Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Happy 4th From The Country | Main | Like Magic »

I'll Get By

It's hard to know exactly how Violet feels about all the upheaval of the past six months. For a toddler, it must be weird to live in one place and then the very next second, without any notice at all, you live in a whole new place and your entire routine is different. As any parent knows, sameness and routine is crucial when it comes to keeping little kids happy. Not only that, the whole familiar routine interrupted thing, but every single possession she ever had, books, toys, clothing, blankets - all burned in a fire - no longer exists. POOF. Gone. Up in smoke. Everything she loved, that made her happy - gone.

We tried to make living at The White Castle an adventure for Violet. She started it by naming it The White Castle and so, while dealing with some pretty severe PTSD (any time I see smoke coming from a chimney my whole body clenches into a cramp as I remember flames shooting from my roof) ignited by the fire we anxiously, almost obsessively, tried to keep the fairytale alive by decorating her "Pink Princess Room" (which she also named) in happy, bright colors.

While living in The White Castle we'd roam in the woods behind the house, watch the dogs splash in a nearby river, we'd walk the neighborhood each afternoon making the rounds to our horse and cow and chicken friends, we strung Christmas lights on the back porch and most mornings we'd walk to the General Store for coffee and a lollipop from Belva, the woman who lives next to the store and works there each morning.

"Hewwo Belva!" Violet would say each time we walked in.

"Well, HELLO THERE, Violet!" Belva would reply. "Which kind of lollipop would you like today?"

Then we'd sit on the bench outside the store and watch the morning go by. Horses and buggies: Amish folks stopping in for a few items, farmers hauling cattle buying lotto tickets, coffee and shooting the shit. One time, after an afternoon visit to the General Store we just missed seeing a robbery go down at the bank across the street. Woman outside waving a gun and everything. Bummed to have missed out on the action. Woulda been quite a show, quite a show.

Upon reflection, I think we did a great job creating the smoothest transition possible. The move home, here, back to our reconstructed house was even better. For months leading up to the move we'd drive by and say hello to the construction workers and talk about moving back to her new Pink Princess Room. We carefully monitored the progress and discussed how we'd decorate it; bed here, reading corner there, fluffy purple rug here...

Now that we're back I spent the first few weeks going back to The White Castle, cleaning it, patching and painting over nail holes, even re-staining bits of the wood floor there (I want every cent of my deposit back, am obsessed with it! We had to pay a nearly $2,000 deposit to move in because of our dogs) and so Violet has come with me to say hello to The White Castle.

Now that it's all over and we're back home and nothing seems much worse for the wear (except maybe our marriage, but we're still hanging in here) I hope that one day The Fire will be a story we tell the kids, who at that point are sick to death of hearing about it. Kind of like your mom retelling the same stories about whatever that you've heard your whole life, the ones that you can repeat word for word and when she starts yammering the tired tale you roll your eyes behind her back and put your index finger to the side of your head and pull your thumb trigger. Yeah mom, I know. You've told this story before. But she never stops the story because really, she's not telling it for you, she's telling it for herself. To remind herself. To remember. I understand that now.

But in the re-telling of this tale, as the years roll on and it becomes Bielanko legend, I don't really want to focus on the fire part. It's the aftermath that's the most important. How thousands of people reached out to us and carried us through the worst time of our lives, not only by helping financially but emotionally. I received dozens of emails from as far away as Australia offering words of support. It still blows me away to think about it and has permanently changed my view of the Internet. You guys are like family to me. Anybody reading this, now, is like family. The fact that you care enough to get to this paragraph makes me happy. Even the ones who read because they hate me. Especially the ones who read because they hate me because that kind of thing is almost comfortable to me in a dysfunctional family kinda way.

Anyway, I'm doing well. Feel better than I have in a long while. For the first time ever in my married life I live in a place I adore. A place I know I want to raise my children. A place that's comfortable and safe and in the most beautiful area I've ever lived. A place just three hours from New York City, the city that excites me like no other.

Last night as I dropped the needle on Billie Holiday and watered the hanging baskets on the front porch I watched Serge and Violet chase fireflies (lightning bugs, they call them here) and realized that this is what I want to do until I die. Live in a big ol' farmhouse in the country and do my thing.

The record I was listening to is called Strange Fruit, which could be a blog post in and of itself, and it will be. But one of my favorite songs on it, I'll Get By, suddenly made a lot more sense, you know?

Go head, listen to the song and check out some of the photos I took last night while watching my family play in the yard in front of our new/old house on a lazy summer evening.

Reader Comments (25)

Monica, I'm so glad you are living in your happy place. Eventually, you'll find the happy place inside yourself that was scared shitless when you rescued your children from death. Don't forget that you rescued yourself as well. I was one that donated to your emergency fund and have followed your blog for several years. I cried when I saw the post about your fire. I was glad that Katie promptly gave your followers a small way we could help. It made me feel not so helpless that I could help you and your family.

Once you allow yourself to FEEL happy and SAFE again, the other things in your life that were also damaged (aka your marriage) will also begin to heal. Give them time and keep writing.


July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSnohoTina

I'm so happy for you! Love the photos - especially that last one.

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

Beautiful entry, exquisite photos. So glad to hear that your life is getting back to a new normal!

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy n.

