Find Your Old Green Coat

Years ago, woman named Elizabeth Henson who was doing some housecleaning. She boxed up a bunch of junk from her closet and was taking it to the trashcan when she was stopped by her son. He had spotted an old green coat in the box of rubbish and asked his mother if he could keep it. Although she was a little confused, Elizabeth said yes and gave the coat to her son.

Sometime later, Elizabeth showed his mom why he wanted the jacket. He had taken his scissors, some glue and a few other household items and fashioned a green frog out of the jacket.

Her son, named Jim, called the frog Kermit. That frog went on to date a pig and have a pretty good career.

The world is full of old green jackets. It is up to us to spot them and turn them into something special.

How To Let Your Ideas Escape

If you are the type of person who has a million ideas, yet very few come to fruition, this post is for you. If you are a person who never has any ideas, you might want to read this one instead.

When we are at our most creative, we can cook up ideas faster than a George Foreman Grill. We think of a dozen great book ideas or 50 topics for a podcast in a matter of seconds. Our arm gets tired from patting ourselves on our back as we have all these brilliant thoughts bubbling up in our mind. But the only problem is that we never do anything about them.

The ideas are rushing to exit our brain to get onto paper, but they get held up. At first glance, we may think the exit is too obstructed; something must be in the way. However, maybe the problem is that the exit is too wide open.

According to Scientific American, a study by a group of Japanese researchers found that wide-open exits are “not always the most efficient at speeding pedestrians through. A judiciously placed obstacle, such as a column, can actually reduce bottlenecking and evacuation times.”

The belief is that during an emergency, a crowd sees a wide-open exit and everyone bolts towards the opening. With people coming from all angles, everyone crashes into one another and limits the actual space for people to squeeze through.

The researchers concluded that adding an obstacle in the way of the exit may reduce the probability and impact of conflicts. It forces everyone to slow down and prevents the exit from becoming clogged.

This study was all about physical exits, and had nothing to do with having too many ideas in ones head, but I think the general idea is similar.

When I come up with some new ideas for a children’s book, my brain feels like all the ideas are fighting to come out first. More often than not, I can’t decide which one to let out, so they all just crash into one another.

Maybe the trick is to create a mental obstacle. Rather than have a wide-open exit, I might want to have the ideas weave around some mental pillars like: length of the story, age of the reader, or how much time it will take to write vs. how much time I actually have.

This will probably slow things down at first, but it may just prevent my brain from getting clogged and it will help the most well thought out ideas escape first.

Where Did The Phrase “Head Honcho” Come From?

During game 1 of the NBA finals, Golden State Warriors head coach was not happy with his team’s performance so he decided to take out his frustration on his clipboard.

Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it…

After the game I saw the following headline to a recap of Kerr’s karate chop:

Watch how the Warriors head honcho puts his fist straight through his clipboard here during the NBA Finals game 1 on June 2!”

That got me wondering…

Where Did The Phrase “Head Honcho” Come From?

As a great NPR article points out, most people think the phrase has Spanish origins, but it actually has Japanese roots.

Merriam-Webster says “honcho” comes from the Japanese word “han” (which means squad) and chō (which is defined as head or chief). According to Fighting Talk: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases, the Japanese army would call squad leaders or sergeants in the army “hon-cho.”.

In his 1947 book, The Shadow of a War: A New Zealander in the Far East, 1939-1946, author James M. Bertram created the first published usage of the word:

But here comes the hancho. This boat must be finished to-night.”

However, it was believed that the word was often used prior to the book, mainly by American soldiers who fought in the Pacific during World War II. Army medic, Ernest O. Norquist kept a diary during his time in the Bataan Death March in 1942.

In his entry on July 2, 1945, Norquist wrote:

“When the galley ‘honcho’ comes around to us and asks ‘soupu joto?’ (‘The soup is good?’), you have to answer ‘Hai’ (‘yes’) or get whacked. The soups lately are usually a semi-nauseating mixture of green-stems and fish scraps — boiled!”

