FOTOFRIDAY: And in the end…

Posted on: Friday, January 22nd, 2021
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Shovel away the mess, notice a little light on the horizon.

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

            ~ The Beatles

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Scandinavians Share Secrets to Surviving Darkness

Posted on: Monday, January 18th, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

  • Danish art about getting hyggelig from a boutique in a small coastal town 

As a 100% Scandinavian mutt, I’ve enjoyed unforgettable travels in their lands, and maintain a stubborn habit of studying their ways of life.  Healthcare consortium Kaiser Permanente recently posted an article promoting the simple but effective ways that those Nordic folks deal with darkness, both literal and metaphorical.

This ain’t brain science. Yet these rituals may work brain-mind-body miracles. We’ll embrace the language barrier + share some ideas, in case these days have you feeling dark, hopeless, scared, anxious, intimidated, worried, numb, confused, lost, pissed, catatonic, bored, or otherwise not quite euphoric.

  • FRILUTSLIV (OPEN-AIR LIVING)

BreakAway has preached this until if we scream in the forest, no one will hear us. Point is, every moment outside improves your well-being. A long sojourn in the mountains might be idyllic, but even a walk in the park will work wonders. In my Scandi and Scandi-American Midwest memories, every farm and yard had chairs and benches all over the yards—among other toys and cues to lure you out-of-walls. And oh, those sweet porches…

  • GOKOTTA (WAKE EARLY; WORSHIP BIRDS)

Yep, it’s about that simple. Get up, sleepy head, and hear the birds when they are most robust. You start the day chirpy, happy, and ready to flutter into the to-do list. Hey, if the birds can do it, you can too!

  • FIKA PAUS (THE COFFEE BREAK)

In Sweden, work is scheduled around the break, not VV. And this is not just a slouch and stare at the phone moment. Rather, there’s conversation, calming, resting, and reset. I remember this ritual at both sets of my grandparents’ farms and beyond. So simple, yet almost transformative. The laughter, the sharing of thoughts and info, the camaraderie. And then…back to work. The fresh cookies and cakes were pretty good too!

  • HYGGE (COZINESS) 

This word has been trending so long I almost feel sheepish and ba-a-a-d to use it. But hey, I grew up with hyggelig, so who needs trends? Hygge, of course, means embracing the darkness by lighting a candle, a fire, a twinkling tree. Piling on another posh pillow. Hugging blankets and sipping something warm. And don’t forget soothing MUSIC! Just get comfie. Summer will be back soon enough.

  • LAGOM (BALANCE)

As BreakAway has always promoted, Everything in moderation . (Including moderation.) LAGOM, which might translate to “just the right amount,” suggests we avoid, say, over-eating and N’flix binging. And that we un-rest the butt and move more. Get the chores done. But then take enjoy coffee break!

Perhaps a shot of akavit at the end of the day? Just sayin’. Ha det godt! (Norsk.)

Og behold troen. (More Norsk.)

Translation: And keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Everything Old is NOW Again

Posted on: Friday, January 15th, 2021
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • My kids are taking FILM pics and listening to LPs. HELP!!! (Photo by EH)

Go figure. Over the years, I’ve gradually—and begrudgingly—purged my piles of 2,000++ albums, dozens of cameras, and enough toys and tools for using them to fill a large barge. They’ve been deemed as mostly worthless when I’ve tried to sell them off, never that that they cost me millions of mowings, shovelings, and waitering hours!

This is not a “new” thing, of course. But the fervor seems ramped up such that the “cool” factor of carrying an old Pentax SLR or spinning an LP is, well, almost alarming. Some of us are still trying to catch up with the dang Digital Revolution, for crying out loud! Why didn’t we just stick with all that stuff from the start!?!

This here oh-so filmy pic comes courtesy of my daughter, 17, who also is posting on an Instagram film site, along with millions of other film-to-digital-to-website images. Is it still “film” when you make the picture digital? Is it a “picture” if you’ve posted it online? There’s more to say about this, but I must ruminate first. Meantime, whatever your media, heed your kids, go to film school, and take more pics!

