keeping afloat

September 15, 2014 |  Category:   life me



Nothing like getting knocked back a few pegs in the last week to remind you that you’re on a long road toward any kind of normalcy. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m feeling totally lost. I’m trying not to hold in so much anger at the world either, but this year has totally knocked the wind out of me and it started months before it culminated in our loss. I don’t really know who I am right now; I don’t even know what identity the business is anymore. We’re barely keeping afloat.


Can I tell you a little story? A few weeks before our trip in early August, the girls and I were doing errands in the neighborhood. As we were walking on the sidewalk down our block, I saw a tiny fuzzy green line on the street close to the curb. I looked closely again and realized that the fuzzy green line was moving and that it was actually a caterpillar. Have you ever seen a caterpillar cross a busy intersection? Because I haven’t! I pointed the caterpillar out to the kids and we watched for a minute as it inched its way across. We kept our eye on him as we crossed the street from the other side of the intersection and was surprised that the caterpillar was still visible to us. Incredibly, we could still see the fuzzy green line move from several dozen feet away. As it inched its tiny body halfway across the street (the caterpillar could crawl faster that you’d think) we saw a car rambling towards us right on the street that the caterpillar was crossing and we squealed, hoping that it wouldn’t get crushed. We held our breath as the car passed the light. Was the caterpillar still alive? Oh wait, there was the tiny green line…and yes! It was still moving! But, oh no! Another car was coming down the street. We held our breath again and when it passed, we waited to see if the caterpillar was still there and we cheered when we saw it moving again.
We couldn’t take the stress anymore after the 4th car had passed, so we crossed the street where the caterpillar was headed and I looked for a twig. At that point the caterpillar had crossed two-thirds of the street by itself, but I just wanted to scoop him up and carry him the rest of the way. I walked off the curb and approached the caterpillar with the twig. After a bit of finessing and a fall from the twig where he curled himself up in a little ball, he climbed and stayed on. I carefully walked toward the sidewalk with the caterpillar on the twig and found a leafy place under a tree on someone’s front yard. We named him “Furbert” and nudged him off the stick and watched him crawl away under the leaves.
As we went about doing our errands that day, the girls would ask me why the caterpillar decided to cross the street. Did he know he was entering a dangerous and hostile environment? Was there something on the other side that he was looking for? Or maybe he was a brave caterpillar just looking for an adventure! I think you may know where this is headed, and as cheesy as it may be to completely spin this story into a “fable” of sorts, I’m totally going there because I’m sure we can all relate to that little caterpillar at certain points in our lives. Because that’s kind of how I’m feeling like my year has been, exposed in the wide open dodging bullets that seemingly come out of nowhere. In my case, I got steam rolled by one of those bullets and I’ve been down for the count, but I’m slowly inching my way to the other side. I wouldn’t mind a little help sometimes. My family could use a dose of luck or good fortune, but I know ultimately this work needs to come from myself. Who knows what the other side looks like? I suppose that’s the beauty and mystery of it all.

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  • Mieke Zamora-Mackay September 15, 2014 at 10:30 am

    The caterpillar story was lovely. Despite the cheese, we all need to find some way to relate our life experiences. There’s a lesson or sign there waiting to be unearthed.

    Cheering you on, always!

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Ha, it was totally cheesy, wasn’t it!

  • Anonymous September 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Life is hard, some times. Keep the Faith.

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Life IS hard sometimes, isn’t it? And sometimes it downright sucks! But there are a million good things too. That is keeping the faith.

  • Jen September 15, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Jena, it’s so nice to come here and read your stories and feel like there’s other humans who similarly go though struggles, anxieties, and some of life’s punches along the way, even when yes of course we appreciate life’s blessings too. I think human connection and a sense of shared experiences are so important (even if the support system is ironically virtual now). So thank you. Sending you and your family positive vibes.

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks for the good vibes Jen!

  • ginny September 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I always enjoy reading your posts. Hang in there.

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you Ginny, I’m hanging in!

  • Hata Trbonja September 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    your honesty and rawness is refreshing.
    look for small victories in your day. What were three good things that happened in your day? Did you get somewhere on time? Did the sun hit your child’s hair in a beautiful way? Did you have a good meal?
    Build your happiness by starting small.
    Love, Hata

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      Yes Hata, good advice. The small things are what keeps me going because when I think about the other stuff, it’s too overwhelming. It’s a good reminder though to think abut 3 good things that happened in my day. I’ll do that, thanks.

  • Roos September 15, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Dear Jenna,
    Love and luck, and more love and more luck coming your way Right Now as we speak. Yes, you are one of those women who has to do it all (so am I) and please know you don’t need to know what the other side looks like to cross the unknown. Just go for it – at least you don’t look all green and furry ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Thank you Roos. I think of you and your family and hope that you continue to hang in yourself!

