Monday, June 8, 2020

Critical Thinking: Not Illegal Yet

©2020 Noreen Braman

In every election, (not just for President, but down to the mayor of my town) I try to critically think beyond just the candidate, but also to what they will bring to the table. For President in particular:

  • Who will put qualified, knowledgeable and experienced people in cabinet, agency, and advisor positions who will work toward goals that benefit all Americans? 
  • Who will enact policies and procedures that are important to me today and my grandchildren tomorrow? (Which I understand may lead to "compromise" or "interim" solutions that find common ground between diametrically opposed views of topics too important to ignore)
  • Who will best follow all the precepts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the need and obligation to amend?
  • Who will work with other world leaders on problems that transcend borders, such as the environment, human rights? 
  • Who will understand better the difference between public service and self service? 

I agree that no one candidate will be "perfect." I've worked with perfectionists, and sometimes have been a perfectionist myself. It is a path that leads eventually to paralysis of thought and actions. In the case of elections it leads to huge swaths of people not voting. And that perpetuates the disconnect between the small group of elected officials and the huge, diverse population they are supposed to represent. 

Set aside rhetoric. Stop seeking that slogan or meme that "sounds right." Open yourself to possible changes of mind, and changes of heart.

Your life depends on it.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Overcoming. June 2020

Image by John Hain from Pixabay


talk without speaking
listen without hearing
work without producing

rule without leading


words without meaning
sound processed without understanding
jobs done without purpose


orders given without conscience Leads to




©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What Happens When a Career Vampire Starts Working From Home

Not an actual photo of sunlight penetrating my house. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  
Image by stokpic from Pixabay

Most of the year, I rise in darkness, get ready for work, spend most of the day in a mostly windowless office, and return home after dark. During that too-brief time of year when my day actually has daylight on both ends, I revel in the light and warmth, and take every advantage to be outside, including using a speed cleaning process on weekends to tidy my house. But the reality is, for much of my life, I have been a career vampire, living and working in the shadows.

Now comes the pandemic-required time of working from home, and spending long days in a domicile bathed in daylight. It has been an eye-opening experience.

At first I was fascinated by the play of light and shadow between sunrise and sunset. I had never before witnessed the golden shafts of sunlight moving from window to window, acting as spotlights throughout my house. I congratulated myself on the placement of a garden window, seeing for myself why my plants were thriving.

But the spotlights moving through my indoor space were not so welcome in other areas. For example, something disturbing was revealed at my salon-style art wall, full of floor to ceiling photos and artwork. There was not only a fine layer of dust, but in some places the frames looked as if they had been hanging, untouched, for many years. Some even had thready cobwebs hanging from them. How could this be? I even had a special duster I ran over the frames while cleaning!

And the frames were just the start. Daylight revealed a disgustingly grimy laptop keyboard, lint and other bits of detritus in the carpet, hairs and crumbs and dust bunnies on floors and under furniture. And what were those spots on the ceiling in the kitchen?

I became aware that my heat ducts probably needed to be cleaned out, my kitchen cabinets scrubbed, my furniture vacuumed, and my bathroom — which I swear I clean every week — required a Haz-Mat team. My cute, quirky decorating style is looking more and more like an episode of “Hoarders” the longer I spend daylight time here. I've found myself sweeping the kitchen floor several times a day, and running the dishwasher and the washing machine more often as I discover all sorts of not-quite-clean-in-the-light-of-day objects around the house.

The magazine photo version. ©2020 Noreen Braman
I've rearranged the coats and scarves hanging on hooks next to my front door to be more artistically pleasing. I grabbed some recycled folding doors, leftover paint and more hooks to turn an utilitarian (translation: messy) broom, mop and recycling area into a magazine worthy project.

At the same time, I am tackling a general house cleanout, having finally realized that my grown children have really left the nest, as evidenced by their house purchases, moves to distant states, and giving me 6 grandchildren. Time for the toys, books, trophies and other souvenirs packed away for 20 years in the shed to go.

As open shed doors, closets, cabinets and file drawers and view their contents bathed in sunlight (or even filtered cloudy daylight, to be honest) I really understand why light was such a powerful enemy of the Undead. Unfortunately, unlike the bloodsuckers who either burst into flame or turn to dust when exposed to light, my possessions and collections just sit there. Collecting dust.

In his landmark vampire tale, "Dracula," Bram Stoker created the legend that vampires need to have their "native soil" nearby in order to survive. Apparently, as a career vampire I have been accumulating my own version of that dirt all around me. And I know I’m not alone. Go ahead, run your finger along the tops of your picture frames. Pull up those couch cushions. Then pull down the shades.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

In the sunset of life it isn’t fun to suddenly realize, that you never had the life you wanted. That things never went the way you thought they should, and even if you generally think that your life has been mostly fine – the day will come when you realize, the "somedays" you dreamed about aren’t coming.

It can happen when you are watching an old show on TV, that show you watched in your formative years, the one that made you laugh, the one you all talked about the next day, the one that seemed to describe your forward path – but it never did. And that is because life is not a sitcom. There is no team of writers plotting all the twists and turns. No one to type up the happy ending.

They say that you are responsible for writing your own story. But no one tells you that you may carry one story in your head, while you live out another. And even if that life is full of love and laughter, the day will come where a snippet of music, a mention of a movie, or the title of a book will open up a dark hole under your feet. And if you aren’t careful, you will fall into this hole, tumbling over and over like Alice, watching all the souvenirs of your life cascading around you, and as hard as you try to catch them, you can’t.