The phrase “head honcho” didn’t come about until years later when, in 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona declared that he would be running against President Lyndon B. Johnson. In an article titled “Honcho, Hooch, and Hooch Honcho,” Gordon B. Chamberlain says that Goldwater was asked during a press conference about his campaign director, Denison Kitchel.

“Q: Kitchell [sic] is the top man then?

“A: Kitchell — is — we call him the honcho out here — he’s the head honcho.”

The phrase stuck and both “honcho” and “head honcho” began to be used quite frequently from then on.

What Taylor Swift And Rascal Flatts Can Teach Us About Sharing

In 2006, Rascal Flatts was on top of the music world. Their song “What Hurts the Most” reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart for nine weeks. The album featuring the song, Me and My Gang, spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart and finished the year as the second-highest selling album, totaling 3.5 million in sales.

They were achieving records that had been unseen in country music for decades.

In late 2006, they had nine stops left on their Me & My Gang Tour, when a disagreement caused them to cut ties with their supporting act, Eric Church. In need of an opening act, the group turned to a relativity unknown 16-year-old blonde girl.

The girl was brought on to finish out the tour, with stops in Moline, IL, Bossier City, LA, and Albany NY. Not exactly, Chicago, New Orleans and New York City, but the 16-year-old was thrilled, nonetheless.

Fast forward to 2013, and the young blonde girl went on to become the biggest superstar in the music world. In just seven years, Taylor Swift, went from Rascal Flatts’ opening act, to repaying the favor.

On September 20, 2013, in the middle of three sold-out shows at Bridgetone Arena in Nashville, Swift surprised the crowd by bringing out Rascal Flatts to share the stage.

“Nashville is all about remembering where you came from,” Swift said when she introduced her special guests.

And remembering the people who are your absolute idols and remembering the people who helped you out in the very beginning and took you on their arena tour, their sold-out tour, and nobody knew your name. For me, I have this artist, this band, who took me on tour when nobody knew who I was, and about five years ago, I opened up for them here in this building.”

If we can learn anything from Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift, it is the importance of sharing the stage. A stage can be one of two things — a platform or a point along a process both of which we have the ability to share.

When Swift was an artist few music followers had heard of, Rascal Flatts shared their platform. The guys gave a 16-year-old girl the chance of a lifetime and shared her with millions of new fans. In addition, they also shared stage meaning number two – a particular point in time during a process. They had music knowledge she did not, so they lent support to Swift, who was on a similar journey.

Swift never forgot either gift and repaid the favor when her stage was big enough to share. In addition to Rascal Flatts, Swift thanked one more person who responsible for her joining that 2006 tour.

In 2011, when she achieved her first gold record, she shared a copy with Eric Church.

It came with a note: ‘Thanks for playing too long and too loud on the Flatts tour. I sincerely appreciate it. Taylor,'” said Church.

Whether we are trying to make it in music, writing, or anything else, the process is intimidating. But it becomes a little less scary when we are we are at it along with others. Think strength in numbers.

We may never have a gold record to share, but no matter where we are in our process, we need to remember to share the stage.

5 Good Things

Having a rough start to the week? Feel like there is nothing but negative stories online, on TV and in the newspaper? Looking for a little pick me up?

