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Humor » Jolana Malkston » Page 2
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Mar 042014

Jolana Malkston 4If you’re a Christian, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent, the longest and most arduous forty-day stretch in the calendar year. It’s a time for fasting and contemplation—sometimes of how long you can endure the fasting. If you’re not a Christian, and you see someone with a lean hungry look about her from tomorrow on, have pity.

As a youngster, the first time I was old enough to fast during Lent, I was encouraged to give up candy—chocolate specifically. I had no idea what going without chocolate for forty days would be like. After less than a week, I was ready to convert to any religion that did not require fasting.

Back then, I didn’t know anything about Mardi Gras. My family is of Italian descent. We didn’t do Mardi Gras because we didn’t have to. We ate every day as if it was Mardi Gras. So, you can imagine the difficulty Lent presented to us.

The first time I heard Mardi Gras referred to as Fat Tuesday, I didn’t get it. Why have two names for the same day, especially when one is more fitting than the other?

So what if Mardi Gras translated into English means Fat Tuesday? Mardi Gras is so continental, so exotic and sounds so sexy. Unless you understand French, you would never dream it means something as mundane as Fat Tuesday (Tuesday Fat, that is). Somehow something is lost in translation from the French. That certain something, that je ne sais pas quoi, doesn’t make it through.

For one thing, it’s so much more fun to say Mardi Gras, even if your French accent needs help. Before I studied French in college [most of which I’ve forgotten], I thought Mardi Gras was French for party—an extremely huge, wildly exciting, decadent and lengthy party.

Fat Tuesday is humdrum. It isn’t fun to say Fat Tuesday. It sounds like a cruel judgment: “You’re fat, Tuesday.” It’s not the least bit exciting, exotic or decadent. It doesn’t say party at all.

Lively Miss Mardi Gras dances through the streets chanting, “Feast today for tomorrow we fast.” From break of dawn to the stroke of midnight, everyone feasts on all manner of delectable creole favorites and other mouth-watering N’awlins goodies.

Mr. Fat Tuesday just lays around like a couch potato and says, “Stuff your faces, people; lent begins tomorrow.” The face stuffing generally involves whatever and whenever—no special feast.

In the USA, the premiere Mardi Gras celebration takes place in New Orleans and justly so. New Orleans and Mardi Gras were made for each other. People from all over the country travel to The Big Easy for Mardi Gras because Mardi Gras events elsewhere pale by comparison.

I believe many of those people would not be as willing to travel across the country to take part in a “Fat Tuesday” parade, or a “Fat Tuesday” costume ball, or wear a “Fat Tuesday” mask, or if young women would flash their bare bosoms for “Fat Tuesday” beads. Nah. Wouldn’t happen. The Mardi Gras magic simply isn’t there.

While I’m not fortunate enough to be in New Orleans today enjoying the festivities, you can believe I’m celebrating Mardi Gras and not Fat Tuesday. In true Mardi Gras tradition, we are feasting all day—Italian style, of course. Somebody pass the pasta, please.

Feb 252014

Jolana Malkston 4Snuck. Now there is an unpleasant, vulgar sounding word for you. Why would anyone with any class consider using it? Yes, we all know what it rhymes with. Eww. I say yuck to snuck.

I have no love for that ungainly and ungrammatical word, and I cannot abide its use. Just the sound of it makes my flesh crawl. For the life of me I cannot fathom how it managed to smuggle itself into the English lexicon.

I would love to travel back in time to meet the first person to use snuck instead of sneaked as the past and past participle of sneak. No, I would not shoot him or even slap him upside the head—I’m not a violent person—but I would wash his mouth out with soap for using foul language and convince him of the error of his ways.

Snuck makes no sense when you conjugate sneak. It should be sneak, sneaks, sneaking, sneaked, has sneaked, have sneaked, and so on. Snuck doesn’t fit the pattern: sneak, sneaks, sneaking, snuck—huh? No, no, no! What happened to eaked and where did uck come from? Unfortunately, no one seems to know. Even more unfortunately, no one seems to care.

Well, I care. So, let’s conduct a little experiment, shall we? I’m going to write a short paragraph using the past tense of verbs that end in eak. I’ll write it two ways. First, I’ll write it using the standard past tense for each verb that ends with the letters eak. Next, I’ll write it using a nonstandard uck tense for each verb ending in eak. Got it?

Standard: The kitchen door hinge squeaked while she was watching her favorite TV show. She turned down the volume and peaked over her shoulder. She was sure she locked that door. The kitchen floor’s loose boards creaked ominously under the weight of someone’s feet. Her face was streaked with tears. Someone had definitely sneaked into her house. She freaked out and called 9-1-1.

