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!

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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.

Within

WithinWe must remember that there is a flicker inside all of us. A flicker of light, hope, inspiration, all wrapped into one. It’s buried deep within and with a little fanning, begins to warm and spread and emerge through our fingers and toes and faces and especially from our hearts.

This is how we generate joy. This is how we know what joy is.

JB

The Tossing of Powerful Words

The Tossing of Powerful WordsEveryone has their pet peeves, and writers are certainly no exception. We get grumpy about poor word choice, shortcuts in spelling, and especially about grammar mishaps. We put so much time and attention into these things that we forget that others don’t. But with all these gorgeous words around us, why choose to say something that’s been so over-used that it ceases to mean anything at all?

Case in point, my pet peeve: Love to death, as in, “My best friend Sally? Oh, I just love her to death…”

Yes, I get that you love Sally, and yes, I get that you’re not trying to be literal. But then, why say it? You just wasted an opportunity to say something real by grasping at a melodramatic phrase instead. If it came down to it, in the truest setting, would you lay down your life for hers?

If you have to think twice about that, then stop saying it. Let’s get rid of the dramatic death love, and just love. Words have power, and tossing them around like a salad dilutes their meaning. If, on the other hand, you’d trade your life for Sally’s in a heartbeat, then by all means, say it. And say it like you mean it so that anyone listening feels it.

Another concept that’s quickly losing its meaning is gratitude. True, undiluted gratitude, it seems, needs to follow a pattern:

  1. Feel grateful for something
  2. Realize that what you’re feeling is gratitude
  3. Full of feeling, say, “Thank you”

I think these steps get skipped a bit. Most times it’s just a quick “thanks” that we toss around to one another, which is certainly better than nothing. But the other steps are so very important: feeling gratitude and realizing that you feel it. I’m convinced that the immersion into this feeling is what opens the door for more good to come. And if there’s no feeling behind it, “thanks” becomes just another word. Don’t let that happen to thanks. Put the emotion back into it. Open the floodgate.

On this eve of Thanksgiving, put your heart back into what you say, and reclaim the strength of your words.

~
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.

The Case for Wisening

The Case for WiseningOn our way for sushi today, my friend tells me today, “Sometimes being cynical is a good thing.”

“I don’t think being cynical is good,” I say.

“Yes, it can be a good thing, Brown. Not always, but it can be good. It can save you. Well, not save your life, but…”

“Save heartache?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “Say you hear someone likes you, and you’re cynical about it and choose not to pursue it, and then you find out that that person was never into you in the first place. See? Being cynical just saved you.”

And in an instant, I think: Saved you from what? From taking a chance? From being embarrassed? From feeling exposed?

And I wonder, less in words and more in pictures and feelings: Is this the way people think? Is this how I would think if I didn’t write and take that exposed chance every day? Artists aren’t out there trying to suffer to create art, but they aren’t protecting themselves from life, either. You have to put your heart out there, and sometimes it gets stomped on, and that’s okay because you pick up the pieces differently each time and you grow in vast new directions and look at the world through ever clearing and ever wisening eyes. And even though wisening isn’t a word, it should be because wisdom is a process, and one you can only walk, putting one foot in front of the other deliberately, not with rushing force, and certainly not by standing still grasping at cynicism as life moves along without you.

The light changes to green, and I come out of my wisening mental argument, and we proceed on our way to sushi.

“The saying is ‘live and learn,’” I say. “The ‘live’ part comes first for a reason.”

~
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.

And the Like

And the LikeIn Writer School, you practice writing what you want to say. And especially in Creative Writer school, any feeling you’re trying to evoke needs to come from the words you choose, so you spend a lot of time thinking about how you feel about something, trying to get to the heart of what you think and feel about it, then putting it all into words so others can share the experience with you. That said, you’re not allowed to be dismissive in this process. You’ll get failing marks if you avoid zeroing in on what you’re trying to say.

Here’s an example of such avoidance:

“It was like, and I was like, and then they like, like, you know what I mean? Like, yeah.”

That, my friends, is 19 words (count them!) of the speaker’s bobbing along on the surface without really getting at anything. The message imparted is clear: the speaker didn’t want to put the effort into digging, finding, and making a point, but is relying on the patience and sympathy of the listener to fill in the gaps.

