Growing my Marriage

When I was 16, there was this boy that I had a HUGE crush on. He was shy & quiet & funny & a hard worker. He was nice to me & I got to know him a lot better when I started working at the same place as him & he trained me in. He finally asked me out a couple months later & I was over the moon! I moved away a month after that & somehow, our 17 year-old selves were able to make a long-distance relationship work for 2 years before I moved back. We knew then that communication was the key to a relationship & we did really well at it! I married that shy, quiet, funny, hard-working guy in 2004. Marriage has been pretty easy for us- most of the time. On my 2019 list of being Intentional tho, the first thing listed is my marriage & I need to up my game.

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Scott & I appear to be very opposites from the outside. I’m 5′ tall, 120 lbs (on a good day). I have blue eyes, dark hair & love to talk. I am out on the dance floor, talking to everyone & laughing. I love to read & write, play board games, listen (& sing along) to country music. I workout 5 days a week & drink coffee & wine. Scott is 6’3″, 240lbs. He has brown eyes, dark hair & is perfectly happy listening. Scott is content to sit at the table & watch me dance- but on occasion will sneak up behind me & join in. He enjoys talking about guns, farming equipment & 4-wheeling. He doesn’t read books, hates to write, it is like pulling teeth to get him to play a game & hates country music! I learned to love Eminem & Shaggy because of him! His job is very physically demanding which is his only form of “working out”, drinks SunDrop in the mornings & has an occasional Coors Light.

Many years ago, someone who was very close to me tried to break us up by pointing out all of our differences. She said he’d never make me happy & I’d regret wasting my life with him because of our social differences. What she never new, but we did, is that we balanced each other out perfectly. Over the years, Scott has become much more social & I’ve seen the positive influence of the strong friendships we’ve created & how he enjoys them too. We’re on the same page with parenting (98% of the time) & we don’t fight-ever. Marriage has been easy for us- & yet I feel like we’re missing something.

I’m on the same Rachel Hollis train as many other women right now. I’ve been reading books about personal growth, listening to podcasts & working to explore the bible. So while I’m working on me, I also really want to work on us. The other day, Scott ‘informed’ me that he was trading trucks. I was pissed. We had talked about this while on our vacation in January & had agreed to save the money he had been putting towards a truck payment previously. We would like to add-on/remodel the house & I was hoping to have some money set aside for this project. So Wednesday night on our way out the door for church, he drops this info. I stewed over it. I prayed over it- I was afterall in God’s house.

While I spend all day helping direct employees & vendors & our kids to get things done & have no problem voicing displeasure…. I revert to a meek child with a quiet voice when I have something tough to talk to my husband about. I was raised to believe that my opinion had no merit & voicing it would only create more problems, not solve them. I was also taught/given the ‘silent treatment’ when I ticked my mother off. Being in a relationship with Scott opened my eyes in a real big hurry to how wrong all of that was! I actually remember our first fight ended when he pointed out that I was acting like my mother by giving him the silent treatment & how it only made things worse. That habit was instilled in me, even tho I hated it so much! I needed to learn to find my voice, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s intimidating. So, Thursday morning, dripping in sweat after my 3 mile run, I brought it up & explained my frustration. I still didn’t feel like it resolved anything, but I voiced my feelings of inadequacy as a financial contributor to our family & how I feel he adds to that at times. He listened, like he does, but said nothing. I know I contribute in SO many ways, I’m not discounting myself there, but he makes way more money than I do.

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We had a chance for a date-night Saturday night & took full advantage! We still hadn’t discussed the issue any further, but I knew I wanted to talk about it Saturday night at supper. I brought it up & he smiled & told me he loved me. He then said that he realized it wasn’t the right time & he didn’t want to spend that money right now. He agreed we needed to talk with a contractor & get plans drawn up on our house project so we have an idea of just how much it’s going to cost. My heart leaped for joy! Not because we’re closer to our house goal-but because we communicated with open minds & hearts. Our marriage isn’t where I’d like it to be in the growth area. Tough conversations are hard & I can’t get him to open-up about future plans or goals to save my soul. The thing I always know tho- is that he doesn’t make a decision without thinking it through completely. He always discusses financial decisions with me before actually making them (so maybe I jumped to being mad too soon also). He always does what he feels is in the best interest of our family. On the financial front, the only debt we have is our house (other than when I shop on-line 😀 ), so I also know that trading trucks wouldn’t have put us in a compromising position.

I will keep pushing him to open-up & build a stronger communication system between us. I will keep reading books & my bible & listening to podcasts. We will keep teaching our children that it’s OK to have a disagreement with someone you love & that it doesn’t mean fighting or divorce, but communication & love & respect. I have loved this man for half of my life already & there are many reasons for that. One of the best things to look forward to is our marriage growing. Remembering that our girls will be grown & moved out some day & it will be just me & him again. I don’t want us to get lost while raising kids & making a life- I want us to write the map. I want to be Intentional in our marriage & the ways we do this. We need to set up some goals- like consistent date-nights & strategies to give us the best life we can. This life is crazy with kids & running a business, but our marriage is worth it.

Marriage is easy- & hard all at the same time. It takes work & dedication & communication. I’m worth it. He’s worth it. You’re worth it. Don’t let a moment slip by in silence if saying something will save your relationship & help it grow. My 16 year-old self knew about communication, so do you. How about you? How do you navigate those tough conversations with your spouse or significant other? What are some changes you want to make for your relationship?

