find someone who is kind

My grandma likes to tell a story about the first time she met my dad. At this point, my parents had been dating for almost two years and were engaged to be married in a matter of months. Shortly after my mom went off to college, my grandpap got transferred from California to Delaware for his job. Rather than being a few hours’ drive away, my grandparents were now living across the country. They knew about my dad, of course. Grandpap had met him once when he was out in California for work and visited UCSB. But my grandma had never met my dad when my mom called with the big news that she was engaged.

Grandma had never met my dad… but she discovered that she did know his parents. In an incredible small-world coincidence, all four of my grandparents attended the same small college of Wittenburg in Springfield, Ohio right after WWII. Grandma, Grandpap, and Grandma Auden were all in the same class; Gramps was a few years older. They were in different fraternities and sororities, but they were acquaintances who had some close friends in common. Then they graduated, got married, lost touch, and had children. Both families separately moved from Ohio to Southern California in the early 1970’s. My parents grew up just a couple hours away from each other, in Ventura and Northridge. Then my parents each chose to attend UCSB, and met each other at a party around Christmastime through mutual friends.

My grandma was comforted to realize that the man her daughter had fallen in love with was Jim & Audrey’s son. When the two sets of parents were reunited before the wedding, Auden pulled Grandma aside and said, “Don’t worry, Mary Lou. He is very kind.”

Kind is definitely one of the first words I would use to describe my father. He is gentle, thoughtful, compassionate, and loving. This past Easter, when I was visiting my parents and had to get my blood drawn {which is always an ordeal for me with my tiny veins} he sat beside me and held my hand. He slips cards into my purse just as he used to slip notes into my lunchbox. He and my mom have shown me that kindness is a source of strength.

So it is perhaps not a surprise that when I was looking for the person I would share my life with, the first word at the top of my list was kind. I wanted to find a partner who was kind, gentle, and compassionate. Who made me feel understood and loved, even when I didn’t understand or love myself. Who would be a beacon of comfort in a world that can, at times, be a very harsh place.

{photo credit Allyson McAuley}

When I came across Allyn’s photo on an online dating website, I was immediately drawn to his kind smile. I felt that quiet kindness emanating through his spirit on our first date, when he looked at me with his smiling eyes and listened attentively to all my stories. Kindness was the first quality that drew me to him. And, years later, it remains the quality of his that I am most grateful for.

I don’t think kindness gets much attention in the language we use to discuss romance. We talk about mystery and intrigue; sex appeal and beauty; passion and attraction. And all of those things are important. But I do think that, as a society, we focus too much on the “flashier” traits that are on the surface. Those traits that lessen over time as you build a life together, as you grow older together, as you let each other in on the secret intricacies and intimacies of your true selves. Allyn is less of a mystery to me now than when we met, and I am surely less of a mystery to him. Instead of meeting up for a dinner date all gussied up, he sees me when I am sick and when I am tired and when I have just woken up in the morning with crusty eyes and messy hair. When that whirlwind of initial romance ebbs into a steady partnership, and that newness melts away into the familiar, what you’re left with is the bedrock of your connection with each other.

To me, it is most important that it be a foundation built on kindness.

I am witness to my husband’s kindness every single day. When he comes up behind me and gives me a hug for no reason. When he opens the car door for me or insists on carrying in most of the groceries. When he traps the spider and carries it outside rather than killing it. The way he sends thank-you notes and mails birthday cards. The sweet way he hugs my grandma whenever we see her. I hear the kindness in his voice on the phone — not just when he talks to me, but also when he’s on the phone with his mom or his sister. When we go visit his great-aunt Flo and take her grocery shopping, and Allyn holds her purse so she won’t lose it, gently guiding the cart through the aisles to find her oranges and graham crackers and milk. I feel the warmth of his kindness every time he holds my hand when we walk down the street, or pauses to say hello to a neighbor, or picks up a piece of litter that had blown out of someone’s trash can.

I am so proud of his kindness. So proud to be married to him.

 

When Allyn and I first moved in together, I was concerned about keeping our “spark” alive. I didn’t want us to descend into roommates, losing any semblance of mystery or romance. I refrained from doing certain grooming tasks like plucking my eyebrows or trimming my fingernails around him. We never left the door open while peeing. When we dressed up to go on date nights, I would get dressed by myself in our bedroom so I could open the door and make my entrance. {I still like to do this — it’s just more fun that way!}

We made it through almost our first two years of living together, and the first year and a half of our marriage, before we broke these rules. Or, should I say, transcended them. When I underwent emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy, suddenly I needed my husband in a way I never had before. I woke up in the hospital bed after my surgery, and I glimpsed a new layer of love in Allyn’s eyes. He kept telling me, “All that matters is that you’re okay.” That evening, before I was able to go home, the nurses wanted me to use the restroom. I felt too unsteady to walk across the hall by myself, plus I was attached to an IV pole with cumbersome wires. So Allyn held my hand and helped me slowly shuffle into the restroom. He held my arms and helped me sit down on the toilet. He stood right there as I peed. I realized I was breaking that cardinal rule I had set when we moved in together. I had believed that peeing in front of each other would be the furthest thing from romance. But, in that cold hospital bathroom, as my husband bent down to help me pull my panties back up, I felt more connected to him than I ever had before. It was a beautifully romantic moment in an ocean of grief.

In the following days and weeks, my husband’s steady kindness became my well of comfort. He helped me out of bed in the middle of the night to take my pills, then gently helped me lie back down into bed. He dried my legs off after I showered because I wasn’t supposed to bend down yet. He brought me saltine crackers and popsicles and refilled my water glass. He stroked my hair and told me how beautiful I was and how amazed he was by my strength. In those days and weeks of healing, I felt stripped down to my barest self. And my husband gazed with awe at that raw, vulnerable part of me and said, “I have never loved you more than I do right now.”

