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BossWoman eNews – August 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives

Welcome to the August 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and professionals.

Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a difference. If you are on this list you have been a client, an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Endless Vacationing
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. Endless Vacationing
“What did you do on summer vacation?” Do you remember the dreaded annual essay when you went back to school? This year I’m worried that I don’t have anything to write about. We didn’t go on a summer vacation this year and I am missing it. We are delaying our gratification for a very good reason. Our theme for 2005 is “The Year of the House” and we have paint cans and ladders all around us as I write this. While I am glad we are finally making up for 30 years of home owner neglect, I am still feeling nostalgic about the benefits of a good vacation.

It occurred to me that I can experience the benefits of a good vacation even when I don’t have the opportunity to travel. If you are intentional about extending those benefits you can enjoy them year around.

Benefit #1: Renewal
When I was growing up Catholic in Chicago, I made an annual retreat at a retreat house in the city near Lake Michigan. It was a very different pace and environment than riding bikes and catching up on summer novels. After a week of eating institutional food even Mom’s boring meatloaf seemed tasty. Although I knew I did not have a vocation to life in the convent, the discipline of meditation and silence as served me well in my adult spiritual life and led to lifelong habits of staying grounded in spite of what is going on around me. What kind of disciplines or practices ground you and provide a respite from the “noise” and busyness of your life?

Benefit #2: Change of Pace
When I listened to the essays of the other kids about their summer vacations, I noticed that their families sometimes seemed to be confused about the purpose of their vacations. Some families said they needed to relax but then they picked vacations with strenuous sightseeing schedules while others said they wanted to “get away from it all and see something new” only to go back to places they had been before. They did not seem to be clear about their intentions.

Vacations provide a break in routine and a contrast to your normal place and pace. On vacation you can try out new seasons and lifestyles without packing up a moving van. You can go to the beach if you live in the mountains or to the country if you live in the city. You can try out either activities that are more stimulating than your regular life if you have somewhat bored with your routine or activities that are more relaxing if your life is already too stimulating.

Our brains are wired to notice a change in stimulation, so when planning a vacation, ask yourself which pace would provide same change from your normal pace. Only the contrast of pace will give you a sense of renewal. Otherwise, it is the “same ole, same ole.” You might as well stay home and save money.

Vacations have the potential to rebalance your brain and nervous system but only if they meet your needs for a change of pace. For example, if you are feeling stale, vacations allow you to explore a new corner of the world or your region. A good vacation offers opportunities to take risks, see new sights, and have some adventure. In the last three summers we have explored the Caribbean, Alaska, and the mountains of Colorado. We enjoyed getting away from our routine, seeing new things, meeting new people, and refreshing our brains with a new perspective. In lieu of a vacation this year, we are still using our summer to explore new things including designing a new look to our old rundown house. We are also taking some day trips like one to the newly opened National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. where the art was spectacular and the history dramatic.

Did your vacation satisfy your need for excitement? Was it enough to refresh your brain or can you renew yourself in small inexpensive doses in your own community? Have you been to your local tourist attractions lately to see what your town is famous for? Have you explored new activities that are available in your area?

For some people, whose normal lives are already too adventurous, the familiar is a better vacation plan. Sometimes a vacation is a time to reconnect with memories and past good times. Many families in my Maryland suburb, go to Ocean City, MD for their summer vacation. Why? Because they have always gone there. Their families have gone “Downy Ocean” for generations before them. These folks like the opposite of exploration, they like comfort and familiarity. Listening to those grade school essays, I learned that many families didn’t like to explore new, exotic lands like my family. One summer we went to exotic Ohio where my father’s father came from and another year we toured exotic Ontario, Canada were the people talked very exotically, asking us if we were “on holiday.”

Instead of exotic destinations, many of my friends went on vacation to Wisconsin Dells, the old, tried and true family place. If you asked them on the last day of school what they were doing on vacation, they would answer, “Nothing much, just the Dells.” Sure enough every September when we came back to school we heard essays about the comforting old rock formations, unchanged since prehistoric millennia. The biggest excitement at the Dells was a ride on the amphibious Duck vehicles left over from the War and now pressed into civilian service carrying tourists along land to the final exciting plunge into the water.

Maybe this is a year when you don’t need a lot of stimulation. Maybe the year was too frantic and busy already and you need peace and quiet instead of a visit to an exotic place. Even if you vacationed in a quiet place, maybe you still need to balance your busyness with a slower pace. What can you do to find that slower pace to relax? Maybe you just want to sit in your own backyard listening to relaxing music or sign up for a relaxing yoga class or take a slow stroll in a nature preserve in your community.

Benefit # 3: Challenges of the Mind
Summer vacation might present opportunities to learn new things. In childhood you might have had a camp experience with the Girl Scouts learning outdoor skills such as pitching a tent and starting a camp fire that you did not normally use in your everyday life. Or maybe you had a change of scenery and skills like my husband and his brothers who went to visit with an uncle and his family on their farm. The boys learned about animals and crops and farm machinery – lessons very different from their city summer activities such as riding a bike or playing baseball.

Summertime can be a great time to learn a new skill. In my childhood summers when we didn’t go to exotic places, my parents used my father’s vacation time to fix up the house. My parents had lots of the “Year of the House.” Because all my friends were at the Dells, I felt somewhat lonely and deprived of peer interaction except that I got a special privilege. I got to follow my dad around the house handling him different size tool bits and various screw drivers with individual names. One summer, we laid down a hardwood floor in the brand new upstairs level of our house that previously only had a storage attic. After we finished the floor, my father taught me the basic box step from the waltz. Suddenly I was transformed from a carpenter’s helper to a princess dancing with her father, the king, at a ball in the castle. That summer, not only did I learn a lot about remodeling but I discovered a lifelong passion for ballroom dancing.

