From the Publisher
Taking a Sabbatical
About this time last year, I decided to approach “this summer” differently. Instead of taking a major vacation – one that would be draining both physically and financially – I would take a sabbatical.
I’ve always believed “life is too short to live it with regrets” and “if given chances we should take them.” It’s been easy to apply these mantras to my work. I’ve taken risks, done my own thing and said ‘yes’ to opportunities when they presented themselves. And, doing so, has served me well.
But, sadly, I’ve not always applied the “life is short” philosophy to my personal life. Devoting dedicated blocks of time to be with friends and family or enjoy one’s own interests is difficult.
There’s always something going on in this big city, and requests for media coverage are constant. Often times, my saying “yes” to requests is saying “no” to me! Too easily I feel like an observer of life, instead of an active participant. When this happens, I get annoyed easily and become downright crabby. My half-full glass of joy starts to look empty. Not good!
So, this June, I’m taking a four-week, micro-sabbatical. I will relax a bit, see friends I don’t see often enough and do fun things I never seem to squeeze onto my calendar.
As I was preparing for my break from work, I did some research online. With the help of Google, I learned a lot. I found several good articles and blogs; all provided advice about how to prepare for a sabbatical, how long it should last, how best to use your time away. One blog post, entitled “100 Things to Do on Your Business Sabbatical,” caught my eye. The author, Jamison White, listed things like this:
• Circuit Iceland by car.
• Learn to walk on fire.
• Kayak the Pacific Ocean.
• Track puma in Argentina.
• Climb the highest peaks in the U.S.
• Live and work on a coffee farm in Guatemala.
• Attend a triathlon training camp.
I thought, “He’s got to be kidding! If I tried to do any one of these things, I woudl need my head examined!” Right then, I made a list of my own. It includes:
• Go to the beach.
• Read for pleasure.
• Spend a rainy day in my PJs.
• Watch the Hallmark channel.
• Go swimming at my friend’s pool.
• Read for pleasure.
• Spend a cloudy day in my PJs.
• Watch HGTV.
• Return to the beach.
I will spare you the rest of my list. But, you must know; it was long and shamelessly void of challenge or ambition.
My online research confirmed what I already knew about sabbaticals; they are commonly taken by those in medicine and academia, but not so much by those in business. I learned, though, that things are changing. Some companies are now providing paid or partially paid sabbaticals for long-term employees. They contend a sabbatical rewards good work and eases burnout. It creates a kinder, gentler workforce. I love that!
So, inspired by the results of my Google search, I’m taking my first-ever sabbatical. I’m viewing it as research — the kind most needed by me.
From the Publisher
Working with student interns from the Communications Department at the University of Houston, as I am doing this semester, reminds me of the old adage, “You’re never too old to learn.”
The students come to Houston Woman Magazine to put into practice much of the knowledge they have acquired over the course of their college careers. At the same time, they look to me to help them perfect some of the skills not quite ready for prime time (that first job). As their mentor for 12 weeks, helping them do well when they take that all-important next step is a responsibility I enjoy — and take seriously.
Since most of the interns I work with are studying to be writers, many opportunities to write are provided here!
The interns write articles for our blog, Houston Woman Wire. So, posting to that blog is done more often each day.
The interns cover meetings. So, Houston Woman Magazine is able to say, “yes,” to more requests for coverage.
The interns do research and conduct interviews. So, each issue of our publication has more articles in it than if interns were not part of our team. Clearly, interns are crucial to Houston Woman Magazine being able to provide all the services it does.
I’ve been very lucky when it comes to interns. All have been good, hard-working young people, eager to learn and contribute as much as they can. And, despite the generation gap between them and me, all have been respectful of my time and my feedback. What they see and like, I think, are my passion for journalism and my sincere interest in what comes next for them.
I want interns to learn a lot while they are here. So, I do my best to teach and emphasize the things I view as most important.
Some of the “important” things are directly related to gathering facts and putting them down on paper. I want them to know the rules of the Associated Press Stylebook (which we follow here). I want them to know how to include the 5 W’s in paragraphs that are well constructed and easy to follow.
But, some of the “important” things have nothing at all to do with journalism. Instead, they deal with business basics — the things they need to know to keep that first job once they get it.
Often, they hear me say, “You must respect what others inspect.” Or, another favorite of mine, “You must manage what others measure.”
I remind them often that these comments apply to so many things in business. Like getting to work on time, every day. Like getting the assignments completed when due. Like knowing when not to call a client’s cell phone number. Like knowing when not to send a text (instead of making a call or sending an email).
I tell them, “If you heed this advice, you will be the favorite of every boss you ever have — including me!”
I get into all this because I’ve learned not to assume anything. Not all student interns have been exposed previously to a business environment, and some just don’t know what they don’t know. Mentors need to teach these kinds of lessons, as well.
Make no mistake, working with college interns is a learning experience for me too, and that’s an added bonus.
From them, I’ve learned a lot about pop culture, trends in fashion, the best music to download on my iPod and the most helpful apps to install on my iPad. I’ve learned about how they think politically and how they’d like to change the world. I’ve learned not all 20-somethings see and do things exactly the same way.
