Monthly Archives: March 2013

Book Making: What I Learned

If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know that yesterday was a monumental day for me.  One that I have been working towards for months and a significant milestone in my personal biography that won’t soon be forgotten.  I officially turned in Fermented to my publisher!

It was a rather easy process, although lengthy.  The manuscript took about 4 seconds to upload, but the 117 photos took over 5 hours, and even after all that I still had to manually upload a group of them one by one.  When it was all over, it was an enormous relief.  I was sitting on my couch, kitty nearby.  I was alone. All was quiet, it finished uploading, and that was it.  Months and months of hard work was sent through cyberspace into the hands of my publisher.

There are many steps to take between today and when it is available (August 6!), and I still have a lot of work to do, but the hardest part is done.  After it was finished uploading I sat for a moment and just thought about all that it took to get to that point.  I don’t know about others’ experiences, but for me book writing was very difficult.  These past several months have been grueling at times and more than any other experience I’ve had in my adult life, writing Fermented has been the most formative.

So, I’m going to share with you the reasons why.  I honestly don’t think these lessons I’ve learned are exclusive to writing a book.  I fact, I know they aren’t.  We all find ourselves faced with life altering circumstances, good and bad, and we learn from them.  I’m just listing what I’ve learned from all this and hoping that someone can relate.

You can do whatever you put your mind to – From the moment I was offered this book contract until I actually turned it in, I doubted my ability to complete the project.  Sometimes it was only a little sliver of doubt but in the first 3 or 4 months of writing and planning I made myself ill with doubt.  All I could think about was EVERYTHING I had to do before turning it in and I couldn’t figure out where I was going to find the time to do it all.  I doubted my ability to adequately research food fermentation.  I doubted my culinary skills.  I doubted my intelligence and my legitimacy.   Finally, around Thanksgiving, I told myself that I was on this book train, it was happening, people were counting on me to write it, and I had two choices: Write it, or don’t.  Really in my mind I had one choice and that was to suck it up and do it.  I re-purposed my doubt and turned my attitude around.  I was writing a book for heaven’s sake, not going to the electric chair!  From that point on, the words flowed more easily, the work didn’t seem like drudgery, and I started to really enjoy what was happening.  Obviously I finished it and I even turned it in early!  And these last several months of work were so much easier than the first several months because I believed I could do it.

Cut the static and noise out of your life – I had two sources of noise in my life.  The first was literal noise in the form of my next door neighbor’s seemingly always cranky baby and their yappy little dog.  The other was in the form of figurative noise – life drama!  How does that Internet meme go?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  If I wanted to complete this project, I had to find a way to focus on my job, focus on my goal, and focus on accomplishing something great.
To solve the first problem, I found the best website ever created, SimplyNoise.com.  No joke, I thank them in the acknowledgements of Fermented.  Everyday I’d crank up some pink noise and it was like that child and dog didn’t even exist.  Easy solution!  Highly recommended.
For the second, I had to do something that did not come naturally to me.  I had to put myself first.  It was very difficult to tell people no.  It was hard to say that I didn’t want to be a part of things.  It was awkward to just disappear from life.  It felt unnatural and cruel to tell people that I didn’t have time for their problems.  But if I wanted to accomplish my goal, I had to make my needs a priority above those of the people around me.  Call it selfish, but I call it necessary at times.
Many people understood and were quite supportive of what I had to do.  Others weren’t, but maybe it’s just because they weren’t getting the attention from me they once were.  I had to stop feeding the drama and participating in others’ ordeals to get this book finished.
Now that I’m on the other side of the project, I’ve vowed to return to my previous habits of putting others first; however, not blindly so.  These past several months of living in a drama-free zone have been quite nice and have lowered my tolerance for unnecessary static.  I’m definitely adopting that new attitude for the long haul.

