Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be plucked from food blog obscurity. And I do not mean that my food blog gained some more traction or anything. I was one of 12 people who were selected to compete on Food Network Star on the Food Network. Mentored by Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentis, we all competed in a variety of culinary and t.v. personality challenges, with the hopes of inking our own show on the Food Network. It was an experience for sure!There were some ups, some downs, some dear friendships and some tension. Of course, I can't tell you how any of this turned out. But you can watch for yourself starting June 4th on the Food Network. :) While I was there I learned some things about myself, and met some people who I will always hold dear as well.
So who am I?
I am a mom. I am a wife. I am a Catholic. I am a friend. I am a military spouse. There are so many things that make up who I am. On a daily basis I am primarily a mom, wife and military spouse. My day begins at 6:30 am, on average. The only things that I get done "for myself" before even eating or drinking is putting on clothes and brushing my teeth. I wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth, help my kids brush their teeth, cook their breakfast, cook my husband's breakfast if he isn't rushing off to work, pack his lunch, unload the dishwasher, feed the dogs, switch out the laundry, get the kids dressed for school, brush their hair, maybe get some coffee made (first me gesture), drive them to school and then see what else I need to get done in my "free time". (Free time is generally cleaning my house, running errands, walking the dogs and going to the gym. There are also momentary tidbits of looking at Perez Hilton and other nonsense, but I am a busy one woman show.)
I am not complaining. I mean, I am, but not in a real way. I am exhausted with my life. Always giving all of your prime time and primary attention is exhausting. And I am not regular spouse. I am a military spouse. This may not resonate with everyone. But for those of you who understand (and those who don't) it means, at times, I have to do it all. My husband works 12 hours days (on average) and is frequently out of town. Giving the sum of your existence to your husband and kids takes a lot of self sacrifice. But as exhausted as I am, I am infinitely more blessed. I have a husband, who despite my grandiose flaws, still loves me. I have two healthy, beautiful and healthy kids who also still love me. I have a roof over my head, I do not have to worry if I can provide for my family, and I have a God who loves me (also despite my enormous flaws). I have a world running kind of support system with my other fighter pilot wife friends. At the end of the day, I have self absorbed, first world problems. And I do not say that to brag. I say that because sometimes I need a reality check about how small my stresses really are.
(^^^^Shit, even my bio mentions me cleaning my home. hahaha^^^^)
What do the preceding two paragraphs even have to do with Food Network Star? So much really! As fortunate as I am to have my family, and get to stay home with them, my identity is entirely lost in it. My husband is like a super amazing prestigious human being. And to accomplish what he has is pretty impressive. For the last nine years (the length of our marriage so far) I have followed him around the country and continent, making sure he has the support system at home to excel at work. For the last 5 years, I have been a stay at home mom who watches after her children and makes sure their needs are met as well. Before I left for Food Network Star, the longest amount of time I had spent away from my kids over the last 5 years was 5 days. And even that has maybe happened 3-5 times in the last 5 years.
Food Network Star was the first time that I (as an individual) and we (as a couple) have really invested in me.
For an undisclosed amount of time, I put myself first to try to accomplish some personal goals. I feel like a lot of moms can relate to this. No matter how vast and wide your love is for your children, you are more than "just a mom". (And if you're one of those super moms whose entire life is your kids, more credit to you! You are a way better person than I am. No sarcasm. Seriously.) I will always put their needs first. But parts of me need something out side of that to maintain sanity. Lets be honest, when you can not poop, pee, shower, talk on the phone or even sleep in peace; you need a break! So what does life for me after Food Network Star include? Even now, as I am home, I am trying to navigate what the next step is for me. It is difficult. I have two little people depending on me.
I love my food blog. I started it in the summer of 2014, still pregnant with my second child. I cooked the food, wrote the recipes in the most haphazard fashion (as I cook based off of taste and a general understanding of food), took the pictures on my camera phone and designed the aesthetics of the website on Wix. I tried to find these tiny nooks and crannies in my day to type things up. Bit by bit it grew, and I grew with it. I look at my pictures from 3 years ago and they almost make me blush with embarrassment. They look so bad. And to many, maybe the pictures that I take today still do. And that is okay. Because a lot of things really haven't changed. I still take and edit my pictures on my camera phone. I still take pictures in my kitchen (although we are now in Hawaii instead of Florida). I still play around on Wix, trying to invent better ways to lay the page out. I still tuck away during nap time, or after bed to time to transcribe things. And I am still fairly certain that the people who follow it are mostly family and friends. I would love for it to grow, to turn from a passion into a j-o-b. But who knows.
Food Network Star was such a big deal to me because it was the next step; and a pretty big next step at that. How my culinary adventures may continue to unfurl is still a mystery. But I know that I am worthy of trying to figure it out. Making time for myself, aside from my kids. Investing in yourself is so important. (Who am I kidding, I am still writing this during nap time as I wait to switch the washing machine's contents to the dryer. Then I will transfer what is on the laundry room floor to the washer and so on. I am experiencing mom-guilt as my 5 year walks down stairs and needs 10 things. I tell her this is mommy's hour to work, please go finish quiet time.) And I need to be better about it. I love cooking so much. I do not have the culinary pedigree that many of the other people on the competition did. But you know what, I bet they were fighters too. Fought for their jobs, who they are, and what they have earned in the culinary world. It takes drive and sacrifice and I am ready. I am ready. So follow me on the insane journey of Food Network Star this summer. It airs June 4th on the Food Network. And keep looking for me. I will find ways to pop up. It may not be quick rise to success, it may not be perfect. But I want my children to look at me one day and realize that you can try to start something from nothing. And that hard world, tragically undervalued these days, does pay off. There are many things that I want out of this life. And some of those are probably things that I can live without. But it would be nice to dream, wouldn't it?
Make sure you grab June's issue of the Food Network Magazine to see me and the other finalists. :)