Posts in "Writing"
On Looking for Inspiration
On Looking for Inspiration | Freckled Italian

I found myself in the Southern California desert earlier this week—driving a last-minute rental car I booked one way from Palm Springs to Oakland.

For roughly half a decade, I’ve attended the same conference every winter—I started going in 2014, right after I quit my 9-5 and was living in Minnesota; blogging and planning our wedding. I didn’t fully know what I was doing but I was writing every day and I was happy. I freelanced and temped as a receptionist and dreamed of my blog paying all the bills. I went to Salt Lake City that January and learned so much that I came home exhausted and overwhelmed in the best way imaginable—with a journal full of notes and a wallet full of business cards and a plan.

That conference really, truly changed my life.

Fast forward to last weekend and I was packing my bag for a week at the same conference, just in a new location. I felt the same in many ways but also so incredibly different. Goodness, how my life has changed in five years—one wedding, three huge moves, one dog, four cookbooks, one baby. Every morning I wake up feeling simultaneously blessed beyond measure and burnt out—excited to spend another day with my daughter but wondering when that spark might light itself again in the back of my mind where essays and recipes and #contentcreation used to overflow; when I might not only dream again about writing, but actually do it.

I started talking to anyone who would listen about how badly I needed this week away to refocus, get re-energized, and find inspiration. “I just want to get inspired” came out of my mouth so much that I started to annoy even myself. But it was true—I felt desperate for inspiration. I still kind of do.

On Sunday morning I landed in Palm Springs and immediately felt a shift. I slid my sunglasses onto my face and felt the sun beaming down on me, so happy that I had braved the cold damp sidewalks of SFO in sandals earlier that morning. My heart jumped as my sweet friend Kristan came around the corner in her car to scoop me and my bag and we were off, driving the short distance to our hotel where, within a half hour, we were sitting by the pool, drinks in hand, waiting for the conference to begin—waiting for inspiration to strike.

The conference was not what I expected this year, and I found myself feeling overwhelmingly disappointed and lost. So, after about 36 hours, I decided to do something I never thought I would do: leave.

I wanted to make the most of my time but through every overcrowded session and late shuttle I couldn’t stop thinking about my word for 2019–purpose.

Does it help me reach a goal? Does it make me happy? Does it serve my family or someone I care about? Do I come out on the other side burned out or resentful? Will it make me a better mom, wife, friend, writer, person? I want to live a life full of choices and work that makes me happier, healthier, more kind, more skilled, more thoughtful.

Would I regret staying and leaving disappointed, feeling like I had wasted even more time? Or should I cut my losses and get back to my family at home, where my husband was missing time at the office and we were paying our nanny to be there four days instead of two? Luckily Kristan felt the same and we cancelled the rest of our hotel stay, I rented a car, and we planned for her to drop me off at the airport the following day. Immediately I felt lighter.

It’s a privilege to be able to say no to things that you originally said yes to, but it’s one I didn’t want to waste. We went to a sponsored yoga class the morning of our departure and as I stood there barefoot in the grass behind the Parker Palm Springs, listening to the instructor tell us how blessed we were, I felt it. Tears in my eyes, hands on my heart, the Universe truly reached out and told me it was time to go home.

And that’s how I came to spend 8 hours alone on the road on a Tuesday afternoon. And as I drove over those majestic desert mountains for the first time, windows down, music blasting, the arid heat whipping through my hair, I realized that maybe there is no magic “press for inspiration” button—maybe sometimes you just have to find it yourself.

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In Which I Have Writer's Block
In Which I Have Writer's Block | Freckled Italian

This weekend Rob and I spent a lot of time in our garage, getting rid of things and finally unpacking a few boxes that have been camped out since we moved into this house last summer. I found lots—and I really mean a lot—of journals, diaries, even old blog posts printed and bound in a most embarrassing fashion. There were drafts of personal essays, marked up by classmates and edited, rewritten, then marked up again. Stories about ex-boyfriends and a capella auditions that probably never should have taken place—college memories I was so certain would end up in a literary journal one day.

