Archive for July, 2014


Marking the Miles, July

JulyAnother month of 2014 has passed, and with it, 31 more entries for this daily blogging experiment that I’ve started referring to as “Project365.”

You were here with me when I set foot back in my home state of Pennsylvania this month, as I learned great lessons from my 3-year-old nephew, as I set up my office, and you’re here in this ongoing attempt to organize myself in my new surroundings as I write, write, write. I’m glad we did this together. Thank you for being here!

Here are the behind-the-scenes that I see in the writing:

I see somebody suddenly back in the place of her childhood, experiencing–not so much nostalgia, as–a reawakening of dreams. I see me encouraging myself to explore imagination, to write about it, and not to lose sight of hope. Unbeknownst to you, some major grant funding fell through for me late this month, vaulting me into a series of choices, changes, and the need to dig deep. I may even launch a Kickstarter, as this month’s blog work has strengthened the resolve in me to write, not just one of my current Writing Projects, but all of them. Phew! Now that the elephant’s in the room, look again at my July writings—do you see the nuances? I see them in Spotting Potter, Metalhead, Pointing the Way, Containment, Old School Gaming, and Synapses.

My favorite writings this month were Into the Fray, Acts of Giants, Down to One, Zombie Sonnet #1, Travel Song, and yesterday’s A Waitress’ Guide to Happy.

A note on Zombie Sonnet #1: Originally written in April this year, it took sitting down this month and dismantling the piece–ripping out a few choice lines–in order to rewrite and truly complete it. All of that because, though finished, I wasn’t proud of it. That’s a writing red flag. It’s good to remember that a lot of writing is the phoenix rising from the ashes. To get there, you have to be willing to face the flame.

Tomorrow, August begins. Let’s see what this month brings, shall we? I’ll see you here.

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

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Dealing pic 1What do you do when you walk into work to find a known-to-be-difficult person is now on your team? Or a new neighbor that can’t get along with anyone? It happens to the best of us. So what do we do?

Get angry? Get dramatic? Complain to anyone who’ll listen, especially on social media?

These are all fine solutions—for perpetuating the situation. But for real resolution, the first thing to do is to let go of the past.

What’s Past is Past
We can’t change the past, fix it, or go back to live in it again, so there’s no point in holding on to it so tightly. The only constant is change. To quote the all-too-creepy Borg from Star Trek, “Resistance is futile.”

What can be done is a concerted effort to make today better, not just personally but for everyone around. The future can be just as blissful as the past, but that won’t happen by complaining about it, and it won’t happen overnight.

The Easy Road
The next thing to do is change the way you think. Why you? Because changing someone else is entirely too difficult. You’re actually taking the easy way out this time.

In addition to “nine-to-five” employment, I’ve moonlighted as a waitress in five U.S. states spanning a period of approximately 18 years. That’s a lot of coworker personalities, and innumerable hungry guests. (Aside: Hungry people can be temperamental.) When faced with a crazy coworker or a guest who walks in grumpy, the first thing I used to notice was that I had nothing in common with this other person, and I simply couldn’t agree with their line of thinking. Then I swallowed my pride, put myself in their shoes, and always found a way to relate. Always. And that’s because the biggest obstacle was pride, and that was in me and I change it. (Incidentally, it made me very good at caring for hungry people.)

Look for Something to Like
When you start looking for things to like in someone else, it gets easier and easier to find things. I saw this positivity in action when I worked a food booth at a fair. Summer after summer, the owner of the company and I would work together, side by side, and all day long I could overhear her talking to herself as she cooked and people-watched, saying things like, “Oh, I love her shoes… I want that shirt… Great haircut…” When one of those people came up to buy from us, she’d tell them her compliment. She never held back. She meant what she said, and the person she complimented would leave our booth different–taller, in a way. Without even trying, because it was simply in her nature, the business owner managed to get the “good” flowing, and it kept flowing. (Think about it: When complimented, you typically look for an opportunity to pay it forward.)

Simple Works
It sounds simple and even obvious, and it is. And that’s why it works. With a little practice, in very quick time thought patterns start changing. Negativity won’t be the first thing on your mind and out of your mouth. Instead of thinking to yourself, “What’s his problem?” and “Who does she think she is?” you find you’re actually thinking, “I like that person’s style,” and “I’m going to ask her what workout she does to get legs like that.”

This approach has helped me strike up friendships with people the complete opposite of me who have become amazing and good friends. It’s helped me with work relationships, helped me defend coworkers during misunderstandings, and it’s helped me be a much happier person.

Found in Translation
These practices translate into other avenues: When faced with adversity, not getting the job/raise/promotion/funding/etc., your first focus is on what new opportunity the loss creates, not the loss itself.

photo-2

Elephants by artist Bela Roongta

Is everything sunshine and roses? No. Do you have to like everybody? No. But putting these things into practice, you’ll find that less and less will bother you about other people, so that when something big does happen in life, you’ll have the focus to handle it.

We’re all human. And we’re all in this together.

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

Red Light, Green Light

photo-2Well! I spent the entire day updating the language on my website and blog so they are more SEO-compliant. Special thanks to the Plug-In, Yoast SEO, for your brilliant downloaded help–otherwise everything would be, well, as it was yesterday.

Now, yesterday was great, but today, I have all these little green lights telling me that I’m okay. There’s something programmed into us that makes green lights so soothing. Now that I think about it, I basically spent the day playing the adult version of Red Light, Green Light with computer language.