During a couple of high school summers when my parents were having a “Year of the House,” I went to summer school at a near-by public high school to learn typing and shorthand. These summers represented a compromise with my mother who thought those skills were essential to “have something to fall back on in case something happens to your husband who is obligated to support you until he dies and then he should have good insurance to provide for you, but just in case he doesn’t you can get an office job which is good work because it is clean.” I never asked what work was dirty but I thought it might be more interesting than office work. During the school year, I fought to take college prep courses at my Catholic high school so that I could aim for a college degree to fall back on in case I was ever in the situation with the dead husband and “not enough insurance to provide for me” and I needed to find a clean job. So in the summer, I sweated my way through typing and shorthand drills in non-air conditioned classrooms.

The courses were a cultural experience as well. I was attending class with kids who were repeating courses they couldn’t pass during the year, a whole different crowd than my fellow college-prep course students. I also got to wear real clothes to summer school instead of my Catholic girls’ school uniform consisting of a brown burlap jumper over a beige blouse with puffed sleeves.

Is this a time in your life when you need to grow a few brain cells? There are vacation experiences designed to teach you skills. A few examples:

  • Emersion courses in Spanish by living in Mexico with a family. Offered by your local colleges.
  • Elderhostel for people over 50 with lots of courses often on college campuses.
  • Special educational tours by groups such as the Smithsonian Institute.
  • Cruise lines offer courses. Consult the major brands for educational programs.
Are there courses in skills you have been meaning to acquire? Are there some skills you would like to strengthen?

Summer can also be a more relaxed time to catch up with books that can expose you to new ideas. I try to read at least one book a summer that is outside my field of expertise. Currently on my nightstand are two books on spirituality and one on finance. Have you read nay good books lately?

Benefit #4: Time for Family Connections
Vacations are often good times to reconnect with family and extended family. Sometimes with the busyness of every day life, we don’t have time to connect with our intimates. In our family we have often added bits of vacation experiences to our family folk lore that never would have happened if we hadn’t traveled together. On one trip, I was having a particularly tough time reading a map and making it correspond to the real life roads. As I was telling my husband to “turn this way, no, that way,” our 2 year old daughter piped up from the back seat, “Daddy go wrong way again?” To this day, whenever we are unsure of directions while traveling, we say, “Daddy go wrong way again?”

What catching up with your family do you need to do? Have you considered what experiences and memories you want to create for yourself and those close to you? Do you want to reconnect with friends and family that you have not seen in a long time – maybe people that your children have heard about but never met? You probably take a lot of photos but do you get those photos out between trips to relive the fun times?

Here are some tips to make the new memories good ones.

  • Make the activities child friendly. Traveling with children requires adults who are willing to make sacrifices. If you want a vacation with elegant restaurants and spas, do that as a separate treat for yourself and your spouse or close friend. When you travel with the kids, stop at the brand name family restaurants where the kids don’t have a long wait and don’t have to be super quiet but get a chance to practice “restaurant manners.” Consider packing up sub sandwiches and having a picnic in a park as an alternative to spending time indoors on those precious vacation days.
  • Have small news toys and books for car and air travel. I am shocked at how parents go places with their children with nothing to occupy those little minds and hands. Apparently they never heard the one about “idleness is the devil’s workshop” and then they are surprised when the children act up.
  • Let your children have a voice in the plans and they won’t make so many demands. Offer small children two options such as, “Would you like to go to this park or that one?” Predetermine that all the options are ok with you and the other adult(s).
  • For school age kids, help them put together a little album of pictures and comments on each place visited. I still have my travel journal from the Canadian trip. I pasted in matchbooks from each restaurant we ate in and catalogued the menu and activities. It is still great fun to read the vacation viewpoint of a ten year old: successful vacations are determined by what one eats and whether the motel has a pool.
Here are some tips for traveling successfully with other adults:
  • Have some conversations before you leave home to determine what needs the trips will fulfill and how that will happen.
  • Clarify expectations about the pace and the rhythm of the trip. I learned this lesson from one of my couple clients who had a disastrous trip to Florida. She expected to sit on the beach catching up on all the New York Times best sellers while he expected to visit every relative and college friend within a 500 mile radius. Every morning started with a fight and ended with them not talking with each other.
  • Clarify the roles as well. Who is doing the most driving? Who will do the navigating? Who is responsible for the children, the cooking? Who is throwing the towels into the wash in the condo?
  • Ask everyone, including children what would make the vacation the best ever? What would be the one thing that would matter? Don’t promise in advance that all can be done, just that the desires will be taken into consideration. Even three year olds can express preferences about swimming in the pool or going to the beach.
And the best suggestion ever for making memories is to actually make memories by asking everyone what their favorite part of the vacation was. This exercise stamps in memories by requiring everyone to reflect on their activities before reentry into the real world. In our family we practice this exercise year round. Consider asking family members the best part of a regular day, not necessarily one on vacation. Not only does it solidify the memory and integration of each day’s activities but it also fosters a spirit of appreciation. And when it comes time to write about, “What I did with my summer vacation,” everyone will have more to write about.

Extend the satisfaction of your summer vacation in activities throughout the year that help you renew your sense of balance.

Happy vacation time,
Susan Robison

2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

3. Up and coming workshops
I am currently booking workshops for the fall and winter. Contact me if your group needs a speaker on the topics listed above.

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BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2005 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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