Give Me the Grit

Give Me the Grit - aboveThe view above the clouds is marvelous and breathtaking. Air travel allows a person to see that the notion of glory is still there. Some would argue that it’s way above our heads, untouchable, out of reach.

Of course, none of that means we can’t lift our head and look up. And on cloudy days, we simply have to imagine.

The glow of those lofty pink and orange hues and golden light wrap around a person and inspire growth, strength, and other words about large concepts that get tossed around that no one really stops to explain. I won’t illustrate them, either, because they’re beside the point.

Give Me the Grit - belowFor me? There’s a beauty in the grey, the grainy, the grit, all the things that sit under the cloud cover that we wade through daily. Life’s challenges, like the writing of a book, ask that we pay attention, apply diligence to our work, and allow for, at times, constant change.

The view above the clouds reminds us that we can do it. But it’s in the misty undercloud that we get it done.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon. She’s currently penning her second novel, based on the life of a WWII veteran. For more on her writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

Through the Everywhere

After I wrote Address Changes last week, I received a comment from my friend and fellow blogger, Chris, who said, “Adventure, travel, wanderlust and the like is wonderful, exciting, educational… but knowing when you’ve ‘come home’ may be the most important part of the journey.”

Well said, Chris. And while I know you mean that one, true home, I couldn’t help but let my mind turn over this possibility for a few days and imagine all the things that home can be.

There are times when I can walk into a room full of strangers, meet someone, and chatter on easily, as if we’ve been best friends for years. Home.

Quite a while ago, I wrote Welcome Home about arriving in Israel and realizing that, while I’d never been there before, I recognized the feel of the place. Home.

Over the years, having lived far from my home state for many years, I can tell you that every time I flew into Pittsburgh and caught my first glimpse of the city, I got tears in my eyes. Home.

On a recent trip to Minnesota, I got the chance to spend time with some mutual friends that I hadn’t seen for a couple years, and after a few days of ideas and conversation, my entire life had re-centered and refocused. Home.

Even simpler still, I can put on my favorite Comic Con t-shirt and a pair of jeans and two different socks and feel like the world is just right. Home.

None of these things is home, and yet, every one of them is a form of home. When you come home to yourself, in any and every way that it happens for you, you turn the lights on, let down your defenses, and even start to enjoy the maintenance and the upkeep–because every good house has those.

Through the EverywhereUntil you get to that one, true home that Chris is talking about, elements of home can be found everywhere, pointing the way. So look for them. Enjoy them. And stop keeping count of the steps between you and your ultimate home sweet home. You’ll get there.

As for me, my journey through the everywhere continues…

And you’re all invited.

~
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.

Address Changes

Address ChangesI’m sending out holiday cards, late as usual. And I’m amazed at my friends on my card list who have not changed their addresses in the past couple years, and equally amazed at the friends who have moved around. Why the amazement, I don’t know. I move around all the time, and I imagine that’s annoying to anyone sending me a card. Yet I love the movement. And for my friends who haven’t changed addresses recently, I sat this morning and imagined what that would be like, to look around at my own space and know it’s mine, and mine for good. Perhaps the gypsy in me would sit down and enjoy a cup of tea. Or perhaps she’d walk the halls restlessly, hoping to put things into boxes yet again.

A relative of mine sent me a note a few months back, a very nice note that said he was proud of me for my wandering purpose and for following my dreams. His note came as a response to my own note sent to him, reminding him how much comfort he could take from knowing he had a great job that he enjoyed and financial security to choose vacation destinations and what color new truck he’d like. The grass is always greener.

But if we consider today, exactly where we are right now, to be the beginning of our next adventure, be it making a change or be it better appreciating what’s around us in the first place, then today is not so bad. Yes, most things in the past led up to this, but that doesn’t make this the end of the road, and certainly not the end of the journey. To make a change, we simply start today. And we remember this, right now–half-finished projects and walls that need painting and dreams about travel and kids and grandkids–as our jumping off point. Absorb today, in all its good and unfinishedness, and kindly step forward into your own.

~
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.

Baggage Claim

Baggage ClaimI just returned from a trip to Minnesota, and I’m sitting here writing and staring at my suitcase. Those of you who know me are familiar with my fascination for the things we tote around with us. (For proof of this, reread Relevance from Afar.) And yet, as much as I put off packing until the last minute–and have been known not to unpack for up to a month–I’m still intrigued by what we decide to put in the baggage that we lug around.

Packing, for me, is haphazardly tossing random things into a suitcase, then systematically combing through all of it and deciding what stays and what goes. This second process of choosing what to carry is what I find so arduous, and so interesting, because we are all a product of this baggage that we carry.

Some will argue that we don’t choose life’s baggage, that’s assigned to us, or even that it chooses us. I disagree. While we can’t help what we’re handed in life, it’s up to us how we carry it and whether we let it weigh us down or make us stronger. It’s one thing to drag around what we’re given. It’s another, entirely, to know that we can then choose what stays and what goes if we’re just willing to put in the painstaking work.

