SoulTrain

FOTOFRIDAY: The Ghosts of NYE Past

Posted on: Friday, December 31st, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • A picture dances 1,000 words…so take pics, take breaks, and take nothing for granted.

This picture features my 2 perfect children. On New Year’s Eve, 2017, playing at sundown on a pristine beach on St. John, USVI. The theme here might be, “If you’d have told me…” The punchline is always the same: Do it now…or at least ASAP.

  • If you’d have told me…they fly away

One was back from college out east, so I had seen that disappearance already. But the other was still at home, 6 years younger, and still (relatively) carefree and un-adult. Now she, too, is far away at college. So vacation scenes like that don’t much happen. Obstacles grow like seaweed over time.

  • If you’d have told me…cancer

Oh yeah. On this date, I had just finished several months of several kinds of tumor treatments. So the notion that I somehow managed a getaway during this period seems impossible. And indeed, the worst effects (long illness) politely waited until after returning home. Proving: I’m so glad we went. Even though I was scared to near-death.

  • If you’d have told me…family dissolved

Few things last forever. Including marriage. And when they conclude, that’s usually for the best. Still, that makes doing wild and crazy things (like ditching everything for island Breakaways over holidays…while you still can) more brilliant. Cuz you likely won’t do it when the family is no more. Yet, with any luck, good memories live forever. Trust the pics.

  • If you’d have told me…pandemic

With all the life ch-ch-ch-changes, epic breaks to escape winter become harder than ever. Then enters the trump (no not him) card: Covid. Oh sure, some people still travel. But at their own risk, and with much more effort and hassle. Aren’t you glad you went that place when it was relatively easy? I am.

  • If you’d have told me…passion still matters

Most likely, we’ve all simplified our goals and dreams over the past few years. And that’s….OK. Reality Resets happen throughout life. Sometimes from exterior forces (pandemic), sometimes from inside your own house. But please, keep the passion. Somewhere in your heart, your photo collection, and your hopes for better days ahead.

And when you…finally…arrive at that happy place again, take lots of pics!

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A Living Christmas Memory

Posted on: Friday, December 24th, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain | Leave a comment

  • Grandma’s Christmas Cactus Always Blooms Right on Time

The holiday season can rush the brain with memories of people lost, traditions faded, and places long visited but now disappeared. My childhood (and beyond) featured South Dakota grandparents and a feeling of never-grow-up freedom filled with fishing everywhere, flying kites in infinite fields, and working gardens and crops until you were dirty but awash in delight. And deliciousness.

As for Christmas? Picture sledding fast being pulled behind Grandpa’s old, gray tractor. Dancing in a circle around the tree singing songs in both languages with the Danish relatives. Solemn midnight, candle-lit services in tiny country churches followed by glorious feasting in the basement served up by beaming farm ladies.

  • Travel young, travel forever

Perhaps this is how I learned the art of travel, simple as it was. We packed the station wagon with my two brothers, at least one dog, and not much more. After all, everything we needed was already awaiting at the farms. And no matter where we lived at the time or what I was leaving behind, the spacious prairie brought that beloved feeling we all still seek and crave: Getting away.

Another world, just a few hours’ drive from home. Yet as remote and removed as if you just landed in another country. Indeed, the country can feel like another country. Far away. In the best possible way.

  • Where longing and endurance together take root

This Christmas cactus grew for ~60 years in my Grandma’s South Dakota pantry, until she finally moved out and passed shortly thereafter. The family appointed me as caretaker. And some 20 years later, I have several transplants in pots all over the place, including the original which now spans 4 feet. 

Regardless of location or attention, each plant blooms with uncanny punctuality throughout the holiday season. So I think of my Grandma often, relive those seasonal memories…and can almost smell her cookies baking and hear her fearless laugh.

This living keepsake, Grandma’s favorite pantry plant, both honors the vanishing memories while keeping them alive. Grandma would be pleased—and likely love the fuchsia color so much that she’d sew herself an apron in the same bright palette. And then cheerfully bake us more treats. 

Merry Christmas cactus!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Weird Weather Offers Ice Kayak BreakAways

Posted on: Friday, December 17th, 2021
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

If you conquer fear, you can do dangerous things worry-free! 

As I write this near St. Paul, news radio keeps telling us about yesterday’s weather records: Highest temperature; highest dewpoint; first December tornado(s); first December tornado and severe storm warnings.

Most peculiar. And, as some might say, just another sign that we are in the End Times. If so, there’s a certain relief in that—since most of us have found planning ahead perplexing lately, if not laughable. The 11 Commandments of Fiscal Fitness on this site offers a big-pic, life-loving approach to designing the future. Perhaps it’s time to pen the parody?

Meanwhile, this lake lover ditched the tech-desk and took advantage of recent unseasonal ice thaws—brought on by oddly hot days and strong winds. Only part of the lake turned back to water, so that’s the part I paddled on. Mostly. But as this pic shows, sometimes it’s fun to play close to the edge, too. I’ve even been known to paddle through the ice. Scary? Maybe. But the noise is amazing, rather like crashing a giant cocktail.