  • Claire September 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    โ€œSome periods of our growth are so confusing that we donโ€™t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.โ€ -Alice Walker

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      This is a great quote. Thank you, Claire.

  • me! September 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    @Claire-Great Quote!!!!

    @Jenna-You have caterpillars “speak” to you and I have squirrels! Lol, I see them running and crossing the street and I think they are such risk takers and hard workers (always preparing) and well I’m glad the caterpillar came by for you…

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      You don’t see a caterpillar crossing the street everyday!

  • Heather September 15, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I have given up on most other blogs, but come back to yours every week to check in – it is one of the good ones. Thanks for always just putting it all out there – what a tremendous gift it is to read about your experiences and feel like I’m not the only one going through these feelings. It puts things into perspective. This season will pass!

    • Jenna September 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      Thank you Heather for the really nice comment. Yes yes, it will pass….

  • Sonya September 15, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Dear Jenna, I have been reading your blog for years and am so sorry for your loss. Last year I lost someone too soon and though there were moments of true beauty when I could see how those of us who remained loved and protected each other, a lot of the time it was hard and unreal. A friend gave me the Letters of Note book for Christmas last year and this piece on grief by Henry James really helped me, I hope it helps you too:

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks for the link, Sonya. I look forward to reading it.

  • G September 15, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Dear Jenna,

    I think the above comments are very kind in meaning, but ultimately empty of answers.

    When I think about my own string of bad luck, the ones I (and we) made for ourselves and each other, the kind where the endings are all bad, I think of how waking up in the morning is really a plea – to God, the cosmic universe, the sun, I don’t know – to let me go. Let me instead experience the joie de vivre that others write about, turn away from the past and sit under a rainbow for once.

    I think I wanted to say this to everyone: life isn’t about “growth.” It sure may feel like growth, but losing people the way I have (to murder and suicide) isn’t about extracting a “lesson.” It isn’t a goddamn poem. It’s about churning that awful rage and anger inside, that feeling of being crushed by misery and injustice and regret, into a plea.

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      I agree that there is no “lesson” to be learned in my brother’s death. Well, maybe there are some things that I can glean, but in general, no. Grief is very confusing. The anger is hard to deal with. Sometimes, life is just unfair.

  • Kracie September 15, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Jenna, I love the caterpillar story ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am struggling myself. Two years ago I decided to quit my stable job because I wanted to prioritize myself. I spent 1.5 years traveling and I’ve been job hunting for 6 months now. I know! 6 months and still no job – that’s so scary! The reason why I’m still unemployed is because I am so stubborn and picky. I refuse to go back to what I was doing and apparently, the job that I want is so hard to get. Hmmppphhh! I’m not giving up. I know that I will get it, I just need to focus on the process.

    Don’t lose hope, Jenna. Good things take time ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Ah, job hunting and transitioning to a different job/career. I think many of us can relate, kracie. Hang in there. Sounds terrible, but in this economy, I don’t think 6 months is all that uncommon to find the right job, particularly if you want to pivot to something else. You don’t sound discouraged, but hopeful, which is great. Good luck in finding your next job. I bet that year of travel was fantastic. Jealous of that!

  • Lara September 16, 2014 at 1:13 am

    I appreciate reading your thoughts, as much as I cringe to think that you’re identifying with the caterpillar. I see you as so strong and able to do most anything you put your mind to, but I realize that’s when you’re at your best. And right now is a time for healing and loving and growing strong again. I’m still pouring my thoughts and best wishes out to you daily, and will jump at the chance to help you.

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks Lara. Aw, it’s not so bad identifying with a caterpillar ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anne-Marie September 16, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Dear Jenna – my husband is a graphic designer too (he loves hearing about how you are doing) and he also gets freaked out every so often that there isn’t enough work coming in, but it always does arrive, and he always does keep afloat, so I’m sure you will too.
    In the absolutely worst case scenario, both you and Mark have great skills, experience and qualifications, so you would always get other work. It could even open up new doors to you.

    Take care

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      Hi Anne-Marie. Thanks for your note! My “issues” right now isn’t so much career as it is life and grief and figuring who I am now that my brother’s gone. Career does have some play in it, of course, since it’s so damn hard for us Americans to separate our identity with our careers, you know? Hope your husband is doing well!

