This year, looking back may help us move forward.

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Me, age 3, indulging it the photo with Santa tradition. This was at Macy’s in NYC

In 2018, I recorded a podcast about holiday traditions. It is now 2020, and a pandemic is keeping many of us apart, resulting in changes of plans.

Perhaps this year is the time to look back at those traditions you took for granted or left behind in your box of holiday memories.

As I look back at what I had to say about this in 2018, I invite you to remember holidays gone by, and maybe write about your memories and traditions too.

Next year, we might just get to gather and share those annual rituals again.

December 2018

I wouldn’t be your strategic humor facilitator without telling you that laughter is a big part of my own holiday survival plan. Some of my favorite memories are of a fun, crazy, tradition of the family holiday photo. Most of you think of that as a sometimes high stress battle of fancy clothes, a photo studio, and babies who cry, puke and poop. Even more fun is that photo shoot with Mall Santa. Ahh, good times.

I added a different spin. In fact, it was a different spin each year. The first time I asked my extended family to gather for a holiday theme photo, it included matching green striped sweaters that had cost me exactly $1 each. And they lasted for about a dollar’s worth of time, just long enough to snap the picture. The following year, it was elf hats, then light up red noses, then color coded scarves for each branch of the family tree. The young cousins also took their own version of the shot — piled on the couch, dancing with each other. The last year we took a photo — the year before the weddings and moving to other states began, I asked everyone to hold out a hand, into which I superimposed a spot of light — a star for each of them. These pictures occupy a collage frame on my living room wall. …

A simple pattern, an attainable goal, and a reasonable time frame for completion: the perfect chore to keep her from drowning.

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Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Doing laundry was a good thing. A traditional, household chore with an established pattern of steps. Sort the clothes, load the washer. Add the detergent and fabric softener. When the cycle finished, move the clothes to the dryer. Start over again with the next load. Like the mantra on the shampoo bottle of “lather, rinse and repeat,” doing laundry had a simple pattern, an attainable goal, and a reasonable time frame for completion.

Once the clothes began sloshing around in their hot water wash cycle, she made coffee. More defined steps, more secure routine. As the hot, fragrant liquid began to dribble into the pot, she loaded the dishwasher, plates on the bottom, glasses on the top, silverware in the baskets. Following the prescribed motions and steps required to keep the home running was easy; easy as long as she pushed herself, easy as long as she kept the end results in mind; clean clothes, fresh coffee, sparkling dishes. Little goals, to be sure, but just enough to keep her from crawling back into bed, burying her head in the pillows and sleeping the day away in a restless dream world. …

A story inspired by a writing prompt in Stephen King’ s “On Writing.”

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Dick covered his face with his arms, vainly trying to avoid the fists that pummeled him repeatedly. Oh God, not again, he thought. This can’t be happening again.

As he struggled to twist away from Jane’s fury it was as if he was caught inside a silken bag that softly brushed his face as the punches eventually slowed. He opened his eyes to bright morning sunshine filtering through his bed sheet and a tiny voice in his ear “Daddy, no hiding.”

He pulled the sheet from his face. Jane was gone, she had never been there, and it was just another nightmare. His 3-year old daughter Nell was standing beside the bed, her face bright with morning, her hair a wild halo around her head. Nell pulled the sheet further down the bed, announcing, “Wake up time! …

We must preserve our first person stories

An angry sky fill of dark clouds and smoke.
An angry sky fill of dark clouds and smoke.

We’ve been told we should capture our first person stories, especially for those who have been born since this happened. I remember my parents and their peers talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941. My babysitter, when I was very young, was born on that day. She grew up having a birthday that was always a sad remembrance.

It helps us understand the reality of history when we realize we are only one parent, grandparent, or great grandparent away from significant events that we need to learn from much of what has gone on in the world recently, both good and bad, have roots in this day. this is my first person story. …

How to deal with the Oversharing Monster in your life

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Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Talking about your problems with friends is some of the oldest advice given to people in distress. Women are often credited with being better at this than men, to the point that many bestsellers have been written about the differences between male and female communication styles. (Remember Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus?) Talk therapy has been around a long time. At some point though, the Oversharing Monster may arrive.

In the digital age, “oversharing” and “TMI” have become shorthand for anyone divulging too much personal information, especially over social media. …

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Born on the 4th of July, Mario DeCarolis would have been 95 years old this year. He would be amazed to know his name and legacy live on in the students he mentored and taught, down to music students some of his students would teach, or those who still perform for fun or professionally. For me, I spent some time satisfying my desire to sing with years of community theater with my children, who all spent years celebrating music through dance. …

Thoughts on Independence Day 2020

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Even better, to mend America’s flaw ourselves. ©2020 Noreen Braman

Just re-read Frederick Douglass’ speech about the Fourth of July, written when the country was a mere 76 years old.

He describes what the celebration of
American Independence “meant” to slaves, especially in light of the Fugitive Slave laws. Much of what he talks about can still be heard echoing, starting with actions taken after emancipation: deliberately depriving African Americans of jobs, education, housing — Jim Crow — denial of GI benefits, redlining of neighborhoods … all of which contributed to what is now called white privilege.

Most middle class and poor white people would say they have not been actively complicit in this, feeling generally powerless against big money and big business, (although I can remember feuding neighbors declaring revenge on each other by threatening to sell their homes to black families) however, that does not mean we were not the beneficiaries of the results.

The ongoing harm is not because of some one-time, “ancient history,” that no longer affects current society, but has been reinforced over and over in attitude and policy to the present day. …

Photo of sunlight shining through a window covered with spiderwebs
Photo of sunlight shining through a window covered with spiderwebs
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 practically windowless part of the 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. …

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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. …

My Journey With Laughter — from weapon to survival skill

Text Version revised:

Many of us have somewhere in an old photo album, attic storage box, or just in our memory, an image from our babyhood, and a time when we began demonstrating important early survival skills. Skills such as Sitting Up and Laughing. We all understand the importance of developing the ability for independent movement, but laughter, not so much.

By the time I started doing those things, my father was dead, the cancer that would kill my grandmother was already eating through her body, and my mother was spending her nights listening to Pat Boone’s My Special Angel — crying and wondering what would become of us. Our lives seemed doomed to chaos. It had been my mother’s companion for many years, a small hungry animal demanding to be fed. Over the years, that Chaos would grow into a huge dragon, whose teeth could both smile and bite, and in whose mouth was both fire and laughter. …


Noreen Braman

Noreen Braman is the author of “Treading Water,” and is a keynote speaker & workshop facilitator.

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