Prep & Planning

Best Reason to Go: 25 Below…

Posted on: Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
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Need I write more?  Can’t.  My fingers are too frozen.

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The Storm Before the Calm

Posted on: Monday, December 15th, 2008
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Travelog, Latest Trip, Prep & Planning | Leave a comment

It’s dang cold and snowy here.  That makes escaping to warmth more inviting, but also complicates the daily grind and last-minute errand runs.  Two days before take-off.  HELP!  I’d like to fall on the floor and cry in my beer, but there’s no time, and not much beer, and beer would only slow me down and we CAN’T have that.  Okay, maybe just one…

The snow is pretty, but makes getting around a slippery slope.

Snow is pretty, but makes for slippery slopes.


Ever have one of those days when everyone in your family is snitty?  (And nobody is volunteering to shovel the new snow?)  Tempers flare; the house is a train wreck; nothing works?  That’s us.  Except, it’s been that way for about a week.  There is this sense of chaotic desperation in the air.  And it’s amazing the things that choose to break down NOW of all times…



  • The kitchen sink backed up, and needed a thorough roto-rooting.  Gross!
  • The freezer ceased.  As in, melted ice cream and al dente ‘frozen’ vegetables.  Ish!  
  • The security system went nuts.  Decided there was CO2 in the air and the alarms refused to stop.  (I think it was wrong, but it’s hard to tell exactly what is killing all the brain cells these days.)
  • The Apples have been rotting.  Needing new batteries, more RAM, updated iLife, iTunes triage.  
  • More, but who cares?  Thank goodness for supportive friends and Angie’s List.  

The kids are excited, hyper really.  Cute, but it can make things worse.  AllBoy is bouncing basketballs, like our heads, off the walls–which just ain’t right when the snorkelware and Nikon gear is underfoot and M and D’s patience is kaput.  CurlyGirl is packing 16 tons of Polly Pockets.  Things are getting lost.  Lists are getting longer.  Breaths are getting shorter.  

  • 5 words:  We’ll be on that plane.  (That we just learned serves NO food and charges for ALL luggage AND beverages). 
  • Countdown:  29 hours (til we leave the house).  
  • Ostacles:  At least 2 of us are sick; one goes to an eye specialist for an infection in the morning.
  • Biggest Scream:  Airlines.  They just keep changing the rules, and I don’t mean lifehacking.
  • Biggest loss:  Holiday merriment.  What holidays?  What merriment?  Maybe later?
  • Last night of good sleep:  I can’t recall.  
  • First thing I’ll do on the islands:  A big Iowa Yee-ha scream and seek a Heineken.  
  • Soundtrack ahead:  Reggae.  Tree frogs.  Men yelling in Island Patois.  Drunk tourists.  Goats and donkeys.  Roosters (all night long).  Wind.  Waves.  
  • Note to self:  Keep the faith.  (“It’s all small stuff.”)
  • ODDS OF GOING TODAY:  98%  (a new high).
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A Blizzard of Emotion & Panic

Posted on: Saturday, December 13th, 2008
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With just four days left until we depart, now is a good time to invoke one of the five five-word Sabbatical mantras,

Everything is right on schedule.

Brazen optimism? You betcha. Pollyanna poppycock? No doubt. But I know this much: I’ll be on a plane, God willing, four days from now–no matter what. Still, these are NOT the good times.

The kids’ Christmas and other holiday specialness are nearly nonexistent. Guilt swoons. My childhood Christmas simple memories are priceless. Here, not one ornament hangs.

What we are leaving—friends, school, community, CurlyGirl’s gymnastics passion, AllBoy’s emerging basketball wowness—stares in the face and asks, “What are you thinking!?!”

The house is perhaps the worst mess ever. (And that’s sayin’ somethin’!) Where does one begin to organize and pack?

Still, these dark, inevitable moments are part of the price of admission. As are the reactions of acquaintances which have ranged of late from raging jealousy (I like the honesty) to rock-star awe to snarky scorn. When e-sharing my fears and frustrations with a friend the other day, the response was,

Next time you’re having a bad day, don’t e-mail me!

On that note, I’ll shut up. This is the hard part. But like raking 55 bags of leaves before autumn’s first snowfall arrives, you gotta slog through it. The joy of this BreakAway is nearly nonexistent. The anxiety relentless. Yet the odds of going are at a new high.

Once we get settled on a faraway island, perhaps I will be too.

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High Anxiety: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Posted on: Saturday, November 29th, 2008
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Okay, let’s be frank. Does anybody want to read rants about a guy who’s trying to get 555 things done before running away for the winter? Probably not. That kind of ‘journal’ writing best be kept by the bedside, along with the Mylanta, the Trojans, and the Bible.

