Creative Dance

That’s Ella, Melinda’s and my youngest daughter, on the right. Posing with her is her cousin, Olivia. When Ella was little, she always wanted to dance.

To nurture her desire, Melinda, signed her up for a class called “Creative Dance” when she was 4 or 5 years old.

At the first session, Melinda and I tried to spy on her without being seen (to see if she was having fun) by peeking through a tiny window in the door. We watched her spin and twirl and move, all with a smile on her face.

Confident that she had had a great time, when class ended we asked her, “Did you have fun?” Her sweet and profound answer was as prompt as it was telling:

“I don’t see how they can call it CREATIVE dance when they tell you what to do!”

Since then she continued to dance, but on her terms. As a teen, she’d close her bedroom door and dance to her favorite music. At parties, she was always found on the dance floor.

She’ll be 25 in December and lives on her own in Seattle. But I can easily imagine her dancing in her apartment or while making macarons at work.

Kind Action : Dance (on your terms)
Book Recommendation : Creative Dance For All Ages

Andy, the Blogger

Late in the afternoon on July 1, 2010, I was sitting alone in the Seattle home of some friends. They were away on vacation and Melinda, Chloe, Ella, and I were staying in their house for a few days.

That morning, we had moved out of our home, the place we had lived for 12 years, and helped move in a family who would be living there for the next year.

On July 4, we would be flying to France, Melinda and I having been granted a year-long sabbatical from PSCS, the school we had founded in 1994. After 16 years of hard work, the school saw fit to grant us one of our long-held dreams, what we had come to think was a pipe dream, to live in France for a year as a family.

We were about to settle in the city of Nantes.

But back on July 1, 2010, sitting alone with little left to do to get ready, I found myself thinking about the upcoming adventure. Melinda and Chloe had both talked about blogging, but I was making no commitments.

Part of my plan for the year was to live spontaneously with as few commitments as possible.

Still, I knew I wanted to have a record of what we would be doing, and I knew our family and friends would appreciate having regular updates. In a fit of inspiration, I created my first-ever blog with a simple idea. I had read about the 365 Project, where you document a year in your life through one daily photograph. Being a bit wordy, I decided I would go one better.

I’d post a daily photo AND a short description of our day.

So inspired, I went online, connected to WordPress, and created my first blog. It was a spontaneous act. I used the PhotoBooth application on my laptop to snap my first picture and then wrote the first entry right then and there:

We arrived in Nantes on July 5. True to my intent, I made posting to the blog every day an important commitment. As the days and weeks passed, it became not only my obsession but the obsession of others, most notably my family.

A regular question became: “What are you going to use on the blog today?”

At times it created some angst: “You can’t use THAT picture on the blog!” or “Don’t write about THAT on the blog.”

But throughout the year it was above all else a fun, unifying thing for Melinda, Chloe, Ella, and me.

In short order, the blog did become what I had hoped, a record of what we were doing in France that served as a daily update to our family and friends back home in Seattle. Melinda’s and my parents shared the address with their friends and it spread further from there. The address was also shared at PSCS, after which many of the families associated with the school followed along.

In writing each day’s entry, I often imagined who might be reading and sometimes tailored a post with a particular individual in mind.

Interestingly and gratifyingly, it also became part of our extended lives in France. Our good friends, the Boudeaus, the people responsible for us choosing Nantes as the city in which we settled, became daily viewers of the blog. Conversation topics resulted because of something I posted to the blog and inspiration for entries came from these conversations, too.

In March, we spent a week with the Boudeau family, sharing their ski vacation with them at their family cabin in the Alps. There was no Internet connectivity at the cabin so the family took it upon themselves to acquire a wireless device that allowed me to connect and post to the blog.

We also developed an incredible relationship with another family, the Bertails, a family who lived a few doors down from our house in Nantes. Like the Boudeaus, the Bertails inspired multiple entries and became regular readers.

As our year in France wound down, I started getting asked about my plans for the blog.

No one was bold enough to ask if I planned to keep posting on a daily basis. But secretly I had been thinking about doing just that. It had become an important part of my own daily routine, and looking back at the entries proved to be a useful memory jog in many ways. I also thought that our friends in France would enjoy having a daily update about our lives back in Seattle. Further, the blog had developed its own following of regular readers, some of whom I didn’t even know.

As such, I saw value in keeping it going.

A few years ago, I moved all the non-sabbatical entries to this site, kindnessandy.com, that serves as my personal blog. This left the sabbatical site specific to our year away. By then, I also had learned how easy it was to start other blogs. I had realized that blogging was a great way to promote ordinary activities that awaken kindness, something which provides me a solid sense of doing good. As such, I’ve created several blogs for specific kindness activities I’ve facilitated.

