Lessons I’ve learned

A birthday cake

Photo via Visualhunt

This is my birthday week! Is it any wonder that my birthday is in April if I’m named April? You’d think not, but I get asked if it’s true ALL THE TIME. Anyway, in celebration of turning 33 years old, here’s a list of 33 things I’ve learned during my lifetime.
 

1. Nothing beats a good piece of chocolate.

2. Staying up late doesn’t prevent tomorrow from coming.

3. “Please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” make the world go round.

4. An allergy rash and the chicken pox are NOT the same thing.

5. You can fake confidence until it becomes true confidence, and that’s what most people who seem confident are doing. Yes, even that amazing person who has it all together.

6. You can’t make friends unless you be a friend first.

7. Baking chocolate is NOT worth snitching from your mother’s kitchen when you’ve been denied dessert.

8. Love is a gift of selflessness. You can’t earn it, you can only give it away. Love is an intentional choice that has to be made each day.

9. You will always regret not starting sooner, so even if you’re not ready, make today Day One.

10. If YOU’VE heard every joke and song there is with your name, chances are THEY’VE heard every joke and song with their name, too. Restrain yourself. Don’t make them do the smile, nod, and faux “ha ha” thing that you hate doing when others make a calendar joke.

11. Perfection is the enemy of good. “Done” is better than “excellent but incomplete.”

12. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless there are Christmas cookies, candles, seasonal music, and a decorated tree.

13. People are only as beautiful as they are kind.

14. In the things that don’t matter, achievement is more important than effort. In the things that do matter, effort is more important than achievement.

15. You need to keep the heat lower than usual for good results with eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, or pancakes. But keep it higher than usual for anything that needs to be seared or roasted, like steaks, burgers, or veggies.

16. I thought I loved to cook because I love to eat. Turns out they don’t go hand in hand.

17. The best way to get a stubborn person to do what you want is to let them think it was their own idea.

18. Just when you think you’ve figured out how to deal with your kid, they change.

19. The best way to get better at something isn’t necessarily the practice, but rather the commitment to showing up every day.

20. If you say, “I’ll pray for you,” keep your promise. It is not a phrase to be said lightly.

21. Kids’ taste buds are weird.

22. Anger comes from unmet expectations. If you get angry a lot, make your expectations clearer or adjust your expectations.

23. It matters more to be worthy of respect than to be popular.

24. Kindness and friendliness transcend all language barriers.

25. I am more like my mother than I swore I’d ever be. My teenage self would’ve refused to admit it, but it’s a good thing.

26. Being mindful prevents and solves most problems.

27. Your money goes farther if you’re frugal, and you don’t need as much as you think you do.

28. Singing lifts the spirit.

29. You can really embarrass yourself if you quote a movie line the other person doesn’t know and they take it out of context.

30. Medical advice often contradicts itself depending on which country you’re in, since there’s a lot we don’t really know yet about how the body works. A good chunk of what we’re told is cultural tradition. Trust your body to tell you what it needs or if something’s wrong. Doctors are dependable, but they’re not omniscient.

31. Children model what they see, not what they’re told.

32. Don’t start cracking your knuckles because it’s the cool thing to do in fifth grade. It’ll become a life-long habit you’re never able to break.

33. Words are incredibly powerful, more so than most of us give them credit for.

 
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff. And to be honest, some of them I’m still in the process of learning. But now it’s your turn: tell me something you’ve learned and are excited to share about! My kindergartener was very excited to learn the difference between living and non-living things in science class this week. My other son learned to do the monkey bars by himself. He’s very proud!

Type yourself

An Enneagram chart showing the nine personality types

Photo via Sarah A. Downey

I love introspective soul searching and dreaming about possibilities. I also love getting inside another person’s head to better understand what they’re feeling or thinking, or what their motivation might be.

As you can probably guess, I love personality quizzes.

When I was a freshman in college, we were required to take the official Myers-Briggs test. I learned I was an ENFP, but just barely an E. I knew I wasn’t a full extrovert, but figured the results proved I was an ambivert. After all, I loved going out with my friends as much as I loved being alone with a book.

When I was older, I began to question being an ambivert and took the MB test again, albeit an unofficial one online. I was definitely an introvert this time (although not as extreme as my husband). The description of an INFP is definitely more accurate of me.

