Italy Bound!

Four-in-a-half years ago Kevin and I got engaged in Rome. It was a very hot muggy day in July, and sadly, we had been bickering for most of it. I was hungover, he was jet-lagged, and all I wanted to do was find some air conditioning. After walking around rather aimlessly for what felt like hours, Kevin finally gave up his secret quest for finding the perfect location, and in the middle of an alley in Rome’s Jewish ghetto, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

I said yes.


Engaged in Rome – 2010

In just a few short hours, the two (three?) of us are boarding a flight to take us back to that magical city that we officially decided to become a family in. We had booked our international Thanksgiving escape right before I found out I was pregnant, so what was originally going to be a wine-centric holiday getaway has morphed into our babymoon. We’re spending a few days in Rome (my most favorite of all European cities), and then renting a car and cruising around the Tuscan countryside. We’re basing ourselves in Montepulciano in the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany, and this will be the first time in the history of our relationship that I will have no choice but to be the designated driver. I’m really hoping my appetite cooperates on this trip, because while Kevin is indulging in glass after glass of delicious fine red wine, I plan on eating until I burst.

Italy holds a special place in my heart, and it always will. In addition to getting engaged there, I studied abroad in Perugia in college, and I’ve been fortunate to have been back a handful of times since. I know it sounds cliche, but Italy is a truly magical place to me.

We have no idea what our life is going to be like when our little dude arrives, so I’m not sure when our feet will be gracing international territory next. I hope it won’t be too long, but people keep telling me that life has a way of turning things upside down once kids enter the equation, so it might be longer than I would like. Because of that, I plan on reveling in every single delicious moment.

Neither one of us have ever been to the Val d’Orcia region, so if you have and have any recommendations (must-see towns to visit, restaurants, wineries, etc) please send them our way.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Jessica NNovember 21, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Have so much fun! Can’t wait to see all the pictures when you are back! And yes enjoy every minute. Life with baby is so amazing, but so different (ie no time for yourself)!

MelissaNovember 21, 2014 - 2:18 pm

If you make it to Montelcino, Grappolo Blu is is a delicious and charming restaurant…or Poggio Antico if you’re looking to splurge!

AngieNovember 23, 2014 - 8:45 am

Have a great trip!

Mona Lisa GandzjukNovember 24, 2014 - 6:57 pm

you two are my inspiration ! You go , girl! I also am proud you picked the Perfect match.

I survived!

On Monday night, I stood up in front of a room full of more than 60 people, and read my story.

And… it felt awesome.

People laughed when they were supposed to laugh. Cheered when they were supposed to cheer. Clapped when they were supposed to clapped. My friend Lindsey cried when she wasn’t necessarily supposed to cry, but it worked. Though I’m quite sure that even if I had done a horrendous job no one would have told me that, I felt like I did relatively well.

I was by far the least accomplished of all the speakers, which, while definitely adding to my nerves, also made me really proud and excited that I had been asked to speak among them. Though I felt like I was way out of my league, it was inspiring because it made me think… maybe that could be me one day.

So, despite being so nervous I almost made myself sick (seriously) the experience was overall really cool and great and wonderful. I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear of public speaking hold me back from doing it, because I would have regretted it.

I am still a long ways away from conquering that fear. I’m not sure if there will ever be a time where I’m completely comfortable speaking in front of large groups, and I am baffled by those that are so at ease with it. But Monday night was a small victory for me.

And that’s something to celebrate.

The very accomplished and inspiring readers I was somehow invited to be among.
From left to right, Lavinia Spalding, Amanda Jones, Kimberley Lovato, Don George, and me.


A horrible picture, but there I am! Trying my best not to shit my pants!


I survived!

And just in case you forgot, you can read my story in the The Best Women’s Travel Writing: Volume 10 by purchasing it here.

Patty McClainNovember 19, 2014 - 9:31 am

Way to go!!

Mona Lisa GandzjukNovember 19, 2014 - 12:09 pm

You are Amazing, and quite Beautiful

Lisa @ Two MartinisNovember 23, 2014 - 6:35 pm

YAY! Great job 🙂

Megan C. StroupDecember 5, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Yay you!!! Belated congrats on this awesome accomplishment. 🙂

Exciting News!