When I share pictures like these, some scold me, while others offer advice like, ‘I hope you were wearing a life vest!’ or ‘You better be in a dry suit!’. Nope. I trust my skills—and find stupider things to worry about. Anyway, if these are the end times, why worry about the future? Carpe diem! BreakAway on a sunny day and rejoice in winter warming!

And, now more than ever, keep the faith.

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Pandemic Provoking Burnout Epidemic

Posted on: Sunday, October 31st, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

Do you know folks who used to be fun, but now they’re fried? Do you prefer Friday happy hour on the couch instead of at the pub? Are you worried that your get-up-and-go could use a booster shot? 

If so, you’re not alone. In fact, maybe it’s one of the few things we can all agree on: We’re tired, stressed, tense, afraid, and spooked. (Hey, I’m writing this on Halloween.) A recent WashPost feature by Angela Haupt (“Newest Pandemic Symptom: Burnout”) dug deep into this pit—calling on many experts—and left this amateur culture critic concerned.

  • Burnout digs deep

The article covers so many ways that burnout hurts people that, well, it’s painful to finish. One wonders how society heals from this crisis, and then ponders, “Gosh, that’s hitting kinda close to home.” Indeed, home is just one place that has lost its serenity status for many, since one’s abode now often serves as workplace, school, gym, infirmary, and more.

Burnout’s tendrils also burrow into mental and physical health. People cite depressing boredom from losing social and community connections. Many mention brain fog, health flare-ups, and creative apathy. In short, burnout has advanced from meaning overworked and underpaid to a condition with chronic and omnipresent reach.

I think it’s almost everyone, everywhere

— Amelia, Nagoski, author

  • Some reassuring solutions

Epic problems sometimes call for epic solutions. It’s too dang easy to say, “Well, just get up and do something…go somewhere…tap back into your energy reserves and revive coveted dreams!”

So Ms. Haupt’s article mentions simple steps that deserve attention now more than ever—and that we may ignore in our hour of darkness. To wit: Reach out to friends and family; we MUST feel love and take care of each other. Take breaks for personal pleasures like reading, resting, and time off. Make yourself exercise—not for your future modeling career, but for today’s sanity. Take transitions between demands. And seek creative outlets to help you forget about the world’s woes and produce something of meaning.

Burnout occurs when three factors are present at the same time: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment.

  • The BreakAway promise

From the start, the MYBA website has cheerfully acknowledged that many leaps of a lifetime are motivated by crises, rather than manna (or money) from heaven. So maybe, just maybe, this challenging era will inspire some folks to take total assessment of their reality, envision profound alternatives (like an escapist months-long getaway), and fly away from this mess before it kills us all. While we still can.

We still can, can’t we?

Heavy stuff—like life itself. So, sure, start with the exercise and knitting. But don’t give up hope on your most monumental dreams. Because even the coveted fantasy can heal…and provide the first step to eventual arrival. Not to mention…temporary survival.

Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Wish You Were Here, Prince

Posted on: Friday, April 23rd, 2021
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Our local superstar took ownership of our hearts…and the color purple.

Price died 5 years ago, and fans still ache from his unexpected passing—another day the music died. A local radio station pumped his jams from Song 1 to his final release; my personal tribute was to pick up a purple orchid to prompt memories and provide beauty.

I am not alone. IMHO, Prince was (without question) THE consummate musician creator, and performer—probably the best ever. (And I was fortunate to see him many, many times.) Paisley Park allowed some guests yesterday and, as usual, still-grieving fans from all over the world showed up for a mere few moments of presence.

Sometimes I wish that life was never ending.

~ Prince

Music remains the ultimate BreakAway. Listening takes you somewhere else, relieves whatever’s ailing you, and opens your ears and brain to new impressions and possibilities. People in the KNOW say there are at least 8,000 finished, unreleased songs in The Vault. Yet another reason to…

Keep the faith.

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BITN: 3 Pandemic Consolation Prizes

Posted on: Thursday, April 1st, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, BITN | Leave a comment

Could the dark clouds be clearing? For real?

We’ve endured more than a year of pandemic pain. But, as the interns in charge of this periodic post say, let’s also look for the bright spots. After all, this era may move on soon—or at least go to the bathroom. And then what? Some say a reboot of the Roaring 20s! Some say more plagues, possible inflation, a return to Times Square by millions of drunk tourists.

Only time will tell. Meanwhile, here are 3 newsy items that demonstrate the upside of this downer of a time…

Got Zoom fatigue? Does your vision still function? Have dark circles grown under your eyes? You’re not alone. And as a preacher of Unplugging, BreakAway abhors screen obsession and encroachment. So thanks, Citibank, for recognizing the damage done to employees by the blurring of work/life lines and over-Zooming. May other firms follow their smart lead. 

