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book-from-dawn2.jpgAt one particular restaurant where I worked, I was made a trainer for all the new hires. I designed a training schedule, and I taught the first two shifts. After that, someone else from the staff would train in the new person, so that a completely different perspective could be gained. Everyone has their own technique, their own strengths, so to train only with me was to miss out on that, in my opinion.

Most trainees made it through. Others didn’t make the cut. It was fairly fine dining, and not the easiest of jobs to pick up. It required a lot of mental and physical work, and there was a lot of money in it. There really are people suited to helping others in a serving capacity, and people who are not cut out for it. To each his own, truly.

I tried to give every candidate my all. I felt bad when the bosses and staff felt that someone wasn’t going to make it, but I took it as a sign that that person was meant for better. I remember once (and once only) when the permanent staff scoffed that a particular trainee couldn’t get the hang of it. I’d spent the time with that trainee; I knew her better than anyone. So I carefully pointed out, “She came to us to decide if she should keep her day job and add in table-waiting or if she should stop everything and go to medical school.” [It might have been law school or nursing school or writer school. Anyway, it was tough.] “This job proved to her that she should go to school. Not everybody can do what you do. Be proud that you helped her, but not because she couldn’t ‘hack it’ at this job. The next time you need a doctor (or lawyer, nurse, or writer), the tables will be turned.”

My staff shut up real quick.

~
My first book is an inside perspective on waiting tables. It’s called Upside Down Kingdom, and it’s available on Amazon.

Plotting

photo-2We used to drive to camp when I was younger, driving three hours through small towns in western Pennsylvania until we got to the little cabin my Grandpap built.

And the thing was, as we drove through those little towns, I’d imagine myself living there, sitting in those yards, riding my bike in on those streets, watching cartoons from those living rooms. I’d look in the windows of the houses for glimpses of what the owners saw every day.

In truth, I’ve never stopped doing that. Everywhere I go, I look around and think, “Hmm, would I like to live here?” And I think it through, adding in all the plot details needed for me to make a life in that exact spot.

Life is still full of possibilities. I plot on.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.  I’m working on the second.

Out of the Drawer

001Did you ever see a picture of yourself and think, “Ugh. Is that what I look like?” only to come across the same photo a year later to think, “Man! I wish I still looked like that!”

I’m having that moment, and laughing at myself.

Conversely, check out these before and after photos of Ralph the Sock Monkey. It’s a drastic change: double arm blowouts, a tail bandaged with tape, his hat re-stitched…photo

But when I think about his travels to four countries and seven U.S. states, I realize that Ralph looks pretty good. His smile hasn’t changed a bit.

You get a little wear and tear when you don’t stay home in a drawer. Ralph has earned every one of his blowouts. And so have I.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

New Digs

photo-2I’m busy setting up a temporary office in a basement room that’s currently being used as storage space. I jostled things around, managed to put my desk together in front of a window, and got the wireless printer working.

One truly can write from anywhere. And really, the writer brain doesn’t stop writing, regardless of where the body takes it.

Change is in the air once again. It’s not the beach, but then, I might actually get some work done this way…

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’m working on the second.

photoWhen I first bought my house and moved in, it was too quiet. I needed to keep a TV on so I could stand it. But I told myself, “I want to be comfortable here.”

By the time I sold it, I could sit quietly in there for hours on end, in perfect peace.

The difference was that I’d filled the house with pictures and keepsakes and memories of the life events that happened while I lived there. I set out to have a happy home; what I got was a happy life that I could take with me everywhere.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Down to One

photo-4I rolled into town, and just when I started feeling overwhelmed at all the post-moving tasks I needed to accomplish, I made a phone call. I’d been out driving around, checking out the brand new storage units in town, so I called the number on the sign. My call was directed to the business voicemail of an old high school classmate. I think my message went something like, “Seriously? Is that you? This is Jody Brown. I’m back in town and I need a storage unit. Call me up.”

Five minutes later, I got a call back that went, “Are you the Jody Brown who went to Knoch? We were in the same class! You won’t believe this, but I’m playing a golf tournament with some others from our class…”

I yelled, “Hi, everyone!” into the phone.

I overhear my classmate telling them, “It’s Jody Brown from Knoch! She’s back in town. She says hi.”

I hear various hellos and chatter.

“Listen,” my classmate says, “I just wanted you to know I got your call. Let’s meet tomorrow and we’ll get you a storage unit.”

We met the next day, signed some papers, he caught me up on half of our class, and he even agreed to help me unload my crates because, he said, “I remember that you were nice in high school. Some people weren’t, but you were always nice.”

Really? This solved a very big dilemma for me. The only person I knew with time on her hands enough to help me unload the crates was my sister, and she kinda just gave birth, so she was out. Being nice 20 years ago helped me tremendously this week.

As I was leaving, he said, “Do you like sushi? We’ll get some people together and we’ll all go. There’s actually a place nearby that’s really good.”

