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My book, A Place to Start, is now available on Google Play, for those of you who prefer to buy that way and read on supported devices! Click the button below to get started.

Get it on Google Play

It is, of course, still available at:

A Place to Start is now on Google Play

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Personal, Stories Told

Monopoly money: A story from my new book, A Place to Start

This story is in my book, A Place to Start

I don’t naturally see the bright side. I have to work at it.

Blogging has given me a way to work at it. As I push through challenging things in life, I write about it looking for the silver lining, the lesson learned, the happy ending.

What you tell me in the comments is that you find my stories to be encouraging. I find that to be encouraging!

Today I’m launching my book, A Place to Start. It collects the best stories and essays from this blog’s first two years. I was recovering from a divorce, trying to build a new life, working to be a good dad to my sons. I worked very hard to find the good in everything — it helped me keep my head together.

If you’d like a copy of my book, here’s how you can get it:

This story is in the book. It first appeared here on August 30, 2008.


I was feeling good about my financial situation as I headed into the summer. I was rapidly paying down debt and had built up some savings. But then August was unexpectedly expensive. I replaced my car’s transmission (and rented a car for two weeks while it was in the shop), replaced my refrigerator when it conked out, and had some medical and veterinary bills. Bam! Within a few weeks, my savings was gone and I had even gone a little more into debt.

I know that everything that cost me was just a matter of chance. Cars break down, 20-year-old fridges die, dogs and people get sick. It was better to spend savings on these things than to have borrowed to pay for it all. You might even say that God took care of me, providing for me through these misfortunes. But I’ve been angry about it just the same. It really hurt to get a little bit ahead only to lose it almost all at once.

On Wednesday, the boys and I broke out the Monopoly board. My youngest is starting to understand trading and can now stick with a long game, and so our play is starting to become vigorous. We’d made some trades and we all had monopolies — my older son had the violets, my youngest son had the neighboring oranges, and I was just around the corner with the reds. When we started improving our properties, it became hard to move along that side of the board without somebody collecting.

My youngest son landed on my Kentucky Avenue. With two houses, the rent wasn’t terrible, but having spent all his cash on houses he hocked most of his property to pay me. He weathered that with good humor, but he next landed on Go To Jail and so would make another trip down Death Row. His next roll put him on Community Chest, but then he landed on Indiana Avenue, which by then had four houses and was much more expensive to visit. Cash-strapped and hocked to the hilt, he had no choice but to sell most of houses. He was ticked. And then a few tears ran down his face. And then he buried his face in my shoulder.

The irony did not escape me as I hugged him and told him it’s bound to hurt when you build things up and get a little ahead only to have bad luck take it all away.

When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t feel so bad anymore.

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Personal

Now available: My new book, A Place to Start

My book is out!

I’m excited to announce that my new book, A Place to Start: Stories and Essays from Down the Road, is now available!

I’ve published it in paperback, for Amazon Kindle, as an e-book compatible with most other e-readers, and as a PDF. Here’s where you can get it:

A Place to Start is available on Amazon worldwide, so if I didn’t link to your country above, search Amazon in your country for “A Place to Start Jim Grey.”

This book collects the best stories and essays from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008. Those were hard years for me, personally, as I was rebuilding my life after my destructive first marriage ended horribly. I wanted to run away, but my two young sons needed me. I had to find a way to push through. Writing these stories and essays helped me make sense of all that had happened so that I could find a good path forward.

I’m not an optimist. I tend to dwell on the negative. Writing these stories and essays helped me find the good in things that happened. It’s why I keep writing — life can be genuinely hard sometimes, and finding the good helps me keep going.

Whenever I publish stories and essays, you tell me in the comments that you find them to be encouraging, and that they really connect with you. That’s really the nicest compliment you can give me! I’m glad to offer you something positive for your own life.