I think parenthood can push a person’s extrovert/introvert meter toward the introvert direction since being needed by others constantly can be draining on anyone (so, an extreme extrovert might become an average extrovert, and a slight introvert can become an extreme introvert). That certainly was the case for me.

I’d also heard about the Enneagram, but since it cost money to take the official test and I wasn’t required to do so, I never got around to it. But yesterday I came across a link to a free unofficial test, which only took me five minutes to complete. It was enough to suggest my probable type, and since there’s a wealth of information at the Enneagram Institute Web site detailing the method, I was able to read up on it and confidently determine my type.

I’m a type 4—the individualist! It describes me very well, although I don’t tend to fall into depression. But my feelings can definitely run away with me sometimes.

I’m still reading all about it (I need to determine which “wing” I am, and so on), but I’m having fun. You can read about it on the official site too, or read the shortcut version at this Medium article.

After this, my next read will be Anne Bogel’s Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. I always enjoy my binge reading/research, so I’m looking forward to this!

 
If you’re curious, you can take the 5-minute test as well. What’s your type? Do you like learning about personality types like I do? I find these helpful when getting into the heads of my characters when writing. But mostly I do them because I find them fascinating. I can’t help but type those around me as well, to better understand them.

What my handwriting says about me

Handwriting that reads 'she sells seashells by the seashore' and 'a quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'

Your handwriting can reveal a lot about you… or so they say. I’m about to put that to the test! Real Simple magazine has an article online that analyzes your handwriting for you. All you have to do is write “she sells seashells by the seashore” in cursive, even if you typically write in print. I’ve also included “a quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog” in my usual handwriting so you can see what it looks like. Let’s see if what is revealed about me is accurate.

Slant

It feels unnatural to write only in cursive, so writing it felt stilted and not smooth. But according to the slight right slant I had, I am open to the world around me and like to socialize with other people. Possibly true? I am not an extrovert (definitely an introvert!) but I am not at all shy.

Size

Large, small, or average… compared to what? But remembering from years and years ago when I compared notes with friends in school, I’d say I have average-size writing. I didn’t have large letters that filled the ruled lines nor tiny letters that teachers struggled to read. That means I’m neither in love with the limelight, nor shy. Instead, I’m adaptable. That’s pretty accurate.

Loops

Since most of my Ls and Es have opened loops instead of closed loops, I am “spontaneous and relaxed and find it easy to express” myself, and “have an open mind and enjoy trying new things.” But I have a couple of closed loops, implying I’m feeling a bit tense. Both are accurate, as I’ve got 4 kids under the age of 6 in my care as I write this blog post. Kid noise is hard to tune out while writing!

S shape

Here’s where I’ll admit I practiced a couple of times first since it had been so long since I had written in cursive. So, though I had to rewrite it several times because I accidentally mixed print into my cursive, I don’t think I technically qualify under the “printed” S. I’m guessing my Ss are “pointy,” which means I’m “intellectually probing and like to study new things.” It’s true that I love to read and learn about new things. In fact, if I’m not in the middle of a new project or some kind of research, I get pretty irritable.

I’d say the results were more accurate than I expected! How about you? Try writing “she sells seashells by the seashore” in cursive and see what your handwriting reveals about you. Let me know how accurate it is!

Why English is so hard to learn

An old language book titled: Correctly English in Hundred Days

Photo via Visualhunt.

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert and soldier on.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. I did not object to the object.

11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13. They were too close to the door to close it.

English can be so tricky—and funny! I don’t know who wrote that list, but here’s another one I came up with: She likes to read, but she already read that book about the common reed.

Can you come up with any others?

My writing favorites

Stationery store in Japan; many rows of pens for sale

Photo via Visualhunt.

I thought it would be fun to list my favorites when it comes to writing. These may not be the best by other people’s standards, nor even MY favorites overall, but they’re the ones I like or gravitate toward when it comes to writing (vs drawing, etc.).

My favorite:

Pen

My current favorite is the Pilot Frixion ball knock retractable gel pen in size 0.5 mm. Mine were purchased in Japan, not on Amazon, but the link should take you to the same thing. I love the bright colors and the smooth flow of the ink—and the best part? They erase! There is a plastic nub on the end that produces friction, and the heat from the friction erases the ink. So, you get the permanence of a ball point pen but with the edibility of a pencil. No smudging! I use these for writing in my journal as well as editing my work.

