10 years

March 20, 2018 |  Category:   favorite posts life me rambling

All winter, I’d been keenly aware that the 10 year anniversary of this blog was coming up in March. I knew I wanted to write a post to commemorate it, but it felt like a daunting task. Like anything in life when you’re marking a significant milestone, the weight of self-reflection is heavy.

10 years. Where were we then? Where are we now? When I read the very first post on this blog, I think back to what a scary and confusing time that was, when the economy was tanking and Mark got laid off from a new job after finally finding the motivation to leave his long-time restaurant pastry chef position. But there’s also an optimism and excitement in that first post that I remember well. The motivation is clear – those two kids, who were practically babies back then. We were still relatively new parents and experiencing the first jolt of being overwhelmed by this immense feeling of responsibility for people other than ourselves. We had weathered through lay-offs before, but the difference was that we couldn’t be slackers and squander away the days picking up unemployment checks and playing video games. Not this time. So the 10 year anniversary of this blog also means that our business is 10 years old as well (but I’ll save my thoughts on the business for another day).

About three years in (2011), I wrote a post about a 10 year plan after an exercise that I did for a women’s business group. Essentially, it was where I wanted to be in 10 years. I reread it the other day and it’s super interesting to have some kind of documentation of the goals from your earlier self. If I’m just going by the items off that list (and I know that I technically have 3 more years to go), then I have failed spectacularly. Not because I think the goals are irrelevant now (on the contrary, I think I would be over the moon if all those things actually did come to fruition), but because I would barely be able to check off a single item off that list. But the rational side of me knows that this isn’t really a failure at all. The lack of total disappointment maybe indicates that I may have actually grown as a person. Here’s to looking at the bright side of things.

Ten years feels like a lifetime. I’m ten years older, squarely middle aged now. The kids are tweens and teens. I lost a brother and am now an only child. I lost a grandmother too; Mark, his father. Our life has changed immensely in regards to parenting and family life, but our professional lives haven’t changed much at all. While there were some detours, I’m not really at a different place from where I was when I started this blog and I’m not entirely sure that this is going to change anytime soon either. Our frugality has enabled us to be in a different financial picture from where we were 10 years ago when money was extremely tight, but we’ve always valued savings and experiences over consumerism. Ten years later, we see that payoff in big ways. If what I read about your 40s being your prime earning years is correct, then I’m already looking ahead, trying to figure out how to survive the next 10 with different and new challenges.

Blog posts have been fewer and farther between in the last few years, but that’s also a reflection of where we’re at with personal blogs these days. Sometimes I like to joke that I was a terrible blogger because I squandered away opportunities. Ever so stubborn about not putting ads on the blog, I turned down every sponsored post and ad network inquiry that came my way. Sometimes I look back and think that was pure stupidity to not capitalize on the blog’s popularity when it hit peak traffic stats, but that’s just hindsight rearing its head; I never felt right about making money off the blog (though I did toy with affiliate links for a few months). I can chuckle at the time I talked with a reality show producer from a major cable network when a reality show about bloggers was being pitched (true story…and yes, I thought it was a terrible idea), or wonder what would have happened if I pursued the book proposal after meeting with an agent and publisher (but then my brother’s unexpected death happened). I never anticipated that the blog would get as much traffic as it did back in the day; it was a vehicle to support and document the launch of our business, but it took on a life of its own. A lot of us were figuring out the right balance between authenticity and how much was too much to share as our blogs grew with more readers. There may have been times when I did overshare, but I have no regrets – not even when I was writing about the girls and not even when I was on the receiving end of criticism, negativity and in some cases, just mean and sometimes cruel comments. Some of those discussions on the blog got very heated through comments, but I almost always learned a thing about myself through how I was perceived from the outside. I knew, however, that I had to pull back when we got recognized wherever we travelled, and I second-guessed the entire existence of the blog when I was targeted by an online harasser for months. I know it sounds like an oxymoron considering how personal I’ve gotten at times here, but we’re fairly private people, so I wasn’t altogether too disappointed when blog readership went down about 5 years ago. I have about 10% of the traffic that I did back at its peak, but it feels more like a comfortable space now.

I know the majority of my readers have dropped off now, but I’m always humbled when a comment appears and it’s a name I recognize from the early days of the blog. I’ve connected with some of you on Instagram, so in many ways we’ve all just migrated to a different platform. Although blogging in general hasn’t suffered the death that was widely predicted, personal blogs do seem like a dying breed. But I will tell you this: when I was facing the darkest moments of my life, dealing with my brother’s suicide and an unimaginable lawsuit, you were the ones who provided the most comforting words. Maybe it’s easier to know what to say to strangers from afar without the burden of personal baggage or the fear of saying the right or wrong things, but at that moment in my life, having a place to come to when I felt the most alone in my real life interactions was a gift. Communities are important no matter where you find them, and I thank you for coming here, reading and supporting our family and business over the past ten years.
– Jenna

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  • Lynn March 29, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Happy Anniversary. I always admire your writing, your candor and your courage.

    • Jenna April 2, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      Thank you so much, Lynn!

  • Chai Ling March 31, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    when I first pop in reading your post, that was 2009. few months after I was married and started working in a new environment. reading your blog becomes a (good) habit like reading newspapers everyday 🙂 now that I am a mother and sometimes, I recall certain parenthood posts that you wrote when the girls were small makes sense to me now. your blog has my heart always because it says about life, grit and beauty. happy a decade old, sweet fine day! I just wanna say ‘thank you for growing together’ ^^

    • Jenna April 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment Chai Ling. Hope life is well. Growing old together, indeed!

  • Katie March 31, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Happy 10 years! I can’t remember when I started following you, but it feels like it’s been quite a long time. I’ve been so glad you’ve kept writing here.

