Category Archives: Motivation

The Hard Way

Happy new year, friends.  I don’t know about you, but I have a good feeling about 2014.  2013 will be hard to top, but for whatever reason I feel more energized and determined this year than I have in years past.  I’m going with the feeling…
So, what’s been happening with me as of late?  Well, as of my last content (not giveaway) post I have been just taking a page from Frank Sinatra’s book (or Sid Vicious, if that suits your fancy more than Old Blue Eyes) and doing it my way.  The holidays have come and gone and this year my family had a much more subdued celebration than usual.  Truth be told, I appreciated it even more.  I love my extended family, but the quiet, slow-paced days from Christmas Eve until yesterday were great.
Unlike in year’s past, I’m going to to do a Goals Project and I’m not going to make a list of resolutions.  Instead, I’m going to stick with my previously mentioned theme of doing things at my pace and in my way.  And this, of course, got me to thinking.  Let me tell you a little story….
A few days after Christmas I was cruising Facebook and there was a status update from a casual friend of mine.  She’s a great person, mom of three little ones, full-time job, and I’m sure very very busy from day to day.  She made some apologies before Christmas about not sending cards out.  Now, my opinion on holiday cards is this: If you send them, great. If you don’t send them, great.  Either way, own it.  Personally I do send cards.
So anyway, this status update was asking for recommendations for Christmas card services that will print the cards, envelopes, apply postage, and mail them for you.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed.  I’m not surprised that it does, but I hadn’t ever heard of such a service.
In response to this post there were a bunch of recommendations and advice about putting all of her addresses into Excel, doing a mail merge, printing out labels, etc.  A few were bragging about how they did 250 cards in 20 minutes or something like that.
This bothered me.
Like I said above, it doesn’t matter to me if you send cards or not, but isn’t the reason we send cards at the holiday season because we want to stay in touch with those we care most about?  I didn’t think it was about just doing it to do it or to see what astronomical number of cards we can send to anyone we’ve ever met. I wrote a comment that encouraged my friend to just own the fact that with a full-time job and three little children who are all active in sports and activities she doesn’t have time for cards.  No shame in that!  Or if she really wants to send some cards to those closest to her, take the time to write out a few to those very special people.
Quality over quantity.
Sure it’s a bit more labor intensive to hand write holiday cards, envelopes, and manually apply stamps, but isn’t it so much more personal and meaningful than a pre-printed card and envelope that someone was proud to stuff in less than a few seconds or a machine mailed for them?
Well, I don’t know if she took my advice or listened to my opinions, but the whole incident gave me an idea for a theme for 2014.
I’m going to do things the hard way.
Think of how much more delicious and special and soulful everything is if it’s done with care and with effort.  Think of how much better a thoughtfully prepared meal is than manufactured junk from a fast food place.  Think of how much more meaningful a personalized letter or card is.  You wouldn’t quickly pan-fry a pork shoulder, would you?!  Low and slow, baby.
So if I can come up with a theme for the year, it’s that.  2014 is going to be about taking the time and effort to do things well.
I can’t wait to see what we all discover together in the coming months!  As usual, don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and on Pinterest.  I’m developing a difficult relationship with Facebook, but I’m still over there posting so don’t forget to mark First Comes Health with “Show in News Feed”!  That crazy Mark Zuckerburg doesn’t want you see my posts!  Boo.
Happy 2014!