I have spent most of my life writing down every little thing. In elementary school I wrote stories, in middle and high school I kept journals, and then I discovered blogging in college and knew that theoretically anyone and everyone could read what I wrote but I never really thought anyone other than my roommates and mother would go out of their way to read my reflections on Greek Life, the weird regulars that frequented the coffee shop where I worked over the summer, discussions that took place in my Literary Criticism class, and/or how many miles I ran on any particular weekend.

But they did, and I loved it. I loved sharing my life online, loved hearing from people who enjoyed a particular essay I wrote or maybe had experienced something similar. You couldn’t pay me to read one of my essays in front of a crowd but every time I hit “publish” I felt a rush of excitement and a feeling of productivity—my story was out there.

I graduated and started working and continued to write and Rob and I found ourselves in a long-distance relationship, which lots of people have done, and again I felt seen and heard by readers who were going through or had gone through the same thing. It was less fun when my mom got cancer, or when my parents split up, but still those connections found their way through and made the burden feel a little easier to carry.

We moved and moved and moved again, and Freckled Italian remained. I started working with sponsors and realized that maybe I didn’t need to find a new “permanent” job in every city. I freelanced and temped and blogged and did my best to explore and enjoy every place we called home. I woke up on Sunday mornings and pulled my laptop into bed, coffee on the nightstand, and I wrote.

So yesterday morning, when I woke up earlier than usual to a house still sleeping, I tiptoed downstairs and brought my computer from my desk to my bedside, excited to write whatever came to mind. I snuggled back under the covers, put on my glasses, opened the laptop, and…nothing.

Just a blank screen and a blinking cursor.

And so that’s where I am now—working more and writing less, wondering where to go from here. Savoring every single little and big moment spent with my family, walking the dog and cooking and organizing random corners of the house but hardly ever folding the laundry within a reasonable timeframe—and doing my best to explore and enjoy California while we call it home.

For so long my dream was this blog—creating content and working with sponsors and growing my audience—but then Sophie came along and my priorities shifted slightly. I still love this space, and I love sharing parts of my life here, but sometimes I don’t know where to start—or how far to go. As my daughter gets older and develops more of a personality I find myself wanting to keep her more private. Pregnancy and labor and breastfeeding were very much my experiences, but after a certain point I feel like motherhood becomes less about me and more about her. My experience and her experience are deeply intertwined, but they’re still two different things, and I hope to always respect that.

What a long post I just wrote to tell you basically that I feel like I have nothing to write about—I guess that’s not true after all. Sometimes you just have to start and see where it takes you. I’d like to get back to more of that—I’m here for the rambling, somewhat cringeworthy and oh-so-journal-y posts of 2009 again.

PS I have a “newsletter” now where I sit down to write something every now and then that doesn’t go on the blog. I thought it’d be quarterly but so far it ‘s been every month, so I’m thinking I might send out a new one sometime soon. (But you know, no promises.) You can subscribe here if that sounds fun to you.

PPS Is it possible to have chapped lips for weeks and weeks? Because I have had chapped lips for weeks and weeks. Blog post forthcoming. (Just kidding.)

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On The Equals Record | Seasons Change
In Lynchburg, Virginia, home of Liberty University and just an hour away from my own alma mater, there are always Paneras and Starbucks full of Baptists fresh from Bible Study...zipped snugly into their North Face jackets and so surely into their faith. The leaves have changed color and the air is crisp and chilly and smells like campfires in that grey morning fog and when I am home for Thanksgiving, I pass through on my way to the J.Crew Factory store and even now, I will feel just a little bit jealous of them.

I wrote this short essay about fall and faith for The Equals Record three years ago and I just came across it again this weekend. I'm so thankful for blogging--it's strange and wonderful to have this little snapshot of me in Minneapolis, still thinking about the things I thought about in Charlotte and now California.

And I needed this reminder from my past self: I feel overwhelmed with the possibilities, and grateful that, even when it's hard, I didn't stay in one place forever.

Read the full piece here.

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