what would you do?

Is the truth always necessary – sometimes even mean? Have you ever wished you had lied?

Last night I found myself wishing I could swallow the words that were pouring out of my mouth.

It all started with a fun dinner with one of my oldest and best friends (Hi Maura). We make an effort to get together every couple of months, and our nights are always filled with stories of life now mixed with ridiculous anecdotes of our high-school days. With Maura, I am just Jess. Same girl that she met 32 years ago. It’s awesome.

We had a great cuban meal and our usual share of Sauvignon Blanc, before we hugged goodbye and got into our separate Ubers.



I climbed into the Toyota Highlander in a great mood and was delighted to be greeted with a driver who had a warm smile and bottle of water for me. Before long, we were busy chatting. I love talking with strangers. Everyone has a story, and if you’re willing to dig a little, fascinating tales are plentiful.

It took a little while – it usually does for guys – but finally my driver, Mohammad, started talking. He immigrated to The States as a young adult, and most of his family is either still in India or in Australia (which I must get to soon – he swears it’s “beyond beautiful)”. He misses his extended family, but feels like it’s too late to make another big move. He’s married to the love of his life (sweet story) and has two girls who he’s finally getting to spend time with now because he’s in-between steady work. Apparently, the restaurant chain he was managing did not appreciate the month he took off while his oldest daughter was recovering from a terrible accident.

At this point in his story, Mohammad got upset and I didn’t get all the details, only that his daughter suffered two very serious leg factors that required several surgeries and 14 days in the hospital. It was a horrible time and losing his job has put a great deal of stress on his family, but he is trying to focus on how wonderful it’s been to spend time with his girls, “I’ve gone from working 13 hour days/7 days a week and only seeing my daughters when they are sleeping, to picking them up at school and cooking dinner with them. The accident was horrible, but I’ve gained a new perspective and real appreciation for what’s really important. I need to find steady work soon, but I won’t go back to my old schedule. I would miss having time with my girls.”

We were stuck on the Pulaski Skyway, when Mohammad turned around and thanked me for listening to his story. Then he asked, “So what about you? Do you have any kids?”

I tried to have him continue sharing, but he insisted on hearing a little about me, so I kept it short and sweet, “I have two kids. My son is 18 and my daughter is 16. Great kids.”

He didn’t miss a beat, “Wow! Where’s your 18-year-old headed this year?”

It would have been so much easier if I had just said that my son was taking some time to find himself (not really a lie) or made up some sort of story. Mohammad had just opened up (something I’m guessing he doesn’t do often). I knew what was going to happen if I shared too much about our family. It makes people feel uncomfortable. Especially if they have just shared a “dark” moment. As if there is some sort of hierarchy of disasters and you aren’t allowed to complain if your’s doesn’t rank in the top ten.

The problem is that I feel bad about lying – as if I am ashamed of who Jack is and what his life looks like. A huge part of who I am is a mom. A mother of a beautiful, brilliant daughter who is going to do amazing things and the mother of a handsome, funny,  son who lights up a room with his smile, but can’t speak or take care of himself. How can I leave out the truth?

I tried for a quick soundbite.

“My son has some disabilities. He will stay at his high school for a few more years. College won’t be part of his future . . . but he’s great. Super happy!”

The silence that swept through the Toyota Highlander was painful as this guy tried to find the right words. I could see that he was trying to figure out what to do next, took a deep breath and asked for details. And, he didn’t give up after my simple explanation of “My son has a rare disease that left him with some challenges.”

“How old was your son when he got sick?”

“What was the treatment?”

“How long was he is the hospital?”

“HOW long?!?!?”

“Can he walk/talk/care for himself?”

I gave Mohammad the cliff notes of our journey, ending every sentence with, “ . . . but he is doing GREAT! Jack is super happy and my daughter, Anna, is doing great too!”

I felt terrible. I could see Mohammad’s eyes in the rearview mirror as he heard each answer. He was lovely and kept saying all the “right things”, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had ruined his moment of reflection. The rest of the drive home was awkward as I wished I could take back the truth. When we pulled up to my house, we were both relieved that the trip was over.