Hey friends! For those of you that have been following this blog for awhile, you might have gathered that this past year has been pretty big in terms of life changes. Last October I quit my job to walk the Camino de Santiago with Kevin, and while the Camino was definitely the catalyst for me quitting, I was in a place in my life where job-wise it was time to move on. Since then I’ve worked pretty hard to do a rather big career change, focusing on what makes me happy and trying to find a job that would nurture those things. I took a writing class, started doing some freelance writing and marketing work, and eventually I landed a new job as an editorial manager for an e-commerce site. And now I’m pregnant. It’s kinda crazy to think about just how much has changed in one year.

You might also remember that after one of my writing classes I wrote a long post about how awful it was and how everyone hated my story and how completely judged I felt by the so called “constructive criticism” I received in the class. I ended up removing that post because I ultimately felt that it came off as really negative and I was nervous that someone from my writing class was going to read it.

Well, life has a funny way of working itself out, because I ended up really loving the class.

Even better, one of the stories I wrote in that class just got published in The Best Women’s Travel Writing: Volume 10.


Crazy, right?!?

Something I wrote. In a book. A real book with real pages. An actual tangible book that you can read and put on your shelf and share with other people.

It’s just one story among many other incredible stories, but it’s my first officially published work and I’m proud of it.


Screenshot of the table of contents from the kindle edition because I don’t yet have the physical copy

Anyway, on a different but similar note, the editor of the publication emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I would read my story at an upcoming travel writing event she was hosting. This was a huge honor, so of course I said yes.

But here’s the thing…

I am terrified.

I despise public speaking. It is one of my biggest fears, and now that the event is creeping up on me, I am freaking the fu$k out. I have 10 minutes to read my story in front of a large room full of strangers and that seems like a lifetime to me.

When I first received the invitation my immediate inclination was to say “thanks but no thanks” and make up some excuse as to why I couldn’t attend. I quickly realized how completely ridiculous that would be. I never want to be the type of person that turns down opportunities out of fear. So I said yes.

And I’ve been silently freaking out ever since.

So, dear readers, do you get nervous speaking in front of large groups? Or are you a public speaking badass? Any tips and advice on how not to shit my pants next week would be greatly appreciated. And keep in mind I can’t drink, so calming my nerves with alcohol sadly isn’t an option…

P.S. For those of you interested, you can buy a copy of The Best Women’s Travel Writing here. The paperback version isn’t available until the end of this month, but you can preorder it now and it will ship as soon as the warehouse receives it. Otherwise you can get the kindle version today 🙂

AngieNovember 12, 2014 - 7:04 am

WOW! Congratulations and best of luck with your reading. I would just recommend practicing over and over again, get used to hearing your own voice reading your own story.

KariNovember 12, 2014 - 7:35 am

CONGRATULATIONS!!! This is AWESOME!! Way to go! Just practice a lot beforehand and try take a lot of deep breaths before you start. Try not to think about the fact that you’re nervous. You’ll do great!

Rachel AsimosNovember 12, 2014 - 8:48 am

Yay!!! So exciting! Proud of you! I think, as the other posters said, practice reading it out loud. In my public speaking classes, the more I practiced out loud, the less nervous I was during the speach. Pretend like it’s a group of your friends you’re reading to. I’ve also heard when you’re ‘nervous’ to tell yourself the feeling is ‘excitement’ instead. The two feelings are similar, but excitement is a more positive one. I’ve used that in job interviews and it totally works.

nancy @ adore to adornNovember 12, 2014 - 9:23 am

this is so exciting! congratulations on being PUBLISHED! there are not many people who can actually say that credibly! =)
I completely relate and understand your fear of public speaking. I am not one of those people who are natural in front of people. Even social gatherings give me anxiety if I don’t know enough of the people. But, I do feel this is a great and amazing opportunity for you. What a thrill it will be once you do it! The time leading up to it will be more “stressful” than actually doing it I feel. Everything is always “bigger” in our minds since we consume ourselves with so many thoughts/fears. Of course, practice is everything just to help get some jitters out and flubs that might occur. But, knowing your own pace within 10 minutes will definitely help. =)

Congrats again!

Mona GandzjukNovember 12, 2014 - 10:04 am

refer to comment from post

Alexander GandzjukNovember 12, 2014 - 10:45 am

Congrats Serena! Double Honor, not only published but also asked to read in public only shows how good U really are. As for getting over Ur fear of public speaking only the start is hard. Once U get started it becomes easier. Also tell Urself to slow down, going too fast just gets U stressed. Have Kevin Vidio Ur reading as a dry run. Reviewing it will show U where U need to change and improve. In short, I know U will do just fine. Good Luck and We Love U.

