When Life Happens

I haven’t written in days and I’m starting to twitch. We’re moving in T minus two days. And when I say “moving” I mean we’re packing up our Brooklyn apartment, putting most of it in storage and going to stay with my dad in New Jersey, and then, after we trash his house, on to our upstate place. We were supposed to close on our new home at the end of August and move in just in time for school to start… but that’s not happening.

Why? Because life is not some stylized photo shoot. You can’t plan or stage it. You can’t decorate it with pretty props. Life is not a pristine layer cake, like the kind that populate Pinterest and fancy foodie blogs, with frosting smooth as shellac, fondant decorations, the whole thing resting on a porcelain platter atop of a rustic wooden table all beautifully backlit with a vase of flowers and a glass pitcher of milk.

photo credit, Southern Living.com

photo credit, Southern Living.com

Nope. Life is messy, chaotic, ruthless. Life is one of those sloppy homemade cakes. The kind where the layers are uneven, the whole thing leaning precariously to one side, crumbs litter the frosting, a mess of sprinkles dumped on top, a lumpy slice slapped on a plate with a plastic fork. More like this:

Real life looks more like this. Tastes better, too. photo credit, glutenismybitch.com

Real life looks more like this. Tastes better, too.
photo credit, glutenismybitch.com

Life happens and you’re supposed roll with it. Or you don’t. But there is always choice involved in how you deal with your sloppy cake. You decide if you’re going to freak out, blame everyone else, scream your brains out, yell at your kids/spouse, tear out your hair, cry, rage, throw yourself out the window (or just threaten to do so). You decide how to look at the mess. Is it garbage or a hidden Picasso? This has always been my problem. I tend to choose the dark side. I blame, rage, cry, yell, lash out. I let it take over. I let it control me.

I’ve been having some unfortunate bouts of insomnia lately, as our departure approaches. And in those late night eyeball wide moments, I see everything so clearly. I see the right way, the light way. I think, okay, I can do this! I can choose not to dwell and complain, I can choose love over anger, I can choose to see this new twist/roadblock as an adventure as opposed to a disaster.

But then I wake up. And I’m bone tired and my kids are hungry but won’t eat anything, and I’m wiping butts and making smoothies, and before I know it, all those good intentions fly out the window and my impatience and anger rolls in. I lose it and then feel sunk by my failure. By my inability to change.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I am changing, or at least trying. I’m having enlightened moments in the darkest hours of the night, even if they often disintegrate by morning. I see glimpses of difference, other ways of being.

Yesterday in between the usual child tantrums and parental misery, we had a magical moment in the park. I took Little Guy to pee behind a tree (the kid is like a dog, loves peeing outside) and it happened to be a pine tree and it happened to be populated with dozens of fireflies. It was dusk, later than we’re usually out, and we had just been talking about how we hadn’t seen any fireflies this season, and there they were alight all around us, pausing to rest on blades of grass, on the needles of the tree, inches from our faces.

I pointed at them and said, do it again, and they did. Little Guy was entranced. We brought over Bunky and her dad and we all watched with wonder and awe as dozens of people streamed into the park for a concert, oblivious to our little piece of magic. Then my husband looked up and there were two baby raccoons in the tree, lounging on the upper branches, rolling around, but mostly resting and watching us watch them.

Moments earlier we had been sitting on a cement ledge at the entrance of the park across from the apartment I lived in with my husband before we were married.

Living on the edge. Or ledge. Edge of the ledge?

Living on the edge. Or ledge. Edge of the ledge?

We looked at it, trying to remember where our apartment was, in the back or on the side, what we saw when we looked out the window. We told Bunky about how we used to hear the concerts in the park from our living room. We talked about how she would always remember Brooklyn, but Little Guy would not. Just like my husband, who had been three years old when he left Brooklyn.

I looked at my husband over the kids’ heads and we shared a silent bittersweet moment at this realization.

He may not remember this swing, but we will for him.

He won’t remember this swing, but we will for him.

We told Bunky she could tell him stories about Brooklyn. We talked about how wonderful our time had been here, that we had a good run, but we would begin fresh adventures in New Hope. I smiled as I said these things, which are all true, but it’s not my natural tendency to look at change as adventure. I usually look at it with doom, or at the least, trepidation.

But having kids changes things, people. I don’t want my kids to soak up my lifelong tendency for negativity. I’m trying hard to do what my mom used to tell me to do: see the glass half full, make lemonade out of lemons, choose sweet over sour. But it is not easy. My poor mom, I can see how I must have broke her heart with my bouts of gloomy sadness. How I refused to choose joy even when it was laid out in front of me.

I see so much of myself in my daughter and it kills me. I want to save her from myself, from herself, but I can’t. I want her to love herself and love her life and choose love, but I can’t make her do any of those things just as my mother couldn’t make me. Being a mom is brutal that way. You relive the hardest moments of your life through your kids. And the best ones, too. Like these.