“Bye. Thanks for the ride and good luck with the job search. And, enjoy every second with your girls!”

“Bye. I will be praying for your son and your whole family.” – I wonder how many people hear THAT from their Uber driver.

Why hadn’t I just said that Jack was on his way to Goucher College (home of the Gophers/my alma mater)?

So what do we think? Is it ever okay to lie? Should I keep a good answer in my back pocket for the next time I am chatting with a friendly, water toting, stranger and they ask about my kids?

Love, Jess


This is my truth.

It’s NOT a Secret Anymore!


An article I wrote about medical marijuana was published today on The Mighty – CLICK HERE TO READ IT!

If you are an avid reader of this blog you may recognize the initial story, but dig a little deeper – there’s a lot of information. Medical marijuana has been a life-changer for JackO. I hope sharing our story helps other people dealing with chronic pain/spasticity/anxiety/digestive issues – the list goes on and on and on.

Love, Jess


a little taste of my old life


I got a little taste of my old life last weekend.

Two former clients reached out to me about taking some photos. I’ve had the pleasure of doing a few projects over the last ten years, but my days of steady photo work are long gone. Another victim of Adrenoleukodystropy. Occasionally, I get calls from old clients and I usually explain that I’m focused on other things, but these customers wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I dusted off my camera and I crossed my fingers.

Two shoots in one day. It felt strange to be behind the lens again, but as I looked through the work this morning, I smiled. I still got it. I’m not planning on going back to weekends full of families and babies, but it sure felt good to dip my toe into my old life.

I try not to spend much time focusing on what ALD stole from us, but there are some days that remind me of things that we’ve lost. Saturday was one of those days. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I’ve realized that although I miss my camera, even without working as a photographer, I’m still using that side of me.

I have substituted photography with writing. I approach each in the same way. I have an idea and I troubleshoot until I find a way to achieve my goal – whether it’s catching the sparkle of a giggling baby or sharing a story. And, both photography and writing are about connecting with people. I was a decent photographer, but I think my biggest strength was how I approached my clients. I’m good at reading people and I’m a good listener. I usually managed to make my clients comfortable. When taking portraits you need to have the client feel comfortable with you – otherwise you end up with that lame, awkward smile that we all had in our ninth-grade school photos.

I’m also aware of the comfort of people who read my blog/book. I’m a decent writer, but certainly not trained. I think what people respond to is the voice in my writing. It’s approachable. Whether I am taking about watching JackO win his race at the Special Olympics or how it feels to fight with Social Security or what it’s like to shower your eighteen-year-old son after he has soiled himself, your sofa and the floor (have I written that yet? It’s a common occurrence around here) – I think (hope) I am able to bring people into our lives for a brief moment.

As much as I loved picking up my old life, I think I have settled comfortably into my new one. I’ll take my computer over my camera for now. I need to write to help myself process our experiences and I love sharing with people who are going through similar challenges. I’m putting my camera back in it’s case. Not that I will always say no when old clients reach out. I might dip back into my old life every now and then. Maybe two or three shoots a year  . . . maybe four or five.

Love, Jess

PS While I was writing this, I got an email that a piece I wrote about medical marijuana is getting published on The Mighty. I get my share of notes that start with, “Thank you for sharing your piece. Unfortunately . . . . “. It feels great to get a note that starts with, “Thank you for sharing your story “Our Family Secret” with us! We’d like to feature it on The Mighty and make you an official Mighty contributor.”



tired but smiling


Ever need a vacation after a vacation? As much as we love our time on Block Island, we do tend to come home a bit worn out – especially after the Fourth of July. Picture 19 people, four dogs, sand, Scrabble, fireworks, a parade, loads of food and a whole lot of wine.

Although we are all there for four or five days, we act like our hours are limited. It’s the only time each year that all of us Torrey/Perry/Pastores are together and we fill the time with memories – some a little blurry, but always wonderful.

Thank you PopPop and Nanna Sue (and Block Island) for a particularly lovely holiday. We came home tired but smiling. See you in August!!!

Love, Jess