As an example, here’s one that uses episodes of the original Twilight Zone TV show to promote kindness:

This one was to celebrate Melinda’s and my 50th birthdays by performing acts of kindness:

I’ve also created blogs for more personal reasons, like this one to showcase the little comics I drew each day and included in Chloe’s lunch when she was in kindergarten (she’s 27 now):

In 2014, I created a blog to chronicle a “staycation” Melinda and I designed for ourselves during our school’s spring break:

I’ve also been using a blog to promote a poetry project I keep trying to build some momentum around:

So I guess you could say I have a lot of experience with blogging. If you’d like to connect with me about blogging, please leave a comment to that effect below.

Switching Seasons

There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a good book to read. This time of year, when it’s starting to show hints of being chilly, dark, and damp, there are few things I enjoy more than the feel of a book in my hands and a well-told story to discover.

On my couch, under a weighted blanket, my flannel pajamas and slipper socks on, Bentsen cuddled close…

Add in Melinda, a little Henri Texier on the wifi-hifi, as well as a classic beverage and it really gets romantic.

It reminds me of this staycation from a few years back.

Making a Stop in Angerville?

Most readers of my blog are aware that Melinda, my wife, and I took our daughters, Chloe & Ella, to live in France for a year back in 2010-11. We had been granted a sabbatical from the school we had founded and used the opportunity to provide our family some wonderful experiences in a different country.

Among the things we got to do was travel. In the spring of 2011, we went to southern France and stayed in the city of Nice. Although it’s pronounced like the English word “niece,” this didn’t stop me from telling my family, and on multiple occasions, how nice I found Nice, purposely mispronouncing the words.

Near the end of our year in France, we traveled to Normandy in northern France at the invitation of the Bertail family, people who lived around the corner from us and had become great friends. Melinda and I rented a car for this trip and for the first time in our lives experienced a vehicle with GPS.

Let me just tell you how infatuated Melinda and I became with this nifty little tool. It’s like driving and playing a video game at the same time, which, incidentally, I’m not advocating anyone do on a literal basis…

So, anyway, there we were, driving in Normandy to our destination and up on the video game, err, GPS screen came the word “Angerville,” which turns out to be a small town in Normandy (click on the photo here to see it better).

Chloe piped up from the backseat, “We spent some time in Nice, why not Angerville?”

Good one, Chloe! A real chip off the old block!

Turns out, though, that it never really worked into our plans to make a stop in Angerville. We were overdue and it was getting dark. Still, I kept picturing the four of us next to a sign of the town name, each of us with an angry scowl on our faces.

So, yeah, it’s probably best we didn’t go to Angerville back then. I mean, we probably go there metaphorically often enough, right? Think about it. Wouldn’t YOU rather go around Angerville than making a stop there?

Program your personal GPS accordingly.

The Tao of Kindness

Over 81 consecutive weeks, beginning in 2018 and ending in 2020, I adapted the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching into kindness verses, one each week, as part of a personal meditation practice.

The idea of this project was to consider the ancient wisdom of the Tao through the lens of 21st-century kindness.

I shared my verses online as a way to center my practice and to offer them to others who might find them useful. You can find an archive of all 81 verses here.

As a sample, here’s my interpretation of verse 39:

39

THE BLOSSOM IS THE ROOT

Unity, harmony, wholeness,
synonyms for interconnectedness.
The finger is the hand.

Rooted in a pattern of humility,
nature takes its course.
The valley is the mountain.

Seeing oneness in all things,
kindness is a byproduct.
The blossom is the root.

Elvis Costello, Tom Waits & Chloe

This was my plan:

Expose Chloe, my daughter, to the music I love when she was very young. Then, when she’s older, she’ll already have a built-in appreciation for fine music, the likes of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits.

She’ll be one of those cool teens!

I even had pictures and magazines placed in strategic locations in the house and bought her an oversized Elvis Costello t-shirt that she wore as a nightshirt along with red socks (angel-worthy “shoes” — get it?).

It couldn’t miss!

But it didn’t work…

She never voluntarily listens to Elvis Costello or Tom Waits. And I’m too embarrassed to say what she does like…

Where did I go wrong?

Well, she’s only 28.

There’s still hope, right?

Right?

Kind Action : Introduce Your Child to Something YOU Love
Music Recommendation 1 : Imperial Bedroom — Elvis Costello
Music Recommendation 2 : Swordfishtrombones — Tom Waits

Take a Field Trip!

