Looking to add meaning to your life? Start with laughter.

May 2, 2017 | 38 comments

For Lauren Casper, living with her five-year-old autistic son, Mareto, is a lot like playing the telephone game. He blurts out little phrases that have their origin in something he saw or heard, but by the time they make their way through his mind and back out of his mouth they’ve transformed—often into beautiful truths about living a simple, authentic, love- and joy-filled life. Lauren joins us today, with a needed lesson on laughter.

By Lauren Casper

Last weekend my son made up his own version of a joke he saw on the movie Zootopia. We were sitting on his bed, which fits perfectly in the dormer of his upstairs bedroom, giving us excellent seats to the activity happening outside his window. He held a pair of green plastic binoculars up to his eyes and played his own version of “I Spy.” We made up stories about the people passing by in their cars, we watched a squirrel scamper along a tree branch, and commented on the height of the ladder at the house across the street where a painter was touching up the shudders. It was sweet and cozy. Suddenly, Mareto turned his head to me and with a gleam in his eye asked me a question…

“What do you call a three humped dog?”

I shrugged, smiling.

“A llama!!” He shrieked with enormous gulps of laughter that quickly turned into a case of the hiccups.


It's Okay About It
This went on for a few more minutes – Mareto telling the same joke and barely getting out the punchline before his laughter overtook him, and me giggling (more at the spectacle of my tickled son than the joke that doesn’t actually make sense.) Finally, he sighed and leaned his head against mine with a content little smile on his face. My heart is full and I can tell Mareto feels connected, seen, safe, and loved.

Did you know there is a discipline in the mental health community called Play Therapy? We happened upon it by accident when Mareto was a baby – my guess is that you have too at some point. By that I mean, we’d been doing it for much longer than we knew what to call it. It came naturally to us to play with our new baby boy, as I suppose it does for most parents. But as time progressed and we sensed some greater needs our son had, we happened upon books and research about play therapy.

The benefits of play therapy are numerous, but just a few include reduced stress, connection to others, increase in creative thinking, a boost in confidence, and regulated emotions. It’s used mainly for children, but in playing with Mareto I see my own need for laughter and play therapy.

In my new book, It’s Okay About It, I share a little more about how Mareto is showing me the importance of embracing my silly side, leaning into laughter, and partaking in some “play therapy…”

“We were never meant to live and work and cry and laugh alone.
We need other people in our lives.
We need deep and meaningful connections to experience fulfillment and joy.

Laughing together, being silly and ridiculous, making up our own games,
and creating inside jokes with our friends, spouses,
and siblings is some of the best stuff of life.
And it is as foundational to healthy bonds as crying
and grieving and mourning and suffering
and walking through the hardest moments of life.

We tend to prefer either/or thinking to complexity.
Maybe it’s easier for us to view life as black and white and not so gray.
We want the guidebook to be super clear—always turn left at the fork in the road
and right at the T—but life is more often both/and.
And it’s a whole lot more rainbow-colored than monochromatic.

So when it comes to meaningful, rich living,
we need to embrace both tears and laughter.”

My tendency is more toward anxiety or grief or resilience. I see the pain of life and the endurance required to move through a broken world without shattering. But Mareto is reminding me that laughter is required for wholeness and pain not only better managed, but also more fully processed when we allow ourselves to laugh and play and experience true joy. Not in place of our pain, but in addition to it.

Through playing with Mareto, I’m learning to embrace a more wide open way of living where I share a full spectrum of experiences and relationships more fully.


We’re giving a copy of Lauren’s new book away! To enter, just let us know in the comments of this blog post that you would like to win. Additional entries for every share on social media. Tell us where you shared; each share = one additional entry.

Lauren Casper is the author of It’s Okay About It: Lessons From A Remarkable Five-Year-Old About Living Life Wide Open. 

She is a top contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team and has had numerous articles syndicated by The Huffington Post, the TODAY show, Yahoo! News, and several other publications. She also has the joy of serving on the Created for Care team, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to serving foster and adoptive families. Lauren and her husband, John, have two beautiful children adopted from Ethiopia.

Mareto has a number of scripted phrases he says over and over. They seem silly at first, but as Casper has thought about them over time, she’s realized he is actually sharing important life lessons. From “it’s okay about it,” a simple reminder that even when things are painful or difficult, things will be okay because of the God who promises never to leave or forsake his children, to “you’re making me feelings,” which teaches the importance of leaning into one’s emotions and, in doing so, sharing a piece of oneself with loved ones—Mareto’s simple yet profound wisdom is a reminder to embrace the broken beauty of life, to believe in a God bigger than human comprehension, to love others even when it doesn’t make sense, and to find joy in unexpected places. For all those looking to recapture the faith, simplicity, wonder, hope, courage, and joy of life, It’s Okay About It provides a guide to look inward and live outward, to discover the most wide open and beautiful life possible.


Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!

