you for I don't know where to begin!
The hygiene packs were a HUGE success. I had no idea what they contained and they were full of goodies like shampoos, skin creams, conditioners, toothpaste/toothbrushes, airline socks and eye masks. You would have gotten a real giggle out of watching the older girls trying to fit the eye masks as bras on the little girls! They had never seen eye masks before!

 Love and Light,


Although organizing humanitarian work was challenging, exhausting, and heartwrenching on most days, there were many moments—like the invention of the sleep mask bra—that delivered much love, light, AND laughter to our cause. 

To learn more about Sunrise Cambodia, go here

(Note: To learn more about the experiences I had in Cambodia see chapter 28, “The Scent of Gratitude,” in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World.)


A Day in the Laugh of... a Funeral Crasher

Instead of working for the survival of the fittest,
we should be working for the survival of the wittiest—
then we can all die laughing.
—Lily Tomlin

My grandmothers were comedians. Not everyone can say that, but I can. They both experienced serious, life-altering heartache and loss in their lives—I know because I heard the stories or read about it in their memoirs. However, by the time I landed on the planet, I didn’t really have a sense of their troubles because they were either laughing about funny experiences of the past or creating new ones.

In Cora's early years, she resembled a young Lily Tomlin.

In Cora's early years, she resembled a young Lily Tomlin.

Let me introduce you to my maternal grandmother, Cora “Irene” Cunninghame. You might be wondering why her middle name is in quotes. The answer is simple. A middle name was not bestowed upon Cora at birth so when she achieved adulthood, she simply decided to add Irene to her name without taking legal action. No problem for her, but since her death, there have been plenty of headaches for genealogists who try to link her up to the online family pedigree chart. Ugh!

In Cora's early years, she resembled a young Lily Tomlin, especially when Lily played the role of Ernestine, the telephone switchboard operator. Like Lily, my Grandma Cora was often in costume—always playing the part of someone the world was about to meet for the first and only time. Take for example, the day Cora showed up dressed as a hippy-gypsy at a formal dinner party hosted by her brother Merrill and his wife to celebrate their own 25th wedding anniversary. If you look closely at the photo, you can see how she tried to blackout her teeth with a blue crayon.


I learned at a young age to never expect the ordinary when visiting Grandma Cora. When I was 16 my girlfriend, Linda, and I travelled from Durango, Colorado to visit my grandma in Sebastopol, California. I cautioned Linda to be prepared for anything because the odds were high that the first person we would meet after crossing Grandma’s threshold would not be anyone I recognized. It turned out I was wrong…the whole fiasco began even BEFORE we entered her home. 

Home for wayward girls!

Home for wayward girls!

Grandma lived in a small two-bedroom house that sat on an intersection where three streets converged.  Grandma had two large picture windows that came together, forming a corner of the living room. When she sat on her couch, she could watch who was coming and going from all directions. Well when we drove up to the house, we were shocked to see a very large homemade sign in the window that read, “Home for Wayward Girls.” What?! We were far from wayward, yet we both felt like covering our heads with our jackets to hide our identities—just like you see when famous people in trouble are escorted to and from their cars. When we entered the house, an old hag with curlers in her hair warmly greeted us with a lively southern accent. I turned to Linda and said, “I warned you!”

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When my husband, Marty, and I were engaged, we travelled from northern Utah to Sebastopol so Grandma could meet her future grandson-in-law. When we arrived no one answered the door, but it was unlocked. We opened it and I called out, “Grandma?” She didn’t answer. So we walked into the entryway and called out again. The only thing I could hear was heavy breathing and grunting noises. I thought maybe she was hurt! Adrenalin starting pumping through my system thinking we had an emergency situation on our hands. Just as I was about to investigate the rest of the house, a black hairy creature jumped out from the hallway. A gorilla! When I started breathing again, I turned to Marty and said, “Meet my grandma.” With a lumbering gorilla gait, she approached Marty and started picking through his hair looking for critters. (Yes that’s Marty with a perm and a mustache.)

