Spilled Milk

Spilled MilkYears ago, when technology wasn’t what it is today, I remember writing an entire scene and losing it through the magic of a computer glitch. The whole thing was gone. I was miserable. I wanted to kick myself for not saving it as I went, but even at the time of writing it, the words were flowing out so fast and so well I didn’t take the chance on slowing down, even to save it.

I have since learned to save as I go, regardless of the roll I’m on. I’ve also taught myself, especially through the daily writing of this blog project, that I can stop and restart writing at any time and get right back into the groove, so to speak. Practice and practice certainly help.

But, as I hate to do things twice, I was kicking myself for losing that old scene that was so majestic, so perfect in its diction and its humor. Finally–and it took time–I set out to rewrite the whole scene. It turned out pretty well. And after that, somehow, through the magic of technology that is far beyond my capabilities, I found a copy of the original on the printer. Comparing the two, I realized how far superior the rewrite was to the original. I never would have known it, but there it was, plain as day.

The thing about spilled milk is that we cry over it because it was perfectly good milk. But sometimes we lament things that are gone and done, and really, they weren’t a waste at all, and they were never very good.

Some things need to go to make room for something better that’s approaching. Note here the word approaching; not here yet, perhaps not even on the horizon, but regardless, riding toward us without our knowing. Other situations, quite simply, are better off in our rearview mirror, getting smaller and smaller as we move forward. Because forward we will go.

Of course, in the rare instance that the milk spills out in the shape of a silly, flying ghost, there’s nothing left to do but stop and laugh, and laugh well.

Make room for the great things that are coming, because they’re out there, mid-approach.

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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.

Detail Retention

Detail RetentionI just finished a conversation with my friend in Quebec about the card I sent to his family that they haven’t received yet. Turns out, I sent it to the wrong house number. His neighbors must have it.

But I did have to ask him if maybe he had forgotten the house number, since that’s the number I had saved in my computer. They’ve received my cards in the past, and no one ever said I’d sent them to the neighbors.

When I asked him how certain he was of the house number, my friend scoffed. He knew the house number, all right. You don’t forget things like that. “You wouldn’t forget your name, would you?” he asked.

“Actually, today, I forgot what state I was in when I went to the store,” I told him. (The lady at the register thought that was pretty funny.)

I reminded him that people forget basic information all the time. We go to the store for milk and leave after spending fifty dollars and still return home with no milk. We search for our cell phones as we talk on them, complaining to the person on the other end about how we can’t find the phone. Sometimes I push my glasses up to adjust my vision before I realize I’m wearing my contacts. These are not clever moments, mind you, but they’re so very human.

On the flip side, however, we can remember every word of our favorite song, every nuanced step along the way that lead to choosing the perfect school, car, or house. We remember the sound of our footsteps along the road, the distinct smell of rain, every moment of a vacation. And we remember every single, minute detail of a first kiss.

Some things just aren’t as important.

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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.

To Face Unafraid

To Face UnafraidRecently, I overheard a college student talking about conspiracies. He pointed out that to conspire is to plan, and thus, he said, planning and conspiracy are one and the same. (He forgot that conspiring has a negative connotation to it, that it involves not just planning but planning harm of some sort, which is an important distinction.) But hours after overhearing this, I heard “Winter Wonderland” on a restaurant speaker, and specifically walked inside to hear the line that goes, “We face unafraid the plans that we’ve made…”

And that word unafraid is what gets me. I must have sung that song a zillion times in life, and never really paid attention to that word. So, for days now, I’ve been thinking about the ability to face something, anything, everything without fear. How often do we actually do that? Should we be doing it more often?

I rewound the song in my mind and thought about how the participants were conspiring and dreaming around a fire–and I don’t think they were literally conspiring to do harm but were simply attempting to dream big and without limits. In a way, that in itself might be considered harmful. I imagine in my mind, the “Them,” the stodgy people out there who conspire to keep the rest of us dreamers in line, thwarting our efforts to think bigger and better, tripping us up at every turn. Rather than think of closed doors or impossibilities in life, I prefer to think of the Them simply shaking their heads, which makes it easier to walk on by on my road to impossible. When you think of it, most of our entire lives are impossibilities. And yet… Yes, somehow, yet we strive.

Among friends, especially sitting around a toasty fireplace, it’s easier to make crazy plans and have the courage to chase them down. Surrounded by the best of friends, we’re encouraged to dream big and believe that we can achieve anything. It’s even possible to achieve the lofty goals we set for ourselves in moments of warmth and friendship. This is what it is to live in a wonderland.

So press on, dreamers of the impossible. Press on undeterred and unafraid.

~
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.