It was not the stuff of romance novels. It was not the scenes I dreamed about on those lonely nights when I was single, imagining my future husband. But since going through that trying and intimate experience together, our attraction to each other has only grown and deepened. Allyn’s kindness makes me fall more and more in love with him every day.

 

I still close the bathroom door when I pluck my eyebrows and trim my nails and pee. I still hope that I retain a bit of mysterious intrigue in my husband’s eyes. But, one of the sweetest moments of our nightly routine comes right before we turn out the bedroom light, when Allyn says, “Ready for me to do your eyes?” I have dry eyes, so my doctor recommended putting in these nighttime eye drops. It is more like an eye gel, much harder than putting in normal eye drops, and I am terribly unsuccessful at doing it to myself. After witnessing me poking myself in the eye and squeezing eye gel onto the bridge of my nose, Allyn said, “Would you like me to help you with that?” So now, every night, I hold open my eyelids while he carefully puts the gel into each of my eyes.

My sweet, thoughtful, kind husband. I feel so lucky to have him. I am so glad I picked him, and he picked me.

Every night, I blink my wet eyes, put the tube of eye drops back down on my bedside table, and turn onto my side. Allyn flips off the light and kisses me goodnight. His hand finds mine under the covers as we drift off to sleep together.

To me, it doesn’t get much more romantic than that.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and “free-write” about the following prompts:

  • What traits are most important to you in a partner? Why?
  • Write about a time someone has shown you kindness. What happened? What did it mean to you?
  • Write about an experience when you were forced to be vulnerable around someone else. What happened? What did you learn from the experience?
  • Think about some of the most romantic experiences in your life. Would they be considered conventionally romantic? Did any of them surprise you?

tips for selling things on craigslist

When I first moved to Indiana for graduate school, all I brought with me was what I could fit in my Ford Taurus — mostly clothes, books, small kitchen items, and pictures/special trinkets/mementos. Which means … almost all of my furniture I bought on Craigslist. I had not used Craigslist much before, but I decided to give it a shot because 1) I was on a tight budget; and 2) I try to be as eco-friendly as possible — I love the idea of buying something that might otherwise end up in a landfill and giving it a new home.

All in all, I have been so happy with my purchases! Since then, I have even sold a couple things on Craigslist myself and helped Mike sell some things he no longer needs or uses.

In my experience, often the best first step to organization is getting rid of stuff! Is there any unneeded, unused stuff cluttering up your life? One of my favorite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify!” He continued, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

Go through your closets, kitchen, dresser, etc. and see if there is anything you no longer need or want. Have you used it or worn it in the past three or four months? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to let it go! And if the item is in good condition, you might be able to make a little money by putting it up on Craigslist.

Now, the cons to Craigslist is it does take a little time to get things posted up there. If your items are not very expensive or in-demand, it might be more worthwhile to donate them to Goodwill instead of spending time putting them up on Craiglist. That said {especially as a grad student on a tight budget} every little bit helps!

Here are some tips from my double-perspective: a savvy Craigslist scourer in the days when I was first furnishing my apartment, and a busy sometimes-Craigslist seller of items I no longer need.

How to Use Craigslist to Simplify your Surroundings & Make a Little Extra Moohlah:

1. Include a photo of the item you are selling! When I was looking for furniture for my apartment, I pretty much only contacted people who posted photos of the item. I wanted to be able to “see” what was being sold before I decided if I was going to drive out and look at it in person!

2. Make your title straight and to the point. What are you selling and for how much? Titles that are too long or have a ton of capital letters and exclamation marks scream desperation, which can attract people who want to bargain you down to the bare bones. On the other hand, as a Craigslist buyer wary of being scammed, long titles that seemed too “sales-pitch-y” often turned me off; they made me feel like the seller was trying to pull one over on me. Let your item speak for itself.

3. Use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you come across professionally {even in relatively informal settings like Craigslist} people will see you as more trustworthy and reliable. And people want to do business with trustworthy, reliable people!

4. Don’t list your items for too much. Don’t expect to get back what you paid for the item. Think garage-sale prices. Think about how great it will feel to get this item out from cluttering up your space. When I sell items, I often take my first-thought price and knock it down by $5 or $10. I would much rather sell the item for $5 less than I originally thought and get it out of my house and at least get something for it, rather than ask $5 more for it and not sell it at all. At the same time, however…

5. Don’t list your items for too little. Expect people to bargain down a little with you. If you list your item for $10, and that is as absolutely as low as you are willing to go, people will likely want to only pay $5 for it. But if you had listed it for $15 originally, someone might be happy bargaining you down to $10. If you list your item for a certain price and it doesn’t sell for a week or two, you can always knock the price down. I think it’s better to start too high and bargain down than it is to start too low, because if you’re too low you’re stuck there.

6. Show you have done your research. I think the most successful Craigslist post I did was when I sold an ice-cream maker that Mike had never even used. It was still in its original box, just collecting dust in his closet. Before I posted an ad on Craigslist, I went onto Amazon and found how much it was selling for there. Then, I was able to reference this in my post: I listed the original price, the reduced price Amazon was selling it for, and the further-reduced price Mike was asking for it. I received an email within a couple hours and the next day a super nice lady came by and bought it to use with her kids. She paid the price we asked, no questions, and I could tell she was thrilled about it. She got a great deal, Mike got a great deal — everybody wins!

Hope those tips help you make the most out of Craigslist — and organize your space and make some extra moohlah in the process! I would love to hear what other tips you would add. Does anyone have a great success story, or lessons learned, about selling or buying items on sites like Craigslist?

Have a great day!
-Dallas