Joy's Thief

They say that comparison is the thief of joy.  I am finding this to be soundly true these days.
So, I turned 40 a few weeks ago and as a vacation/birthday present/way to celebrate all things Fermented being done and out there, Dude and I went to Prague in the Czech Republic.  Simply put, it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  Positively gorgeous!  So much so that it seemed fake.  You know like that Disney-fake or Las Vegas-fake where everything is just a little too staged and perfect and pretty?  Well, Prague is the real deal.  My puny iPhone photos cannot even come close to doing it justice.
prague 1
I didn’t think it to be true, but I guess when you turn 40, you get a little introspective.  I thought I’d burst into my new decade with gusto!  Nope. I’m being a little more measured about my enthusiasm and consciously or unconsciously, I am finding myself taking stock of where I am in my life – what I’ve done, what I want to do, where I’m going, where I’ve been. All that.
prague 2
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
I’m should-ing all over myself. 
This is anything but a complaint, but it’s hard to be around people who do things so well.
I have friends and friends and friends and friends (and tons more!) who are great at what they do.  These people are fabulous cooks, health pioneers, photographers, bloggers, writers, and entrepreneurs who are actively doing things that change people’s lives.  And they’re doing it beautifully – both aesthetically and metaphorically speaking.
I am also friends with and associated with a really terrific group of people who, locally speaking, are performing very well in the gym or on the roads.
I am very very honored to be a part of a community of people who are on the cutting edge of interesting things.
Plus, my husband is a genius (literally) who is very accomplished at his job and loves it.
This is my way of saying that I feel the pressure to live up to the company I keep.  Don’t get me wrong, THIS IS DEFINITELY A GOOD THING.  That deserves all caps. I am not complaining that I exist in a circle of people who are smart, accomplished, beautiful, trendsetters.  It’s just that I haven’t exactly found my place amongst them yet.
I am finding it very difficult to reconcile who I am as a private person with who I am as a professional/athlete/friend.  I look at what these people are doing around me and I tell myself, “You SHOULD be doing that.”
You should be posting on your blog more.
You should be doing more fermenting.
You should be better at social media.
You should be taking better photographs.
You should post more recipes.
You should be out there winning your age group in all these races you run.
You should be deadlifting 225 pounds.
You should be on the New York Times bestsellers list.
You should be faster/stronger/smarter/(insert anything here).
You should be holding webinars.
You should be giving lectures.
You should be selling more books.
You should __________.
I’m not doing myself any favors.  In fact, the result of this rampant “should-ing” has been me pretty much dropping off the face of the Internet for a few weeks.  I did it to myself.  I have been comparing myself to those around me and it’s only made me upset with who I am.  It’s taken away from the joy I feel with who I’ve become, what I can do, what I’ve already accomplished, and my potential to do more.
So yeah, comparison IS the thief of joy.
I’ve lost the joy I feel when I am doing MY thing – health coaching, talking food, posting stuff here, interacting with you guys on Facebook and Instagram – because I’ve been preoccupied with comparing my success to others.
I’ve lost the joy to go out and run because I’m too busy telling myself that I should be faster like all those people I see in my running club.
I’ve become disinterested in CrossFit because I can’t walk on my hands across the gym and I can’t lift as much as the other (younger!) people there.
And now I’m a bit mad at myself for letting this sense of competition get in the way of my own happiness.  That’s not what life is about.  That’s not what I’M about.
So the should-ing stops today.  I’m going to do what I want to do, in my fashion, at my speed, at my weight.
I’ll be seeing you here on the blog and around my various social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram [my fave!], Twitter, Pinterest) but it will be at my speed and in my style.  I hope that works for you too.

prague 3(Here I am – 40 years old.)

Self Imposed Staycation

Hi everyone.
I owe you all an apology.  I’ve been falling down on my duties as blogger, teacher, and communicator. I just looked at this site for the first time in a while and it turns out I have neglected it and I’ve neglected YOU!  So so sorry.
During the past few weeks I’ve been sporadically busy and sporadically not busy.  I’ve been doing my best to do my best by Fermented.  I’ve been doing signings, book fairs, etc.  I officiated the wedding ceremony of my friends Hayley and Bill and I got to hang out with a bunch of the Paleo world superstars.
I’ve also been doing a bit of nothing.
It turns out, writing Fermented took it’s toll on me.  I’m not saying this for a whiny pity party woe-is-me-I-wrote-a-book kind of thing.  I’m telling you that my emotional health has suffered a bit.  It turns out a year of high anxiety, sleepless nights, wacky diet, worry, and anticipation will turn in to a bit of a crash when it’s all over.
Lately I’ve been getting up and feeling a sense of dread when I think about fermenting, Facebooking, Instagramming, blogging, etc.  So I decided not to do it for a week or two.  I mean, I have been around, but wasn’t doing anything I didn’t want to do for a few days.  And it was the right thing to do.
I used to scoff at people when they said things like “I NEEEEEEEEED a vacation!”  Who in the world NEEDS a vacation? I am eating those words now.  I needed a vacation. So I took a staycation.  Dude and I aren’t going anywhere for vacation for another few months so I decided to just to check out and watch The Office on Netflix and take a few naps.
And it was awesome.
So why am I telling you all this?  Because I think I owe it to you to be honest.  Nobody’s perfect and we all struggle.  Different things cause us all to check out and need a break from time to time.
Now I’m back and I have a few things planned.
First and foremost, is the long-ago promised giveaway for reaching 3000 Facebook fans.  That’s coming tomorrow.
Second is some regular recipe posting.  I have some good ideas coming up.
Third is more fermentation content.  I’m working on something really basic, easy, but extremely tasty.  Can’t wait to share.
So, that’s about all I have to report.  Thanks for understanding.  More soon. 🙂