It is very easy to let your healthy habits fall by the wayside – I’m not proud of it, but there were days when I was eyeball deep in writing when my lunch would be a few medjool dates and some coconut butter.  And maybe a chunk of a chocolate bar.  And some chocolate chips.  There were days when, out of necessity, I had to skip workouts and there were days when I had just had my fill of not being lazy so I’d make an excuse (“I worked SO HARD today and wrote a zillion words! I just want to veg on the couch!”) and not go.  It all happened so fast and so easily.  Many times, I’d have a chocolate chip lunch and not workout and I wouldn’t even feel guilty about it.  Just being honest.
I don’t have children to care for and my only full-time job during this whole book endeavor has been writing, so it isn’t even like I had to write it AND hold down a job to pay my bills.  But still, the healthy habits flew out the window with remarkable ease.  Frightening ease!  It made me truly realize how quickly one’s health can get away from you!
I’m not completely out of shape and I haven’t even grown out of my clothes, so the situation isn’t extreme, but I do have some ground to make up if I want to be the fit and ripped 40 year old I say I want to be by the end of this year.

Sleep is your friend – Seriously, if I learned nothing else from book making it is that I need to get more sleep.  I had some weird sleeping rhythms before the book, but throughout the past several months my sleep habits were stressed to the max.  BTB (before the book) I would fall asleep very easily and usually stay asleep until about 5:30 or 6, regardless if I had gone to sleep at 9 pm or 1 am.  I just woke up and would be awake for the rest of the day.  DTB (during the book) I would sometimes fall asleep quickly, but often not, and then I would wake up for 2 or 3 hours at a stretch, and THEN I’d still wake back up at 5:30 or 6.  This went on for months.  Sometimes I’d get up and work/write in the middle of the night, but more often I’d just flop around wishing to fall back to sleep. Sometimes I’d cruise Pinterest in hopes of lulling myself away to slumberland (I know! Electronics in the bedroom mean no sleep!  I was desperate!).  I have developed dark circles and bags under my eyes.  My skin is dull. I’m doughy and I don’t have much energy.  I know this sleeping mess contributed to my poor eating habits, which contributed to my poor sleeping, which contributed to my poor eating habits, which….. You’re seeing my pattern here.  I have a lot of napping and sleeping to do to get back to normal.  I feel so tired and I look so tired.  I’m ready to get back to sleeping!

Lean on the people you love and trust most – No matter what’s going on or how busy I am, I always make dinner.  However DTB there were a few weeks where I was preparing for photo shoots and writing where I didn’t even think about meal planning or cooking dinner.  Finally I told Dude that he was in charge of dinners for a while.  And you know what?  He was great at it.  Just one example of how I had to let go of some of the things that I regularly control and put them in the capable hands of someone trustworthy. I’m not Wonder Woman, and I had no time or interest in trying to “do it all”.  I knew when I had reached my capacity and then asked for help.

In the midst of a crazy period maintain as much normalcy as possible – Although things were often turned around for me and my schedule, I tried very hard to maintain normal working hours.  For the most part, I wrote Fermented on weekdays from 8 to 5.  Now, there were MANY weekends where I worked, and there were the aforementioned middle of the night sessions, but I still maintained my workday no matter what.  I had to keep myself on a schedule in order to maintain some regular life rhythm.  I’m a schedule and routine person and without that I’d be lost.  I couldn’t afford to keep crazy hours and possibly allow the wheels to fly off my momentum train. I needed the regularity.
The same goes for my workouts.  I wasn’t anywhere near perfect with it, but I still managed to start training for my upcoming half marathon, go to yoga, and catch an occasional CrossFit WOD here and there.

Taking a mental health day now and again is really worth it – There were days when the words just wouldn’t come.  There were days when the ideas just weren’t there.  When this happened, I mostly just pushed through it and kept working.  I just kept typing and revising and typing and revising until something materialized.  But there were two or three difficult days when I just didn’t work at all when the going got tough.  I watched TV, I napped, I went on a drive.  And then I started up again with fresh ideas.  I felt guilty at the time, but realized that the break was just what I needed.  For my readers who are runners, I thought of it as the Galloway Method of book writing.