Until next time!

Jenni

A Bikini for my Husband

 

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Sunrise over Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. January 2019

I’ve always had low self-esteem & not a whole lot of self-confidence. As a pre-teen, my Grandmother told me I could be pretty if it wasn’t for my ‘pizza face’. When I walked through the halls in school, the ‘popular’ boys would literally bark at me because I was ‘dog ugly’. Even if you look at my wedding pictures from almost 15 years ago, I don’t hardly look like the same person. What you only see from looking at pictures is the physical transformation, not the mental or emotional one.

After we bought our convenience store, I gained a lot of weight! I was there roughly 13 hours a day surrounded by all the chips, pop & candy bars I could want. It took me too long to stop the cycle & attempt to take care of my body. I avoided swimsuits at all costs, until after we had our first daughter & I couldn’t. I started running a couple weeks before my 30th birthday because a friend from high school wanted to run a St. Patrick’s Day 7k in the cities. My treadmill in the basement was just there to collect dust, but it soon found its proper use & I nailed that 7k! After that, I was hooked & to this day, I run roughly 9 miles a week. I also learned to do HIIT workouts & muscle-building strength workouts. I’ve researched clean eating & try my best to implement that in my daily life. Now don’t get me wrong- I enjoy as much chocolate & wine as the next person. I truly enjoy a (small) bowl of ice cream on the couch with my kids while watching a movie & laughing. The key is the word ‘enjoy’. I’ve changed my relationship with food in order to change my self-confidence & outlook.

It still doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle in certain areas. I work hard (most of the time) to be healthy so I can annoy my husband for a really long time yet. The biggest area of struggle for me is intimacy & self-confidence because of my body-image.

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Vacation 2019

Here’s a selfie I took while on vacation with my husband to the Dominican Republic in January 2019. I dreamed this picture would look a lot different. I wanted to see ab definition & thigh muscles. I wanted to see arm definition & a slimmer waist. This was day 2 in my second bikini- for my husband. This trip was about him. It was about us. It was about not being parents at the time. It was about not doing home projects or managing employees or any responsibilities basically. It was about each other & our love for each other & reconnecting in EVERY way… until Mother Nature arrived on day 2 😦

Here’s the main thing: My husband loves me & I love him. He has this habit, all the time, of fondling, squeezing, touching my body parts. He tells me I’m sexy & that he loves me & whispers in my ear things I will not divulge- but it makes me feel so special & it made wearing the bikini totally worth it! Also, instead of picking apart the picture for all the things wrong- I’m going to look for everything that’s right. I see legs that allow me to do squats & run & ride bike with my kids in the summer. I see legs that have allowed me to help my daughter learn basketball skills this year. I see arms that hold my husband & my children & babies that I love. I see arms that pray daily & lift weights & make pizza for a living & wood signs on the side. I see a belly that grew & protected two children & that enjoys wine & chocolate & pizza & ice cream & spinach & avocados. I see a belly that allows me to laugh with my children, husband, customers, employees & friends. I see a woman who does the best she can on a daily basis & isn’t defined by the number on the scale or the dimension of her waist.

I packed 4 bikinis & a one-piece for our trip & I wore every single one. By the time one of our last days came around, Mother Nature was in full swing & the last thing I felt like doing was putting on a bikini. Scott didn’t care that I was in shorts &  a T-shirt- he fondles me no matter what I’m wearing! I just like saying the bikini’s are for him – because it makes it better when he gets the credit card bill. 🙂

 
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January 2019 vacation!

I’ll wear them more often in the backyard this summer. I’ll help him wash my car wearing one & throw water balloons with my kids. I want my girls to understand that it’s perfectly fine to be themselves & enjoy every aspect of life regardless of their weight. My oldest daughter asked me the other day if she would have a soft belly like me one day. I told her it depended on the choices she makes in food & exercise & if she grows babies. Our bodies are all unique & awesome & no one is the same. She thought that was pretty cool & then moved on to the next thing. I hope I’m teaching my girls better body-image & self-confidence than I was taught. I hope they wear a bikini for themselves. In the mean time, I’ll wear one for my husband & strive to love myself more. I urge you to enjoy life & all it has to offer. Whether that involves wearing a bikini or not, know you are beautiful & loved & worth so much more than a number on a scale. Maybe your husband needs a bikini too?

 

The Devil Wears Children’s Clothes…

Being a mother is the most challenging, rewarding, terrifying, satisfying thing I have done thus far in my life. I gave birth to our first daughter in 2009. I remember taking her home from the hospital, settling in, laying her down on a blanket on the living room floor & Scott & I then sitting & looking back & forth from her to each other. We literally said “Now what? What do we do with her?” Bringing home our second daughter in 2011 at least had us more prepared for an infant, but we were just getting started with a 2-year old.

My niece just turned 3 a couple weeks ago. She is, of course, beautiful & funny & goofy & stubborn! She was having a moment of defiance when my brother had asked her to do something. I said “She’s a three-nager, get used to it!” He laughed hysterically & said he was going to steal my word. They just had a baby in August & they are familiar with the infant stage, but just starting to navigate the toddler ones. These are stages that we all go through as parents. One stage we are in seems to last FOREVER & then before we know it, we have a new stage & we realize that the other one ended…but we can’t remember when.

