As we go through life, all of us will be faced with decisions.   Do we turn left or right?  Do we stay in our current job or take another one?  Do we live where we’ve always lived or do we move to a new state? Today, I’m interviewing Jess who made these changes and more in the past few years.  Find out how Jess handles change and how she can inspire you to change.

Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?

Hello, Strangers on the Interwebs!  I am Jess, and I am a stay at home mom, stepmom, blogger, and have found myself over the past year a resident of Orlando, Florida.  I love to laugh, that’s literally my favorite hobby, but that may come as a surprise if you only know me through my writing as I am not a funny person…at all.

In eighth grade, a teacher talked to the class about George R. R. Martin.  He described how he spent his days soaking up the sun from his swimming pool writing out episode after episode of Twilight Zone.   That was the most memorable lesson in a science class I have ever had.  #lifegoals.  Recently my husband and I have acquired, I wouldn’t necessarily say my dream home, but it is definitely the kind of home dreams are made of.  I love to hang by the pool and read and edit my work, though I’ve yet to actually establish a comfortable area to write by the pool.  One of those things a mom will dream about but never get around to.

You originally went to school to study education.  Was being a teacher something that you always wanted to do?

Yes and no.   I had a list of at least 10 different things I wanted to do when I grew up including but not limited to such great careers as a weatherman, teacher, astronaut, shelf stocker, movie star, psychiatrist, architect, and firefighter.  My dad always said I’d be a very busy girl.  I took an aptitude test in high school that said I would be most successful as a “tightrope walker”, “traveling salesman” or “custodial services”, but my family insisted I go to college anyway.  I took what I wanted, if I heard a professor was awesome, I said sign me up for every course!   If I heard another class was out of this world, I hopped right on board.  Spring semester of my junior year the dean sat me down and told me I HAD to declare a major.   And so I asked, “out of all that I’ve taken what degree am I closest to?”   And so a Jr. High Writing/Reading teacher was born.

Instead of education, you decided to stay in the retail world.  Can you explain what helped you make that decision?

I mean I can get into the tired complaint of education politics, but to be honest I just really loved retail.  I loved working with the people and for the people.  In the classroom, it was the same 70 faces I looked at every day for an entire year.  The school required structure so it was the same basic lesson plan layout, it was the same idea of I talk, they listen.  It was the same projects, same assignments, same concepts over and over and over again.  In retail, every day was a new unexpected and exciting collection of faces, stories, and interests.  It helped that I had a passion for the product that I sold and the company that I worked for.  As a manager I was able to give real career guidance or even opportunities to those kids that seemed unable to find their place in the world, I could help students post-school beyond scholastics and standardized testing.   Who wouldn’t love a job where they can enrich the lives of total strangers, and their own employees all at once, every single day?!

You were married and then divorced.  When you remarried, you became a Step Mother.  What was that change like?

I have to say of all the struggles I’ve faced in the world, being a step-parent was the most difficult, with the greatest reward.  At first, I was excited, I was going to be a “bonus” mom.  I was going to use my child development background and educational experience to be an extension of his parents, to help them pursue their beliefs, structure, and ideas of what they wanted for him by just listening and obeying.   The birth mother though had her own idea of where I belonged…and that was out of her and her kid’s life.  I’ve been a stepmom now 6 years and though she is still not speaking with me I’ve found my own rhythm.  My stepson is old enough now that we have our own communication, our own routines, and our own hopes for his future he and I created together.   There is Mama Jess’s house and Mom’s house and they are two totally different worlds for him, but he was able to help build this one, so he seems happy with it.

In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over.  You recently made the move from Texas to Florida.  What was the catalyst that made this happen?

I actually recently made the move from Alabama to Florida, though I am a Texas native.  I sacrificed my retail career when I had my first daughter so that I could spend as much time as possible with my kiddos, but also so my husband could build his dream career.  The move to Florida was a result of a trifecta of circumstances that all worked to show us the road out of the wonderful home we had created for ourselves in Huntsville.

  • 2015/2016 we had several scary things happen related to my husband and my youngest children’s health. The hillside of the Tennessee Valley is absolutely captivating and inspiring, but the allergies that stir around with them proved too much for my sweet husband and his health struggles.  So the doctors told us if we didn’t move somewhere he would never improve and actually worsen.
  • About the same time, my husband had a business offer that would require we move company headquarters to one of three possible locations. Of the options, Orlando seemed to fit our budget best and provided the most down to earth upbringing for our kiddos.
  • When we first moved to Alabama three years before that we had decided to rent until we figured out the lay of the town and where we wanted to be, funny enough we fell in love with our rental. We offered to buy but the landlords did not appreciate the meager sum we had offered to pay, though it was greatly above the appraisal value.  When they denied the offer and started showing our home for the past three years to other prospective buyers we knew it was time to move.

Along with making this move, you started homeschooling your children.  Is this something that you always planned to do or did the move bring this about?

I had talked about homeschooling often through my life.   Struggled in school myself as a kid with an overlooked learning disability.  I was an honors team student who seemed to constantly struggle and stress to pass all STEM courses.  Teachers offered a set time every morning where every kid in the all the classes could come and ask about homework questions they struggled with.  The difference between those kids and myself was that they were struggling with a couple of equations, while I was struggling with the entire concept altogether.   The manner in which Algebra 2 was taught by the football coach’s wife in high school was not working, while in fourth grade the manner in which it was taught as an extracurricular GT program led me to be chosen as the student to offer a presentation on complex algebra equations at local functions seeking funding for education.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand, it was that the schools with large class sizes were unable to tailor their lessons to my unique learning style.