Here are 5 good things going on in our world…

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo donates his €600,000 Champions League win bonus to charity – The soccer superstar is proving to be a champion off the field. The Portuguese forward was named the world’s most charitable sportsperson last year and it appears he is only upping his game in 2016.
  2. Boy Plays For Vet Who Showed Up To Canceled Memorial Day Parade – Rain cancelled a Memorial Day parade in North Bellmore, NY. But when 11-year-old Nicholas DeGregorio heard that an elderly veteran was on his way to the parade site, the 5th grader grabbed his trumpet and put on a show.
  3. Limbless man completes marathon in Canada – Chris Koch, a motivational speaker who was born without arms and legs successfully finished The Scotiabank Calgary Marathon by using a long board.
  4. Mother of 3 takes on friend’s 6 children after death – Before Stephanie Culley lost her friend Beth Laitkep to cancer, she made a promise to look after Beth’s six children. Stephanie made good on that promise and welcomed the children (ranging from age 15 to age 2) into her home.
  5. 9-Year-old Makes Beautiful Care Packages for Homeless WomenWhen Khloe Thompson asked her mom why people were homeless, the answer inspired her to start a charity. Khloe Kares, provides homeless women with beautiful shoulder bags that fills with necessities and sews with her great-grandmother. Check out the video below.

A Surefire Way To Keep Your House Clean

I am in the middle of writing my third Maury C. Moose book and I am starting to learn that when the writing is at its hardest, I turn into Mary Poppins.

I will grab my notebook and be ready to head to the library to write, when I’ll stop and think, “I better clean the house first.” Then I will vacuum, dust and do everything short of fly around with an umbrella.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having a clean house. But I am starting to realize that my subconscious is doing anything it can come up with to protect me from suffering through a tough day of writing.

I have cleaned twice in the last week when I should have been writing.

So, here is my advice to you today: if you are having a hard time keeping your house clean, forget about buying a new Swiffer, just start writing a book.


My New Goal

The other day I was writing a post and I was going to make the following joke:

I’ve got good news and I have bad news. Bad news…there is nothing we can do about it. Good news…the McRib is back.

I know it was dumb, but it made me chuckle. Before I used it, I thought I would check to see if, in fact, the McRib is back. I would hate for my joke to be both dumb and a lie.

I Googled, “Is the McRib back” and found Yes, that is a site completely dedicated to where you can find the sandwich, equipped with a real time tracker, a map showing the most recent sightings, and a blog with international news.

Apparently the McRib is a big deal. Their Facebook page has nearly 15x as many fans as my books do.

As a writer, I used to have a goal of hitting the New York Times Best Seller list. Now my new goal is just to be as popular as the McRib.

When Was The T-Shirt Invented?

Every so often, my brother Chris will suggest questions for me to answer in my Wonder Why Wednesday posts. Sometimes his topics make the cut — example here — and other times they do not — like when he asked, “who decided we should only have one lunch per day? Why not 2?”

He recently suggested a topic that at first sounded dumb, but his argument was flawless. Here’s how the conversation went:

Chris: “Wonder this…how old is the t-shirt?”

Me: “Good question. I don’t know, it has probably been around forever.”

Chris: “No way. It can’t be that old. You never see a picture of Ulysses S. Grant in short sleeves.”

I was a little confused as to why he wanted to see Ulysses S. Grant’s elbows, but he did have a point. You don’t see any t-shirts in old photos. Let’s see if we can find out why…

When Was The T-Shirt Invented?

As much as it pains me to say this, my brother was right, the t-shirt is a fairly new invention. Dating back to the early 20th century, it was originally considered underwear and almost never worn in public.

In 1904, the Cooper Underwear Company ran an advertisement for their “bachelor undershirts” with the tagline: “No safety pins — no buttons — no needle — no thread”. They were basically saying, “if you are a single man and can’t take care of yourself…try a t-shirt.”

In 1913, the U.S. Navy began issuing them as undergarments but it wasn’t until the 1920s that the word T-shirt (the name comes from the T shape of the body and sleeves) became part of American English and appeared in the dictionary.

After World War II, veterans began wearing shirts with their uniform trousers as casual clothing. Popularity really took off in the 1940s and 50s when t-shirts made their way into movies. Most notably, Marlon Brando wore one in A Streetcar Named Desire, marking the arrival of the t-shirt as fashionable.

For those of you who are wondering, Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, so my brother was correct, it is probably impossible to find a picture of him showing off his elbows.