99/100

When I was young, there were some older kids who lived up the street, and eventually we all met and became friends despite the age difference. I looked at them as if they knew everything. One summer day they, two of them told me about how they’d gone to the newest blockbuster movie. They got their popcorn and chose their favorite seats in the theater and settled in to watch this great flick written by a masterful writer. Well, within the first ten minutes of the movie, a tragedy strikes–perhaps rightfully so because it’s the triggering point that sets up the rest of the movie’s drama. Or perhaps not.

My two friends tell the story that, at the moment of the tragedy they looked at each other and without a word between them, they both got up and left the theater. “We didn’t need this,” they said about it later.

I was perplexed that, as all of their other friends were bound to be discussing this hit movie of the summer, these two fellas were content not to have seen it at all.

Ninety-nine 99/100It’s easily been twenty years since this took place, and yet I think about it every time I notice my disdain for something that winds up becoming popular, from movies to music to humor to commodities. I think these things through, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, my initial instinct remains and I don’t go along with the crowd. I’ve made peace, again and again, to being left out. And it gets easier and easier, because most times, I simply don’t need it.

Break from the pack. I’ll be there to greet you.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

Pink Out Loud

Pink Out Loud

photo by Dawn Sanborn Photography

Yesterday I wrote Hair Raising, about no less than having pink hair in today’s world. Today I continue some of those thoughts, remembering a scene about ten years ago when my hair was quite long (and red) and I had it back in a ponytail. The manager where I worked walked by with scissors, and joked and said, “What would you do if I just snipped off your entire ponytail?”

I told him, “I’d go to the salon and get a really fun cut and go platinum.” My manager seemed surprised that I wouldn’t cry over my hair. Reading his face, I said, “It’s only hair.” And as he walked out of the room, I said, “Oh, and I’d send you the salon bill.” (We laughed about that.)

Pink, for me, happened about four years ago after a long time feeling like I was living in a shadow and needed a term of living out loud, so to speak. (And truth be told, my hair is a good bit grey, naturally. Not distinctive, wise streaks of grey, but random, wiry old-looking grey. It’s been that way since high school.)

As a writer, I meet a lot of people and I’m asked a lot of things, including questions about my currently-blonde-with-a-streak-of-pink hair. After a while, you get to know who is just being curious and isn’t sure how to ask, and who is trying to pass judgment. I welcome questions from both sides, really. It’s taken a long time to realize that I’m happy, and I like to think that makes me approachable. I don’t care for the negativity, of course, but I’m not bothered to the point that I’d bow to poor opinions or change myself for them.

Above all, my hair is something that I can help (if I wanted to bother), unlike a birthmark or a limp or a scar that others could scrutinize, because, let’s face it, in life we take a lot of flack. A hairstyle, a favorite jacket, curve-enhancing jeans, or red lipstick, these things are like armor that we put on to face the day. They don’t make us edgy, tough, or even vulnerable underneath. They make us people who tried to be prepared. They make us people about to do something difficult and these little tokens are our safety nets. They make us, get ready for this, people on the verge of changing the world, because, from calling a meeting with the boss and asking for that raise to demanding safer schools and better lunches to truly going headfirst after what we deserve, the armor we choose makes a difference, and yes, a haircut or a best jacket can do all that and even provide that important first layer of protection from criticism. There’s much to be done. So power up.

~
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. 

Hair Raising

Hair Raising

photo by Dawn Sanborn Photography

Please, sit. This may come as a shock to you, but I’m putting it out there: I have pink hair. Not all pink, mind you, but a bold streak of magenta nestled into the blonde near my bangs. I call it pink lemonade. My hairdresser, Randy, and I would joke every time I went in that we needed to “pink it up.” And that we did.

If you just read that paragraph and are thinking, “You have pink hair. So what?” Let me say I love you for thinking that. Your nonchalance is exactly why I enjoy our friendship.

Here’s the thing… Recently, a woman asked me what my husband thought of my hair. In a lightning fast split second, a thousand thoughts raced through my brain. Thoughts like:

–Am I supposed to ask permission? Ha! Maybe that’s why I’m not married.

–It’s hair. It’s like buying groceries or shoes–or more closely to my purchases, plane tickets. It’s not like I bought a house.

–I was taught to form my own opinions and not to worry about what others think.

–I’m an artist. We’re all like this.

And, my favorite of the bunch:

–Huh?

Sometimes I’m even asked if my hair is pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. It’s not, though that’s an extremely worthwhile cause, especially if pink hair can in any way help our engineers to design mammography machines that aren’t medieval torture devices. (Ahem, engineers?)

I answered the woman, whose husband was beside her, as politely as I could, gently saying, “I never asked,” which is true. The only person I asked was my employer at the time, and she said, “Do it, as long as it won’t look tacky.” (You gotta love an employer who encourages your crazy ideas.)

I mentioned it to Randy and he laughed and said, “I would never make you look tacky.”

Today’s thought: Surround yourself with good people and you’ll be in good shape.

More on this tomorrow.

~
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. 

Striving for Dusty Trophies

Striving for Dusty TrophiesI hear parents of young people complain that lately in childhood sports, everyone gets a trophy just for participating. And recently, a youth football team was fined $500 because a defensive player caught an interception and ran it in for a touchdown, violating a rule for scoring when his team already had too many points. I imagine that rule was not very well thought out. Should the kids have just stopped playing? What are the contingencies for the rule when the defense rather than the offense scores the additional points beyond the set rule? Should the game have been called, or perhaps the overall scoring of football should be changed to allow the first team to a dozen or so points to be the winner? Personally, I think perhaps the team should lawyer up and those poor kids should learn the intricacies of when to score and when to sit down according to the rule, in addition to their entire playbook and physical conditioning schedule. Silly kids. They act like it’s all a game.

Okay, let’s be serious for a moment: They made a scoring rule????

Yesterday I saw a Facebook post imploring people to be nice to trick-or-treating children this Halloween who take too much time to choose a candy, take too many pieces of candy, frown at the candy bowl, or simply refuse to say thank you. In each scenario, the child had a motor skill/allergy/ADD/speech impediment situation going on. I suppose I’m old, but I remember when kids didn’t come with an instruction manual, and when adults applied patience and encouragement over categories, and yes, I’m going to say it, excuses.

Lately it seems we’ve leveled the playing field so much that there are no mountains to climb anymore. Yes, everyone has different abilities. Yes, we all have weaknesses. Most of us, at one time or another, feel good about one and lousy about the other. But in this journey called life we can learn to handle the differences, turn negatives into positives, make lemonade from lemons. That can mean taking a good, hard, look at the truth, and going for it anyway. There has to be some personal incentive for striving and accomplishments should mean something.

At some point, every day, I remind myself that I’m only as good as my last post. Sometimes that makes me a genius–which is hard to follow. Other times, thankfully, that makes me human. But then I always correct myself and think, “I’m only as good as my next post.”

Strive and let strive.

~
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 Answers in the Back of the Book

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

From the Soapbox: Rules, Consequences, & the Higher Standard

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