PS That’s me, on the right, with my son on the left. I had fun, but caught no fish…

PPS The ’87 imprint is a bizarre fluke-mark that an old camera of mine put on. I guess that’s cool too!

 

 

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FOTOFRIDAY: Deliverous

Posted on: Thursday, January 7th, 2021
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Deliver us from evil. Amen.

Yesterday was a dark, dark day for the USA. Apparently, co-existing with a deadly disease and a long list of other problems just isn’t enough. It appears that riots and violence at the nation’s capital are what some people think we need right here, right now. 

In the Caribbean, passions can also run often loud and occasionally shocking, though I’ve never seen anything like yesterday’s DC hysteria. Boats down there almost always have a whimsical name. And this one caught my camera a number of times as I ferried from one island to another with DELIVEROUS tracking alongside.

A small delivery boat, the name made perfect sense as it raced from place to place, unloading cargo before moving on. On this day when words don’t work and not much makes sense, “Deliver us from evil” will have to do. Amen.

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Citigroup Proclaims Sabbaticals Pay!

Posted on: Monday, January 4th, 2021
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

  • Citibank avoids too much moss in the office by granting employee sabbaticals.

A recent Bloomberg Opinion piece has attracted ample attention by outlining Citigroup’s generous policy of offering 12-week sabbaticals to employees after 5 years of employment. Writer Sarah Green Carmichael uses the program as a springboard for both promoting time off and debunking fears about its harm to careers.

  • The problem with unused vacation

As we’ve discussed often at BreakAway, America enjoys being one of the richest countries, but is one of the poorest when it’s time to enjoy a good vacation. We get less. And we don’t even use what we’re given. The average worker earns 23 days off per year but actually takes only 17 of them. That amounts to billions of unused R&R-days!

Carmichael refers to abundant research that shows things like that people who use more vacation are actually more likely to get raises and promotions. Like: co-workers typically appreciate an absent co-worker’s contribution more when they are away and thus unable to pull their weight. Like: managers usually can’t tell the difference between those who slave away 80 hours/week to those who are faking it.

  • Problems persist with parenthood breaks

Maternity leave, in our great country, produces fuzzier outcomes. Several studies show that recent mothers make less money, are less likely to get promoted, and (if job searching) are less likely to get hired—due to lingering stigma that mothers will be less committed and capable. Paternal leave remains even more frowned upon. 

  • Money is “renewable,” while time is “finite”

No thanks to C-19, sabbaticals may suffer as workers covet their jobs and employers fiercely protect all bottom lines. Still, in the big picture, COVID also reminds us that we never know what may kill us, or when. Meanwhile, a career BreakAway not only won’t kill you, it will make you a more worldly, gratified person and employee. 

Op-eds and studies aside, Breakaway guarantees that a sabbatical will most certainly change your life!

Money is the ultimate renewable resource … But time is fleeting and finite. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

 

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FOTOFRIDAY: The End of a Year-a

Posted on: Friday, January 1st, 2021
Posted in: Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Rough year, anyone? Even the snow knows… 

There will be volumes of verbiage written about this troublesome year. So for now, I’ll try to make no sense of it, and leave that to smarter Thought Leaders.

I must, however, note the challenge—nay, the absurdity!—of hosting a site that advocates career breaks, long-term travel, taking time off, unplugging, and such.

Why? Well, many (most?) of us experienced job insecurity or loss that made viable careers more valuable yet shaky than ever.  As for long-term travel, that became an ill-advised financial outlay that could make you sick and take you to a shut-down dystopia. Time off, while always welcome, this year was forced way more that most people wanted. And as for unplugging, forget it! I want my NTV!

Still, I found things to think and write about, even if it sometimes felt like filibustering. And frankly, there were unexpected gifts and pleasures too. My kids were home and together more than I ever would have expected. My house got C-19 but we got through it okay mostly. I spent more time outdoors and exercising than ever (never mind that it ended in knee surgery). And all that dead time forced some introspection and meaning-of-life pondering that, though often heavy, is important stuff.

I hope we can get back “normal” (whatever that is) in 2021, including struggling with finding balance and dreaming about BreakAways. Meantime, lay low, keep the faith and, don’t forget to SCREAM…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! ! ! ! !

