December Recap

In case you missed a post or two this month, here’s a quick recap of what I wrote about during the month of December:

Questions I Asked –

Why Do We Kiss Under Mistletoe? – Well, not you and me…

Are All Parking Spaces The Same Size? – Here we learn how big a packing space can be. I am terrible at parking, so I wish they were much bigger.

Things We Learned –

How to really paint a scene of Christmas chaos – Here’s another example of great writing from Max Lucado.

How to Beat Holiday Stress – Important tips on how to relax and enjoy the holidays.

How To Only Do Things You Actually Want To Do – You will want to read this as you are working on your New Year’s resolutions.

What A Saturday Night Live Star Does To Improve – Guess what? We can improve in much the same way.

Fun With Numbers –

5 star review – My latest book, Maury C. Moose and The Ninja Worrier just received a 5 star review from Lesa McKee at Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews!

4 Ways To Shed The Holiday Pounds & Stress At The Same Time – If you are reading this now, it is too late for Christmas 2016…or is it??

5 Lessons I Learned From A Month Of School Visits – I spent the past month speaking with kids and hearing their hilarious questions. Here’s what I learned.

2016 Recaps –

This year in Great Writing

This year in 5 Good Things

This year in I Wish I Wrote It

This year in Wonder Why Wednesday

This year in Side Effects May Include…

This year in 5 Things We Can Learn From Everyday Objects

 

 

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This Year In I Wish I Wrote It

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it.

Here’s a recap of those examples from 2016…

Everything You Need to Know About New Year’s Resolutions – by Carolyn Gregoire
7 Things Extremely Happy People Do Every Single Day by Peter Economy
7 Mistakes We Make to Be Successful & What We Should Do Instead by Emma Seppala
How Successful People Manage Their Time by Amanda Foust
Make Your Life Better by Saying Thank You in These 7 Situations by James Clear
What the Most Resilient People Have in Common by Lolly Daskal
The Complete Guide to Saving Money: Our 73 Favorite Tips—Ever!  by EveryDollar.com
A Poem About Room by Brad Montague
How To Only Do Things You Actually Want To Do by Christine Carter

 

 

This Year In 5 Things We Can Learn

The latest 2016 recap might be my favorite segment that I write. It is the one where I look at things we encounter on a daily basis and see what important lesson we can from them.

Here’s a year’s worth of “Five Things We Can Learn From Everyday Objects”

5 Things We Can Learn From Calendars

5 Things We Can Learn From Superheroes

5 Things We Can Learn From The Great Wall Of China

5 Things We Can Learn From Disney Dads

5 Things We Can Learn From Fans

5 Things We Can Learn From The NY Times Crossword Puzzle

5 Things We Can Learn From The Arizona Cardinals

5 Things We Can Learn From Our Couch

5 Things We Can Learn From Books

 

 

This Year In Wonder Why Wednesday

Here’s a list of all the things I have wondered (and then found the answer to) during the last 365 days. Enjoy…

January

Why Are Water Bottles 16.9 Ounces? – The answer was not what I expected.

Who Invented Rock-Paper-Scissors? – At some stage of our development, we all learn the game rock-paper-scissors. It happens somewhere after we become potty trained and before we start texting on the toilet. Find out where it all started.

February

Why Is The Iowa Caucus So Important? – I decided to answer this question rather than research Adele’s last name. See what I learned.

What Is The Longest Word In The English Language? – Does it really contain 189,819 letters?

Who Has The Most Instagram & Twitter Followers? – Check out the top 10 rankings for both social media platforms

Where Does The Phrase ‘Back To Square One’ Come From? – No one knows for sure, but here are 3 theories.

March

When Were Blinkers Put On Cars? – The creators of the turn signal wouldn’t be happy to learn that 57% of drivers do not use their invention.

What is Adele’s Last Name? – This is a question I have been wanting to ask for awhile. the wait is over.

Where Did The Name March Madness Come From? – Find out who came up with the popular name and when it was first coined.

Where did the term “Can on Corn” come from? – It is just one of many food-related sayings in baseball.

April

Where did April Fools Day come from? – This Wonder Why Wednesday happened on a Friday. Try to wrap your brain around that.

Who invented Yoga? – Fun fact: When you type “who invented yog” into a Google search, the top search is “who invented yoga pants.”

Who Invented The Pancake? – Whoever it is, I want to shake their hand and say thank you.

Can A Dog Catch A Cold From You? – No, but cats on the other hand…

Who Invented Clapping? – Spoiler alert: it was not Eric Clapton

May

What’s The Difference Between Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Gelato – This might be the tastiest Wonder Why Wednesday ever!

What Was The First Disney Movie? – Before I researched the answer, I guessed Fantasia…I was wrong.