Half Marathon 2013

(Before I get into this post, just a quick reminder that I’m giving away a copy of Gather: The Art of Paleo EntertainingClick here to find out how you can earn SIX chances to win!)
If you’ve been following me and this website at all for the last couple of years, then you know that running is my Moby Dick.  I should say that running confidently and well (and fast) is what always seems to elude me.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I’m terrible at it, but that’s why I want to do it.  It is uncomfortable, but I have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I am Ms. Slowpoke McGhee, but I have to challenge myself to keep going.
However, one of my goals for 2013 is to become a more confident runner.  Still my expectation is low.  I’m not talking about becoming one of these folks who casually rocks out 14 miles on a workday morning.  I just want to be someone who feels good running 4 or 5 miles at a time without stress or fretting.  I want to be able to feel good about going out for 45 minutes or so and running and feel great after I’m finished.  That’s all.  I have no desire to break records, nor am I under any illusion that I will ever win anything with my running skill.  I just want to get out there and move and not have it be a major stressful event where I’m in agony before, during, and after.
Last year when I ran the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon, I had some very difficult moments.  I went into the race not really knowing what to expect, I didn’t train properly or enough for it, and although I had a good time with it, it wasn’t exactly a shining moment of fitness for me.  I was proud of my (not-so-bragworthy) time of 2:46:33 because that was as well as I could do with what I had.  I told myself that I wasn’t going to do it again, that once was plenty and I should probably stick to shorter distances.
Then I hurt my ankle.
My doctor and physical therapist told me that I would probably be able to run again, but it would be a very very L-O-N-G time before I was back to normal – IF I could even get back to normal.  They were very candid about my ankle never being the same again.
So, here I am, NOT running, and all I can think about is how badly I want to run.  I would have dreams about it.  Just a month before I injured myself, I (kind of) swore off running.  Isn’t that the way it always goes?  You don’t want something, but the minute you are forbidden from having it, it becomes all you want.  Oh, Jill.  You’re so predictable!
September of last year rolls around and I’m finally back on my feet – running!  I ran a few 5Ks and they were really really slow.  But! I was doing it!  YAY!  Celebrate!
And then something happened.  I got swept up in the excitement of my fellow Steel City Road Runners Club members and I impulsively registered for the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT!  Is that the lamest thing you’ve ever heard?  I got all excited about the pretty significant discount I got on registration for being a member of the club and just did it. I even posted a photo of my registration on Instagram labeling it an impulse buy.  It totally was.
So, I was locked in to it.  I had mixed emotions about it after the fog of peer pressure dissipated.  Part of me was regretful.  Part of me was excited.  Part of me was dreading the training.  Part of me was excited about the challenge.  Part of me thought I acted too quickly and forgot about my ankle.  Part of me knew that my ankle was stronger each day and I’d be fine.
I immediately started training.  Casually at first, but then I kicked it up over the winter.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in Pittsburgh we had a really weird winter.  It lingered.  Temperatures were unusually frigid, there was a large amount of snow and rain, and it lasted much longer into the springtime months than normal.  This made for some frustrating training runs.  I got so sick and tired of running with 4 or 5 layers of clothing.  I was sick of being cold all the time.  I was starting to really second guess my judgement and kick myself for registering.
I was lucky to have a few different sources of support, however.  My friend Kelly and I started running together and that was terrific for me.  I had someone with whom I had to keep my running dates.  A small group of Pittsburgh area CrossFitters started a half marathon training group and I ran with them a few times.  They kept me accountable each week for long runs.
By this past Sunday, I was as ready as I was going to ever be.  I had run the training miles.  It wasn’t easy because of the weather, my ankle flared up a few times, and I am just painfully slow.  But, the work was in the books.

prerace(My pre-race selfie in my bathroom mirror.  Check out that snazzy First Comes Health shirt!)

