freedom in 2017

Freedom – 2017

I lived up the block from a park when I was a child. It was Brooklyn and the park consisted of a handball court, lots of concrete and some swings. That’s all I needed. I could swing for days. It was one of my favorite things to do. I would try to go as high as I could and I would almost feel like I was flying. It was a freedom my little 8-year-old self never experienced before. I loved it.

I remember a time, I was around 19, and my daily wardrobe consisted of combat boots and skirts or dresses. I was living on my own for the first time in NYC, waiting tables, putting myself through acting school. I felt so in charge of my life for the first time. The city was a place of freedom to me. There, people were allowed to just be as weird as they wanted to be and it inspired me so. Again it was that freedom without judgment that I hadn’t known before that I loved.

I would spend hours in vintage shops and flea markets to find dresses and skirts that were dirt cheap to wear with my Doc Martins. There was something about these sweet dresses paired with my dirty boots that made me feel outside as I did inside; just a bit off. Imperfect, but in a good way. I walked proudly in my bold outfits and thought I knew about the world.

Oh youth…what did I know?

Years went by and swing rides and those silly outfits were long gone. They were exchanged for work and appropriate attire. I was now an adult. I had become a highly responsible hard-working person who put “having fun”, sadly, last. Just wasn’t enough time. Life circled around work and then some more work. No time for hobbies such as collecting vintage dresses and less time to take a moment to just swing on a swing.

free fromIn the last month of an already scary, sad, hectic and crazy 2015, I was waiting for my results for what was then known as calcifications on my breast and a biopsy to see if it was cancer. Talk about no fun. I was wracked with fear and anxiety. I had a long 5 days to wait to get my results. Pure torture.

For some reason, one day I felt the need to start cleaning out my closet while getting dressed. It was almost like I was searching for some space in my brain in between all the worry, and getting rid of things would somehow help achieve this I felt. I stumbled upon an old pair of motorcycle boots and eyed a lace skirt that I had never worn. I didn’t even know why I purchased it as it seemed too silly for me, as it sat in a pile to be donated to the Red Cross. I grabbed them and threw them into a small bag I packed for a much needed trip out to the country.

While out in the country my brain continues on with worry and the stress and outweighed the beautiful peaceful surroundings. I needed air. I went to put some proper clothes on to take a walk as I had been in pj’s the whole day and I found the boots and skirt I had shoved in my bag for some reason.

I put them on in hopes of ANY diversion from the worry. It felt fun immediately. It reminded me of those carefree days stomping along the NYC streets with such hope and lust for life.

Carefree. Freedom.

I started to walk. Even my walk became different. The frills and the bounce of the skirt mixed with the heavy boot made me feel like I was skipping almost and that made me smile. I wound up walking right past a park I walked past a thousand times and had never been in. I ventured in and found sitting alone there in the brisk winter air…swings. Happily sitting there waiting for someone to come and simply glide through the air for a moment of fun.

Me, my boots and my skirt got on the swing and started to move. With each pump of my legs through the air, I went higher and higher almost believing I would go completely around the top. My skirt took on the wind and swept it up like Marilyn Monroe as my boots kicked through the air to make room for me in the sky.

Freedom. Freedom from worry. Freedom from my mind. Freedom from the pending diagnosis. Freedom from the pressures in the world that I had created. Yes there were heavy situations in my life that needed to be dealt with but it was all my decision on how I reacted to them. I realized what little fun I allowed into my life and how just those brief silly moments of swinging in my “inappropriate” outfit made me slow down take a deep breath and simply smile.

Days later, I did find out it was cancer, which was dealt with and time moved on just as it does. I realized I could move on either smiling and having fun or stressed out and overworked. It was my choice.

As 2017 starts and time again moves on, we have choices. We have choices to go head first and take on life’s pressures with a smile or take on life’s pressure as burdens and be deprecated by them.