Our oldest daughter, Kaitlynn, is now 9 1/2 & in 4th grade. She was excited & nervous to start school in the fall & had a positive outlook. She knew she had a teacher that has a reputation of being “tough” & “strict”, but we reminded her that it was for her benefit to remain respectful & optimistic. She listened & did just that… for 3 days. Then all of a sudden she had a stomach ache & didn’t feel well enough to go to school. When my kids are sick, they have to go to work with me & hang in my office, so that’s what she did. Throughout the day, I knew she was physically fine, but couldn’t put my finger on what was up. Over the next few days she developed a form of hysteria while getting ready for school in the morning. She complained of constant stomach aches & was convinced she was going to vomit at any given time. Then she had an over-active bladder- using the bathroom every 10 minutes sometimes. I would send her out the door in tears while telling me she didn’t want to go to school… & once she left I would either be so frazzled I was pissed the rest of the day, or I’d cry in defeat because I was somehow failing my daughter. Scott & I knew for the sake of our sanity & our family, that we couldn’t do enough to help her on our own. I contacted the school social worker & her homeroom teacher. Scott & I met the following week with a counselor that was going to help her navigate the anxiety she was exhibiting. To date, she meets with her every week & we are SO thankful for the progress made & the joy we have seen be returned to our daughter, not just for school, but socially as well. She joined basketball this year & we are SO proud of the progress she’s made! Their first game was pretty much painful to watch- now it’s so fun!

Our second daughter, Abby, is 7 1/2 & in 2nd grade. She’s always been the go-with-the-flow kid whose “pokey” & nonchalant demeanor tends to drive me crazy. As she’s gotten older, she’s become stubborn & ornery- which I attribute to her older sister always bossing her around. She’s also funny & sweet & creative. There is very little “peace” between the two of them these days as they do whatever they can to tick each other off. Some days I think they fight simply because they breath the same air…. But back to Abby being stubborn… Scott & I went on a much-needed vacation to the Dominican Republic (that’s another post). Scott’s mom stayed at our place with the girls to help keep routine & ease the anxiety Kaitlynn was having about us being gone. The day we returned home Abby laid on the floor, cried, said “no”, or “uh-uh” when we asked her to get ready & was just plain defiant. She’s frustrating & relentless!

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Abby threw an actual tantrum last Thursday morning. She was laying on the floor in the living room with her feet up the wall- kicking. I told her she needed to get ready for school so we could leave. Due to our MN winter weather, the kids hadn’t school all week & were 2 hours late that morning, but I still needed to get to work. Her “fit” started because she didn’t get to give Lilly (our dog) a treat after going potty. I told her she would be going to bed at 7p.m. that night due to her behavior. I finally got her in the car & drove to work. That evening she was supposed to be unloading & reloading the dishwasher. She was “set-off” when Kaitlynn turned on the Wii to play Mario. The next almost 2 hours were chaos. She screamed, she yelled, she told us “No!” We tried reasoning with her, calming her, getting her to open up, but nothing worked. After about an hour, I did what any logical mother would do… I got a glass with some ice cubes, told Scott she was his problem, I poured myself some Bailey’s Irish Cream & sat down on the couch to wallow in my frustration. After another 20 minutes in which she yelled that we didn’t care about her, I swallowed the last of my drink & got her into her bed as opposed to the stair she was laying on in the hallway. I crawled into bed with her & got her talking. Communication is so important & it’s hard in the world of technology to make those connections, but it’s extremely important to me that my girls know how to talk to me.

The gist of the issues with both of our girls is simple: it’s hard working learning how to grow up. They are “in a mood” or “having a day” & at the quick, I see the Devil in Children’s clothes slamming a door or telling me I’m so mean. It took me climbing into bed with her & then reflecting later on that there are SO many expectations for them that as adults- we forget they don’t know how to process it all. Often with both of our girls, it’s other girls that are at the heart of the drama. So & so wouldn’t let me play with her at recess. So & so said I was ugly/fat/not cool. it’s hard to teach them to grow tough skin & let it roll off their shoulders. It’s hard to teach them that they can’t let one “bad” thing ruin their whole day.  I started a journal with Kaitlynn so she has a safe place to write things down if she feels like she can’t actually talk to me about something- anything! If she writes in it, she puts in on my pillow to read & when I write back, I put it on her pillow to read. Sometimes she tells me about a worry, sometimes about something fun or exciting that happened at school. Sometimes a whole page will simply say “I love you Mom”. As long as she’s using it to communicate with me, I’ll take it!

Abby earned her radio back tonight & as I tucked her in & she kissed my nose, I told her I was proud of her for listening yesterday & today &  making good choices- & my heart melted a little when her response was “I’m proud of myself too, mom.” While I feel like I’m failing as a mother & that my kids aren’t near as respectful (to us) as I dreamed they’d be, my heart grows a little bigger when I hear words like that that prove to me they are listening. This does NOT change the fact that we need to make some adjustments in how we parent/handle different situations. This is a learning stage for us as well!! Kaitlynn has really started opening up about different things too. I see her interact with her friends & sometimes I’m so stinking proud of her & others I can’t figure out who that weird kid belongs to. In all of what they do, they are learning how to grow up. They are disguised as the Devil in children’s clothing, until I, their mom, stops & sees God speaking to me that they need me. They need my compassion, my guidance, my comfort, my stern hand & my ears. Teaching them to listen requires me to listen. I pray to God everyday to allow me to do my girls justice- to be worthy of him giving them to me. I’m trying. That’s all any of us mothers & fathers can do. I believe at the end of the day, God prevails & the Devil tucks tail & runs. In the mean time, I always have a bottle of wine in the fridge & two little girls to pray over.

