Archive for September, 2014


Marking the Miles, September

September wrap up postFall is my favorite time of year. I love that first chill in the air, the changing color of the leaves, the start of football season, and the back-to-school feeling of mental engagement. Looking back through September’s posts, I can see fall’s changing, colorful, and focusing effects on my writing.

My personal favorites this month are A Barrier and a Path, The Larger Game, The Store of Nonessentials, and Seemingly From Nothing. Barrier came about as I was sitting up at night reading, just the way I wrote it in the post. The Larger Game gave me the opportunity to write about a cartoon that I’ve thought about for decades. The Store happened on a day when I ran errands and was running out of time to get to my writing before I had to be at work, and I honestly felt I had nothing to say that day. And then, on the last errand I ran (of course), there was the story. Knowing that the errand would take some time and that I had little of it, I knew I shouldn’t stop at my friend’s store. But I did anyway. And rather than closing the door on writing time that day, it presented an opportunity.

Behind the scenes, Seemingly From Nothing was written on the fly. I’d worked a quick morning shift that day and the plan was to return home to my writing desk when a coworker said she wasn’t feeling well. I offered to work her shift for her, an all-day shift that could run quite late, so I asked if I could have a small break between shifts to write, and that’s what I did. Seemingly From Nothing was written and posted from my phone as I stood in an empty, unused room in the building. I wrote by window-light, not daring to turn on the lights so that anyone would find me and break my concentration. I took the picture in the parking lot, knowing exactly what I was looking for and managing to find it. I’d love to tell you that post magically happened, from thin air, but really, it was an idea I’d been thinking about for a week, one that I even tried to write a couple times but couldn’t get to work out. For me, Seemingly felt much like when I wrote Barrier, that the words I’d been turning over in my mind for days suddenly came together just the way they were supposed to, and it was similar to the feeling of writing Store where, simply put, the time to write was now.

As always, the writing is only one side of the coin. You are the other side, making sure that what gets penned down gets picked back up again. Thank you! And I’d like to add a quick shout out to my Tumblr readers. I’m glad you’re all here.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

-Jody

~
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

Advertisements

Mystery Picture

“A picture is worth 10,000 words.”

Fred Barnard, ad writer

Mystery Picture postI took this picture, but I don’t remember taking it. I was on a hike with friends and this photo found its way into my camera.

It was quite the hike, straight up a mountainside, along the ridge overlooking the Mediterranean, and straight back down again. I remember the pictures taken along the way, but not this one. My friends and I didn’t take breaks or exchange items that we carried during the hike. I’m sure I took the picture, (and I’m sure I know what I was thinking at the time), but I have no real memory of taking it. My friends, likewise, had no similar pictures in their caches.

Because of the mystery of this picture and my consistent thoughts about it, I printed it and hung it up in my office so I could see it daily. My consistent thoughts? Well, every time I see it, I think the same thing: Pirates.

Not the murderous, international incident qualities of pirates, but the swashbuckling, wooden-boat-launching, hide-the-jewels side of pirates. Goonies pirates. Adventure pirates. Peg-leg and parrot-on-the-shoulder pirates.

I look at this picture, and I instantly think, “Now, that’s a place where someone would hide something valuable.”

I’m sure that’s why I took the mystery picture in the first place, because when such a setting before you can bring up stories and images of pirates hiding a treasure, one that perhaps I would find, I wanted to capture it, the story, I mean. And I have found that every time I sit at my writing desk and look up to see this photo, the stories and images come to mind.

If a picture can do that, then the least I can do is watch and listen and write them down.

~
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 Larger Game

Here’s to a fall Sunday afternoon, making chili and watching football, or in this case, penalty-ball. I must admit, I’m taken aback by the sheer number of penalties in the game.