This past year and years past that have taught me many lessons. Most importantly though is to leave some room for fun. Leave some room for silly. At this time of restrictions and resolutions, I say add another. Be kind to yourself and ENJOY. Put on those combat boots and dresses and go for a swing or whatever it was that your younger MUCH wiser self knew. That young girl who bounced around NYC and liked her swings actually knew something.

Your freedom is up to you!



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Comments (28)

  • Jolene Reply

    I am totally making room for fun in my life in 2017. I have several trips planned. I have had a few hard years but things are finally getting better. I am sorry you had cancer but I am so glad you are better now.

    January 5, 2017 at 7:40 pm
  • Kris Jaramillo Reply

    I always enjoy your writings. Freedom is wholeheartedness. I am so happy for you, that you have chosen to put yourself first & practice self care. You have demonstrated vulnerability in sharing your life story, thank you. I have a lot of personal growth this year which I did begin @7 mos ago. You are inspirational, educated, talented, classy and a survivor. I still say Jennifer’s Way aprons would be a hit. I hope to meet you this summer at your bakery. You are always welcome to come swing with me in Denver… the high altitude
    provides awesome air.

    January 6, 2017 at 2:17 am
  • Michael Reply

    Jennifer, my mother had a double radical mastectomy in 1976 and died of lung cancer in 2008. She and my father had plenty of symptoms of celiac. I was diagnosed with celiac in 2007 at the age of 55. I scoff at the published reports of a study showing women with celiac have a reduced risk of breast cancer. I think it is women who were diagnosed as a child and went gluten-free, or any woman who would go gluten-free as a child who would have a reduced risk. After all, how did they determine the women had celiac? They were diagnosed.

    January 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm
  • Debra Reply

    thank you, Jennifer for not only entertaining me on my favorite show- NCIS but teaching me so much about life with your perspective and your life. Someday I hope to have the pleasure of stopping by the bakery and you be there and share a hug and some delicious cake !

    January 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm
  • Skye Reply

    Jennifer, you have been through so much in your life, and yet your appearances on Blue Bloods, NCIS and one of my favorite, cute movies….The List…..shows a courageous spirit. I wish you would answer the comment in your blog and I would love to order some ‘ready made’ items from your bakery.

    January 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm
  • Barb Reply

    Jennifer, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this story. I am writing this through my tears. This is exactly the message I needed today. God bless you!

    January 6, 2017 at 1:03 pm
  • Anne jennings Reply

    Jennifer, i am glad you are better and we all need to take a step back and assess our lives, may we all remember the lessons of the past and start anew with a clean slate! Last year was a year where my hubby and i lost 5 family members so dear to our heart but we are happy knowing they are with god and happy!
    We have been struggling with fixing up a home we bought in april of last year and we are finally
    Feeling the re hab stress decreasing. If i have learned anything in life it is to take one day at a time one step at a time and to remember god is right there every step of the way!
    So god bless to all! Have a happy new year!!

    January 6, 2017 at 1:13 pm
  • Natasha Pratt Reply

    You are amazing, Jennifer!! You’re energy and spirit radiate love and beauty — keep shining your light and stay free, baby. Truly an inspiration to women everywhere. Can’t wait to try some yummy foods from your bakery the next time I’m in NY. Happy new year! 💫

    January 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm
  • Bill & Hope Osborne Reply

    We were distressed when you were dropped from the cast of Blue Bloods, which has been one of our favorite shows for years, due to how the family eats together, prays together and argues like a real family, but still love one another. We were shocked and angry about why your contract was cancelled.

    Likewise, we were delighted when you appeared as a regular cast member on NCIS. If and when we come back to NYC, we will come straight to Jennifer’s Way. You are one of our favorite actors. Keep up the good work and continue to take care of yourself.