Nonstandard: The kitchen door hinge squuck while she was watching her favorite TV show. She turned down the volume and puck over her shoulder. She was sure she locked that door. The kitchen floor’s loose boards cruck ominously under the weight of someone’s feet. Her face was struck with tears. Someone had definitely snuck into her house. She fruck out and called 9-1-1.

See what I mean? If none of those eak verbs are acceptable or intelligible with an uck past tense, why should any English speaking human willingly accept snuck as the past tense of sneak?

For years, the Oxford Dictionary of English stood firm against snuck. The Oxford defied the conjugationally challenged masses and defended the purity of the English language from the barbarians at the gate who would savage it. The Oxford refused admittance to snuck. Thank Heaven for the Brits.

Here in the States, the Webster Dictionary people caved early on to vulgate usage. Webster’s included snuck in its pages as the accepted past tense of sneak. For shame, Webster’s, for shame. I hope Noah Webster never suffered from motion sickness, for surely he is spinning in his grave.

Here’s how the Oxford American Dictionary explains the usage of sneaked vs. snuck.

“The traditional standard past form of sneak is sneaked (she sneaked around the corner). An alternative past form, snuck (she snuck past me), arose in the U.S. in the 19th century. Until very recently, snuck was confined to U.S. dialect use and was regarded as nonstandard, but in the last few decades its use has spread, particularly in the U.S., where it is now generally regarded as a standard alternative to sneaked. In formal contexts, however, sneaked remains the preferred form.”

I definitely prefer sneaked to snuck. I only wish I were not in the minority. I am disheartened to report that the Oxford Dictionary of English (the British version) in a recent edition sounded an alarming note in its description of usage regarding sneaked vs. snuck:

“In the Oxford Reading Programme, there are now more US citations for snuck than there are for sneaked, and there is evidence of snuck gaining ground in British English also.”

Please say it isn’t so, Oxford. After learning that snuck is gaining ground in England, I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

Oh, the humanity. Wasn’t including ain’t in the dictionary more than enough for the English language to bear?

Feb 182014

Jolana Malkston 4In the movie Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg has a line of dialog that goes something like this: “People don’t like to go to church because it’s a drag.”

True, it can be. In fact, I have a confession to make. When I attended mass at the previous parish to which I belonged, my most fervent prayer was for the mass to end as soon as possible. [Try not to judge me. If you were there, you’d understand.]

That parish’s uncharismatic, soft-spoken, monotone-voiced priest just about put me to sleep every Sunday morning with his uninspired homilies that were intricate efforts to interpret the meaning of the Gospel passage of the week. He dissected each Gospel sentence-by-sentence, even word-by-word. His homilies were more like theology lectures and boring in the extreme. I struggled to keep my eyes open, and I could not stop yawning.

Yes, church can be a drag, but it can also be lively and enjoyable. It all depends on the church you attend. Specifically, it depends on the tone the church’s pastor sets. [Please, not a monotone.] When Macho Guy and I moved to a neighborhood just outside a small Michigan town, our new neighbors urged us to changed parishes and I’m so glad we did.

Our new parish is smaller than the last and its faith community friendlier. The new parish’s pastor is a refreshing change too. In the first place, Father Duaine actually has a personality and he does not speak in a soft monotone. Yay! He has a good sense of humor. Yippee! He has an incredible memory—he heard our names once and the following Sunday morning he greeted us both by name when we entered the church. Wow! We learned from our neighbors that he remembers everyone’s name. Impressive. I don’t know how he does it.

I enjoy Father Duaine’s homilies. They are entertaining as well as enlightening. Instead of dissecting the Gospel, he links it to life in today’s world. He always begins each homily with three humorous anecdotes that are connected to the theme of each Sunday’s Gospel. He finds his stories in publications for pastors.

He also shares his own life experiences as they relate to the Gospel reading. He gets his point across with lighthearted humor and simplicity. I have yet to fall asleep during one of his homilies.

Here is the story Father Duaine told that got the biggest laugh of all:

A man, his wife and his mother-in-law travelled to Israel together. Not long after they arrived, the mother-in-law suddenly died. The man spoke to a mortician who gave him two options: hold the funeral and burial in Israel for $5,000 or ship the mother-in-law’s remains home for burial at a cost of $10,000. The man decided to ship his mother-in-law home. The mortician asked why the man didn’t choose the less expensive option and bury his mother-in-law in Israel. The man replied, “About 2,000 years ago, a man died here and was buried. Three days later, he rose from the dead. I just couldn’t take the chance.”

Holy homily humor!

The church we attend in Florida during the winter is architecturally unusual. It is an octagonal shape with walls of glass surrounding the nave; the pews face a center altar. Father Tom, the church’s pastor, has a headset mike and walks around in the nave instead of speaking from a pulpit, and he comes out to chat with the congregation before mass begins.

His latest chat involved parishioners who come up to receive the Eucharist and then leave the church immediately afterward instead of remaining until mass is over. To everyone’s amusement, he demonstrated how they tuck the missal under one arm when they come up to receive the host, then nonchalantly stroll toward the church door and casually drop off the missal onto the missal and hymnal shelves without breaking stride. He suggested they try to be less obvious—they should ask the person beside them to return the missal for them. That got a lot of laughs.

Another thing that sets Father Tom apart is his “church dog” Bridget, a yellow Labrador retriever who greets parishioners at the church door with tail wagging. When mass is over, she enters the nave and carries Father Tom’s missal in her mouth as he exits during the recessional hymn.

A few years ago, when Father Tom’s homily was of necessity about the annual Catholic Sharing Appeal, he brought Bridget into the nave and she lay beside the baptismal font near the entrance. Father Tom said he needed Bridget there because he was going to talk about donating money, and he wanted to be sure to have at least one loyal friend in church who would listen to what he had to say. We all chuckled at that.

Father Tom walked about the nave and began enumerating the needs of the less fortunate in the diocese. About five minutes into his spiel, when he had his back to Bridget, she got to her feet, turned and began to walk out of the nave. The congregation absolutely lost it, most of us laughing so hard that we cried. [I sure did.]

For an instant, Father Tom looked stunned—it didn’t make sense that everyone was laughing because of the CSA appeal. He whirled just in time to see Bridget exit the nave. He did a double take and then called after her, “Et tu, Bridget?” The congregation broke up again, and it took quite a while for the laughter to die down.

Holy homily humor!

In the past, I never suspected that practicing religion could be entertaining. These two charming and fun-loving pastors make me look forward to Sunday mornings. Of course, that means dragging my bod out of bed earlier than usual to attend mass, but it’s well worth it. Barring illness or seriously inclement weather, I wouldn’t miss it. 🙂

Feb 112014

Jolana Malkston 4This past Saturday morning, I woke to discover that my left ear failed to report for duty. Anything I was able to hear with that ear sounded muffled and miles away. It was so unnerving.

You know how your ear feels with it fills with water and you can’t get it to drain, or how it feels when you’re in a plane climbing to a higher altitude? My left ear felt like that. I figured I only needed to make it pop. I’m so naive at times.

I made myself yawn, which wasn’t difficult because I had yet to drag myself out of bed and wasn’t fully awake. I opened my mouth really wide and waggled my jaw. I tugged on and wiggled my ear lobe. I poked my pinky finger inside my ear canal and wiggled it. No pop.

Aha. I remembered an ear-popping trick a pilot once showed me. I pressed my lips together tightly and pinched my nostrils shut so no air could escape, and then I blew air into my nose. Hard.

The air pressure should have been equalized on both sides of the eardrum. It wasn’t.  My eardrum should have popped right then and there. It didn’t. I should have been able to hear normally again. I couldn’t.


Panic set in. The obvious conclusion was that my body was finally falling apart. First the memory went bye-bye—it’s always the first to go—then the 20/20 vision took a hike, and now I feared I was experiencing the onset of hearing loss. Was I over the hill? Don’t answer that.

Church that evening was something of an embarrassment. I’m not all that good at reading music—I never learned how. We sat too far from the pianist and the choir for my one good ear to hear the music well enough. I was hearing in mono instead of stereo. There were two hymns we sang that I hadn’t heard before. I made sure not to sing loud, but from some of the glances Macho Guy sent my way, I’m pretty sure I sang off key. Thank Heaven that’s not a mortal sin.

The following morning, my left ear felt worse. The ear canal was beginning to swell shut. I told Macho Guy that I needed to go to the Urgent Care facility nearby to have my ear checked.

MACHO GUY: [glancing at his watch and appearing perturbed] Can you be ready to go in half an hour?


MACHO GUY: If we don’t leave by ten-thirty, I’ll have to take you there after three-thirty.

ME: [annoyed] Why can’t we leave after ten-thirty?

MACHO GUY: [impatient] So there’s enough time for you to be seen and so we can be back here no later than noon.

ME: [more annoyed] There’s no law that says we have to have lunch at noon on the dot.

MACHO GUY: [more impatient] I wasn’t thinking about lunch. The game starts at noon.

ME: [even more annoyed, thinking—sports, it always comes down to sports] What game?

MACHO GUY: [much more impatient—about to explode, actually] The game, the Spartan game! The Spartans are playing Wisconsin today at noon.

ME: [miffed that a Spartan game takes precedence over my sore ear but hiding it] Ohhh. That game. Of course.

MACHO GUY: [earnestly] It’s a very important game. The Spartans have to win to stay number one in the Big Ten and to stay in the top ten nationally.

ME: [thinking I’d get more respect if I painted myself green and white] Right, right. Tell you what, Honey. Why don’t you just drop me off at Urgent Care? I’ll call you when I’m done. If it isn’t half time, you can pick me up after the game so you won’t miss anything. I’ll hang out with all the sick and dying in the waiting room until you come for me.

