Renew Your Spirit

Relax. Kick back. Enjoy the slow pace summer brings. But if your pace gets too slow, here are 5 ways to break out of your slump—and maybe even lay the groundwork for a new career come fall.

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Take a Class: Zoe's Inspiration

Zoe Francois loved baking so much that in college, for a business class, she’d started a cookie company as an exercise. “But working in the culinary arts was not something I’d ever been introduced to, so it seemed like more of a hobby,” she said. After graduation, she took a sales/marketing job at an advertising agency. “I got into the beige cubicle and realized, ‘I can’t spend the rest of my life doing this.’” Her husband knew she loved to bake. “Why don’t you go to culinary school?” he asked.


Next slide: Zoe's Challenge

Susan Powers

Take a Class: Zoe's Challenge

She enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America in New York City. “I was much older than most of the other people in school,” she said. “This was definitely a second career.” But having spent 10 years in the workforce helped her. “To get into the arts is a tough way to make a living. Having some business experience to help you navigate that is invaluable.”


She walked into a bread class taught by Thomas Gumpel. “I was just taken,” she said. “From that moment on, there was no question I did the right thing.” After graduation Andrew Zimmern hired her as an assistant pastry chef at Bravo in Minneapolis. Within six months he promoted her to pastry chef. “I found my passion and my life. I never looked back. It was the first time I loved going to work every day.”


“I worked until I had my first child,” she said. “Restaurants are the toughest thing on a family. It’s weekends, holidays, evenings... all the time you want to spend with your family.” So she decided quit her job to take some time off to stay home with her son.


Next slide: Zoe's Renewal

Take a Class: Zoe's Renewal

During her time off, she met physician Jeff Hertzberg who asked her to try his five-minute bread recipe. She resisted for weeks. “It flew in the face of how you make bread,” she said, because he didn’t kneed, proof or punch it and stored it in his refrigerator for a few weeks. When she finally gave in, she was flabbergasted that his recipe worked--and produced full-flavored artisan bread. “Unbeknownst to him, he had revolutionized how I baked bread,” she said.


Together they wrote Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, which simplifies bread baking for the newbie home baker by cutting out laborious steps. The press raved about it. “Now we have a half million copies of the book out there.”


The knowledge she gained in culinary school took her beyond following recipes to creating ones. “You can be taught art, but it doesn’t make you an artist,” she said. “But they can teach you the craft. That’s where I got my confidence.” And now she and Jeff are developing recipes for their third cookbook.


Next slide: Cathy Barrow's Inspiration

Join a Group: Cathy's Inspiration

Cathy Barrow worked as a successful landscaper designer until the 2008 recession hit. “It was evident almost instantly,” she said. “Normally I would have been fielding calls all that fall, but everything had completely dried up.” She knew she had a choice, either “curl up into a fetal position,” or find something that made her happy. “And cooking had always made me happy.”


Next slide: Cathy's Challenge

Join a Group: Cathy's Challenge

Cathy wondered if others, like her, were cooking their way through the recession. Since Cathy didn’t know of any local food groups, she joined an Internet food community called food52. “I met so many people who were crazy about food the way I was,” she said. “Nobody in my life has ever been that crazy about food. I could talk about it while I was eating it, before I was eating it, after I was eating it.”


Food52 led her to Twitter, where food blogger, Kim Foster, known as The Yummy Mummy, tweeted, “Is it cold enough in my basement to hang meat?”


Cathy responded, “Put a duck breast up, and you’ll have duck prosciutto in a week.”


The conversation exploded. “Really?” Foodies tweeted back. “How?”


“Does anybody want to make meat for a year?” Cathy tweeted. And from there Kim and she created their own Internet group called Charcutepalooza, which hosts a monthly charcuterie challenge for readers to make cured meat at home. Over 400 bloggers joined in, and soon after, the group was featured in The Washington Post Food section.


Next slide: Cathy's Renewal

Join a Group: Cathy's Renewal

Now Cathy has a community that supports her interest in food, “which you need when you start doing things like hanging raw meat in your basement.” And she doesn’t feel alone in the kitchen anymore. “I’ve become a much better cook,” she said. “And some of the things I was doing, like canning, preserving, pickling and charcuterie making, was different from many people. I could share that knowledge.”


Plus she’s landed an agent for a book proposal she co-authored with Kim on how to make charcuterie. “I wasn’t done yet when my landscape business went to pieces,” Cathy said. “I wasn’t finished creating. And now I feel like I don’t have to be.”


Next slide: Lynne Lanning’s Inspiration

Create a Cause: Lynne's Inspiration

When Lynne Lanning’s 6-year-old daughter Jenna developed a rare kidney disease called Dense Deposit Disease (DDD), Lynne and her husband, Richard Smith, searched for answers, only to find there were none. “Nobody knew how DDD started, why it scarred the tissue or what the deposits it left in the kidneys were,” she said. “It became evident nobody was doing research to find a cure.” Treatments addressed the symptoms but weren’t aimed at the disease itself.


Next slide: Lynne's Challenge

Create a Cause: Lynne's Challenge

A year later, when Jenna went into kidney failure, the Lanning/Smiths realized they had to make a choice: Save for retirement, or start a foundation to fund research to find a cure. “It becomes a moral decision,” said Lynne. “We could live with ourselves if we went broke, but not if we didn’t try to save our child’s life.”


