6th Stop: Minnesota (Home)

Afterword: Letter to My Children

Posted on: Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 6th Stop: Minnesota (Home), Latest Trip | 5 comments

For the final Travelog entry, may I present my perfect children.  I took hundreds of pictures of them, but published only a few on this website.  In this technological era of tell-all exhibitionism and voyeurism, some of us still have a place for privacy.  Yet I proudly show off this shot, and share these parting thoughts…


Dear Ones,

What a gift it was to lift you out of your classrooms and let you learn, instead, the lessons of experience.  To sneak you away from your world of scheduled play dates, sports teams, digitalia, and potty-mouthed pop music.  To let you live among new riddims, vistas, and cultures and, best of all, see you jump with joy at the chance.  Literally.  Over and over. 

 Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”  Oscar Wilde

Now you will both grow up fast, then grow old gradually.  I know I’ve got MY ideas and dreams for you, like:  Let’s run away again!  Yet I honestly don’t know if we’ll be blessed with another family Sabbatical.  It’s a small miracle we managed this one, and that it went so well.  But oh my, what memories we now “carry about with us.” 

So grow ahead, already.  Grow ahead and get all independent, become skeptical of your parents, and perhaps eventually blame us for everything from zits to arthritis.  No matter what happens, we had this time together.  Just us.  I see now that, on a long list of Missions, this one mattered most. 

This photo, taken on our last full day, confirms that AllBoy has moved on; he has become Young Man. Heck, he’s strong enough to throw me in the pool, hurt me with his tackle, and outride me on the surf. He can run off alone and carry his own.  His raconteur instincts can charm a stranger or a classroom. 

CurlyGirl has grown up too, in so many ways; make way for Little Lady!  The baby teeth have shrunk and the lifetime chompers are emerging—ready to bite into bigger things.  Her speed and coordination are modeling her athletic brother’s.  Playtime drifts from Polly Pockets to Scrabble.  And she now insists on reading to me, rather than vice versa.

Let’s get together and feel alright.  Bob Marley

In this picture, the two of you together become one shadow—which signifies the connection you deepened, all by yourselves.  (Parents can’t make you do that.)  He’s 11, and she’s 5, so they played up and down or met at 8.  They became best-friend sibs—a secret society with precious privileges that last a lifetime. 

Now, firmly on home soil, they’re suddenly 12 and 6, yet the bond remains robust.  In a world in which people obsess over careers, accomplishments, and self, perhaps the ultimate legacy we can strive for is strong offspring.  No amount of time or energy given to that task—whatever may be the sacrifice—is too much. 

But yes, you can go now. Go to your friend’s house, to a movie, on a date, to play a tournament, to summer camp.  I’ve held you in my arms long enough.  But you’re still welcome there.  Any time. 

With any luck, this BreakAway showed you that—in a way that words can’t.  It also showed you that the world is so much bigger than your backyard, and its horizon is boundless.  So are your possibilities.

But before signing off, may I say “thanks.”  Thanks for agreeing to go; many kids would not.  Thanks for holding my hand during the scary parts.  For romping with me in the sun, sand, and sea.  For reminding me how to laugh and splash and play again. 

Wherever we may go, whatever may become of you, this is how I’ll always see you.

So here:  Take this picture with you.  Let’s keep it as proof of the blessed gift of taking our time—with nary a worry about the future or past—if only now and then. 

I’ll still see this image when you become bigger and smarter than me.  When you leave the house to find your own freedom and fates.  When my heartbeat slows to a stop.  And today, when our dreamy BreakAway has ended and carried us home, where we belong. 

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Looking Back…5 Fave Pics

Posted on: Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 6th Stop: Minnesota (Home), Latest Trip | Leave a comment

Seven weeks ago, a free, faraway feeling ruled the day.  Back home, not so much. Life has resumed the habit-busy ways that pass for normal these days.  Every family member has gone through permutations of the “be-backs,” from boredom to flu to winter angst.  But spring is winning the war over winter.  And the trip spark still has a faint glow. 

One views life, I think, with a more critical eye after a BreakAway from the routine into the extraordinary.  That’s a good thing, or so says Socrates, who reminds us that:  “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  That may be true, but there are risks—such as wondering,

Is that all there is?

That’s particularly true when “all there is” is less than all there was.

Investments:  way down.

Home equity:  shrunken.

Business:   sluggish.

Public morale:  low.

Moreover, a fun-filled Sabbatical can spoil a guy—whereas the kind of spoilage presently happening in the world economy just stinks.