    January 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm
  • Cathy Reply

    So sorry for all your struggles, Jennifer. Sometimes taking a break and having fun seems to be the biggest struggle when things go wrong. But it’s so important. I love your positive outlook! My son, Aiden who is 5 was diagnosed with Celiac in May after years of trying to figure out what was going on with him. Major sensory issues, feeding issues, dropping for no reason, major meltdowns (toward the DX), OCD, anxiety, possible seziures, crying about eyes hurting (@2). MRI, EKG, EEGs all done and normal. I began to think it was me. That I was going crazy and making issues that weren’t there. Then came the “hot” belly and him not being able to even walk down the street without collapsing. So incredibly scary to see a 4 year old just fall to the ground. I am so grateful to have found the cause and to know I was not crazy. Most symptoms are long gone aside from the still continuous “hot” belly and the dropping episodes that almost sent him down a huge flight of stairs. I just finished your book and it brings hope. I felt like I was reading about my Aiden and how I felt those 4 long years of all the tests coming back normal but knowing something was wrong. Thank you for spreading awareness and being so open for our community. I means a lot. Hoping to get to your bakery soon as we are in little Rhode Island not too far! I wish you a year of continued piece and health!!!

    January 6, 2017 at 4:21 pm
    • Cathy Reply


      January 6, 2017 at 4:23 pm
  • Dawn Reply

    I was meant to read this today . I was recently told the bright white spots on my mammogram was just calcification and no big deal . I was ready for a 2nd opinion but put it off .
    My fondest playground memories are of swinging, high and higher !

    January 6, 2017 at 6:44 pm
  • Michele Pillon Reply

    Thank you, just what I needed! Appreciate you,,,your advice and NCIS to mention a few…

    January 6, 2017 at 9:36 pm
  • Barbara Reply

    I wonder if celiac has a relationship to breast cancer. Me too and lots of other women I know.

    January 6, 2017 at 11:14 pm
  • Sara Reply

    Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story. Lived you in Blue Bloods and can’t wait to visit your bakery soon since we’re right across the river,

    January 7, 2017 at 6:35 pm
  • Mike Pascucci Reply

    Thank You Jennifer,
    This was something i really needed to read , 2016 was a pure hell ride for me , im recently coming back to myself , but the small things we forget and the simple things used to make us happy for hours we let go for Adult hood and stability . I really needed this article as a grounding tool Thank you to my favorite actress to play Dannys partner , Enjoy 2017

    Mike Pascucci

    January 7, 2017 at 7:33 pm
  • Nancy Reply

    Thank you Jennifer for reminding us to love our selfes and take time to do the things that makes us happy.

    January 7, 2017 at 11:40 pm
  • Jill Van Vlack Reply

    I am happy you kicked that cancer in the ass! Thank you for this post & this reminder. We’ve been dealing with cancer but with 1 of our 4 dogs. We have 3 Golden retrievers & 1 Pom & it’s 1 of my youngest Goldens that has cancer, & although he’ll never be cured, we bought him time & he has taught me that time is so precious. Stay well

    January 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm
  • jim smith Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this, just loved it. I just love you on NCIS think Quinn rocks as much as Abby. 2016, was a hard year dealing with stuff with my mom, but relized there is nothing that I can do about that. So I decided to take time to dance in the rain with my guide dog Boyzee, God bless and keep up the great work

    January 11, 2017 at 4:44 pm
  • Patricia Henderson Reply

    Girlfriend you most definitely have a knack for writing! You should write a book about moments in your life like this, Is buy it in a heartbeat! “Jennifer, #My Life #Forever Free” just a thought for a title. But no matter what you call it, it’ll be great! Thank you for sharing your life with us! You are greatly loved and appreciated!

    January 11, 2017 at 10:14 pm
  • Danyele Thomas Reply

    Jennifer, I can’t say thank you enough for sharing your struggle and story with us. I’m sorry you had to endure so much. When reading your book i felt a sense of familiarity. You helped me come to terms with this disease and to keep fighting.

    Thank you for being a pillar!