We all struggle for words at times. I remember one of my high school reading teachers getting tired of teenagers overusing the word like, and challenged us to stand up and talk at random without using it. One girl stood up and did a good job for half a sentence until she lost her trail of thought, stammered, and tossed out a like to fill the silence. I’m not saying I could have done any better. Sitting in my chair quietly taking it all in was my modus operandi. Being asked to stand up in front of everyone and speak off the cuff was, at the time, tantamount to asking to use me as shark bait. But the lesson was clear, and it was one of those moments that I return to in my mind and examine over and over. For the girl who was challenged to stand up, it was the moment of silence that got her.

But a moment of silence to gather your thoughts is sometimes necessary, and it’s appreciated by enquiring minds. Make your point. Make any point. And allow for silence if you need, because that next word, the one that breaks the silence, can be deafening. Let it be.

The worst part about like, like, like is that you risk your very thoughts and feelings becoming background noise. Think about it: The boy who cried wolf all the time was ignored when a real wolf showed up. Make your words count.

~
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.

Unchecking the D Box

Unchecking the D BoxBeing back in my hometown after years of being away, I’m playing catchup on everyone’s lives, jobs, retirements, children, grandchildren. Stories abound. And for all the many changes, there are some stories that stay the same.

In asking about an old classmate who was divorced years ago, I’m told that she’s “the same,” but that remark comes with a knowing glance.

“Oh,” I say. And I think to myself that she’s still checking the D box. Sure, she’s single, but not in any sort of wonderful or carefree way. Thinking back to my own divorce, I remember a time that, if I had to check a box, a place to identify myself, I’d say I was Divorced. When getting new bank accounts, name changes, etc., you’re required to check a silly box.

For a while, the D word (or any D word) becomes a thing in itself, like a big, fat mark on your head, your own personal scarlet letter, as if you’re Damaged goods. And the thing is, you feel like damaged goods; there’s a lot of healing to be done. And healing happens in one’s own unique time, whether it’s putting a life back together again or coming to grips with your own Disparagement. Some days all you can do is clear a path for change, because the thing of it is to get out of the box and stop looking at the world through D eyes, as if you’re “other,” as if fundamental happiness doesn’t apply to you because you’re Different.

But one day, the paperwork will end, and with it, goes the box requirement. And regardless of what anyone says, you again have a choice among the boxes.

The day you stop identifying yourself with the D’s is the day you climb out of the Derogatory box. And when you stop checking the D box on applications and warranties and instead clearly state your name and what you want, life takes over again, and you realize you can identify yourself any way you like. You hold the pen.

~
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 Spell is Broken

The Spell is BrokenWhen I grew up, most of the kid movies included a magic spell put on the hero and the audience waited in anticipation for the spell to be broken so the hero could live the life meant for him. He (or she) would wake up just in the nick of time, and fight the source of the spell, win, and reclaim what was rightfully his.

I loved these movies. I think I became more anxious than most for the hero to wake up and take back his life, his dreams, and his plans.

I grew up, (mostly), and as an adult I’m amazed at the sheer number of people who aren’t living their dreams. For one reason or another, and sometimes they’re very good and unexpected reasons, we don’t live the lives we were meant to have. As a writer, I hear the conversations around me, and they usually include a lot of repetition in speech, from blaming others or a situation to taking on all of the responsibility for things out of one’s control. Either way, this kind of thinking is getting in the way.

In the movies, the way to break the spell always came from the source, i.e., the sorcerer, bad guy, or otherwise foul-motived villain. In life, luckily, we don’t have to wait for a third party to break the spell for us. Awesome as it sounds, and I do mean awesome in its impressive and daunting sense, it’s all up to us. We can break these spells of self-doubt over launching into something risky, find the little light within that whispers, “You can,” and believe it, because the voice within is different for everyone, distinctive for what we’re each meant to do, and only heard by the intended recipient. Our dreams are all different. Remember yours. Break the spell. Take back your life.books post

For a great story about finding and reclaiming your dreams in the midst of a chaotic life, pick up a copy of Upside Down Kingdom. It’s historical fiction, and a work of hope.

The Imp Called Hindsight

The Imp Called HindsightAnother look at signs today. Unlike yesterday’s signs, which were everywhere and unreadable, today I’m thinking about all the signs that go unseen until, if and when, you look behind you. These are the signs that are barely noticed, if noticed at all, in the present. It’s only in hindsight that they stand out clearly, which makes me wonder if we’re supposed to see them at all. Things like time, weather, a trusted safeguard, an offhand remark, a certain clarity of thinking, or even a strange lack of anything out of the ordinary. These things play tricks with the mind.