I was nervous.  I knew what to expect, but I was afraid of the pain and the fatigue.  I didn’t know how my ankle would react.  Plus I was running it all alone.  Last year Dude and I stuck together the whole time. This year, I was out there all by myself.  Not really a big deal, but when you’re already nervous and anxious, the thought of doing something like this alone seemed quite daunting.
So!  The race!  Turns out, it was FANTASTIC!  I enjoyed almost every single minute of it.  There were times when I flagged a little bit, but I kept my thoughts focused on the goal of finishing.  There were moments when I kind of lost myself a bit, but a few deep breaths and a figurative kick in my own behind was all it took.

part of my cheer posse(A few members of my cheer posse!  Kelly, Ann, and my Dude)

Like last year, miles 8 through 10 were very tough.  I just wanted it to be over.  But breaking those miles down into little sections (Just get to the corner of Carson Street and Smithfield Street! or Run as fast as you can until you reach the block where Piper’s Pub is!) made them tick by like nothing.  There were even moments when I was whizzing past people and felt like I was flying.
Jill mid half marathon high fives

(Here I am at the halfway point high-fiving my cheer posse!)

By the end I felt really good.  There were a few moments when I had to walk for 10 or 15 steps just to regain a bit of my composure and reaffirm myself, but I crossed the finish in 2:35:47.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than last year.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than my pre-injury time!!!
I had a super secret goal of 2:30:00 or less and I didn’t tell a single person about it.  Obviously I didn’t make that, but I am really really excited and proud of how I did perform.  It may not be the most brag-worthy half marathon time, but for me, it’s everything.  I am really pumped up.
So, here are my final post-race reflections:

  • Don’t underestimate yourself – I do this all the damned time and I really need to cut it out.  Up until the moment the race started I doubted whether or not I could really do it.  But then the next thing I knew I was 5 miles in to it and I felt great.  Confidence, confidence, confidence.  Believe in yourself and trust in your own hard work.  This is what got me through the entire race.
  • I’m a real runner now – I wholeheartedly believe that no matter if you’re running your first 5K or your 20th ultra-marathon, you’re a runner. However, I just didn’t believe that for myself for some reason.  I don’t know what I thought I needed to accomplish before I could consider myself a true runner, but I just couldn’t allow myself to accept that title no matter how many races I’ve participated in.  But after this race, I feel like I’ve earned the right to really call myself a runner.
  • No more impulse buys – Sure, this one worked out for me, but I won’t get swept up in the madness again and register for any races without thinking about it first.  I don’t ever want to back down from a challenge, but there were times when I felt like I painted myself in to a corner with this race by spending the money on it before really thinking about it.
  • It is fantastic to have family and friends cheering you on – My Dude, my dad, my coaches from my CrossFit, and a whole gang of my friends were at the halfway point with signs and loud cheers for me.  I loved that!  It gave me something to look forward to and helped me shake off my nerves.  It also helped to know that another friend of mine, Ashley, was waiting between mile 9 and 10.  That’s where I really needed a high-five.  Seeing friendly and encouraging faces along the course really made my day.
  • Use visual cues to distract yourself when the going gets tough – You’ve heard it a million times (even from me!). Running is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one.  In order to overcome any self-doubting thoughts, I did everything I could to distract myself.  One of the tricks I picked up during my training was to plan to think of people or things each time you spot a predetermined object.  So, each time I saw someone wearing a running skirt, I thought of my friend Diane.  She wears them all the time!  I would see a woman in a running skirt (and I even did this with the few guys I saw in kilts) and spend then next several minutes thinking of my friend, how she would be cheering me on and encouraging me to stay strong.  I highly recommend this little technique.

final(Yay! I’m a Runner of Steel for the second time!)

