Thank you for stopping by to read my story and learn more about me. I was born and have always lived in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have come to love this city and the diverse communities that make it great.
I was adopted at 12 weeks, but I used to think it was 3. In late 2019 my story changed when I was given my adoption papers for the first time. I knew nothing about my birth parents before that moment. It turns out they were a young couple that struggled to figure things out. I’ve never been curious about them; I can’t answer why. It was more fulfilling for me to discover my heritage. I found out I’m Russian, Scottish, and Italian. I think this strangely explains a lot of my physical attributes that I have been curious about over the years. I’ve always thought of myself more as ‘Canadian’ when it comes to my background.
In my younger years, my parents were super loving, caring, and giving to the community. I still get stopped in the streets by people who want to tell me stories about my mom and dad and their immense generosity. I grew up, in what many would describe as a “Nuclear Family”. I had two parents, a brother, a dog, a red brick house, and a fence. It was a happy secure homelife, but it didn’t come easy to my parents. They worked very hard for the middle-upper class life I grew up accustomed to. In fact, their story in the beginning is one of struggle, courage, strength, discovery, and true love.
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger and smarter than you think.”
Winnie the Pooh
Both of my parents were born in Montreal to immigrant German, Jewish families. My father is from Snowdon, which he fondly refers to as the “other side” of the tracks, while my mom grew up in the wealthy neighborhood of Westmount. They met circumstantially on a ski hill in The Laurentian mountains. My mom was a beautiful and intelligent lady, so of course my dad could only be swept off his feet from the moment he saw her. My father was a true romantic, so courting her came naturally. They were married in 1967. It was a complicated year for them both.
After they were engaged, life changed. My mom was hospitalized and almost died. She developed a giant blood clot, the size of a tennis ball in her lungs. She remained in the hospital for many months and was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, a rare form of a blood clotting disorder that altered her path completely. She stared it down bravely knowing her life would never be the same. My mother was a strong woman and leaned into change, acceptance, and focused her energy on giving back. She set a course of purpose entirely different than what she had intended.
My father never once left my mom’s side. While he had come from a difficult home life, he had learned to work hard and stay focused. My father would ultimately become the CFO of Canadian Tire. He was a company man and his work ethic paid off. He was always a path paver. He worked tirelessly, but ALWAYS made time for us. My father made it seem easy, but I know it wasn’t. Watching both thrive, set the bar high in my family. I knew it would be a tough act to follow.
“I still don’t know what it really means to grow up. However, if I happen to meet you, one day in the future, by then, I want to become someone you can be proud to know.”
I wasn’t an easy child; I struggled growing up. I was always pushing boundaries and teeter-tottered on the fringes of good versus bad behaviour. In grade one, I experienced bullying firsthand. Some of the girls in my class decided to form a “Hate Jennifer” club. I had no idea why they did this, and it really made me SAD, CONFUSED, and LONELY. How it made me feel back then, always stuck with me. The loudness of the hate and how mean kids can be, impacted me more than I was willing to face for many years.
I was so lucky to have my parents on my side giving me the opportunity to explore and build a love for many things like dance, horseback riding, and finding the fun in one’s life at that age.
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”
Max De Pree
As I became a teen, I was consumed with angst, wonderment, and adventure. My life seemed “normal” until it wasn’t anymore.
I started to have seizures at the age of 14. It was a peculiar time for me. I had no clue what was going on. I was scared but I tried to be brave. It was my first conscious experience of wearing a mask in public. All of my friends were growing up, experimenting, rebelling, and trying new things. I was going to doctors, therapists, and having my mom sleep in my room at night. I was consumed by fear, confusion, anxiety, and shame. All I wanted was someone to tell me I would never have another seizure again. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone around me about my woes, so I just pushed my emotions, thoughts, and feelings deeper and deeper inside me.
During this time, I was being put on medications. I felt like a test group subject. I would try one medication out; the side effects would be terrible. The doctors would say “you have to come off this one slowly and then we can try another one”. This routine went on for years and my body began to reject it in all the worst ways. I put on 65lbs before I left for university, I lost short-term memory capacity, was having problems processing information, and I just wasn’t feeling like myself. It was this pharmaceutical blur that doesn’t quite make sense when you’re supposed to be young and energetic. As I headed off to university, I had no idea who I was. My whole world felt cloudy, broken and I was feeling nervous, and afraid. It’s tough to think about now, but I’m grateful I went through it.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
Henry David Thoreau
I spent most of my university years trying to get by. I was smoking a pack a day and partying with my friends. University felt like a time in my life when I was floating. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be, so I came home and started to work. But something else was happening… I didn’t care about me anymore. I felt like I had struggled for so long; fighting against these medications, feeling like an altered version of myself, never getting more than 1 step ahead and usually taking two giant steps back. I had come to a place where I hated who I was. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore. I was embarrassed of who I had become. This was my SHAME, and I had no idea what this feeling really was. I suffered. I felt immense sadness, loss, and anger. I went to therapy, but I couldn’t be honest with myself or my therapist at the time. It was overwhelming and I was hitting my emotional breaking point.
