6 March 2013 : God?

I admit, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the existence of God. But I do believe we live in a benevolent universe. Take this story for example.

The girls with Ruby

The girls with Ruby, 2000

4 year-old Meredith wrote a letter to God about the death of Abbey, her family’s beloved dog, wanting to make sure God recognized the arrival of Abbey in heaven. She stamped the letter and, with her mom’s help, dropped it in a mailbox. A couple of weeks later, the family arrived home to find a package on their porch. Someone in the post office had taken it upon her/himself to provide Meredith with an answer.

Among the many things I like about this story is the little girl not being the least bit surprised that God wrote back to her. Something about that makes perfect sense to me.

Read the whole story, including both letters, here.

4 March 2013 : The Magic Penny

Coin Collecting, 1960's

Coin Collecting, 1960’s

The more loving we are to others, the more love we experience. Recall the children’s song “Magic Penny” by Malvina Reynolds, the one with the chorus, “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.”

Access the power of a “magic penny” by noticing more of the every day beauty that surrounds you, including the fresh scent of a flower or the kindness extended when a young person on the bus gives up his seat to someone older. By exercising the loving side of yourself, it becomes stronger and more aware.

And any tendency you have to focus on negativity is weakened.

1 March 2013 : Smile

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” -Anthony Trollope

Smiling Ella, age 5

Smiling Ella, age 5

Smile at the grocery store clerk. This is something I think about in my life every day. Although simple in practice, it may have a profound impact on his life. Yours too.

Many people who participate in my kindness classes think they need to complete grand acts of kindness. But what I really want to do is help people not to worry about how profound, significant, or large their actions are. I say to just let their actions come from a place inside that is filled with positive excitement.

Whatever you do, let it radiate from that place.

28 February 2013 : Nothing is Insignificant

I’m posting this at 3:04am, 20 years to the minute after my daughter Chloe was born in 1993. And I’ve been thinking.

Andy & Chloe, 2/28/93

Andy & Chloe, 2/28/93

How many insignificant things had to come together at just the right moment for something significant to take place, like the birth of a baby?

I once told a newspaper reporter about my belief in the human behavior implications of the “Butterfly Effect,” the concept that something as seemingly insignificant as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can impact the weather in another part. The flapping wings cause an atmospheric change that sets off a series of events that ultimately leads to something significant. She mentioned this in her final article which, incidentally, set off a chain of publicity that contributed to me creating this blog.

I’ve learned to trust seemingly insignificant things.

25 February 2013 : Emotions, The Two-Sided Coin

Not too long ago I was talking to one of my students about managing anger and suggested he experiment with what it would be like to be grateful.

Don't mess with Ella

Don’t mess with Ella

for his anger and other so-called negative emotions. I told him that considering this concept when he’s calm might help him learn how to control these emotions when they occur.

Sometimes accepting your full self has to do with respecting your rougher sides. Being human affords us a wide range of emotions. Learning how to celebrate all of them in an appropriate manner helps us appreciate our feelings. And as Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen noted in her brilliant book “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” “The part in us that feels suffering is the same as the part that feels joy.”

In other words, it helps to remember that coins have two sides.

22 February 2013 : Discombobulated

This may be a case where something is more significant to me than it is to anyone else. I went two whole days without posting to this blog. TDiscombobulatedhat’s NEVER happened since I started it 2 1/2 years ago. And it makes me feel a little discombobulated.

Anyway, everything’s fine. I just haven’t had easy Internet access and I’ve been extraordinarily busy.

By the way, I just took a look at the recent stats for viewing the blog and noticed that more people have accessed it today (42) than on Wednesday (22), the first day I didn’t post. And yesterday there were 33 views, the second day I didn’t post.

I wonder how many would be checking in tomorrow if I hadn’t posted today?

19 February 2013 : My Million Dollar Idea – The iScent

While in France I did a lot of walking. On one particular walk, one in which fragrances were making themselves known to me, Is This an iScent?I came up with an idea for a device Steve Jobs would have undoubtedly dubbed the iScent had he thought of it (yes, I thought of iSmell but that seemed to imply something else). The idea is to have a little handheld device, like an iPod, that can provide you the exact scent you want when you want it.

This doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. I can see Apple having downloadable scents that can be carried on the device. You push a button and poof, you get a whiff. Here are some I want: My 2nd grade teacher’s, Mrs Rosengren’s, perfume. My paternal grandparents’ house in Wisconsin. My mom’s cinnamon twists. Frying onions. Minkler’s Health Food Store in Renton, WA (hard to explain that one but it’s part of a great summer in 1988).

I once tried out the idea on my family. I think they thought I was a little nutty. I tried to defend myself by saying something about how both scents and sounds trigger some nostalgic, happy part of my brain. Isn’t that true for anyone else? Aren’t YOU transported to the past with a familiar scent?

Give it a try.

18 February 2013 : Found Treasure!

Get this. Ella is going to Disneyland this week courtesy of the family of one of her friends. Rather than throw a large party locally, her friend’s parents decided to treat two of their daughter’s friends to a trip to Disneyland. Treasure HuntIt’s incredible, I know. Ella leaves tomorrow and gets back on Thursday.

So anyway, I was helping Ella look for a small suitcase for her trip and came upon a couple of them we’ve had for years, from before we went to France. In fact, they were too small to take to France so we left them stored at home. But that’s not interesting, is it?! What is, though, is that when I pulled them out I discovered that two of them were full of clothes! Clothes from before France!

Treasure!

Now I admit, there was a reason we didn’t take some of these clothes to France but there are some shirts I was thrilled to find and Melinda scored a pair of slippers (and found the dress she wore when we got married – no small thing). But today’s picture isn’t of the good things. It’s of the stack of things we intend to take to the Goodwill.

That’s right. Treasure for someone else!

17 February 2013 : Perfection

I’ve been thinking about the concept of perfection. The more I let myself go, the more I come to think that either there is no such thing as perfection or there is nothing but perfection. Let me explain.Perfection - Perrin's Birth Day

On many occasions I’ve told my students that trouble begins when we start comparing ourselves to others. For instance, I gave up trying to learn the guitar when I saw my friend Vince play in college. There was no way I would ever get as good as Vince so why bother, right?

Wrong.

What we need to do is compare ourselves only to ourselves. If instead of comparing my guitar playing to Vince’s I had compared mine to myself, I might not have been disillusioned. I might have 25 years of guitar playing experience by now.

Another way to think about it is like equivalent fractions. You know, 10 over 10 equals 20 over 20 (10/10 = 20/20), right? In the same way, Andy over Andy equals Vince over Vince (Andy/Andy = Vince/Vince).

10/10 = 20/20 = Andy/Andy = Vince/Vince = 1 whole.

Therein lies perfection.

16 February 2013 : Ordinary Moments

I’m calling today’s post “Ordinary Moments.” See if it makes sense to you.

Today’s photo was taken at Skate King, Ordinary Momentsa roller skating rink in the city of Bellevue, a large suburb of Seattle (and where my family relocated from Omaha in 1974). That’s me with the baseball cap, holding toddler Ella. Melinda and Chloe are skating toward us. I can’t say I remember a lot about this particular day, but looking at my kids sure evokes strong memories. That tie-dye T-shirt of Chloe’s was a huge favorite of hers and I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Ella is sucking her thumb.

We are the sum of so many things, including ordinary moments like roller skating with one’s family. And really, it’s these ordinary moments that make up the bulk of our lives. Cherish the ordinary.

Doing so makes it extraordinary.