So, there you have it.  2013 Pittsburgh (half) Marathon is in the books!  I’m really proud of my achievement, but I know I still have much work to do in order to keep improving.  My next running goal is to finish Pittsburgh’s Great Race 10K in late September at around 1 hour.  We’ll see.  I’m going to keep on running and I’ll keep you posted.

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,  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!

Am I Awesome Yet?

We are now well into 2013. How is it going for you so far?
Some of us have our goals established, written down, and we’re working on them.  If the 2013 Goals Project isn’t your thing, no worries, but I do hope that you have something you’d like to see happen over the next 12 months.
One of my goals is to become a more confident runner.  I’ve made no secret of this, and it was even on my 2012 list.  So, why haven’t I accomplished it yet?  I keep asking myself this same question.
During the last several months of 2012 I was very dedicated to running.  I was out there chasing the pavement all the time, and it felt great.  I mean, it was difficult for me still, but I could tell that I was improving.  Then the holidays came and I lost my mojo.
Now, I’m back to running regularly – three days per week – and I’ve added a new element to my training.  A running partner!
I used to hate running with other people.  I avoided it like the plague.  I joined the Steel City Road Runner’s Club and had every intention on going on their group runs, but I didn’t.  Partially because shortly after I joined I hurt my ankle, but I get self conscious when I have to run with others.  I am slow, I amble, and when I run with others, I feel like I’m holding them back.  Dude and I ran the 2012 half marathon together.  He is a much faster runner than I am, but we vowed to do it together.  I felt bad throughout the whole race and even told him to just leave me behind.  He didn’t, of course, but I felt weird.
So when my friend told me that she wanted to become a more confident runner too, I didn’t jump up right away and suggest we run together.  I thought about it for a few days and then just decided to go for it.  It turns out, we run at the same speed!
This makes me so happy!  Let me type that again – THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY!  (It deserves some caps action.)
So, we’ve been running together three days a week and I’m finding I’m getting back into my running groove.  It feels great!
There is a downside, however.  My own mental roadblock – lack of patience.
We are doing really well, and in the short time we’ve been doing this together, we have both regained some endurance we lost by slacking off over the holidays.  However, we’re both saying to ourselves, “Why aren’t we awesome yet?”
I have to keep reminding myself of all those corny cliches like “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.  It’s true.  I believe that.  I tell my clients this very thing!  In fact, a large part of my practice is based on this exact principle.  But it’s always more difficult to put it into practice than it is to say, right?
And then today started and my friend (and marathon runner) Shannon posted this article about patience on Facebook.  It is about yoga (another place where I need to be more patient), but I think the message translates really well to just about anything, workout related or not.
Yeah, patience IS a bitch.  I don’t have much of it.  I want to be a really good runner, like, today.  Or maybe even yesterday.  But it isn’t going to happen.  I have to be patient.  I lost some momentum over the holidays, but I’m picking it back up now and I have to earn each and every step.  I’m stronger than I was a week ago, and I’ll be stronger still a week from now.  But I have to work hard throughout that week or I won’t gain anything.
So, here are some patience building strategies I’m using to help myself become a better, more confident runner:
I’m zooming in – When I wrote the post about zooming in I talked mostly about ticking things off of my enormous to-do list, but it works for running too.  I’m not even thinking about the half marathon that’s coming up in May.  All I’m thinking about is my next run (tomorrow morning).  And when I’m in the midst of that run, all I’m thinking about it putting one foot in front of the other.  Stressing about the big picture isn’t helping me.  I’m zoomed in on what I’m doing NOW and that’s all.
Keep a log – I am actually keeping two logs these days.  One for my food, and one for my workouts.  It seems like a tedious exercise to keep a log of any kind, but it’s rewarding and motivating when you take a look back on a week or a month and look at all you’ve done.  When I see what I’m doing now compared to what I was doing a month ago, it is concrete proof that hard work is paying off and that makes me feel less impatient.
Stay accountable to friends – My running partner and I are supporting each other.  When I feel slow, she pushes me and I hope I do the same for her.  We’re reminding each other of how far we’ve come already.  Having someone to coach and motivate has been invaluable to me.  We aren’t in competition.  We’re just supporting each other.
half marathon shirt
Lighten up – Remind myself what you’re training for.  Am I trying to WIN this half marathon?  No.  I’m not even trying to earn an entry to the race.  I already signed up and paid.  I’m in.  Barring any kind of catastrophe, I’ll run the race.  So, why am I putting all this pressure on myself to be fantastic?  It’s unnecessary and I don’t need the stress.  I remind myself all the time to put this in to perspective.  Sure, I want to improve, but I don’t want to take the fun out of it and turn it into a chore by being impatient and cranky.
I don’t think I’m the only one who has set course on a goal accomplishing mission and is already asking myself “Why aren’t I awesome yet?”. Surely I am not the world’s most impatient person!  It’s your turn to share with me how impatient you are and what you’re doing to turn it around.  Leave me a comment here or on Facebook.