Why Are Some Belly Buttons Innies & Some Outies? – Just like getting over a bad breakup, it is all about healing.

June

When Was The T-Shirt Invented? – This Wonder Why Wednesday all started when my brother asked why he never sees a picture of Ulysses S. Grant in short sleeves.

Where Did The Phrase “Head Honcho” Come From? – Most people think the phrase has Spanish origins, but most people would be wrong.

What Is The Best Selling Car? – The car that sold the most in 2015 has also been atop the sales charts since the 1980s. Find out what it is.

What Are The Origins of the Phrase “The Pot Calling the Kettle Black”? – Pots and kettles look very different today.

July

How do fireworks work? – In this Wonder Why Wednesday post, I revisit a question I asked but then forgot the answer to.

When Were Contractions Invented? – I won’t spoil the answer here…get it…won’t.

Who Is The Phillips Head Screwdriver Named After? – There is a real Phillip who invented the thing. Find out who he was.

August

Why Do We Tell Actors To ‘Break A Leg’? – One British actress took the phrase a tad too literally.

What is a Code Adam? – When I saw it, I used to think I was part of a Jason Bourne-like operation and they were trying to send me a secret message.

Who is Reese? – You’ve probably enjoyed his Pieces or Peanut Butter Cups, but do you even know who he is?

Why Do We Say “The Butler Did It”? – Is it true that the woman who is responsible for this phrase was nearly killed by her butler?

September

Why Can’t We Wear White After Labor Day? – The answer may shock you…or maybe it won’t.

What Was The Largest Victory In Presidential Election History? – It happened in 1920. Do you know who won?

What is it Called When You Learn About Something and Then See it Everywhere? – It has an odd name.

October

Where Did The Phrase ‘Hold Your Horses’ Come From? – The answer makes a lot of sense.

Were Footballs Ever Really Made Out Of Pigskin? – The answer is disgusting.

What’s The Difference Between a Jr. & a II? – It is subtle, but determines your suffix.

November

Why Are Campaign Signs Found On Street Corners? – If you are just dying to relive the election, you can learn why we see so many campaign signs on street corners.

Who Named The Colors Of A Rainbow? – Spoiler: It is not the leprechaun from Lucky Charms.

Wonder Why Wednesday: Thanksgiving Edition – Home to all of my Thanksgiving related questions.

December

Why Do We Kiss Under Mistletoe? – Well, not you and me…

Are All Parking Spaces The Same Size? – Here we learn how big a packing space can be. I am terrible at parking, so I wish they were much bigger.

This Year In Great Writing

Every year is full of great writing, but in 2016 I really started to pay attention and highlight some wonderful work with words.

Here’s a recap of some of the examples I stumbled upon…

(from July)

Comedian Gary Gulman proves that with some great writing, even the most mundane of topics can make an audience belly laugh.

(from August)

In his book Rules of Civility, Amos Towles show how to really show a character’s love of food.

(from September)

Walt Whitman shows in, Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City, how to really sound romantic.

(from October)

Max Lucado uses an example of a child to show us something about prayer.

(from December)

Max Lucado is back to teach us how to paint a scene of the chaos of Christmas.

This Year In Side Effects May Include…

Our continuation of recapping 2016 brings us to the medical portion of the blog.

If you’ve ever seen a commercial for prescription drugs you are aware of the term, “side effects may include.” The commercial spends 20 seconds covering the many reasons why we should ask our doctor about their product. But the last 10 seconds feature the phrase “side effects may include” and then a laundry list of ridiculous things that might happen when starting the prescription. Many times the side effects outweigh anything that can be helped by the drug.

A similar thing happens in other aspects of our lives. In order to help, I offered 10 seconds of warning in a segment called “Side Effects May Include…”.

(from May)

When Finding Joy, Side Effects May Include…

– Chronic swelling of your ankles from jumping up and down so frequently.

– Abnormal feeling of resilience.

– Unusual ability to actually LOL.

– Developing Snow White-its — whistling while you work.

– Decreased appetite for grump soup.

– Jubilation oozing out of your pores.

– Strange tendency to lose track of time from having so much fun.

– Uncontrollable urge to juggle.

– Unstoppable shrinking of frowns.

– Increased ability to make friends.

 

(from July)

When Trying New Things, Side Effects May Include…

– Chronic swelling of the brain, aka, learning.

– Abnormal ability to find new hobbies.

– Unusual acts of failure, only to get back up again.

– Increased risk of a start attack, aka, starting something you’ve never done before.

– Decreased appetite for a bunch of stuff you now know you don’t like to do.

– Strange tendency to make friends in the middle of nowhere.

– Uncontrollable urge to try more things.

– Unstoppable shrinking of things left to do on your bucket list.

– Increased ability to make your actual life better than your Facebook page.