Sabbaticals Happen, Like it or Not

For better or worse, lots of people—including many I know—are confronting the Involuntary Sabbatical:  Getting fired.  Others are taking paycuts, losing clients, or seeing sales dive.  It’s odd:  Freedom feels less free-ing when it arrives uninvited.  But lest we all get lost in anxiety and gloom, most of us have plenty we could do with that time.

On the upside, many new, improved messages—that can help folks facilitate a real BreakAway someday—are emerging from this downturn:  Live with less; build your savings; nurture the earth; hug family and friends (not just your job); try the bike and ditch the Hummer; time is the new money.

Amen to that.  Money is numbers on paper—which typically gets SPENT on stuff.  Time is…whatever you choose to DO with it.

You Gotta Go Home

Following any chosen, gratifying time of  pleasure, you gotta go home.  After 69 days on fantasy islands, I’ve done the same.  Now it’s up to me to keep the insights relevant, the boredom at bay, and the relaxation vibes alive.

Peeking at the photographs helps, despite the risk of nostalgia.  The images still look fresh—if rather surreal.  (I was there and saw that?)  These five represent some favorite moments—and shall linger vividly in my mind’s eye.


  • Awe, Shucks  (pic of hands)

This detail, of “Christ of the Deep” in Grenada, tells many tales:  1)  Blue-sky days bring beauty.  2)  We all need to open up and beg for mercy now and then.  3)  Awe, hope, and reverence are desirable pursuits.  4)  And “Dear God, please tell me what to do?”


  • Aquamarine Tranquillity

In meditation and biofeedback, teachers may tell you to visualize some peaceful thing or color:  a mountain (strength), the sky (openness), a pool (calm), the color yellow (I have no idea why—Corona commercials?).  My preference?  Caribbean blue.  It can provide wave after wave of serenity.  And I can stare, and stare, and stare…

(I think it’s why Johnny Depp took that role.)


  • Inside the Pod

This image, from a botanical garden on St. Vincent, reminds me of the kind and wise West Indians, and suggests that marvels can hide underneath an exterior.  Just peel off the skin; gently dig in.  St. Vincent itself was like that; the visit was due to travel logistics, not travel gurus.  But once we were there exploring, that isle surprised us with her splendor and allure.


  • Self-reflection in Doorway

Why this?  It’s not a great picture.  But it’s me.  And since I take 99.9% of the photos in this family, I’m not in 99.9% of them; this is rare proof that I WAS there!  Moreover, this happened on the last morning, during a solo sunrise walk.  It was a reflective stroll, and the door connotes the changes and mysteries that lie ahead after the return to Reality.


  • Sunrise, Sunset
For my parting shot, why not?  A cliché sunrise.  Or is it a sunset?  A beginning or an end?  And of the five islands we stayed on, which provided this pristine panorama? It matters not.  When the sun goes down in one place, it’s dawn in another.  Right?  So when one Sabbatical concludes, another commences, right?  Ha!  Heck, no.
And therein lies the difference:  A BreakAway is…several weeks or months…away from home, job, and routine…intentionally chasing dreams and destinies… dedicated to a personal Mission…plus the shameless pursuit of R&R…in hopes of making yourself and your world a better place.
Mission accomplished?  Affirmative!  Now the Mission (perhaps more challenging) is to keep the faith, preserve the memories, and nurture the art of taking your time in new ways—from joyful vacations to lazy Sundays to simply sitting still sometimes.
I’ve hardly picked up my camera since we got home, but it’s time to go find it. The sun is about to rise.
I could stand to sit still.  Take a picture; seize the day. That’s a good place to start.
If you are reading this, you helped make my BreakAway, and I thank you.
Wherever you may be going, Godspeed.

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Home? Again?

Posted on: Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 6th Stop: Minnesota (Home), Latest Trip | Leave a comment
When Dorothy gushed, “There’s no place like home,” she was not choosing between Caribbean and Cold. But she got home, as have we, and it feels odd as Oz. The kids were elated like Munchkins. The cat was more manic than the cowardly lion. And despite a palace-high pile of mail, a vibe of relief and accomplishment was also palpable.  

