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Victory is Mine!

It’s a different world here, sandwiched between a generation of kids who understand complexities in technology faster than I can get toast to burn and the older generation who don’t need it if it’s not already attached to their body. I was born too early to write off technology, and too late to naturally surf the wave. I’ve been Technomitted.

How I got here:

Yes, my elementary school had computers—2 of them, and they took up a computer lab the size of a large closet. Only 2 kids at a time could work on the black and green screens, so we spent more time standing in line listening to the machines make beep sounds more than anything else. By high school, we had a whole room filled with computers where we learned to cut and paste with the scissors and glue icons. Cutting and pasting were “the” computer skills, while the rest of the time, we used the computers to learn how to type.

In college, I figured out enough to upload and download with the first editions of the Internet Explorer and Netscape (remember that one?), and I asked the computer lab kids for help when I got lost in a task. They talked in a gorgeous jargon for which I did not have a key, so I tried to mostly figure things out on my own.

I’ve managed to pick up a few skills, usually the hard way. But over the years, computer programs have become so much more user friendly that even the rest of us finally have a chance.

And of course, I have those friends who read and write computer languages, and whose resumes are a page-long series of acronyms, but when I ask for help they tell me, “That’s not what I do. It’s a different language.” Indeed.

But today is my day. Drumroll, please.

The Victory part:

victory postAfter about a dozen tutorial videos and a lengthy amount of time (entirely too long to admit, but you blogfans will recall I’ve been lamenting about this for shamefully too long), I have finally been successful in adding a slideshow to my website. [At this point, you are in one of two camps. You either hear cymbals crash followed by anticipation of my acceptance speech, or you hear the cymbals followed by crickets chirping because this is nothing to you. Camp Two, we’ve brought in Friedrich Nietzsche who reminds us, “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”]

Now, everybody, back to Camp One for my speech:

Thank you, thank you! For this Generation Technomitted girl, this is a major victory, one that proves we can achieve our goals even if we jump into a task well out of our league. I did not take down the entire website (for too long). I made a backup copy of all the header code so I could fix it if (when) it crashed. And the biggest key of all, I lucked into a 3-minute video done by a kid apologizing for his English skills who zipped through where the code was hiding faster and better than the 20-minute videos I’d been watching all summer. Thank you, JellePress! And thank you, family, friends, and blogfans for your love and encouragement. This one’s for you!

Celebrate every victory, big and small.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

In fourth grade, we had to do these essay questions at the end of every health lesson. I remember them well because I couldn’t stand how they were worded. They’d ask you a question, something thought-provoking without a specific answer, like, “Do you think occasionally eating ice cream for dinner is a good idea?” (Yes!) And then, they’d ask the follow-up: “Why do you think as you do?” I always thought the follow-up question was awful. Why not just ask, “Why?” Simple. Pure.

answers postI made up a little song for “Why do you think as you do,” starting low on the scale, each word getting a higher note until you hit “think,” which is the highest, then back down the scale again lower and lower with “as you do.” Silly, but it made me happy.

And I remember one actual question, and only one, that was asked. It went something like, “The local T-Ball team needs new uniforms, and the local cigarette company is willing to donate the uniforms and a new scoreboard plus anything else the team needs for free, so long as the company’s logo can be put on the uniforms and scoreboard. Do you think the team should take the cigarette company’s offer? Why do you think as you do?” (You did the ditty, didn’t you? I did.)

As a fourth grader, I didn’t really understand this question. My initial answer was that the team should go for the deal. They didn’t have the money, anyhow. And kids weren’t going to take up cigarette smoking just because it was on their uniforms. Eventually I figured adults wouldn’t like it, the non-smokers at least, so I wrote that into my essay.

But this question bothered me, because I could see both sides. I had discovered early in the school year that the answers to the lesson questions were listed in the back of the book. I will admit that with one lesson, I took the fast track and just copied the answers. The following day in class, we reviewed the lesson, and I had no idea what it was about. It was a disservice to myself that I never repeated. But I did like to double-check my answers with the back of the book. Nothing wrong with learning the lesson and ensuring that I got it right, I thought. For essay questions, the back of the book gave pointers to think about before answering. For this one, it portrayed a strong moral stance against the cigarette company and its motives. It even offered solutions like a bake sale to pay for uniforms instead.