– Strange tendency to finish what you started.

– Plummeting of constant loneliness.

 

(from October)

When You Are Not Terrible With Money, Side Effects May Include…

– Chronic swelling of your bank account.

– Abnormal ability to pay bills.

– Enlarged growth of your vacation fund.

– Increased risk of being able to handle a financial emergency.

– Decreased appetite for a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

– Strange tendency to delete emails that claim you won the lottery.

– Uncontrollable urge to smile when depositing money into your account.

– Unstoppable shrinking in the number of calls from debtors.

– Strange tendency to sweat less when rent is due.

– Plummeting number of bad money decisions.

 

This Year In 5 Good Things

The year is nearly over and if you are like me, you have forgotten much of what has happened in the previous 300+ days. As a way to offer a quick reminder of what I’ve asked, learned and written about in 2016, I will spend this week recapping some of the top posts/segments this blog had to offer from the past year.

Let’s take a look at this year in 5 Good Things…

(from April)

  1. Good Samaritans do exist – A woman found a pediatric wheelchair in the middle of a Jersey City street Saturday night and is taking time to reunite it with its owner. The owner has yet to be found, but in our busy world, it is nice to know that there are still people out there who pause what they are doing to help someone they can’t even see.
  2. We don’t have to be a superhero to come to the rescue – An 11-year-old boy with autism, walked out of class on Friday and hopped a BART train to San Francisco. Thanks to one woman’s instincts, the boy was safely reunited with his family.
  3. We can watch videos and make a difference at the same time – My favorite politician, Kid President, is back on the campaign trail to help end child hunger with ConAgra. For every view or share of his new video, between April 14 through May 9, 2016, ConAgra will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America®, up to 100,000 meals.
  4. Devils can act like angels – The Arizona State University football team took time out of their last spring practice to welcome a five-year-old who is battling stage three lymphoma. The boy was all smiles as he got to keep head coach Todd Graham’s whistle and got to try on ASU’s football helmet and gloves.
  5. Even champions are too big for their smallest fans – Villianova stars Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono have been busy doing the media rounds since being crowned NCAA men’s basketball champions. But they aren’t too busy to share some cake with a struggling young fan. The players surprised a 4-year-old who is fighting bone cancer, giving him a handful of gifts and a Wildcats-themed cake. Check out the video below.

(from June)

  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.

(from July)

  1. Elderly Stranger Pays For Man’s GroceriesA conversation about race relations in America led to one man paying for another man’s groceries. “[It was] just a random moment of solidarity and love that made my day,” said Sampson McCormick, the man whose groceries were paid for.
  2. Michigan Children’s Hospital Is Using Pokemon Go To Brighten Smiles – C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan has started using the new gaming sensation Pokemon Go in its hallways and around the campus to foster greater socialization within patients and brighten smiles all around.
  3. ‘Heroic’ Dog Saves Lost Boy’s Life In Mountain OrdealA Labrador named Max has been hailed as a hero after coming to the rescue of a teenage boy who got lost during an expedition in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range.
  4. Builder Makes A Real Life ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Game For Sick Kids To Spot From Their Hospital WindowAnother example of how a fun game can lift the spirits of young hospital patients. This time the game is Where’s Waldo.
  5. Mom Made it her Mission to Go to Hospitals to Cook Healthy Food for Kids With CancerAfter her son was diagnosed with cancer, one woman created Happily Hungry, a program that consists of cooking and workshops for hospitalized kids and their families who are battling cancer and other illnesses. Learn more in the video below.

(from September)

  1. Teen Makes ‘Sit With Us’ App That Helps Students Find Lunch Buddies – A 16-year-old from Sherman Oaks, California created an app that helps students find a place to sit and make friends in the lunchroom.
  2. Airplane Passenger’s Kind Gesture Brings Mom to Tears – It is hard enough being pregnant on a flight. The space is cramped and no one wants to sit by you. Now imagine that, plus having to take care of a crying 1-year-old child. A mother traveling from Minneapolis to Atlanta was going through this struggle when a man seated nearby approached her and offered to help sooth the infant so she could get some rest.
  3. Buckeye Lightning Strike Victim Is Saved By Neighbor – Trust me, you will want to read this story. It is the perfect example of living out the message to love your neighbor.
  4. 12-Year-old Creates First App to Help Alzheimer’s Patients Keep Track of Things – Yep, another story about a young person creating an app to help others. It is amazing the good things that can come from technology.
  5. An 8-year-old Writes a Book and Donates Its Profits to Charity – 8-year-old author Emma Sumner was challenged by her dad to write a 150-word story over summer break. The challenge turned into a 10,000 word fairy tale and the best part is she is donating the money she earns from the first few months of sales to Autism Speaks.

