My favorite Instagram photo for March


Share your favorite photo you posted on Instagram 
this month and give us the back story

You know what I never thought in a million trillion years I'd be doing?

Lifting really heavy weights.

One of the funnest parts of my weight loss/getting healthier journey is finding activities that I enjoy doing.

For several years, that included running. I ran a lot. I ran until I had seven half marathons under my belt.

Then I found a wonderful program called RIPPED that changed my body in big ways. It also started my curiosity towards weight lifting.

About six months ago, a series of events led me to a gym that specializes in powerlifting and training young athletes. At first, my training was geared towards improving my running since I had a half marathon coming up.

Because of my training at this gym, I shaved 30 minutes off my time from the last half. It was my second best time.

I knew that I was starting to get burned out with running, so after the half I started lifting heavier. Now, I'm hooked.

I look forward to my Monday bench, Tuesday deadlift, and Thursday squat. I love knowing that every week my body is becoming stronger.

Seriously, it's an awesome feeling.

So, for the month of March, this is my favorite Instagram photo. It represents all that I have accomplished.

For the record...since that picture I have already increased my weight by 40 lbs.



I've never been a big fan of change. I'm of the thinking that if things are cruising along smoothly, let's just leave well enough alone.

But, is there ever really substantial growth with no change? I'm thinking the answer to that question is a big fat NO.

So, big changes for me are on the horizon. Changes that really in actuality terrify me. Changes that will affect my future and prompt me to think outside the box.

I'm the type of girl who wants to know every detail before I move forward with a decision. In this case, I have minimal details. I don't have all the answers to the many questions rolling around in my mind. I mean, these changes are going to affect not just me but also my son.

I can say in the midst of all the uncertainty and mulling through all the questions, I am proud that I even have this opportunity to change. An opportunity to really grow. An opportunity to show my son that it's never to late to accomplish big goals.

It's so easy to stay the same. I think especially as a single parent, I embraced the mundane day to day activities. It brought a sense of security. What can possibly be good about rocking the boat of stability?

Opportunities above and beyond my expectations...

Want to go back to school? Find a way
Want to change careers? Go for it
Want to move? Let's do it
Want to take you kids on vacation? Start saving
Want to lose weight? Nothing is stopping you

There's always a way to make those big goals happen. It's probably going to take work. It's probably going to push you out of your comfort zone. Think about the rewards though. Think about the look of pride on your kids faces when they see you achieving big things.

Now go and make a change...

Quick Weight Loss Update

Alright, so now an update on my weight loss.

Things are actually going pretty good in this area. I've kind of been following a carb cycling plan and exercising regularly.

My workouts consist of Zumba, R.I.P.P.E.D., a weight/strength training class, and running. I try to get a workout in at least 4 days a week. If my schedule allows it, I really like to get five days in.

I have always hesitated to share actual numbers, but I think it will help me stay accountable and help others.

Here are my measurements taken January 13, 2016

Height: 5'1"
Weight: 212.8 lbs.
Chest 48"
Right Arm: 13.5"
Left Arm: 13"
Waist: 44"
Hips: 46.5"
Right Thigh: 24.5"
Left Thigh: 25"

My measurements taken May 18, 2016 (I'm due to weigh/measure again)

Height: 5'1"
Weight: 196.6 lbs. (-16.2 lbs.)
Chest 45" (-3")
Right Arm: 12.5" (-1")
Left Arm: 13" (0)
Waist: 43.5" (-0.5")
Hips: 46.5" (0)
Right Thigh: 23" (-1.5")
Left Thigh: 23" (-2")

I find it so interesting the way my body loses.

Things are moving in the right direction though, so I'm just going to keep on keeping on!

Life Update

I feel like there's so much to catch up on! Life sure has not slowed down at all lately. I feel like I'm having to hold on tight to every second. 

Brenn just turned 16 and is getting ready to finish his sophomore year of high school. That's just crazy for me to think. Pretty soon, we will be touring colleges! I'm excited for him but also sad that in just a blink of an eye he will be an adult and on his own. The colleges he's looking at are not in the state we live, so it's looking like there's a possibility he won't be close.

