Most of us have that person on our social media who we have fallen out of touch with for various reasons, but whom we secretly support or full on Stan…well meet Jennifer! We attended Cedarcrest Elementary School together (I won’t tell you how many years ago), I moved away in grade 6 and I can’t remember if we’ve seen each other in person since. Reconnecting on Facebook years later, it was so thrilling to witness the amazing work she is doing within social care (not an easy field by any means), but also just how open and honest she is regarding the other aspects of her life. Unabashedly sharing her highs and lows and always welcoming other viewpoints and suggestions on hot button topics. So, I took the punt and asked her if she’d be willing to do our interview, read along and see why she is not only inspirational, but also a force.
Q: What is the tone/sound of your alarm clock?
A: The radio station-The Beat 92.5, the hosts are hilarious and always laughing and it is great to wake up to laughter.
Q: Morning person or night owl?
A: Night owl for sure. I have no clue how anyone could go to bed early, I can’t even if I try.
Q: What’s your fave quote?
A: Fall down 7 times, get up 8.
Q: Sandals or Sneakers?
Q: Your word for the year
Q: What’s the last picture you took?
A: A picture of my son wearing a shirt that says “psoriasis warrior”. A local business owner made it for him for free when she heard he was being ostracized wherever we went, as he has a condition called guttate psoriasis. He loves that shirt and it empowers him!
Q: Countryside or beach?
A: Countryside, the beach is pretty but the sand annoys me to no end!
Q: What is something that you have never done?
A: I’ve never eaten a big mac…I don’t like any of it but the hamburger part. No pickles, condiments, Kraft cheese or any of that for me!
Q: Electronic or paper calendar?
A: Paper, I keep trying to get into the electronic one but I just can’t make the switch.
Q: Most used emoji?
Q: Fave flower.
A: I love lilacs! They smell amazing and symbolize the start of summer for me.
Q: Savoury or sweet?
Q: Favourite Animal?
A: I love dogs. They are so loyal. I have a pug named Pugsy and he is the sweetest thing!
Q: Fave artists.
A: Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Alisha Keys.
Q: Fave season.
A: Summer for sure! The heat, the sound of bugs buzzing, birds chirping, ice cold slushies and sangria and ice cream. That feeling when you are boiling hot and jump into a nice cold body of water. BBQ’s and picnics. Late evenings sitting outside alone or with friends. Leaving the house without needing to get jackets and boots and whatever else. I love it all!
Q: What was your favourite book as a child?
A: How to be a Grouch by Caroll E. Spinney. It tells you how to be like Oscar the grouch and I remember actually putting rocks under my bed sheets as it suggested. I also loved the Babysitter Club books.
Q: How would you describe your fashion style?
A: I’m all about comfort.
Q: What do you do to relax?
A: I love to entertain and spend time with the people I care about! I love to plan costume parties for the kids, pictionary nights and karaoke parties for the adults. Enjoying good company, good food and drinks is food for my soul.
Q: What’s your most favourite place, you’ve travelled?
A: New Orleans and Jamaica are tied.
Q: Which element best represents you?
A: Water. Something about the calming but powerful nature of it. When I am near water I feel at home but at the same time water terrifies me.
Q: How would you spend an ideal day?
A: An ideal day would be spent with the kids doing some type of family activity, followed by a gathering with friends
Q: What are you most thankful for?
A: I am most thankful for the opportunities that I have had to allow me the successes in my life. The opportunity to have children, to access healthcare and higher education and so on and also to meet all of the amazing people who have built me up.
Q: Current role model
A: I admire Oprah so much, not that I hope to become famous, but she and her story are so inspiring.
Q: What causes you anxiety?
A: Sometimes I worry that I’m running out of time. There just isn’t enough time to do all I want to with my kids, to travel and see all I want to see, to achieve everything that I want to.
Q: If I could grant you one wish, what would it be?
A: I would have to wish for the eradication of suffering in the world.
Q: What 3 things brings you joy?
A: The people I love, travel, nature.
Q: When was the last time you meditated/prayed?
A: Last night.
Q: Would you say your religion is central in your life?
A: I wouldn’t say central, but it is definitely part of my life.
Q: Can you recall a pivotal moment when your faith/belief helped you deal with something in your life?
A: There were many times. God is never sleeping.
Q: Of the books, you read this year, which was your favourite and why?