I have spent many years eradicating baggage from my life, letting go of situations that weigh me down, taking things that aren’t working and putting them out to pasture, holding on to the things that matter, taking the opportunity to understand the baggage that others carry, and all of it can be summed up as the practice of creating a strong and peaceful heart and learning to wear it on my sleeve.

And now?

Well, now I think that if you’re willing to take the painful inventory of these things you carry, and you realize they’re necessary to your life, then carry them. Claim them as your own and carry them with pride. But let’s not forget that the more you travel, the less you pack. The more you put yourself out there–and here is where the heart on the sleeve comes in–the more you hone in on what you truly need.

So here I sit and stare at my suitcase filled with necessary items for December in Minnesota: sweaters, knee socks, a coat for shaking off the cold, hammers for the class I traveled to take, and all the other things I deemed necessary; and a detail springs to mind from, no kidding, David and Goliath. The detail is this: When David faced Goliath, he did it without armor. He did this because the armor was too heavy.

When the very stuff that’s protecting you no longer fits, when it makes you unable to move, it’s time to take it off. Let it go.

Walk on without it.

~
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.

Monday Relief

Monday Relief Valentin Yotkov

relief by Valentin Yotkov

It’s finally here! I’m in metal class this week, after months of waiting, an inbox stuffed with planning emails, the gathering of my class supplies, and a plane ride across the snowy country. I’m at the home of my good friends, attending my second course of chasing and repoussé, the ancient art of creating relief forms in metal [i.e. hammering metal with very specialized, handmade tools]. (For previous chasing and repoussé blogs, see Alteration, The Chasing Hammer, and Under the Boar’s Head…)

I have been looking forward to this class, this trip, seeing these friends, and learning again under the instruction of master metalsmith Valentin Yotkov for so long now that even though the class is hard work, I feel as though I’m embarking on a great vacation.

So here it is, Monday, and I feel as though it’s the start of a great weekend.

Monday ReliefThese days, even without the challenge of this particular class before me, I happen to embrace most Mondays. And I remember a time, a few years ago, when I absolutely dreaded them. Back then on a regular basis, on Sunday afternoon I would be sick to my stomach thinking about another week of working my high stress job that I just hated. I knew even then that this feeling was a very bad sign. I knew it. And it still took me a long time to do anything about it. But I did. And that’s really all that matters.

Monday. The beginning of the week, and this one happens to be the beginning of a brand new month. The time is always good for a new start.

~
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.

Opening a New Door

Opening a New DoorThroughout elementary school, lots of kids had moved in and out of the area. They’d show up in class one day, shy and mysterious, or nervous and class clowny, but either way, they managed to make the class different than it had been the day before. And I thought that if I were ever the new kid, I could do anything, be anyone. And I could walk in having had a life that no one could have imagined, a life from somewhere else.

I wanted a new bedroom; I wanted to look at four new walls every night. I wanted to be in a strange new place, and I was curious to meet the people that called this foreign place home. So, of course, when I was nine years old and my parents asked me what I thought of our family’s impending move, I told them I couldn’t wait. We moved to that new town. And I think I’ve been moving ever since.

Cleaning out some old computer files today, I found a folder called Moving. It’s full of documents from different moves I’ve made. These documents are arduous lists of places where I needed to change my address along with eclectic descriptions of moving boxes and their contents (organized by a box numbering system I devised according to room), some detailed reasons for moving to and from, and of course, the documents have catchy titles like, “The Great Move,” “The Next Great Move,” and “The Move North.”

On one hand, the entire folder is filled with details of the mundane. Who likes moving (except for me)? On the other, it’s a folder that acts as a chronicle to my penchant for picking up my life and changing its geography, keeping a bit of focus in the endeavor, and the excitement of opening a new door to discover the feeling of walking across that threshold. A renowned sage man in England once told me, “You open doors in your life, Jody. You come to a closed door, open it, and you walk right through.” Yes, yes I do.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects & ways you can donate can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up and WaitIf you’ve ever spent a day in an airport, you know the values of self-entertainment, copious patience, the ability to fall asleep sitting up or to sleep with one eye open or to ward off sleep altogether. You know the fun of people-watching, walking vs. standing on the moving walk, and counting tiles and carpet squares.

You discover your innate navigational skills and your ability to read the tiny, changing print on the teleprompter walls. You appreciate your flexibility to scan those TVs while removing or putting on your jacket, gripping your baggage, and clenching your flight number and seat assignment in your teeth.

You know what it is to feel you’re getting nowhere. You know what it is to watch the news going on in the world as you sit still. You know what it is to pay more for a cold sandwich than you did for your first car.

You know how to monitor your batteries on all devices, scout out the most convenient outlets, and you know when to give up and buy a paper book. You know how many steps it is to the nearest bathroom, and the one beyond that, too. You also know where everyone within a 50-foot radius of yourself is going, why, and the names of the people waiting for them on the other side of flight.

The airport brings strangers together for short spells to learn, adapt, and quietly endure one another’s quirks. It’s an oasis of happenstance. It’s a place where time speeds up and slows down, always against your will.