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5 Selfish, Cheap Holiday Gift Ideas

Posted on: Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

  • That DIY tree has survived many iterations of traditions. We can too!

I made that cute (?) and crafty Christmas tree at age 10 (approximately), with leftover decorations purchased for 50% off at Walgreen’s on 12-26. How has it survived so long? Who knows? But it shines on every year, assuring some holiday luster regardless of family riffs, broken relationships, and whether or not some competing tree is all aglow.

For most, this holiday season looks like no other. And that’s okay. Because expectations, like promises, are often silly and later broken. But the sun comes up anyhow, lakes freeze and then melt again, and the most meaningful traditions and observances can carry on despite pandemics and a host of other obstacles.

Here are a few—make that 5—ways to “gift” yourself that I’ve found restorative during these restless holidays. They remain unbreakable, timeless, and free…

  • SING!

Your pipes want to stretch out. In the shower, in the kitchen, in the car. At my age, I’ve noticed my range has shrunk. When I asked my musician-dad why, he said, “You just need to practice.” So I am, like nobody’s listening, because nobody is. Maybe we can’t sing in church and such these days, but still…what is the season without singing?

  • GO SILENT 

When you’re voice gets hoarse, listen to the winter silence. The winds blowing. The red squirrel scuttling through snow the yard and scolding his gray rivals. Oh sure, some are sure that the world is falling apart. But if you listen hard enough, all is calm; all is bright.

  • SURPRISE SOMEBODY, BUT TELL NOBODY

Drop $100 in the Sal Army bucket. Or tip that delivery guy more than the meal cost. Or snow-blow a neighbor’s driveway before they wake up. If karma is for real, you’ll soon receive a warm fire in your heart. I karma’s a hoax, you still will.

  • FORCE SOME FAITH

It’s cool to drop out of church (and other places of worship) these days. But what are we left to believe if we practice nothing, revere God-knows-what, and get stuck in our own noisy minds? Let’s not go there. Instead, go ahead: Read the Christmas story. Light (and stare down) some candles. Ponder a power that’s bigger than the Grinch’s heart.

  • EXPERIMENT WITH SELF CARE

Oh yeah, we’re all sick of self-care shticks. And yet, a holiday season sans family raucousness, spirited parties, and bustling malls does free up some time. And maybe the mind. So take a nap. Take a bath! And of course—as BreakAway is always preaching about—Unplug!

As the omnipresent masses used proclaim at Christmas time…

Peace be with you!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Washed Up!?!

Posted on: Friday, December 11th, 2020
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Hey, how did that sculpture land on this pristine beach?

On New Year’s Day 2010, on the island of St John, USVI, I stumbled upon this beast, as today I stumbled upon the photo. The seas stay mellow on this side of the island—as you might surmise by surveying the shallow water and the surrounding reef islands.

So how did this mega-ton sculpture of cement end up on this quiet beach? How could such gentle waves move such a weighty thing? Where did it come from? When will it erode into the sea or be moved so nobody gets hurt? We’ll never know.

These kinds of mindless mysteries make travel so fascinating. And when on a BreakAway, one actually stops to ponder such questions. I hope to return to that beach someday, 10-plus years later, and find out if it’s still there.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Bluer Skies Ahead…

Posted on: Friday, December 4th, 2020
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Hey look! Airplanes!

A dear friend was in my neighborhood yesterday and—rather than text passively—he called me. When I answered, he said, “Can I stop by?” And I replied, “Hell, yeah!”

So we sat outside, 6’ apart, and caught up on the months that we haven’t seen each other, never mind that we used to often (weekly?) for social, sports, and more. The conversation was at once funny, heartfelt, and deep.

One realizes the importance of friends. Of connections. Of a life often too busy but blessed with community and conviviality. As he walked away I felt a flood of gratitude, melancholy, and uncertainty.

So I looked up to the sky, as if for answers. And two puffy plane tails were crossing the silent blue yonder. I immediately sent him the picture with the message, “Bluer skies ahead…Our paths will cross again soon!” He replied, “That’s our souls reflecting an awesome conversation.”