Over the years, interns have taught me a lot, and some things I've learned have been really important. For example, making general statements about those of a certain generation (as some are prone to do) is just not wise.
It’s something I will always remember!
From the Publisher
As a young girl I loved to play card games with my friends and family. I was a fierce competitor and, admittedly, beating other players was always the goal. One of my favorite games was Crazy Eights.
I hadn’t thought about this childhood pastime in a very long time until recently — when I was talking to a new subscriber (and fellow business owner) about the launch of Houston Woman Magazine.
I commented, “The magazine’s first issue came out in early 2004. Time has passed so quickly. It’s hard to believe the magazine is eight years old!”
She smiled (knowingly) and asked, “So, what’s it been like to watch your ‘baby’ grow?”
Without hesitation, I said, “Crazy! It’s been a crazy eight!”
Since that conversation, the words, Crazy Eight, have taken up permanent residence in my head, reminding me just how aptly the words describe the past 96 adventure-filled months. When Houston Woman Magazine started, I had been a publishing entrepreneur for nearly 20 years. I knew launching a magazine would be tough and full of unexpected challenges. But, little did I know in 2004 how the scope of work would expand and evolve!
The cliché, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” comes to mind.
I thank God often for giving me the passion and skills to do my job but not a crystal ball to see too far into the future. Too much information could have been a bad thing; it might have smothered my ambition and kept me from taking bold steps in a new direction!
I had expected to work hard – to attract advertisers who wanted to reach my niche market (successful Houston women) and to attract readers who wanted to stay informed, inspired and connected. What I didn’t expect were all the projects we would take on to broaden the scope of our mission.
The first of these projects was the creation of the Nominate HER Awards Program in 2006, designed to Honor Excellent Role Models in our community. Over the span of the past six years, we have presented 37 HER Awards and shared with you just as many inspiring stories of service to others. In May, we will present eight more HER Awards at the Sixth Annual HER Awards Luncheon and, again, we will tell you all about the recipients in an upcoming issue.
In 2008, we began recognizing Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women of the Year. We asked our subscribers to help us identify those who should be acknowledged, and they did. Now, five years later, being named to this list, featured in our special “50 Women” issue and honored at an exclusive Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis Hotel have become treasured experiences for many.
In January 2009, we formed the Houston Woman Business Book Club to — once again — inform, inspire and connect successful women. That group has been meeting monthly ever since. And, to date, nearly 30 best-selling business books have been read and discussed.
In April 2009, we launched the First Annual Houston Woman Business Directory to encourage women to do business with other women. The fourth annual edition of that directory is in the works now, with distribution planned for mid-June.
Somewhere along the line, we started hosting networking events, blogging, making friends on Facebook and posting updates and content on Twitter.
As I told that new subscriber, ‘It’s been a crazy eight.”
I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
From The Publisher
It’s that time of year again, and I am multitasking like crazy. Trying to keep up with all my responsibilities at work and the expectations of others at home is more challenging than ever. It is also, I might add, totally exhausting!
I’ve come to the confusion, though, that “making merry” is key. Even at places you’d rather not be!
For example, it’s difficult for me to leave the comforts of home during the holiday season to drive over to the office – just to get on the phone or on the computer. Often, I tell myself, “I can do both from home and accomplish just as much.”
Then, I rationalize some more. “When I work from home I’m able to spend more time enjoying the Christmas tree in the living room or my collection of hand-carved nutcrackers in the kitchen. Simple pleasures, for sure, but special ones right now.”
So, to force myself to venture out in the mornings, I had to “make merry” at work too. I put a festive holiday wreath on the office door, a giant poinsettia plant in one corner and wrote “Happy Holidays” in bright red letters on the marker board. As holiday cards come in, I’ve put them out on window ledges to remind me how many friends I’ve made via the business.
Then, as an added enticement, I loaded up the office’s mini-fridge with lots of holiday beverages and goodies to lure me in. Also, on my desk is a Santa-shaped bowl, filled with my favorite chocolates — all wrapped in shiny red and green and silver foil papers.
Often, when I am at home, I think of those chocolates and am motivated to drive on over to the office just to eat a few.
A friend of mine has a job that requires her to be in her mini van much of the day — driving to and from client appointments all around town. She admitted to me recently that she faces the same challenge I do.
She said, “I love the holidays. I just want to be home, listen to Christmas music, bake cookies and wrap presents. Being in my van so much made me feel like I was missing out on too much of the holiday fun. So, I decided to do something about it.”
Naturally, I asked, “What did you do?
Instead of answering me, she walked me outside and pointed to her light brown van — now adorned with a bright red nose on top of its hood ornament and a pair of reindeer antlers sticking out of its front windows!
“Hey,” she said, “that’s not all I’ve done. I’ve turned the radio to a station that features uninterrupted holiday music all day long. So, wherever I go, I am able to enjoy this very special season. And, that alone, makes me merry. Very, very merry!”