Hope Spiral

Hope SpiralI woke up thinking, “I have high hopes for the day.” Of course I do. I have hope, so to say I have no hope is untrue. And since hope is clearly here, it would be silly to think that I have little hope. I admit that hope can certainly come in large and small amounts, but it also seems to feed on itself. A little goes a long way. And because, once you let it in, it quickly spreads in multiple directions at once, it is accurate to say I have hopes, plural, rather than one simple hope.

Hope itself carries its own dividing line. You’re on one side of the line or the other; you have it or you don’t. And once you have it, even a little of it, you move further and further away from that dividing line, into that ever brightening sunflower field of hope.

I remember once in high school a teacher asked us what got us out of bed every morning. Some answered the alarm clock, others said their parents, still others said the smell of breakfast. I answered, “Opportunity.” And I now know that the two, opportunity and hope, are never far from one another.

It seems to me that if you dare to hope, why not dare to aim high? You’re already being daring. And what’s life, without all that wondrous daring?

And even though we can’t control any of the outcomes in this daring life, we can control how we approach them. The approach is all up to us, which means that a life in hope is never wasted.

And thus, “I have high hopes for the day.”

~
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.

Winging It, or Perhaps It’s Wung

winging it postI overheard someone talking today about winging it when she put together her Fantasy Football team. Describing this to a friend, she claimed she “wung it.”

I’m walked by just as she said it, and thought to myself, “Wung?”

The phrase “winging it” comes from the theater, when actors would learn their lines in the wings before heading onstage to deliver them. (Similarly, “waiting in the wings” i.e., patiently waiting for an opportunity, comes from those same stage wings.)

“Winging it” was done very last minute–typically because the actor had just been assigned the part—which is where the hurried and haphazard meaning enters the phrase.

But the past tense of “wing it” is winged, not wung. At least, not yet.

Language is a living, breathing thing. Trendy words certainly come and go, but for new circumstances, new concepts altogether, we coin a new term or phrase. We’re not inventing new words in lieu of the chance to string together existing words into interesting and unique ways. If that were the case, new words would be born out of laziness. No, language changes not so much with the times but with the need.

I’m always tickled when I figure out a new way of wording something or create a new descriptive term. These are usually the times when my friends raise their eyebrows corrected enough grammar that they can’t wait to catch me saying something wrong. In my mind, I tell fun grammar stories that everyone can enjoy.)

When asked that question, I always respond with, “Of course it’s a word. I just said it.” As if all one needed was to use a word in order for it to come into being. Oh, wait, that’s kinda how it works. We’re in charge of our own language, our own ability to communicate. These are powerful things, indeed.

So, perhaps the day will come when we introduce “wung” properly to the world. Until then, the past tense is still just winged, and we have theater to thank for it.

Theater’s ability to influence language is just one aspect of its great role in our lives. The Oxford English Dictionary says the phrase “winging it” has been used since 1885, which means we’ve been winging it for quite some time.

~
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 F-Word, In Glowing Terms

F-word postI was witness to an argument on Facebook this week between people who prefaced the whole shooting match by saying they “normally keep private things private” or something like that, which was immediately laughable because the world has never seen so much airing of dirty laundry, and because Facebook has that darn Message button if you really want to be private about it. But, I’m a lover of irony, so I read through some of the posts. The most interesting thing, to me, was the use of the F-word. Not interesting=clever, but interesting=misspelled. When you add an –ing to the end, then shorten it to just in’, you don’t need to change the “i” to an “e.” And that goes for all -ing to in’ shortenings. Just sayin’. (See?)

Most English majors will point out that there are so many gorgeous words you can use in place of the F-word that you’re really doing yourself a disservice to condense your vocab down to just that one. While I agree with this thinking, I can’t help but point out that if it’s done well, the F-word can be sheer poetry. In my lifetime, through high school, college, jumping into the bar scene, being friends with athletes and military personnel, and working in kitchens and boardrooms, I’ve known one person who really had a handle on it: My friend Josh.

One particular night working at a restaurant, my coworker Darrell and I made up a game (server games are the best) where we both tried to talk like Josh for the night. This came about because Darrell had told a story with entirely too many F-bombs in it–which I pointed out–and he made fun of me for my “inability to swear without sounding like an uppity professor.” Thus, the game of trying to talk like Josh was born.