Lynne and her husband decided to go for broke. They used their money to establish a not-for-profit corporation called Kidneeds to receive grants to help scientists study the disease. “We had to build up a war chest before we could afford to fund some of the research that needed to get started.” To raise money for grants, Jenna, then 13, made quilts and jewelry, while Lynne stitched ties to sell at craft fairs and in local shops. Jenna’s twin sister pitched in by making notecards. Friends joined their fundraising efforts by putting together dog shows, chili contests, and selling enchiladas.


Next slide: Lynne's Renewal

Create a Cause: The Lanning-Smith Family's Renewal

Jenna, 25, does daily hemodialysis. But she is thriving while studying architecture at the University of Oregon. “She’s realistic about her disease,” said Lynne. “But she also says, ‘You have to choose how to live your life, and the life I have I’m not going to waste.’”


Through her daughter and her dedication to her cause, Lynne has learned what is important in life. “When Jenna got sick we learned really quickly that every day could be your last one,” she said. “My husband would fly to Australia, give one lecture, and fly back the same day. You make choices like that. But it’s been a great investment on our part. We have wonderful relationships with our children.”


Recently, her husband, Richard, a physician and geneticist, wrote a summary paper of DDD that was published in a major medical journal, which sparked new interest. Because of the Lanning/Smiths’ passion, Kidneeds has funded the science that has led to a clearer understanding of the disease. “To say 14 years later that we anticipate drug trials next year for five selected patients is pretty amazing,” Lynne said.



Next slide: Liz Heinecke's Inspiration

Start a Blog: Liz's Inspiration

When Liz Heinecke’s youngest child turned 2, she felt her life had turned into a blur. “I poured everything into being a mom, which was great,” she said. “But I did that for 10 years, and felt I had to rediscover who I was.” And now that she was 40, she said, “I could focus more. I was older and wise enough to have a better feeling for what I enjoy doing apart from kids, and what I want to spend my time doing.”


Next slide: Liz's Challenge

Start a Blog: Liz's Challenge

When the 2008 recession hit, her husband’s mutual fund company folded. And Liz applied for science jobs. For close to 10 years, she’d worked in research labs as a molecular biology research assistant, but stayed at home after her first child was born. “I was shocked nobody called me back,” she said. “I was really good at what I did. I realized I had to start over, but I was over qualified for entry level positions.”


But she also knew her caretaker role had changed her. “I like the mom aspect of me,” she said. “It’s part of what defines me.” So set out to find a way to make herself marketable, and still be at home when her kids got off the bus.


When a friend asked Liz if she’d like to do a kids’ activity blog for Hot Mama, a women’s clothing store, Liz jumped at the chance. As she wrote, she realized her passion was teaching kids about science. “As people get older, they get afraid of science, of making mistakes,” she said. “Science is as easy as making chocolate chip cookies.” She reinvented herself through a new blog she called The Kitchen Pantry Scientist , creating science experiments for kids with materials found in your home.


To write about science again meant she had to read about science more often. She devoured the Science Tuesdays section in The New York Times. “I’d been off line for 10 years,” she said. “Blogging helps reconnect you to your field.”


Next slide: Liz's Renewal

Pamela Diedrich (

Start a Blog: Liz's Renewal

As Liz’s blog grew, so did her career. Because of her science videos on her blog, she got a job as a microbiology professor at a local university. She was also invited by NASA to watch Endeavor launch, and asked by her local NBC affiliate  to do kids’ science experiments on their morning show. “When I was in my 20s, I was more of a follower -- and a student,” she said. “But in my 40s, I’m more of a leader and a teacher. Because when you’re 40, you have such a foundation of knowledge built that you can put information together in a new way. Your brain makes new connections all the time.”


Next slide: Natalie Silverstein's Inspiration

Set an Athletic Goal: Natalie's Inspiration

While washing dishes one day, Natalie Silverstein overheard a reporter on TV talking about the 39th running of the New York City Marathon.  “Isn’t that funny?” she thought to herself. “That’s my age.” She’d wanted to turn her 40th birthday into a meaningful and positive experience. So in that moment she decided to run the 40th New York Marathon to celebrate. 


Next slide: Natalie's Challenge

Set an Athletic Goal: Natalie's Challenge

Natalie says she was the “antithesis” of an athlete.  “I had never once picked up a ball or participated in team sports,” she said. In fact, she often told her husband, Jonathan, she’d never make it around the 6-Mile Central Park Loop. Nor did she want to try.


But because she didn’t work outside the home, she often wished she could prove to her children that she could take on a challenge and accomplish it. “We live in New York City,” she explained. “It’s a really tough town, and I want our kids to know if life knocks you down, you can get back up and power through anything.” Just as you do while running a marathon.


She knew a group would hold her accountable, so she joined Team for Kids, a charitable organization that raises funds for youth running programs in NYC and South Africa, in exchange for guaranteed entry into the Marathon. “It forces your hand when you sign up for a race,” she said. “You solicit donations, and friends support your training. You feel like everybody is counting on you, so you follow through.”


Next slide: Natalie's Renewal

Set an Athletic Goal: Natalie's Renewal


Natalie has a newfound confidence in her body for meeting the challenge. Running a marathon isn’t something she thinks she could have done in her 20s. “I didn’t have the motivation or determination,” she says. Now she’s got her marathon medal with the number 40 on it framed in her office. 


Crossing the finish line at 40 “minimized the notion of 40 being the beginning of middle age... it’s just another number.”


Jennifer Jeanne Patterson is a freelance writer and author of 52 Fights. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. Find her blog at Unplanned Cooking.


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First Published June 14, 2011

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