Linda MurphyNovember 12, 2014 - 11:04 am

Congratulations! Some advice from The Exotic Marigold Hotel. If you’re nervous about speaking to a group, “Picture them naked!”

Megan C. StroupNovember 15, 2014 - 11:28 pm

Congrats!! That is so awesome. I will definitely have to get my hands on a copy of that book. 🙂 Sorry I can’t help with the public speaking tips. :/ I just always try to know what I want to say ahead of time; then I feel more prepared and less nervous. 🙂

DJNovember 16, 2014 - 9:29 am

That’s amazing!! Congratulations!

On Being Pregnant

Disclaimer: in the post below I write about how I don’t particularly enjoy being pregnant. I know there are many women out there that are struggling to get pregnant or grieving a lost pregnancy and would love nothing more than to find themselves in my situation. The last thing I want to do is be insensitive to that. Though I have had a less than pleasant pregnancy, I hope it goes without saying that I am very grateful to be pregnant, and I truly hope that everyone that wants a child gets to have one. 


Throughout my life, I’ve read a lot of pregnancy and mommy blogs. I would follow along the parenthood journey vicariously, occasionally skipping over a post that was not particularly interesting. For the most part, these mommy blogs made pregnancy sound awesome. Sure, you have to make a few sacrifices, but YOU ARE GROWING A HUMAN BEING AND OMG IT IS AMAZING!

Because of these people, I went into pregnancy thinking that outside of having to give up my beloved wine, it wouldn’t be so bad. Of course, I had a couple friends who told me that wasn’t really the case and that pregnancy was actually pretty shitty for lots of people. Yet for some reason, I chalked up these opinions as exceptions to the rule.

I mentioned the other day that I do not enjoy being pregnant. I feel like this is something I am not supposed to say, because it makes me sound ungrateful for this gift that has been bestowed upon me. But while I am very grateful for the ease of my fertility and incredibly excited to be having a child with the person I love most in this world, I truly and passionately do not enjoy being pregnant. Quite frankly, so far, for me, being pregnant sucks.

I know that there are some women out there who love being pregnant and have easy pregnancies with no symptoms. I am not one of those women. I do not relate to those women at all, whatsoever. In fact, I find myself getting very ragey when I come across them and hear them talk about how easy and awesome pregnancy is and how amazing and healthy and peaceful they feel. I have not felt that way. For those curious, here’s my take on it thus far:

The first trimester is really truly horrible. I was not prepared for just how horrible it would be. Prior to experiencing it myself, I thought that pregnant women just exaggerated their symptoms and that it really couldn’t be all that bad.

Well, karma is a bitch.

I have had crippling all-day nausea and vomiting that didn’t ease up until well into the second trimester. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so miserable so consistently without it being the direct result of having some horrible disease. Even now, at 19 weeks, I still don’t feel all that great. Do I feel better than I did a month ago? Definitely! Do I feel as good as I felt when I wasn’t pregnant? BWAHAHAHAHA. No.

My mom has said to me multiple times “enjoy this, it’s the best time of your life!”

I can assure you that this is, 100%, not the best time of my life. I can think of many other times that have been far better than this, and I sincerely hope that the best times of my life are not already behind me.

I no longer like food. Just typing that sentence is baffling to me as food has long been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. I used to spend a significant amount of my income going out to eat in search of delicious things, and I often plan entire trips around what I am going to eat. So to have this taken away from me has been really depressing. Nothing tastes that good to me and eating has become more of a chore. I keep waiting to get my appetite back but I’m starting to lose hope that it is ever going to happen.

I have no social life. While not being able to drink certainly contributes, it’s not the main reason. No matter how “good” I feel during the day (and I put that in quotes because feeling good has become relative to how bad I felt in the beginning), I almost always feel bad at night. When you combine feeling like shit with having no appetite and not being able to drink, the last thing I want to do is socialize with people and watch them devour food and wine while I sit there hoping I don’t throw up. So outside of the occasional weekend brunch, my social life is nonexistent. And this makes me feel very sad.

Then there are the raging hormones that turn you into an irrational bitch, acne, random hair growth, living in a state of paranoia, anxiety over every single twinge, digestion problems, insomnia… basically, it’s a long long list of unpleasantness. Some women don’t get any of it. Some women get it all. I am unfortunately in the latter. And according to this, there’s a whole slew of other upcoming symptoms to look forward to! Swelling genitals? Lucky me!