Josh talks fast and hard, and can throw in the F-bomb left, right, and sideways and not miss a beat. Darrell and I tried our best to emulate this, in the kitchen, the server station, and even quietly near the bar, tossing out F-bombs all over the place and for no reason–which is where we went wrong, because it’s not a haphazard skill.

By the end of the shift we’d both had some impressive runs, but as we locked up and rounded the corner we ran smack into Josh, of all people, who was outside a pub having a cigarette. We chatted him up for a second, during which he launched into an effing rant that, in one sentence, not only used the F-word as multiple parts of speech but he also tossed in two effings followed by an actual noun where the effings were not redundant. No kidding, each one meant something different and we understood him perfectly.

I’ve studied nine languages over the years, and I’m telling you, Josh’s skills are nothing short of art. Yes, art. Educated, purposeful, quick-thinking art. It’s one thing to toss in an F-bomb in place of a word because you can’t think of the word you’re trying to say. That’s what Darrell and I were doing with the game. It’s another thing entirely, though, to use it as diction to convey heartache, love, angst, appreciation, and to describe a scene with precision and clarity, and even beauty.

Game over. Darrell and I looked at each other and shook our heads, defeated. “The master!” we congratulated Josh, first shaking his hand, then hugging him and telling him we how much we loved him. And when we left him there outside the Irish pub to finish his cigarette in the cold, night air, poor Josh had no effing idea what was going on.

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

Red Light, Green Light

language SEO postWell! I spent the entire day updating the language on my website and blog so they are more SEO-compliant. Special thanks to the Plug-In, Yoast SEO, for your brilliant downloaded help–otherwise everything would be, well, as it was yesterday.

Now, yesterday was great, but today, I have all these little green lights telling me that I’m okay. There’s something programmed into us that makes green lights so soothing. Now that I think about it, I basically spent the day playing the adult version of Red Light, Green Light with computer language.

I have accomplished greatness. And yet, I feel like I’ve made no forward progress. Why does required maintenance feel like such a challenge in patience? I’m ready to go, go, go, and I’m told instead to, “Sit still. One more second. Wait for it. There. After all that, now you’re finally on par.”

I’m examining many of these issues in my Maintenance Poems, a series of poetry about our working lives and how we get through our “daily grind” in order to maintain. (See my newly updated link for more projects on my writing desk.)

You know me by now; of course I found a way to connect my daily struggle to a poetic endeavor. Finding joy in the mundane, that’s me. And, truth be told, I enjoyed re-arranging all those words today. You know I did.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

Plotting

photo-2We used to drive to camp when I was younger, driving three hours through small towns in western Pennsylvania until we got to the little cabin my Grandpap built.

And the thing was, as we drove through those little towns, I’d imagine myself living there, sitting in those yards, riding my bike in on those streets, watching cartoons from those living rooms. I’d look in the windows of the houses for glimpses of what the owners saw every day.

In truth, I’ve never stopped doing that. Everywhere I go, I look around and think, “Hmm, would I like to live here?” And I think it through, adding in all the plot details needed for me to make a life in that exact spot.

Life is still full of possibilities. I plot on.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.  I’m working on the second.

Metalhead

photoToday I’m thinking about crucibles, about melting metal in a container that itself can withstand the heat. I’m thinking about the amalgamation of molten metals within that container, and how they react to produce something entirely new. I’m thinking about Arthur Miller. And I’m thinking about times of great trial that help to fashion who we are, and more than that: they fashion who we could be.

One object. Multiple things to think about.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. Crucible thinking is getting me toward book two.

Week of Lasts

photo-2The week of lasts is a phrase coined by my friend about my week. From my last days at my various workplaces to my last meetings, last days in my writing studio, last goodbye hugs with friends, this week is definitely full of “lasts.”

But you know me; I’m the eternal optimist. I look around and see so many continuations and even new beginnings. I say goodbye to coworkers who’ve become great friends and know it’s not goodbye so much as, “See you later on down the line.”  Today, leaving my workplace of the last five years, a coworker remarked that I spent more time there than in college, which is true.  But, daily now, I use what I learned in college. I apply the skills every day. (Writing degree.)  Similarly, the writing studio may be gone, but the work I’ve done isn’t. And the energy I put into renovating that room, making it what it was, is all still here in my work. I bring these things forward.

And on my way to my friends’ house where I’m staying since selling my own house, my friends called to say their daughter-in-law just went into labor. (I can’t make this stuff up.) Even if I’d wanted everything to be last–and I don’t—it simply just isn’t.  Life is a continuum; the new baby proves it.