Some penalties are clear cut and obvious. For instance, you can’t blatantly attempt to injure one another without getting in trouble for it. Yet other penalties are just plain silly: celebrating a great play can cost you 15 yards, getting your head slammed into the turf by your opponent after the whistle blows and you get up and chase after said opponent, that will cost you 15 yards. Yelling at the ref who threw the flag at you and not the turf-to-head-slamming opponent will also cost you 15 yards, or something like that.The Larger Game

In all this, I can’t help but remember my favorite episode of The Real Ghostbusters, the cartoon spinoff of the original Ghostbusters movie. In the episode, called Night Game written by Kathryn M. Drennan, the Ghostbusters find themselves watching a ghostly battle of baseball. Yes, we’re switching ball games, my apologies. This particular baseball game is between Good and Evil over Winston’s soul. (Incidentally, Winston’s playing shortstop.)

As the Ghostbusters watch, late in the game, Evil changes the speed of the pitch to make it easier to hit. They bring it to the umpire’s attention. The umpire, by the way, is a giant, muscle-bound version of a grim reaper. In his booming voice, the ump asks, “You want me to declare Evil the losers for cheating?”

Venkman, in his typical flippant way, says something like, “Yeah, that’s the basic idea.”

And the Ump says, “But Evil cheats. That’s its nature. It does whatever unscrupulous or immoral thing it has to, to win. That’s why we call them Evil. Only Good is not allowed to cheat. If Good adopts the ways of Evil, it becomes Evil. So if Good cheats, Evil automatically wins.”

Brilliant, yes?

Now, let’s clarify: I don’t think of the “us and them” of sports as Good and Evil. I do, however, think the idea of such a ballgame between Good and Evil is inspired, and I daresay, genius in its writing. I don’t know when this episode first aired, a good 25+ years ago? And yet I still think of this supernatural game, time and time again when I get bogged down by life’s imbalances and anytime I experience something set up to be unfair. I remember that if Good diverts to Evil’s tactics, Evil automatically wins. And I remind myself, the way I did today watching football, that true champions can have everything riding against them, yet still play with integrity. The larger game can yet be won.

~
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

Those Ponderous Stones

Those Ponderous Stones postWith all of our technological advances, it seems life has taken a turn toward Easy Street. Not that it’s easy, by any means, and not that Easy Street is any sort of compliment.

I’m sure our forebears had the same difficulty with the invention of the washing machine, but all this technology lately makes me wonder if we give up when a task takes effort.

I’ll tell you where this is coming from: I spent the better part of today working on code. Blogfans will know my struggles with website code and my celebrations (to the point of silliness) when I figure something out. Today could be chalked up in the crowded Frustrations column, codewise, and yet, here I sit thinking about it, mentally going through the motions, and trying to figure out the error or a workaround. Code threw down the gauntlet today and I can’t help but take up its challenge.

Conversely, I can’t help but think about the bite-size, easy-to-take-up, plug and play world we strive to live in. If we can’t figure it out in a few moments, if we can’t understand the layers of complication, the task is tossed aside. We can’t slow down, we can’t be held back.

But think about this with me: Some things still can’t be grasped in one swift motion. And they still matter. Some things still need to be nurtured, and developed, and savored… I know my iPhone 6 is easy to use is because I’ve been here from the onset when the tech was bulky and difficult. I worked to understand it then, and I’ll work through this code dilemma until it pays off because I find, more than anything, that I’m drawn to the puzzle.  And suddenly putting in the work is turning frustrating into interesting.

Delve deeper. Look further. The high road to appreciation is paved with ponderous stones.

~
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

Seemingly From Nothing

Pssst… Hey. Yes, you.
Remember that idea you had? The one that could change everything? The one you locked away, you say, for safe keeping, when we know really you were thinking you weren’t ready. And you vowed to return to it in the future, when you’re a little wiser or a little better off, but even you know that was just wishful thinking and that an idea like that shouldn’t be kept under wraps.
The thing about that idea, and the reason I bring it up, is that it’s good. We’re talking really good. And the world needs to see it in action, and yours is the voice for it. Yes, yours.
Because it occurred to you, not anyone else, and it came about because of who you are, the life you’ve lived, and the things you know. It came to you at a time when you needed it most and seemingly out of nowhere. And there were even others in the room at the time but they didn’t see it, they didn’t realize the way time slowed as you caught this idea.
The time is now. Unlock the door of your imagination and let the idea brighten the room, the building, the parking lot outside, the street, the next building, the grassy space beyond it, the next town, city, state, country, body of water, expanse of air, planet, stars…
Fueled by inspiration, lighted by hope, and guided by you.
We’ve been waiting for this moment. We’ve been waiting for you.

–Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom.

Seemingly From Nothing post

A Barrier and a Path

I sat up late last night, reading, as I usually do when the house is quiet and I can turn on one light to push the darkness back just a bit, enough to sustain my eyes and make me focus. I liken the feeling to stepping onto the yoga mat, where all I’m concerned about is the entirety of the mat’s space. Nothing more, and not one thing less.

Last night, I read about the Miracle at Dunkirk. I’m sure I read this in school, but it never resonated the way it does now, and all because of three words.

Picture: In early 1940, the British and their Allies, some 350,000 troops, fought Nazi Germany across lowland Europe, and the Germans pushed them back to the small town of Dunkirk in northern France, six miles from Belgium, where they were surrounded on three sides by the Germans, with their backs to the English Channel. For some reason, which is still disputed, a halt order was given by Hitler.

The world waited with bated breath for the onslaught. Meanwhile, the besieged army sent a telegraphed message out that simply read, “But if not.”

But if not. These three words are a reference to the Biblical book of Daniel, where Daniel’s three friends chose death rather than to bow down to the King’s golden idol. The king told them they would be thrown into the furnace for not bowing and they replied, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). A Barrier and a Path post

“But if not” sent a clear message that, even in what looked like defeat, the besieged troops were victorious. They would not give in. These three words resonated with the British people, and they felt impelled to act. A British friend of mine, and a veteran of WWII, tells me that the people of her country look at water differently, that what looks like a wet barrier to others is a path for the British. After “But if not,” Operation Dynamo was announced to the British public to rescue the Allied soldiers. Civilians banded together in a dockyard, launched their own small boats, and headed into the treacherous English Channel. Reportedly, more than 700 boats were launched by anybody who had one, and they rescued more than 338,000 troops in what historians call the Miracle of Dunkirk.

Three words, and a miracle.

What are your three words today?

~
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

Fantasy Life postA few years ago, I stood in the kitchen of the restaurant where I worked unloading a tray of dirty dishes and listening to the chefs as they discussed their fantasy league stats. My brain typically runs on American football, and since it was not football season, I asked them what sport they were discussing.

Expecting basketball, I was surprised to hear it was baseball.

“Wait, how many sports have fantasy leagues now?” I asked.

“All of them,” one of my coworkers said as he walked by.

Other servers chimed in, “There’s fantasy football, baseball, basketball, soccer…”

Entering the kitchen and hearing the conversation, another server said, “I think there’s golf now…”

“Wow, it’s like Fantasy Life,” I said, and I blinked, realizing what I’d just said. “Now, that would be a good game.”

“You could get points for coming to work,” one server said.

“Extra points if you showered…”

For a moment, others started agreeing and weighing in.

“That’s Reality Life,” I protested. “This is Fantasy Life. You should get points for doing the wrong thing or for the fantastic things you do, like traveling to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language…”

“Getting a degree in something completely impractical…”

“Quitting your job without another waiting in the wings…”

“Skipping the gym and eating ice cream for dinner…”

“Splurging on great boots you can’t afford…”

“Ordering Chateauneuf just because…”

“Ooooh, I’m good at Fantasy Life,” the server beside me realized suddenly.

We all shared a good laugh, and then we took a good look at one another with stars in our eyes. We were all winners at Fantasy Life.