Out With the Old, In With the… Wait a Minute.

I’m so sorry for my absence! Time got away from me with the hustle & bustle of the holidays! I had projects & shopping & wrapping & kids & employees… you know- Life! All of that chaos is over & people have started talking about ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ & ‘Out with the Old, in with the new’, and while I agree a New Year is a reason to celebrate, I don’t really agree with “outing the old”.

Take my work coffee cup for example. I received this very bright pink coffee cup from an employee 4 years ago. It has held tea & hot chocolate & cappuccino & coffee. It’s held coffee with creamer, coffee with milk, coffee with stevia & almond milk (in my attempt at being healthier) & it’s held them all the same. I’m pretty sure I lose at least 20 specks of color from the outside every time I wash it. It fits in my hand a certain way & I swear the coffee just tastes better from that mug than another one. Last year for Christmas, another employee gave me a brand new bright pink coffee cup. It is the EXACT same mug. She thought I needed it because my other one wasn’t looking so nice anymore. But guess what…. that brand new coffee mug is still in a cupboard in the box it came in. I can’t throw out the old & bring in the new- I just can’t.

This coffee cup is like me. I’m not as bright & shiny on the outside as I used to be (I’ll be 37 tomorrow!) & yet in other ways, I’ve never shone brighter or held as much diversity as I do now. I have some scrapes & bruises & scars. I have stretch marks & cellulite & loose skin & abs hidden under that somewhere, but it’s taken me years to get there. The things I hold inside of me, are of much greater treasure than what my outside shows at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things in life that you should throw out, like the feeling of always having to please others or those socks with a hole in the big toe. So last year, I shifted from making New Year’s Resolutions, to making realistic promises to myself.

I didn’t ‘throw out the old’, I simply modified my old into something that got me to my goals. The “old” is comfort & reassurance & quite simply- habit. I knew that there were certain things I was doing, or not doing, in my life that caused me to be un-settled, distracted & anxious. I could resolve to drink more water & eat less chocolate, but those aren’t things that would help me grow as a person & I realized that is what I wanted & needed more than anything. In order to get there, I’ve read numerous books that inspired me. What I settled on instead of New Years Resolutions were promises to myself that helped me grow. I started with a word- Peace- & I focused this last year on finding that. I learned to relax more & enjoy little things. I learned to pray more & am trying to navigate reading my new bible. I read more books & studied them as I went. I used old tools that I already had in my possession & combined them with new tools to find Peace. I shifted my focus & adapted- I didn’t throw everything out & start all over- I merged old & new & as we close out 2018, I can happily say that I found the Peace I was searching for: inner peace.

I’ve been thinking & praying about my 2019 word & I’ve decided on ‘Intentional’. I want to be Intentional in my life & in my relationships with my husband, kids, friends & family. I will use old tools & knowledge & information to lead me to the promise I’ve made to myself to be more intentional. I have big plans with my life yet & I won’t get there without intending to do so.

So as you get ready to ring in 2019, what do you strive for? Do you make New Year’s Resolutions or do you have a different tradition that helps you achieve goals? I urge you to have a plan, regardless of how big or little your goal is. You can’t HOPE everyday that something will come to fruition if you don’t put in the work. We only get one life, & before we know it, we’ll be the old & the ones going out. Let your light shine while you can!

Until next time! All my love, Jenni

The 10 People I’m Thankful For

We all play different roles in life, many on a daily basis. The people we encounter, interact with and spend most of our time with, help shape us into the people we are. It’s one of the lessons we try hard to teach our girls; the people you spend the most time with are who you will act like- are you making good decisions? I hope & pray everyday that they are. But it also makes me look harder at the people in my life. These people are often in contact with my children as well as myself, so I need to make sure they are being positively influenced. I need to be positively influenced as well. So as I was reflecting & writing down what I’m Thankful for, I wanted to acknowledge the who I’m Thankful for. All of these people play a different role in my life & benefit me in different ways… they help make me- me!

#1. My Husband. I’m sure you read that & rolled your eyes. Of course I’m Thankful for my husband. He plays a different role in my life than any other person- ever. Scott is my voice of reason. I get stressed about an issue & he brings me back to reality. He makes me laugh. I am often the cause of the joke (my height is his favorite topic), but the smirk on his face & the twinkle in his eye makes it that much sweeter. I hear the garage door open as he’s coming home at night & I my heart still beats a little faster. We are in a season of kids & chaos & tiredness & I love my husband more than ever. He’s loving & caring & quiet (especially compared to me), but he’s profound when I need it most. I’m Thankful for his strength & consistency & hard work.

#2. My Daughters. These tiny humans have the ability to drive me crazy & make my heart explode with love all within a matter of seconds. I am learning & growing with my children. I am good at telling new parents or expecting parents that each child is an experiment- & I’m not really joking. What works for one, doesn’t work for the other. They mature differently, they learn differently, they express themselves differently & they love differently. The role they play in my life is complicated yet at this point. They are both teacher & student at different times. They are vulnerable & naive & yet their perception & perspective scares the crap out of me sometimes. They are tiny humans & I have to remind myself of that sometimes, but I am SO Thankful I have them to help make me a better person.