Almost everyone told me that most of these symptoms would end after the first trimester. They haven’t. I am now almost halfway through this pregnancy and while I am feeling significantly better, I am not confident that I’m ever going to cross over into that “I feel great” stage. I have accepted that, and though I am jealous of the ladies that feel awesome all of the time, it is what it is.

And yet, despite all of this misery, I am still very excited and happy to be having a child! I don’t enjoy the process that gets me there, but I am confident that when all is said and done, it will be worth it.

chelseaNovember 5, 2014 - 7:21 am

I just had a baby in July. I hated being pregnant until about 25 weeks, and then I loved it. I threw up on and off throughout the day and night through 20 weeks. I was on Zofran until 20 weeks so I would stop losing weight. I couldn’t eat meat from week 5-26 or even see it at the store without gagging. I too LOVE food. Like with all my heart love food. It came back sort of near the end and this disappeared again at the very end when I ran out of stomach space. But it’s back in full force now that she’s here. I seriously hated pregnancy for the majority of it (but was also super thankful to be pregnant and to have gotten pregnant easily), but then when I started to feel better I really loved it and would definitely do it again. I really avoided all the other crappy symptoms after the sickness for the most part, so I hope you can dodge most of them too! And I hope your pregnancy gets better!

AngieNovember 5, 2014 - 7:36 am

Sorry to hear all of the lousy first trimester stuff hasn’t subsided yet. Try to take it one day at a time. There is some really cool stuff coming – feeling the baby kick (and then weeks later seeing your husband’s expression when he finally feels it) and seeing him/her (and all of the bones and organs) at that 20 week ultrasound is exciting.

RachelNovember 5, 2014 - 9:00 am

First off, congratulations! But more relevant: I’m so sorry you’re having a tough time so far! I know I was one of those pregnant ladies that make you (and many others) stabby! All I can say is that it most definitely WILL BE WORTH IT! And if it’s any consolation whatsoever, I spent my otherwise happy pregnancy being secretly jealous of those who lost their appetite and wouldn’t be gaining an additional 20lbs of “maternal stores” 😉 … Maybe not completely equal but there is your silver lining. Back to my lunges…!

AngieNovember 5, 2014 - 10:17 am

I truly hope you start feeling better soon and these symptoms subside! <3

Lisa @ Two MartinisNovember 5, 2014 - 12:35 pm

I hope you start feeling better and better as time goes on! As a sidenote, I kind of hate how it’s pretty much impossible to complain about pregnancy or anything child-related without adding in a footnote of sorts to say ‘of course I’m so grateful, but…’ – sometimes I just want to complain and not feel guilty about it!

KaitlynNovember 6, 2014 - 6:36 am

OK… I am regretting clicking on that SkepChick link. I SERIOUSLY hope your pregnancy becomes magically awesome sometime soon. I am at a waaaay pre-baby stage in my life and that article was ALARMING. All the best to you!! *shudders*

Ready or Not…

Well hello friends! How have you all been for the past 6 months? I’ve been great, thanks for asking.

Instead of drawing this out, I’m just going to come out and say it. I am pregnant.

I’m fairly confident that 99% of the readers I have left are friends and family that actually know me in real life, so this is probably not news to you. But to the other 1%, it’s true! There is a tiny human currently occupying space inside this thing we refer to as my womb. And yes, it’s really effing weird.

To those of you thinking “What the?! It seems like just yesterday you were not even close to wanting kids!” you are correct. Basically, this is what happened:

Up until about six months ago I still had very little desire to get pregnant anytime soon. In fact, Kevin and I were still trying very hard not to get me pregnant. But then one month I just felt off, and I convinced myself I was knocked up. Well, I wasn’t, but in that blink-of-an-eye period in which I thought I might have been, I was actually, surprisingly, pretty excited about it. This then led to the realization that I kinda sorta wouldn’t mind being pregnant. So we decided and to pull the goalie see what happened.

And, well, this happened:


Mini-McClain at 12 weeks. 

(Yes I am aware that I just committed the ultimate cliche – I posted an ultrasound picture. Who am I?)