Happy Birthday Mona?  But of course. 

Happy Birthday Mona?  But of course. 

When Grandma Cora turned 65, her family and friends organized a surprise birthday party for her. My Uncle Bill ordered a cake and instructed the baker to write the words, “Happy Birthday Mom” on it. When he arrived to pick up the cake, it was obvious the person who took the order did not hear him correctly because it said, “Happy Birthday, Mona.” The baker was apologetic and offered to fix it on the spot, but Uncle Bill replied, “No, this will be perfect!” And it was. For it created yet another day in the laugh of Cora that still offers giggles decades later. 

By her 65th birthday, Grandma had earned a new title and was affectionately referred to as Crazy Cora.  Remember, Lily Tomlin said the goal is to die laughing, well Crazy Cora is the only one I know who has done that for sure. In fact, she was still cracking jokes AFTER her death in 1995. How you ask? Grandma made sure she was the featured commentator at her own funeral! She had produced an audio recording of her farewell speech prior to her death. When my uncle walked up to the pulpit, inserted the cassette into the tape player, and adjusted the microphone to aim at the machine, everyone smiled and chuckled, shook their heads, and in unison thought,  “That’s Cora for you!”  Following are excerpts from her talk:

“It’s good to see ya! It’s been a heck of a long time since I have seen some of you. Well those benches are pretty hard and we’re going to be here awhile talking about how great I am, so just sit back, slip off your shoes, and make yourself comfortable. I want you to really enjoy this! You’re lucky there isn’t a speaker looking down at you…because you can close your eyes and only you and I know you’re asleep.

Some of you might be shocked at this somewhat out of the ordinary ceremony. But if you really stop to think, everyone here today is either my friend or relative, and you all know that if I can do something really different, or if I can get some attention, or bring on a laugh, that is what I’m gonna do! This is my day and I decided I didn’t want anyone else standing up here saying how great I was and telling lies. Whatever lying there is to be done around here, I’ll do it.

It’s so nice to have a captive audience and it’s a wonder some of you haven’t already gone out the door… Hey you! Come back here! … Well we’re going to have a great visit here because I don’t have anything else to do! I won’t keep you long because there just might be a lot of good food over at the house. So I’m inviting you all to go see if I’m right. I want to hear a lot of laughter—don’t disappoint! Thanks for everything. I love you. See you soon…well maybe not soon but I’ll be lookin’ for you and I’ll have everything ready for your arrival. Goodbye.”

Crazy Cora really knew how to put fun into a (fun)eral.’ It’s been over 20 years since I listened to my copy of her service. I had to chuckle when I saw the label on the cassette tape. It reads, “Mona’s Memorial.”

These are only a few of Crazy Cora’s antics, but I hope as you read, either your own “Day in the Laugh of…” moments came to your memory, or you feel inspired to create some new ones. Keep funny alive!

(Note: To learn more about the importance of laughter in our lives see chapter 33, “Humor Me,” in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World. I know by personal experience even serious issues, such as infertility, can produce laugh out loud moments!) 


A Day in the Laugh of… a Happy Phone Owner

To succeed in life, you need three things:

a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.

—Reba McEntire

Being the butt of a joke is not always the most pleasant experience. However, what if one of the Velcro curlers your friend had in her hair when you picked her up for work, ended up on her butt? Now that could be funny. Of course, between fits of laughter, you sound an alert before she walks into the conference room for the staff meeting.

Have you ever been at a dental appointment and the newly trained hygienist accidently activated your gag reflex with the spit-sucking wand? Personally, I would rather lose my dignity at a holiday gag gift exchange fighting over a set of electric eyebrow tweezers. By the way, those things are lethal!

Remember middle school physical education class where a good part of our grade depended upon how fast we ran the mile? Ohhhhh it still hurts to think of the searing side aches we tried to ignore by vice gripping our waistlines. But hey, give me a sidesplitting reason to laugh and I am all-in for a marathon!

Reality is…

…belly fat can ruin a cute outfit, but the belly laugh will never go out of style.