#3. My In-Laws. These people are utterly amazing. Scott & I have been together for 20 years. They’ve watched me grow & learn along with their son. They gave support when my family fell apart & I became the black sheep. We bonded more when my to-be brother-in-law was shot & almost died. They do SO much for our girls & for us. We spend time together when possible. Whether it’s just hanging out at each other’s house watching TV, baking, tinkering, talking… we just enjoy each other’s company. My mother-in-law gives advice & sympathizes with our latest parenting challenge (& she laughs too because she remembers). We’ve gone on a week-long vacation together the last 2 summers. They teach me & our girls about compassion & family & safety & are a voice of reason when we need it. Their marriage helped (still does) me realize that two people who love each other can have disagreements & still be married. I didn’t have that example growing up & watching them together was inspiring.

#4. Friends. To say I didn’t REALLY have friends until I got older might make you go “yeah right!”, but it’s true. I had friends in high school & college, but I didn’t have the ability to grow those relationships into lasting ones. I didn’t know how to BE a friend, therefore I had a lot of acquaintances, but no one I could really confide in or share inside jokes with, etc. When Scott & I bought the store, I pretty much lost the last of those friends because of it. We were 22 years old & most of our friends were still in college or just starting jobs with normal hours. They didn’t understand my need to work 80 hours a week- they wanted to go the bar. They eventually stopped asking… and for a while I honestly didn’t notice. I met various people because of my business, but still didn’t find myself in a “serious” friendship until I was pregnant with my first child. I became friends with 2 amazing women who were also pregnant at the same time I was. They had their babies a couple months earlier than me, but it gave us common ground to build on. There have been a couple others that came into our relationship also, but I’ve remained closest to these two. We can send each other texts of random “fails”, triumphs, jokes, etc. We don’t get together as often we’d like to, but we are friends & we support each other regardless of decisions going on in life. These women are amazing & inspirational & they’ve helped me grow SO much into who I really want to be just by being supportive.

#5. Family. You may wonder why I listed Friends before Family. My parents divorced when I was 11 & my family became something I created over time. I have two brothers, Matt is 31, married to a wonderful woman & they have 2 little girls. My relationship with Matt is one of my most cherished. He is stronger than me, a better person than me… & yet he’s more vulnerable than me. Matt is all I have left of my childhood (other than my scattered memories) & I fear losing him. Now you’re wondering “how is that possible if you have two brothers?” Mike is my youngest brother & is 29. He’s a high school math teacher & is engaged to be married this coming summer. The last time I spoke to him was in March of 2013 when Matt & Vic got married. He refuses to accept my Facebook friend request, he reads the messenger message I send on his birthday every year, but won’t respond & I’ve never met his fiance. I will not be invited to his wedding. My mother & I have not spoken in nearly 16 years. So you’re wondering “how can she be Thankful for Family?!” I’m Thankful for the family I have left. I’m Thankful for the friends that have become family (choosing your family is more fun sometimes anyway) & I’m Thankful for the sense of Family that I’ve created along the way. I’m Thankful for the lessons that losing family has taught me & I know it’s why I work so hard to teach my daughters the importance of family.

#6. Customers. Without customers, I’d have no business. With no business, I’m not sure what my career path would be. Customers are why I get out of bed every morning (well not the only reason- I have kids) & do what I do. On any given day, I can have customers who share a joke, a smile, a tear, words of wisdom & words of sarcasm. We can make people happy… but not everyone & not everyday 😉 We have had customers who have stolen from us. We’ve had customers who are crabby & complain about everything from the weather, how many hours they worked that day or the fact that I’m out of a candy bar they wanted. We’ve had customers who compliment how clean our store is & how friendly my staff is. It takes all kids to make the world go-round & I’m so Thankful they choose to do business with me.

#7. Employees. I couldn’t have this one without #6, & yet I have a love-hate relationship with employees. They are a necessary part of operating my business & keeping my family life, personal life & sanity in check. Unfortunately, lack of employees is cause for derailment of all those things. Truth is, I cannot operate my business without help. I am Thankful for the people who trust me enough to work for me. I am Thankful that they find me & my business worthy of their time & energy. I do the best I can to provide & promote a positive working environment & I think that shows through my employees.

#8. Church Family. A couple years ago, I would have never have had that on my list- not even close! We joined a church here in town after our first daughter was baptized. Scott did not grow up “in the church” so to speak. We were married in a church, but he never went to church & really didn’t understand the “whole religion thing.” He would go with to church here & there because I told him he had to, but he hated it. We made a decision as parents to open-enroll our daughters in a different school district when our oldest started 1st grade. As a small business owner in a town of 900 people- we were shunned by many, including people at church. Church became a place I dreaded going. It wasn’t a comforting sanctuary where I felt safe & connected to God. It became a place where I felt continuously judged & condemned for the decision we had made. Our daughters started asking to please NOT go to Sunday school & church. One of my best friends as mentioned above had also moved from this church a few months prior. When I expressed my frustration, she simply invited us to their “new” church. It’s a little country church that was built in the 1800’s. The altar & stained glass windows face the east & the sunshine through those windows in itself is mesmerizing. The first Sunday we went, I was SO nervous! What if these people are “judgy” like the other ones & I simply don’t fit here either? I sat in that pew next to my husband & children & I was hardly able to sing the closing song. As I sat there, I became so overwhelmed with a sense of belonging. Like this little country church was my calling & where God wanted my family to be. We don’t make every Sunday, but we make most- including my husband! He’s learning & he’s so much more open-minded about being involved. It makes my heart happy that these people are so welcoming & thoughtful & I am Thankful for them 🙂