It’s not a week of lasts so much as a week of lastings. All I’ve learned, the friendships I’ve made, the work I’ve done, the writing I’ve created, these are the things that continue to last.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Hunting the Proper Word

photo-3I’m currently working on some sonnets for a reading I’ve been invited to do on Tuesday. Some of you already know this because I’ve hit you up for some words. Thank you for your indulgence. And to the person who sent in “ooze,” a very special thanks. That’s a good one.

Sonnet-writing is a great exercise in finding the exact right word for the job. I’m constantly seeking out differing syllables and stresses in addition to latching onto a word for its meaning. In daily thought or tuning in to the news or even in overhearing a conversation in a restaurant, I find myself listening to language with a specific intent: to find words that work well in iambic pentameter because of their rhythm and rhyme.

And it amazes me that for every sonnet, I get about a half page of “salvage” language. I personally don’t believe in throwing language away, though I’ve heard some writers do. So, what I have now is all these snippets of iambic pentameter hanging out in a document together, waiting for something to be done with them. Here’s a favorite: They never wanted entry to the fray, and another: The time inside the bundles of your mind.

Salvage is salvage. Years ago, when doing major remodeling on my little house, I spent a lot of time at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Winona. (I love that place—an entire store filled with fixtures and furniture salvaged from old houses, and offered at affordable prices if you do some cleanup work.) When walking through that store every weekend, I found myself picking things up and saying, “Where would I put this?” because it was never a matter of if I needed that blue toilet, 12-bulb chandelier, 14-foot arch-topped French doors (they had three sets, bigger than my house!), but for me, it was only a matter of where I needed these things.

In sonnet-writing, I find myself thinking of words and saying, “Oh, that’s a good one. Where will I put it?” Because it’s never a matter of if I need the word, it’s a matter of where I need it.

Listen to language. You might have to move around a bit to find something worth listening to, but it’s out there. And it’s our job to do something great with it. Happy hunting, friends.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

The Order of Things

photo-2
A little thought exercise for your Sunday:

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
and Hope does not disappoint

Hmmm, Hope does not disappoint? Really? Then why would we ever lose hope?
What about when we get our hopes dashed? Crushed?
Why would we need the word hopeless?
What about when hopes are fallen?
When hope is false? Is it deceitful? (I always want to spell deceitful with a p, like receipt. Too bad there’s not a receiptful.)

Or—
Does hope keep us going?
Is hope a good breakfast? (Francis Bacon)
Do we cling to it?
Is hope that thing covered in feathers? (Emily Dickinson)
Is it tenacious?
Is it written on the brow of every man? (Victor Hugo)
Does hope spring eternal?

Let’s start again, and this time, you can’t just jump to the last line. You need all four lines:

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
And that’s the Hope that does not disappoint

I get it now.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Green

Dark green carpet that I remember
Dad installing on his hands
and knees
with his tools and his best friend
on his hands and knees
measuring corners and lengths
while my best friend taught me to do somersaults
and I loved the word
I spelled it in my head the way I wanted to
using words I already knew, summer then salt
and it took me a while to believe that the word even
existed.  You see, I thought, in the middle of orange pulled-up
carpet and dark green new stuff half laid down,
that I knew every word there was to know

And there was a painting on the living room wall
Pap says Nana loved it that’s all he ever said
while it hung above the green carpet
When the living room turned green
the painting was a gift from Nana
with large pine trees leading back to a small
house in the field in the distance
In the foreground was a giant rock,
marking the path through the trees

But then Nana died and our family moved
and the painting is now in a room
with white walls and plush blue carpeting
and Pap still says how much she loved it

And so, you see,
Now I can’t do that
because now I think the rock is actually
a large piece of wood
and that the walls need to be green
for the painting to be held up

 

As a kid, when I’d sleep over my friend’s house
we’d talk and listen to the radio
all night and in the morning we’d be still
because there was this window that faced
the sun in the morning
and my friend loved to sit and look out
because she said no matter what
that red house was still always across the street
and the green tree was always in the yard
and I don’t believe her because
I used to sit and look at that
painting and wonder what it would
be like to be behind that rock
peeking just barely
from behind to see the
people standing in my green living room
looking at me

 

So, now, in the middle of the night
when the radio DJ
finally sets aside his coffee and puts down his
cigarette long enough to let me know he hasn’t
left the building yet
I think his voice
is rough, like me
It is a rough voice because
he hasn’t heard it for a while
and neither have I
and it is new then, too,
Just like I feel