Category Archives: Travel

In Gratitude for My Sabbatical

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller, on school truancy

“They’re giving you time off for good behavior?” – A former colleague, upon learning of my plans

A sabbatical. Three weeks off, and then a week away at a work-sponsored conference/retreat. A full four weeks out of the office.

To be sure, I checked my email ten times a week and kept basic marketing functions going, but for no more than a day each week, on my own schedule, as if my employer were my client.

Everyone deserves an extended break in the midst of a loyal, long-term commitment to an employer. Sabbaticals, I am realizing, are a thing outside of academia. Some forward-thinking employers (with more staff and resources than mine) offer paid sabbaticals of 3-4 weeks to employees in addition to their paid vacation, and after only 7 years of employment.

It inspires loyalty while giving staffers space to nurture passion projects, projects that can enhance their skills. There’s space to pursue exciting new ideas and scratch creative itches without needing to leave the company.

It also staves off burnout, kindles creativity and self care, and refreshes an employee’s thinking. I needed a reset for sure, and I was damn lucky to have the vacation time banked up to get paid for this.

So what did I do? Let me get it down quickly, before the bliss evaporates completely.

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Yoga, 3-4 times a week
I found a favorite new teacher at Twisters, stretched with friends, and spent happy hours on the mat at Tara.

Andreasz-communications.com
I set up a website. It ain’t gorgeous, but it is presentable and gathers my portfolio together neatly for those who might hire me for freelance gigs.

Weekly lunch dates in Center City
I miss the life of the city, and I miss dates with Randy. I was able to connect with both, spending my morning writing at Elixr, running Center City errands, and then lunching out with my hubby.

I wrote, a lot
I wrote blog posts for this little rag, for Andrea Sz Communications, for Spotted by Locals, the Untours blog, Private Access Journeys and a couple clients. I banked up content to share throughout fall.

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I volunteered
I worked for Project HOME, writing a profile of a brilliantly inspiring resident of theirs. I helped Weaver’s Way. And I volunteered at Robin’s school for the Book Fair, cashiering for my first time since college.

The beach
It was only for a long weekend, but Strathmere was a wonderful chance to spend time with my family, and to take long sandy walks and think.

I celebrated Septivus
That includes my birthday, Robin’s birthday, and our 15th wedding anniversary. I had space to honor our family milestones, enjoy my favorite month, plan celebrations, and ease us into the school year.

The B Retreat
I capped it off with the B Corp Champions Retreat in Toronto, a party of progressive business thinking, deep and thoughtful conversations, art and ecology, music and wine, and all in a glorious city, in a sane country.

These four weeks gave me time to digest the enormity of this fall’s relentless string of tragedies: natural disasters and man made carnage; I had time to feel the appropriate sadness. To let it sink in.

I also enjoyed long walks, lazy Sundays reading, off-peak errand running, tweeting, beers with friends, stalking paintings on Chairish, and discovering new spots in my city.

I would urge anyone who can to take a sabbatical, and to use it as such: not just as a staycation, but as a time to reset, build skills, nurture your mental and physical health, and take on personal projects that feed your vocation.

Use your talents for good. Reconnect with your gifts and your calling. Revel in the doing.

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Paging Heshi Yu


Dear Heshi Yu,

I am a fan of your art. I would like to say I am a collector, but I have only one piece so far. It is this painting, which I picked up for a fair price at a mid century design consignment shop in a suburb of Philadelphia. The shop did not know your name but simply described this gorgeous creation as “signed Yu”.

The price was high enough that I needed to do a little research to justify the expense. I am an art lover but not a real collector as I have a tiny budget.

After a number of false starts tracking younger Yu’s, a deep dive into Google images yielded a familiar aesthetic, your whimsical 70s-80s line-drawn cityscapes, some penned or painted onto brightly colored canvases, some in vivid lithographs and serigraphs, some etched into textured metallic paints like the one I was about to buy.

I was blown away!

With the name Heshi Yu, I was able to find auction records, eBay and Etsy listings, and even a companion piece to the one I was about to own. My eyes and heart were full of your creations: the steeples and houses and squares of town centers, the docks and boats of fishing villages, the firework trees, and the tiny figures you dropped into them walking dogs or skating. They speak to my love of cities and community and to the villages we all create and inhabit. I was drawn to their design but anchored by their simple humanity.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is a love letter.