...Which brings me to my next update. I knew there would come a time when I would be dealing with an empty nest. That time is looming closer and closer. Relationships have not worked out (that area of my life has almost become comical...I need to write a book). So, I began to pray that when the time comes, God will use me wherever He wants me to be. I can feel that He's preparing me for a big move. I'm not sure where and right now I'm okay with that. It gives me plenty of time to start preparing...getting finances in order, decluttering, etc. I'm leaning towards the east coast, but He may have very different plans. I guess we will see in time!

I'm starting to get back on track with my weight loss and exercise. Last November, I started taking a class at our local rec center called R.I.P.P.E.D. It's intense and has really rocked my world. I love it so much that in February I became certified to teach. I'm not teaching anywhere yet, but I'm hoping to in time. In the mean time, I'm staying focused on meeting my goals. I've started running again and my time is WAY better than it has ever been (thank you R.I.P.P.E.D.!). 

I did a 10K mud run last weekend with friends and had SOOOO much fun! It was a great experience. I'm planning to run the St. Jude Memphis half marathon in December. Very excited for that!

We lost our sweet Skittles several months ago to a heart condition. It was heartbreaking to see her go, but I'm very thankful for the year we had with her. 

We now have a new member of the family. Her name is Espen. Brenn wanted to name her after his favorite sports channel, ESPN. I refused to spell her name that way so we compromised. She's about 7 years old and so very sweet. She has fit right in to our little family. 

Hope Outreach is trucking right along. This year, we've already added free monthly haircuts, been able to give out numerous supplies every month, and we've added two more meals a month. We're starting to build relationships with several of the people we're ministering to. Some of the places we've delivered meals to are heartbreaking...busted windows, inhabitable's very sad. For many who are living like this, it's all they know. We've learned a lot in the almost year and a half we've been working this ministry but we have a long way to go.

Alright, that's all for now folks! Hopefully I'll talk to you again soon. :)

My teenager and privacy

One of the biggest questions I get from other parents pertains to privacy. Do I check Brenn's phone? Do I look at his Facebook page or his messages? Is he allowed to take his phone to bed?


I think this topic is huge with all parents of teenagers. We want to give our kids space to grow, but we also want to protect them from the evils of the world.

My approach is probably a little more lenient and lax than other parents. I know Brenn, I know that he's a good kid, but I also know that he's a teenager. I'm well aware that he's not always going to make the best decisions. I was a teenager once. Ask my mom...I gave her hell as a teen. Thankfully, so far Brenn has been ten times better than I was at this age.

So, here's my take on privacy and my teenager:

First, I have to know my child. It is my job to know his mannerisms and his personality. Knowing my child will make it much easier to notice when he's not acting like himself.

I have Brenn's password to Facebook and to email. I know the passcode to his phone. He knows that at any given moment, I can and will check on him (and have in the past). I don't get into his business just because I'm bored or for the fun of it. I do allow him to take his phone to bed. It doesn't make him stay awake any longer than normal and he uses it for an alarm.

If something is going on that starts to affect Brenn's grades, attitude, or personality I will start investigating. This means I will check social media and I will check his phone. I will make it my priority to find out what is bothering him.

I'm very blessed because my almost 16 years old is very open with me about what's going on in his life. I think one of the reasons for this is because I have given him space to grow and become his own person. He knows that he can come to me about anything and I will listen calmly and with an open mind. He also has the security in knowing where the boundaries are and that I care enough to enforce those boundaries.

I know some of his friend's parents are much more strict when it comes to this stuff. I don't totally disagree with their actions. They have their reasons for making the decisions they do. I just know this works for us.

So, long story short...Yes, I will check Brenn's phone or social media if I feel it's necessary. Yes, I do allow him to take his phone to bed. Yes, I do give him space to grow and make decisions because that's how decision making skills are developed. Yes, that does leave the door open for wrong choices to be made. I know I can't protect him forever no matter I much I want to. 

Thanksgiving for Days

Thanksgiving was a blur this year....and I'm not even kidding.

Thursday morning dawned bright and early with a run with friends. I wish I could snap my fingers and be at the same pace I was at just a couple of years ago. I'm just trying to get back in a workout routine and eventually my pace will get faster. It's amazing how fast you lose your mojo when you fall out of routines.

