Thursday, December 28, 2023

"To Be or Not to Be?" The Question That Answers Itself

contemplation #2

Twenty years ago, I chronicled blog posts leading up to my milestone 50th Birthday. At that time, I was dreaming about what I was going to “be when I grow up.” Children off to college, divorce drama quieted, and a career doing what I considered good work. Life was finally opening for me, giving me the opportunity to do “all those things” I had planned.

Who knew I would be unceremoniously perp-walked (along with the majority of the award-winning team I was part of) out of the job I thought I would have for life. Who knew that seeking a new position would become a trudge through unanswered applications, waste-of-time interviews, and real anxiety about bankruptcy and homelessness. I had never in my life not gotten a job I applied for. The employment world threw water on me, and I melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. “Oh, what a world!”

I’m not going to recite the adventures of those intervening years, except to say, my children grew up to be successful adults (and parents), I’ve been gainfully employed, (in fact I have three areas of “work” to keep me busy), and—after suspecting, and being content with a home for just me and my dog—I found the love of my life. We were committed to each other in Vegas, at the top of the Stratosphere with enthusiastic onlookers hanging over the railings of the next floor.

I’m ready to chronicle 2024 to mark a new one-year countdown to another landmark birthday. I know that I am less interested in what I want to “be” and more focused on who I “am.”  I am reducing my fixation on distant success landmarks. I am not giving up on any of the work I love to do, just teaching myself to be more in the present. And if, in the present, I must backtrack, change my path or forge through a quagmire, I will do it mindfully.

 It does come as a surprise that “are you still working?” is a constant query, by medical professionals, casual acquaintances, and every piece of medical plan solicitation, “Hurry up! Time is running out!” I know they mean the “enrollment period,” but it is a reminder that time is running out in a more final way. Of course, just as in the Wicked Witch’s hourglass timer, the sand starts pouring the day we are born, and eventually runs out.

January 1, 2024 is right around the corner. April 7, 2025 is not that far away. Time to grab that broomstick, because I’ll soon be cruising somewhere at 70 – whether it is a milestone, steppingstone or stumbling block!

©2023 Noreen Braman




“To be, or not to be?” That is the wrong question.

contemplation #1

Hamlet’s question was a contemplation of death. The choice to exist or not exist. One of the answers is final. The other answer is what leads to my contemplation – “What happens when you choose ‘to be’?”

In early childhood, the question starts “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some of us a vision of becoming a “grown up,” and all that it entails is a straight line. Career paths, family choices, carried in our heads as vague ambitions or firm plans. Others of us take the long and curvy “someday” path, even sometimes backtracking. In fact, there are people, like me, who spend most of their lives looking for, working for, or dreaming about what we will BE-come. Eventually.


I’ve decided that it is time for me to get off the “someday I’ll be…” merry-go-round. No, unlike Hamlet, it is not a consideration of death. It is perhaps inspired by the inevitability of death, creating a pivot point on that curvy road. Notice to stop waiting for what I am going to be, and concentrating on what I am – more precisely, who I am.


At this moment, who and what I am is an amalgamated construction of all I have experienced up to today. Wonderful life experiences, heartbreaking trauma. Family life, professional life, and the puzzle pieces that haven’t quite fit into the picture, but are still out there on the table.


Recently, I’ve been exploring my personal strengths, learning about the idea of spending more time using and improving them, rather that trying to cure my weaknesses. For 68 years I’ve been hiking up a mountain, waiting to finally get to the top, the place where I will finally be me. I’ve forgotten to stop, turn around, and look at how far I have come. How many hills and bumps and icy streams I’ve passed – and heights I have already reached. And yes, I see the muddy butt-slide trails where things didn’t go as planned. Even more important than taking all that in, is feeling what is under my feet, embracing the place where I am at, and recognizing who, and what I am. Taking that knowledge and those personal strengths as a new path, a new map, supporting who I am. As long as I be.


©2023 Noreen Braman


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Here We Come A'Caroling, like it or not!


