The Good China

The Good ChinaA friend once told me a story about finally getting the kids down for a nap one day just as the doorbell rang. In the driveway, she saw her best friend’s car. She looked around at her messy house, with laundry and life’s debris everywhere, and dreaded answering the door–especially because her best friend was always so put together.

She answered the door and there was her friend with a cranky baby on her hip. “I’m all ‘mommy brain’ today and I needed some friend time,” her friend said and then saw the mess in the house and gasped. “Oh, thank goodness!” she said. “I thought only my house looked like this.”

Recently, my mom visited a friend of hers and said, “Your house always looks so nice. Between work and the grandkids, I don’t know how you do it. I know I’m busy, but my house never looks like this.”

Her friend smiled and said, “Did you ever notice that when you come over, we sit in the kitchen or in the living room and never venture to other parts of the house?”

“No, I never really thought about it,” my mom said.

“Well,” her friend said, “Allow me to show you the basement. When someone comes over, I take everything out of place from the kitchen and living room and toss them in the basement.”

On my last visit to my Grandma, her house was cleaner than I’d ever seen it, and yet, she lamented about how messy it was and even said that she’d noticed that my parents’ house was never messy.

I laughed. “I’ll tell you a secret,” I said. “We straighten things up at the last minute before anyone comes over. We don’t actually live like that, Grandma. I don’t think anybody does.”

Comparing ourselves to one another is a waste of time and energy. One way or another, none of us has it all together.

Let’s enjoy the moment, with the kids and the messy house, with the grandkids and the messy house, with the relatives over in the messy house. Absorb today because tomorrow things change.

Let go of perfection. Stop waiting for “better” times. It’s time to use the good china.

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

Lines in Sand and Metal

Lines in Sand and MetalIn chasing and repoussé work, hammering lines into metal is called chasing. One chases a line with a hammer and a liner tool, either a curved or a straight liner. The straight liner doesn’t really have an up or down side, whereas the curved liner certainly does and needs to be held properly. It’s important to stop and look at the curved liner over and over again to make sure you’re holding it right.

I’ve spent some time lately not just chasing lines into metal but also drawing some lines in the sand. The entire process wasn’t so much about ruling things in or out or limiting possibilities as much as it was about taking a personal inventory and realigning my steps on the path. What began as a terrible exercise with these sand lines in needing to state my own obvious soon became a reaffirmation of where I stand, what I love, and why.

And in all of it, I thought about chasing and that silly curved liner. When you hold it upside down, yes, it will still make the line. But the line will be sloppy. And it will take exhaustive effort to do the sloppy line. It drains the energy quickly. But when you hold the curved liner the right way, the line doesn’t take effort to form, it just forms. Simply, beautifully, easily.

Lines in sand and metal are not haphazard. They get etched with great purpose. It’s up to us how difficult or how elegantly simple we allow them to be. Set your sights on your dream, take the moment to align yourself properly, and chase it down.

Ready, set, go!

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

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

In Reverse

In ReverseAfter sitting in a waiting room recently, talking with a lady nicknamed Queenie about her grandchildren, I’m convinced that grandparents have the ability to look at life in reverse. It’s not the same as looking back on life; many of us look backwards and see the path and the twists and turns that brought us to the present day. Grandparents, conversely, look at small children and look forward, seeing each personality quirk in the tiny humans to wonder if they’ll become healers, teachers, or rulers of the world.

They don’t know the path, but they know where the turns are.

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


The Dust of Stones

The Dust of StonesAs a kid, I spent a lot of time in this old building, staring at its plaster walls and daydreaming. I used to imagine that it was once solid rock, painstakingly hollowed out to allow us entry. To go to that much trouble, I knew that there must be something amazing and valuable inside these walls.

I imagined rock carvers permanently covered in the dust of stones and hammering away for an age and a half, knowing that one day someone would sit here, admire their handicraft, and be inspired to dream big dreams.

Here I sit again, this time as an adult. And I know it’s thick plaster on these walls, not rock. Despite that difference, I know that it took time and effort to apply it so thick and design into it. I see it for what it is, for what it was meant to be, and for what it has meant to me all this time, and I think, “Yes, there’s clearly treasure here.”

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

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel VisionDoctors will tell you the tunnel vision is a very bad thing, that there are many physical disturbances that manifest into tunnel vision: glaucoma, blood loss, hypoxia, to name a few. And the list certainly goes on.

Metaphorically, tunnel vision isn’t all that great, either. Walking around in life not seeing the forest for the trees is not ideal. But in times of great distress, like dealing with an illness or going through a divorce, tunnel vision can be a blessing.

You look ahead, your peripheral vision gone, and all the distractions lying in wait at the outskirts of your sight have vanished. They’re still there, of course, but without your having to plan ahead to deal with them and stress today about what’s coming tomorrow, when usually, none of those worrisome things come to pass. In times of great struggle, dealing with today is all you really need to do.

Darkness is all around, blotting out everything, yet the tunnel allows you to see only a pinpoint of light ahead. That dot of light becomes your focus, your only focus, and all you need to do is reach it. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. All you have to do is move. You will get there.

There are times when I’ve walked these tunnels in life, and the light ahead is sometimes only in my mind it’s that far away. But I know that what’s behind me is worse than the silly tunnel.

I don’t just know that the pinpoint of light is ahead; I know exactly what it looks like. I know what’s there, and I know that here is only one letter away.

Keep approaching.

for M.P.

