Unplugging

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

FOTOFRIDAY: Summer, Like the Lake Lily, Will Fall

Posted on: Friday, September 30th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

One month ago to the day, the lakes (the lucky ones!) were abloom with these indigenous lilies that take your breath away and beg loudly to pose in the sun.

The lovely White Water Lily, so common on MN lakes and vital to their ecosystem, has now ceased blooming and begun its descent into, well, fall. My kayak has lots of lily friends, so we hang out quite often. They host a great environment for meditating (meaning: catch a tan…and some vitamin D). Who needs the trendy lotus, wherever they are?

I snapped this pic with the iPhone 13 and did a bit of editing later. I still find myself in discussions (debates?) of 35mm, film, digital, phone camera brands, what have ya. Sure, my opinions can make a modest splash like the waves around the lilies. But in the end, a good shot is a good shot.

IMHO, this is a pretty good shot. FBOW, I have hundreds of lily portraits. The lilies always shout, “Take a picture of me.” Then the ones over there shout louder, “No! Me!” And so it goes. They all deserve their moment. And I love staring at the images later, when the blooms have begun to sink slowly to the muddy bottom, rather like a SAD reaction to fall…

But hey, we’ve got the pics to reminisce. And remind us that this whole annual upheaval remains as natural as the lily’s fragile cycle. Did you know these blossoms each last only one day? Well, now you do!

The seasonal changes can feel almost violent here in MN. We try to like the drama; helps us know that time is passing. Like life itself. So seize the day. And snap that picture.

Speaking of weather violence, the BreakAway staff sends love and hope to the people and nature of Florida. Sanibel…Captiva…the Keys… Manatees, pelicans, dolphins showing off alongside our sailboat… So many still-palpable memories. And surely many fine pics, dating back to my first visit (for a spring break) in 1980…

May all that precious nature somehow survive and revive. Keep the faith.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

FOTOFRIDAY: Cheers to the Humble Kayak!

Posted on: Friday, July 29th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

The swift, spacious Bayliner runabout of my future remains on hold. Until then, a kayak always offers a dreamy ride.

Kayaking is booming. And why not? They’re eco-friendly, easy to schlep around, provide exercise, and promise a delightful time for most anyone with two arms and sense of … balance.

On this summer evening, I expected a boat party invitation (or two). But alas, folks were out of town, out to dinner, or running out of the frenzy that erupts during those early giddy weeks of boating season. I knew what to do: Jump in and paddle out into the warm setting sun.

Oh sure, I missed the friends and laughter and booming tunes. But I instead savored a simple, solo bliss. And there was little risk of feeling lonely, as the local loon couple stopped by to warble hello before soon flying south for their annual snowbirding BreakAway.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Confessions from a Summer Sabbatical

Posted on: Thursday, July 21st, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Summertime…and the livin’ is easy. (I should really trademark that…) 

Yowza! A month has flown by with nary a rant, snappy FotoFriday, or challenging jabberwocky. No wonder the landlines and faxes have been rattling; the piles have been tumbling. Well, as the youth say today, “Sorries!” It appears we here have been smoking our own Kool-Aid. Please know the inspirational backlog WILL get attention. But in the meantime…

  • Summer IS the social season…so jump in and hang on!

Sometimes, these fun-in-the-sun opportunities can become deliciously daunting obstacles to work, to chores, to…who cares? Said obstacles include lazing with the offspring. Jaunts to old haunts. Grooving with nature. Melt-your-mind sundowns and full-moon cruises. Grad parties where the real hootin’ begins after the cake {not keg} is gone. And best of all—whether at all-day music fests, faraway hometowns, or bucolic docks—the reunions of old friends. Nothing better.

Yep, BreakAway ditches the 2dew lists and shuns the ole’ rolodex when the pontoon party spontaneously pulls up. I mean, isn’t that what we really preach here in this passion project? Breaking away matters more than keeping up with the inbox. Even the interns agree! (Or so their emojis suggest…)

  • A quiet word from a sponsor: Purpose

Work is real. Purpose is important. And aspirations kick ass. We don’t mean to become a symbol of shirking. Seriously! (End of serious message.)