~
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

Better Me postKids are messy. Small, mobile ones need constant attention. And yet, they remind you of all the best that life has to offer. I spent some time with my nephew this week, who is 3, and I made some observations:

  • I emphasize my pleases and thank yous so he learns them.
  • I constantly pick up toys off the floor so no one trips on them. The toys on the table, kitchen counter, and couch can stay where they are. That’s perspective.
  • When he arrives, I light up. During my time with him, I remind him that I love him. When he leaves, I let him know how much he’ll be missed. I can’t say these things enough.
  • I hug often.
  • It’s not embarrassing to wear my heart on my sleeve.
  • I sing a silly song in public, and I don’t worry about anyone overhearing it. And don’t get me started on the dancing.
  • I hold my tongue when I get cut off in traffic, reminding my nephew one who saw it that, “It’s okay, we’re sharing the road.”
  • Tiny hurts become my hurts. And they mean the world.
  • Laughter is infectious, and warms the heart.
  • Accomplishments are cause for glory, things like putting on his shoes himself, finding his shoes himself (he takes after his mother), and figuring out how to zip up his hoodie. Life is stopped so we can mark the occasion in celebration.

I’m not a different person around my nephew. I’m just living out loud, absorbing all the good and protecting from the bad. I’m me, supersized.

And I think, simply put, that we’re better people because of these tiny humans.

~
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

Life in Writing

Life in Writing postRolling along through life’s hills and valleys, dueling television sets blaring, jetlagged roommates giggling and losing all sense of time and space over too much ice in the iced tea, and a phone call about a daily sneeze that today turned into two sneezes–which prompted logging into the house chart and getting an appointment at the vet…

A life in writing means most everything gets written about and kept for later inspiration, from conversations, thoughts, feelings, descriptions, play-by-plays of events and family gatherings, the whole raw, green lot of it. And sometimes you can spend so much time putting yourself into someone else’s shoes that you forget what it’s like to be in your own.

But yours are the ones that fit. That impossible, possible fit. And it’s yours. So you come back to yourself, and recognize you by what fits, which changes daily with the new information thought through and recorded. You observe and wait, observe and wait for that one detail to arrive that warms the back of your mind and you know it needs to be written. You watch for the arrival of that one thing that ties everything together. And then–

You spend the time, getting it all down, rearranging the words to and fro, until it feels right. Until it makes sense. Until you can read it aloud and not stumble over it, and the hairs on your arms start to stand up because you’ve just created something that changes the very space around itself. You send it out there, into the world, to see what it can do. You wish it well.

And you start gathering again.

~
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

Achieving Laugh Lines

Achieving Laugh Lines postAge is a tricky thing. When we’re small, we can’t wait to get “old enough.” When we’re older, we do everything we can to defy our age. I’d like to say I’m different, but I’ve looked forward to my frequent visits to the hair salon to get rid of the gray for years now. For one thing, I’ve had gray hair since high school. For another, my stylist has become a good friend, indeed.

I’d like to tell you that I eat right, but I can hear those of you who know me personally exclaiming, “Sure! If French fries are considered ‘eating right.’” Blog fans certainly know my love of food.

I do exercise. Not as much as I should (due to an achy knee that I attribute to getting older), but I do. And I’m waiting, one smile at a time, for those laugh lines to come in. I think laugh lines signify a life well lived.

But the biggest thing I think about age came from a friend’s dad years ago. The entire high school cast of Phantom of the Opera was buzzing about in a classroom, touching up makeup, reviewing lines and steps, and I found myself in a conversation with the Phantom’s parents who stopped backstage to say break a leg. I’m not sure how it came up, but on the topic of getting old, the star’s dad said, “Well, Jody, you know the alternative to getting old, don’t you?”

For a moment, I let myself dream of a magical way not to grow old, to stay a young, bright light in the darkness. But there’s no magical cure. You’re still your age. You must grow old or else you… I looked at him. And I must have had that “light bulb” look that students get and teachers love so much, because he gave me a knowing wink and went about his business. And there I stood, in the middle of a chaotic staging room on Opening Night of the school play, knowing that there was no “old enough,” that age was something to appreciate, to achieve, and to own. From some things, we don’t shy. That was the magic.

For all of the birthdays sharing today with me, may we all continue to get better with age. Here’s to the laugh lines, my friends.

~
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

%d bloggers like this: