Unplugging

Have Yourself a Lonely Little New Year

Posted on: Thursday, January 18th, 2024
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

Kayaking alone can be cool. Living and aging alone can feel more like slow drowning.

As a season, winter brings on more staring, sitting, pondering. So perhaps the squall of loneliness articles appearing all over is just cold coincidence. But maybe not. Without question, a storm of cultural shifts is causing folks to go it alone: Social media; screen dependence; political division; busy-ness; growing single statuses, more. It’s rather sad.

As a successfully sometimes-single person who previously spent decades giving my children wide wings (once we were done nurturing deep roots), I know the feeling of isolation. I also see it in my parents, people their age, and aging communities. These things REALLY become relevant when people are, like, disabled, dying, getting dementia, or unable to leave their residence.

Check out these headlines and subheads that recently fell in front of me:

  • Home alone: America’s crisis of isolation…Modern life downplays the importance of neighbors. (by Seth D. Kaplan, LA Times)
  • Where has community gone?…We need to interact with people different from ourselves. (by Kris Potter, of South Haven, MN)
  • Aging ‘Solos’ Need Support (by Katy Read, Star Tribune)
  • What a big difference small talk can make…Don’t be a stranger. Say something. (By Deborah Malmo, of Plymouth, MN)

I could summarize the articles. But the headlines rather speak for themselves and, frankly, it’s kinda distressing. Suffice it to say that this quiet, lurking issue will only worsen. People are living longer. The percentage of elderly living alone keeps growing. And the social hubs of the past (church, local cafes, family gatherings) keep decreasing in popularity and availability.

  • We, Robot?

Naturally, technology provides the problem yet sometimes a potential solution. An AP article by Terry Spencer details a “chatty” companion robot in testing mode that converses, “jokes, plays music, and provides occasionally inspirational quotes.” And…“leads exercises…gives reminders to take medications and drink water.” Host video calls and contact rellies and doctors? CHECK!

The thing sizes up like a small table lamp, yet remembers discussions, interests, and previous chats, whether about weather or … the meaning of life.

This professional unplugger recoils at such prophetic possibilities. And yet, if a cyborg can lessen loneliness, that’s a cautious sign of hope.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Happy (?) Solstice!

Posted on: Friday, December 22nd, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

This installment of the Snow Art Series is titled Solstice Rosy Sunshine.

Why the (?) in Happy Solstice headline? Well, lotsa reasons, including that the day is DARK, the weather can be frightful, and it portends the start of winter. Still, the day is full of hope and reasons to festivate. (Or just unplug and meditate.) Stonehenge was built 5,000 years ago by Solstice fans, and people throughout the N side of the globe have commemorated in countless creative (and sometimes shocking) ways since the Pagan days.

My 2023 commemoration stayed simple. Some sun-colored roses offer reminders of brighter days ahead, while taunting a frozen (and slippery!) lake for a backdrop. Fortunately, the day was unseasonably warm enough to assure that the roses survived the photo shoot unscathed—though I was prepared for them to become sacrificial blooms.

They’re inside now. The earth has tilted. And we’re only 6 months til the longest day…and a full year until we can commemorate the dark daze yet again. I may not be ready, but I won’t miss out. Happy Solstice!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Reflections on a Balmy Fall

Posted on: Friday, November 17th, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Punny or not…No season brings deeper or more colorful reflections than fall.

Fall is a great time to travel—a ‘shoulder season’ when the tourists are usually back home yet the tourism bizzes are still humming but without irksome crowds and lines. The weather can be lovely if you choose the right place and have some luck. And autumn in most climes brings a free show of color and natural transformation.

And yet…fall is a good time to be home too. ESPECIALLY this year, here in MN, where we were gifted with drought-busting rains but also more sunny, warm days than I can count. Record-breaking stuff! The lake is full; the neighborhood pontoon party is still afloat. Chores got done without the panic of stinging snow or frozen fingers. We’ve been blissfully blessed.

Oh yeah, the other shoe WILL drop. Hard and cold. And soon, like, next week. Still, as I watched with envy while friends flew off to autumnal BreakAways in Italy, Nashville, and beyond, I also rejoiced in the epiphany that, often, the best place to travel is your own lovely yard.

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Remember Golf? It’s Back in Swing!

Posted on: Tuesday, August 15th, 2023
Posted in: HR FYI, Unplugging, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

The 9-5 weekday workweek is fading away like a fine drive.

Golf in America has been through many, uh, rounds. Up, down, in, out, back again. But since Covid, people are spending more time on the links than ever. And much of it is on weekdays—when workers used to wallow in cubicles, not strut on greens.

It brings new meaning to work/life hacking!

  • Stanford study + geolocation proves the putt-point

Stanford and others have dug into the dirt on the golfing renaissance, with astounding findings like this…

278% more people are playing golf on Wednesdays at 4pm than before C-19

In Cali, visits have almost doubled on TU, W, and TH

Weekday rec goes beyond golf, and includes gyms, malls, tennis, hair, more

I remember golf booming—along with camping, bonfires, and other outdoor activities—during that lonely pandy period. Heck, I golfed plenty myself, and often with my children who were unexpectedly stuck at home. Heaven! (Even if my golf skills can include ill whiffs.)

