Earning Our Feathers

Life has been pretty wild for our family lately.

After Hurricane Sandy hit and and we were displaced from our apartment for ten days, I remember thinking “This will only make us stronger. We will remember this as a difficult time in our lives, but mostly an adventure. We are so lucky to be safe and healthy.” And that is all very true.


During the night on the third day after we returned home, we were awakened by our neighbors screaming and pounding on our door begging for us to wake up. The electricity was out again, and as I entered the foyer I could see and smell the smoke trickling in from the doorway. I knew before I opened the door that there was a fire, and walked into a wall of smoke and frantic neighbors. Justin and I grabbed the kids, wet & threw towels over their heads and made our way down the six flights of stairs with the rest of the tenants of our building. As I stood outside shaking, reeking of smoke and holding my family, I remember feeling like I was finding out exactly what I am made of-right up close and personal. The fire damage was minimal as it was contained in the elevator shaft, but I have never in my entire life been so terrified.


Several weeks later one weekend morning as I was dressing Beau, our building jerked as though a somewhat moderate earthquake had just hit Manhattan. Justin The Californian lept out of the shower shouting at us to “hit the doorways! EARTHQUAKE!”. It wasn’t an earthquake, though. We came to find out that a drunken tug boat driver had let a massive barge run right into our building. We were all fine of course, if not shaken up a bit. It was just another thing, and our sense of humor was getting a serious workout. We laughed a little, I was so thankful that it wasn’t actually an earthquake-mostly because when there’s one, there’ll likely be aftershocks. As minimal as it was, it was exactly what I needed to tip me right off of my mental cliff. Nothing was certain any more-not when our home and our safe place was constantly being compromised.


These things have all made us stronger, yes, but in so many ways they weakened me as well. My nerves were bolstered and then knocked down like a stack of Linkin Logs. The short stretches of sleep I’ve gotten used to since Beau was born have been riddled with persistent nightmares about fires, earthquakes and other disasters. My heart races and my knees get weak if someone bumps my chair. There’s a scared little girl hiding behind the grown-up facade that I must wear for my children, my husband, and even my own self.

That’s just between you and me, though.

I suppose the greatest thing I’ve learned in the last year-and the reason that I bring this all up-is the power of positivity and seeing the good in all situations. We have our health and we have each other, and that is all that matters.

These most important lessons rise to the surface on the days when clinging to the good is the greatest task of all.

The last couple of weeks have been really difficult for us once again, though this time our health was compromised. On the third day of Zoe’s spring break, she caught what I came to refer to as the Worst Virus Ever, sending her to the emergency room because she couldn’t keep anything down-even the Zofran they gave her.


This virus was awful and systematically took out Beau, Jack, and eventually even me. I spent Thursday in the hospital again with all three, this time as Beau received IV fluids and Jack was tended to in the next bed. I didn’t catch it until the others were feeling better and Justin was in mandatory four day-long board exams-the exams that will (or won’t) allow him to practice in California once we move back this summer. “Intense” doesn’t begin to cut it.


I admit that I came very close to losing hope. None of us have ever been that sick, and by the time it was my turn-a time when I was needed still in their recovery-I was completely devastated.

There were beautiful moments amidst the awfulness and wall-to-wall sickness when the ibuprofen and Zofran kicked in and allowed smiles and restfulness.


We even managed to make some painted coffee filter Easter decorations and a trial run of dyed eggs.


We are all finally on the path to full recovery, and for that I am endlessly grateful. As bad as these things all are, all of them were temporary and they lasted just long enough to teach me a little more about life and being a grown up.

…And that I am really, really looking forward to moving closer to our team-our family and support system.

We had a beautiful Easter; The sun came out, the kids had a blast hunting for eggs in the apartment one last time, and I made a very successful glazed ham for dinner. The happiness and togetherness was the very best medicine of all.

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Life is challenging lately. My emails are overflowing, the apartment should be cleaned, laundry needs to be done, but if there is one thing that I’ve learned in the past few months it’s that I must focus on what is most important. Even though I hated seeing my family this sick, we all slowed down and appreciated each other that much more.

Just before things get really hectic around here with Justin’s graduation, Disney World (!!!), and our move back to California, perhaps the perspective is something we needed. Regardless, I’m looking forward to beautiful days ahead-with a few new earned feathers in my headdress.

Join the Conversation


  • WOW! Is all i can say. You are a strong woman and what a wonderful and lucky family. Good luck with everything!

  • it’s nice when the storm of illness (and in your case actual storms, fires, and boats v. buildings- sheesh!) pass and all the little things that can makes daily life with small ones feel a bit lighter, easier, lovelier. that we see what we’re really made of! beautiful family! lovely blog! glad to have found ya!

  • Love this, Jess. Especially the pictures! I, much like you, don’t consider myself stronger after going through scary experiences. In fact, I sadly love in a constant state of fear and have had bad anxiety attacks lately. It sucks, the worry…

  • you need to write a book, because the things you go through. like, whoa. yet, there is always the silver lining you see. and that inspires and encourages me.

    i’m so so glad to hear the sickness is finally leaving your house. i become the mom i don’t want to be when my house is attacked with sickness, but i’ll tuck this blog post away for when we are struck with sickness again and remember the positive that can come from it, even if just a sliver.

  • You are a mother. You are amazing. You have earned each and every one of your feathers.

  • Beautiful post. Glad to see your clan on the mend in time to celebrate Easter. There are a lot of things I miss about other places that I have lived, but nothing compares to being back near family, like we are now.