Crying is good – I am really not a crying type of person.  My mom gets emotional very easily, mostly at good things, but I have never been that way.  Sure, I cry now and again like anyone else, but it’s rare.  Funerals, tragedies, immediately after meeting the Farriss brothers, etc.  The usual tear-worthy events.  During the writing of this book, however, I cried a lot.  Sometimes it was hysterical panicked “How am I ever going to do this?!” kind of crying, but most other times it was just a release of pent-up anxieties.  It felt so good to cry a little bit.  I recommend it.

So, there you have it.  Like I said above, these are the lessons I learned throughout my unique opportunity, but they certainly aren’t unique lessons.  We’ve all been tested and we’ve all had stressful experiences that have changed us for the better.  I’m curious to know what you have gone through and what you’ve learned.  For better or for worse!  Please share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

Oh, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Fermented A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods!  You now have an insight into what it took to make it, and putting it into the hands of eager readers who are interested in food fermentation will make it all worth it!  Thank you!

2013 Goals Project - February Review

2013 Goals Project

It is March already!  Can you believe that?  Here in Pittsburgh we’re not quite seeing much springtime weather.  Right now there is still snow on the ground.  I hope it is warming up wherever you are!

Here is what happened to the Goals Project participants in February!

Diane D.

Business Goals:
Book 16 weddings during 2013 – Since sending custom menus to four wedding prospects, I have had two meetings and one food tasting.  Deposits are pending.
Develop 30 new LadyFingers recipes and successfully implement them into 2013 events - Developed 15 new recipes and am actively proposing them to new customers.
Update and publicize all LadyFingers menus by June 1.  Update both online and print menus throughout 2013 as new recipes are developed (see above) - A complete hors d’oeuvre menu overhaul is complete on paper.  Will need to contact my web developer for an online update.  Food station and buffet menus still require work.
Update the LadyFingers website each month with portfolio and/or recipe entries - No updates in January or February.
Consistently maintain the LadyFingers Facebook page to remain current and relevant.  Increase viewership - Still posting but without a plan to ensure consistency.

Personal Goals:
(no change since January)
Re-commit to fitness using a method that will work on a consistent, life-style basis and keep a journal of progress and/or set-backs - Re-thinking this goal due to upcoming surgery
Increase vegetable garden production through improved efficiency - Re-thinking this goal due to upcoming surgery
Increase charitable efforts both personally and professionally - Am reviewing ways to donate my services to benefit the community, and also considering potential volunteer efforts in areas of literacy, neighborhood revitalization, and historic preservation.
Shed all superfluous items - Cleaning closets and sorting items (online sale, Spring garage sale, donation).  Cleaning Facebook page and unsubscribing from those whose posts are a constant annoyance.

Austin K.

Family goals:
Remember to help out with the more disagreeable chores (cat litter/bathroom cleaning) - Doing better, especially with the litter.
Go on a date at least once a month - Suze, my fiancee, planned a nice sushi picnic a couple of weeks ago which was awesome.