Indeed, think back to how exciting it was to be somewhere other than at school on a weekday. You know, when you “should” be in school.

I encourage you to occasionally be inspired by that remembrance. Take a personal day or play hooky. Involve your family.

That’s me in that photo above, taken along the beach in California in March 2010. Melinda, our two daughters, and I had taken a field trip to San Francisco from our home in Seattle, needing to visit the nearest French Consulate in order to get our visas for our year of living in France.

We stayed with Melinda’s cousin’s family, who took us to the beach on a weekday when anyone under the age of 18 “should have” been in school.

The inspiration for this idea comes from Gretchen Rubin’s blog. In the linked post, she shares about going on a field trip as an adult, having been inspired by her 6-year-old.

Kind Action : Take a Field Trip!
Book Recommendation : The Happiness Project

For a little further inspiration, here’s 35 seconds of “charter bus excitement” from a group of kindergartners.

On My Father’s Shoulders

The summer of 1988 is one of the favorite periods of my life. I had just graduated from college and had decided to take a job that had nothing to do with what I’d been studying, but had everything to do with something I loved.

To explain, I have to take you back a few years before that.

Picture a little boy on his father’s shoulders. The little boy asks, “What number?”

The father tells him. And for the duration of the horse race that’s the little boy’s focus, yelling for that numbered horse to run, “Go number four! Go number four!”

I was probably two or three years old, and that’s the way I remember the story being told to me. Years pass and it’s just something my dad and I share, a passion for the horse races.

And in the summer of 1988, I was hired as a statistician by the Daily Racing Form and would be at Longacres racetrack every day, as would my father as part of his side job as a handicapping expert for a couple of national horse racing magazines.

We spent hours together that summer, just the two of us, together, completely absorbed.

Kind Action : Hang Out With Your Dad (or a father figure)
Book Recommendation : Picking Winners
Website Inspiration : Day 130 (7 November 2010) — A Day at the Races

Designer Ice Cream

Since marrying Melinda, I’ve gotten lots of opportunities to learn there are nice things and then there are nicer nice things.

Take frozen dairy products for instance.

I’m from Nebraska. I was born in the 1960’s. My family ate something called “ice cream.” It came in a “carton.” If I was lucky, I got an “ice cream cone,” otherwise I ate it from a “bowl.”

These are terms I know.

Then one day, Melinda took me to a specialty shop that sold something resembling ice cream. It had maybe 10 flavors, all beautifully arranged, not 31 messy cardboard canisters packed in ice and served to you by a pimply teen.

Stymied by not finding “Pink Bubblegum,” I passed. Melinda got a “petit” of two things I cannot pronounce, let alone spell, a tiny dish that cost enough for the two immaculately dressed workers to have to check our credit rating before handing it over.

Whatever you call what they serve, it WAS really, really good (Melinda gave me a taste).

eBay Kindness

I’ve been on eBay since 1997, which seems like a pretty long time ago, 24 years to be precise. If you go back 24 years in the other direction, it would be 1973 and that is a REALLY long time ago…

Anyway, several years ago I was trying to amass a collection of DVDs released as part of something called the Spiritual Cinema Circle. I found the films they curated to be inspirational and have long appreciated short films, several of which were included on their DVDs they sent to subscribers each month.

I noticed that an eBay seller had posted several that I was missing, all at reasonable “Buy it Now” prices. I snatched them up, one by one, a total of 9 individual purchases, each with its own shipping price.

Within a couple of hours, I had been refunded $10 by the seller who was under no obligation to do this. I wrote her a note of appreciation and mentioned the other DVDs I was missing. This was her response to me:

“Hi Andy… I believe deeply that what is given with clear intention and a grateful heart will return a thousand-fold. Spiritual Cinema Circle 2009 Volume 11 featuring “The Shift” with Wayne Dyer will be mailed to you tomorrow via First Class Mail and you should have it in days as my gift to you. Be blessed and know that your kindness created this reality of receiving a gift. And I am enriched by the opportunity of receiving your payment and then giving a gift to you as well.”

I admit, I didn’t go on eBay in search of an act of kindness, but this experience pointed out to me that such acts are there. It also indicated to me that kind acts are everywhere — we just need to program our minds to recognize them.

One way to help with this is to complete some kind acts ourselves.

Kind Action : Do Something Kind for a Stranger
Book Recommendation : eBay For Dummies
Lighthearted Inspiration : Funny/Weird eBay Auctions