Reminiscences on the third year

Right about this time, three years ago, over pasta and wine with T, and as an homage to my dear friend, Shawn (who wanted me to be a restaurant critic), I launched this blog. I had no idea what a blog was, what writing one entailed or even what the point was. I had no sense of coding, photo placement or even how to work my camera in its manual mode. I'd never taken a writing class, I was new to Facebook and had never tweeted, I knew no other bloggers. On a wing and a loving push from a friend and my hubs, I simply launched, via Tumblr, this idea for musings from a servantless, stay-at-home, cooking-obsessed mom. Julie and Julia had been released in '09 and we'd watched it recently, hence the "servantless" adjective, and the rest was simply fact and a strong desire to do and be something other than mom.

At that point, Jack was nearly five, and Ol had just turned 2. Mr. O was still waking up at 4:45am each morning, ready for a big, happy day ahead, and I was definitely  in the weeds of sleep-deprivation and seriously young ones; happily but decidedly so. Asserting my identity as woman, wife, friend, and person felt critical; I wanted something that was all mine, something I could fit in around the random contours of at-home parenting. Tom explained to me what a blog was. I responded, in typical Emily fashion, "well, why the hell not? I can do that."

Obviously, I'd given this little thought.

But forging ahead fearlessly (in the ways that fearlessness can derive from earnest, naive enthusiasm) is very me, the adult me, the me I've worked so hard to grow into and proudly own. And Em-i-lis has provided me with so much: fulfillment; friends; teaching opportunities; a great excuse to take a photography class, attend conferences, enroll in writing classes; familiarity with the ocean of terrific blogs that are crafted every day; and a deep and sure awareness of how seriously and madly I love the craft that is writing.

I am infinitely appreciative of my regular readers, of your support and comments and reactions, of you. I have loved every canning class I've taught, and I look forward to the ones scheduled for the coming months. I learned so much and was immensely inspired by the Eat Write Retreat in 2012 and the BlogHer conference in 2013; I am totally pumped about BlogHer '14 in San Jose this summer. I need, desperately, to take another photog class. My life would be less without my writing group which never would have been without this blog; here's to NM 2014, ladies!

Yet, as I celebrate the culmination of this tertiary year of almost-always-daily blogging, I feel both pride and a great sense of disappointment. My first year was figuring things out, honing my skills, learning; my second was building an audience, refining my voice and making that known. But this past year, though it's certainly had its highs, feels, in retrospect, too static to me; an unwelcome plateau to be sure.

My readership has not grown in the way I wished (though to the many of you who are now years-long readers, I thank you so very much), I have sometimes doubted the point of this baby I've worked so hard to birth. I wish I could honestly say it was enough for me just to do it; just to write daily and to feel devilmaycare about who reads. But I don't. I'm entirely too inwardly driven to feel so zen; that's just my way. It's an aspect of myself that I love and appreciate even when I know that such ambition can also be an albatross.

Someone this year suggested I focus more, that my blog felt scattered. And I thought long and hard about narrowing my scope. But I just can't see how it'd work. Cooking and parenting and thinking and gardening and laughing and bitching and admiring a great pair of shoes are never distinct experiences for me: some subset of those elements is always in the playground, together, never alone. To manually parse them would both lessen the sum and feel disingenuous and affected. Neither of which is, for better or (and?) worse, me.

I can see that I have become more "mommy-blogger" (hate that term) than I initially was. I am OK with that in large part because it is the biggest part of my now. I see that my voice has at once crystallized and matured. Voice is the grail really, so I go with the changes organically, but I sometimes wonder if I should. I am repeatedly baffled by what it is an audience wants and how that is to be measured. Likes (even the empty ones)? Shares? Mentions? A known cadre of devoted readers? I would always choose the latter as a measure of success, but that doesn't mean I don't wish they were greater in number.

Junior year of college, my third, was the year of my greatest growth into the student and woman I would ultimately graduate as. I was, and still am, thankful for that. Senior year, I blossomed fully; not without fault, not without foible, never without question. But - the ever-critical but - I had confidence and pride that was long-sought and richly deserved, so perhaps as I toast my little blog tonight, that's the kind of wish I should make: to figure out where I am and where I'd like to be and start on the right path towards it. I think that's a good place to commence year 4.

As an aside, because really, it's critical, this savory galette came together beautifully: a whole wheat crust, enrobing a kale-mushroom-ricotta blend. It's my take on a recipe featured in the newest Bon Appetit.