These images were to me a little reminiscent of the Paul Klee paintings I adore, but with a modern design sensibility and an Asian flair. There is something about the gold leaf and the circles that feel Eastern, the floating borders and medallions. And I wonder if the fishing villages are memories of your childhood in China, before art school in Paris and your move to New York.

What was it like for you to move to Brooklyn in 1969? What was your life like then, and how are you now? I understand you are in your 80s.

The paintings I’ve seen from the late 80s onward are stunning and different than the earlier ones that may be considered your trademark. There is a mother and child that especially moves me. It is done in blues and nods gently to Gustav Klimt but has a look all its own and a sweet tranquility. Its tenderness makes me wonder if you married here. If you had kids. If you still live in New York or even in the US.

Do you ever google your own name?

If so, I hope you find this. Because I google you often and always seem to find the same brief bio, repeated verbatim across auction house sites. It lists schools in Taiwan and Paris but little else. I want to know more about you. 

Are you well? In good health? Do you still paint or draw?

I want to know what motivates you. I want to understand your creative process. I want to know what it was like to leave China, to boldly cross oceans and cultures. To grow in an emerging New York art scene. To move into the printing process and find acclaim. I want to know what meanings you have coded into your paintings.

You are a mystery to me.

And more than anything, I fear sometimes that one of my regular “Heshi Yu” googles will yield an obituary, maybe a small piece in the New York Times that lays out some personal details and context of a life that must be fascinating.

If you ever see this and wish to connect, I would love to learn more about you and to write about you. I would love to help tell your story to the cult of people who collect your work and to those like me who love it and are craving the back story. If you read this and care to, please drop a line! A simple email would blow my mind.

But either way, it would warm my heart just to imagine you somehow found and read these words. If you do, know how much I love your work. And if these words make you smile even momentarily, I will be glad to have in some small measure returned the favor.

I like to imagine the swollen suns of your paintings shining down on me. You are a brilliant artist, and your work continues to shed beauty, light, and human warmth in a world that needs it.

I love Yu,
Andrea in Philadelphia

Heshi info

Sweet & Sour Summer Scrapbook

It was the summer of Charlottesville. Of the steady continuation of political madness. Of spending lots of money and yet somehow not going anywhere interesting. Of piled up work deadlines in a badly understaffed office. Of my best friend moving to a different hemisphere. Of family obligations. Of other people traveling. Of sheetcaking and weight gain.

And yet there were these moments…

New York with the Cousins

When my in-laws, niece, and nephew visited us for the first time ever, we hit the road! Center City, Lancaster, Hershey, and New York. Here’s Rockefeller Center with the gang.

  

I made my pilgrimage to Hamilton (the theater, anyway) and Jessica’s Nintendo Store pilgrimage went well. Randy’s Eataly pilgrimage, not so much. (Turns out there is pizza kids hate, and it is rather expensive!)

Tourist excess and counterfeit heroes in Times Square, a perfect way to introduce Robin to Manhattan.

Chicago with Dena

Hanging with Dena, my dearest friend from college and one of my favorite people on the planet. I got to see her beautiful newish house (a bungalow with a garden and lots of character), drink margaritas, and see a Paul Gauguin show at the Art Institute.

Philadelphia

Sweet city excursions with my boys.

Urban walks with dear friends.

Chill out time on the banks of the Delaware.

Family Time

Weeklong visits from Papap…

…and Granny.

The Eclipse

So nice, in the wake of Charlottesville, to have a massive and monumental, nonpartisan distraction like this one. Science is real, and we all share the same sky!

Art Acquisitions

   

I found a new obsession with street art this summer and an overall renewed interest in art. Plus the purchase of three new paintings and the perilous discovery that you can buy art on eBay, much of it quite affordable.

Grand Camp for Robin

   

Lots of good time with pap and with grandmas: swimming, Birthday date at Eat’n Park, chasing rogue soccer balls, and a preseason Steelers game!

Grand Camp for Us

Drinks up high at the Skygarten. Followed by blissfully sound, uninterrupted sleep.

Lunches and happy hours at cool Center City joints. And lots of housecleaning, overtime, and errands as well.

The Kesters’ 50th Anniversary

We shared quality time together in Milwaukee. Plus a trip up north to Marshfield to attend mass at the church where they were married, 50 years to the day after.