Tokens of you childhood streak by like shooting stars, the puffs of smoke that were your dreams, from the days when all seemed possible. And as you plummet you are joined by fleeting ghostly shadows of lovers and friends who swirled in and out of your life. They whisper as they pass by, but you cannot catch what they say, you’ve forgotten the sound of their voices. From deep inside you, memories flicker, what were those plans we had? The promises made to each other, the song you promised to sing at her funeral, but by then you had lost touch.

Soon you are wrapped in swirling clouds of motherhood – diapers and first teeth and the leftover equipment of their childhood activities, photos and toys and high school rings — the music of a thousand performances. The rising of a deepening ache as one by one they leave home, and the feeling of loss, of “never again” threatens to drown you. There are points of light that fill you full of warmth, and again your head fills up with dreams, this time you will get things right. The circle will re-form itself with everyone reachable, touchable, lovable, and the next generation running in and out, calling for you.

However, the hole continues to widen and as hard as your try to hold their hands, to encircle them with your arms, they drift away, smiling as they go, their own dreams covering them like fog. And you wake up one day to realize, you are living in a house that no one will visit, in a place where no one will return, and the vision of your sunset years reveals itself to be just more smoke. 

You wonder what was the turning point, where was that bend in the road that took you in the wrong direction. No amount of turning around will get you back to that place, you have no choice but to continue falling, holding on to the new life where there is still love and laughter, no longer trying to catch the things that are falling away, trying as best as you can to quiet the heartache, accepting that you have reached to part of the journey where losses mount.

©2020 Noreen Braman

With an understanding nod (after so many years denying it) to Judith Viorst’s “Necessary Losses.”

Thursday, April 30, 2020

NANOWRIMO April 30, 2020 Finis

As we end National Poetry Month, and NAPOWRIMO for 2020 I turn to Dylan Thomas, and the two poems of his that subconsciously, and not so subconsciously, color my work. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is almost a mantra with me, so much so, that I borrowed the phraseology to tell people at my Humor and Well-Being presentations "Don't go gently! Go Laughing!" And the second meaningful poem "and death will have no dominion" casts a long shadow over yesterday's poem. As I once spend a summer reading all the works of Shirley Jackson, to discover the broader scope of her work, with one foot in humor and one foot in horror, it may be time to rediscover Thomas, and add another literary root to my creative tree. 

This year, as every year, I title my April poems "The Cruellest Month," and for the most part, it has been a metaphor. However, this year, April was indeed cruel, bringing death under her wings like rain, raising up the flowers of mourning. Her sister May could end up being just as merciless at worst, and a valley of tears at best.

So, tonight I bid April 2020 farewell, she the bringer of a personally significant birthday, amid anxiety, fear and anger, and the balancing power of love. The stuff of my poetry for sure.

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
Frodo Baggins to Sam Gamgee― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

"The just a little harder, when brought about by friends..."
 Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar

"Oh what a world.."
Margaret Hamilton, as the melting Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz 

The Sacred Heart

iconography of childhood
the heart of Jesus encircled by thorns
representing the pain we cause
felt for all eternity
even while living in Paradise
an image to shame our sins
inspire us to holy lives
the Immaculate Heart of Mary
encircled with flowers
is pierced with seven swords
because the heart of a mother bears
the blossoms she tendered in her garden
alongside the wounds of maternity
sorrows too painful to bear
hanging side by side in the church
like grandparents in old fashioned clothes
not smiling just staring
their hands levitating their hearts
outside of their bodies
flaming like the candles
we light for special intentions
all I can think of is
falling on the thorns of life
ten swords impaling me from behind
my mother heart stitched many times over
my feet stomping on serpents and legos
refusing to say good-bye
when they leave, one by one
icons are only as valuable
as the jewels with which they are encrusted
eyes expressionless and dead
peering out from bodies
from which the heart has been removed
unlike my heart, which bleeds every day
pain born of love, not sin.
©2020 Noreen Braman

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Image by Alex Demoura from Pixabay

Human Sacrifice

Useless blood spilled
appeasing non-existent gods
the life taken to ensure 

the livesof others will go on
never stopped earthquake
tsunami or pyroclastic flow
made it rain

blessed the crops
or protected hordes of warriors
in uncountable battles of pointless wars

Death was the only winner. 

And now you tell me
sacrifice myself
on the altar of an ancient god
made of stolen gold
my blood in exchange for
monetary stability
status quo
the kingdom over the
surplus population
dangling generations of descendants
in front of my eyes
while the barons of finance
hide out in their counting houses
and those who once we thought of as leaders
sputter and threaten and withhold favor
choosing instead to watch from afar
as the rabble fight each other
over food and medicine and haircuts
pointing fingers at each other
assuming no blame for their actions
listening to new world Svengalis
spinning tales of intrigue
proposing heretical solutions
hiding behind philosophies and beliefs
they push on others
but ignore themselves

While death is the only winner.

And now you tell me I owe my life
to the future in which
you have already dirtied your hands
where you have pushed your piles
of filth and betrayal
as gifts for those same 
generations of descendants

Do they not dangle before your eyes?
Do they not know your dread complicity?
And your schemes and plans and usury
for only your own benefit in this world of today?

I would step in front of a bullet
throw myself in the path of a train
sell all my possessions
and mortgage my soul
to spare my progeny suffering
but I will not die on your altar of gold
to support your narcissistic survival scheme 

and with my last breath I will call you out
for the harm you have done to humanity

And not let death be the winner. 

©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 28, 2020 Shelter


not what was wanted
barely what was needed
in another world
from what was before
riddled with decay
the hidden rot of dampness
painted with desperation
time eating away the structure
a silent voracious malignancy

©2020 Noreen Braman