This and That

This and ThatThe Internet is discussing plans for the New Year. We should all take that trip we’ve wanted, go back to school for that degree, have that family and send the kids off to college, ask the boss for that raise, write that novel, ask that certain lofty someone out to dinner, buy that car and dream house and start that vineyard. It’s all a lot of that, that, that, when this year is not even over yet.

This, this here and now, is still all around us, begging us not to plan it all away but to attack the list of that and make them all this. Here. And now.

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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.

Layers in the Music

Layers in the MusicA few months ago I heard a radio interviewer ask a band to tell the world the most annoying interview question ever posed to them. The band—I don’t recall their name—said they couldn’t stand to be asked if they write the music first or the lyrics.

They said that they, and most every musician in their knowledge, write the music first. It was a given, a no-brainer.

As a writer, I found this fascinating. When you write with structure, as I love to do with poetry, you start with the structure first and then put words into it. It makes sense that musicians would do the same. It also makes sense, when you listen to bubble gum or cookie cutter music, that you hear words being changed or used in the wrong ways only to fit the music because the structure got in the way.

And then you hear something written by Leonard Cohen, and you realize what structure done right can really do and the amazing difference in hearing poetry put to music. Absolutely brilliant.

In similar brilliant fashion, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen and appreciating the band’s gift for capitalizing on a quick moment of silence or their ability to layer sound and build to a crescendo as the unbridled lyrics actually tell a story or evoke a feeling. No wonder Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett put Queen in their book Good Omens, one of my favorite books of all time for its ability to get a reader to laugh out loud with imaginative and specific details. In Good Omens, it’s said that every cassette tape left in a vehicle for two weeks will automatically play the Best of Queen regardless of what band is on the label. It’s details like that that make for intriguing writing.

And it’s all those layers in the music that make for the kind of listening that opens the mind to tiny, tiny details and vast possibilities.

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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. 

Pruney Fingers

Pruny FingersMy fifth grade health book had a lesson on feet that I remember reading over and over again because it said our toes grip the ground as we walk. I thought that was a funny way of describing what toes do. I kept thinking I misread it, so I looked it up again and again. Gripping was the toes’ design, the book said. At home, I must have walked miles across the floor and back again, watching my toes to see them grip.

And, growing up, we always knew that spending too much time in the bathtub or swimming pool would turn your fingers and toes pruney. That was how adults got us to come out of the water, by pointing out that we were shriveling up. It was our body’s signal that we’d had enough, they said.

Years later, swimming with a friend, I got really curious about why fingertips prune. My friend dismissed, it, telling me that our pores absorb the water. Staring at my fingers, I thought his explanation made no sense. Absorption would swell the fingers, not shrivel them. And why was it only my fingers and toes? Exiting the pool, I noted that I wasn’t waterlogged, nor was I dehydrated, either.

Unable to let it go (when do I, ever?), I dug around online and found a recent article where scientists discovered our bodies naturally pull water away from our fingers and toes when we’re in water in order to give us better grip. It was our body’s physiological way of giving us traction, according to the article.

After all these years, it all comes back to grip, again. Our feet are our connection to the ground; our hands, to one another. We have a hold on this life. Not with talons and claws, but with wiggly toes and pruning skin. We’re not securely strapped to this planet. We’re connected to it, simply, by touch.

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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. 

Color of Life

Color of LifeThe Internet today had a story about a woman who can see ten million colors, with her bare eyes. Imagine that, ten million colors.

When you think about it, we all see things so differently. I think of all the diverse personalities you can stuff into a party, a funeral parlor, a board meeting, or a dining room, and the way they will all have a different take on what’s really going on around them.

Imagine a gathering of people who all want to build a village. Imagine that they work separately, allowing each person to add their distinct flair. Would the village get built? Would the village come together? Or imagine that they work together, pulling their various visions into one, shared collaboration.

I think of little kids at the beach, building castles in the sand. I think of the way each castle will be completely different, based on the child’s vast imagination.

I think of strict housing plans, the way each house looks exactly the same as the last. Cookie cutter. Or are they? Does each of us see the houses in a different way? Because we don’t all look at the world around us with simple, rose-colored glasses. Each of us sees and interprets based on our own experience, and in trying times, we add emotional needs into that great mix, further painting the color scheme from plain or clear or bland, shades so unique, they could only belong to that particular moment in that specific time.

Ten million colors. I marvel at eyes that could see so much, eyes that could allow for so many variances, all in one world.

~
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. 

Light of My Eye

Light of My EyeMaybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking today about bleach. Specifically, I’m thinking about chlorine bleach and how it works with stains and clothing. A long time ago, I don’t remember when, someone told me that bleach didn’t remove stains in the traditional sense. He was a chef, come to think of it. He told me that chlorine bleach didn’t get rid of the stain, but made it invisible to the human eye, chemically.