Flash forward 30 years to yesterday, when I read an online comment about how some NFL players donate to charities, so the NFL should allow them to continue to make money regardless of their actions because of the good their donations do. Suddenly the health book question from fourth grade popped into my mind, and this time I didn’t just see the issue, I understood it, and with passion.

Money is the fast track to getting results, which can actually be a disservice to who we are. If you don’t stand for something, you sit down for everything.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Consequences postMovin’ and a groovin’ in this world, you start to meet a little bit of everybody.

I spent 10 years living in Rochester, Minnesota, the home of the Mayo Clinic, and was friends with many “Mother Mayo” employees, from surgeons, nurses, physical therapists, and the support staff that keep the Mayo system flowing. When these people go out for a night and have a drink or two, they make sure to call a cab. They don’t leave anything to chance because what is at stake is too great. Not only have they dealt with the physical effects firsthand in the ER, but they also saw the emotional and psychological devastation for the survivors. Professionally, a drunken crash means the end of a career. And the end of a career means the end of a paycheck.

Similarly, when they travel in the U.S. or in foreign countries, they follow the rules of the house. They don’t act up or cause a scene.

I have gun-toting friends who’ve traveled with their firearms. They make sure to know the laws where they’re going and they follow those laws.

Sure, not all of us are Annie Oakley surgeons. What about teachers? We can all relate to teachers, right? The teachers I know follow similar rules of public decency because their careers are at stake. They’re not on Facebook sharing personal information. In fact, they’re not on Facebook at all. Caught with an illegal substance, their teaching license can be suspended or revoked altogether, preventing them from teaching here, there, and everywhere. They’re not made a news sensation and allowed back to work the next day. They deal with consequences.

Even in the restaurant world, employee manuals have a section on personal hygiene, similar to: “Please come to work with a clean uniform, having showered, and with hair washed and teeth brushed or you will be sent home to do so. You will not clock in, wait on guests, or make money until you are presentable.” It’s in writing, because for some, it needs to be spelled out, with the consequences. Imagine not having that standard. Would you want to eat at that restaurant?

So the question remains: Why do some people feel they’re above the law?

We’ve all seen the news reports of elected officials caught with prostitutes or drugs or both, or teachers partying with their students, or U.S. doctors stealing patients’ drugs. These people seem to have forgotten, or perhaps they never fully realized in the first place, that a great career is a privilege, one that can be taken away along with its money-making ability. Long gone are the days of “what you do on your own time is your own business.” You can’t get drunk on your own time and then show up to drive the school bus.

If our doctors, teachers, elected officials, etc., need to follow the rules of proper conduct, why not our athletes, our actors?

Ours is a society that allows for redemption. That’s a humbling and empowering concept. We don’t grow beyond needing consequences. We grow because of them.

Let us spell them out. And hold ourselves, and each other, to the higher standard.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler who waited tables in five U.S. states along the way. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Crackalacka

Crackalacka

Crackalacka

You know just why I shed a tear,
Impassioned by the sight
When fireworks light up the sky
All red and blue and white?
And they say Boom Boom Crackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Crackalacka

I never meant to stay that long
Then something in me spoke
That day, the plane, the Pentagon
When sleeping giants woke
And they said Boom Boom Jackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Jackalacka

I buy a ticket for a plane
To meet all that I can
I walk up high and walk down low
So I can learn the plan
My feet go Boom Boom Shackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Shackalacka

Some laugh at me, others with me
I start to like the jest
Together we find trust again
I travel on my quest
Laughter goes Boom Boom Hackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Hackalacka

Now decades after WWII
The questions still remain
The Concentration Camp is near
I hop a Dachau train
The train goes Boom Boom Trackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Trackalacka

