Tag Archive: Pittsburghers

The Bottom Fell Out

The Bottom Fell OutThe bottom fell out this week.
(Who keeps an army of little butters in the fridge, anyway?)
Seize the day and enjoy a good belly laugh before cleaning up messes in the midst of chaos.

Some things just need to come first.

Author Jody Brown has been through the wringer this week. (As a child, her arm did go through the wringer of her Grandma’s washing machine, so that statement can be taken on authority.) Tomorrow is a new day. Have a good evening, All.


birthday eve postMy family, like most, has its own invented traditions. One particular year, my sister’s husband said he would take her out to her favorite restaurant on her birthday while simultaneously, my mom offered to make her favorite dinner for her at the house. My sister, wanting both, and more importantly, not wanting to disappoint either person, offered that both could happen, one on her birthday and one on her “birthday eve.”

Knowing my sister and her husband, and their witty repartee, I can see the conversation in my mind:

“There’s no Birthday Eve,” her husband says. “You made that up to get two dinners.”

“What? You’ve never heard of Birthday Eve?” my sister asks.

“Okay, if Birthday Eve exists, why have we never celebrated it before?”

“I know!” my sister says. “You forget every year and I don’t say anything.” [At this point, there are so many cracks in the story they’re both having a hard time keeping straight faces.]

“I smell a rat.”

“Nope. I’m supposed to get two dinners.” [Big smile on her face.]

“Oh, I see. Of course you are. Well, what will I have for dinner on my Birthday Eve? Look at that, I get my own Birthday Eve, too. With two dinners. And a snowblower. And…”

“Hey now,” my sister protested. “But, Birthday Eve is just for girls.”

“You made that up just now. If you get a Birthday Eve, then I get one, too.”

“Suit yourself, but it’s against the rules.”

[He did get a Birthday Eve. And has, every year since.]

When my sister called me and told me about the invention of Birthday Eve, we discussed that the birthday girl should get two cards, a funny one for the eve and a serious one on the actual birthday. This addition covers both the sentimentality and the hilarity birthdays. (At the time I was living out of state, so getting the extra card in the mail and the extra phone call sounded like a great perk.) We added it, and my sister filled my mom in on the new detail.

Mom was on board. We’re basically a family of food lovers and little gift givers who love to gather around the table in celebration. Even made-up celebrations.

Thus, Birthday Eve was born. Today is mine.

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.

Coal MineAppropriately, yesterday I visited the Tour-Ed Mine, a coal mine in Western Pennsylvania. Inside the mine, our tour guide, John, walked us through 100 years of coal mining technique and safety. Unfortunately, not much was done in the way of safety for the workers until it simply became too expensive not to keep them alive. As for technology, as our tour guide, John, put it, “Electricity was a godsend to the coalminer.” Interestingly, 37% of our electricity today is powered by coal.

Also, today, there are sensors built into the [extremely] loud mining equipment that test the air for gasses rather than sending in a fire boss (a man doused in water sent in first with a torch) or canaries for their faster susceptibility to airborne poisons. Miners wear hardhats with battery-operated lights built in, rather than candles fastened to a canvas hat or the later, carbide acetylene torches that were attached to leather “turtle shell” mine hats. Modern coal mines don’t have much need for the use of explosives, either, which does away with the warning, “Fire in the hole!” called out from relative “safety” around the corner as black powder blasted a hole (around the corner because explosions travel in a straight line).

Coal MineMy favorite parts of the tour were the rope line, patent filed as recently as 1998, consisting of a fire-retardant rope strung through the mine that miners could [hopefully] find and follow to the mine entrance in the event of a blackout. The rope line has little cones on it that indicate by touch which way is “in” and which way is “out” of the mine. Another favorite detail was the way John talked about superstitions in coal miners, even in modern day, as John himself mined coal for more than 20 years. Coal miners save part of their lunch for “later,” when they reach the surface again, and John said he’s never seen a coal miner kill a rat, ever. Rats, to this day, are an early warning system to ground tremors.