MACHO GUY: [face lighting up like Lady Liberty’s torch] You’d do that? Are you sure? I’ll stay with you if you want me to. [big insincere grin]

ME: [trying not to scream because it would hurt my ear] Yeah, sure. I’ll take my iPad along and work while I wait.

I hoped Macho Guy would rediscover his humanity by the time we reached the Urgent Care facility but the cad thoughtlessly dropped me off and zoomed back to the cottage to watch the Spartan game. You would think after all these years that he could recognize sarcasm when he hears it and know I didn’t mean it when I said I didn’t mind being dropped off. Men.

As it turned out, the culprit that ultimately messed up my left ear was Macho Guy’s snoring. If snoring were an Olympic event, he’d blow away the competition and claim the gold. I have to wear earplugs every night if I hope to get any sleep.

The Urgent Care medics determined that wax build up formed a plug in my ear canal causing an ear infection. We figured out that the earplugs I use to muffle the sound of Macho Guy’s plaster-shattering snoring push the earwax farther and farther back into the ear canal. Eventually, that wax can form a plug like the one they flushed out of my left ear. They also informed me that my left ear canal has an odd shape—it takes a 45-degree turn about halfway—which exacerbates the problem. Well, of course. If anyone were to have an oddly shaped ear canal, it would have to be me.

On the upside, I can hear normally again, but there is a downside too. Treating the ear infection creates a waking nightmare for me. I must put drops in my left ear for the next seven days. During that time, I can’t put an earplug in that ear at night to muffle Macho Guy’s rafter-rattling snore, and I left my earmuffs in Michigan.

I feel a week of sleep deprivation coming on.

Feb 042014

Jolana Malkston 4Today is my birthday! Please don’t ask how old I am now; that particular question is personal and acutely invasive. It would place me in the awkward position of having to tell you to mind your own business—bless your heart.

Just kidding.

Actually, growing another year older doesn’t bother me one little bit. The alternative to growing another year older is a downer and sure would bother me. Getting to stick around for another year is a priceless gift.

My Baby Sister and I have winter birthdays that are only two weeks apart [five years and two weeks, that is] so we try to celebrate our birthdays together. Last year, I milked the occasions for four birthday dinner celebrations: one for her birthday, one for mine, one joint birthday celebration, and one on Super Bowl Sunday—which happened to fall on my birthday in 2013. I suppose all those birthday celebrations could have been aired in an episode of American Greed.

Yes, happy birthday to me. Aside from all those luscious birthday dinners, I received the gift of spending more time with my loved ones and getting more hugs and kisses from my grandchildren. I received the gift of seeing more of my children’s and my grandchildren’s accomplishments this past year—and seeing more of their comic antics.

I also saw another year’s worth of God’s comic genius, of his quirky sense of humor, of those little jokes he plays from time to time on members of the human race like the Polar Vortex. His best joke of last year: He actually had Miley Cyrus convinced that she is sexy and that people want to see more of her tongue. Ha-Ha! Good one, Lord. I’m still in stitches.

Birthday gifts are great fun. My Baby Sister gave me two dressy T-shirts because she says my T-shirts are not feminine enough. I don’t agree. I have one that says: “If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman to hear, is he still wrong?” How do you get more feminine than that?

I hope to be around to celebrate more birthdays for a long time to come. I’m not ready to go to Heaven yet–presuming I will go Heaven, that is. At certain times, I’m not sure that my going to Heaven is a given.

One of those times occurs when I’m writing and I must sully my keyboard with some of the naughty words with which my characters insist on expressing themselves. Shameful. They make me want to wash my keyboard and my fingertips with penicillin.

Then there are the times when I experience a twinge (more like a stab) of envy when another writer experiences publishing success of some kind. I always feel petty afterward, I always remove the pins from the little doll afterward, and I always repent and sincerely congratulate the successful author afterward.

If I don’t go to Heaven, if I go in the other direction, I’m certain of the culprit: my writer’s mind. I don’t know if this happens to other writers, but my writer’s mind takes me elsewhere mentally no matter where I happen to be physically. I’m embarrassed to confess that I have been known to lose focus when I’m in church during Sunday mass. My writer’s mind wanders in the direction of my current work in progress. I find myself plotting when I should be praying. I’m hanging my head in shame as I write this, even though I know it is bound to happen again. ::sigh::

Macho Guy will be back from playing golf very soon, so I’m going to cut this short and get gussied up for my birthday dinner—and birthday cake, lots of chocolate birthday cake and ice cream. Mocha Almond Fudge, of course. Mmmmm. 🙂

What? I forgot to tell you how old I am? Well, they say the memory is the first to go.

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