Sunday, April 5, 2020

NAPOWRIMO 4-5-2020 Life, Star Crossed

Comet Hyakutake  Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Life, Star-Crossed

Through the stars I have tracked
a comet’s far-flung path,
spending light years out in darkness
 circling back into the light,
as close to the inferno as I dare.
Then swinging back out,
the glare at my back growing softer
until I can see untold galaxies,
my neighbors and fellow travelers.
Knowing each completion of my orbit
leaves behind more of me,
falling stars to wish upon,
until I become a whisper,
remembered in poetry and paint.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Saturday, April 4, 2020

NAPOWRIMO 4-4-2020 A Song of Limbic Hijack

"Is there an after to disaster?"
-       Julie Bartha-Vasquez,  A Year That Would Be Better Off  Not

“… Although historically the amygdala was considered to be involved primarily in fear and other emotions related to aversive (unpleasant) stimuli, it is now known to be involved in positive emotions elicited by appetitive (rewarding) stimuli.”

A Song of Limbic Hijack 

Oh amygdala, where are you?
is it not your function to balance
anticipatory fear with supportive memory?
Have I not provided you with enough joy
to calm me in this death-bringing disaster?
Have I not embedded enough hours of happiness
to bulwark me against this tempest?
Oh amygdala, I know that you
are the guarded repository
of the weaponized laughter aimed at me,
the betrayals of my heart,
the losses from which there was no escape.
Still, there were smiles, and laughter and love,
in copious measure overflowing.
Surely enough to prove to me
that “no evil lasts forever, nor indeed for very long."*
Oh amygdala, I turn to you
to hold the line on my resilience.

©2020 Noreen Braman

*Epicurus, 341–270 BC

Friday, April 3, 2020

NAPOWRIMO 2020 The Cruellest Month

April 2020. National Poetry Writing Month.

A tradition I have participated in for many years, in the month of my birth; a month for fools, for rebirth, for rains that bring back fertility to the fields. But, with an underlying dark side, of war, sickness, pain and death. This year April returns, and she demands her ransom.

April 3, 2020

The Cruellest Month 2020

I borrowed the words satirically

Bemoaning how difficult to bear verse

On a daily basis.

Sweating over a blank page

Or drawing magnetic words at random

Shaping metaphor from air.

Now comes the April of nightmares

In the traditions of Aprils long past

springs of unrelenting pestilence,

laying waste to populations,

grown comfortable and ignorant

of it’s eventual return

the demand for tribute

in observance of

the forgotten rites of spring.
                                      - ©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus, Being Home, and New Normal

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Working from home is not a strange idea to me. While I have worked full-time for employers for most of my working life, I have also maintained a pretty consistent (if not always profitable) freelance side-hustle; combining writing, graphic design, laughter yoga, workshops and presentations, and most recently, teaching at the Osher Lifelong Learning Center at Rutgers University. At several points I was divided into thirds, working retail and other side jobs, at the same time.

So, working from home is something I can do, that I am good at, and actually is more attractive to me for the most part — other than the teaching and speaking engagements, which is my sweet spot. 

This national emergency that has sent so many of us home from work with boxes of stuff we can work on offsite has been caused by a pandemic that is disrupting daily life on a scale perhaps not seen since the years of Plague. That said, at any time, on any day, there is somewhere in the world where "normal" life has been disrupted — by war, famine, disease, or natural disaster — and for many, life will never be "normal" again. In fact, the most horrible thing about the level of suffering currently going on without relief in certain areas of the world, is that it is the "new normal" for those trapped there.

"New Normal" is a term popularized during the financial crisis starting in 2007, although it may have been used before. It's use has grown beyond fiscal situations of "the abnormal becoming normal," to describe any situation in which a clear "before" and "after" line can be drawn between periods of time vastly different from each other. It most often describes the societal change where something, someone, or  some situation previously thought of as unacceptable or unthinkable, becomes commonplace and unremarkable.