Life can turn on a dime. I’d made one phone call, and now could complete my interstate move, I knew who was in town, and I’d learned where the sushi’s good. Sometimes all you need is that one person to help the pieces fall into place for you, or that one phone call to set the stuck wheels into motion. It reminded me of places I’ve worked over the years, when one or two people would simultaneously get promoted or leave the job and whispers would start that the place was going to fall apart in their absence. Most times, all it took was for the boss to hire that one right person who would make the workplace fun, exciting, and feel like home again. One person can do all that; can change the circumstances and the outlook for the many.

Perhaps today, that one person is you.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

From Dock to Storage

I spent the day on the road, driving my crates from the shipping dock north of Pittsburgh to my new  storage unit out in the country–roughly 25 miles each way. With four crates, I logged 12+ hours on the same two roads today, and I now know every inch of those roads, every hiding place of the speed trap police in their little SUV wagons, every driver who was naughty and who was nice, and I know that Shaler Township smells like Frankenberry cereal in the afternoon–thank you for that, by the way. And I know that the family restaurant northbound in Allison Park didn’t need a new dishwasher this afternoon; no, not until this evening. I also know where to go for my indoor garden tools, for my outdoor pond experience, and for my dentistry in the log cabin buildings with the spacious parking lot. I also know where all the road construction is, and especially the construction that involves all traffic condensing to one lane even though there are only cones and no actual construction happening… I saw innumerable signs of road closings and tar and chipping that is to happen starting tomorrow on all two of the roads I needed to travel from dock to storage.
I also know that it took great coordination on the part of many people, from shippers to movers to helpers to a major lack of accidents and near-misses these last 300 miles for me to get my trinkets and treasures from around the world to a location five minutes up the street from me, and I’m thankful.
To all of the miracles, great and small, that happened today:  You’re the reason for it all! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

~
Follow the blog! And check out my first book, Upside Down Kingdom, on Amazon.

 

This is one of my favorite conversations from Upside Down Kingdom:

“What is your thesis about?” I asked.

Francesca refreshed our wine and sat down at the table. “Basically, it is about how we set our goals and how we learn, or not, to achieve them, specifically in language acquisition, but it includes life goals as well.” She gestured with her hands in front of her, as if presenting the information to me or trying to carry a tray, then she curled her fingers up, and swirled her hands in circles. “You see, we are all created in the image of God. Therefore, we are all little gods.” That brought a smile from me, but she kept talking. “Ah,” the first finger up in the air, “but let’s admit it, we are blessed. And keeping with that, we have been given our own answers. Think about yourself, do you agree?”

“I suppose,” I thought. “Well, for me,” I said slowly, “Any time I’ve known what I needed to do, the problem is the ‘how to do it’ part. It feels like I’m locked behind a door that I can’t open.”

bookAt this, Francesca got very excited. She picked up a blue booklet on the table and leafed through it, turning to a page with a sketch of a man unlocking a door with a skeleton key, with words written in Italian above it: “It’s not the key, it’s the way your turn it in the lock,” she translated. “Being little gods, I believe we already have our own key, and we’re wasting time searching for the keys to unlock the answers. Have faith. The key is right there, just…” she gestured this, “Turn it.”

Live like little gods. Turn our own keys. I was pretty sure my own answers were hiding from me. But maybe Francesca’s way was worth a shot.

~
Check out the rest of the book on Amazon.

photo-3This hatches many thoughts:

  • It’s all fun and games until there’s a dinosaur in your sink.
  • A dirty dinosaur is a happy dinosaur.
  • It’s a rough day when you have to wash your dishes and your dinosaur.
  • Life hands you only as much as you can handle. Today, I got a dinosaur in my sink.
  •  “There’s a dinosaur in your son’s sink.”
    “He’s not much of a housekeeper,” his mother says.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

Synapses

photo-2My thoughts are circling today, making connections where previously there were none. It’s a good sign: The mind is getting itself ready to write another book.

Here’s the last hour of my brain. It began with peeling eggs.

When I was little, I saw a TV show about a kid learning to peel hard-boiled eggs. It was an Easter special. The kid is told that to peel the egg in one try, with one long strand of shell, is to be an expert. Of course the kid peels his very first Easter egg in one fell swoop, and delightfully says, “Look, I’m an expert.”

I think of that show every time I peel eggs. And today I finally did it, peeled the shell from an egg in one fell swoop. In fact, I managed it three times.

Do I feel like an expert? Nope. Oh, I’m pleased with myself, certainly.

But there are skills that take decades and decades of practice and failure, trial and error, and lots of getting back up on that horse for one more try. These are the moments, like when a gymnast falls, unhurt, and gets back up to power through the move one more time in order to scare the fright away, these moments prove to you who you are and what you can mentally do.

I often think of Psyche, from Greek mythology, and the near-hopeless tasks she must perform with patience and deliberateness in order to win back her love. (Incidentally, I think we need to coin “deliberance” as a word. It makes that last sentence simply flow.) Psyche, who is always on task, proves her worth.

Today: peeling eggs, relating it to Greek mythology, and making up words. Tomorrow: I’m limitless. It’s time to get back up and write this book.

~
In the meantime, my first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

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