Solitary Places

“Orlando naturally loved solitary places, vast views and to feel himself for ever and ever and ever alone.” – Virgina Woolf.

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We’re not always comfortable enough in our own skin to be by ourselves.  There is real value, however, in learning to be comfortable in our solitude.  I have found as I get older solitude has become more comfortable and more natural.   When I was younger, I hated being alone.

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Albert Einstein, one of the world’s most brilliant minds, left us some nuggets of genius on the topic. He recognize the challenge of solitude when we are young.  Especially in our school years, solitude can be quite painful.  As we get older, we realize how important it is for us.  Consequently, he also commented on how man in general is at one and the same time both a solitary being and a social being.  Every day depending on how much coffee I’ve had, I vacillate between the two.  The more coffee I’ve had, the more social I am.  Some would say, when I have coffee in hand, I glow.

 

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As a mother of three kids, finding solitude has become akin to finding the holy grail. Silent contemplation is a gift of my daily commute into Broward.  Set against the backdrop of an eclectic mix of music, I look forward to my 35 minutes of solitude.   Of course a happy and productive life needs a mix of solitude and togetherness.  One can’t find happiness in either extreme.

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Vacation Planning

Vacation planning for families is no joke.  With a trip like that you can’t just plan things willy-nilly.  When planning a big family trip, especially overseas, a lot of careful planning and consideration must go into it.     We took over two years to plan the Norway trip given the cost, length of travel and number of people going.  My brother took point on the itinerary booking the Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Meanwhile, we booked a car and mirrored their stops.

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Renting a car in Norway was fairly easy and was reasonably priced through Hertz when booked with our AAA discount.  Driving in Norway was fairly easy and straight forward.  The roads were significantly narrower and full of roundabouts.  In stark contrast to South Florida, Norwegian drivers were adept at the roundabouts and very congenial drivers.  I didn’t hear a horn once.  Norwegians are serious about their speed limits with speed cameras littering their road ways.  Thank God for Waze and its speed trap warnings.  Waze and Apple Maps worked perfectly in Norway.

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Food is ridiculously expensive in Norway no matter which route you take. MacDonald’s set us back $60 in Bergen and that was fast food.   The lodging, however, was reasonably priced.  Hotels were nice as they often came with a complimentary breakfast that was quite impressive.  Our hotel in Trondheim, the Radisson Blu, had one of the most incredible hotel breakfasts I had ever seen.  The Air BnB’s worked perfectly for our family in Oslo and Bergen.  It was great to stay in the neighborhoods of these cities and away from the tourists.   Near our Air BnB in Bergen there was a great local coffee shop that had the most incredible coffee and treats.

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As I look to our next big trip, a couple of things I will keep in mind.  First, under no circumstance will I accept a compact car at the rental counter- no way, no how.  Secondly, the car was nice as it gave us a great opportunity to see the Norwegian countryside and cities, but it was slow going.  Next time, I think we will look to combine car, train and boat to see more of the country.  Thirdly, I will take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of food.  Lastly, when abroad it is not necessary to eat enough pastries to make up for the last two carb free years.  #lessonlearned

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Flam A Picturesque Hamlet

Flam is a picturesque hamlet at the end of the Aurlandsfjord.  Surrounded by mountains and the beautiful fjord, you couldn’t imagine a more beautiful, serene or more Norwegian place.  On the surroundings hills and mountains, the farmers let their sheep and goats roam freely to find the best grass.  It was even more beautiful that I had imagined.

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Our first night in Flam, we met our family at Flamstova for dinner.   Our dinner was incredible, but the kids had grown weary from sitting at the table.  My cousin Jessica and her husband Jeff volunteered to take them out to see the sheep in the pasture.  With the kids gone, we could enjoy the remainder of our dinner in relative silence.

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Meanwhile the kids were in seventh heaven as they fed the sheep that ventured near the fence.  Colin had his first run in with the prickle of a stinging nettle he had picked to feed the sheep.  He learned his lesson and was more careful when he picked the grass.  The kids loved the animals we would see grazing freely throughout our Norwegian travels, but the opportunity to be up close and feed them was even better.

