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

I Gave Up Breathing

(I first wrote this post in response to a Haiku blog to which I contributed poems. Every other week, I received a prompt. In response to the prompt word “wind,” I thought of the drawing above to use as an illustration for my poem, which, simply put, I wrote as a reminder that as people we sometimes get in our own way.)

When my daughter Chloe was in kindergarten, I quickly drew a “Heartman” comic each morning on a Post-it note and put it in her lunch. Because her school had a policy in which students were not allowed to throw anything away, the idea being so parents would have some sense of what their children were and were not eating, most of the comics came home each afternoon.

I couldn’t bring myself to toss them so stashed them in a sandwich bag.

A few years ago, I found them and thought they’d make the basis of a fun blog. All in all, it’s a pretty darn sweet collection of day-to-day parenting. Check out one of my favorite drawings here, from which you can access the entire collection.

Needless to Say, it was an Ideal Moment

(The original of this post came on September 1, 2010 while Melinda, Chloe, Ella, and I were living in Nantes, France. I like this post enough to reproduce it here.)

September 1, 2010

I went on this very long walk by myself this afternoon. I started at home and walked to the big grocery store at the end of our local tram line, stopping along the way to do some reading and thought-gathering. I picked up a few things at the store and then decided to walk back a different route, one I hadn’t tried before.

I got a little bit lost but never to the point of not knowing which direction I needed to go. The walk provided me one of those moments (and a long one at that) about how not having several unfinished projects waiting for me has allowed me to slow down and be mindful.

A good lesson for when I again have several projects needing my attention.

During the walk back, the part when I wasn’t quite sure where I was, I encountered a dirt trail and decided to take it to see where it came out. Along the trail I found an overgrown apple tree with dozens of rotting apples on the ground around it.

Given the number already on the ground, I decided it would be acceptable for me to pluck a couple of ripe apples from the tree. I then continued along the path, now accompanied by the pleasant crunch of biting into a fresh apple.

Needless to say, it was an ideal moment.

While I was out walking, Ella & Melinda had tea with a classmate of Ella’s named Aude and her mother, the two having been invited to their house. This was a great thing because now Ella is familiar with a girl her age in her school. Melinda and Ella reported that Aude and family are extremely nice and that they have even put in a request at school for Aude and Ella to be in the same class.

These simple acts of kindness from people that are complete strangers to us touches me deeply.
Meanwhile, Chloe had her first paid babysitting job and has one lined up with the same girl for each of the next two Wednesdays. And early in the day I had a Skype conversation with a representative from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, the likely result of which will be me doing some partnership work with them.

I also watched the pilot episode of “Get Smart.” Yes, that old American TV spy comedy from the 1960’s.

I can’t quite put in words why watching TV shows from my youth is bringing me such joy, but they are. Perhaps it has to do with reconnecting with a simpler time. The TV shows are just as they were then, untouched and untarnished by time. I think watching them is like having access to a time machine.

The “Get Smart” episode began with Max, the main character, getting a phone call in the middle of a live theatre performance. It made me laugh out loud, given how common it is for people to get personal phone calls in public places these days.

Except the episode is from 1965 and the call was on his shoe phone…

A Mixtape – Matching Speedos

What’s a mixtape, you say?

Historically, it’s a cassette tape on which someone has lovingly recorded a set of songs for someone. Nowadays, we call it a playlist.

In my early 20’s I would spend hours creating 90-minute tapes for friends, quite often a woman for whom I had a romantic interest. Sometimes these included hand-written liner notes.

Nutty, I know.

Imagine my delight a few years ago when I found a website, 8 Tracks, that allows people to upload songs, thus creating a “mixtape.” It enabled me to scratch my mixtape itch. In fact, here’s a link to one of the many I’ve created, this one called “Matching Speedos.”

This is how I describe the mix on the 8 Tracks site: “Back in the early ’70s, my parents bought matching Speedos for my two brothers, me, and them. The Speedos were a pink floral print, pretty spectacular for the early ’70s. This mix of songs performed by brothers is my tribute to those Speedos and my brothers.”

(Note, if you link to the 8 Tracks site you will be subject to their advertisements.)

Kind Action: Make someone a playlist
Book Recommendation: Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time
Movie Recommendation: High Fidelity (starring Jon Cusack)

Do You Remember the First Time You Held Hands Romantically?

For me it was when I was in 6th grade. We were with a group of classmates at the local roller skating rink. The announcer called for a “couple’s skate,” something that involved skating with a partner while holding hands.

I don’t remember who asked who, although I do remember she wasn’t always too nice to me in the classroom. That said, I have no idea if the girl saw it as romantic, but I sure did. I remember my hand getting sweaty. I even remember the song that was playing, Michael Murphey’s “Wildfire.”

Round and round we went.

(Pause for reflection.)

Romantically or otherwise, is there better advice than this, to hold hands?

Think about what it means.

Packed in there is taking care of each other, feeling connected, and the safety of one’s children. There’s the metaphorical “a hand to hold” to show support.

And then, of course, there is the romance of holding hands.

Chloe’s “Best Birthday Ever”

February 28, 2011 was quite a day, one that ended with this lovely sentiment from Melinda’s and my oldest daughter, Chloe: “I think this was my best birthday ever.”

Wow, that’s really saying something and was a statement that really touched Melinda and me. We wanted this birthday to be very special, especially considering that 18 is the REALLY big birthday in France AND we happened to be living in France then, on sabbatical for a year from the school Melinda and I had founded in 1994.

In France, most new 18-year-olds have big parties thrown for them by their parents, parties that include family and friends. But we really couldn’t provide that for Chloe. So instead, we figured out how to bring the four of us to Paris from Nantes, where we were living, and then throw a day-long family party for her.

The *party* began after Melinda and I completed a 30-minute jog around the Luxembourg Garden, a pretty spectacular way to begin any day, I know. Chloe wanted Mexican food so Melinda found an affordable and quick Mexican restaurant, BocaMexa, (courtesy of David Lebovitz’s blog) for lunch.

Next, Chloe wanted some birthday photos at the Eiffel Tower so we took a bus there, relying on the Rick Steves Paris guidebook to point us to a bus that gave us a bit of a Paris tour. It was cold so riding on a warm bus seeing the Paris streets was nice.

After the Eiffel Tower photoshoot, we went back home to get ready for dinner. It turned out that we had a few extra few minutes so Melinda & I took Chloe out for a legal drink at a nearby bar (the drinking age in France is 18 — she had a Kir Cassis, btw, and has a great story to tell about the bartender giving her a shirt and telling her to ditch her parents on her 18th birthday).

Regarding dinner, earlier in the day Melinda made reservations for us at Chez Janou, a wonderful Parisian restaurant not far from the Bastille. In making the reservation, Melinda commented that it was Chloe’s 18th birthday.

The restaurant staff went all out, including making her a special cake that was delivered with restaurant-wide fanfare and singing, dimmed lights, loud music, and 18 candles. We had a champagne toast and enjoyed the incredible cake, before taking the Métro back to our apartment, located a 5-minute walk from Notre Dame.

Oh, one more thing about that night’s dinner. Just after Chloe blew out her candles, we spotted American actor John C. Reilly sitting about 5 feet away, meaning he helped sing happy birthday to her. Was this her birthday wish?

Really, John C. Reilly, when Johnny Depp lives in France?