Those rants and lists, by the way, kept me awake most of the night while the crazybusy brain labored away in fruitless tedium.

Today’s sunrise, oh-so forced Yoga regimen (outside, where it’s covered with slippery frost) did NOT quiet the mind. I just froze the belly and teased the to-do list. A slip-and-fall seemed likely. Yoga has risks. Do they practice yoga on snow in India?


  • What about finding a new gear bag to haul the snorkel stuff and the new Martin mini-guitar and all? (And what good is a trip without those non-digital toys? How will AllBoy keep up his music learning without a musical instrument?)
  • What about the complex list of chores that must occur to launch this website—and who’s the sick dominatrix who created that Responsibility-Hell program called BaseCamp?
  • Why do people, as they find out about the Sabbatical, tend to ask a really good question that I’ve yet to worry about, like, “Who’s going to take care of your snow shoveling?”
  • Why aren’t the kids helping? I mean, do they ever? No! But….HELP!
  • How come the 2 Heads duties don’t stop? IRS red tape (that can feel like a thug who ties you to your desk chair)…payroll and expense and pointless paperwork up the wazoo?

This will be worth it, right?

I suddenly have a deep, huggable respect for the many folks who, upon learning of our brilliant scheme, simply laugh and offer,

“Oh, I could NEVER do THAT!?!”

Kudos to Common Sense. Bravo for loving what you got. Let us now praise unfamous men (and women).

Alrighty. I feel better now. NOT! So obviously, it’s time to seek silence. And try to make my bossy brain do the same.

“Silence is the language God speaks and everything else is a bad translation.” –Thomas Keating, Cisterian Monk

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The Itinerary Is Set!

Posted on: Saturday, November 22nd, 2008
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In record time, the Accommodations Kommittee has reached consensus. All nights are booked; all travel legs are known.

Now we shall learn time and time again that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” But absent that, we’ll have…

St. John 19 days
St. Vincent 3 days
Bequia 17 days
Grenada 27 days
San Juan 3 days

TOTAL 69 days

Has it been fun planning this?  Not really.  (Okay:  Occasionally.)  Still, I’m thankful we’ve come this far.  Yet we have so-o-o-o-o far to go…

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Planning a Sabbatical Will Reduce You to Tears!

Posted on: Thursday, November 13th, 2008
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Keep your eyes on the prize.

But expect your vision to get foggy—with emotion. Maybe not crocodile tears, but certainly the lonely little tears of confusion, fear, and sheer Kierkegaardian angst.

In this BreakAway Kommittee’s case, the issues hitting the fan include: Transportation (Oy vey is mir, are we going to lose 6 or more days to flying, ferrying, taxi-ing, and schlepping in completely unpredictable vehicles?); What to bring (cameras, computers, toys, snorkel gear, and a guitar butt up against the ever-present uber-mantra “Travel light!”); where to stay (some prefer long, leisurely stays to hunker down and find a groove, while others want to see it all by moving around a lot).

We are deer in the headlights. Can’t see the bright lights hurling toward us through the weeps of emotion, though.

Pull off the road. Check your vision, map, and dipstick. Above all, remember the most relevant of The 5 5-word mantras: Everything is right on schedule.


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Sometimes, Sabbaticals Feel Like a Stupid Idea

Posted on: Monday, November 10th, 2008
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Reality check time. Running away is NOT a good idea. Don’t try this at home. Wouldn’t be prudent. Bad idea. Just stay home.

Fit hit the shan all over the place this weekend. MLHSHD (major league high stakes high drama). It’s all family and personal and serious and stuff, so you DON’T want to hear about it. Let’s just say that the world does NOT stop, genuflect, or even say, “How can I help?” when you’re trying to BreakAway. In fact, the treadmill only speeds up.

As George Jetson said over and over:

“Jane! Stop this crazy thing!?!”

Heck, on a good day, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with Stuff Management, dishwasher emptying, laundry mashing, and schedule shuffling. If you could beam me there, Scotty, to that island of peace, that would be great. But prepping and packing and transporting? Not peaceful at all. No way. No thanks.

Earth to Kirk: Sit down. Get back in your box. Don’t drink that Kool-aid and for God’s sake, don’t serve any to your family! Keep life simple. Go organic. Wear a helmet.