#9. My Children’s School. Teachers are saints. Period. There has to be special celebrations in heaven for them, I’m sure of it. However, there are many other people that take part in running a school. The administration, the social services, the janitors, the cooks…. SO MANY PEOPLE! So while I’m Thankful for the teachers my girls had/have, it takes a village to teach them how be responsible, educated human beings. Our oldest daughter started out the school year with excitement & eagerness…but by week 2, she was crying & shaking & complaining of stomach aches & missing me. I contacted the school social worker & her teacher immediately asking for help. Within a few days, we had things set up for her to start in-school counseling. The way they come together for the benefit of our children is heart-warming. I know not all people have this experience & that makes me sad for them. I am Thankful for our school & everything they have to offer our kids.

#10. Social Media Family. This is another Love-Hate relationship. I love that social media allows us to connect with people from all over the world based on things we have in common. We can find comfort & camaraderie with people who are in the same parts of life that we are in. Take this blog for example- I hope it reaches at least 1 person who finds a similarity & knows they’re not alone. The hate part of this is also the connection from all over the world. It’s the sense of safety that can so easily be violated by predators. It’s the ability to hide behind this screen & be anyone you want to be & it may not be genuine. It’s the ability to bully other people & not have consequences. It’s the messages media in general portray to our kids about how they should dress, talk, eat, sleep, etc. I want to use Social Media for good. I want to inspire & empower & I pray others do too. I’m Thankful for the Social Media Family I have found & the lessons I’m continuously learning.

That rounds out my Top 10. There are SO many more people that I am Thankful for, but these are the big ones. I encourage you to find your Top 10- & the WHY. There’s a reason these people are important to us, but if you can’t name the why, maybe you should reconsider their presence in your life.

All my love,

Jenni

Business Owners’ Blood, Sweat & Tears

On July 13, 2004, Scott & I had been married for exactly 1 month & 1 day. We were both 22 1/2 years old & had been dating since we were 16. My first job was at a pizza place in our hometown as a cook. A year or so later, my mother re-married & moved us 250 miles away from the only home I’d ever known. I was a Junior in high school & not happy is an understatement (not to mention there was this boy)! I found a job there too, also doing pizza. By the time I graduated from high school, I had earned myself the title of ‘Manager’.

I found myself back in my hometown that fall (my mother divorced her new husband) working a full-time job to save money for college. When that company went under in the spring, I lost my job. I found myself back at a ‘pizza place’ called “The Pizza Place” as a night supervisor. I learned SO MUCH from my employers! Not just in regards to business, but I went through some rough personal stuff with my family & they were there to be supportive & offer advice. I had worked there almost 2 years when I gave my notice- through my tears.

Scott had gotten a job a few towns over & we decided to move in together. I had also decided to switch to a 4-year college instead of the technical school I was attending. As I explained this to my bosses, they informed me that they had been approached about opening a second location & it just so happened to be in the town Scott & I were moving to- & RIGHT next door to the house we were renting! It was an answer for both of us. I agreed to manage the place when they were up & running. I worked a call-center job in the interim- & hated every day of it. I then worked for them for about a year & a half. The business didn’t do very well there. Poor location/visibility along with a main product ingredient that just didn’t scream “Quality” did them in. I took a different job as a legal secretary in another town… & hated that too.

This convenience store on the corner of 2 main highways in our small town was advertised For Sale. It was a “mom & pop” type of place that didn’t do much business. I honestly had always gone to the store across the street, but when I went into this one, I came out with ideas. I brought it up to Scott who thought I was joking at first. When he realized I was serious, he changed his tune & we started doing some homework. This store had a kitchen set up for pizza. I had always gravitated to working with pizza & this seemed like the perfect solution. The people I had previously worked for were closing their location in September, so there was no competition & I saw “blue sky”.

I quit that legal secretary job in time to prep for our wedding. After our mini-honeymoon, the finalizing of everything took place. What it all looked like on paper- & in my head- was going to be work, but I was ready for the challenge. I was young, excited, ambitious & just wanted to provide something to the community that it was missing.

Let’s fast-forward to today. Let’s talk about the bullshit; some of the things that I told myself or others told me when I started this business…

  • Bullshit #1: This is going to be a lot of work.
  • Bullshit #2: I’ll hire some people to help me & it will be ok.
  • Bullshit #3: People might try to break-in or take advantage, but it won’t be that bad.
  • Bullshit #4: I can set my  own hours & do whatever I want!
  • Bullshit #5: I get to write my own paycheck!
  • Bullshit #6: I’ll just stock the shelves & it will work. It can’t be that hard to sell stuff.
  • Bullshit #7: A convenience store will be really fun to own!
  • Bullshit #8: You’re too young & inexperienced to do this.
  • Bullshit #9: You’ll fail in the first 5 years.
  • Bullshit #10: Vendors will rip you off.

Now lets talk truth to my bullshit! Truth that the last (almost) 15 years have taught me.