Our featured writer this week is Sue Donaldson. She writes about hospitality and welcoming others to the table. I especially loved this story… sometimes all you need is a can of Pringles! Find Sue here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer

by | May 2, 2017 | 38 comments


  1. Kristen McGinnis

    I would love to read this book. I too have a son with special needs that is teaching me!

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for reading along, Kristen.

  2. Michele

    On which blog post to we enter? This one? (The link goes to a 404, so I’m not sure!)

    • dukeslee

      Hmmm… I’ll fix it. You can leave the comment right here. I added that link for my email subscribers.

      • dukeslee

        I removed the bad link, Michele. Thanks for alerting me.

  3. Michele Morin

    Lauren and Jennifer — thank you for sharing Mareto’s sweet spirit. This is the Happiness Place, so his joyful approach to life fits right in!

    • dukeslee

      I thought the same thing, Michele!

  4. Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    What a beautiful story… would LOVE to read this book. Thank you for the giveaway.

    • dukeslee

      Beautiful indeed. The whole book is awesome.

    • dukeslee

      Brooke! I forgot to let you know … YOU WON! Can you email or FB me your mailing address?

      I’m at:

      Jdukeslee @ Gmail {dot} com

  5. Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Shared on Facebook

  6. Bettie G

    What a beautiful story, shared from a heart that sees through God’s eyes! I would love to win this book!

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, beautiful story … and beautiful book!

  7. Michelle Bills

    Thank you for this sweet reminder. We just found out that my daughter has autism and we’ve been doing more worrying, researching, and crying than we have laughter. Thank you. I would love to win a copy of your book to read more of your insightfulness.

  8. Mary

    Thank you for sharing the truth of a young boy. The lessons learned from Mareto are beautiful and ones that we can all learn from. The book sounds delightful and I know how much better I always feel when I laugh from the tips of my toes to top of my head. Thank you Lauren for sharing part of your story.

  9. Leslie

    I needed this reminder to laugh and play. My Mom always told me not to take life too seriously. And she’s right! I’m sharing this article. : )

  10. Donna Stravers

    A beautiful story of a precious boy and mom. I would love to win this book to share with others (because I’m going to get my own copy soon)

  11. Ruth-Anne Hayes

    Would love to win a copy, My nieces are autistic and I gobble up any perspective I can get! I am sharing on pinterest, instagram and face book.

  12. Anita

    This sounds like a beautiful book (and I’d love a copy 🙂 ). I shared on twitter and FB. Some of the most profound statements I’ve heard have come from some of my most troubled students. Their life experience has brought perspective and preception that astounds me.

  13. Deborah Flora

    I would love to be entered! I’m always excited about an inspiring story and new book.

  14. Gigi

    This sounds like an intriguing book I’d love to win! 🙂

  15. jodiemarie1122

    Oh Wow! I need this book!

  16. Meghan Weyerbacher

    I love the title of her book. That is awesome. Kids teach us so much. I want to water my inner kid. Love you, Jennifer!!!!!!

  17. Sarah Geringer

    One of my friends has two autistic children. This book would encourage her and lift her spirits. Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

  18. Susan McNabb Ruff

    I would love to read this book!

  19. JViola79

    Such a precious story and Mareto has much to teach us all! Would love to read this book! Thank you for hosting this giveaway and sharing about this book.

  20. Susan

    Children never stop teaching us, do they? Sweet Mareto!

  21. Lani - the flowerlady

    Play therapy…I could use the laughter and would love to read this book!

  22. Julie Loos

    What a smart little boy teaching others about life! I would love to read more. I shared on Twitter and Facebook!

  23. Dolly @ Soulstops.com

    Mareto sounds like a wise and delightful little boy. Thank you for sharing his and Lauren’s story 🙂 Will share.

  24. Crystal

    Such a profound truth! Leaning into laughter doesn’t always come easy when so much fills our plate and the lists never get emptied. I’ve often treasured the silliness of my 3 grown kids getting together and bouncing hilarity off of each other, one line after another. And I realize in these times what little or importance I give to something as freeing as laughter. How often a little child leads us to the heart of God!

  25. Rebecca

    This books looks perfect for my word of the year: JOY!

  26. Tiffany

    Lauren, your words remind me to be present and savor the moment in front of me – even if it doesn’t look like I think it should. That was a reminder I needed today. Thank you, and Jennifer for sharing your words and book today.

  27. Samantha Leverton

    Would LOVE the opportunity to win Lauren’s book and read more. Stumbled upon this book on a random Instagram post and saw your review on Lauren’s website, Jennifer! Cool. 🙂

    Jennifer, you were my professor my freshman year for a journalism class at Dordt College, and it was exciting to see your name reviewing AND see that you have another book out since Love Idol!!!!

    Please put my name in the giveaway! I’m sharing on Instagram and Twitter, also. 🙂

  28. Tammy M.

    This sounds like a great book–I’d love to win a copy!

  29. Amy Jung

    Thank you for teaching me, over time, the value of not just writing, but telling stories. 🙂

  30. Sherry Thecharmofhome

    Thanks for hosting!



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