After the run, I went home and started packing for South Carolina. At noon we went and ate Thanksgiving dinner with my best friend and her family. Her sweet potatoes were AMAZING. We barely had time to enjoy our food before we had to head to the church to start preparing for the community Thanksgiving Dinner.

From that point on I really can't tell you many details. The rest of the day flew by with preparations for dinner. I was overwhelmed with the number of volunteers who showed up to help. In total between the people who showed up and the plates that were delivered, we handed out 141 Thanksgiving dinners. It was a great night!

Right after we had everything cleaned up from dinner, Brenn and I headed to South Carolina to spend time with family. We made it to my mom's house at around 2:00 Friday morning. I was past tired by that point. Thank God for my child who entertained me a good portion of the trip.

We really enjoyed spending the weekend seeing my siblings, their wives, and my brand new nephew! Sunday night, my mom prepared our family's Thanksgiving dinner. Not too long after we ate, we headed back to Tennessee. 

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but I wouldn't change anything. I am so very blessed with all that God has given me...Brenn, my family, my church, Hope Outreach. Sometimes it's overwhelming to think about.

Zooma Women's Half Marathon...Half Number Six

Did you know that it's still dark at 4 in the morning? I don't see 4 a.m. that often, but I did witness its presence this past Sunday. Earlier this year, I signed up to run the Zooma Women's Half Marathon in Nashville. After yet again limited training, I ran my sixth half marathon.

My original plan was to drive up there myself and just run the race the best I could. I knew I wasn't well prepared and my goal was to just finish. The night before, a friend texted me and said two other girls were riding up with her and I was welcome to join them. I decided it would be more fun to at least ride together even if we all didn't run together.

As we were driving to Nashville, we each honestly shared how much we prepared for the race. A couple of girls hadn't trained at all the past two weeks. One girl hadn't trained in six weeks because of a bruised rib. I did do a training run this past weekend , but the most miles I ran was six. We all knew we were pretty ill prepared for this race.

The race started and ended in Bicentennial State Park. We arrived in Nashville a little before 7 a.m. and started searching for a place to park for the race. It was so odd not to see a lot of people...I'm used to seeing tons of people out for the Rock and Roll Half. We finally found our way to Bicentennial Park and still found very few cars as well as nothing indicating where runners needed to park. We came upon a group of cops who would be directing traffic during the race and asked if they knew where we were supposed to go. They had no idea either. It was a mess. No one knew what was going on. 

We finally did find somewhere to park. The air was a little cold, so the people who had arrived were sitting in their vehicles. So, we took a bathroom break and headed back to sit in the warm car until race time.

About fifteen minutes before eight, we headed to the starting line...only to find there were maybe about 500 people or less running this race. It sounds like a lot of runners, but not to us. We knew we might as well head to the back of the line because we would probably be the slowest. Another lady was standing back there and overheard us talking about not even having a pacer to run with for our estimated finish time. She said it was because we all were in the slower than sh** pace group. So very true!

The course itself was very pretty. Other than the 5,000,000 hills, it was one of the prettiest courses I've run. I don't think you can run Nashville and not have a lot of hills. It's inevitable. I did a 2 minute walk/run combination which worked perfectly for me. One of my friends kept pace with me for most of the race until mile 8. She hit a wall at mile 8 and was just done. I knew exactly how she was feeling. I was shocked that I hadn't hit that wall yet. Just like in the previous half, I didn't hit my wall until later. Mine was at mile 11. At that point, I had enough and was ready to get it over with.

I'm pretty sure the finish line photo shows me dry heaving. That folks, is the sign of a true runner. :)

All in all, it was a good race. Great weather, great friends, pretty scenery. There were a lot of water stations and great volunteers.

If given the option to run this race again, would I? Probably not. I like big races with a lot of people. I also didn't like that there was no fruit or any food of any kind at the finish line. That's the first half I've run that didn't have anything available. Don't these people know how hangry runners are after 13.1 miles??

What is your name?


The last time someone called you a name

I'm going to take a different spin on this writing prompt and share about the last time someone called me by the wrong name...

Cuz, guess what?! It happens ALL. THE. TIME.

It mostly happens at work, but it has happened in other places too.

The funny part? Everyone calls me by the same wrong name...