Jerusalem, I hold my ground
As gunshots break the night
Below the Kidron Valley looms
I see and smell this fight
And it goes Boom Boom Ackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Ackalacka

Yet something in the soil here
Does get the soul to stir
Like drumbeats in the ground itself
That cause the lines to blur
The drum goes Boom Boom Rackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Rackalacka

I understand now what I sought
How heart and war reside
The passion rages like a storm
When hot and cold collide
The storm goes Boom Boom Crackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Crackalacka

Plane touches down, I’m home at last
I stop then on a dime
The world is calling me again
The trumpet says it’s time
Trumpet goes Boom Boom Brackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Brackalacka

It’s more than seeing everything
Until the die is cast
When I’ve felt all I need to feel
My heart will pound its last
The heart goes Boom Boom Sprackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Sprackalacka

Boom Boom Sprackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Sprackalacka

 

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

The Path to Supernatural

PathSome people are naturals. Everything they touch turns to gold. They walk into a situation, take charge, and without breaking a sweat, everything turns up roses. When they swing into action, they nail it every time. Sure, behind every beautiful feat, catch, save, poem, and twirl is countless hours of practice and repetition. That’s not the path I’m walking today. We’re going the other direction.

I am not a natural. My first effort is typically messy, bungling, and an opportunity to learn what not to do for next time. Whether I’m in a kitchen, a classroom, on a stage, or sitting down with a pen and paper, I make a mess. And then I work at the mess.

This used to bother me in life. I wanted to appear polished, shiny, unwrinkled, knowledgeable, poised, and graceful, straight out of the gate. I wanted to land on my feet and catch all the flying objects and balance them with one hand in a tall stack while angels sang and the sun emerged from behind the clouds. I’m not asking for the moon, here.

But I have learned that my way has some advantages. For one thing, it’s funny. Humor has a wonderful way of bringing people together. Nine times out of ten, it’s not the end of the world, so have a chuckle, lower your blood pressure a little, and take hold of the fresh perspective that comes from laughter. Secondly, messing up is human. That’s relatable. And that leads us to the third advantage: What we’ll do about it.

Making a mess is an opportunity to show your stuff in admitting it’s yours, containing it, cleaning it up, finding a new way of doing so, and even in learning to ask for help when you need it. The best on-the-job training comes on the day when everything falls apart and you have to think on your feet to set it all right again. This is what separates the gutsy from the faint-hearted. It’s what makes heroes out of us ordinary folk.

Over time, I’ve learned that my initial disasters can give way to equally large [and eventual] successes. For the casual onlooker, the initial stage looks like a colossal failure. And that’s just what I need.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

One Man’s Junk

Post on JunkI volunteer at a local organization, one that I remember from my childhood to be fun, inviting, and a great place to learn. Nerds remember places of higher knowledge with great fondness and appreciation.

But this year, there’s a load of junk in the classrooms. It’s everywhere you look. It’s stuffed in closets and hallways, too. It makes the building look unused, even abandoned. I asked what it was doing there, everywhere, and was told that it’s for the Trash and Treasure sale, which has been pushed back this year by at least a month. I needed a safe place to house a classroom and this junk was not helping. It also wasn’t helping with the overall look and feel of the building. This was not the inviting learning center I once knew it to be.

Yet, like many volunteer organizations, this one is struggling through a financial lull. The Trash and Treasure sale, if it performs the way it has in years past (yes, years past this junk has been there!), then it should be a greatly needed financial boon. Unsold myself, I still looked upon this junk as an eyesore, one that was keeping people from wanting to hang out in the building. In frustration, I thought if I had the funds, I’d give heavily to this organization, and I’d clean out all this junk and fix the place up. It would be inviting again.

And that’s when it occurred to me that, again, all things boil down to money. That thought made me sadder than looking at the junk. All paths for improvement travel through moneytown at one point or another. Money is the fast track to fixing things up and getting them in order. But those same paths meander for a reason: there are many more ways than money. Especially when you don’t have it, money can’t be the only solution. I took another look at this junk, at the volumes of it, and I asked the question, “Does this sale bring in lots of people?”