  • But first, Welcome to TGI Friday’s! 
One last time, we had become human cargo and endured a 12-hour travel day, from Puerto Rico to Minnesnowda.  At some point, we entered American airspace.  A layover in Atlanta took us to TGI Friday’s, which served up many “treats”, like enormous portions (compared to the Caribbean) and fast, fervent service (ditto).
After months of limited, often insipid beer selections, the large pale ale in a frost-covered mug flowed with such dynamic flavors it almost provoked a guy to proclaim, “It’s good to be home!”  Almost.
From past Sabbaticals, I’ve learned that the comedown can happen faster than a distressed 747 landing.  So my mantra for that (with apologies to Dorothy) is You can go home again.  Works real well when the Bad Thing happens—like injury and illness.  Now, though, we’re all perfectly healthy and happy—and heading into cold and flu country.
Just because you “can” go home again, does that mean you must?  Yes, I reckon, in this case.  So one must again rely on Destiny—which did recently transport us to tropical delights—to penetrate the clouds and answer that pesky question, “What’s next?”
Closing my eyes, I listen for the little voice inside me.  “Hey, how about another beer?!?” the voice enthuses.  “Yesss!” I reply—only to discover that this voice actually belongs to our comical, expeditious waiter.  Oh well.  The answer remains the same.  And like sleight of hand, he slams another mammoth, frosty pale ale in front of me.
I’ve got a feeling we’re not in the Caribbean any more.  But it’s not all bad to be home.
  • Déjà Vu:  It’s Like 1997 All Over Again
A BreakAway Mission, for some, might be to hone up on investing—maybe clean up the portfolio and get serious about managing one’s money.  Not me.  Although my pecuniary acumen is enough to bring BreakAways to fruition, I blithely ignored fiscal fitness and ALL media (except local island stuff) throughout this spree.
So it was news to me that the worldwide financial implosion had erased twelve years of hard-earned gains.  That good people were losing jobs and homes like children lose toys. That our already debt-crazy government was casually bailing out mega-corporations that had once had more money than God.  What a buzzkill.
Ouch.  After regaining consciousness, my mind began questioning the logic of spending beaucoup bucks on a vain BreakAway.  Yet, I figured, this money did not disappear in vain—unlike money in the market.  If in stocks, that money would now be worth half as much.  Instead, we got priceless memories that will only appreciate in value over time.
Good times and good timing, right?  For sure, at least if one thinks the mug is half-full.  “How about a refill?” asked the jovial waiter.  “I thought you’d never ask,” I replied as the bottom fell out.
Another of my mantras, composed on our around-the-world BreakAway in an alleged period of productive cleverness, meandered through my beery brain:  It’s not a financial decision.  Boy, do I believe that—and wonder why some people think nothing of buying a new station wagon but then say they can’t afford a family vacation.
Some things—including kids, college, and the pursuit of pleasure—are just more important than money.
  • Home of the Free and the Brave
Another sure sign of the homeland was the omnipresence of security.  On an island, a resort probably won’t post rules by the pool, a bar may have no closing time, and lawsuits are laughable.  In America—especially in airports—you can’t move without encountering uniforms, signs, rules, announcements, and other symbols of our “freedom” and “safety.”
Hundreds of military men in camo amplified that awareness, though they were likely merely passing through to or from one of our wars without end.  I hadn’t worried about all that in 69 days, either.  God bless.
May they come home alive and well.  We did—and we certainly won our fight for some freedom.
  • That’s Snow Underfoot, Not Sand
As the plane landed, our sprawling metropolis glowed in fresh snow and city lights.  A blast of frigid air steamed in when the flight attendant opened the jet door.
In Minnesota, an old greeting goes, “Cold enough for ya?!”  You betcha!  It felt cold enough for polar bears too.  But the white stuff that arrived with us created a beautiful cover for the hard, dead earth underneath.  I’d prefer sand, but variety is the spice.
When the first morning had broken back home, the sun came up and pierced a crystalline sky and shone orange on the snow-white lake.  I stood alone outside and watched it, prayed the high of a great Sabbatical might last a while, and realized it might take some days, weeks, or months to readjust.  Guess that’s okay.  All we have is time.
Unpacking will also take a while, but digging out mementoes was a top priority.  Although we traveled light and brought back little, some sea treasures, carvings, masks, and paintings will grace our walls and provoke reminiscence.
Standing in the arctic air was a bitter awakening from a sweet dream:
Had we really done this thing?  How could 69 days fly by so fast?  And why didn’t we stay until, say, May? 

I clutched the painting from Grenadian artist Francis Frances like a Bible.  Then I set it in the snow, let it catch the sunrise, and took one last picture.  The clash of climates and cultures made little sense, but not much does on some days.
Although I’ve been preoccupied with this Sabbatical idea for years, any guru in me was dumbstruck-numb this time.  One more mantra eventually bubbled up for consideration.  Translated, this one means that, with luck and faith, another BreakAway will—will!—happen, even if it’s impossible to know when:  Everything is right on schedule.
Speaking of, life here at “home” is all about schedules.  So it’s time to awaken the kids, feed them breakfast, and send them off to school.  Darn right they’re going to school today—even though we got home way late last night.  Anyway, they’re giddy about seeing their friends.  And I need some time alone.
I’d rather be on a BreakAway.  But now more than ever, the BreakAway—and the joy I experienced in the Caribbean—is alive in me.
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