Zoom In


I don’t know about you, but right now I’m feeling quite overwhelmed.  We all seem to go through these phases where there is just so much on the calendar and so much to accomplish that it is almost painful to think about how everything will be accomplished, let alone how everything will be accomplished well.
For me, I’m juggling a few things right now.  Obviously, my first priority is my fermentation book.  It is the biggest undertaking of my entire life thus far, so obviously it is getting the majority of my attention.  I’ve never written a book before so everything is uncharted territory for me!  There are so many details to think about and so much work involved.  I’m loving it, but at the same time, I’m feeling the heat.
Beyond that I have my own goals to work on, a household to manage, a business to maintain.  I’m also a worrier so even though I’m not personally enduring a particular hardship, I do worry about my loved ones who are facing difficult times.  (I know I’m creating more stress for myself by doing that, but it’s just the way I am.  Working on it!)
Amongst all this hoopla, I am very fortunate to have some sane voices in my life.  Specifically Dude, my parents, and a few close friends.  I call them my own personal advisory board.  When I’m stymied over how to handle a troublesome situation, I go to them.  Often when I know I have to do something that is particularly painful and I just don’t want to do it, I go to them for the nudge in the right direction.  When I don’t want to face a harsh truth, they are the trusted people in my life who give me the straight dope.
Something that my advisory board has been giving me lately, is the advice to zoom in on all that is making me feel overwhelmed.  The reason I feel overwhelmed with everything going on is that I am looking at all of these things on my to-do list, all of the stressors, all of the things I’m worrying about, and I am trying to solve them all today and right now or five minutes ago.  Instead, this “zooming in” advice is telling me to focus on one thing at a time, one day at ta time, one moment at a time.
We’ve all heard the adage, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”  Yes.  Life is a marathon in so many ways, but even in a marathon nobody is running 26.2 right this very instant.  It is a prolonged task that is made up of one mile at a time and one foot in front of the other.
So that’s what I’m doing these days.  I’m zooming in.  I’m making lists and then I’m just choosing ONE thing on that list to focus on for this moment.  I’m going to do it well, and not worry about the rest of the list until it’s time.
I can get frazzled and frayed over ALL that I have to do before turning this book in.  I can get stressed out and lose sleep over buying a new house and moving.  I can get emotional about the new house deal falling apart.  None of this is serving me, however.  What’s the point?
Instead, I’m focusing on what I have to accomplish today, in this hour, at this moment.  The big picture is fine, but for now I’m zoomed in very tightly on today’s agenda and that’s all.
Now, it’s your turn to share your experiences.  Are you overwhelmed?  How do you manage everything when you’re feeling this way?  Who are your closest confidants and how do they help you when things get stressful?  Do you find that “zooming in” on one day or hour or moment at a time makes a colossal to-do list seem more manageable?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

My Auntie!