I was told that yes, people line up around the block and wait for hours to get in for the sale.

That’s a lot of people, who, if they like what they see as far as the building and the organization is concerned, may want to join in. In a split second, the junk went from being an eyesore to being an opportunity. I even heard myself say, “I can’t believe we only have a month before the sale!”

I rallied a team, and we thought through wall decorations, brochures to hand out, and charts and pictures of our activities for Trash and Treasure buyers to look at while they’re in line.

I’d been thinking about this all wrong. Fighting the junk was a losing battle. I’m humbled to realize how close-minded I was. Creating an open mind to see the possibilities was the solution.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

weirdThis week, a woman approached me and said something like, “Well, I see you got your way.” She meant that I moved and disorganized her things in order to make space for myself. I didn’t know any of that at the time because I hadn’t moved her things, someone else had. And instead of asking her what she was talking about, I made the decision to just go with it, so I smiled and nodded. (Incidentally, don’t do that.) To this she said, “That disturbs me.” That’s when a voice in my head yelled, “Stop smiling! Stop smiling!”

Wrong human emotion. It took a few minutes to hash out the situation, and I’m pretty sure this lady didn’t believe me and didn’t much care.

As a writer, a communicator, I dislike being misunderstood in any capacity. It bothers me. And I have to get over that, once and for all. So to anyone who’s ever summed up a person or situation based on a word, phrase, reaction, or hearsay, I offer this: Be quick to grant second chances. Humans not only make mistakes (in reactions and in judgements), but they also change.

Perhaps we can’t all be understood all the time, and perhaps that makes us seem weird. But one person’s weird is another’s wonderful.

My introvert friend once told me that he knew he was different growing up, and that, for many years he considered himself weird. I asked him this week how to handle this weird, misunderstood feeling.

“Welcome to my world,” he said. It wasn’t a solution. It was a welcome.

“When did you stop thinking you were weird?” I asked.

“I didn’t,” he said. “One day, I just decided that weird was okay.” And that was that.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

We the People, on September 11

We the People, Sept 11In 1787, the Constitution was written. We became “We the People.”

And We the People have been fighting wars all ever since. School kids in America learn about possibly 10% of these wars, but U.S. history is comprised of dozens and dozens of wars, campaigns, and rebellions. When one ends, another begins.

We the People fight for land, liberty, equality, and fight against injustice of any kind.

We the People win, We the People lose, We the People withdraw. We the People typically live in relative peace, thanks to our own who fight these wars far from U.S. soil.

We the People attack. And We the People have been attacked.

We the People have always seen ourselves as different, perhaps touched, in a way, able to think for ourselves and willing to act on our own or another’s behalf. Right or wrong, it’s become the American Way. It makes us unpopular. But We the People don’t give up.

We’re a country, after all, that began with a rebellion.

In 1776, the 13 American colonies broke away from the British Empire, the colonists declared their independence, and sought the chance to rule themselves, the ability to make their own decisions, and the opportunity to build and thrive without the heavy burden of taxation without representation.

They wanted a say in their own lives, and they rebelled to get it. And whether you can trace your ancestry back to those founding fathers or you just arrived in America yesterday, you need to know about this spirit of rebellion and the fire that courses through our veins to lift up this land of the free and home of the brave.

Despite the atrocity and the infamy of today, September 11 also stands for hope, solidarity, and rebirth, because that’s what America is and always has been. Today we mourn our fallen, and we remember the outright courage of our own rebellious heroes who rushed into burning buildings and who downed their hijacked plane, these heroes who, to quote Lincoln, gave their lives that that nation might live.

It’s a powerful gift, this life. A gift we dare not forget.

~Jody Brown was working in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. Her personal story of that day can be found in her debut novel, Upside Down Kingdom.

The Power of Words

wordsI get so giddy about finding words unknown to me. But lately, I’ve added few new words to my vocabulary, having discovered them in reading, words like Eschatology (the end times) and Atavistic (ancient/ancestral).