I just love knowing that you appreciate little ole me, being your reader. I think that is what endears me so much to you & your clan, the humble, family feel of your posts. I enjoyed your pics and the Billie Holiday song. You should make more videos (the daily moments). I especially enjoy your videos with music (my fav was Violet doing her "lord of the dance" in the jumpy contraption). Makes me smile every time. Au Revoir! alicia

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterniobe19

Aw. Sniff!

Beautifully written, beautiful sentiment. May things just keep getting better and better for you guys from here on out! We're all pulling for you, always.

"[...] from as far away as Australia [...]" = that was me! Bahahah.

Okay, I'm sure I was just one of many Aussies who emailed you, tee hee! Also, I would love to be chasing fireflies now instead of sitting on my ass at work. Plus: summer!

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPretzel Thief

Lovely...and thanks for the song. That last photo is my favorite. It goes with the song so well. :)

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda

I was just thinking the same thing today...that this is what I want to do/where I want to be until I die. Laying on our backs in the grass (with my five year old daughter) and watching the tall maples sway in the peaceful...brings calm to our crazy lives...

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhanni

I read this post while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office. Had to fight back tears to avoid looking like the crazy ass in the corner. As always, thank you for your words. So happy to hear your are feeling some peace at last.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergin

Yay! I'm so glad you guys are back home and settling in. I hope things settle down for a while and you can enjoy the summer, the lighting bugs, and the occasional bank robbery! Keeping you in my thoughts!

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArchaeogoddess

Monica, I'm so glad your family is back where they belong. The last picture brought tears to my eyes -- it would look beautiful framed in the new house, yes? Have a wonderful weekend.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarti

Those photos made me happy...I almost could smell the air you know? xoxox

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle

Since Strange Fruit is about lynching, it has always given me the heebie jeebies (and it is hauntingl). Curious what your take on it is.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

Another Aussie reader/fan here! I too have a marriage that's a bit, shall we say, on the rocks, so reading your blog gives me a bit of strength, thanks. Your photos are gorgeous and I look forward to more photos of the big ol' farmhouse :)

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

Whoa. That Miss Noir site really scares the bejesus out of me but what are you gonna do? You and your family are lovely and I thank my lucky stars for mommy bloggers like you. So glad that you made it back to your home in one piece and look forward to hearing more from you and Serge this summer. AMAZING photos. Take me there.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstella

Wow, even though I'm somewhat new to your blog, your last entry really touched me. Like, had my fiance turn off the radio in the car so I could read to him your quote of "this what I want to do until you die". Can you imagine if you went back and talked to the old Brooklyn Monica... and reassure her that you and Serge would find such a place of happiness?!?! Good for you, but why did you mention that awful website at the end?
Of course I had to check it out... NOW I get all your earlier references to the obnoxious haters out there. Life is high school all over! These women are the bratty girls that were mad at you, the pretty cheerleader, for getting the hot rocker dude. So funny in a desperate kinda way!!

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnielee

This was a beautiful post.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeri A.

Back when you first announced you were finally moving back into your home, The first thing I did when I got home and my husband and I exchanged kisses/hellos/how was your days- was say, "ooh! And Monica and Serge get to move back into their house!" And my husband asked, "Who?" And then I had to explain...and that made me smile-at how small the world of the internet can really be. The way that joy felt for someone who I've never met, could be the top wonderful thing to say about my day. It's amazing.

These photos make me happy. Because it feels like things are getting back to being right for your family. Phoenix rising kind of right.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterconnie

So glad you are happy! I adore these pictures!!!

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterashley kisslinger

Glad you're settling back in. I love me some snark, and I'll admit to reading here for an occasional hit of schadenfreude. Thus, I speak with some authority when I say that Miss Noir wouldn't know snark if it landed in her umbrella drink. Don't know why PartyPants keeps her around.

Read this earlier today, and your post reminded me of it:

If you put into action even a little bit of his takeaway message, you'll be in a much better place in a year, and we can both point and laugh a little at Miss Noir lashing out with ad hominem attacks and super lame gifs at anyone who points out her hypocrisy or her complete lack of snark ability.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClarabelle

Happy re-ginnings! I do love reading these full circle postings. How good it must feel to be finally back HOME enjoying the fullness of days, evernings, nights in your dream house in the country. I love the pictures here too! Beautiful! Reminds me of a poem I once wrote about night bugs: "..."looked to the west as the day slowly fadydid, turned up the volume of cricket and kadydid, rhythm rubs life to the darkness outside...steer clear of the blue light or get yourself fried...

Happy July!!!

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

Happy for you that you are back in your old place!!! Love the photos and the song! :)

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercharity

Happy happy. I do hope you will go back to the town of the White Castle once in a while to get another lollypop. Those friendships were healing and part of the story too. Lovelovelove

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Newer reader - I'm working my way thru your archives. I came across you right after the fire. Just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you and your family. I appreciate that you are sharing both the good and the bad. it helps those of us in our own "bad" times to know we aren't alone and taht other people go thru things and come out the other side.

Love your blog!

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndee

I just discovered your blog and I love the way you write - so beautifully and honestly. I'm glad you are in your happy place! Enjoy!

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKym

OMG, is that a lightening bug ring that Violet is wearing? Hahaha! When we were little we always used to make jewelry with lightening bugs. What a memory. Glad you're happy and doing well, Monica.

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkimtisha

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>