But will this last, I wondered? Maybe so! Why? Because people are taking their time back!

  • Daybreak trend soars beyond the course

Lisa M. Kreiger’s article (San Jose Mercury News) also tells of lunches, dates, bike rides, family outings, and more happening on what used to be strictly Company Time. We at BreakAway practically weep with joy (as opposed to our tears on the course) that folks are taking their shot at prioritizing what matters.

And guess what? The economy is doing just fine, thank you.

Have we really redefined that delicate but often brutal work/life balance scale?

“It’s the little things, like having lunch with my husband on the back patio.”

~ Tina, Project Manager

  • What goes around becomes a round (Insert eyeroll emoji)

Way back in history, like, maybe only 100 years ago, before the industrial revolution (and later, the corporation/office-obsession explosion), people got their work done on their own schedules and terms. Think: Farmers. If that’s really happening again, we BreakAway mavens may be out of work soon.

Except…most people still work too hard and too often hit their most coveted long-term travel dreams into the rough. So we’ll keep preaching what we practice. And practicing what we preach.

Getting your life back? Good for you. Wanna escape to Thailand for 3 months…maybe check out their golf courses?

Hey, you’ve gone from all-day sales meetings to teeing off on Tuesday afternoon. So why not give it a shot!?!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Forgotten Photos Fire Foggy Memories

Posted on: Friday, June 9th, 2023
Posted in: Travelog, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Where? Vegas, of course. Why? Vegas, of course. (And…for the memories, thanks…)

A few nights ago, I found myself at home alone with the puter in my lap. A rarity, as I become ever-better at seeking real interaction and unplugging. A flash hit me: I’ve hardly looked at the 1,000s of photos I’ve taken since 1-1-23. And I’ve taken trips to picturesque places. This pic came up, from a fancy eatery in LV—and reminded me why we take the pics. The room, the dinner, the smells, the views, the company…all came back.

Note to self: Take more, better, remind-ful pix! (And don’t forget to look at them, even if it means screens…)

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Top Doc Says SM Putting Kids @ Risk!

Posted on: Wednesday, May 24th, 2023
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

Skip the Apple store and ditch the iPhones. Take your kids fishing, swimming, hiking, singing, gardening… 

Seems like this story should be older than dial phones by now. Still, when a ‘public advisory’ hit Tuesday that social media poses risks for children, we knew the quiet controversy had hit the top. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy stated that policy makers, tech companies, researchers, and parents need to “urgently take action.”

While admitting that SM can have benefits, the warning nonetheless includes that “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” The report also cites evidence that the developing brain may undergo changes—not good ones.

The American Psychological Association also declared its first SM guidance this month. Unfortunately, the responsibility for any changes ultimately falls primarily on parents. And having experienced endless education debates in which some arguers insist that all kids’ problems should be fixed by the parents, well, know that such simplistic approaches don’t work. Parents are busy, stressed, sometimes separated, and of course too obsessed with their own phones.

Our children have become unknowing participants in a decadeslong experiment.

~ U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy

The report is disturbing. Pile this on top of virtual pandemics of youth anxiety and depression (no doubt related), and there’s much to worry about.

But what can we do? Besides worry? If you have access to children (ha), based on my parental experience (which, in some ways, never ends), here are 11 top-of-mind simple suggestions…

• Take them fishing (see photo above, snapped today)

• Play ball—any ball, balloon, or stick will do

• Read books & stuff aloud daily, anywhere and everywhere

• Cook with youth; they still love knives!

• Practice routine bedtimes

• Bed means no media. No media in the room. Period!

• Participate. Sports, music, arts, clubs, classes…

• Give back—via church, volunteering, helping others

• Resist the urge to keep up with the Jones kids and their top-tier tech toys

• Set an example…by setting your own phone down loudly and often

• Take vacations and breaks and epic BreakAways.

I hope anyone who cares makes their own list. And lives by it (is life on screens even real life?). And be tough. After all, this crisis is a dang tough—and crucial—battle for the future.

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FOTOFRIDAY: The many colors of Carmel

Posted on: Friday, May 12th, 2023
Posted in: Travelog, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

This young explorer seems delighted to be in magical Carmel. Who wouldn’t be?

I snuck away for a late winter vakay last week. To charming, colorful Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the coast of NoCal. The weather did NOT offer that tropical glaze that we Northerners crave when winter won’t end. But the stunning beauty of the place quieted any complaining. As did the unique boutiques, the friendly folks, and the laid-back vibe.

My tech tools and toys took an overdue unplugged break, too…except of course for some irresistible pictures like this one.

Oh, to be a carefree boy once more, like this lad lost beside the sea. Then again, one often feels forever young when ambling a pristine beach and observing a fearless, curious seeker. A future BreakAway artist? No doubt!