There were pleasant and meaningful visits with extended aging family, roadtrip antics, fresh and squeaky cheese curds, and a little multigen baseball in between.

Glasses

I bought new glasses the same day I got to meet Seth Godin at a conference. I will always associate my new look with my favorite marketing guru in glasses.

Neighbors

Parties and playdates and pizza! Oh my! We enjoyed multiple block parties, spontaneous gatherings, lots of beer drunk curbside with fantastic people. Yoga classes, trips to the pool, corn hole, and other local pleasures.

Baseball

In Philadelphia…

   

…and Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. Lots and lots of it. Five games in total!

All in all, not a bad summer. The world is still off its axis. As Harvey retreats, Irma approaches, hovering over fall beach plans. The rebuilding begins in Texas, Trump tweets his small-minded hatred, and we write our donation checks. I text my friend in New Zealand, and life carries on…

Entertaining Parents

“When are the first customers arriving?!” Robin’s question came right on time, at noon.

“Honey, they’re guests, not customers. And no one shows up at the beginning. People are shy about being the first ones here.”

And so began the litany of questions. An avalanche of chicken nuggets slid from the oven. A dozen people descended at once, and our house turned into a happy, chaotic hive of convivial conversation.

Even at 78 guests, there were people who couldn’t come or came stag. When we set a guest list these days, we count by fours and fives, so numbers add up quickly.

What a wonderful mix! The living room buzzed with talk of city politics travel while new neighbors and old friends mixed in the family room. Travel, Trump, and the ham were all hot topics.

Kids were everywhere.

A neighbor texted to say she would come with their 5 but stay only briefly to leave room for the “out of towners.”

I told her to stay as long as she could stand. “We wanted a bigger house because our old place couldn’t hold all of our friends. I never imagined we would double our circle when we moved. It’s a blessing, not a problem!”

“Talk to me again after you’ve had 30 kids tearing around your house for 2 hours.”

Though it was too cold to be outside, the kids stayed busy upstairs and down.

Our friendships have multiplied mostly because of Robin and the high quality adults who come with his playmates. As the kids scatter for school and lose touch, I want to keep their parents around!

Five pounds of chicken tenders, three bandaids, and a little insanity is a small price to pay.

So we survived our big party and enjoyed the chaos of wrestling and coloring, snacks and wine. We cleared a few juice boxes from the guest room and a tater tot from Robin’s nightstand. Two kids lost teeth.

Here’s the lost and found below. (One front tooth still at large, possibly swallowed! )

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Domestication

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We retreat to the mountains for Memorial Day, our Prius silently easing into a parking spot at the mountainside timeshare condo. We have to shoo away the deer as we unload.

We all have our roles to play.

It happens gradually. We get comfortable in our job. The mortgage kicks in. A couple extra pounds. A drink each night. A quiet release of expectations.

The deer loiter out back, inches from our deck rails. They periodically retreat into the shallow woods behind our unit, more out of boredom than fear.

Our 20s were bold and transient, lived on instinct. Our 30s were sensible and fruitful, laying foundations. The 40s are routine and comfort.

The neighbors fling kibble and the deer gather.

Birds built a nest in the hanging plant on our back patio. There are strollers and squirrels and SUVs and the near constant hum of a lawnmower from somewhere.

Cardinals fly past, brown females or males the color of our throw pillows. Bunnies eye our garden with envy. Hedgehogs dodge cars and we build fences.

Deer dash through our backyards there.

I envy their determination.

10 Reasons Ireland Rules for Family Vacations

Ireland is a wonderland for family travel. The warmth of the Irish people and the county’s well established tourist infrastructure make it an inviting and accessible place even for novice travelers. The left-side driving is the only challenging part, but the freedom and spontaneity a rental car allows make it essential. Off-road Ireland is where the adventures begin!

My son Robin will remember this vacation for the rest of his life. Here are 10 reasons you should consider taking a family vacation in Ireland.

1. Happy dining

Bangers and Mash …and peas, and bacon. Bread and butter. Chips. Crisps. Baked beans. There are simple pleasures on kids’ menus throughout this fair green land. And the omni-present Early Bird dinner means mom and dad can dine in some of the cities’ best restaurants before 7 pm and enjoy two course for under 25 euro. Dinner is served from 5pm onward, and many places remain open serving food between lunch and dinner. We found kids’ menus in some of Dublin’s most sophisticated restaurants.

