Reinventing After You Lose Everything

A devastating fire and hurricane wiped out all these two women had. Then they got to work, rebuilding their lives

by Dana Hudepohl
Photograph: Morgan Rachel Levy

Still camping out at her parents’ home with her husband and son (Jackie was in college), DiPasquale clung to the comfort of domestic routines. She ferried Adam to soccer, band practice and guitar lessons. One day she posted a link on her Facebook page to a YouTube video of Adam jamming with his band. A colleague from her L.A. days shared the clip with an agent. Three months after Hurricane Sandy, DiPasquale found herself sitting in a New York City studio watching Adam’s band, Vin-Taze, perform in front of two Hollywood producers, cameras rolling. “It was the first day since the storm that I zoomed in on something fun and positive,” says DiPasquale. The group didn’t make it past a callback, but they were already focusing on their next big gig: a Superstorm Sandy benefit in which they would team up with celebrities. As spring gave way to summer, her son’s band landed more gigs. Prepping for shows and auditions with the kids brought some cheer to DiPasquale. It also stirred up her long-buried desire to perform. One day, DiPasquale started thinking about how determined she’d once been to sing and act. She’d even had a stage name, Laura Lee. She thought, That is who I am; I miss it. After her kids were born, she buried her dreams beneath the business of motherhood, but now she felt she’d been using the family as an excuse not to follow her heart. “Going through the storm was cleansing, literally and figuratively,” she says. “I said to myself, What are you waiting for?” In June she entered a karaoke competition and won. Then she auditioned for a community-theater production of The Wizard of Oz and got called back for the part of the Wicked Witch. Though she didn’t land the role, she felt a rush that came with returning to her performing roots.

In July, for her birthday, DiPasquale and her family partied at the beach, an annual tradition. “All the negativity went away,” she says. That night she performed at a local bar, and the deejay, an old friend, asked her if she’d consider auditioning for NBC’s The Voice. Without hesitation, she replied, “Why not? Laura Lee is back.”

What you can do to help

When a natural calamity strikes, who among us hasn't longed to lend a hand? This past summer, More staffers got the chance: 15 of us (along with 300 other volunteers from our parent company Meredith Corporation) swooped down on Gerritsen Beach, in Brooklyn, New York, where Superstorm Sandy had sent seawater into nearly all the homes. The nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together, which annually completes 10,000 projects using 200,000 volunteers, sponsored the event.

Associate editor Lauren Williams spent the day painting in one of the houses. “People were also repairing the deck,” she says. “The mom, the dad and their little daughter were living on the upper floor, and they kept coming downstairs to say how grateful they were.”

Mackie Siebens, an editorial assistant, hoped for an assignment “that would make me break a sweat,” she says, and she got it. The mission of her team, which included More’s -editor-in-chief and -managing editor, was to clean up and replant a community garden. Mackie spent the day digging and hauling wheelbarrows full of weeds and roots to a Dumpster.

To find out how you can volunteer, go to WeRebuild.com.

DANA HUDEPOHL is a frequent contributor to More.

Next: Profiles in Volunteering: Blazing New Trails

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First published in the November 2013 issue

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