A: I actually haven’t done much reading for pleasure this year. I have been trying to improve my french and so have been trying to read stuff in french like articles.
Q: What would you like your legacy to be?
A: I want to be remembered for all of the good that I’ve done. I want people to feel that I’ve made their lives better and helped to make the world a better place.
Q: Describe yourself in one word.
Q: If you could meet anyone from the past, who would it be?
A: I would love to meet Martin Luther King Jr. His selflessness, his leadership, his conviction…so inspiring.
Q: What is one thing you would like to overcome/conquer?
A: Living a healthier lifestyle.
Q: What do you see when you look in the mirror?
A: I see different things depending on the day. I see someone who is a fighter, who has come a long way and overcome many obstacles. Someone who is strong and every time I look in the mirror I tell myself “look at all you’ve done, if you have done all of that, you can do anything”.
Q: What do you love most about yourself?
A: I love that I am able to wear many hats and for the most part be pretty successful in many different areas: as a mom, as a Social Worker, as the President of a non-profit, as a friend etc.
Q: Do you ever struggle with being “too” open on social media?
A: I think it is important to share my successes as well as my failures with people.
Q: You’re raising two boys, what are the tools/things you try to do in order to reduce the likelihood they become a statistic?
A: I think being involved in their lives and having frank conversations are key. I monitor online interactions, know where my kids are, what they are doing and with who. I share stories from the news and discussing how to handle difficult situations is part of our regular conversations. I instill in them the importance of having respect for everyone, expressing themselves appropriately and using the proper channels to deal with any perceived injustice. I teach them about consent, boundaries and accepting no. I make sure that my kids are involved in activities that they are passionate about to give them something positive to do with their time and energy. I also teach them that knowledge and kindness are power.
Q: We knew each other in elementary school, if you were to look back at the Jenn from back then, what did you picture your life to be?
A: Aside from being a single parent, I kind of pictured it as it is now. I imagined that I’d be working with people and making a difference in people’s lives, have children, experience all that the world has to offer and live my best life, all of which have become my reality.
Q: You are a very hardworking and dedicated person, I can tell from your openness regarding your successes and failures, does it ever frustrate you that despite that people may still judge you as you are a single parent?
A: It is definitely frustrating, but I feel like the people who matter won’t judge me and the people who judge me don’t matter. I think that there are many people who stay in relationships that are unhealthy “for the kids”, but they are in fact doing a disservice to their children by modelling an unhealthy relationship and having their children exposed to fighting and tension. It takes strength to walk away when you are being mistreated and/or unhappy, but it sets a good example in my opinion, teaching kids that they should not tolerate being treated poorly or remain in situations that cause them to be unhappy.
Q: You are bi-racial, what impact (negative or positive) did that have on you growing up and how to you identify with the various sides of your ethnicities ?
A: Being biracial definitely has its challenges. I feel like I’ve never been fully part of any one community. That being said, I try to embrace all of my cultures and teach my children about them. It can be frustrating when people ask “where are you from?” Because it is a long drawn out explanation. In a way I feel like I can kind of blend in anywhere. When on vacation anywhere the locals have always thought that I was from there which can be an advantage.
Q: What advice would you give anyone who is struggling with embracing their uniqueness?
A: It is the sum of all unique pieces that make a whole.
Q: What relationship advice would you give?
A: Treat your partner the way that you would want the people you love the most (son, daughter, mother, father etc) to be treated in a relationship.
Q: What made you become a social worker?
A: I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and be there for the people who are often forgotten by society.
Q: What is something you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?
A: I’ve taken a few big risks and stepped out of my comfort zone.
Q: What was the most challenging thing for you this year? Or the last few years?
A: Being a single parent and balancing everything has been a major challenge. Sometimes I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I want to be a good and available mom, I also want to advance my career, volunteer, have a social life, time for myself. It isn’t easy to do it all.
Q: What 3 most important things have you learned this year?
A: 1-Self care is important, you can’t pour from an empty cup
2-There is nothing wrong with cutting out the pieces of life that do not make you happy and adding pieces that do
3-Sometimes you just have to take risks to move forward
Q: What’s your most important goal for this year?
A: To be happy.
Q: How do you plan on achieving them?
A: I plan to do away with whatever doesn’t bring me happiness and incorporate what does.