Archive for January, 2014

Living with a border collie is like having Spock around 24-7.

“Thank you, human, for giving me this interesting toy. I’ve examined it thoroughly, and I’m impressed by its ball-like structure and shape. Motioning at me is illogical. Bringing it back to you will only make you throw it again. I’m leaving it where it landed. What’s next on our agenda?”

So when he decided to take a nap the other day, I panicked. This was a cry for help. I called the vet on Friday and got him an appointment for yesterday. Over the weekend, he went from that one nap to not being able to keep food down. The vet visit, stool samples, temperature readings, blood panel, even X-rays later, we find out that he has indigestion. He’ll be alright–with the help of meds and a strict feeding regimen this week.  No idea what caused it, but he’s on the mend now.

So I’m monitoring him. And, as a writer, I noticed I’m keeping a pretty serious journal here. I’ve got his feedings, medicine schedule, moods, stomach noises, cheerfulness (which knows no end), water intake, and his bathroom breaks all logged. If all works as expected, he’ll be fine in 10 days and I’ll never have to show it to the vet to try to uncover any further problem. But that doesn’t mean I’m lax about any of it. photo-3

And because he’s a border collie with a brain like a super computer, he figured out right away that I was stalking him and writing things down. So I had to get covert about it, hiding out of sight and smell and being really still when he’s doing his business. In the last 24 hours, I’ve turned dog stalking into something worthy of National Geographic. And this Poop Journal might win me a Nobel Prize.

He also figured out the pattern of returning inside to find a rationed scoop of “GI Restore” dog food waiting for him. Now he asks to go out every couple minutes just to get more food. (I’m on to him because as I stalk him, I see he’s just sniffing around in the yard, then happily returning inside to look for his food dish. I logged that in the journal, too.)

So even though I hope no one ever has to read the journal, I’m being overly diligent about it. It’s these moment when “no one’s watching” that true character is born.


For more of my thoughts, check out Upside Down Kingdom on Amazon.


When describing my crazy life in D.C. to a friend of mine years ago, she remarked how she had no idea how I could live there. That’s pretty much how Upside Down Kingdom got started. book

Living in Washington, D.C., and specifically in Dupont Circle, taught me not to judge others but to accept everybody the way they are, good and bad, and love them for it. I learned to open up, and I learned to let go.

I knew then that I would carry a part of the Circle with me always, that I was forever changed. I wrote it all down, in the hopes that others would feel what I felt.

Upside Down Kingdom is my own love letter to Dupont Circle and the things that I learned there. Pick it up if you get the chance, and drop me a line and let me know what you think.


Day Two of No Talking. When every word hurts a bit, I have a whole lot less of them that need to be said.

Before this scratchy-throat-lost-voice thing, I went out earlier this week to listen to music with a friend of mine. We got some drinks and listened along, and even between songs we were quiet. The bartender kept asking us if we were alright, and we kept assuring her we were. It had been a long day, and we were both chilly and tired. We stayed maybe an hour and then headed on our way. photo-2

But in that hour, I knew that my friend liked his spicy cinnamon cocktail because he sipped at it with a look of contentment. I knew he was holding his mug to warm his hands. I knew when he liked a song because he’d tap along with his fingers against the mug. At one point, he picked up a menu and pointed out typos on it so I’d smile and shake my head. When we were ready to go we looked at each other, then gathered our things and bundled up against the cold. Once outside the restaurant, we both sprinted to the car like little kids.

There’s something to be said for finding those people in life that you can talk to—and those who can read you like a book without your having to say a word.


Upside Down Kingdom is available on Amazon.

That Awesome Quiet

Today I enjoyed a great lunch with one of my very best friends. As I’m losing my voice at the moment, I did more listening than talking. Oh, sure, I did some painful talking. But for the most part, my silence allowed my friend Dawn to fill me in on her most recent work.

photoDawn is the Renaissance Woman. For one thing, she’s got her own belt sander and knows how to use it. For Christmas one year, she gave me a candle that she made. And one time I stopped at her farm as she was finishing up making shampoo. But one of my favorite things about Dawn is that she doesn’t mind silence. If she has nothing to say, she won’t make idle chitchat. She’s content in the quiet.