He’s right: chlorine bleach oxidizes bonds between carbon atoms, reducing a substance’s ability to absorb light, thus, making the substance appear white to our eye. The stain is still very much there. It all has to do with light, and how we see things.

And that is what I’m thinking about. Some known things are just a trick of the light, like a magician’s spell. Some things that we’ve known, without a doubt, were never known at all.

Rather than take this information and wonder, “What can be relied upon, ever?” I instead think, “This opens up possibilities.”

We are not just what we see, what we feel, a bag of walking experiences—we are all of those things simultaneously. We can be as simple or as complicated as we like, the fact is, we are not just what we appear to be, and sometimes, the answers take a little more thought.

We aren’t just a low mood after a bad day, or an exuberant laugh after a great day. Below the surface, there is so much more going on. So dive into the mystery, swim the torrid currents, and emerge victorious, with beautiful understanding.

~
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

All That Paper and Ink

All that paper and inkThis morning, I heard a story on talk radio about two young women in Pennsylvania who wanted a community market in their town so they could get good groceries, fresh produce from local farms, options for gluten-free diets, etc. Their neighbors shopped at the local gas station. And though gas stations have come a long way in their options, the kids in their neighborhood rarely ate fresh fruit and veggies, opting instead for items that used to be vegetables at some processing point. So, these women took it upon themselves to open a community market. As I listened to this story, I daydreamed about opening a bookstore, for many similar reasons as the market ladies.

For one, people need bookstores. They need a literary place to hang out—not just an empty room with a stage and a dank smell of yesterday’s spilled alcohol as they make their slam poetry dreams happen, they need a real store, with real, hand-held books, and shelf upon shelf of books that remind us that it can be done.

For another, we need rooms of ideas collected from diverse people who came up with them and believed in them enough to write them down and had agents and publishers also believe in those words enough to make them into books. Big books, small books, books with pictures, books with thick pages and large words, books with cool, smooth pages and small print, and that enchanting scent of all that paper and ink!

On Friday, I walked from shelf to shelf, opening books and breathing them in. No one stopped me. No one snickered that I must be a weirdo for doing it. No, book people get it, and they’re the ones enjoying their neighborhood bookstore, a store to which—and this brings me back to the community market girls–I had to drive a half hour just to reach. A half hour is too far for the nearest bookstore location. I’m surprised the kids in my town aren’t walking around saying, “What’s a book? What good is a book?”

My bookstore daydream continues. Yes, we can live without fresh food and without paper-and-ink books, but when you bite into a carrot and discover its sugary sweetness and when you open your own book to reveal a whole world within, ready to explore, your senses are opened to the difference. And you just can’t go back.

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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. For more bookstore love, see the post Bookstore Camping.

One Man’s Junk

Post on JunkI volunteer at a local organization, one that I remember from my childhood to be fun, inviting, and a great place to learn. Nerds remember places of higher knowledge with great fondness and appreciation.

But this year, there’s a load of junk in the classrooms. It’s everywhere you look. It’s stuffed in closets and hallways, too. It makes the building look unused, even abandoned. I asked what it was doing there, everywhere, and was told that it’s for the Trash and Treasure sale, which has been pushed back this year by at least a month. I needed a safe place to house a classroom and this junk was not helping. It also wasn’t helping with the overall look and feel of the building. This was not the inviting learning center I once knew it to be.

Yet, like many volunteer organizations, this one is struggling through a financial lull. The Trash and Treasure sale, if it performs the way it has in years past (yes, years past this junk has been there!), then it should be a greatly needed financial boon. Unsold myself, I still looked upon this junk as an eyesore, one that was keeping people from wanting to hang out in the building. In frustration, I thought if I had the funds, I’d give heavily to this organization, and I’d clean out all this junk and fix the place up. It would be inviting again.

And that’s when it occurred to me that, again, all things boil down to money. That thought made me sadder than looking at the junk. All paths for improvement travel through moneytown at one point or another. Money is the fast track to fixing things up and getting them in order. But those same paths meander for a reason: there are many more ways than money. Especially when you don’t have it, money can’t be the only solution. I took another look at this junk, at the volumes of it, and I asked the question, “Does this sale bring in lots of people?”

I was told that yes, people line up around the block and wait for hours to get in for the sale.

That’s a lot of people, who, if they like what they see as far as the building and the organization is concerned, may want to join in. In a split second, the junk went from being an eyesore to being an opportunity. I even heard myself say, “I can’t believe we only have a month before the sale!”

I rallied a team, and we thought through wall decorations, brochures to hand out, and charts and pictures of our activities for Trash and Treasure buyers to look at while they’re in line.

I’d been thinking about this all wrong. Fighting the junk was a losing battle. I’m humbled to realize how close-minded I was. Creating an open mind to see the possibilities was the solution.

~
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