I have accomplished greatness. And yet, I feel like I’ve made no forward progress. Why does required maintenance feel like such a challenge in patience? I’m ready to go, go, go, and I’m told instead to, “Sit still. One more second. Wait for it. There. After all that, now you’re finally on par.”

I’m examining many of these issues in my Maintenance Poems, a series of poetry about our working lives and how we get through our “daily grind” in order to maintain. (See my newly updated link for more projects on my writing desk.)

You know me by now; of course I found a way to connect my daily struggle to a poetic endeavor. Finding joy in the mundane, that’s me. And, truth be told, I enjoyed re-arranging all those words today. You know I did.

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

Containment

photoWe all have pictures in our heads as to what we’re supposed to do, what everyone else is doing, and how we measure up with the status quo. By these pictures, we know what success looks like, and how it’s marked. But there are other pictures in there, too: Dreams, plans, ideas–the things that push boundaries, open locked doors, and tell us we can.

Again and again we’re asked to let go of one set of pictures in order to get through the week or the month or the pay period. Life takes focus, after all. That’s one way to look at it.

Another way is to say: Maybe we’re given opportunities to let go of the pictures holding back our potential, the very things that are closing those doors in the first place. Life takes heart and guts, and a full measure, and sometimes, while you’re busy leaping, it gives you the song.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. While you’re there, check out my new Amazon author page.

Travel Song

I’m a nervous flyer, a nervous highway passenger, and don’t get me started on busses (and especially hayrides), and yet, I love to travel. So I travel anyway. About a decade ago, my sister and I devised a mantra for traveling that simply goes: Be brave, be brave! It’s sung to a sort-of marching cadence, with the accent on the “be.” It makes me smile.

photo-5At my parents’ house this morning, over the lip of my teacup, I saw a little silver ring on the kitchen counter in front of me. My Dad had found it on his early morning expedition (treasure hunting, metal detector, long story). The outside of the ring is inscribed, “Love life.” But the inside also has an inscription. I turned it around in my fingers and found that it says, “Be brave.”

(If it’s yours, please let me know. My Dad is big on returning found jewelry.)

As for me, I took it as a sign.

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

photo-4I’ve had the same dream three times this week: I’m high in the air, looking down on a city skyline, but I’m not flying. I’m sitting on what seems to be a platform, and on further inspection turns out to be a giant eraser pad of an even more giant No. 2 pencil. The pencil tip is on the ground, far, far below. Up here, I need to steer the pencil safely to a tall building where I can jump off, while keeping the pencil vertical. Besides being absolutely terrifying, it’s arduous. And windy. After what seems like a lifetime, I reach the building in front of me, and jump off the pencil, landing on the roof. I vow never to do that again.

The second time I have the dream, my dog is with me on the eraser. I don’t know why I’m up here again, but I just keep fighting to get us to safety. The wind is really blustery this time, and I have to hold onto the dog’s collar to keep him from sliding off the eraser edge.

Last night I have the dream for the third time. This time, another person joins the dog and me on the eraser. Instead of traveling to the building far in front of us, I decide to jump onto the nondescript beige building to our left. The other person jumps with the dog and me, and insists that I re-board to go to the “proper” building further away. It’s expected of me. My mind is racing. I have no idea how to get us safely to the ground from this rooftop.

I look over the other person’s shoulder to the giant waiting pencil and the pink eraser. I hate disappointing anyone. But I hate more the thought of going along with this bad idea. My thoughts keep swirling and then suddenly join hands: Every time I’m stuck up there, I have no idea how I got there. This time, I can choose. Strangely, it seems to surprise my travel companion when, with all my own authority, I say, “No.”

The choice was mine. The spell is broken. I wake up. Apparently refusal wasn’t part of the dream’s programming.

What does it mean? I don’t know. But if I dream it again, you’ll hear about it.

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

For your Friday pleasure… This is actually the first of my Zombie Sonnets, but it took until today to feel like I really got it.

Zombie Sonnet 1: Zombies at War

The zombie forces found a place to train
Their soldiers were the very best, in fact
They practiced day and night and in the rain
with armor holding body parts intact
Because they didn’t need to break for sleep
They took advantage of the extra time
Absorbing battle plans and ways to creep
To fight another army in their prime
But no attack against the undead came
Opposing armies fled without a pause
A legend had begun to gain some fame
that fallen armies joined the zombie cause
The zombies wouldn’t get a chance to beat
The foes they really couldn’t get to meet

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

Old School Gaming

photo-3We played outside a lot when I was a kid. The best games seemed to involve the entire neighborhood.

I remember once when we started out trying to play Capture the Flag, but none of us really knew how to play that. We started with two teams, and each team had an object belonging to the opposite team. The objects were hidden, and then we all ran around like crazy giving one another hints and clues as to the hiding places. It turned into a crazy game of espionage, and some kids even partnered up to give elaborate and false clues. You never knew who was giving you a truthful hint and who was sending you on a wild goose chase, especially since the teams changed as kids got called to dinner, and as other kids returned from grandparents’ houses to join in late. Some kids switched teams outright to be better allied with their friends. Many who joined late in the game had no idea where the original objects were even hidden, yet clues, lures, and traps—the plots and subplots–were rampant.

Because we didn’t want to stop playing, the game kept evolving. You had to stay on your toes, weigh everything you were told and its source, and keep rolling with the constant changes.

We called the game “Life in Times Square.” None of us had ever been to Times Square at that point, but we imagined it to be a place where you had to always be alert. It was exhilarating; exercising skills we didn’t know we even had.

It was the greatest game we ever played.

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

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.

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.

To each, truly, his own.

~
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.

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