Many of us aren’t.

We seem to be bombarded with noise and music and chatter these days, as if we’re afraid of our own silence. Why? What do we hear in silence that we need to tune out, to avoid, to drown out?

The awesome quiet can be exactly that: Filling some with dread while others find wonder. “Awe” is tricky like that.

And while hardship, grief, and loneliness can be unavoidable, why should they be  the only things dwelling in our silent places?

What if we could fill them, say, with the voice we thought we lost?

photo-3This picture says something. I just don’t know what. I wrote it in the middle of the night because it was brilliant.

We all do this–reach for a pen in the middle of the night–and I find that interesting. Like you, I remember the moment I wrote this down like it was yesterday. I was staying in the guest room at my friends’ house. Everything was unfamiliar and it took a little while to settle in. When I was nearly asleep, I suddenly figured it all out. Life made sense. My eyes bolted open. I had it. And I knew the only way I’d be able to get to sleep again would be for me to record it for the morning.

The next day I eagerly opened my journal to find the scrawl you see. I was so disappointed. This was at a time in life when I so very much needed answers. I racked my brain trying to remember the life-changing thought I’d had the night before.

And then: I laughed. I let go of the expectations and looked at this paper for what it is and I laughed. It felt good.

I visit this page often. I always try to decipher it. And I always wind up laughing.

So there they are, the answers to life’s mysteries. Just like that.

I wrote a book called Upside Down Kingdom.

Five Tasks from Yoga

photoI collected these pearls, class by class, as they were said by my friend and yoga instructor, Katie Z:

  1. Live in the moment, not the next pose or the next rest. Be fully present in this moment. Give it all.
  2. The rest periods after working hard are essential. Work hard, and then let yourself rest.
  3. You’re not controlling the world right now. Concern yourself with what’s happening on your mat.
  4. Breathe.
  5. Look up. You go where you look, so look up.

Admittedly, I need to do more yoga. But lessons like these bring me back to center. I revisit them when life gets chaotic. You know, daily.

The Life Rooms

This is really messed up. Or maybe it’s another book coming on. Here we go: In a mythical house where all the rooms are based on how you spend your time in life, I’d have multiple writing rooms—for the different genres, of course. My blog room would be small, with oversized furniture. My poetry room would have no furniture, just a floor I could lie on to get outside my usual perspective. My fiction room would have a desk and a giant window, one with changing views. photo

I’d have a travel room (with my own teleportation device), a childhood memory room filled with sunlight and ideas and green carpet, and a room in deep space where I could look out at the stars all around me and feel how big it all is. Books are everywhere, even in the poetry room where they’re stacked on the floor. Paper, too—lots of paper and ink.

Of all these rooms, some populated, some not, the room I don’t have is a comfort zone. I had that room years ago. I spent time in it and I liked it. I let it envelope me and keep me safe. It was hard to leave. But I also felt it become stagnant and overbearing. Once I labeled it that way, I was able to leave it.

I think over time that room just fell away. It’s not there anymore. And I couldn’t call it back if I wanted to. Instead, these other rooms have everything I need. Everything.

I tell you: The lack of that room seems to have made a very big, and very good, difference.

I wrote a book called Upside Down Kingdom.

Drink it Presently

I make it a point to get a new journal before traveling anywhere, and the journal needs to have the right feel. It can’t weigh me down, and it can’t be so small that I can’t comfortably write in it. (I especially like when journals have a place for your pen.) I don’t usually get into the ones with long strings so you can close them up tight. Travel journaling, for me, means scribbling something down at a moment’s notice, not taking the time to wind and rewind. Details, details. But the right journal sets the tone for the

My travel journals become treasure troves of information pieced together with history, conversations, travel tips, my crudely drawn maps and diagrams, and the general feeling that a place gives me. Today I discovered an entire page in my Jordan journal that I devoted to the ritual of Arabic Coffee: The extremely fine grind, fresh roasting, boiling, cardamom, strength, right-to-left presentation, and the sentimentality and bond of offering it “on the house.”