The year is 2023.  On television, a choir is performing a very entertaining version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I am smiling at their wonderful voices and song-related pantomime. Then, they get into the troublesome part of the song. The part where the number of drummers, pipers, and lords-a-leaping get mixed up. This version was different from the version I grew up with.  “Bah Humbug!” I thought. And then, I reminded myself of this, written when my children were young. I don’t even want to know what they are singing with their own kids this year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Here we Come A’ Caroling

 After one endures the trauma and turmoil of divorce, it is hoped that certain life lessons are learned. Lessons that one vows to never repeat, never tolerate, or never live through again. Unfortunately, one makes the mistake of thinking that these lessons are related to huge issues such as trust, money, in-laws and leaving up the toilet seat. And we vow to discuss these things before ever entering another serious relationship. However, I am here to tell you that there are other, more subtle areas of discussion. One of the most important is Christmas Music.

Most of us think of Christmas music as that group of “ho ho ho,” and “fa la la,” songs that permeate the air from the Fourth of July through January. Pleasant enough, a bit repetitive, and mostly undistinguished. We hear it on the radio, in the mall, and in the background of every television commercial – no matter what the product. It seems that “Christmas Music” is something everyone can agree on – especially in the home. The Christmas Music stand-off was not a cause of the divorce (or was it?) but it hung over my head as our children grew up.

I never discussed Christmas music before I got married – he never told me about his, and I never told him about mine. As we arranged our combined music collection in our newlywed apartment, we took turns laughing at some of the ridiculous selections we had. Somehow, we each assumed that those “silly” selections (both his and mine – although secretly I didn’t think any of my choices were silly) would never be heard again. We should have been warned: in our now-huge assortment of music, there were no duplicates. My classical music stood rigidly on the shelf next to his acid rock. John Denver and Mick Jagger eyed each other suspiciously inside the cabinet. It was a minor annoyance for months, until our first Christmas arrived.

For me, the holiday is not complete without songs performed by Perry Como and Johnny Mathis, as well as several renditions of the Nutcracker. Growing up, I truly believed that the only “real” Christmas music was on the three albums my mother dusted off every year and played on her “hi-fi.” In church, I belted out all the English and Latin verses to “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” without even glancing in the hymnal. Years later, I realized that there were a multitude of recordings available, but by then they just didn’t sound “right.”

However, I soon found out, just the mention of my favorites would make my husband’s blood pressure rise. Older than me, he was a true devotee of classic rock and roll. While I was playing big band classics in my high school jazz band, he was grooving with the flower children. I should have realized that a Rolling Stones fan would have a different concept of holiday music, but soon the sound of Yoko Ono warbling in the house made me want to crush the stereo.

Although we had met during the disco era, and had sentimental feeling about most of that music, the worst thing forced on me during Christmas was my husband’s collection of obnoxious disco “medley” recordings. With titles like “High on Christmas,” they featured holiday songs homogenized into one long-playing disco beat monstrosity.  It was fun to hustle with John Travolta and sing “YMCA” with the Village People, but hearing “Joy to the World” a la Disco Fever was unbearable.

Imagine my surprise to find records by Mario Lanza! The majestic sound of his voice does justice to any carol. I thought, finally, my husband was coming to his senses, accepting the “right sound.” Actually, Mario was a throwback to my husband’s own childhood and his Italian heritage. I never could get him to admit that Lanza beats Springsteen any day in the Christmas music department. Unfortunately, Bruce, Yoko and the disco queens serenaded our holidays for many years.

Of course, once we had children, I vowed to raise them on my holiday music. For years, their father and I raced to the stereo to make sure they were hearing “real” Christmas music. Of course, the kids were not listening at all. They were in their rooms, playing “Rainbow Brite Sings Christmas Favorites.” (Where did that come from?) I’ve already made a note to have a heart-to-heart talk with their future spouses.


Friday, December 22, 2023

The Daughter of Laughter & Chaos

December Solstice -The Longest Night of the Year


Tonight is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. This observation may be one of the oldest events that humans recognized. At least it was part of ancient systems of telling time by paying attention to the movements of celestial objects.The Winter Solstice not only marked the harsh winter season - the time of cold and snow - but also the reassurance that the light would now be increasing. A reliable sign that warmth and sunshine would return. It gave hope during a difficult time of year.

For me, the Winter Solstice helps me boost my resilience by reminding me that difficult times come to our lives with regularity, just as joyous times do. While dark days seem to arrive unbidden, we can help ourselves "get through them" by creating and seeking ways to build our resilience.