(from October)

  1. 10-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Writes Book To Inspire Others – Luis Collazo, a 10-year-old North Texas boy, is using his cancer fight and bullying to inspire other children to celebrate their differences.
  2. Cop Gets On Level With Boy Having A Bad Day, Wipes His Tears – Precious Cornner-Jones, an officer with the Indiana State Police, was participating in a rally at a school on Sept. 26 when she saw a small boy get so upset he threw himself to the floor. Cornner-Jones, herself a mother of three, stretched out next to the boy and comforted him.
  3. Baseball Star Paul Goldschmidt Raises Money For Phoenix Children’s Hospital – The All-Star first baseman’s charity, Goldy’s Fund 4 Kids is having a bowling event where 100 percent of the proceeds will be going to PCH’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
  4. Pre-School Teacher Offers to Donate Kidney to Save Little Girl’s Life -4-year-old Lyla needed a new kidney. Turns out her preschool teacher, Beth Battista, was a perfect match, and has agreed to be the donor.
  5. Little Boy Gives Charlotte Police Officers ‘Free Hugs’ and Donuts – When a young boy heard about injured police officers while listening to the radio, he did something awesome…decided to bring the cops donuts and give them hugs.

 

5 Lessons I Learned From A Month Of School Visits

I have been fortunate to be able to spend much of the past month visiting elementary schools to talk about my children’s books. Over the course of my visits, I have discovered a few things that may help other authors out there. Here’s what I’ve learned…

1. They Can’t Say Yes If I Do Not Ask

I am not good at asking for things. This makes it hard to ask schools if they would like me to come for an author visit. Prior to asking, my brain does this annoying little thing where is comes up with a dozen reasons why the school would say no. Thanks a lot brain, can’t you use that power for something more important, like remembering why I walked into my kitchen to grab a pen. Because I come up with so many reasons the school will reject me, I often do not ask.

Thankfully, I am starting to get over that hurdle. And it is paying off. Nearly all of the schools I visited this month were contacted out of the blue. They had never heard of me or Maury C. Moose. Despite all my reasons they would say no, many of them actually said yes. And that wouldn’t have happened if I would have been too afraid to ask.

2. The More I Do It, The Better I Get

The adage says practice makes perfect. I will never be a perfect public speaker, but I am way better than I was even 30 days ago. My presentation at each visit was better than the one before. And I am guessing it will continue to improve. I would love to sit at home and magically become a better presenter, but I’ve never heard the saying, “sitting at home doing nothing makes perfect.”

3. Questions = Best Part

Bill Cosby was right. No, not about that. Definitely not about that. What I meant was he was right when he said kids say the darndest things.

I used to think that selling books was the best part of visiting a school. Now I think the best part is hearing all the questions from the students. I have been asked everything from “Does Maury have knee caps?” to “Can you dab?” I never have to worry about the visit being boring, because the kids always come through with hilarious questions.

4. The 2nd Best Part Is Feedback

It is important for me to do these visit for many reasons: marketing, improving as a speaker, just to name a couple. But one of the best things that come out of these visits is the feedback I receive from the kids. They can’t wait to tell me about the stories they want to hear and the book ideas they have. That feedback has become so valuable when planning the next books I will write.

5. The Impact Isn’t Always Immediate

On a few occasions, I did not sell any books while at the school. I used to consider this to be a bummer. But now I am starting to realize that I should not judge a visit by the number of books I sell that day.

That is true for all of the above reasons, but it is also true because if I am doing a good job, the impact may be felt later, well after I have left the school. Sometimes I will notice an uptick in sales on Amazon. Other times I will hear from the school a week later, asking to buy some books. And best of all, occasionally the school will email me and tell me all about the stories their students have written thanks to my visit. Yes, it would be great to sell a million copies during the visit, but just because I do not, it doesn’t mean it still can’t be a successful visit.

Are All Parking Spaces Created Equal?

Have you ever driven up to a parking space and thought, “there is no way my car is going to fit in there”? It is one thing if you are driving a Hummer, or if the car next to you has taken up a spot and a half, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the times when it the parking space seems like your pants after Thanksgiving dinner…it just will not fit.

That happened to me recently, and it got me wondering…

Are All Parking Spaces The Same Size?

Answer: No

According to Reference.com, parking spaces in the United States can range between 7.5 to 10 feet wide and 10 to 20 feet long, with 8.5 feet wide by 19 feet long being the most common size.

Several factors influence why the spots become the size they do. Total area in the parking lot for one. The cost of the land is another. And probably most importantly is the layout of the spaces.

Parallel parking spaces are typically bigger than perpendicular parking spaces. This is because drivers must be able to maneuver their vehicles into the parallel parking spaces easier. This means that parallel spaces may be 10 feet wide.

Given my poor parallel parking skills, I need all the extra space I can get.