Saturday, January 4, 2020

A New Year, A New Decade, and An Old Philosopher

( While Snoopy is one of my favorite philosophers, he is not the one being referred to in this post. Photo (c)2019 Noreen Braman)

I am still in a holiday frame of mind, and for me I don't count the holidays as being over until at least January 6th. My tree and decorations will most likely stay up a little bit longer than that, depending on how soon I can part with their festive touch. I've set myself up with some goals for this year, things to accomplish, including a journey with the Greater Good's well-being toolkit. I haven't started yet, again because of still considering myself in a holiday mode. However I came across a great article that reminds us that our issues and concerns of today are not so new or unusual. Marcus Aurelius in his "Meditations" shows us that some of our issues thoughts and worries have been dogging humans for centuries.

The LOML and I were inspired to pull out the book and spent some time reading from it as we had breakfast in bed this morning. (One of the simple joys we try to reward ourselves with every weekend)

16 Things Everybody Should Stop Doing In Order To Be Successful.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

2020 – A Year of Seeing Clearly?

Yes, it is a pun, a play on words with the year, something we all might be tired of hearing by the end of 2020. However, I am going to start out as if I am the only person who has thought of it, and it is a perfect year-long vision statement for me. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist one more pun.

Back when I was in my 20s, the future appeared to me as fog-enveloped road. I knew the trip was a long one — at least I hoped it would be a long one — but I couldn’t quite see very far ahead of me. As I made my way along this road, there were days when the fog lifted, revealing stunning vistas. Other days, I could barely inch along. In addition, the road was ever-changing; smooth, level, and wide at some points; full of potholes, detours, and even the occasional fender bender at others. Sometimes I traveled with a full load of family, friends or coworkers, sometimes it was just me and a poorly plotted map.

In 2020 I have a significant birthday. Yes, I’ve passed these artificial milestones before. However, this next one has been held out as the “big one,” not only for the mileage I’ve covered, but all the things that culture, society, and tradition expect of me. Things that generally fall into the “should have done by now” category. I should have reduced my indebtedness and obligations to barely anything by now. I should have squirreled away a huge retirement fund for the “golden years.” I should have already experienced the highest pinnacles career-wise in anticipation of “taking it easy.” To remind me, my snail mail and my email is full of solicitations for Medicare supplements, reverse mortgages, hearing aids and cemetery plots. But in my head I am setting fire to all this, while the voice of Dylan Thomas is screaming at me “Do not go gentle into that good night!”

The detours along my road have been long, circuitous, and costly, both in matters of finance and time. I’ve reached a point in my life where the expression “return on investment” has come to be a consideration of where to invest myself. So, it is almost a message from the universe that I approach a year whose number is so closely aligned with vision and time. As  I prepare to rage against the dying of the light, my answer to the question, “How will I clarify that vision, and where will I spend my time?” is: “We’ll see.”

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thanksgiving Thoughts


Thanksgiving is often thought of as the "All American" Holiday, a time to pause with family and friends to reflect on those things and times that have given us the most joy. A list of "Gratitudes" such as:

Grateful are those who have enough to eat
Grateful are those with a safe place to sleep
Grateful are those who feel love in their hearts
Grateful are those who have others that help
Grateful are those who are able to help
Grateful for comfort when things are not easy
Grateful for laughter for health and for healing
Grateful if only for the end of a hard day
Grateful for the days filled with unbridled joy

These are my Gratitudes today, what are yours?

Thanksgiving Emotions and the Helpfulness of Sharing Laughter 

Thanksgiving can also be a time of self-reflection, nostalgia, and for some, heartache. The person who no longer shares our table - through  death, estrangement, or distance. The sharpening of hurts, disasters and tragedies experienced since last Thanksgiving. Personal and global anxiety. Mixed emotions of the history behind our celebration. Who knew that the sharing of a roasted bird, the bird that Benjamin Franklin wanted to declare America's official bird, would, so many years later, be marinated in so many feelings?

And while I might say that we all gather and laugh together for bonding, healing, and comfort, I know that even laughter, can, like that turkey, be stuffed with many sentiments.  And yet, I do encourage you to bond, heal, and find comfort during this time of year. In fact, it is my wish for you that you expand your laughter to other holidays, gatherings, conversations, social media posts, and work life. Laughter is the social bonding survival skill that has been with us since before humans had adequate language.

The very act of smiling helps pave the way to cooperation and understanding. In fact, the growing of America was helped tremendously by those of different origins and languages learning to smile at each other, even if they came from older traditions that discouraged smiles and laughter. Shared laughter over a shared meal can go a long way to create bonds of tolerance and understanding with strangers, and, yes, even with your opinionated relatives.With my family and friends, there are just some stories and memories that we can't help repeating during these gatherings because the still make us laugh until we cry.

And because the power of Laughter can both heal and hurt, I encourage you to use your powers for good. It is not always easy, and I have struggled with laughter in my life, at one time only seeing its weaponization. I've written about it several times, here is my recent essay from LinkedIn.

It's the Laughter, We Will Remember

Originally appeared in my Smile Side of Life Laughter & Happiness Club Newsletter. You can subscribe here

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Cautionary Tale About Baby Screen Time

Image by Nadine Doerlé from Pixabay

Everyone knows I am all about tech and new gadgets and social media. I am also aware that people have been scared and concerned about "new" ways to access info since the Gutenberg Bible was published and some clergy thought it was evil for the "rabble" to be able to read the bible on their own. Victorian women were told that too much reading was bad for their brains. The radio took families away from dinner table discussions. In the 50s, comic books and the boob tube were the enemy. And, it is true, that the human brain adapted to incorporate these things into daily life. 

Anyone born after 1995 has grown up with smartphones, and there have been social and behavioral changes resulting from that - much in the way that access to books, newspapers, radio and television created changes. However, in the wake the recent generation's early exposure to "screen time," the intensity and close proximity of small children to phones, tablets, and other electronic things, disturbing physical changes to the brain are being discovered.

 Screen Time Lowers Brain Development in Preschoolers

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Charles M. Schulz, The AstroBeagle, and Me - UPDATED 8-21-19

In 1989 I wrote a short article for a tiny publication about being thankful. My article, “Why I am Grateful for Charlie Brown” detailed how I had carried around a tiny book of Peanuts comic strips entitled “Everything I Do Makes Me Feel Guilty.” I thanked Charles M. Schulz for creating in Peanuts, an assembly of characters that not only entertained me, but spoke to my troubled teenage years as well as my (at that time) young motherhood.

I treasure the letter I received in return, and his wish for me: “I am pleased to know that the Peanuts family has been helpful to you down through the years, and hope they will continue to have a place in your home in the future.” Those who know me, know how true those words were, and still are, to this day, 40 years later.

This weekend I will be traveling to the Midwest, to be with my son, his wife, and their children, to provides support and love as their youngest undergoes brain surgery. There was no doubt what I would bring with me for this baby full of smiles and laughter — a Peanuts gift. The choice was apparent the moment I saw it, a stuffed Astrobeagle commemorating Snoopy’s role as NASA’s safety mascot. Astronauts and ground crew would even “beep” Snoopy’s nose for luck, and carry a silver Astrobeagle medal on their journey, to be gifted to a special ground crew person on the return. I’ll be carrying the stuffed Astrobeagle on the plane and on the train, asking strangers to pose with him and smile, so he can bring all their good vibes to the one who needs them most next week.

And while I am at it, I’d like to thank Charles M. Schulz again – he probably never realized how his words would come true like this – that Peanuts has had a place in my home and my heart in all the intervening years since his letter.

And so, I posthumously award Charles M. Schulz a Smile Starter Award for all the smiles he has brought to the world. I know, somewhere in the great beyond, he is beeping Snoopy’s nose for all of us.

UPDATE: 8-21-19

I opened up the plastic frame with my Schulz letter in it, and found ANOTHER LETTER, from 1991 - in this letter he says "When a person sits in a room by himself day after day trying to draw something funny, and sometimes meaningful, he has no idea as to the affect it might be having on his readers." What a wonderful thing to find after all these years! Also in there, a 1995 postcard from Dave Barry when I thanked him for the "eyes" of his audience that fell on something I wrote that was published next to his column.