Fitness goals:
Complete 200 push ups a day - Haven’t missed a day since the last update.  I’ve calculated that I have done over 10,000 pushups since I started this goal (First day was Jan. 7th).
Complete 4 or more races of the 1/2 marathon, Olympic triathlon, long obstacle race, open water swim variety - Ran a half marathon in a couple of days here in Chico.  That was number one.  A couple of days ago I also joined the Chico Triathlon Club, which will hopefully plug me in to other like minded athletes and help me push my training.
Continue to workout in the A.M. before work at least 4 days a week - This is the first week I have failed to complete this task.  I got really sick on Monday, so I decided to sleep in and try and get better, especially with my 13 miler coming up in a couple of days.
Nutrition goals:
Sign up for CSA box (and utilize it) – Still haven’t done it.
Find at least 5 new healthy recipes that I enjoy and can cook easily - Still using the Men’s Health pancake recipe which I really like.  I also tried a paleo pancake recipe from Civilized Caveman, which was pretty good.  Have also made a couple of dry rubbed BBQ pork loins.
Continue using ‘myfitnesspal‘ app to document diet and exercise – I’ve logged in for 41 days in a row.  This has probably been the single greatest thing I’ve done in terms of my nutrition.  Using the app has really shed light on what I’ve been eating, how much I’ve been eating, and what is appropriate for me to eat on a daily basis.
Work goals:
Obtain high scores on yearly reviews – Had my second review for the school year.  Everything went well.  My administration is very happy with what I am doing with the music department.
Get superior ratings for my bands at festival - Festival is a week away.  I’m a little nervous as we still have a ways to go, but we are continuing to make progress.  A superior rating may be a little out of the band’s reach at this point.  Even if we don’t make it this year, I’ve seen enough progress to be optimistic about the future.
Brian R.
Get stronger!  I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in terms of overall fitness and working out on a regular basis.  I’m limited in what I can do with regards to strength work because my gym is not quite outfitted properly for this, but I think I’m creating a good basis for the rest of the year.
Finish things I write (and get them to a workshop or a publisher.)  Okay, so I haven’t finished anything this month, BUT I have started a new schedule for myself.  I decided that because I hate the idea and because it goes against everything I am comfortable with I’m going to start getting up 30 minutes earlier every morning (to start) and get some writing done before the day starts.  This has been tremendously successful in terms of my attitude about what I’m doing.  This comes from the notion that if everything you’re comfortable with doing isn’t making a change then it’s time to do something hard.  And it’s working.
Excel at my job.  I really feel like I’m on top of things, and all of the ups and downs of 2012 are starting to pay off.  By that I mean the fits and starts of trying different productivity tools and strategies have resulted in a few that are working to help me stay on top of what needs to be done and proactive about what I need to do in the future.  An important result of this should be a better balance of work / personal life so that I’m no longer angry and frustrated about work while I’m home with my wife.
Finish 36 books.  Three more books in February, although to be fair one of them I had a head start on.  I’m branching off into some non-fiction here, too, to keep things balanced.  This is really a blast, and I think it helps me keep my other goals in perspective.  I had in mind that it would be a matter of supporting my interest in writing, but it has in itself helped keep me focused on the notion of forward progress and, to be frank, not wasting time on things that don’t move me forward on some goal or another.
Matt C.
It’s been one year since I saw my picture in the paper and decided to get in better shape and build up some muscle. While I haven’t gotten a lot bigger in the past year, I know that I’m more fit and more healthy. I feel much more confident about myself and don’t feel embarrassed to go to the beach!Basketball season is starting to reach its conclusion. I was awarded the biggest game in Philadelphia and got to work on the biggest stage in from of nearly 10,000 people! The state tournament and the ultimate prize is hopefully on the horizon.
Bill R.
Weigh 230 or less by June 1 – My weight is down to 235 – gaining on my 230 goal.
Have perfect finger nails by June 1 – Eight of ten finger nails are looking good!!  I will put the push on growing out the other two in March!!
Run a 5k by October 2013 – I have decided my 5K goal is going to wait until after Suzanne’s wedding on June 1.
Exercise at least 3 times per week – I have been using the workout facility here in AZ regularly — have been meeting my 3 times per week goal regularly.
Floss at least 5 times per week – I am flossing at least 5 times a week.
Lori B.

Health and fitness goals:
Complete the Pittsburgh 1/2 marathon: feel strong for the entire race and finish with a better time than my first attempt in 2011. (goal of 2:20:00?) – Continuing to train with Fleet Feet and am really loving the program. Longest run so far is 8 miles on one of the snowiest and coldest Sundays we’ve had this winter. I consider that one a character builder! Running several times mid-week with a friend who’s also in the program and continuing long runs with the group on Sundays. Also signed up to run the 8.1 mile Just a Short Run in North Park at the end of March as part of the training program. Looking forward to doing that as tempo run to see how it goes.