Remember a few months back when I told you about my Aunt Peg who was suddenly, without any warning at all, diagnosed with cancer?  Here’s an update and a lesson we ALL can learn from her.
I started off that post with a quote “What you think upon grows.”  It was so appropriate to start that post about my aunt getting cancer with that quote.  When she found out that she had cancer in her bones, in her breast, and in her liver she was terrified.  I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?  You feel OK one day, have some tests done the next day, and the doc drops a bomb on you that you have cancer all through your body?!  Come on.  It was an enormous shock.
But instead of taking that shock and rolling up in a ball and hoping for the best, Peg took it as a challenge.  She’s always been an athlete and a competitor, but she never face an opponent like cancer before.  So for her fight, she took out her biggest weapon and used it.
Positive thinking.
She started this campaign amongst everyone she knows to think 10 positive thoughts a day and have one of them be for her and her fight.  The other nine were to be positive thoughts for something or someone else, but ONE of each person’s daily good thought she asked for herself.
So we all did it.  Each day I’d get up and think my thoughts in the shower:
One for my Dude.
One for my kitty.
One for my parents.
One for my brothers.
One for my grandmas.
One for my sister-in-law.
One for my nephew.
One for my niece.
One for peace.
And I saved the biggest one for my Aunt Peg.
Cancer was coming at her hard and fast and it was the only thing I could do to keep from being completely helpless.  Call it prayer, call it positive thoughts, call it meditation, call it whatever you want.  I focused my good thoughts on those people for a little moment each day. I sent Peg my strength across the miles.
crab chemo hat
As her treatment went on, I was so blown away by how much humor she had throughout. Chemotherapy is no picnic and there were days that were definitely NOT funny or glamorous in any way, but her attitude was always positive.  She would wear a funky hat to each treatment, and although the days following were not good days, she faced chemo with a smile.
steelers chemo hat
My uncle, Peg’s brother, and his family visited her and participated in the local Susan G. Komen walk.  My 90 year old grandma went too.  She had so much love and support.
ubill and peg
Her co-workers and friends were incredible to her.  Her positive attitude has inspired so many!  She was even asked to speak before a volleyball game at her workplace, Meredith College.  Her speech was about positive thinking and staying in the fight when the chips are down.
She lives far away, but managed to muster up the strength to travel back to Pennsylvania for family gatherings and holidays.  Traveling took a LOT out of her and those days weren’t always pleasant, but she always made it because she knew the power of having family around her.
Peg and Gram
It’s been a very difficult road, but Peg has made the best of it and found strength inside her that has surprised and inspired us all.
popcorn chemo hat
Last week she had a PET scan and the results were better than expected.
Did you hear that?  She has no sign of cancer left in her body.  At all.
That’s right.  My auntie is making her way back and she is kicking cancer in the rump!
pizza chemo hat

(Snazzy shirt!!!!!!!!)

I cannot adequately express using the written word how elated, relieved, thankful, overjoyed, and moved I was by that news.  It was a celebration day for our family, and a day to hold Peg up high and give thanks for her life.
Medicine and good self care drove the cancer out of her body, yes.  But I do know without question that without the positive thoughts and the good attitude, my aunt wouldn’t be where she is today.  Positivity cannot be underestimated.
She isn’t completely out of the woods yet, and there are still a few hurdles left to jump for Peg, but I know she’s going to be just fine for a long long time.
To those of you who prayed for her throughout, I thank you.  For those of you who believe in the power of good thoughts, I say keep them coming for my aunt and all of those who are important to you.  For those of you who know that what you think upon grows, I encourage you to focus your thoughts on all the good life can offer.
I love you so much, Peg!