And then, to the lucky, your number comes up and you’re invited to break the cycle, break the bubble, break the surface, break the spell, break out. You walk the gangplank and you take flight. And when you arrive at your final destination, reconciled with time, you realize the world was going on all along and you missed it.

Or did you?

~
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. 

Gypsy Dies Hard

Gypsy Dies HardGas stations along the highways, especially in Western Pennsylvania, consistently ask for a person’s zip code when paying by ATM or credit card. I like the extra measure of safety. The tricky part is that my zip code is not second nature.

I imagine most people don’t think twice when giving their zip code. I, on the other hand, always have to think twice. The first numbers that casually begin to tumble out of my mouth aren’t current, and they’re not even from the most recent place I’ve lived. Typically, a random zip code from 10-15 years ago is what first comes to mind. I usually stammer for a moment until I get to the current combination of numbers, and then, back on the road again, I take an enjoyable trip down memory lane remembering the zip code that naturally came to mind. The gypsy, certainly, dies hard.

Today at the gas station, I automatically started typing in a zip code and I absent-mindedly got to the third number before I caught myself and thought about it. For a moment, the scene from Ghost came to mind, when Oda Mae Brown (played by Whoopi Goldberg) signs her own name to a signature card at the bank rather than the fraudulent name she was supposed to sign. “Oops, I’m going to need a new card,” she tells the banker as she nervously scribbles out her name. To explain her crazy behavior to the confused banker, she sweetly says, “I signed the wrong name.”

That scene flashed through my mind today and I smiled about it before realizing that this time, I did start typing the correct zip code. After filling up the tank, I got back on the road and thought about all the places I’ve lived, states and addresses for school, internship, jobs, writing assignments, extended stays, family… Today’s natural instinct was to remember where I am. I know exactly where I am, in time and space, for a change.

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

Crackalacka

Crackalacka

 

Crackalacka

You know just why I shed a tear,
Impassioned by the sight
When fireworks light up the sky
All red and blue and white?
And they say Boom Boom Crackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Crackalacka

I never meant to stay that long
Then something in me spoke
That day, the plane, the Pentagon
When sleeping giants woke
And they said Boom Boom Jackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Jackalacka

I buy a ticket for a plane
To meet all that I can
I walk up high and walk down low
So I can learn the plan
My feet go Boom Boom Shackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Shackalacka

Some laugh at me, others with me
I start to like the jest
Together we find trust again
I travel on my quest
Laughter goes Boom Boom Hackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Hackalacka

Now decades after WWII
The questions still remain
The Concentration Camp is near
I hop a Dachau train
The train goes Boom Boom Trackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Trackalacka

Jerusalem, I hold my ground
As gunshots break the night
Below the Kidron Valley looms
I see and smell this fight
And it goes Boom Boom Ackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Ackalacka

Yet something in the soil here
Does get the soul to stir
Like drumbeats in the ground itself
That cause the lines to blur
The drum goes Boom Boom Rackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Rackalacka

I understand now what I sought
How heart and war reside
The passion rages like a storm
When hot and cold collide
The storm goes Boom Boom Crackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Crackalacka

Plane touches down, I’m home at last
I stop then on a dime
The world is calling me again
The trumpet says it’s time
Trumpet goes Boom Boom Brackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Brackalacka

It’s more than seeing everything
Until the die is cast
When I’ve felt all I need to feel
My heart will pound its last
The heart goes Boom Boom Sprackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Sprackalacka

Boom Boom Sprackalacka Boom Boom
Boom Boom Sprackalacka

 

~
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

Traveler Comes Home: Pittsburgh My Way

PittsburghToday I’m playing tourist in my own hometown because everyone should spend time being a tourist in their own home.

The morning began with a ride on the Duquesne Incline, built in 1877 as a way for people who lived on the hill (now called Mount Washington) to get down into the city and back up again. Following that was a rousing lunch at the Church Brew Works for a falafel hoagie and coconut stout. (How could I skip Primanti Bros., my ‘burgh friends will ask. But Primanti’s was yesterday. Pittsburgh My Way means there’s always food on the tour.)

After lunch, a quick look around at the Cathedral of Learning, my old haunt when I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. All of my writing classes took place in this gothic-style building. I love not only taking pictures of this building but walking through it and putting my hands on the stones themselves.Pittsburgh

We then purposely headed south so we could turn around and burst through the Fort Pitt Tunnel for the dazzling panoramic view of the city of Pittsburgh.

And what day would be complete without zombies? We headed north to the tiny town of Evans City where Night of the Living Dead was filmed by Carnegie Mellon’s George Romero. Evans City is also the new location of the Living Dead Museum.

All in all, a great day, and it’s not over yet. Many people remember Pittsburgh of the 1970’s, with the smokestacks and the grit. Today’s city is a world away from that. It’s clean, it’s bright, and it’s filled with historical architecture, comfort food, and a spirit of whimsy that even the surrounding area cannot deny.

It’s so exciting for this world traveler to call Pittsburgh home.

~
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