I created my first website, a personal blog, nineteen years ago.
The internet was in its infancy then and seemed...empty, like a echo chamber into which I could shout--or mumble towards my Converse-clad toes--my adolescent rants. Google didn't exist, social media was still a futuristic fever dream, and no one had any idea that "blogging" would someday be a legitimate profession. No one was listening! I could pound out thoughts and send them off into the void relatively confident that no one would ever see them, and it was GLORIOUS. I taught myself enough basic HTML to customize my site by right-clicking other sites that I liked and viewing their source code....and I taught myself from a book.
A BOOK. Like, on paper.
Pause and let that sink in for a moment, will you? Don't even think of going looking for that first blog, it's been scrubbed from existence (of the people currently in my life in 2018, only my husband has ever seen it). But still, it kindled a fire in me for blogging, although I still wouldn't have known enough to call it by that term.
I started another blog, and eventually another and another. Suddenly my quiet little world was not so quiet. I had readers, some even became friends (so long and thanks for all the golden memories, Livejournal). The anonymity that had once had seemed so attractive to me was set aside and I began to share a little more of my life with less hesitation every day. Because I'd also fallen head-over-heels in love with cooking at this point in my life, it was here that I began to notice something else: If I shared something as simple as a recipe in a post, it attracted a smattering of polite 'yum's and thumbs-up. But if I probed a little deeper and shared something a bit more human--a story about the creation of the dish, an interwoven thread of humor, a sudden realization about life--suddenly I was attracting a flock of real comments to that particular post. People stood up and began to introduce themselves in ways they never had on the straightforward recipe posts, opening up in surprising ways. I've been there, too, they said, I have struggled with that particular depressing thought, weird obsession, or confusion about how to cook eggplants. I learned to cook from Julia, Jacques and Lidia, too! I'm so glad you mentioned that, I thought I was the only one. And so on and so on it went. Now, actual friends were out there listening, and it was GLORIOUS!
Then came 2012....and ohhhh friends, it came in like a wrecking ball.
Over the course of a few months, I obliterated the previous version of my life basically down to ashes--leaving behind a soul-crushing job and an even worse marriage--and began building it up again from the foundation. I traded my home town for NYC without a plan in the world except to survive. I thought stress and sadness might swallow me alive, but they didn't. Everything felt broken, but in a way that hinted I might be about to re-form in a new shape. I had a suitcase, a borrowed camera, and some kind of vague dream for a new life that hadn't yet come into focus. What I don't remember having at that point was a burning desire to start yet another food blog, but of course, I should have seen it coming. Cooking had saved my life before, and would do so again and again--it was my lifeline to the world. In a tiny kitchen in Brooklyn, I began cooking again with a surprising amount of passion, and not long afterwards, Sweet Laurel was born.
I started small--tiny, even. When I first picked up a borrowed camera and started learning photography for Sweet Laurel, it was in shaky and narrow frames, each image typically zoomed in one one little thing. A bowl of noodles, a single flower, a scattering of autumn leaves. I was almost afraid to pull back and let anything else show. I shot dark, moody closeups of my plated dinners balanced on a board on top of the radiator in my cramped New York apartment kitchen. Rooting out the tiny moments of beauty in my everyday life, I relentlessly cropped everything else out of the frame, because while I was rambling around in my jobless and rootless state, everything that surrounded me seemed to be such a mess. Gradually, hesitantly (I am a truly slow learner), I started stepping back and widening the scene to include stories, characters and settings from my life.
A boyfriend, then a husband, then a son.
An epic cross-country move.
A catalog of feelings from inadequacy and worry to joy beyond description.
As always, sharing more and more with the community I found online turned out to be my light in the darkness. Four years since starting a tiny little blog called Sweet Laurel, I'm now ready to widen the scene even further, to focus on what's been hovering around the edges of the frame all along. Food, and the way it feeds our bodies, souls and families, will always be the beating heart of Sweet Laurel, but I'm making room for other topics as well. Beauty matters deeply to my soul, whether it's found in a perfect bowl of tomatoes, a perfectly-imperfectly curated home or artistic textiles. Motherhood matters to me as well, and it has swept into my life with the force of a tidal wave and left me changed--as it should. Managing a creative business, mental wellness, making time for doing sweet sweet nothing....all these things are topics I'm burning to talk about as this blog evolves and our conversation grows along with it. I'm counting on finding the same feeling of community that has always kept me coming back to each of these virtual homes I've carved out for myself over the years. There's a whole multi-passionate person (hi!) over here behind Sweet Laurel, and I'm excited and more than a bit nervous to start sharing more of her (because for better or worse, guys, I'll be sharing at the whole good-bad-ugly spectrum here), in order to connect with more of you in better ways. I'd love to find ways to be a light in the darkness for others who need it, whether you're seeking inspiration in your kitchen, your home, your business, your general wellbeing....I'm hoping we can find a way to lift each other up rather than falling prey to the comparison game.
Whew. That was a lot to pack into one blog post. Rest assured, there is more to come!
In short, I am, and have always been, here for you.
Let's do this.