And then suddenly there’s this little gem: “Drink it presently. Don’t set it down. Setting it down is a sign to the host that you need something.”

And just like that, there’s life.

Right in the details.


Medit. Sea 1

This time last Monday it was 30 below zero here in Minnesota, and the wind chill was deadly worse. Today, it’s 30 above–a gorgeous 60-degree difference in the standing temp. Sure, we expect snow tonight and tomorrow, but for now, everyone is enjoying the break from the cold. So much so, in fact, our thoughts naturally bring us to the beach.

In honor of the calm before the next storm, I’m posting one of my very favorite poems, a beachy one:

The Bottle Will Find Me… It Always Does

Question: What if the Chief’s daughter is ugly?
I mean, what if you get
to the beautiful island, they let you live
and surf and eat all the shrimp cocktail you can eat,
you design beautiful thatched-roof huts

With sand floors the likes of which
have never been equaled, and the ocean is always
warm and inviting, no sharks,
just dolphins and waves, waves, waves…
and the beautiful woman you were supposed
to have thrown at you is not so beautiful?

What if she’s the slop cook
at the island’s only burger joint?
Or what if she’s beautiful but
has a mean spirit and a cold heart?

Plans are only plans, my friend,
and you’re walking a fine line today.
Sure, this side of paradise
is not so pretty,
why do you think Fitzy wrote that book?

Alright, I’m letting it go.
I’m done talking you out of this.

on the other hand
dangling in the ocean water,
why the hell not?

surf the ocean, climb the mountain,
grasp the brass ring, leave all this behind you
and only look forward.
Make no arrangements–break free
from the weight of your things, let them all go,
forget the job, the car, the house on the corner lot,
even the piano (you’ll get another one!)—
leave this life all behind you
and seek out the one you were meant to have,
and when you do,
send a postcard or a message
in a bottle
back to me
in some language other than English,
in some language that you make up on the spot,
or just draw me
a crayon drawing
because I already understand

My novel, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. More of my poetry to come soon.

I’ve said for years that the worst day writing is still better than the best day working at anything else. That doesn’t make it easy, of course, but the fact that I have discovered this about myself (mostly by working at all sorts of other jobs, successfully, even), gives me comfort. Of all the paths out there, this one, I get to walk.

photoAt the moment, I’m reading Dr. Daniel Drubach’s Silent Sinners, Silent Saints, which begins with a bang. My friend Patrick tracked down this book and gave it to me after reading it himself. His advice was to read it a chapter at a time, and let it sink in. I was hoping to devour it quickly, so that when I see Daniel at his next musical gig in two weeks, I can proudly tell him I read this book (he read my book, as per our agreement, and I’m behind).

I’ve tried telling him that it’s not personal, I just work a lot, but he gives me a skeptical look. It’s true, but I’m preaching to the choir. Daniel travels, plays music, has written a few books, is rumored to have his own TED Talk coming up, and is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at the local medical outfit down the street, what was it called again? Oh, right, the Mayo Clinic.  Being “busy” in Rochester is completely subjective. This town!

Getting back to the bang, the first full chapter of Silent Saints, Silent Sinners, is called Maria and David, and it is so amazingly good, written in a way to draw you in and quietly drop a bombshell on you.  Reading it, I did have to put the book down to let it sink in, as Patrick said.

Maria and David’s chapter will pull at your heart. Life doesn’t have to be lucrative, powerful, or popular. It just has to be the right life for you. For me, it started with figuring out that the worst day writing was still better than my best day working at anything else.

Silent Sinners, Silent Saints is available on Amazon.

Posted with the permission of my friend, Dr. Daniel Drubach


Jody Brown is a fiction writer, multi-blogger, columnist, poet, dreamer, and traveler.

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