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.

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