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Winter Couped-up Creativity…or Craziness?

Posted on: Friday, February 24th, 2023
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

What color are your eyes?

BreakAway preaches the gospel of seeking and creating beauty wherever and whenever possible. Nature is often the best collaborator. And travel most always provides nonstop inspiration and eye-opening moments.

Having said THAT, it’s possible that this winter may be getting to some of us. I mean, the concept of this piece was pretty cool—and I have a LONG history of making ‘art’ on fresh snow (see below). But! The fresh slippery snow on VERY slick ice and a hellaciously strong wind (that kept blowing the shirts away) made the execution harder than the inspiration.

Dangerous? Yep. Difficult? Damn straight. Stupid? Naaaah. Even Monet probably had a bad day. Might be time to start planning that belated warm-weather BreakAway? Keep the faith…

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11 2023 Resolutions for Better BreakAway Living

Posted on: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Finally, something we all agree on: It’s a new year! So for starters, let loose your inner artist. You’ll feel better and everyone will love it!

Lose weight? Too old and tired. Work out more? Been there, done that. Keep a cleaner house? Who cares!?!

Try some simpler, sillier ways to seek sanity this year and BreakAway from the daily grind, the dark daze of winter, and that post-holiday ennui. Though not all bold, brash, or breakthrough, they may help you have a livelier year and be a better YOU!

  1. Get crafty. Kids love to make things. You’re still a kid at heart, right? (See photo above: $1 Store candle holder, epoxy, shiny stuff. Voila!)
  2. Make beauty. Maybe your downtown has gone dystopian. But your yard, home, and office can easily be a place of grace. Noticing beauty (it’s everywhere) feels good, too.
  3. Start a zenny hobby. A favorite writer of mine carries on about birds, seasons, nature. He’s turning me into a laid-back birdwatcher. Who knew!?!
  4. Try a brainy hobby. Some say our brains start rotting as we get older. I can attest! Maybe it’s time to join the legions of cross-puzzlers, or at least tune into Jeopardy now and then!
  5. Save some bucks. How? There are countless, EZ ways! Cancel spendy apps and subs. Cook your own (or chase happy hours). Drive less. Skip Taylor and support local entertainers (She’ll still love you).
  6. Eat better. The bunnies know. Carrots are good for you. And there are a million ways to cook them. Remember: Fast food isn’t good…Good food isn’t fast.
  7. Party better. Oh sure, some of those beers (etc.) have fewer cals and carbs. But hey! There’s a beer revolution going on! And new bars and eateries that need support. Life is short; drink decent wine.
  8. Caretake loved ones. Ask for same. We need each other—the most important thing we have.
  9. Resist the screens. FACT: Just about everyone you know spends more time on screens than the year before. Help us break that tragic trend. Reality is 3D. So…
  10. Go outside. THEY say that your mental health bumps up measurably with just 30 minutes a day outdoors. You’ll feel refreshed, and the birds will notice you.
  11. Escape to somewhere new. A recent Daddy Date with my daughter to a nearby small town was delightful, eye-opening, and just plain fun. Next up: A dessert? An island? A campground?

Hope to see you there. And … Happy New Year!

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New Carousel Pics Show BreakAway Extremes

Posted on: Thursday, October 27th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Travelog, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Extremes are hot these days—as in climate change, political divides, and BreakAway photo exhibits. Please take a glance at the lovely new photo pairing in the carousel above. Today we add another pair of opposites that somehow attract.

  • Some like it jam-packed

This photo from just another day at the MN State Fair demonstrates the other-worldly peace and joy that many folks feel from large crowds (other than, perhaps the sheriffs). The Fair routinely attracts 200,000 warm bodies a day. In similar scenes, the Penn State ‘White Out’ football game last Saturday hosted 110,000 fans. In one stadium.

These gatherings are hardly alone, and keep good, crowded company with music festivals, religious events (the haj attracts ~2.5 million pilgrims) and celebrity spectacles (think: Pope, Queen, funerals).

Most people, if asked, would say they don’t love crowded spaces. And yet we not only rush toward them when inspired, we achieve a profound sense of both escape and belonging. One that often costs a lot, requires ample planning, and may take days to recover from. Yet the memories and euphoria far outweigh the hassles.

  • Some like it solo

This charming picture of my daughter, chilling on a Caribbean beach, shows the other BreakAway extreme. Who doesn’t need to unplug, be alone, and seek some P&Q now and then? On this day, the beach was nearly empty, providing an idyllic spot to meditate while surrounded by nature and beauty. Far, far away from home and distraction.

How else do people elude the world’s relentless noise and masses? We could never count the ways, there are so many. But fishing comes to mind, as I often see their mellow and placid selves floating by. Others run, bike, swim, ski. Many unplug to read, write, garden, play music, or just…sit.

“Sit” is another word for meditating. When I see this pic of my daughter, I feel serenity.

As did she. I hope you do too—whether you find it via a BreakAway into swarms of like-minded people. Or choose to slip away into your quiet, happy space. Or both!

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