Drop 20-30 lbs – Lost 4 more pounds this month!  Tough month, but a loss is a loss….I’ll take it.

Professional goals:
In pursuit of something new….not sure what I’m looking for, but plan to actively network and investigate new options this year to see what career avenues might be available. – Didn’t actively accomplish a lot on this one in February because I was too busy with work (go figure!)  I did register for an evening Networking event that will be held during the first week of March and have also identified a few areas where I could actually create an “opportunity” for myself.  This coming month will see a renewed focus on this area.

Professional Development….take some courses and find some avenues to increase my skills and/or keep up with changing technology and systems. – Signed up for two free Open Course Content classes via Coursera. Both have start dates TBD…one is via Wharton School of Business: “The Global Business of Sports”. The second is via Nortwestern Universtiy: “Content Strategies for Professionals: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization.  Also finding time to read the books I purchased in January on inbound marketing and social media.

Social and personal goals:
Make more time for regular connections w/friends. There are so many friends that I do not see or talk to regularly and I need to make time for that! – Reached out to a number of friends that I haven’t seen in awhile and everyone is eager to get together (thankfully!)  Have set a few lunch and happy hour dates for March and looking forward to fitting more social time into my life in the coming weeks.   Also took advantage of a last minute offer and free tickets to see Bon Jovi with a dear friend who I see often!

Expand my boundaries and add some”new”….new people, new experiences, new skills, new adventures! – I’m disappointed in myself — I think I was kind of boring in February!  Though I did accept an invitation to attend an information meeting about a new adventure that would take place in June….does that count?!

Jill C. (that’s me, yo!)
Turn in my fermentation book to my publisher on March 13 without too many book-related freakouts. – There are only six days until my deadline.  SIX DAYS!  It seems like I’ve been working on this book forever, and at the same time it seems like I just got the contract yesterday.  I feel like I am right on track to handily meet this goal.  In fact, it is a distinct possibility that I may turn it in early.  Don’t hold me to this yet, though!  All the photos are finished thanks to Bill Staley and Hayley Mason.  AND!  Ta-da!  Fermented is available on Amazon.com for pre-sale.
Complete the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 5 and beat my 2012 time – Due to the pressures and schedule of book making, February was a rough month for this.  I did run, but I faltered slightly from my three day per week training schedule.  I may have lost a little ground, but I’m certainly not back to square one.  I’m just going to keep moving and do my best.
Confidently turn 40 on November 19 – 257 days left in my 30s, and I’m feeling good.
Complete a home makeover – I feel like all the progress I made in January went right out the window in February.  I am embarrassed to say that my house is currently a disaster of piles of things that need to be put away.  I keep telling myself, “After the book is done……”  During the brief amount of down time I have between turning the book in and starting to work on edits, I plan to power wash and purge the place.
Become a more confident runner – Last month I wanted to do more CrossFit to help with my running goals. Well, it didn’t happen.  Again – the book!  Soon I’ll be starting fresh at a new CrossFit box and I know that doing so will help my running.  On other running confidence fronts, however, I got new running shoes and while I was at the shoe store I talked to a veteran runner, Gary, who let me know about a class they regularly hold on good running form.  I plan to attend one of these in the near future.
Have more in-person interactions with those I love most – I feel like I did well with this one.  I had lunch with my beautiful friend, Julie (who always looks like a model! I admire her style so much.) and I went to a birthday party my parents had for my brother.  There, I got to catch up with a lot of his very good friends who are also people I’ve known for years.  It was fun reminiscing about old times!
So, there you have it.  January is finished and we’re looking ahead!  There is still plenty of room for YOU to join us!  All you need to do is come up with your own list.  Here are some helpful hints and tricks to get you started.  Send me an email containing your list and you’re good to go.