As the New Year dawns with a few more minutes of light, let's resolve to take advantage of that light, by looking for laughter, being open to friendship and love, and finding appreciation and gratitude on a daily basis. (remembering that there will be days that the only thing you may be grateful for is that a difficult day is over, and you are hopeful for a better day ahead.) With thanks to all of you for supporting and following me, wishing you happiness in this season of celebrations, and the gift of laughter in the coming New Year.

©2023 Noreen Braman

Read the rest of the December Solstice Smile Side of Life Newsletter

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Sunday, November 19, 2023









Not what I dreamed of -

the idealized life paths

bathed in golden sunlight

surrounded by the diverse ages,

treading the same road together

close enough to touch, to see, to feel

sharing the growing, the changing,

the Living.


Instead, Distance creeps in

miles, distractions, grudges,

physical, ideological, genealogical,

togetherness a rarity

felt intensely as lifetimes play out

slowly, suddenly, painfully, joyfully

the hourglass runs until

the Loss.


©2023 Noreen Braman

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Quiet Realization



Quiet Realization


Today I wrap myself in the blanket of reality

no longer pushing it off me

allowing myself to embrace the folds

of calming warmth, familiar smell,

without melancholy, without regret.


Breathing in acceptance,

leaving blame behind

making no excuse,

letting the fog of fantasy

lift from my eyes.


©2023 Noreen Braman

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Ancient Ceremony of Love


Hand-in-hand we honored the past,

the days of words given in commitment

the symbol of vows joining our hands,

our hearts, our spirits, our lives

bound together.


Kindred spirits, soul mates, the love of our lives,

traveling together the unknown road

whether smooth and level or rocky and steep,

step by step, side by side, year after year,

Bound together.

Grief, Laughter & the Amygdala


At first, the laughter at my mom's funeral seemed inappropriate. And yet, as friends and relatives shared numerous memories, we found ourselves smiling, and yes, laughing. Sometimes, laughing with tears.

Later, as a member of the Association for Applied & Therapeutic Humor, I learned how important laughter is in the grieving process. In the midst of our pain we search our memories for happy images of our loved ones. "This is how I want to remember them," you might say. You may not realize that your brain, particularly your amygdala, is a warehouse of memories - both of happiness and trauma. Bringing those happy memories forward and reminiscing with friends and family doesn't dishonor your grief. In fact, Rose Kennedy described her grief as never really going away, but that it gets covered with a scar. Happy memories and laughter can help that process.

Several years ago, I brought what would become "Taking a Laughter Break for the Health of It," to a group of parents whose children were suffering from addiction issues. Some of the parents had lost that child, and were intensely grieving.

I led them gently through laughter exercises, giving them permission to laugh for the health of it, to release feel-good hormones, to boost their resilience, and feel safe doing so. After the class, a number of people thanked me and I felt like I had helped them a bit.

However, as I approached my car, one of the moms stopped me. She had tears rolling down her face, and was sobbing. Immediately I felt that I must have done something wrong in the presentation and hadn't helped her feel relief. As I started to apologize, she reached out, grabbed my hand, and said, "No, no! These are happy tears! This is the first time I have laughed since we lost our son. And now I am remembering how funny he was, how he made us laugh. Especially during the holidays. I wasn't going to decorate this year, but I will now, remembering how my son enjoyed it."

Then, we shared happy tears together.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Post Poetry Month 2023




seeing it, feeling it:

slipping, sagging, leaning, lagging -

falling out, calling out:

failing, slowing, trailing, going -

down the icy, frozen path from which none return.

 ©2023 Noreen Braman

Thursday, April 27, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 27, 2023


I’ve missed quite a few NAPOWRIMO days, but today, while at the AATH (Association for Applied & Therapeutic Humor) Conference I was inspired by an opportunity to follow my own advice.


Today’s disaster can be tomorrow’s funny story.

                                                                Noreen Braman



Powerpoint Disaster

There was thunder and lightning in my presentation.

No, really, it was a sound file

Carefully placed and timed, I thought,

To enhance the Laughter Lightning Round.

But Zeus was feeling disrespected

how dare I use lightning for humor

Only he can control its form.