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

Not Set in Stone

Not Set in StoneHere’s a game I like to play: I think about the answers that I’m waiting to hear and imagine that they’re not set in stone and that I can change them. Let me explain: If I’m waiting, say, to hear the final score of a hockey game that’s already over, I wonder if by thinking the outcome I want, I can change the reality. If I’m waiting to hear how I did on a test, I think thoughts of excellent scores and convince myself that anything I remember marking wrong is actually just a false memory.

If I don’t know the outcome, perhaps the pieces are still lining themselves up and I can still have an influence. It can be a challenging and exciting mental exercise to track down all the details that need to change, doors that need to open, switches that need to be thrown in order to allow for the outcome I have in my head.

Sounds a bit crazy, right? I see your point, but think of it like this: When you write a story and need to make a change, you must think through every part of the story to see how your change is affecting the whole. If, three quarters of the way in you realize your character is older or younger than you first depicted, you must go back and change every nuance of age in the writing, and you must also think through the unwritten details in your head, which are typically backstory that the readers never see but is mandatorily instrumental for the writer. (Why not just write it right the first time, you ask? A wonderful question! It brings to mind puzzles and a story told to me by Aleksandra Kasuba. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.)

When you make these changes, you realize they aren’t one-dimensional but more of a chain reaction. This change leads to that change. And if that is changed, then what follows is also changed, and so on.

The whole game is great analytical thinking, and it doesn’t take long for the writer brain to apply it to life. For it to work, all you need is to believe that you have influence, because, quite simply, you do. Though life seems to just happen, you can get a say. So be ready, and make your words count.

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

The Welding Helmet

The Welding HelmetThe view from inside a welding helmet is darkness. It’s disconcerting at first. Yet when you begin your work, you see light, a concentration of light as you join metal to metal. The helmet cancels out all else, so you don’t see a workbench, the walls, the floor, the sparks landing on your arms. All you see is concentration of light and a small molten river, like a lava flow, that you direct where to go. The world and its distractions fall away. You learn to let them go. It’s you, and metal, and light.

Though solitary, welding is joining together, fusing, bonding. When welding, what starts in darkness is made strong in light.

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

The Underdog Trap

The Underdog TrapEveryone loves a good underdog story. We love the moment when the overruled, picked over, and left behind stand up and claim victory. We love when the stakes are high and the odds are stacked against us. We love to come out swinging and silence the critics.

Being an underdog, though, requires a different kind of thinking. When the 2005 Wild Card Steelers won every playoff game on the road that led them to a Super Bowl victory, they didn’t listen to the statisticians telling them no team had ever won the Super Bowl from such a lowly status. They played each game, one at a time, and gave each one their all. Yesterday’s victory did nothing for today’s challenge, but “can’t” never entered the vocabulary.

Traveling quite a bit further back, when David defeated Goliath, he was given armor to wear for protection but it didn’t fit, so he stepped onto the battlefield wearing only his shepherd clothes. From the looks of it, he was outmatched. Yet, no seasoned fighter would stand up to Goliath’s challenge. David knew the necessity of such a victory, and he knew he could do it. He believed.

Sometimes we become so enchanted with the underdogs that we stack the deck against ourselves. We talk of our inevitable defeat, we gather the naysayers and let their words wash over us, and unfortunately, we start to see ourselves through their eyes as unfavored and unable to win. We want so much to prove everyone wrong, but we’ve set ourselves up for failure. We forget that underdogs truly seeking victory eliminate can’t immediately, and they (and sometimes they alone) believe with all they’ve got.

Take a good look around you and see all that’s there, whether it’s the roof over your head, the desk you earned at work, the car you already drive, the car you want to drive, the education you continue to strive for, the man/woman of your dreams, these things that we call life are uphill climbs that we make every day, without the word “can’t” and sometimes with only belief in our pocket. Victory is yours. Hold fast to the underdog thinking, but let yourself out of the underdog trap.

Within an hour we’ll find out if a European probe was successfully able to land on a comet hurtling through space. Despite all that could go wrong, the European Space Agency made the decision to go for it anyway. In every interview I’ve come across, they state they knew they could do it, and they believe they can. That’s the kind of thinking that changes the 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 

I Wonder

I WonderAfter a lot of morning and afternoon activities yesterday, late in the afternoon I finally settled in to watch some football at home. I hopped under a blanket, put my feet up, and settled in to a comfy chair. When they announced the starting lineup, I didn’t see a particular player for one of the teams and I wondered where he was. I wondered if he’d been traded, or if he were out with an injury, or maybe he’d retired for all I knew.

I reached for my phone to look him up, and realized my phone was charging in the kitchen. My laptop and tablet were charging in the dining room. And I chalk it up to being plain old lazy, but I decided not to track down my devices. Instead, I nestled further into the blanket and just simply watched the game, listening intently for any mention of that player while my mind wandered to all the possibilities for him.

I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to recall if anyone had talked about him lately, or if I’d seen anything in the headlines that he’d been traded. I certainly hadn’t seen any negative press.

I thought about asking, because certainly someone in the room would know, and if they didn’t, I thought about anyone I might know who followed that particular team, people I knew when I lived near that city, and where they might be now, since I haven’t been able to find some of them online. I didn’t ask any questions out loud, and I realized I was staying quiet because I was having too much fun following my thoughts. I thought about how it was not the answers but the questions that became important.

To be honest, I still haven’t looked up that player’s whereabouts. It’s one thing to have the world at your fingertips. It’s another, entirely, to have the world in your mind.

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