TRAVERSE CITY -- When fall rolls around this year, Judith Lindenau won't be behind her desk as usual.
Instead she'll embark on an adventurous new life that will take her around the world -- from business consulting in Bosnia and the Republic of Georgia to relaxing at her remodeled fisherman's cottage in the Bahamas.
"For me, fall always has been a time of renewal in some respects," said Lindenau, 67, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors. "One, you get so tied to your kids and it's the end of your intense caretaking season of summer when you say, 'Ah, my time is my own,' and you do a little project for yourself to celebrate. Two, it's a seasonal time. Before I sat behind a desk, I spent most of my days gathering, fermenting, canning and basically replenishing all those necessary things (to get through winter)."
This fall will mark a complete rebirth, Lindenau said. On Sept. 30 she'll retire from her job of 29 years and "reinvent" herself as a consultant with the International Real Property Foundation, where she'll help economically developing countries set up real estate brokers associations. She'll also serve as executive director of the Commercial Board of Realtors of Michigan's annual conference.
To help prepare for the big changes ahead -- and to head off a potential personal crisis -- she works with a life coach up to three or four times a month.
"I'm really liking having this person," she said. "She's a friend, but she's not one of those friends who buys into whatever I decide to do. She's one of those people who stands back and says, 'Hmm, maybe there's a better way to do it.'"
Just as a new school year means a fresh start for millions of students, fall is a time of change, reflection and renewed focus for millions of others.
For certified life coach Debby Werthmann, it's one of the busiest times of the year.
"September is almost like January with the New Year's resolutions," said Werthmann, who trained with Dr. Martha Beck, a leading life coach and a columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine. "It was always the time of year when we went back to school as children and it's still in our cellular."
Using techniques to turn around negative beliefs, Werthmann offers short- and long-term coaching to help people deal with tough issues or find deeper meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
"If you're feeling a little bit stuck and you want to get a new perspective, that's what I do," she said. "It's nudging you, getting you unstuck, making you a road map and getting you running."
For Kathy Cline, fall is a time to stop and smell the ... grapes. The Traverse City business owner and recent area transplant is making time for wine appreciation and other enrichment classes at Northwestern Michigan College.
"I've always wanted to take that," said Cline, 55, who also registered for classes in wool rug hooking and bookkeeping. "I just think it would be fun. I've always liked wine and I'd liked to learn more about it. My best friend lives in Washington, D.C.; she's all about wine. It would be nice to have a conversation about it with her."
More people commit to community and continuing education in the fall than at any other time of year, said NMC Extended Education Director Carol Evans -- as evidenced by last fall's record enrollment of 3,320.
"I actually think it's stronger than the New Year's thing," Evans said. "We put a lot of emphasis on fall offerings, even just on promoting that idea of tapping in, getting started, doing something you've always wanted to do. My personal theory is that we grow up in the fall as little kids getting our crayons and ruler. We're more ready to go back to school. We're conditioned."
Autumn is as popular a time for professional development as it is for personal enrichment, she said.
"Again, it's that idea of a fresh start: 'I'm going to learn those skills, I'm going to (master) the computer, I'm going to take that public speaking class,'" she said.
This fall, NMC will offer more than 300 "Learn for Life" courses ranging from music appreciation and classical Greek to recreational tree climbing. Among those filling the fastest is the first-time offering "Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss," Evans said.
That doesn't surprise fitness experts like Carla Nickodemus, who says fall is the second busiest time after New Year's for people to resolve to get into shape.
"I know even from when I was in the industry before that health clubs would depend on that trend," said Nickodemus, a certified personal trainer and former athletic club director who recently went back to work after a seven-year hiatus. "We would run back-to-school specials."
Nickodemus has her own theory about the fall fitness trend.
"During the summer, families would want to leave all of their weekends and evenings open for other things," she said. "But in the fall, people are getting their schedules in place, people start solidifying their plans. And people have more time because their kids are in school."
That's the case with client Cherie Hitchens, who runs and cycles around her children's schedules.
Although Hitchens exercises year-round, she said she'll have more time to devote to her workouts now that the kids -- Molly, 7, Sophie, 6, and Jack, 4 -- are back in school.
"School could have started two weeks ago," she said before the Labor Day weekend. "The kids are ready. They're antsy, they're fighting, they're getting bored no matter how much we do."
For John Haskin, fall is a time for reflection. The licensed clinical psychologist says the season is an impetus for examining both his long- and short-range goals and objectives.
"I do use that as a time of change and a time of looking where I've been and where I'm going," said Haskin, a retired education and mental health expert with a part-time private practice.
While many people seem compelled to make a fresh start in the fall, Haskin doesn't believe the behavior is innate, as it is in nature -- think birds and their migration.
"We see it happening, but I don't know that there's any internal clock," he said.
Whatever the reason, Lindenau is excited about her impending life changes.
"I'm a bundle of enthusiasm about it all," she said.