Half Marathon, I'm Coming For You

Remember last year when I ran the half marathon?  Well, I’m doing it again.
impulse buy half marathon2
A few months ago I put this photo on Instagram with a caption that said “Impulse buy.”  It totally was.
I belong to the Steel City Road Runners Club and as a member I get discounts on race registration.  I don’t know what came over me, but the SCRRC members got a really nice reduced rate, plus the ability to register a full day before registration was opened up to the general public.  Everyone was signing up and I got swept up in the moment!
I’m not beating myself up too badly for this because if I’m going to impulse buy anything, better that it’s a half marathon rather than something I don’t need and/or can’t afford.  Amirite?
Honestly, I am quite excited about this year’s race for a few reasons:
1. The Pittsburgh Marathon is a really great event.  I am really fortunate to live in a beautiful city with 89 unique neighborhoods and some really fabulous people.  The course winds through several different neighborhoods and across all three of our rivers.  The course support and cheering is fantastic and each area seems to out-do the one before.
2. The start line and the finish line are in my neighborhood.  In fact, the finish line is visible from my living room windows.  The energy and positive vibe of the day is so contagious that if I DIDN’T run, it would really make me feel terribly to see and hear the hoopla from my place.  It would almost be like there was a giant community party outside of my door and I wasn’t invited.  The event is so well run and so much fun that I feel compelled to participate especially because it is so close.
3. Last year, it was really really hard.  I’ve only ever run one other half marathon and let me tell you, it was a bear.  I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment for having done it, and like I mentioned above, the event is second to none.  But it was terribly difficult for me.  I didn’t train properly or enough.  I had no idea what to expect.  I am proud of how I did, but I know it could have been a better experience.  This year is my chance.
4. Triumph over injury.  Remember my horrific ankle sprain of 2012?  Awful.  A terrible setback that kept me from doing any running at all for almost 4 months.  But, I fought back and my ankle has improved greatly thanks to a few key people and my own stubbornness.  I have run four races (5k) since I’ve been allowed to get back out on the road, and I’ve run many many many more miles to begin training.  I won’t lie and say that my ankle is as good as new.  It isn’t and might not ever be back to normal.  But it gets stronger every time I run and it gets healthier with each step.  The injury took the wind out of my sails in a lot of ways and I want to come back from it a stronger and more determined athlete.  I might break down in tears after I cross the half marathon finish this year if I think about how hard it was to overcome this crazy ankle thing!
5. I am a weak runner.  There is just no getting around this fact.  Running does not come easily to me.  In fact, I could say that about any type of physical activity.  I am not a natural born athlete.  I have to work for each little accomplishment.  I have to truly earn it.  I really do envy those of you who can run a few miles, lift a few hundred pounds, bike a century, or swim a few dozen laps with ease.  I can’t.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t.  In fact, it’s all the more reason I should try these things.  There is absolutely no point in only doing things that come easily to me.  No benefit, no triumph, no victory, no pride.  I might come in last, but at least I’ll be out there trying my best.
So, there you have it.  Call it a resolution, call it a goal, call it stupidity, call it glutton for punishment.  I’m going to call it a victory.
Now it’s your turn to share!  What are you planning to accomplish this year? Are you motivated to try something new?  Are you giving a 2012 challenge another go like I am?  Share your plans with me in the comments or on Facebook.

Happy 2013!

Well, well, well.  Look who is back from the abyss.  Me!
Oh, my dear readers, I have so much to share. Where to begin?
I dropped off the face of the Internet and Blogosphere.  Why?  Because I have been personally overwhelmed with a few issues in my life, not the least of which is the darling little fermentation book I’m cooking up for all of you.  Yes, I am going to give you the “I’ve been sooooo busy!” excuse.  It’s true, but it is really a lame and pathetic excuse. Don’t you hate it when someone tells you they’ve been too busy to be a friend?  It’s essentially like saying that you have been de-prioritized or downgraded and that you don’t rank high enough to warrant an email, phone call, text, or blog post.
I’ve let you down, readers!
I have had ample time, strictly speaking.  I found time outside of book writing to do fun things and take a little three-day trip out of the country, to celebrate my birthday (39! Represent!), complete a knitting project, and to see a movie or two. So why haven’t I found time to post here and keep all of you educated and entertained?
Fear. Writer’s block. Feeling pressure. Being overwhelmed with thoughts on direction and purpose. You know, the usual.
You see, I’m the health coach, right?  I’m the one who is supposed to have it all together and eat really well, and be inspired so I can help others to do the same.  But the thing is, I wasn’t feeling it at all.  I was sucked into the perfectionism vortex that is oh so common – if I can’t do this perfectly and be a smashing success at it, then why even bother?
Oh health coach woman!  Silly you!
I know better.  And that’s why I’m back.
I’m going to post regularly again here in 2013, and while I’m going to do a kick butt job of trying to educate and inspire, I’m also going to let my human side show through too.  I’ve shared my flaws and trials here, but only if they were relevant to health and wellness.  I’ll continue to do that, but I’m also going to share more other stuff too.  Personal trials and vulnerabilities that you might be experiencing too.  We can learn and grow together.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more and better.  Thanks to all of you who are still reading.

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