Less about any vast vocabulary I may have and more about the notion that we use the same words over and over again, I rarely come across words I don’t know anymore.

Even SEO (internet search engine optimization) nods to the Flesch-Kincaid readability levels, with a formula of syllables per word that gives high scores for online writing geared toward the 11-year-old student level. Yes, 11-year old. What’s happened to us?

Little kids gravitate toward words. They especially gravitate toward “bad” words, and I think this is because they hear the same kinds of words again and again, and when a “bad” word slips in front of them, they latch on to the newness. I remember a conversation with my mom when I was little, whispering a “bad” word to her that I’d heard somewhere. I knew enough to whisper it, to give it reverence in a way, because I had no idea what it meant. Instead of her usual encouraging self, my mom got mad when she heard the word I whispered. I was forbidden to say it. I obeyed. And I marveled at the power of that mysterious word. (I still marvel.)

On the one hand, we’re a world of communicators who need to be able to understand one another. On the other, we’re a world of learners who have an obligation to impart what we know and build one another up. One could certainly argue that point, but we’re all sharing this planet together, so, shall we share it with fools or with comrades? (Incidentally, look at how beautifully the French spell the word camaraderie, the root for our English comrades. You can almost hear the twang in the English spelling. I find that funny.)

Certainly if we have to define everything we say, we’re doing it wrong. Bogging down is not communicating. But pandering to the 11-year-old learning level is a giant step backward, in my opinion, especially in this era where we have fingertip ability to find definitions and can easily expand our knowledge of the world around us through words and concepts. Besides, with proper context, lesser known words and phrases make perfect sense anyway.

Thus I say: don’t sit on your words. Pull them from your back pocket and toss them into circulation. It’s time to indulge, once again, in the power of well-chosen words.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

A Writer’s Day

Day's quotesForgive me. This blog has been in my pocket all day. We’ll see how much I can make out…

In this writer brain, poetry and prose pop into mind to get me through the day, as opposed to the music mantras that don’t come as often to me.

This morning, I was looking uphill at the mountain of things I needed to get done this day. (Some days feel like a battle.) And I started thinking, [S]he’ll remember with advantages what feats [s]he did that day… We few, we happy few… –Shakespeare’s Henry V

After that, what else could I do? I dove into the writing. But soon enough, I had to go punch my timecard, away from the writing desk. On my way, I got stuck in some traffic, and I thought about all the things waiting back home for me to write them. As ideas popped into my head—some of them overwhelming in their demand on my bitty time, I thought them through and decided they were important enough that I would find the time. And I thought, Hop into the boat, Richard Parker. That’s not a direct quote from Life of Pi, just something I say to myself when I’ve just taken on more than I think I can handle.

In the afternoon, I found myself treading the same path, over and over again. And I thought of myself as a caged animal, dreaming of freedom, dreaming of the world. –Upside Down Kingdom

As the day turned into night, I wondered why on earth I was still there, not at my writing desk doing what I love. And I thought, The world was always yours; you would not take it. –Archibald MacLeish (I love this quote because it makes me think the world is possible, if only I change my thinking a bit.)

On the way home, I mentally tried to walk myself through the code issue on my website. (Anyone want to add a slideshow for me?) I imagined my lack of understanding as a series of doors slamming shut around me. And then I thought, You were not given a spirit of timidity, but one of power. –2 Timothy 1:9

That quote never fails to bolster my hopes.

And finally, back home again to my work, my love, my solace, I type and think about all the things I’ll write tomorrow, from Zombie Sonnets (Zombies at the Vineyard!) to a chase scene for John Baker to scrutinizing my outline for my next book of historical fiction.

I sit here, typing, looking back at my day and thinking about Our Town. Yes, Our Town. Emily asks the question, Does anyone ever realize life as they live it? Every minute?

The answer comes: The saints and poets maybe, they do some.  And I want to thank Thornton Wilder for putting that into words.

Tomorrow, my words and I will spend a lot more time together. Then again, perhaps tomorrow is too far away to wait. Let’s get to it.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

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