…spilling our guts in an effort to heal from emotional trauma is exhausting, but laughing our guts out brings a sense of energetic relief.

…vindictive people often get the last laugh, but looking for a laugh a minute can assuage the sting of life’s injustices.

…we avoid facing the fact that sometimes we err, but other times we are first to pay good money to be entertained by a comedy of errors.

Reality is…people we love die, but to die laughing is the best way to go.

With this introduction, I am happy to announce the first post in a series I am calling “The Day in the Laugh of…” Too many days are too serious, too busy, too sad, and too frustrating. My hope is to counter balance days like these with laughter. Humorist, Erma Bombeck, was a master at this. Her motto was, “If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it.” And that she did—column after column, book after book, and interview after interview for over thirty years.

My paternal grandmother, Delpha Virginia Jones Hall, was 15 years old when Erma Bombeck was born in 1927, giving her a head start when looking for humor in everyday experiences. Granny was a master storyteller and wished to eventually become a published writer, but that day didn’t come until after she had lived a lifetime of laughing at things she couldn’t make better. When Granny’s health drastically declined due to heart disease, she spent her days sitting in a recliner, aging backwards in her mind as she wrote out her memories in the form of letters to the family.


Somehow these letters caught the attention of a staff writer for the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin, the local newspaper that serviced the small town Granny lived in for the majority of her life. And, like Erma Bombeck, my grandmother became a newspaper columnist. She was 86 years old and the name of her column was “Granny’s Gumption.” She loved it and the readers loved her.

Granny eventually had to move to a nursing home, but that didn’t stop her from preparing her articles. She was so dedicated to her readers that when she was unable to do the actual writing, she would dictate her stories to a staff writer who was sent by the newspaper to the nursing home. Her last article was printed the day before her death in September of 2000.

I now present to you, “A Day in the Laugh of Delpha Hall.” May it bring a smile to your face.


In 1943 my husband, Ray, and I bought our first real home. We moved with our four children from Mercur, Utah to Tooele, Utah, a distance of twenty-two miles. We were the first ones to live in the house and it was great. In the past we had always used an outhouse, but our new home had an indoor bathroom! It also included a coal furnace, an electric cook stove, and many other modern conveniences I never had before.

I thought I was really something with all these nice things around me, but there was one thing that was missing—a telephone. When I went to apply for a telephone, I was informed we couldn’t have one installed because only government workers could have them. I explained that my husband was a mechanic and worked on government cars so the government workers could get to their government jobs. I was told that didn’t count. But I still wanted a telephone and I wasn’t about to give up.

One day I looked out my kitchen window and saw two men digging a trench in our garden. I went to see what they were doing. Lo and behold they were from the telephone company! They said they were putting a guy-wire in the ground. I said, “Stop right there! No one is putting a guy-wire in my yard unless I get a telephone!” They responded with, “We’ll see about that.” As soon as they left, my boys and I covered the trench.

When the men came back, they had the boss with them. Again they started digging in my garden, but as fast as they dug, the boys and I fill it in. Again I told them when I got a phone, they could plant their wire. By this time even my husband was mad at me, but I didn’t care. The telephone company needed to plant that wire and I wanted a telephone. From my point of view, it was an obvious win-win situation.

Not much time passed before the men returned. For this round, they brought the big shot boss from Salt Lake City. They demanded that I let them bury the wire. I planted my feet, squared my shoulders, faced those men straight on and said, “Not until I get a telephone!” Big Shot Boss then declared, “I have never met such a stubborn woman in all my life! You get your phone.”

And that is how I got my two-party phone line, and how the telephone company got to bury their wire in our row of radishes... 

I encourage you to thoroughly enjoy every "Day in the Laugh of..." moment that comes your way.

(Note: To learn more about the importance of laughter in our lives see chapter 33, "Humor Me," in my book titled Sacred Soul-Space: Making Room in Your Life for What You Have to Offer This World. I know by personal experience even serious issues, such as infertility, can produce laugh out loud moments!)