Hindsight after a tragedy makes a person think the signs were there all along. And maybe they were. But without the event itself, these signs alone don’t point the way to anything. Interpretation of clues points to several outcomes. But tricky Hindsight shows only one obvious and clear way, pointing to a present that could have been avoided all along, if only we were smart enough or paid attention enough, compared notes enough. If only we were enough. It’s all of this, and especially the guilt factor, that prompted a friend to say recently, “The next time I see that little imp, Hindsight, I’m going to kick him.”

Indeed, run, Hindsight. We’re on to your game. Life is full of signs. We’ll open our eyes, we’ll pay attention, we’ll add up the clues and live better lives. And then we’ll get some predictions wrong, and we’ll close our eyes and everything will still turn out fine. We’ll tempt Hindsight himself, and nothing will happen. We’ll learn from the past, but not by looking over our shoulder in the present.

So say your peace, say your love, share the last cookie, and get back to living. Today is ours.

~
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 Whole Written Lot

The Whole Written LotI’m a fan of reading the book before I see the movie. Similarly, I prefer to learn a fair amount of a language, my surroundings, landmarks, and culture in advance of a trip to get the most out of international travel. But, flexibility just to go with it and make it work is paramount when circumstances arise quickly.

A few years ago, on one such last-minute opportune adventure, I was in Germany and didn’t know much German at all. That’s when it suddenly occurred to me how much I love to read: when I couldn’t.

I discovered then that this love transcended books and newspapers and random articles to include reading road signs, billboards, directions, labels, nutritional facts, the whole written lot. Were these road signs telling me how many kilometers to the next town, or telling me how fast we were allowed to drive? Frustratingly, I had no idea. My crash course in German, otherwise known as practicing with my hairdresser, didn’t include the written language. (I knew words for please and thank you, bathroom, hotel, some numbers–what I considered the important stuff at the last minute.)

When I couldn’t read, I hunted for patterns in the words. I discovered words for Enter and Exit pretty readily, food items, train schedules and such, but otherwise, most was a blur. And I was off to the next place just as I started to crack the code.

When I got home, incidentally, I signed up for a German class, where those sought-after dots finally connected themselves. A little late perhaps, but not for the next adventure. There’s no statute of limitations on what’s next.

~
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. 

A Barrier and a Path

I sat up late last night, reading, as I usually do when the house is quiet and I can turn on one light to push the darkness back just a bit, enough to sustain my eyes and make me focus. I liken the feeling to stepping onto the yoga mat, where all I’m concerned about is the entirety of the mat’s space. Nothing more, and not one thing less.

Last night, I read about the Miracle at Dunkirk. I’m sure I read this in school, but it never resonated the way it does now, and all because of three words.

Picture: In early 1940, the British and their Allies, some 350,000 troops, fought Nazi Germany across lowland Europe, and the Germans pushed them back to the small town of Dunkirk in northern France, six miles from Belgium, where they were surrounded on three sides by the Germans, with their backs to the English Channel. For some reason, which is still disputed, a halt order was given by Hitler.

The world waited with bated breath for the onslaught. Meanwhile, the besieged army sent a telegraphed message out that simply read, “But if not.”

But if not. These three words are a reference to the Biblical book of Daniel, where Daniel’s three friends chose death rather than to bow down to the King’s golden idol. The king told them they would be thrown into the furnace for not bowing and they replied, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). Barrier and Path post

“But if not” sent a clear message that, even in what looked like defeat, the besieged troops were victorious. They would not give in. These three words resonated with the British people, and they felt impelled to act. A British friend of mine, and a veteran of WWII, tells me that the people of her country look at water differently, that what looks like a wet barrier to others is a path for the British. After “But if not,” Operation Dynamo was announced to the British public to rescue the Allied soldiers. Civilians banded together in a dockyard, launched their own small boats, and headed into the treacherous English Channel. Reportedly, more than 700 boats were launched by anybody who had one, and they rescued more than 338,000 troops in what historians call the Miracle of Dunkirk.

Three words, and a miracle.

What are your three words today?

~
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