  • Helle (Helen) September 16, 2014 at 3:54 am

    I look at several blogs regularly, read them and click away. After reading your posts, I often keep them in my head for a longer while, think about what you said. I agree with somebody further up, losing a loved one is not about growing, how can that make one grow and evolve, one learns to live with it and one learns a lot about oneself. Cheesy as it might be, I don’t find the analogy all bad, cause apart from stubbornly moving on what should one do? Glad to hear he made it and I hope you’ll find your patch of leaves ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      I hope I find my patch of leaves too! Thanks Helle.

  • Lara September 16, 2014 at 7:11 am

    I can’t believe how much your writing resonates with me.As I go through some rough stuff as well which have coincided with my becoming a parent, sometimes it’s exhilarating to just enjoy life and the small moments with my family in the midst of all the chaos, and other times the chaos is deflating, or it makes my mind race when it should be resting! I can’t tell if this is the new normal as I get older, or if there will be a point when it will feel like so much of it is behind me. Thanks for writing about all this tough stuff, and for the caterpillar story- I’m going to keep it in mind today!

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      Good luck with the rough stuff Lara. It’s just another part of life, right?

  • julie September 16, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Hi Jenna,
    Thanks for sharing your caterpillar story – what a sweet ending! I love how the natural world can throw things into relief ~ I seem to always see little rabbits on my walks in toronto these days. Often just when I’m in the middle of some ruminating and a few times when bickering with my partner – it’s made us stop and calm down and see the little rabbit, trying to blend in with the lawn, and have to laugh (quietly) and smile and see the world anew. Thanks for your stories….

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      hey Julie. Yeah, now that I think about it, youโ€™re right. Nature does help us look at things in a new light sometimes.

  • AGB September 16, 2014 at 7:03 pm


    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I love the way you write. I enjoy learning about your journey through life and the honesty you bring as you share the ups and downs of parenting, family, and career. Thank you for giving all of us a glimpse into your world.

    • Jenna September 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      And thank you for taking the time to visit here!

  • Sue Lee September 17, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Jenna, your photography is stellar!

    Also, thank you for sharing your pain with us – I find it comforting to be able to peer into your world, and know we all are struggling; separately, yet together.

    After more than seven years, my husband’s suicide still brings moments and days of intense grief, and especially, times of questioning my role here in this world. Perhaps that’s what this is all about – questioning, wondering, helping, grieving, keeping going.

    Fall is nearly here, and we get to think about what that all means, too. I enjoy traveling this road with you.

    • Jenna September 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm

      my heart aches for you Sue. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jeanne September 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    Your blog is the only one that I never skip on my feed. I hope you never stop writing and sharing your experiences with us. You have the ability to gracefully articulate a lot of the struggling and joy that many of us feel. You touch on a lot of things that are close to my heart–owning a small business (you were very kind and answered a question that I asked a couple of years ago for my popsicle business), raising half Korean girls, self-care, and dealing with feeling blah and directionless. I really love that you leave your posts open ended and that they are not neat and tidied up. You don’t project the bs of perfection and I appreciate that so much.

    I hope that you can find peace in being lost and let that be for as long as it needs. A while back my friend was seriously contemplating becoming a nun and was so conflicted. One day she ran into a group of nuns in her daily travels and she asked what she should do. One of the nun’s said, “way will show” and left it at that. That phrase has stayed with me and makes me feel like it’s ok to not have all of the answers because one day we will.


    • Jenna September 19, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Jeanne, I remember you and your email! Hope all is well, and thank you so much for this lovely comment.

  • Jen September 18, 2014 at 1:48 am

    Ugh, Jenna, I am so sorry you’re going through this. I feel like we’re sold this idea that when we lose someone, after an acceptable period of grieving we have some big epiphany about the beauty and meaning of life, or whatever, and then all is well and good again. And that’s billed as personal growth. I do believe that even horrible things like the loss of a loved one can spur personal growth, but I think it comes in the form of slowly learning to accept and be at peace with the fact that there is no happy ending that erases completely the pain and bewilderment; it’s about learning to live in some sort of harmony with the cracks that will forever be a part of our shape, and finding ways to reinforce ourselves so that the cracks don’t leave us shattered. Wishing you strength throughout this difficult time.

    • Jenna September 19, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Beautiful. I love the way you describe it. thank you Jen.

    • Jocy September 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Beautifully put.

    • Ronnie October 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      What Jocy said.
      Ronnie xo

  • Reba September 18, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for sharing the caterpillar fable with us, but more importantly, thank you for living it with your girls. The grace, strength, and empathy for the smallest of creatures you’re demonstrating through this impossibly difficult time is shaping them and teaching them invaluable lessons.

    • Jenna September 19, 2014 at 1:11 am

      I hope so! Sometimes I feel like I’ve been absent for them this summer, kind of checked out. They like to walk past the tree and yard to see if “Furbert is still there”. That little caterpillar made quite an impact on us!