It happened much sooner than Kevin and I had ever expected it to, and the whole thing still seems very surreal to both of us. I vacillate between being overwhelmed with joy to feeling completely terrified that perhaps we have just ruined our lives by embarking on this life-altering journey a bit too soon. But more than anything I am excited, and though I do not enjoy being pregnant (more on that to come) I am very grateful that this happened so easily.

There’s so much more to say about this crazy thing called pregnancy, but for now, I’ll leave you with this video. It’s something I still believe wholeheartedly, and if I ever start acting even remotely close to this, you have permission to punch me in the face (well, not really, but do let me know).


What’s new with you?

P.S. Happy Halloween!

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TempesstOctober 31, 2014 - 6:43 am

Congratulations serena!!!! I recently booked a ticket to Southeast Asia where I will spend 3-4 months backpacking next year. I also go between feeling overwhelmingly excited and scared!

Kari HughesOctober 31, 2014 - 6:47 am

You still have some readers out here. Congratulations!

SamOctober 31, 2014 - 7:21 am

Congratulations Serena! I’m a non friend or family reader and just the other day I wondered whether you were still blogging! It’s very exciting news 🙂

AngieOctober 31, 2014 - 8:07 am

Give it some time the cool stuff is coming – I don’t think anyone enjoys being pregnant in the beginning! Take care of yourself and let me know if you need anything or have questions.

KariOctober 31, 2014 - 8:11 am

Congratulations!! That is AWESOME!!

Rich KrawczykOctober 31, 2014 - 9:12 am

Hahaha! Thanks for reminding me that once again it’s great to be a guy! I’m never pulling the goalie. 🙂

Congratulations on your pregnancy! It’s great news to your extended family.

Love the humor! Even though you are a beautiful woman, it’s your politics, attitude and sense of humor that I’ve always liked best!

MargaretOctober 31, 2014 - 9:13 am

YAY!! Welcome back and CONGRATULATIONS!!! I’ve just recently crossed the line to feeling ok (and not totally freaked out) with the thought of having a baby!

KaitlynOctober 31, 2014 - 10:35 am

I’m still part of the 1%! Happy to hear from you and congratulations on your pregnancy.

KevinOctober 31, 2014 - 10:46 am

I think your 1% estimate should be much higher 🙂

Jessica NOctober 31, 2014 - 11:06 am

Best news ever! Congrats you guys! It’s crazy how fast feelings can change from not wanting kids and then wanting them. Totally been there. And yes it can happen so fast. You think it would take a lot longer, but it really doesn’t sometimes!

DJOctober 31, 2014 - 5:01 pm

heyyyy congrats! That video is hilarious. I think people are starting to expect me to be like that but I can’t even PRETEND to be one of those people.

AngieNovember 1, 2014 - 9:24 am


Kelly VillersNovember 1, 2014 - 10:34 am

Congratulations!! It’s so funny to be in sync with someone you don’t know!! I’ve shared your views on babies/pregnancies before…but have lately, myself, been feeling that urge!! I think it’s the age 😉 I’m sure it will be a wild adventure!! Enjoy it as much as you can!! 🙂

Lisa @ Two MartinisNovember 1, 2014 - 2:15 pm

YAY!!! Congrats 🙂 I can’t wait to hear more about your pregnancy and how life is going!

DaniellaNovember 3, 2014 - 12:56 pm

Congrats!! You def have some readers out there who are beyond the family/friends group! I hope you keep writing about this next adventure!

Being Pregnant Sucks | SpillerenaNovember 5, 2014 - 6:22 am

[…] mentioned the other day that I do not enjoy being pregnant. I feel like this is something I am not supposed to say, because it makes me sound ungrateful for […]

nancy @ adore to adornNovember 5, 2014 - 2:08 pm

well, hello there! And congratulations on being pregnant. While your side effects from pregnancy most definitely suck (sorry to hear!) it’s pretty amazing you’re growing a human!
I must admit, I had to stop and re-read the sentence where you said you are pregnant! I just recall reading a post where you described not yet wanting kid(s). How wonderful to hear that this is a genuine process and that it happened organically (in terms of your desire).
This is pretty amazing. Pretty soon you’ll have another being to love!

Megan C. StroupNovember 16, 2014 - 2:41 pm

That video was disturbingly creepy yet hilarious haha. But really – congrats!! Exciting news for you and your husband. 🙂

brittanyNovember 18, 2014 - 5:04 pm

I am so happy to see a post from you! I was just thinking about you last week and el camino! Congrats on your baby 🙂 I hope you post some more soon