Pencil

I don’t actually have a favorite pencil at the moment, but I tend to prefer mechanical pencils for writing since they don’t need resharpening. A couple of clicks and I can write with a sharp point every time.

Eraser

Hands down, Mono erasers are the best erasers ever (they’re even cheaper if you buy the ten pack). I will never willingly use those awful pink rectangles that are standard in American schools ever again. The Monos erase cleanly and thoroughly without damaging your paper—even thin paper.

Notebook

Anything pretty that lays open enough to write. No spiral please. A ribbon to mark my place or a loop to hold my pen are bonuses.

App to write/type in

Plain, no frills TextEdit (like Notepad or WordPad, but for Mac, since I don’t use a PC). Once I’m done with my rough draft and the first round of major edits, I put the entire thing into Microsoft Word and format it to publishing standards. I don’t like all the bells and whistles of Word distracting me while I write, so I keep it as simple as possible at the beginning.

Word counter

Since I use TextEdit for writing, which doesn’t have a built-in word counter like Word does, I like to copy/paste my text into WordCounter.net. It does more than just count the number of words or characters used. It can also count the number of sentences or paragraphs you have, as well as the approximate time it would take to read the work silently or aloud. It also calculates the approximate reading level and keeps track of your keyword density, which means it shows you how many times you’ve used certain words or phrases. This comes in handy when you realize you have a bad habit of overusing words like “suddenly” or “he looked at her.” The site also lets you set goals for yourself or track your writing activity, to help you get your projects done. Pretty handy for a free tool!

Character naming site

I talked about this in my last post about naming your characters, but I like to use BabyNames.com and BabyNameWizard.com.

Music

None! That is, while I’m writing. I am easily distracted by noise, so it’s very difficult for me to write unless it’s quiet. I can do it (such as in a coffee shop or with my kids playing nearby with noisy toys), but I don’t produce my best work that way.

Place to write

In a quiet room, in a comfy chair. Our home is too small to have a dedicated desk for me, so I use my laptop on the couch for now. I’m in the process of seeking the perfect overstuffed armchair to claim as “my spot” in the living room. The place I plan to put it is by a corner window, since I love to look at trees to destress.

Motivator

I’ve participated in almost every NaNoWriMo since I read about it in a newspaper in 2002. Even if I don’t “win” or complete the story after “winning,” it is a great motivator to get writing! Plus it’s hard to find another group of writers so excited to work on their craft outside of professional writing conferences, and NaNoWriMo is free. Another good motivator to write is to have a writer’s group or friends who write, to keep each other accountable. My current writing group is comprised mostly of those who attended a local NaNoWriMo write-in last November. We just kept meeting even after it was over, and it’s been great fun, as well as a great motivator to keep plugging away at my current novel. Before I had a writing group I relied heavily on Critique Circle.

Writing blog

My favorite blog to read about the craft of writing is Gail Carson Levine’s blog. It’s targeted toward readers of Middle Grade fantasy (since that’s who she writes her books for) who like to write their own stories, but I’ve noticed in the comment section that I’m not the only adult there. I’ve found that a lot of writing blogs are very technical or focus on the process of preparing for publishing. But Gail’s blog not only answers the technical part of readers’ questions about writing, but it also dips its toes in a bit of whimsy while doing so, making her posts fun to read as well as educational. Sometimes I’ll read the question and think I already know the answer, but Gail always has a fresh take on it that I hadn’t considered.

Agent blog

It is well worth the dive into the archives of Miss Snark’s now defunct blog, as there are loads of advice that are timeless in there. But my favorite agent blog that is active is Janet Reid’s blog, where she answers questions from those seeking representation about the process of gaining an agent and about the publishing industry. She seeks clients in the mystery/crime/thriller categories, but her advice applies even to those who write outside of those categories. The comment section is extremely active and friendly, which is always a bonus.

Authors

My favorite authors to read are—in no particular order—Gail Carson Levine (MG fantasy), Robin McKinley (YA and adult fantasy), Sherwood Smith (YA and adult high fantasy), and Shannon Hale (YA fantasy). I love a good fantasy romance, which all of these women do excellently, particularly if it’s spun from a fairy tale. A runner-up would be Janette Rallison, whom I’ve only learned about recently through her Fair Godmother series. She writes mostly contemporary YA romances, which are fun and light hearted.

Who are your favorite authors? Your favorites to any of the above? I love good stationery, so if you have some recommendations I’d be happy to hear them!