Takin’ a Break…

slow down take it easy, Slowing down reducing stress and slow re

I once read that Bill Gates goes away someplace for a week every year to do nothing but read books, as a way of disconnecting from the routine of everyday life and reconnecting with new thoughts and creativity.

For me, I don’t quite do that, but I do – every time I go away on a vacation – experience what I describe as a catharthis. A change in attitude toward something, and the type of change that would be impossible to experience without leaving my primary life-space for a while.

If I have a “vacation” without such a “catharthis” – then I call that vacation a failure. But the truth is, I don’t think that’s ever happened. I’m actually pretty good at tuning in to the life lessons to be learned from spending some time outside of oneself, so I get a lot of great lessons when I go out of town.

This week we’re spending in Florida. It’s dastardly cold back in my home region of New Jersey, and we lucked out that we’re missing that cold.

And right now, I feel likes it’s been a million years since I’ve been home, been at work, or lived within my usual life’s routine.

But I haven’t disconnected from the learning and the long-term goals that I started to envision while back at home. If anything, those goals and visions have become more solidified while we’ve been away from home.

I have, unfortunately, lost my way a little with this blog recently, and I’m working at it a bit to figure out exactly what I want to share. So taking from one of the lessons I learned a long time ago:

When in doubt about what to write, just keep writing until you figure it out.

Likewise:

When in doubt about how to live, just keep living until you figure it out.

About the Anne Frank House (Huis)

Anne Frank huis
Anne Frank huis (Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (vers l'Ascension))

When I was young, I have a vague memory of a book having been on our family shelves. I remember it as “The Diary of Anne Frank” but I think it may have actually been called The Diary of a Young Girl. I sort of vaguely knew that it was the story of a young girl’s life during a war.

Recently I traveled to Europe with my wife and her family. It was an important trip for me since it gave context to some of the history that I just barely learned back in school. We got to see first-hand some of the artifacts of the Berlin Wall, for example, and to visit the Jewish Museum in Berlin. And later, during our visit to Amsterdam in The Netherlands, I found out that we were staying in a hotel that was on the same street as the house where Anne Frank lived while writing her diary and hiding from Nazis (Prinsengracht).

One day during our trip, after a very busy morning of being busy tourists, we decided to visit the Anne Frank House. My co-travelers had all seen it before, and they seemed to think it was important that I see it. A few tram rides later (it was on the same street as us, but on the other side of the city), we eventually were standing in front of the house. It was late afternoon by that point, and there was a line of hundreds waiting to enter the attached museum.

I was told that it was nothing like this thirty years ago, when my traveling companions had visited before, and that at the time they had simply walked up to the house, walked in, and experienced what they could experience while standing in that place. Today, we decided not to wait on the line – it reminded me too much of what it is like to get into New York’s Statue of Liberty. Instead we stood in front while my father-in-law told me a story – about the history of the house and Anne Frank’s life and about his previous visit. That story gave me the connection I wanted. I did not take any photos because the overwhelming tourism of the area made me feel a little uncomfortable. As we walked away, a bachelorette party passed on a small boat and made a ruckus.

Later, back in New York an unexpected additional connection arose. As a family member of a victim of September 11th, I am on a mailing list for the group Voices of September 11th. I received an email from Founder Mary Fetchet telling me about a workshop that the organization is co-sponsoring along with the newly opened Anne Frank Center USA, located in Lower Manhattan. It is a workshop on diary-writing.

I plan to attend the workshop, and hope to find some good new writing during that process. Whatever I can, I will plan to share on this blog. For me, now, that is my own personal way of best further exploring the life and memory of Anne Frank.

Didn’t Mean to “Make Fun” of the Portsmouth Salt Piles

To be honest, it was one of the highlights of our trip to Portsmouth… Something we will always remember.

But I guess I could see how someone might interpret our tongue-in-cheek video report of the view of the salt piles from our hotel window as not being funny. (See the comments to see what I mean.)

You Were Right, It’s Cheese

Hotels are funny places, where interesting things happen. Especially the bigger ones, the ones that have conventions and lots of visitors.

We’ve seen interesting things during a recent stay at the Holiday Inn By The Bay in Portland, Maine:

  • A yellow cube sits on the floor in the corner of the elevator all day. I claimed it was pineapple; my wife, cheese. Turns out it was cheese.
  • The hotel now has a fancy Keurig coffee machine. And instead of giving you individual packets of sweetener and non-dairy creamer, you get a single pouch, labeled “condiments” – filled with anything you might put in coffee. Who designed that?
  • U.S.A. Today gets discretely and indirectly added to your bill, but there is no longer a clear way to request non-delivery. If only I could get it on my Kindle.. Oh wait, I think I can! How did U.S.A. Today get this guaranteed subscriber base?
  • The largest indoor swimming pool in the metro area is not necessarily very large. Depends on the metro area, I guess.
  • High-speed wireless access can be pretty d*rned slow and cr*ppy, even when you have your backup Verizon MiFi with you.
  • Things like.. my favorite Lenovo netbook can suddenly become very temperamental and start refusing to ever go into standby mode. But I digress – this could have easily happened apart from the hotel.
  • You might meet a night manager who seems to have a past with a lot in common with your present, and who seems a little mixed about some of the excellent choices he seems to have made.
  • You might hear businessmen (I always imagine businessmen outside of New York to all be from the mid-west) complaining about how they didn’t end up on the registration sheet for any of today’s events.
  • You see Dominos delivering a pizza to your neighbor down the hall at midnight, and you wonder whether the terrible noise and whooping party from last year is going to happen again tonight.
  • A hotel manager might surprise you with a gesture.

So you see things, and you draw conclusions about what they mean or what they are. Some of you are right, but you will never know that.

In the case of the cheese in that center elevator, we’ve gotten to see it play-out to its smushy end. But I will always wonder why no one picked it up before it had to get smushed into the poor carpet. I’ll never know, I guess.