And that is why lightning flashed

and thunder roared

at all the wrong times

in my 4-minute speech

that was rewarded with smiles and laughter,

instant reframing of a disaster

turning immediately into humor.

©2023 Noreen Braman




Wednesday, April 19, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 16, 2023


Another Day to Die

Death lurks in the closet, in the attic, on top of the refrigerator, in a locked case with glass doors.

Death takes the children playing, in the classroom, on the street, sleeping in bed, watching a road race.

Death creeps behind a candy store trip, rains down over city and farm, ambushes from behind a patio door, in the middle of a birthday party, during a chat outside a home.

Death meets children betrayed, abused, stalked, ignored – absorbing breath and closing eyes, taking more killed by man. than nature.

©2023Noreen Braman

Monday, April 17, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 15, 2023

Hungry Birds


Dear Michael,

you warned about the hungry birds

that circle overhead waiting

just waiting

to snatch the fruit from your hand

gleefully flying away

swallowing it whole

then returning to their incessant circling

with unquenched appetites waiting

just waiting.

 ©2023 Noreen Braman


Sunday, April 16, 2023



Present Presence

only this moment is real

all else is memory or anticipation

pulling against the present

to distract, derail, and devalue

the influence of your presence

in this

the only moment that is real.

©2023 Noreen Braman

NANOWRIMO April 13, 2023

 a poem, a poem, my fountain pen for a poem!


Hop, Skip, Jump, Write


Words don’t form straight lines these days, they jump, skip, and hop around,

trying out each possibility

like shattered flecks of an enchanted broom,

rising up in some other place.

Some rudely demanding

shouting their names annoyingly,

others play hide-and-seek, refusing

to appear when summoned.

But when upon a golden page

they stop their motion and align,

In that final act of acceptance - their light worth every minute of chasing.



©2023 Noreen Braman

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 12, 2023


Rhymer Reasons


Actually you rhyme so seldomly

why is that?

And metered form you run from, panicky

no stomach for it?

Trying hard to write in rhymery

but just can’t find a reason.



©2023 Noreen Braman

From a NAPOWRIMO prompt: “write a poem that addresses itself or some aspect of its self”

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 11, 2023


For Love

In the softness of night, listening to your breath,

inhaling your warmth, thoughts of the day return,

gentle touch of reassurance, soft smiles connecting hearts,

hugs sharing strength, flowing between us.

Deep conversations bookended by laughter, silences wrapped in contentment,

the secret meaning of love squared, giving or getting unconditional support,

from love, for love, with love, we live.

©2023 Noreen Braman

Monday, April 10, 2023



Group Snapshot


Breathing in shared experience, breathing out laughter

bathing in endorphins, the secret brew of joy,

hands held high in delight, brings memory to life.


©2023 Noreen Braman



NANOWRIMO April 9, 2023

Hippity Hop

(still a day behind)

Easter Bunny, Easter bunny,

you filled me up with candy

don't take me wrong I like the sweets,

and the basket's really handy.

But if you really like me,

you'd help me out a bit

and write today's poem for me

instead of all this bunny....stuff.

(what? Do you think I'd really dis the rabbit?)

Sunday, April 9, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 8, 2023


Acrostic #2



Unify with




©2023 Noreen Braman

NAPOWRIMO April 7, 2023

April Baby


The distant ram is dim in the sky

now occupying space assigned to Pisces

held fast to March and April despite

galactic shifts in perpetual motion.

What stars twinkled down upon my birth?

do they count because I was ceasarian born

forcing the hand of fate and destiny?

Perhaps there is more influence

from birth in a Wood Goat year

and other birth symbolism yet to explore.


©2023 Noreen Braman

Friday, April 7, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 6, 2023




Spiraling ladders of fate

spinning in every cell

distant cousins to the Fates

dizzying threads to weave and cut.


©2023 Noreen Braman

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

NAPOWRIMO April 5, 2023




Years of lists and goals and plans

plotted more carefully than executed,

reams of paper filled and filed

terabytes of digital words,

photos and artwork and decor and collections,

gathered and saved, with laughter and poetry and books

as armor holding back the future,

when decades shrink to years, and every hour ticks loudly.


©2023 Noreen Braman