  • ODDS OF GOING TODAY: 55% (Let’s get real…)
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If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going…

Posted on: Sunday, November 9th, 2008
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The short answer: It appears the Sabbatical schedule is taking shape. Let me tell you where we’re going (though we’ll probably end up someplace else…)

  • St. John
  • St. Vincent
  • Bequia
  • Grenada & the Grenadine Islands
  • Puerto Rico

Odds are we’ll be sleeping in hotels, guesthouses, condos, lodges, resorts, and no doubt a shanty and airport and broken-down bus at some point. The itinerary is coming together in that way that 555-piece puzzles do: First around the corners; then the edges; then chunks of the multifarious middle. Then, abruptly…OO-bop sha-BAMM! It all somehow fits.

Leaving you to wonder: If it was all there in the first place; why was this so hard!?!

Kind readers, forgive me for neglecting to babble about the flurry of planning activity that precedes taking a 69-day Breakaway. But gosh, it just don’t make great reading. I know: I read it all…and then deleted half of it (not nearly enough).

Anyway, planning takes on a life of its own. I can’t keep up with it myself—to say nothing of the rest of life’s demands.

Tonight, BTW, that includes directing dozens of grade school musicians who will be serenading diners at the school’s annual fund-raising spaghetti dinner. (Funds go toward a class BreakAway for bonding and science to a lakeside retreat Up North.) With my 6th grade violinist, we shall perform 4 Beatles songs: Eleanor Rigby; Hide Your Love Away; Yellow Submarine; and Blackbird.

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

Thanks, Paul.

“And we live a life of ease.
Everyone of us has all we please.
Then the band begins to PLAY.”

Thanks, Ringo.

  • COUNTDOWN: 43 Days
  • ODDS OF GOING TODAY: 90%…a new HIGH! : )
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We’ve Gone Island-Hopping Happy

Posted on: Monday, October 27th, 2008
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How quickly things change.

Islands now in play: 10? 12? 55? Interesting options have arisen on many now, some large and some small. Grenada and the Grenadines (an archipelago of many isles) probably remain the top choice. But a new rental opportunity—one that’s hard to refuse—has come from Dominica. So that’s back in the running. Didn’t I write that off several days ago?

Be careful what you blog about!

St. Vincent looks alluring. Bequia (near St. Vincent) is calling. Carriacou (near Grenada) has some nice possibilities. And the flight home leaves from San Juan, so we’ll need to spend some time there before heading home—not only to see that American gem, but to break up the trip from way down near Venezuela to way up near Canada.

Of course, there are more outer islands near all of these—boat, ferry, sail, or swim. Yet I know my bias (especially with not enough days and 2 charming children, AllBoy & CurlyGirl) is to hunker down in one place, or maybe 2, but not more than 3. I am neither a pirate nor a Caribbean nomad. It’s better to make friends, get to know a place, and stop running around like bizzee Americans for a while.

I’m wondering if we’re being indecisive. But I’m not sure. Meantime, it’s sure swell to have options.

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Serendipity Meets Grenada: We Shall Invade!

Posted on: Monday, October 20th, 2008
Posted in: Travelog, Latest Trip, Prep & Planning | One comment

Great news. We’ve given up hope on Hopetown, that warm village (with the cold swimming water) on Elbow Cay, Bahamas. There’s liberation in moving on, even if we know not where to.

Dominica, with its unfinished lovely house, has also come and gone, like so many Sundays. There’s something intimidating about a BreakAway where the most inviting villages are a 90-minute ride on bad roads from the main town. I’m like, maybe it’s not okay if it’s that hard to get an occasional New York Times or rub shoulders with a crowd of strangers. It just wasn’t coming together. Wasn’t meant to be.

So what about Grenada? How did that show up? The way that many of life’s mysteries get solved: Mere happenstance.

Picture this. I’m purging some files from a crowded drawer—to make room for new piles and files. One marked “Travel” gets rudely tossed in the garbage. I’m trying to hurry, but a little hunch says, “Open that up.”

So I do. I thumb through it. From way back in 1996, there’s an article I clipped from a local Sunday paper about Grenada. The picture under the headline all but transported me there.

That’s a feeling I’ve been waiting for.

Since, some quick research has brought forth a wide array of seductive options. The words “friendly, proud, warm” have described the people over and over. Some quick air connection probing has found connections surprisingly “easy” and inexpensive.

Maybe you were right, Ronnie. It’s time to invade Grenada! The obstacle course between here and there keeps growing and jolting. But at least there’s a distant destination to run toward. Now if we can only navigate the turbulent waters and get there in one piece…

  • BIGGEST FEARS ABOUT GOING: 2N2M (2 Numerous 2 Mention)
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