We made several more visits to the sheep before leaving Flam including a walk behind the fence to find some good fishing spots.  The boys, particularly the younger two, had to visit their sheep named Jeffry.  All of the kids enjoyed feeding and interacting with the sheep.   They loved to watch their silly antics as they ran down the mountain or assaulted their mother for milk.  It certainly isn’t something our kids are accustom to seeing.

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It was awesome to see the how freely the sheep and goats were to gallivant about the mountains finding the best grass.  Each morning the farmers would let their herds out and then each night the farmers would bring them back home.   How they got them to come down the mountain, I don’t know, but each and every night they’d return home from their pastures.

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Creative and Inspired

To be creative and inspired, one must be prepared to invest time in the cultivation of ideas.  There is no better way to cultivate one’s creativity than through reading. Norman Cousins, famed American political journalist once said; “A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”

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If you were to look at the habits of America’s most successful leaders, one commonality would be their passion for reading.  Reading  can help leaders improve their vocabulary, emotional intelligence, become a more adept communicator and inspire creativity. By and large their reading isn’t necessarily confined to business topics, but rather all types of literature.

I recently took over a new team in my corporate life. Therefore, one topic I have been reading a lot about is change management.  Change management done well results in great business outcomes from a KPI and employee engagement perspective.  Change management done poorly can undermine an entire business.

Here are some of my favorite reads on change management:

  1.  HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management
  2.  Leading Change, by John Kotter
  3.  Change Friendly Leadership, by Roger Dean Duncan
  4.  Changemaking: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change, By Richard Bevan
  5.  The Theory and Practice of Change Management: Third Edition, By John Hayes

Reading novels is crucial to unleashing your creativity and inspiration.  Here are some of my favorites.

  1.  Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  2.  The Alchemist, Pablo Coelho
  3.  The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  4.   The Decameron,  Giovanni Boccacio
  5.  A Separate Peace, John Knowles
  6.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  7.  Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes
  8.  1984, George Orwell
  9.  Animal Farm, George Orwell
  10.   Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

What are some of your favorite novels?  I’m always looking for something new to read, so please share your favorites in the comments.

 

 

 

You Being You

Loved this whimsical quote from Dr. Seuss that’s all about you being you and me being me.   The picture of my favorite carousel from Paris didn’t hurt either.  I looked high and low for pictures from our first trip to Paris.   I have a fabulous picture of Jake riding the carousel near the Eiffel Tower, but that photo album has gone ghost.  I digress.

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When we travel, we’re free to be ourselves.  Being free of other people’s expectations and perceptions, if even for a week, is completely liberating.  The truth is we have to learn to accept who we are before anyone else can accept us.  Further, and far more difficult, we have to learn to accept that not everyone will like us.

Reality is when we embrace who we are and we say what we feel those that are important to us will embrace us.  Those that don’t simply don’t matter.   Sometimes one needn’t look further than Dr. Seuss for great advice and Green Eggs and Ham.

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An Afternoon in Vigeland Park

Our last full day in Oslo, we made a mad dash through several amazing museums.  My favorite as you may recall was the incredible Viking Ship Museum.  After an expensive pizza lunch we headed out for our afternoon adventures: the Munch Museum and Vigeland Park.

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My motivation of course for going was to see Munch’s masterpiece The Scream.  Unfortunately, after its second theft and subsequent recovery, it is not always on display.  The painting was damaged as a consequence of the second theft and is undergoing restoration.  In hindsight, I would have instead opted to peruse Oslo’s National Gallery that has The Scream on display (there were 4 copies.)

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After our brief visit, we headed to a more kid friendly location.  The Vigeland Sculpture Garden, which is on the opposite side of Olso was our next stop.  Thanks to the Oslo’s incredible public transportation system it is easy to get anywhere in Oslo.  We took the T-bane (Olso’s Subway) to the nearest station and walked down the hill to the park.