AND THEN I BROKE… literally. I cracked my ribs and was forced to be confined to my bed for six months. I was helpless. I couldn’t walk, drive, go to work, or socialize. I was also on powerful opioids for the pain. I was numb, literally, from the experience. It was a traumatic time in my life, but it gave me this need to never want to feel helpless again. I started to realize that to get there I would have to make changes to my life. It was up to me; no one was going to do the heavy lifting. Things hadn’t been great at work or in my love life before I broke my ribs. I was having problems with my boss and my boyfriend. I was a victim of corporate workplace bullying and my boyfriend was busy with his own life. The pain; physically, mentally, emotionally, was hard to deal with. Rock bottom feelings are sometimes the best medicine and for me, this moment in time was my big turning point.
When I finally went back to work, I quit my job, I quit smoking, my boyfriend and I broke up, I finished my thesis, I trained for a marathon, and I started my new journey to a healthier self.
“You can always time distance, never tempt fate.”
In 2006, I met my husband, and my life changed again. He proposed 24 hours after we met, and I said YES. We met on a dance floor, and it was an instant connection. 3 months after his proposal, we were married, committed, purposeful, and full of love. This was an exciting layer to my life, but I didn’t have my purpose yet. It was fascinating to watch my husband fulfill his purpose in life; his was so clear to him. He knew the difficulties of the industry he chose to be involved with, but he was pushing through the challenges and making headway on his dreams. Watching this determination was frustrating, fascinating, and inspiring. I was hoping to get there some day…
We incorporated our first business together in 2007, Admit One Productions. I knew what I liked, I knew what I didn’t like, but I was really struggling with my own identity. My 30’s were a big transformation and turning point in my life.
“Once you know that big “why” of your life, you can go on to create such positive changes in your world that the deep relief in your heart can only be called joy.”
Nancy Trites Botkin
Over the next decade, I progressed up the corporate ladder, always learning, being challenged, and growing as a leader. I was working with some of the biggest brands and companies in the world; Marvel, Fox, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Walmart, M&M Food Markets, and Giant Tiger. I was helping these companies build, transform, evolve, and grow their businesses, but I had an inner friction. After all these years helping companies grow, I really wanted to do something different. Something a little more connected.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
It took another tidal wave of change for me to begin to find my way back to my path. I had one of those years when everything feels disconnected, broken, and falling apart. My mom got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, my body began to shut down physically and mentally, and I was not sleeping. I was burning out quickly and ended up being downsized from my job. As much as this was all awful, it was a moment of fate and discovery. This is when I landed in my first ever Mindfulness program, MBSR. It was a time when I needed something new in my life, and mindfulness served up everything and more. It taught me so much about myself, my ways of thinking, and it introduced me to awareness, balance, and presence. When I left my first class, I couldn’t believe it. How could I not know about something so life changing and important? Wait a minute… Isn’t that judgment? I know we all judge ourselves at some point. It’s part of being human. It would take me years of practice to embed mindfulness into my life and realize this new potential. These teachings would become the bedrock of my soul.
“The best way to take care of your future is to take care fo the present moment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
In 2015, I decided to leave the corporate world to launch my own business, becoming a coach and consultant. It was the beginning of Double J Lifestyle, which ultimately has become Double J Strategic.
My consulting business took off and I couldn’t be more grateful. It was busy, demanding, and challenging for several years. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel; always moving, learning, building, and transforming. This was my first stage of growth as an entrepreneur. My next stage was something even more heartfelt. I knew I wanted to repurpose my skills and values and take what I learned to a more one on one level. It felt like this is where I wanted to grow and expand both personally and as a business.
In the background of these amazing corporate consulting opportunities, I kept working on my purpose. It was like a lightbulb just went off! It was so clear to me… I felt confident with this new direction and choice I made. This is what fulfilled me…
My vision is: ~creating purpose and changing lives through the power of mindfulness and storytelling~
And then it happened… My mom passed away and the pandemic hit us all. My life turned upside down for a moment and I felt like I was back to square one. So much loss. So much uncertainty with the world around us. My husband and I knew it was important to adapt, shift, to thrive in this new world. That’s when I dove into becoming a Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher, and at the same time we created The Art of Mindful Storytelling. This program united our strengths and was an incredible thing to create and execute together. This is when life began to shift once again and keep me on my toes.