    • Jenna April 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      Thank you, Katie!

  • Mary Anne Pangilinan March 31, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Congratulations Jenna ! Happy Easter from Australia ! Yes I’m one of those people who’ve dropped off reading your blog but I looked at it today . My son is 12 soon so I know I definitely read your blog when he was just a toddler. During the time I was at home with my kids (my daughter is 8) I always found your words to be honest and comforting – it was nice to know that life wasn’t all glossy. Positive vibes and happiness to you, Mark and the girls ! MA xx

    • Jenna April 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Mary Anne. All the best.

  • Diane April 1, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I love your writing and enjoy the glimpses into your life here and on Instagram. I also love your delicious cookies!!!

    • Jenna April 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      Thank you Diane. So nice to connect with you on IG as well. xo.

  • Karen April 5, 2018 at 12:48 am

    I don’t remember when I started reading your book but judging by how old your kids are now, it’s definitely been a few years.
    I think like most readers, your honesty comes through your writing and it’s what I enjoy the most when I read your blog, no matter what subject. And the pictures! You’re a great photographer! I still remember the pictures of hibiscus flowers.
    I hope you do continue to post on your blog.

  • Melanie Biehle April 7, 2018 at 12:08 am

    Happy to read your words, Jenna! Xo

    • Jenna April 20, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Appreciate your comment, Melanie! xo

  • Lulu April 9, 2018 at 9:21 am

    I resisted but finally followed you to your other social media, blogs are still my favorite social media. though. Thank you for continuing to do this. Its like a security blanket when blogs I started following in 2008 (the year I started reading blogs ) are still around and active. Some left without goodbye : (

    • Jenna April 20, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you for the follow Lulu. Much appreciated – and I promise to stick around here.

  • Michele April 14, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    It is always a good day when I have a chance to visit with you through your blog, Facebook or Instagram. Your photography is gorgeous and your gift shines through each wonderful image (especially the ones that look like Dutch Masters). Your truth and candor in writing is touching in how you invite us into your life and don’t try and sugar coat everything. Watching your girls grow up, enjoying New York through your lens (and other places) and seeing the delicious baking and other foods is such a joy. You have a gift for writing and being able to share just a small part of your life is special. Congratulations on your blog anniversary and for your journey of discovery of life. It’s quite a ride!!

    • Jenna April 20, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Than you so much Michele for your thoughtful and generous words.

  • Claire April 14, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    I’m so glad you’re still blogging, Jenna! I started following you in 2009 when I moved to the US for grad school. It felt comforting to hear about people living regular lives in New York City, cos living there felt overwhelming at times. Then I started teaching at a school in Brooklyn and your blog provided a perspective on what parents there were dealing with. Now I’ve moved back to Singapore am still reading – doing life seems easier when I know that others are thinking and going through some of the same things I am, so thank you. (I ordered your New York City calendar when I first moved back cos I missed the city so much!)

    • Jenna April 20, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Hi Claire – brooklyn says hello. Hope all is well in Singapore!

  • gizella April 23, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    i can’t remember how I found your blog but I still check in, i’ve been trying to spend less time on everything now that my kids are 10 and 5. Your images are lovely but the words are straight up, it was important to see another family making hard choices and being frugal, and still having a rich and full life. I appreciate the glimpses into the bitter and sweet. I think one of the wonderful things about blogging is knowing someone you may never meet. Thank you for your posts and for sharing your life! I do love your pen and ink drawings so much.

  • erin April 29, 2018 at 8:53 am

    I read your blog for years , years ago. I thought it was gone but I just found this. I wanted to say yours was always my favorite blog because you were so much more honest. Everything wasn’t always amazing and funny and perfect. It was real, and it was comforting to know that other people worry and hurt and keep on going. Anyway, great to see you’re still at it. Thanks for what you do.

  • blandine April 30, 2018 at 3:45 am

    Finding out that you have posted something new here is always a treat. As everybody seems to be sharing just everything with everyone, I appreciate yuor balance between honesty and privacy. And of course I enjoy your esthetics and your willingness to find beauty in everyday life. Thanks for opening this window into your life from time to time, and here’s to a happy decade!

  • Samantha May 10, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    I know this post is a couple of months old but I had to comment! I used to read your blog regularly (and comment too, I hope!) years and years ago. I don’t read many blogs anymore, but I think of you and your blog now and then, and I’m happy to see you’re still writing here! My blog was never hugely popular, but I did notice it approaching that tipping point a few years ago, and it freaked me out. I pulled way back, and even closed that blog altogether – something I regret now. Anyway, I always admired your honesty and your ethics (not quite the right word but I can’t think of a better one now) when it came to blogging. Thank you for years of good reading!

  • P May 21, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Dear Jenna, thank you for sharing such honest and beautiful moments over the years. I started reading your blog when I was in high school, and every once in a while I come back and feel comforted that you are still writing. You are a truly remarkable person, and I wish you all the best!

  • B June 4, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Hi Jenna, I remember reading sweetfineday from my undergrad days. I’m glad you made it advertisement-free because it felt a non-commercialized, cozy, homey space to unwind, look for recipes, and see a different part of the world. I always enjoyed reading about the adventures of M and Miss C — their different personalities, birthday parties, holidays, and funny things they said. I’ve never visited the US but when my ex-boyfriend moved there for studies, I ordered a few things from your shop for him and he enjoyed it immensely. Thanks for bringing some beauty into the world through your blog. Happy 10 years!

  • VERONICA August 16, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Happy Anniversary! I used to read your blog religiously for a long time when I was in my early 20s and dropped off when I changed jobs. So glad that this blog is still active, it’s like bumping into an old friend! Will definitely follow you on Instagram 🙂 Thanks for keeping the blog still so clean without ads and personal with the most beautiful heartfelt photos.

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