  • You really have such a wonderful attitude! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything you wrote that was negative. You never b*tch or complain about life. A lesson I need to learn. It def doesn’t get you any further in life. Thx for the great read and the reminder to always look for the silver lining.

    I’m glad you all are feeling better. Sounds like you have a lot coming up to look forward to. I thought I remember u saying u couldn’t go to Disney bc of your husband’s graduation… So that’s amazing news! Your kids will be LIVIN the dream.
    Enjoy the sunshine and the out pouring love in your family!

  • Do you live near Battery Park? My husband and I took out kids to NYC in Dec and spent the day there. We loved that area, but at the same time recognized the possibilities of some if the things you talked about. I’m so sorry to hear you went through all that with your family. Agreed though…times that help build bonds. And make us stronger as women and mothers. I was a nervous wreck taking my kids in the subway! Many blessings and thoughts to your family. When will you be at Disney? For Social Media Moms? Take care!

  • I have been following you on Instagram since the barge hit the apartment building. Wow. That is a LOT of major things to occur in such a short time period. TOO MUCH.

    I love the beauty you are finding in it though through your photographs and words.

    Let’s hope the spring brings warm sunny days and calm waters.

  • thinking about you this morning J! feeling the burden of the world and loved being reminded of your sparkling family–and your crystal clear perspective. (How is it your moving date is getting closer and closer?!) xo

  • Your piece is so poignant and I can relate. NYC is a wonderful city and there really is no place quite like it, but at times it shows no mercy.
    As a native New Yorker, who has not lived there since the very late 70’s, what New York taught me was, I could handle pretty much anything, anytime and anywhere. I think you have learned that over these last four years as a New Yorker. At first when we moved out of New York to South Florida, I could not adjust…it was too much of a culture shock. After four years in Florida we move to Chicago and it suburbs which we have called home for the last 30 years. Chicago has been good to us and we travel East several times a year to enjoy the coast and little taste of New York. It is just enough. I will always love New York as the city where I was born and where all of my family lived for so many years.
    My mother had a saying which has stuck with me…she was from Brooklyn…”when you leave NY you ain’t going nowhere”. Now, I don’t really believe that but to me it means that you carry a little or a lot of NY with you on your life journey.
    Your photos of New York and your family are so beautiful…they will be a constant reminder of the time you spent in the “City that truly never sleeps”.
    When you long to return there, open up your compute and enjoy those many moments that you captured so beautifully with your camera.
    Much good fortune on your next adventure as you prepare to move and return to California with your family. xo
    Hope to see you in Laguna!

  • You said, “I suppose the greatest thing I’ve learned in the last year-and the reason that I bring this all up-is the power of positivity and seeing the good in all situations. We have our health and we have each other, and that is all that matters. ” All that really matters is where you will spend eternity because our souls will all live forever somewhere. And if that is true for you, that is also true for your children , that the most important thing we do in this life is giving our life to our one and only Creator Jesus and then teaching our children to walk in the same way so that they can spend eternity with you one day.. Jesus is the only way to Heaven and He has made a way for us all to live in Heaven forever. You may not believe that is true, but what if you are wrong? You and your children have a LOT to lose if you are wrong! Hell is real, Jesus died for you so you don’t have to go there. Now the ball is in your court. Choosing to do nothing with that information, means you are automatically not choosing Jesus. There is more to this life than family, friends, and jobs….God has created us for a specific purpose, He has a specific purpose for you and your family. Until you find that plan by surrendering your heart and life to Jesus, you will continue to find yourself going through the storms of life alone, only trying to rely on yourself, to get you through. That loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, purposelessness, will continue until you find the missing puzzle piece to your life and that is Jesus. Our hearts have a whole that only He can fill and until we let Him fill it, we will always be trying to fill it with other things, career, money, relationships, recreation, selfishness, etc…and all those things become our idol, worshipping things that are made by the Creator that will pass away instead of worshipping the Creator who created them! And believing in God is not enough to get to Heaven, you must surrender to Jesus, ask Him in your heart, ask Him to forgive your sins, and turn away from that old life of sin to walk in the new life that He has waiting for you. I gave my life to Jesus 19 years ago and never looked back. Brand new life, heart, & mind. I’m changed from the inside, I didn’t change myself, it wasn’t the power of positive thinking, it was Jesus! Jesus changed me and gave me the real purpose for life and that is to live it to the fullest for Him and His plans. The Bible says in Proverbs 14:12 , “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Also, Mark 8:36, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”(NKJ) Lots to think about!! I hope you choose Jesus, for your sake, your husband’s sake, and especially for your children’s sake! I’m praying for you! God bless you!!


  • Sending healthy wishes to you and your kiddos, stay well! I remember that feeling, being helpless with sick kids, then they get well and sometimes we forget how awesome it is when everyone is healthy! We are like overdosing on preventative things this season and treating as soon as we get hit with something. But of course you can’t always avoid it!

  • You are amazing. You navigated your family through all these life challenges. I wish the next few months bring you only goodness as you celebrate your husband’s graduation and your move. {{{Hugs}}}

  • Wow Jessica, what an intense period you all had! I feel so much for you. Being sick at the same time of our kids is just the most frustrating thing… it´s awful when instead of focusing on recovering we end up feeling guilty for not being 100% there for them.
    I´m so glad that things are getting better. I´m sure this has made you stronger as a family. Love the quote on your first pic!
    Wish I was living near you, would have love to come for a couple hours to help you!
    Love from Madrid, Nuria x

  • Wow! Glad you guys are feeling better and hope the Mr did well on his exams. Love how through all of that you still remembered to take pics.

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