Beyond the beauty of the vibrant vapors and December’s strained light on naked oaks, I couldn’t help pondering…maybe brave pioneers in those planes are soaring toward a BreakAway heavenly haven? Maybe we all will again, one day soon enough.

Keep the faith.

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11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK

Posted on: Thursday, November 19th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment
  • C-19 is serious. But so is coping. Here’s a light-hearted look at ways to get through the day…

You know me: Always the optometrist. So I just can’t help but clearly see the silver lining of our murky pandemic Reality. Oh sure, the arguments are thinner than the cheapo TP we all hoarded from Sam’s Club.  But we also need alternatives to gloom-scrolling. And chintzy TP is better than none at all!

So, if you’ll pardon this overdose on Pollyanna pills, please consider… 

  • 11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK 

1. OVER-CROWDED EATERIES ARE OUTRE’. Remember wandering a cool neighborhood looking for food and fun? Recall being unable to get in the door—any door? And who can forget fighting for a drink at the popular pub or monster truck rally? Sometimes the crowds were part of the entertainment, but other times just heinous. And I’m also okay with…

2. $16 HOUSE WINES ARE CORKED UP. And BTW that’s a glass, not a bottle—and sometimes a paltry pour. I do love tasting red wine and seeing new places. But price creep (on all sorts of treats and experiences) taking a breather? That’s okay too.

3. THE ELECTION STAYED SO MELLOW. You think I’m joking? I’m not! Ya sure, this year’s politics were more repugnant than turds in a hot tub. But absent COVID? We’d have likely seen crowds and destruction that would have put this strife to the pale.

4. STAY-CATION IS SURGING. (Quirky coincidence with pandemic #s?) But seriously, even we travel buffs know that there’s no place like homestead. If folks are giving their abode some TLC and finding R&R in their oft-empty McMansions, that’s a soulful win-win.

5. HOME SCHOOLING IS IN SESSION. This one’s a stretch; many families are challenged and many students (40% in St. Paul) are struggling. On the upside, though, families are more involved than before with their kids’ education. A new appreciation for teachers has blossomed. And we are forced to re-think education and the outsized role of screens in learning.

6. “I’M SO BUSY’ HAS TAKEN A BREAK. You know these people: They’re so busy telling you how busy they are that, well, you hardly manage conversation at all. And it’s true: We have become a bafflingly busy culture. Too busy? Maybe. It might do some rat-racers good to take a cool-down lap.

7. WE ARE RE-WORKING THE WORKPLACE. While always in flux, there still must be billions of people who are working 9-to-5-plus and jamming up the freeways for hours on end. If more freedom and flexibility is a side-effect of the pandemic, many employees will be grateful.

8. STOCKS AND REAL ESTATE ARE BOOMING. So far, anyway, mostly. Of course, that only benefits those who have such holdings—and (as the Armchair Economist noted in these pages) the haves truly are getting richer. But for now, it’s okay—versus the alternatives.

9. WE’RE LEARNING SOME NEW VOCABULARY. Did you know that America’s vocab is shrinking faster than your Thanksgiving guest list? It’s true. So let’s be thankful that C-19 has upped our usage of fine words like asymptomatic, antibodies, and pod—while politics made slang out of vitriol, discord, and narcissistic. Quiz Tuesday!

10. POST-PANDEMIC, WE WILL APPRECIATE BREAKAWAYS EVEN MORE! Here in MN, we live by warped mantras like…The sooner winter happens, the sooner summer comes back! But it’s true! And someday, someday, we WILL get to travel again—whether to a family gathering, the cabin, or a coveted dream vacation.

11. MUSIC. When your mind is racing or you’re otherwise about to go completely bat-shit, play music. With your own instruments, or whatever you call your stereo. Turn it up. Let it bathe your blues and blast your brain.

After (God knows how) many months of quarantine, we’ll enjoy travel—and restaurants and parties and schools and mask-free living—more than ever. So in the meantime, let us try to find gratitude for the things that still bring comfort, and the fact that, yep, it could be worse.

Keep the faith.

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