As we celebrate the Labor movement today, I thank our nation’s coal miners past and present for their backbreaking work in dark, cold, and incredibly dangerous conditions.

Today I’m reminded that, as far as we have come over the years, there is still so much further to go. Keep striving, America.

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 Mouse that Roared

The Mouse that Roared postMy great aunt Irene was the person in the family who told it like it was and she didn’t mince words. When you acted up at the dinner table and everyone sighed and looked at their peas, she was the one to voice what everyone was thinking, “Stop acting like a fool,” she’d say. And because she was opposing factions in one body (which are so very Pittsburgh), on the one hand an old, wise woman, who’d seen hardships; on the other, a bosomy hugger who opened her door to you when you needed comfort, advice, tea, and a cookie from the tin on her kitchen table, everyone listened when she talked. And she talked no-nonsense.

She’d tell you to “Cut the crap,” then plant you on the right path in a way that let you know you could do it. You left her house with a sense of purpose, and renewed belief in yourself no matter how crazy your dream. On your way out, she’d always remind you where she hid the key so you could return anytime you liked.

She passed a few years ago, and it seems another of my aunts is slowly becoming more and more like her. Typically an unassuming and quiet person, my younger aunt let it fly the other day when talking about some unruly children in church.

“The Pittsburgh fire burns within,” I thought to myself.

My sister said, “She’s the family’s new Aunt Irene.”

And my Dad remarked, “She’s turning into the mouse that roared.”

And in all this, it amazes me that we all strive to have her qualities—qualities of seeing the clear-eyed truth and converting hardship into belief. She developed these gorgeous gifts the hard way. And yet, you can ask anyone in my family, we’d choose the hard road any day for even the smallest blessing of these gifts.

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

I knew someone who was deathly allergic to cats as a child who was able to live with a cat in his 20s without incident. As a kid, I remember hating soy sauce, but now I love it.

Over the years, our bodies age, our taste buds change to our differing mineral needs (apparently my body needs more salt and whatever minerals there are in donuts), and I read somewhere that we, as people, change in who we are every 10 years or that thereabouts.

Imagine the changes that occur in 40 years: in taste, in what could kill you, in fashion, in wrinkles, in music, in geography, in career choices, in politics, births and deaths, likes and dislikes, in evolving and trading up, in roads traversed… And to do all that with another person by your side shows astounding dedication.

IMG_0975I say all this because today my parents celebrate their 40th anniversary. Currently, they’re somewhere on I-90, on their way to my door. We’re going out to eat.

Nothing like an 800-mile road trip for dinner.

Happy Anniversary to my favorite couple, the ones who’ve learned that if they can’t always change simultaneously, they’ll still embrace whatever changes come, together.
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

photo-3My parents and I have a great relationship, full of love, humor, and appreciation for one another. It wasn’t always so. I remember not being allowed to go do what my friends were doing—pretty much all of the time during my teen years. That’s how I remember it, so it must be true.

I also remember a time when I said, “This is so unfair,” to my Mom and she replied with, “Jody, one day you’ll write a tell-all book about how unfair your life was, and when you do,” she said, “Spell my name right.”

Well, Mom, this one’s for you… (I’m kidding. No one wants to read a book about being grounded your entire life long—

Let’s think about this now… Chapter titles are coming to mind. And I’ve got some good characters to populate it… I love when ideas hatch while I’m doing something else.)

Okay, back to my original point: The thing was, my Mom never said the tell-all book line to my sister. (And my sister was grounded more than I was, and she had her own catch phrases.)

No, my Mom only said it to me. Because she knew.

And every time she said it, it validated who I was. A writer.

And after a while, she shortened it to, “Eh, spell my name right.”

I loved it because it was so opposite of everything I knew. In my world of fitting in with my peers, conforming, trying to look right, dress right, act right, here was my mom not giving a crap about her portrayed image and even being downright dismissive of it.

This was not lost on me, even then.

Today, when I start to get caught up in all the hoopla of what others think, that catch phrase manages to find its way back to me.

