Dear Jimmy – “Advice” to a Former Student

(Back in 2020, the mom of one of my former students reached out to me and asked, as she was asking others, to write a little note to her son on the occasion of his 25th birthday. If I recall correctly, she was asking influential adults in his life to offer him some advice. I was pleased to get her request and spent more than a little time considering and then composing my note. Searching for another piece of writing on my computer, I found my note last week and decided to archive it here. I hope some of you find it entertaining, if not full of decent advice. –Andy)

Dear Jimmy,

As your 25th birthday was approaching, your mother reached out to me and with great dignity and honor suggested I may have something of value to pass along to you. I understand I’m not the only person to whom she put in this request, which in some ways lets me off the hook. I mean, somewhere in the vast compendium of letters you are undoubtedly receiving on the occasion of doing nothing more extraordinary than having a pulse for a quarter century, you’re bound to get something more useful than anything I can cobble together.

For instance, the first thing that came to mind was to plagiarize something that was a meme before there were memes – “Wear sunscreen.”

Honestly, that is pretty decent advice, given that climate issue we’re having, but I’m betting you received it as a little kid or, failing that, figured it out by yourself by now. The really juicy stuff at this point in your life needs to be advice that gets you to stop what you’re doing, cock your head to the side, scrunch your eyebrows, and say something profound like, “Damn.”

Just for effect, you’re a director after all so take some direction from me, go ahead and imagine I just gave you some good advice:

Stop what you’re doing (reading, I imagine), cock your head to the side (600 mg of ibuprofen might aid with this – I know it helps my 25 + 32 year-old knees before I go for a run), scrunch your eyebrows (that’s the fun part), and say, “Damn.”

Don’t you feel better?

Yeah, it was probably just for saying, “Damn.”

To digress from the digression and on the subject of strong language, I’ve been working to promote a new swear word. It probably won’t catch on because it’s not four letters and our collective 21st century attention span can’t stand things that take too long (see: Twitter). Anyway, I invite you to take it for a test spin, see how it comes off your tongue. To really try it out, hold the first syllable for an extra split second, put emphasis on the second syllable, and then let the third syllable slide out, a denouement of sorts. Here it is, my new swear word for 2020:


Hmmm… It seems now that twice since I began this letter, I have offered you direction. And thinking about that, isn’t direction just a form of advice? This is what you do for a living, as I understand it. You direct actors to do stuff. That’s a form of advice, directing actors to do stuff, at least in my mind. You don’t know whether or not those actors are going to do the stuff you direct them to do. The actors get to make up their minds whether they’re going to take your direction, your advice. There is still free will, right?


Back to your mom. It occurred to me that she might be worried about you, given she is seeking out people like me to knock some sense into you on the occasion of you taking 25 tours around the sun on our collective blue-green spaceship.

So, Jimmy, here goes, my third direction to you: Humor your mom.

How? PRETEND you’ve gotten good advice from those to whom she reached out, including me. I’m sure it will make her feel good. See, when you PRETEND you’ve gotten good advice, you actually have to look inside yourself to find what to do. This makes the advice you’re pretending to have gotten be GOOD advice.

Funny thing about looking inside yourself… When you do it with a dose of trust, you find you’re not pretending at all.

Your old pal,

A ‘Dear John’ Letter to Melinda (not really)

As many of you know, from July 2010 through July 2011, 13 months, Melinda, Chloe, Ella, and I lived in France. As the founders of the Puget Sound Community School (PSCS) in 1994, Melinda and I were ready for a little break and the school was ready to spread its wings without the safety net of its founders. Chloe had just graduated from PSCS and Ella was a year removed from starting high school.

In other words, it was the perfect time for us to spend some time together as a family away from the 24–7 demands of the school.

We settled in the city of Nantes where Melinda’s family had some friends. Freed to do something I enjoy doing (write), I decided I would keep a daily blog of our goings-on for our friends and family back in Seattle. Little did I know that the blog would take on a life of its own.

Little did Melinda know that sometimes I would get a bit silly with my daily entries.

For instance, less than two weeks after we arrived in France we had already gotten into the routine of visiting a bakery to pick up fresh pastries for breakfast. One morning I went on my own to the bakery we had begun frequenting and was charmed by the sweetness of the young woman at the counter.

I requested four pain au chocolat, a delicious flaky pastry with pieces of dark chocolate inside, one for each member of the family. As I was paying, the young woman cautioned me to be careful because the pastries had just come out of the oven and were hot. In fact, she said, all in French, the chocolate might burn my mouth if I wasn’t careful.

I was completely smitten. I asked if I could take her picture for my blog post that day and she complied, although given the quality of my French for all I know I may have asked her what was on TV that night.

I did get this photo and then posted a version of the following on my blog that night. I’m sure Melinda just rolled her eyes.

Dear Melinda,

Yes, it’s true, you and I will always have France. But, you, you have your red wine and your cheeses. Me, I have our baker and her breads.

She tells me to be careful when buying pain au chocolat, that the chocolate is still hot and may burn my tongue. And she tells me this in French. After this morning’s visit, when she let me take her picture, I can hide my feelings no more.

Perhaps it’s rude to announce this like this, but I can’t help myself.

I’m already counting down the hours until tomorrow morning. Will it be a chausson pommes, pain aux raisins, or pain au chocolat?

You will always be my first wife,

— Andy

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,, 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.