I’ve created well over 20 blogs in the last 8 years, but it’s on Medium where I’m getting my biggest audience.
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, my wife, and Chloe and Ella, our daughters, 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 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 this 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:
After greeting the family who will be living in our Seattle home and helping them get to know the house and its…frenchsabbatical.com
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 our school, 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 couple of years ago, I moved all the non-sabbatical entries to another site, one that now 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 also 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 kindness class is presented as a self-paced module designed for people to consider kindness through a unique lens…kindmodule3.wordpress.com
This one was to celebrate Melinda’s and my 50th birthdays by performing acts of kindness:
In May of 1963, Andy Smallman and Melinda Shaw were both born, Melinda on the 13th and Andy on the 24th. In 2013, as a…12daysofkindness.wordpress.com
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 25 now):
Heartman was a character I first created when Melinda, my wife, and I began dating in 1990. Heartman was my alter ego…heartmancomics.wordpress.com
In 2014, I created a blog to chronicle a “staycation” Melinda and I designed for ourselves during our school’s spring break:
As administrators/co-founders of the Puget Sound Community School, we, Melinda & Andy, try to do something special when…springbreakhappyhour.wordpress.com
More recently, I’ve used a blog to promote a poetry project I keep trying to build some momentum around:
The inspiration for this poetry project comes from two sources. The first is a brilliant Esquire magazine…page143.org
So I guess you could say I have a lot of experience with blogging. Interestingly, it is here on Medium where I’m drawing the widest audience.
If you’d like to connect with me about blogging, please leave a comment to that effect below.