“Eh, spell my name right,” I say to myself. And I remember.

And I go on with my writing.

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

photo-10Sometimes you need a week off to recoup after the weekend. I love those times. But there are two hands in this argument. On the one hand, it’s amazing to be busy with the things we love, the things that take up our non-working hours, things we are passionate about doing right and doing well, and to fill our time with them.

On the other hand, I wonder if we work so hard for time off just so we can cram everything in.

Every situation has ups and downs, but what if they didn’t need to be “all-or-nothing” ups and downs? Putting passion in the small things, the everyday and daily things, narrows the gap between up and down. And we already know how to handle those gaps—we’re people, after all. People bridge gaps.

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

Letter of Respect

Excerpt from a letter to a dear friend. Perhaps one day I’ll receive such a letter:

photo…My standards are high, but I give everyone the freedom to make a mistake and then fix it.  Everyone has something to offer.  I try to be fair, and I listen to why people do what they do.  These things I got from you.

The world could use more people like you, people who’ve earned the respect of their peers through a lifetime of knowledge and experience, people who’ve raised eyebrows with their honesty and fairness, people who aren’t so self-absorbed that they can’t inspire the “up and comers” to believe in themselves.  You’re a shining example of how I try to live my life. And so, I hope you appreciate the irony as I make a suggestion: Don’t sit still.  Get up.  Your next adventure, whatever it is, is just around the corner.  Go meet it.  Don’t do it for all of us you inspired, or even for yourself.  Do it for all those you have yet to inspire.  They’re waiting.  Doe-eyed and straight off the bus from Pittsburgh.  They’re waiting…

Upside Down Kingdom is on Amazon. It’s my first book. The first of many. The original.

The Ancient Keepers

photoWhen I was a wee bit younger, I wrote a cookbook for my sister, the Home Ec teacher, for her wedding. I put in all our favorite family foods, and added some from her soon-to-be mother-in-law as well. The book was called Our Family Recipes. Catchy, eh?

I quickly found out that no one in my family can just tell you a recipe. What they tell you is a story with the occasional measurement involved. And in many cases, the story would begin with, “I don’t have a recipe written down, so I’ll tell you what I do…”

For months as I gathered recipes, I found myself enjoying all the stories behind them. The end result is a book filled with food and memories, and some advice like, “Don’t toss the pizza bread on the ceiling. You’ll have to get a broom to get it down and it’ll leave a mark.” And the dreaded, “If ever you want to make these horrible things, call me and I’ll talk you out of it” that is found on the Potato Pancake page. My sister and I couldn’t stand those as kids. The actual recipe for those is not included in my book, on principle. And if you’re familiar with my Sauerkraut Soup blog, the first ever written recipe for the soup was done for this book.

You don’t have to be a writer or a chef to record these moments for generations to come. In my family, we had no idea that within a year, we would lose some of our older family members, those who were the keepers of these ancient recipes. What we have are our memories and their stories—with the occasional measurement.

My novel, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

As my Packer friends bundle up and head toward what could be the Next Ice Bowl, we here in Steeler Nation are packing up our black and gold holiday items and hunkering down for the offseason.

photoAnd though, in the end there, most things went right to get us a playoff spot as a wildcard, alas, when you need the Pythagorean Theorem to get you to the post-season, you are clearly not in control of your own fate. That aside, this has become what I like to call a Gear Year. It’s in these rare seasons that we don’t make the playoffs that Steeler fans are able to pick up our Steeler gear at deep discounts. Jackets, sweatpants, mugs, calendars, night lights, shower curtains, hats, Terrible Towels, and even this holiday wreath that I picked up between Super Bowls—everything is super marked down to affordable levels.

But, never fear. As we gather our gear we’ll be studying tactics and gearing up for another season of armchair quarterbacking. The Black and Gold lives on. See you all next season—when I’m sure we won’t be so lenient.


Jody Brown writes for the sheer fun of it. www.JodyBrown.com

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