It is not clear, but it is possible that this Coronavirus pandemic may be creating a "new normal" globally. Not a resignation to pandemics, but the sense that, no matter where we go from here, life as we knew it will never be the same again. Or at least, not for a very long time. In that regard, it is reminding me of the Kennedy assassination, now generally accepted as the dividing line after which America's "innocence" was lost. The attacks on 9-11 draws a similar line for another generation.

I know that the older you are, the more you have to compare to. My grandchildren will live in the new normal created by this crisis. As is so exquisitely expressed in "The Handmaid's Tale," various episodes of The Twilight Zone and James Clavell's "Children's Story," the first generation living in a new normal suffer the most. Those that follow gradually accept.

Despite so much evidence that a world where things are calm, stress-less, healthy and stable is really an easily upset social system — in fact, that version of the world may actually be the unusual and rare — we still expect it, and cling to the times when we perceived it to be true. 

And perhaps that IS the greatest strength of the human race — the ability to hope, and actually believe, the better times are coming; that "new normals" happen with regularity, some of them terrible, but most of them, are something we can get used to.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Year of the Rat and Thinking Differently About These Rodents

The cover photo from my previous blog, "Roderama"
Having written "Roderama," my blog about rats and other small creatures, I have been concerned about what we do to rats in labs. While I still do not want rats in my house, the things I have learned about them has made me feel a certain respect for their socialness, intelligence, memories — and especially knowing that they actually laugh. In my book, "Treading Water," I dedicate a whole section to those blog stories about them and other "critters" I have encountered in My House of Rhyming Pests.

In this, the Year of the Rat, I was considering writing something about my complicated feelings about rats. I am still working on that.  In the meantime, this writer must have had some of those same feelings, and makes a powerful point about using other sentient beings in laboratory experiments. 

Why Don't Rats Get the Same Ethical Protection as Primates?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Leap Day is Coming! A look back to the last leap year

It is 2020, and Leap Day is upon us! 
What will you do with the extra day? 
How about some laughter and fun? 
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Here's a reprint of my thoughts from the last leap year.
2016 is a leap year, and today we enjoy the gift of an extra day on the calendar, thanks to science.  The explanation for doing this is based on the fact that our calendar year is based on the time it takes the earth to wobble its way around the sun. A time period that takes about 364.25 of our 24-hour days. Well, actually, that would be 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. And then there is true solar time, which can vary the “real” time of midnight by up to 146 seconds.  So, an extra day is added every 4 years, except (as I learned here at CNN,, by “century” years that are evenly divided by 400. And that, my friends, still doesn’t get us synched up exactly with the Universal Timekeeper.

I tell you all this because, to me, the month of February is long enough at 28 days.  When my children were growing, it seemed that February was the month of flu, bronchitis, frozen pipes and blizzards. Thanks to the modern marvel of Facebook, I now get daily reminders of previous February misery packaged as my “memories.” Ah yes, the sick days, the shoveling, the shivering. Not much to laugh about there.

Or, so one could assume. No doubt that trying to laugh with bronchitis is painful. But if laughing for the health of it is something we only do when it is easy, it isn’t much of a practice, is it? February, as it turns out, is a great month to get together with friends for a laughter night. Queue up a funny movie (this month, we enjoyed  watching, and laughing at, “The Intern.”)

It is a wonderful month to bring a Laughter Wellness Program to your place of employment; a real stress-buster just when we feel as if winter is never going to end.  The staff at the tech company I visited last week was ready and willing to get their endorphins flowing! And, the challenge of more indoor time with restless toddlers and older children can be broken up with time specifically devoted to laughter and dance. Go ahead, get out those old dance/exercise DVDs and challenge your kids to bust a move with you. Once you’ve got them moving and laughing, you may even get them to help you shovel the driveway.

Before you know it, February, even in leap year, will have passed and Spring will be in the air. (Please, don't write me to tell me about your March and April snowstorms and strep throats. Let me live in the fantasy.)

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.