2. Family pricing   

All the major sites we visited in 5 different counties had family discounts. For a couple euro more than the cost of 2 adults, a family of four can enter, whether at the Rock of Cashel or the cathedrals of Dublin and Kilkenny. Under 6 is usually free. And the major museums of Dublin are free, so you can duck in for short visits and leave as soon as the kids start whining. And in terms of airfare, flights to Dublin and Shannon are among Europe’s lowest in cost, especially if you can plan for very early June.

3. Endless green

Parks, fields, and open greens — for kicking a soccer (foot) ball or tossing a foot (rugby) ball. Or hurling, I suppose …if you’re into that kinda thing.  (I wouldn’t trust my son with a large stick, and those pro players make our hockey players look like wusses.) Whether it is in a Dublin park, on a castle green like the lush acreage of Kilkenny Castle, or in the wilderness of Country Kerry, there’s open space that invites you to run around and be free. Hiking trails through moss-covered thickets. Rolling hills to roll down. (Robin rolled down the high slopes of the Rock of Cashel for almost an hour; we’ll visit the Hill of Tara next trip to do the same.)

4. Kid-friendly pubs
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Drink with yours kids. The locals don’t mind and won’t judge you. In fact, they will likely hand you a kids’ menu. Pubs are family friendly before 8 or 9 at night. Guidelines vary a little based on place or season, but pubs are a multi-generational affair. So grab a pint, and a half pint of milk. Did I mention the bar games? Go off peak for extended play time at the ring toss (above).

5. Irish music
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Whether you are tutoring your child on the importance of early U2 or taking in an early evening trad (traditional music) session in a pub, music is everywhere. Stomp your feet. Clap your hands. Use your bodhran, a traditional drum used in folk music. You can pick up a decent one for 13 euro, and any local who sees your child holding one will warm to you immediately and may even offer a lesson. It seems the school kids here learn to play them, at least in the southwest of Ireland. The little drum is great and travels well. But under no circumstances should you buy your child a tin whistle. Seriously. They should tuck a set of earplugs into the box it comes in, wrapped in the sheet music for “Oh Danny Boy.”

6. Irish television

Turn on the tellie and make new friends. Peppa the Pig (though we think she’s British) is a favorite of ours. Better yet, listen in as your old buddy Dora is dubbed into Gaelic. Seriously. Dinosaur Train airs in Gaelic too! It’s just exotic enough to stretch a young mind.

7. Farm life 

I’m talking sheep. On the road. Cows up close. Goats sneaking up to the fence behind you, their MAAAAAAAAW so loud it makes you jump. Free range happy cows and hay baling. Tractors everywhere and farm pastures as far as the eye can see. In County Kerry there are places like Kissane Sheep Farm, Molly Gallivan’s, and the historic farmstead at Muckross House where kids can see it all up close. Explore the farmers’ markets and sample cheeses. Better yet, stay on a farm like we did. This is where food comes from, kids!

8. Everyone speaks English

It is so easy to get what you want and need, and the people here are generally so warm and accommodating. Your children can easily befriend the local kids at the playground and you can chat up their parents. The Gaelic signs keep it interesting, but it is really nice to be able to talk to everyone you meet, ask questions and make friends. Talking to the locals is one of the best ways to understand Ireland and discover its hidden gems, and it can get you out of a pickle quickly. Don’t be shy!

9. Fairies
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Yes, they are real. See this proof? Ireland has a sizable community of fairies and leprechauns. Evidence of their existence is everywhere, if you open your eyes and look. We recommend starting your search in the mossiest part of the forest, where the ferns grow tall. If you don’t succeed, have your child ask an elderly person. They are eager to tell your kids all about them and just as eager to hear reports of your sightings. They must remember a time when the fairies roamed free.

10. Each day ends like this… 

A creamy stout poured from a nitro can. And yes, those are wool slippers that are 76% more comfortable than the Uggs in your closet. Cozy cozy. The sun sets much later this far north, so days are longer and you can grab a little R & R outdoors after bedtime in summer. In cooler months you can just chill by the fire. This is me on a rainy June evening, when outdoor temps dipped and the sun didn’t set until 10pm, leaving us a nice long and quiet evening to enjoy while Robin slept upstairs.

Cheers!