My Story: Leadership, Callings & Deep Transformation
I grew up as a pastor's daughter, influenced by spiritual teachings and learning how to be in close community with others. We lived in three different states, among three different cultures, classes, and careers, from the West, to the South, to the Midwest. Being in a pastor's family, you become a first-hand witness to the emotions that come with serving people in all different capacities: weddings, funerals, illness, celebrations, conflict, family & relationship challenges, disaster, and rebuilding. I remember vividly when we lived in California during the earthquake of 1989, and our church had to become a temporary Red Cross shelter. We spent hours handing out emergency kits, blankets, jackets, and food, and hosted people in cots until they could get back into their homes. During that time, on one day in particular, I know we had nearly empty cabinets in our pantry, but a family pulled up to our house and needed help. My mom asked me to go see what I could find to share with the kids waiting in the car while she talked to their mom. So I grabbed a couple of packages of Saltines and headed right out and kept them company while they waited. This was one of the earliest experiences I had of creating a space in a moment of true need. My family was willing to give, even out of our own need. My parents knew that things would end up working out.
Fast forward in life, I head out on my own to make my own choices, some hard and some good, navigating the roads of growing, college and career while building a family.
While it wasn't easy, I'm most proud of staying the course and pursuing my education. For me, this was incredibly important, as I dreamed of having a college education since I was 8 years old. From a young age, I was anxious to start school (my husband often jokes that I was born with a backpack, ready for college!). I loved to learn and read, and you'd often find me in a tree or on the swing set, pondering life and it's meaning.
I worried my dream fell apart when I married young and started a family right away. We were stuck surviving in those early years, and I took a break from school and gained a steady job to help support our growing family. In my mid-twenties, I took a break from my career to stay home with my two young children, and that year my dad became severely ill and passed away. This was a pivotal moment for me. In his last years of life, my dad and I had the chance to form a better relationship. I'm sure he knew he didn't have much time left here, so he spent as much time as he could with us, loving our kids, and offering us down-to-earth wisdom over hazelnut coffee. He would stop over every afternoon after work, and sit with me and my two babies at our small kitchen table in our tiny Victorian apartment. We'd talk about life, money, faith and raising kids. He told me, "Jen, don't get so busy surviving that you forget to live. It's so easy when the kids are this little to have to survive. Take it from me. I know. I wish I didn't miss some of that time when you were little." My parents were two people with big shoulders, and huge responsibilities at the start of their own family. I learned from them that they were doing the best they could at the time, and they wanted us to REALLY LIVE.
After my dad passed away, and once the grief started to lift, the fire started burning in me. I took it to heart. I was tired of surviving. I wanted to thrive.
After a series of tough times and rough waters, I headed back to work and decided to go back to school. My husband and I needed the income after his company closed unexpectedly. I was passionate and ready for change. I knew I wasn't going to live like this forever. It was time to move forward in our lives.
Before I knew it, I was back in school, and growing in my career. We had 3 kids now, and needed full-time care for them, so my husband and I decided he would stay home while I focused on school and work. It was a bold move for us, having to steer away from a traditional model, and it definitely came with some struggle. But it worked. We grew, and we managed, and we moved forward.
I kept growing at work, eventually moving into leading teams, landing an executive role, and gaining new opportunities. We still had some hard times, and I had to leave school on several occasions due to competing commitments.
And while I hung on to my dreams, my life again took a dip over 7 years ago. I was expecting our fourth child, I had to quit school, it was the height of the financial crash, and the pressures were mounting at home and work. It felt like everything was falling apart.
After hitting another low point, I decided this was truly enough.
My roots never left me, and I worried I had missed out on some dreams by pursuing a more traditional career route. I struggled living in the either/or mentality for far too long, leading me to question my path and constantly question myself instead of truly enjoying my growth.
For years, I even struggled with all my different roles, as a working mom, as a deeply spiritual woman who also loved numbers, having independence and earning power, and still truly having heart for people and service.
I started to really SEE. I saw how many of us were just going through the motions, hanging on to fears and self-doubt and not living up to potential.
I saw how many women struggled with the same issues--the constant balancing act of family and career.
In church life, we were often taught that we had a calling, something that would make our mark on the world.
I wanted to figure out what was calling out to me right now.
I knew I longed for more. I desired a life that would integrate my whole being, where I would be free of anxiety and able to live big, bold and courageous, and also deeply rooted, soulful and compassionate. I wanted to provide for my family and serve my community, bringing all that knowledge and soul together to create a meaningful life, fully owning my voice, committed to the present, and encouraging others to do the same.
I did deep work to transform from the inside out. I gave up the pursuing without wholeness, and my husband and I committed to pick up the pieces, and rebuild our lives. We served our community in group coaching experiences centered around freedom. We worked with others to build a new life. We decided to both go back to school and commit to careers we'd love.
Out of all this, I longed even more for a place dedicated to celebrating the wild-hearted, creative, and authentic woman who fearlessly leads with love.
So here, we celebrate ALL the ways women lead.
For the past 20 years, I’ve developed my career while raising my family, learning to fully embrace and enjoy being a leader, businesswoman, wife, and mother.
I also finished my life-long dream of getting my degree, graduating in 2014 with a Masters.
All these experiences have taught me the high value of self-awareness and powerful service to others, as well as learning (beyond the books) all about resilience, leadership, and personal transformation.
And I want this for YOU.
To live a beautifully integrated life as a woman and a leader, living with intention and freedom.
A little more you may want to know . . .
- I am the wife of a jazz musician/stay-at-home dad, mother of 5 glorious children, and a devotee of compassionate leadership as a means of bringing out the best in people to create thriving teams & organizations.
- Before earning my final degree, I studied both Vocal Performance and Interior Design. I still sing ballads and good jazz standards, thanks to my husband. My favorite classes from design were textiles and color theory.
- I have a love affair with flowers. I'm growing my first rose bush, a David Austin Tranquility Rose. My latest pleasure read is Foraged Flora by Louesa Roebuck and Sarah Lonsdale. It's the most soulful book on flowers you'll ever read.
- I drink coffee like it's going out of style. I started with an iced mint mocha the summer I graduated high school, and never looked back. Now a favorite Coffee drink: regular coffee with almond milk, cinnamon, and a little maple syrup. It's good hot or iced.
- I serve on the board of the Children's Museum of Cleveland, where I develop strategies to engage the community and generate enthusiasm for its mission. For the last three years I've had the pleasure of serving with them during the major transformation of Mansion to Museum, taking a historic mansion and turning it into a child's wonderland. The gorgeous architectural building will house modern interactive exhibits, surrounded with walls of vibrant colors. It's sure to delight both parents and children. If you're in Cleveland or traveling here and you have kids, you won't want to miss it! It's opening later this year.
- I have a Master of Science in Positive Organizational Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, birthplace of Appreciative Inquiry and a leader in the fields of Resonant Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. Here is where I learned what my heart was calling me to do, especially as it relates to leadership and personal transformation. And I traveled toEurope, another check off my bucket list, and a completely amazing experience I can't even put into words!
- I absolutely love truly seeing now, and creating the space for deep transformation and conversation. I'm passionate about women feeling whole and at peace as they serve in their families and careers.
- My family is my heartbeat. I am eternally grateful for them, and for how they keep me believing in the good in the world.
Jen is a corporate leader and mom of five who has taught us some great ways to re-frame the chaos of working parenthood using her unique approach of celebrating the chaos that is often around us and reconsidering our own approach to the challenges that find their way into the lives of busy parents.
She holds a Master of Science in Positive Organizational Development and Change, and a certificate in Leading with Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve University.