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Vigeland Sculpture Garden is a must see if you ever travel to Oslo.  First of all, it is free.  This is great because you’ll spend a lot of money on food in Oslo.  For other attractions and free public transportation, your best bet is to buy an Oslo Pass.  You can buy an Oslo pass for 24-48-72 hours.  It definitely pays to have the Oslo Pass.

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Back to the Vigeland Sculpture Garden, which displays the life works of Gustav Vigeland.  The city of Oslo gave Vigeland a studio, where his eponymous museum is now located. Vigeland Park is home to Vigeland’s sculptures and incredibly beautiful gardens.

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The Monolith was carved out of a single block of granite and is located at the highest part of the park.  This is where our Vigeland experience began.  The kids were able to run free and explore the sculptures surrounding the monolith.  There were plenty of giggles emanating from the kids as all of the sculptures representative of man’s life cycle were nude.

While the kids giggled and climbed on the sculptures exploring the cycle of life, we were happy to photograph them as we took in the beautiful sculptures.  As they climbed, we ambled through the various sculptures.  Vigeland’s sculptures truly captured all of life’s cycles in beautiful and honest depictions.  The monolith is truly an exquisite piece of art.

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The kids got thirsty quick since it was a bit hot, by Oslo standards, the day we visited Vigeland. Near the bridge there was a tourist shop that sold water.  As the kids caught their breath and rehydrated, we were able to take in the beautiful sculptures on the bridge.   The sculptures on the bridge depict the children, men, women and their relationships.  The most popular sculpture is the one of the crying boy.  My favorite sculpture was the one that depicted a father juggling his children because it reminded me of my Hubby and my boys.

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If you find yourself in Oslo, Vigeland Park is an absolute must.  It would be the perfect location for a picnic lunch between museums.  Lastly, Vigeland is great for families with kids. Parents can enjoy the artistry of Gustave Vigeland while the kids can run freely about the park.

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Shimmer and Shine

When we were staying on the Aurlandsfjord, we’d find ourselves just staring out the window or sitting on our deck soaking in the beauty of the fjord.  The fjord would shimmer and shine with the reflections of the sun.  It was peaceful and overwhelmingly beautiful. It was the perfect location to hit the reset button.

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The time we spent in the Fjords, was all about family and all about nature.  It was truly one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever seen.  The water of the fjords and surrounding rivers were crystal clear and gorgeous.  Moreover, the rivers’ water were a pristine blue, while the fjord was a beautiful blue green color.

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As the sun would shine in Fjord Norway, the snow capped mountains would glisten.  Sometimes as you would approach a mountain on the road, the mountain would be covered with white spots.  These white spots were sometimes sheep or goats.  At the higher altitude, it was a mix of goats and snow.   The mixture of shimmer and shine on the mountainside was alluring.

Surrounded by natural and dramatic beauty of Fjord Norway was awe inspiring and addicting.  By the time we were preparing to leave Flam, I had already started planning my return trip to this incredible haven.  I look forward to returning to the Aurlandsfjord to explore and hike the surrounding area.

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Dinner

Our second night in Bergen, our goal was to have dinner as a group.  This is no easy feat as there was nineteen of us including six children.  My sister-in –law found a great restaurant that happened to be  brewery, happened to be on the water and happened to be able to accommodate our large group.

As we enjoyed a post-hike beer with my brothers and their families, my sister-in-law Brandi managed to get all nineteen of our orders.  Before we left the brewery, Brandi had already placed our dinner orders for that evening.   While this was at the directive of the restaurant, it was a genius time saving move for all involved.

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Me with my mom, my grandma, my aunt Kandy and cousin Jessica
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Me with my mom, my grandma, my aunt Kandy, cousin Jessica and niece Priya

After chilling in the AirBnB and freshening up, we headed back to the Brewery for dinner.  For the first time in almost two weeks, I was wearing a dress albeit without heels.  We headed back to the brewery, this time all freshened up, to meet our family.