I see a lot of the same learning issues with my daughter, and I’m happy for it.   She thinks differently, and it’s super cool to see her mind work.  I don’t want to put her in a school that’s going to put this creativity in a box of common core or standardizations, I want to teach to her, and expand on who she already is.  It’s not easy, and honestly, I have no set goal to last out to a certain age.  I’m just taking it one day at a time, always weighing the options that will suit her at whatever chapter of her life.

In addition to all this other change, you also changed your blog.  Can you talk about why you made that decision?  What your old blog was and what your new one is and the difference between the two?

Leaving retail was so difficult for me.  I hit a terrible state of depression, and I missed that potency I felt working with the people.   I decided to write a book about management using the tools I had gained from my education ventures.  It was a fun handbook that had quick discussions on topics to inspire and invigorate managers in all areas of the customer service industry.  I wrote another handbook for sales associates that small business owners could offer for standard training, with the offer to customize to their specific policies, mission, and product.  To be taken seriously by publishers I was told I needed a blog. So I tried to create a community for retail workers of all levels to go and seek answers, through current retail trends and stories of retail past.  This blog was and still is www.shopgirlanonymous.com

What I did learn from the blog is that people were by far more interested in the narrative than retail tips.  So I wrote the first half of my retail journey in a memoir.   And so long as I am hoping to publish these two memoirs I will continue to keep Shop Girl Anonymous, although I have shifted my focus to regularly updating my personal blog: ourprincesscastle.wordpress.com

Each post for Shopgirl started to take hours of research, travel, pictures, and of course lots and lots of writing.  As the girls grew older it became more and more difficult to dedicate my time to blogging as well as captivating homeschool lessons and just being a mother.   Throughout the year I had friends, strangers, acquaintances reaching out to me to let me know they liked my personal confessions on my personal blog far better than my retail ramblings.  I shared a post on Facebook about our adjustment to Orlando and had over 200 hits in one day, which shocked me, to say the least considering this is a blog that receives maybe 50 visitors a month.  It was difficult to push away from Shopgirl, but my life had changed and I had to accept that, embrace that and move forward.

So many bloggers have thought about changing it up.  What about the change pleased you and what are you not so pleased with?

The thing that pleases me the most is being able to get real with my readers and fellow bloggy friends.  With Shopgirl I was the character, I wrote in this realm of retail.  I would hear others talk in the blog community about their life and I’d want to relate, I wanted to answer them in blog posts how I understood them, but I was blocked by this wall of retail gossip.  Switching to Princess felt real, it felt genuine, and I have so much more freedom to just write what is on my mind.  I can apply the lesson plans to my blog, I can embrace the experiences with my family and then reflect further in my blog, it’s great.

The sudden burst of readers was awesome for a short time, but that has long since died off.   I have gone now from a 1000 views a month down to 500, but that is still better than the 50 views a month I had from when I just had it as a personal and more private blog.  Shopgirl was easier to grab readers because it was a subject people were interested in.   Lifestyle is, no offense to probably most the people who have read this far down into this interview, an oversaturated breed of blog.  I have to come up with ways to be personal but to also be a source of some sort of knowledge.  I’m a stay at home mom…it’s a difficult chapter in my life to feel knowledgeable about anything.  My post “7 Ways I’m Coping with My PTSD as a Mom” has traveled on its own quite well by finding a topic that other moms need help with and labeling it with a list-like name.  It’s sad to have to kind of lose my authenticity in my titles in my personal blog just to achieve readers, but that’s the way this world works.

Looking back at your move, at your decision to homeschool, at your blog changes…is there anything that you wish you’d done differently?

I love to hate the adventure of life.  In my most astute of observations, I’d like to say that sometimes it really sucks.  Something EVERYONE knows about me is that I had a rough childhood. My family apologizes for it or scolds me for discussing it, depending on the topic, their mood, or even just the slight increase in the breeze that day.  And that really annoys me, because they aren’t listening to what I’m saying, and which is that it is the biggest blessing I could have received.

I learned so much, lived through so much, experienced so much by the time I was 18 and moving out of the house, that honestly the stresses and roadblocks didn’t seem to matter.  There are things that went wrong with the move, and I’m thankful because they made a great story.   There are mistakes I’ve already made in homeschooling, and I’m so glad I now have that experience and wisdom to share on the blog.  I stopped blogging altogether a couple of years ago when my husband’s health took a dramatic turn for the worse.  In that time of sabbatical, I reflected and cherished the mistakes I made, happy for them that I could grow from them.

I wouldn’t do anything differently in life, I’m thankful for every tragedy, misstep, and mistake because our shortcomings teach us the most.

And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone who is looking to make a change?

Buy a new candle.  No seriously, go to Target, Yankee Candle, World Market, I don’t care and smell every candle that calls to you.   Take in the colors, the names, and the scents.  And then purchase a scent you have never had in your home before, but that you find pleasant.  Then when you get home don’t dust it, burn it.  Burn it every day during your free time at home.   It’s a fantastic inspiration to embrace change.


You can catch up with Jess in the following places.

Our Princess Castle Blog
Shop Girl Anonymous Blog
Shopgirl Anonymous Presents: Crash (re)Course to Retail Success