But really, if life is short, summer is a snap. So protect your priorities. Chase your bliss. As Mr. Ray (the cantankerous, hilarious, and wise-as-owls Maitre D’hotel who schooled countless of us hospitality pros) would say, “I’m the luckiest man in the world…because I have so many friends.”

Family, first of course. And then…Friends make life beautiful! It’s good to have people. So one ground rule of my summer games is simple: Never say no to a social invitation. To quote the St. Paul Saints: Fun is Good!

  • Not to worry…BreakAway updates aplenty await!

We will catch up. We will survive. We are excited about new contacts, buzzing opportunities, and an almost-urgent wealth of ideas and topics. To tease out just a few…

ReWorking (the series) will tell all about Casual Fridays morphing into Home Fridays…and summer Fridays off!

…and then offer updates on the work-at-home (R)evolution…the 4-day workweek movement…employers finally blessing baby & family leaves…and more!

And for the kids (and their parents), as Covid wanes, we’re witnessing a wave of gap years, live-at-home reboots, and a rethinking of education and lifestyle options.

  • Embrace today; tomorrow will wait

One message still rings loud and too true: A person never knows just how many days/years life will promise. (Just ask us cancer survivors!) So seize the play. Retire now and then. Seek and capture your preferred BreakAways when in reach. You’ll thank yourself, and your Gods. You’ll feel better. And we (if not Mr. Bossman)will still love you!

WHEN (not if) tomorrow comes…Please watch for backfills, updates, breaking stuff, revised top copy, more killer photos, new carousel combos, and emphatic permission to board whatever boat floats you to your happy place.

Thanks for listening. And for your patience. And above all,

Follow the light…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A Weary World Loses A Zen Master

Posted on: Monday, January 24th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment
We all seek light, and often find it in faraway people and places.

Most people have never heard of Thich Nhat Hanh. But for some of us, just knowing about him became life-changing. He died about a week at his home in a temple in Vietnam at age 95. Over the course of his long life, he became a famous and influential Zen master with a devoted worldwide following.

My meditation classes—which I’ve done on and off for years—were based on his approach to Zen and living, and taught by a teacher who changed careers to dedicate her life to studying his way and becoming a leader. His lessons of “mindfulness” transformed modern thought and countless lives.

He became known for many things, including:

·      His books, poems, teachings, and appearances

·      His vocal resistance to the Vietnam war, and all wars

·      His on-the-ground efforts to rebuild Vietnam’s villages and families after the destruction

·      His decades-long exile from Vietnam for opposing war and oppression

·      His nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize by his friend and follower, Martin Luther King

·      His organization of dozens of monasteries and retreats, known as Plum Village, a quintessential destiny for a transformative spiritual sabbatical

If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.

  • Google, meet meditation

One oft-cited example of his reach and openness was his visit to Google in 1913 at age 87—in the thick of the digital information revolution rather antithetical to his beliefs. Fearless and honest in all occasions, he offered the crowd messages of an alternative approach exemplary of why millions found solace in his presence and very existence, “We have the feeling that we are overwhelmed by information…We don’t need that much information.”

  • A beautiful journey

To become famous and influential was never Thich Nhat Hahn’s mission. But to help others with the challenges of human struggle, serenity of mind, and world peace all but created the paths for him. Countless people followed.

I am one. The commitment and effectiveness of internalizing his teachings comes and goes, as perhaps with all pursuits and practices of inner contentment. But my life would be much emptier—and at times lost—without the guidance of his wisdom and those who help spread his understanding.

To put it into BreakAway-speak, Thich Nhat Hahn was an original unplugger. An inspirational one-world traveler. And a courageous soul willing to embody and advocate a life beyond worry, weariness, and work.

We have lost a BreakAway hero. We know he is resting in peace.

Nonthinking is the secret to success. And that is why the time when we are not working, that time can be very productive, if we know how to focus on the moment.

World Mourns Death Of Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk Whom MLK Nominated For  Nobel Prize
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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! ! ! ! !

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email