  • Truth #1: This isn’t a lot of work. This is a TREMENDOUS amount of work. This is Blood, Sweat & Tears. This is emotional & mental & physical. This is NOT easy.
  • Truth #2: Employees are the bane of my existence. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had/have some really great ones. But I’ve also had some really bad ones. This is the single biggest struggle for me & if I had known then, what I know now about employing other people- I wouldn’t have done it.
  • Truth #3: The attempted break-ins were more annoying than anything. The robbery in the middle of the night in which he set my store on fire was definitely the worst! We were closed for about a month & a half while the store was gutted & re-built inside. “The Fire” as I refer to it, was traumatic for me, even though no one was hurt (Thank God!) The person responsible was an employee I trusted & the amount of anger, fear, disappointment, etc. that it instilled in me isn’t something I can describe even now. I’ve also had to deal with employee theft & pressing charges against them was not easy- or fun.
  • Truth #4: Bahahaha! My business has hours- which means I do too! I was here 6:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. for the first 4 months of operation. I am the only person who cooks lunch M-F so I HAVE to be here. I gave birth to 2 children & both times I took a week off before going back to work with them. 1 WEEK of maternity leave. I felt a little like Superwoman holding my baby in one hand & her bottle with my chin while I used my other hand to ring up customers & give change. When they were old enough to go to daycare, I went back to work in the kitchen.
  • Truth #5: It’s such a good thing my husband has a good-paying job. It took almost 3 years for me to take a paycheck. Getting this business “on its feet” is something that took much longer than I ever thought! I have 2 full-time employees & their paychecks are still larger than mine. We receive other “benefits” as owners, but I can’t just take what I want, when I want from the checkbook!
  • Truth #6: This is a half-truth, half-bullshit. I was told “If you build it, they will come.”- a quote from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’. This has been accurate to an extent. However, just because they come once doesn’t mean they’ll come back. You have to EARN the privilege of those customers walking through your door. If you have rude staff, a disgusting bathroom, empty shelves, etc. you won’t have returning customers.
  •  Truth #7: While it has its moments of fun, this is a difficult industry to be in. As an Independent Operator, I don’t have access to the things/resources all the chain stores do. Government regulations also make this an expensive industry to be in & I also don’t have the financial backing. We have to save & maneuver & plan months/years ahead for changes that need to be made. If it’s something that has to be done right now, we take a loan.
  • Truth #8: I was young & inexperienced when it came to the big picture. It took a lot of learning to figure out how to do this- & how to do it right. I’m still learning on a daily basis to listen to my customers & to push them to trust me with my ideas 😉
  • Truth #9: Those first 5 years were brutal! I refused to fail because people had told me I would. I worked more, I worked harder, I found new resources & made business relationships with people that made all the difference in how I operated & functioned. July 2019 will be our 15 year anniversary… not bad for a 22 year old girl who didn’t know what she was doing!
  • Truth #10: For the people who have/do experience that, I feel really bad for them. I have had nothing but good relationships with my vendors. My business doesn’t work without my relationship with them. They offer suggestions on sales & placements of products. They help keep my inventory relevant & moving instead of stagnant. Vendors are invaluable & picking the right ones makes all the difference. I have never found a vendor to be shorting me product or being dishonest in any way.

So my Blood, Sweat & Tears are literally in this store. Anyone that owns & operates a small business will tell you the same thing. That is my name on the front door, I sign the paychecks, etc. My reputation & the brand I’m building for our children is reason enough to keep going. I pray that this is all worth it someday. Even when employees don’t remember “Bosses Day” or the guy working on that construction project in town steals a pair of sunglasses, the effort is worth it. The blood, sweat & tears are worth it.

All my love,

Jenni

 

Haircuts are a Celebration!

My “hair lady” is back from maternity leave!! This is much cause for celebration! For the last 8 years, this woman has worked magic & supported my tresses as only she can. I’m sure you all have “the one” that does your hair better than another so you can understand how liberating it is to get your hair done by them! However, getting my hair CUT in itself is a celebration- it means I actually HAVE hair that can be cut!!

Ever since I learned how, I’ve been particular about my hair. Let no wind, rain, tousling, etc. flatten my perfectly poofed crown! My brother-in-law even referred to me as “Troll” due to my high hair & 5ft. stature. I still won’t go out in public without my hair done. No get-out-of-bed & leave for me! So imagine how I reacted when that hair all started falling out…

My husband & I own a convenience store & had an opportunity to go to Mexico in January of 2016- & we took it! It was the first trip like this for either of us & the first trip without our daughters. I run the business & my husband works another job. I experienced increased anxiety and this vacation was just what was needed! We were enjoying the sun & relaxing & NO responsibilities- as was expected! One of the days after I had showered, Scott went in to use the toilet. I will always remember his comment & the subsequent conversation… & the next 3 years…

He said, “You sure shed a lot.” I was like “Huh?” He said, “You shed a lot. Look at all the hair in the bottom of the tub. I haven’t noticed that at home.”

I went & looked & was also very surprised. I didn’t think much else of it- we were on vacation & I didn’t have my tri-fold mirror to perfect my hair. Besides, no one knew me there!

Scott & I on our last night in Mexico.

Upon returning home, my tri-fold mirror revealed a bald spot on the back right side of my head… not just a small spot either. This was tennis-ball sized & growing daily. I messaged my “hair lady” with a picture. “Did you notice anything when you did my hair before I left?” “No!” she replied. “You need to see a Doctor.” I was fatigued & irritable & scared. I was convinced it was cancer of some kind & I worked tirelessly to convince myself that I would be around to raise my daughters & grow old with my husband.

All the blood tests that my doctor did revealed one thing: I was as healthy as could be.