    January 12, 2017 at 8:19 pm
  • Nancy Reply

    You write beautifully. Thanks for the reminder. Its obvious you don’t dwell on the negative. You are a beautiful person inside and out.

    January 24, 2017 at 11:57 am
  • Jaylin Reply

    I have celiac too, and I was struggling with it. diagnosed in kindergarden, none of my teachers understood until this year. I read your book for a project and look back on it every day, it inspires me every day to be better and make the best out of life

    thank you

    February 10, 2017 at 3:13 pm
  • Beverly Feher Reply

    I’m hitting my third year diagnosed with Celiac disease. It took allot of testing to be sure that’s what I had. My doctor wasn’t sure but thought we had tested for everything else why not?. As I read your book I see now symptoms that were never recognized since I was a young teen. Starting with that “nervous stomach” the same things on and on as you have described! I see many of the same symptoms in my 3 daughters, especially the youngest. She has always from birth reacted to milk and by the time she was in her late twenties so many issues with digestion! She had her gall bladder out at 26 and it seems now has even more issues! I also have a grandson with minor autism spectrum symptoms, I wonder if he also may be Celiac?
    I was tested for allergies and didn’t react to any foods but your discovery of there being a connection may be very helpful. No doctor has ever mentioned the connection? I love my ice cream but I guess that is one more thing I will now give up, hopefully it will take away more symptoms?! I never really cared for eggs and they sometimes didn’t settle well, so now I’m giving them up also.
    I also have a back injury from a fall from a ladder so I take allot of pain and nerve medicine. As I age, now 67, I’m feeling every symptom of my life so much more. I never associated depression with Celiac, more from my pain! Now the autoimmune symptoms are getting me down. I have major swelling in hands and feet and of course more pain! It’s getting old, I’m getting old! I still plan to make each day the best I can and keep trying to eliminate more symptoms. I learned so much from your book! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
    I also loved you on NCIS and Blue Bloods! Hope to see you on the screen again!!

    March 7, 2017 at 3:43 am
  • Karyn Reply

    My story is almost that same…breast cancer. Deal with and and now 2017. And yes, find more time for joy and and to be silly. Than you

    March 25, 2017 at 9:47 pm
  • Jeanne Reply

    Jennifer-you are truly an inspiration! Reading this tonight was just what i needed! You’ve given me lots to think about.

    I enjoyed you on Blue Bloods and think you are a great addition to NCIS. I also have your book and going to your bakery is on my bucket list!!

    March 29, 2017 at 9:38 pm
  • Tonya Harvey Reply

    I watched you tell your story on “The Doctors”, which opened my eyes to the possibility that I may have Celiac Disease. I have been experiencing the same symptoms for years. My body, mind and soul has been difficult to manage. After hearing your challenges in life, it was like you were telling my story in part. The question I want to ask, is how can I get my doctor to test for Celiac Disease? Who conducts these tests and provide you consultation on tackling this disease? I now know I have research of my own to do!

    July 4, 2017 at 11:08 am
  • Anne ROUSSELLE Reply

    Hi Jennifer, today is christmas eve and the first person I thought of this morning was you. I usualy think of my mom and my brother who past away and I’m sad, but today I feel good.
    I have a similar background with coeliac desease than you do, many years before diagnosis then I followed a strict gluten free diet but had ups and downs and I have been very hill again for months with no solution and no anderstanding, desparetely looking for some king of help.
    I’m sorry I didn’t know you as an actress, I just heard you a few weeks ago on some programm on TV where you talked about your gluten free backery. I went strait on reading your blog, I ordered your books (thank god I was not too bad in english in school) , baked bread following your reciepe (even if it’s difficult to find the ingredients), baked the sweet potatoe soup that made me smile when I tasted it, and finaly I can say now that you probably saved my life, so I just want to thank you for that and wish you a wonderfull Christmas too

    December 24, 2017 at 5:40 am

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