Coney Island July 2014

Coney Island July 2014

coney swings

coney kids

On a city bus, Little Guy's favorite.

On a city bus, Little Guy’s favorite.

The frog, July 2014

The frog, Cutie Playground, July 2014

So, life happens. But I’m learning to roll with it. The fireflies will be there no matter where we go. We just have to look.

family portraitGoodbye Brooklyn. We will miss you.

22 thoughts on “When Life Happens

  1. “Life is one of those sloppy homemade cakes” – that is so very true. Love that magical firefly moment, makes for a terrific analogy! I too have been struggling with positivity lately, I think the lack of sleep really makes things worse. Good luck with the move and wishing all the magical moments follow 🙂

    • Oh, thank you Naomi! I kind of love that line too. And lack of sleep definitely makes things harder! I have basically been sleep deprived for almost 7 years which makes me very close to crazy. I try to get as much as I can but lately insomnia has messed that up. Thanks for the good wishes!

    • Oh Caitlin, this comment made my day. Thanks so much, I will miss knowing you’re my Bklyn neighbor but maybe we could meet up in New Hope someday! Please keep in touch with me about what’s going on with your life and business. Take care my friend!

      Sent from my iPhone.


  2. Dana you are on a new journey and with it will come the ups and the, well cakes that don’t look as good, but somewhere in amongst parenting and writing, you will find your bliss. Now I’m hungry with all this talk about cake. good luck with the move.

  3. I can’t believe you’re moving and we never even got to meet in person! (I’m sure that’s top of the list of your anxieties too, haha.) Somehow I missed your earlier post about moving, but despite the selfish start of this comment, I’m happy for you. I’m sure it’ll be a new adventure! Good luck overcoming the negativity (which it sounds like you’re well on your way to doing) and sleep loss (I definitely know how that feels!). And, hey, at least your internet pals won’t really seem any farther away than before—we (if I may count myself among them) are like fireflies that way.

    • I can’t believe it either! We were so close (geographically) yet so far (lifestyles, kid-filled vs job-filled, opposite schedules). I totally consider you an internet pal, and who knows, maybe one day our paths will cross! Thanks for always being so supportive 🙂

      Sent from my iPhone.


  4. I’m moving this weekend! My biggest fear (in addition to the cost of gas for the moving truck) is that my mom will break down, and it will tear me apart. She is supportive but still sad. And that’s how I am too: a mixture of emotions as I anticipate the future and reflect on the past. Good luck as you move forward, Dana!

    • Oh thanks so much Traci! Your move sounds quite wrenching as well. How far will you be fr your mom? I remember going six hours away for college, the farthest I had been from my mom, and then spending a semester in Spain my junior year. I missed her so much! I wish you the very best I luck on your move. Looking forward to reading about it on your blog. -Dana

      Sent from my iPhone.


      • I’ll only be five hours away (that sounds so tame after living in another country!), but we’re very close. I know this is the right move for me, but goodbyes are tough, as I’m sure you know!

  5. Oh, I’m totally choked up. How did the move go? Here’s to a smooth transition- thinking of you! And FYI- my life is the sloppiest of sloppy cakes. xoxo.

    • Oh thanks Stephanie! We left Bklyn (sniff) and are now upstate. We may get to move into our new place in late August (phew!) which will make life easier. Right now life feels a lot like limbo, which is not my favorite position, but soon enough we’ll be getting settled.

      Sent from my iPhone.


  6. It’s funny how I stumbled onto your site: I had just posted a bento lunch that can be made gluten-free on my website (The “buddy bear” bento on bentobee.com) and out of curiosity typed “gluten free bento” into google and your pinterest page came up. 🙂 Read this post – and BOY can I relate! We are in a messy part of life right now as well – just had a baby, just moved in with the in-laws, etc, etc.

    My oldest daughter (11) also reflects me – and sometimes I worry if I’ve messed her up for life. :S My mother-in-law said something similar about her children when my father-in-law said “You sure give yourself a lot of credit. You wouldn’t take credit for all the good they do – why do you take credit for all of the bad?” I thought it was a good point and try to remind myself of that daily (okay – hourly…. minute-ly? 🙂 ) Hope the dust has settled a bit on your move. Moving is tough – no matter how much you prepare for it! Best of luck in all you do!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! And I am loving your buddy bear bento 🙂

      Messy life is really just life, I guess. But some moments are definitely harder than others! I wish you luck with your older daughter and new baby, and your living arrangements. We just moved into our new place last night (!!) and my daughter started school TODAY. So it’s nuts. But there’s good too. I love what your mother-in-law said about taking credit. It’s true, I don’t take credit for the awesome stuff she does, just the crappy stuff that I think is my fault. Ha. I will have to try and take her advice!

      Thanks again for stopping by 🙂

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