I’ve illustrated this book with the best photographs I could find, ones that relate well to each story and essay. They’re in black and white in the paperback, but in the electronic editions they’re all in color.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy for yourself. Again, here’s where you can get it:

By the way: People who subscribe to my newsletter got advance notice when my book became available. If you’d like to get early notice of my future projects, sign up for my newsletter here!

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Personal

My Facebook policy

I’ve declined a bunch of Facebook friend requests recently. Perhaps I should explain, in case one of those requests came from you.

I use my Facebook account primarily to promote this blog and the Historic Michigan Road. I don’t post much otherwise; it’s just not that much fun anymore. Anybody who wants to know what I’m up to just needs to read this blog!

Most of my posts are visible to anyone, and I’ve set up my Facebook account so anyone can follow my public posts. If you want to follow me, go to my profile page and click the Follow button. If you send me a friend request and I decline it, Facebook also adds you to my followers list.

Most of my public posts come over automatically from Instagram (follow me here). Sometimes I’ll post a wry status update. That’s 97% of what I post on Facebook.

For all that’s wrong with Facebook, it remains an incredibly efficient way of sharing personal and family news — which is the last 3% of what I post. But that news is often at least semi-private. I limit the visibility of those posts to friends or even sometimes even narrower groups within my friends list. That’s why I limit who I connect with on Facebook.

Here are my loose rules for accepting and declining friend requests:

  • I accept friend requests from family.
  • I accept friend requests from people in real life whom I consider to be at least an acquaintance.
  • I usually accept friend requests from people I’ve interacted with online enough that I feel like I know them on some level and/or are well connected to people I already know, and I judge them to be trustworthy with personal news. I say usually, because if I feel hinky at all, I decline.
  • I do not accept friend requests from people who currently report to me at work, and I usually do not accept friend requests from current co-workers. I think it’s wise to keep a boundary with my current workplace.
  • I accept friend requests from anyone I worked with earlier in my career at other companies, if I judge them to be trustworthy with personal news.

I’m no celebrity who needs to protect himself from the masses — I’m just a dude in Indiana with odd hobbies and a blog. But I decline four out of five friend requests, and I always wish I could explain when I do it.

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The cover of my next book, A Place to Start

I’m making slow but solid progress toward publishing my new book of stories and essays, A Place to Start. I’ve collected the best of my writing from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008, and edited and sometimes rewrote it to make it better. I’ve also added photographs throughout, many of which I’ve never shared before!

I plan to release the book soon in print, Kindle, and PDF. I’m trying to figure out access for other e-readers, and I’m also thinking about recording it as an audiobook.

Every book needs a cover, and here’s the one I designed for A Place to Start.

I wanted the cover to stand out, so I used bold, golden letters on a textured brick-red background. I’m a bit of a typography geek, so I cycled through a whole bunch of fonts before I settled on this one: Berlin Sans. It’s a friendly font — I didn’t want something stuffy — but heavy enough to draw attention.

I’ve titled the book after this post I wrote about my first apartment. The photograph is me, aged 22, leaving that apartment one workday morning. My longtime friend Kathy had come to visit, and I would drop her at the airport on my way to the office. She made this photograph.

Side note: I’m amused to see how formally I dressed for my job in a software company. Our industry has always dressed more casually than the rest of the white-collar working world. But 30 years ago it was still common to wear slacks, a dress shirt, a tie, and a sport coat. We defied convention by skipping the tie and the coat! Today, T-shirts and jeans are normal. I am sometimes accused of being overdressed for the office because I pair a button-down sport shirt with my Levi’s.

Anyway, I’m working to release the book in November on paper, for Kindle, and in PDF. Stay tuned! I’m excited to put my stories into your hands.

If you take my monthly email newsletter, Back Roads, you’ve already seen this cover. On Back Roads I share a little more personally than I do here, and you get to see what I’m working on before everyone else. If you want in, sign up here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my monthly email with previews of what I’m working on, click here to sign up!

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