“Change is like the deep dark waters of the ocean, sometimes bottomless and unclear, but I know from experience that if you commit to yourself and working through it, you are guaranteed to clear the murky waters.”
Becoming a certified teacher was like leaning into my true calling. Creating and launching the program was an experience I will never forget. I met some of the most amazing entrepreneurs from around the world and feel grateful I could help them. I spent two years, teaching, learning, and transforming with leaders in their industry. It was a time I needed a distraction from my personal world, and it gave me a deep reprieve. I unleashed my emotions in other ways through poetry and building my mindfulness and mindful self-compassion practices. Life was complicated and filled with so much grief and joy all at the same time.
I ended up grieving my mom and dad at the same time. My dad remarried soon after my mom passed away to someone we didn’t know. She made him choose us or her. It was a complicated choice for a grieving and vulnerable man. It resulted in a very sad and difficult, emotion-filled year for me and my husband, Courtney. I never thought I would see my father again. I accepted it but I’ve learned in life to never close the door completely.
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”
As we came to the end of 2022 and the kickstart to 2023, life would change once again. It was like riding a tidal wave during these years. We had good times and bad; it was intense. What ended up happening was a surprise but I’m strangely grateful for it. My dad came soaring back into our life with the death of his second wife. It was a true gift. A second chance. Unfortunately, he was also struggling with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, which meant lots of changes for both me and my brother. This disease would make us power of attorney over my father. It was challenging at first because of the circumstances. The pain my father caused by abandoning us was real, but compassion was required. I loved my father, and we did have a great relationship once. I was willing to look within and recognize that. My open-heart approach has been worthwhile, and I can say we’ve landed in a better place.
I took some time out in October 2022, to go to my first Dr. Joe Dispenza conference amidst all this chaos in my life. It was something I found life changing in various ways. His practices have made me feel more clear, connected, and spiritual in my present-day life. Everything has felt purposeful with my next steps and career choices moving forward. I feel very clear on where I want to go next.
Regardless of the current chaos of taking care of a loved one, I feel calm and driven. That hasn’t left me. This is a first for me… I am finally feeling truly connected to my purpose.
2023 brought opportunity for us with a dream trip to Africa and continuing my mindful studies and yoga teaching.
I had been on a contract for two years, something I was enjoying, but knew it was coming to an end. The timing felt right, and I couldn’t be happier with the direction I’m heading in. It almost felt like someone was listening to my thoughts and said, ‘It’s time’. Two weeks before my last day at this job, we got two phones calls on the same Friday night. One from my husband’s uncle (his mom’s brother), whom we hadn’t spoken to in 17 years. The other call came from Courtney’s brother. He was also someone we hadn’t spoken to directly in almost 16 years. My husband’s family was a little more complicated and he was estranged from them. The calls had an urgency tone to them and all for his mom. Her phone was disconnected, and we were the closet option to check in on her. What we ended up discovering was, she suffered from severe dementia. Courtney, hadn’t seen her since he left when he was 18. This is what I would call the definition of COMPLICATED.
During this timeline, not only did I end my contract, but the film industry has gone on strike. Courtney is out of work at the moment, with no end in sight. You would think it would mean frustration, angst, anxiety, and stress, but we’re managing to make this time count in other ways. Here’s the thing when it comes to life; it’s unpredictable. We could be upset and throw a pity party, but we’ve chosen to look at this as an opportunity to be together with our families, friends, dogs, and to discover newness in our lives. We are both going back to school in the fall, and we are both tapping into other skills. I’m back teaching yoga, meditation, and loving it. Courtney is training to be an AI consultant, and we are growing different parts of our business every day. Recently, I hosted my first full day workshop in the park, and it was wildly amazing. I never believe in letting life happen to me, I fully believe in creating the future I want. This is going to be an exciting road ahead.
I think it’s important for me to mention what brings me the most joy in my life is my family; those people are not who I ever thought they would be. They are my good friends, who support me no matter what. They fill my heart and I love them dearly. You know who you are. They are also my loving fur babies, DJ and Dottie; my pint size joy bringers. Without these two in my life I’m not sure my days would see as many smiles and laughs as they do.
Thank you for stopping by and I look forward to writing more as the next chapters unfold.
“Small steps lead to big change.”