I was referred to a dermatologist for final diagnosis. I asked about stress/anxiety & the role it could be playing (because let’s be real- I Googled that sh^&). I was told there was no direct link, but if I was experiencing high stress, to work to reduce that. I asked about changing my diet- would Whole 30 be the answer? Could I survive Whole 30?? No wine, no chocolate? That in itself was punishment! I was ultimately given a diagnosis of Alopecia Areata. I would then spend the next 2 years losing my hair, having my husband shave my head & steroid injections in my scalp too numerous to count while watching it grow back. I read books & blogs & tried to connect with other people in the Alopecia community for support. The second time it became evident I was going to lose my hair, I went to my “hair lady” with a friend, a bottle of wine & some tears while I watched her shave my head & then slightly customize my new wig.

Picture #1 is me in my new hair April 2016. Picture #2 is the after effects of an appointment at the dermatologist & a round of injections in my head April 2017. Picture #3 is me in my new hair June 2017. 

Fast forward to November 2017 & my hair was thinning again. I had a bald spot about the size of a ping-pong ball in one area & one about the size of a quarter in another. I thought “Here we go again.” I was experiencing the same fatigue & irritability. I was on the phone with my step-mother arguing about Thanksgiving (again, like every year) & I had my first REAL panic attack. I’m thankful at this point that I have only experienced one of those & I hope that I have things under control now to not go through that again. However, the next day, I wasn’t ok. I just wasn’t. I called my doctors office & asked to be seen right away. I was put on an anti-anxiety medication- something I was afraid to do for too long, for all the wrong reasons.

I’m a HUGE believer in mental health support & asking for help & believe that it’s ok to not be ok. Anxiety & depression run in my family & while it took too much “work” to bring it forward along with family stressors, I am acknowledging it & work through it daily. My bald spots stopped growing after I started that medication & I haven’t experienced any new ones. I truly believe that stress & anxiety were the causes of my hair-loss all long.

So stop & think about that. A perfectly healthy 35 year old woman who works out 5 days a week, drinks ample amounts of water, eats salads prepped in mason jars (& gets picked on about it) & who by all accounts is HAPPY- lost all of her hair from too much anxiety.

That’s heavy.

Stress & anxiety are very capable of wrecking total havoc on our physical selves, not just our mental & emotional ones. By all means, I beg you, ask for help! I still take a daily medication. I bullet journal, I read a daily devotional & say my prayers (both of which are newer to me). I make more of an effort to STOP working- be it my business or the housework- & enjoy time with my kids. I learned to say NO to the things that added to my anxiety instead of alleviating it… I’m still learning to walk away. I choose to surround myself with people who are supportive & encouraging & who are just all-around amazing.

Me today- & that hair is MINE 🙂

So the next time you go in to get your hair cut, think about all of those people that can’t. Think about the women like me. Think about the cancer patient. Think about the person with Alopecia. Think about how something so “normal” to most people, is literally a celebration for others. Then throw a quick “Thanks” to the higher power you believe in & ask yourself if you’re doing all you can to control the anxiety & stress in your life before the anxiety & stress controls you.

All my love,

Jenni

Here Goes Nothing

I’ve tossed around the idea of starting a blog for a while now, however there are several things that have kept me from doing it. Thing #1: I don’t have anything to blog about that people will be interested in anyway. Thing #2: I have NO IDEA how to start a blog! I mean, how do these things work? Thing #3: I have SO much spare time to do that in… will it ever make sense? Thing #4: What if people I know actually read this & it changes the way they think about me??

Then I started reading a lot of books about motivation & not being perfect & not being afraid to put myself out there. I started to realize my value. My value as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a business owner, as a friend…. all these “hats” I wear on a daily basis! Granted, part of this revelation could be in part to my age… I’ll be 37 in a couple of months & I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to love myself in all my imperfect glory. Does that mean I am super confident? Does that mean that I don’t have “Mom-Guilt”? Does that mean that you can eat off the floor of my kitchen on any given day? Does it mean that I don’t look in the mirror & wonder what my husband sees in me? NO! I experience these things everyday! The biggest difference is that I’ve taken advice from Brené Brown & her book Braving the Wildnerness in which she advises to “speak truth to bullshit.” So that’s why I’m here. I’m speaking truth to the “bullshit” in my life. I’m hoping that someone else out there finds my truth to also be their truth.

This brings me back to my 4 “Things” about why I shouldn’t start a blog. So I spoke truth to myself about my fears & came up with answers. Thing #1: Maybe no one will read it. Ever. But putting it out there for someone to find brings opportunity to both of us. An opportunity to connect through words & find peace & comfort & hopefully a little humor. Thing #2: I just googled how to start a blog- & here I am! I’ll research (because I tend to obsess over new-found things) about ways to improve your experience, but I’m just here to be honest! Thing #3: I’ll MAKE the time. I am passionate about many things in my life; my husband, my kids, coffee, wine, chocolate, essential oils, friends, exercise….. ok, I’ll stop 😉 but you get the point. Making the time to share challenges & triumphs with you will help me through it!  Thing #4: If speaking truth to the world- & subsequently the people I know in my life  & it changes their perspective of me in a negative way, then that’s another truth I’ll deal with.

This is our fur-baby, Lilly! She’s seriously like having a toddler in the house again!
This is my world! My husband Scott, our daughter Kaitlynn (9) & our daughter Abby (7). This was taken on the shore of Lake Superior while on vacation.

That’s it for today. It seems I have this “job” & payroll needs to get done! Until next week!

Jenni