  • Bourdain is back

RIB (Rest in Bliss), Anthony Bourdain, who left us June 8, 2018. And here’s a toast to the crew who combed through his writings and collections to launch a posthumous book, “World of Travel: An Irreverent Guide.” Critics are crowing; fans and friends are elated at sage travel advice like, “Drink some wine, walk around a bit more, eat, and repeat. See, it’s easy.”

Sooner than later, we’ll be ambling in Paris or wine-touring in, well, anywhere. Here’s a great book for whetting that appetite in preparation.

Ever hit the road in a motorhome? My experience is limited, but the memories are epic. And its place on my bucket list remains high as the ‘take your time’ mantra grows in appeal. Winnebago took advantage of C-19, with soaring profits and booming sales as people discovered this relatively safe, easy, and potentially affordable way to wander the world.

Executives believe the boom started before the pandemic. After all, not everyone loves airplane-based travel. And lifestyles often shift, not to mention the baby boomers moving into retirement but not necessarily the nursing home. What’s not to like? Your home, stuff, and edibles travel with you; the outdoors is always just a window away.

  • Spring has sprung

Spring is always lovely. But this year comes with the added bloom of a post-pandemic reality. The 3 blurbs above remind us that even dark days have their upside, and that we must endeavor to…

Keep the faith.

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Please… Don’t Despair; Dream Instead

Posted on: Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain | Leave a comment

Ice fishing. A Northerner’s pastime featuring cold, perseverance, and solitude.

Today’s topic is unusually serious: Dreams, fantasies, faith, hope, imagination. The NYT recently published a timely feature about the human need for these flights of mind—and their potential fadeaway during the pandemic and political gravitas. Their research includes academicians that put a pedantic, though compelling, spin on this ethereal reality.

Bottom line? You need to do it. And it don’t come easy during these twisted times.

  • Borrowing BreakAway thunder?

MYBA suffers little from delusions of grandeur. Yet we’ve been passionately preaching the “if you can dream it, you can do it” gospel for decades, and via this blog since 2008. The proprietor has taken at least 5 sabbaticals; the proof is within clicks herein. And yet the themes of travel, escapism, career breaks, and diversion have taken a beat-down lately.

Meanwhile, the host has taken to writing about tangential topics…and wondering if he (or any of us) will ever fly into a lifestyle of wild blue wonder again. And when it comes to digging into the now-familiar symptoms of loneliness, worry, anomie, and fear of the future… For now, I’ll just play the stoic face card. And get back to the Times.

  • The profound need for daydreaming

The NYT article talks to real-world people who long to dance, dress up, go gallivanting, throw parties. Others, perhaps due to financial and employment stresses, have simplified to aspirations like taking their kids to a playground or just hugging their mom. In other words, not all fantasies are grandiose: “They are fantasizing about what they’re missing right now,” explains Deirdre Barret, a Harvard psychologist.

Professor Martin Seligman of U Penn has long studied and promoted that daydreaming lets people step away “from focusing on what’s wrong to what makes life worth living.” Indeed, without such mental meanderings, we may let go of hope, resilience, relationships, meaning, and more. In other words, folks, hold on. To your yearnings, your postponed pleasure, to your…dreams.

  • Thanks, we needed that

Breakaway has advocated for free time, outdoor adoration, unplugging, and running away through all kinds of conditions: Dot-com booms (when many people got rich fast); dot-com busts; recessions; 9-11; terrorism; wars of all kinds; a killer pandemic; and markets (and the moods that follow them) up and down. The goals seem, to me, timeless, common-sensical, and essential.

With any luck, you’ve got 75+ years or so to work and/or play on this planet. If there is any conceivable way, why not take a small percentage of that time to chase your dreams? (What’s not to like here?)

But, but, but, I must admit that the challenges of late—for the planet, for people to stay physically healthy, and to avoid pervasive despair—seem more powerful than ever. What to do? Who knows? So we look for guidance from experts in the NYT, or friends on the phone, or loud music or quiet meditation. We fall back on rallying cries like, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” And, advise the experts, we dream on…

So please practice your daydreaming. And keep the faith.

“The important thing about imagination is that it gives you optimism.”

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FOTOFRIDAY: Winter’s Cruel Beauty

Posted on: Friday, February 19th, 2021
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Pop-up ice art, as sculpted by Mother Winter

Every morning, a storm window greets me with these amazing artworks of frost. The patterns look uncannily similar day to day—so long as the temp and conditions are about the same.

Then, as the day warms up and (if we should be so lucky) the sun shines into the window, the whole thing melts away, dripping down like rain. Later, as the sun fades and the temps drop, the design slowly re-appears. By the next morning, the whole window has become a fairy painting again.

MN had a 2-week nasty cold snap that is finally fading. Meanwhile, much of the country is suffering through dangerous cold, no power, and undrinkable water. Nature can be cruel. But even then, nature will also find ways to create beauty.

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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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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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