No sooner had we gotten to the table, Goalielocks and the Mayor headed over to the shuffleboard tables to meet their cousins.  The tables were a gift from god!  We were able to enjoy our drinks in relative peace as we waited for our food and discussed the trip.

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As soon as the food came, the Mayor devoured his king crab and caviar.  I struggled with my mussels.  Goalielocks ate the steak we were supposed to share and left me with the mussels.  The pear cider, which was completely addicting, was the perfect complement to my dinner.

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We decided to take some group photos since we were all together, my family, my brothers’ families, my parents, my grandma, my aunt and uncle and my cousin Jessica and family.  Thankfully we chose the one day I got dressed up and did my hair.  After over a week of casual dress in yoga pants, tanks, hoodies and not doing my hair, it felt great to be dressed up and not so casual.

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The resulting photos were absolutely sublime and ones that I will cherish forever.  It was a very special trip for my family to Norway and the cities’ from which are family emigrated from.  It, however, was even more special since we could share it with our extended family.

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My Running Partners

When I started running over two years ago, I didn’t know that I would love it so much.  Nor did I know that my running partners would be so important in maintaining my training or that they’d bring me so much happiness.

Most days my running partners are Jake and our dogs Maya and Athena.  The beautiful thing about running with these three is they keep a brisk pace.  Jake is particularly fast ,so running with him means I have to push myself.  The puppies like to be first, so which ever dog is in back is racing to catch up to their sister.

This can be a bit problematic when Jake and his puppy pull away from us.  Usually it’s Maya and I holding up the rear.  Jake’s got his mile below 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, I almost threw myself a party for breaking the 8 minute mile barrier.

Maya trying to keep pace with Jake means we’re pushing race pace almost every run.  Since Jake is so fast, Athena is usually super tired after two miles.  We’ll switch the puppies and walk them for awhile, so they can catch their breath and cool down a  little bit.

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By the time we start running again, the puppies’ energy is back and they’re ready to roll.  Some runs, Goalielocks or the Mayor will come with us.  For those runs, we usually cap our distance at three miles.  The best part of running with the puppies is how happy they are when we run.

While in Norway, Jake and I mixed it up a bit by hiking on the mountain trails.  It wasn’t a rigorous as our runs, but some parts of the trail were quite steep and took a lot of concentration to master.  The views were incredible and so was the weather.  No horrible heat indexes to contend with.

The unfortunate part of summer in Florida, is heat indexes in the triple digits.  As much as I love to run with my kids and my dogs, the summer heat makes it dangerous for the dogs.  Until the heat abates, I’ll be hitting the treadmill and missing my running partners.  When I run on the treadmill, there’s no sweet puppy looking back at me smiling as she enjoy the run.  Nor is there Jake, who motivates me to run faster and further every time we run.

Laughter as a Symphony

As we traveled throughout Norway, the kids’ laughter was omnipresent.  It was laughter on surround sound; laughter as a symphony.  I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, they loved us at the restaurants and attractions.  Kids being kids and enjoying each others company is as good as it gets.

Fortunately, we found the perfect restaurant in Bergen, which was perfectly suited to fit all nineteen of us and the kiddos.  The Bergenhus Bryggeri was centrally located on the harbor in Bergen next to the world famous fish market and Bryggen.  Located on the 3rd floor, it has two large rooms decorated in wood with amazing views overlooking the water.

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The best part, aside from the bar, was the shuffleboard tables.  The tables were setup behind the bar and far away from the main dining areas.  Here the kids  could play shuffleboard as they waited for the food without interrupting the entire restaurant’s meal.  Us adults were able to sit at the table enjoy each other’s company and leisurely sip our ciders without fear of interruption.  It was pure gold.   We went back several times.

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Whether it was playing shuffleboard in Bergen, playing Left-Right center in Flam, being nearly stranded on a boat in the middle of the fjord, or the delightfully pornographic trip to the sculpture garden; the best memories created on our trip to Norway will be of the time spent with their cousins.   They had a myriad of adventures together in Norway that they’ll never forget. Generating a symphony of laughter together will be the part of the trip that never leaves them.

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