Bettina Forbes likes to look for the silver lining in things.
She moved with her family to Little Silver 10 years ago from Hoboken, and while she had made friends and become active in her new community, Forbes toyed with the idea of moving back closer to the city one day.
But when her ranch-style home at the corner of Point Road and Seven Bridges Road filled with water during Sandy -- literally wiping out most everything her family owned -- she realized how deep her roots had burrowed into Little Silver.
"There were some really dark days," she says, "and so many friends from town came out to help."
Forbes says she was struck by how lovingly volunteers packed up the remnants of her home, filling plastic boxes with things like her kitchen utensils and photo albums, all carefully packed and arranged by strangers.
The home she shared with her husband and two children is now a shell after all of the sheetrock, flooring, appliances, cabinets, and everything that made her house a home, was ripped out after being soaked by a few feet of water during the storm.
"I never thought the house would flood in a million years," she said.
Now, the house that had been for sale prior to the storm stands vacant while the Forbeses prepare to move to their second rental since November and wait to figure out what to do next. In the meantime, they still pay their mortgage and taxes.
"There is no financial silver lining here," Forbes says. They could sell the house as-is to one of the many builders lining up to get a good deal, she says, or make necessary repairs and wait to see about elevating the house. Regardless, they will not come out on top financially.
"Everything is a Catch-22, it's hard to figure out the lesser of all the evils for our family," Forbes says of the decisions that they're facing. Getting information from insurers and varous agencies has been frustrating, she adds, as owners of flood-damaged homes are forced to "fend for themselves."
"Everyone's going to benefit from this except for us," she says.
Forbes is no stranger to making the best of a not-so-great situation. She struggled physically and emotionally with breastfeeding her firstborn a dozen years ago -- eventually finding her nursing groove and deriving great satisfaction from it -- and launched a non-profit dedicated to giving support to all mothers interested in breastfeeding. Best for Babes is on a mission "to change the cultural perception of breastfeeding," according to their Web site, letting new moms achieve their nursing goals "without judgment, pressure or guilt."
So when faced with a gutted home and a mountain of what-ifs, Forbes wondered, "How do we create something good out of this?"
Forbes is employing the same resourcefulness she showed for breastfeeding her child to rebuilding her home, and is looking for ways to use the project as a model for homes in flood zones.
"It could be an archetype for building an aesthetically pleasing house that can withstand a hurricane," she says of the home she envisions not only as structurally sound but also one that incorporates green energy and is built using sustainable materials. She is working with Healthy Child Healthy World, a group devoted to helping parents protect their children from harmful chemicals, to see if they could develop a prototype for a healthy home.
"We need to respect the environment so that the next generation can continue to live in flood-prone areas," Forbes says. "Let's be smart about it."