I must look like a Stephanie because there is no part of Stephanie in my name. I am not related to a Stephanie. I can't even think of anyone I see on a daily basis whose name is Stephanie. 

Just the other day, I had someone call me at work and say, "Hey, Stephanie this is...."

I didn't even correct her. It wasn't worth the trouble because the next time she called me, my name would be Stephanie again. 

I blame my mother. She apparently named me wrong.

Dear mother,

If you're reading this I'm sending you my therapy bill

Your daughter 
Stephanie Jennifer

The Faces of Hope Outreach Part One

At first I didn't see him standing there. Things were so busy that day and there were people everywhere. One of the volunteers stopped me and said, "Jennifer, there's a man standing over there looking for some food."

As I walked over to him, I noticed his eyes were glassy. He looked sad, defeated, tired. He looked down at the ground and said, "Do you have any food? I'm living in my truck and I don't have any way of cooking it. I'm also diabetic." 

My heart sank. We had been offering the clothing closet for maybe just a couple months and really hadn't started collecting food to keep on hand. I told him to wait and minute and let me see what I could round up. I found what I could in the pantry and told him to come back during the week and I would make sure to have some food.

He didn't come back that next week and I often thought about him and wondered how he was doing. 

And then, about a month later he walked into my office. The man who stood before me looked like a different person. He was more upbeat. He smiled and said, "I just came in to say thank you for helping me. I'm doing much better now."

I was dumbstruck for a moment. All we did was give him a small bag of food.

But as I minister to people through Manchester Hope Outreach, I'm learning what we're doing means so much more. We aren't just giving physical items to people in need, we are showing them that we love them and we care. We are showing them that they aren't just a statistic or a project.

We are getting the opportunity to build relationships and walk life with people who may feel abandoned or rejected by others. 

After just a few months, this man is now someone very special to me.  After giving me a hug not too long ago, he was asked by someone he knows, "Are you related to her too?" 

His response was, "No, she's a good friend."

How to be successful as a single parent

Before I dive into my personal opinions on how to be successful as a single parent, let me give some stats:

63 percent of suicides nationwide are individuals from single-parent families.

75 percent of children in chemical dependency hospitals are from single-parent families.

More than half of all youths incarcerated in the U.S. lived in one-parent families as a child.

That's pretty depressing. It's depressing to know that my child is faced with some pretty big odds.

The good news? We are and will continue to beat those odds. If you're a single parent and you care about the future of your child then you can beat those odds too.

It will take dedication. It will take work. It will take sacrifice. It will be filled with days when you just want to throw your hands in the air and give up. It will require countless hours of you being on your face asking God to intervene in a situation. 

Here are some suggestions I have based on personal experience and 15 years of being a single parent:

1) Your children should be one of your main priorities. I learned this the hard way. For years I tried to put other things in front of my son, most of those things being relationships. No relationship is worth sabotaging your relationship with your kids. This might mean that dating takes a back seat or just becomes a smaller part of your life for a while.

2) Surround yourself and your family with positive, supportive people. I can't stress this enough. I don't know what I would do without my church family. They are encouraging, supportive, and love Brenn and me so much. They have babysat, picked up, dropped off, prayed for, and loved on my child. 

3) Spend as much time with your children and get to know each one as an individual. This is really hard to do as a single parent. We are pulled in so many difference directions, but spending quality time with our children is important. When you know each child as an individual, you will know when something is wrong. You will pick up on behavior that's out of the ordinary and you will know when you need to intervene in a situation.

4) Take time for yourself. This is why it's so important to be surrounded with people you can trust. You need people you can count on to take you children for a while so you can have some "you" time. Don't feel guilty for doing this. You need a break. You need adult time. 

5) With every decision and with every action, ask yourself, "How will this affect my children?" or "How will this affect my relationship with my children?" I think when we stop and really think about how our actions affect our kids, we'll think twice before making a bad decision.

6) Let your home be a safe place. Your children need a stable place where they feel secure and loved. Make your home that place. Let your children know that they can talk to you about anything and you will not jump to conclusions or judge them. 

7) Watch your speech. This is so very hard sometimes. Watch the negative talk around your children, whether it be about something they did or even about the other parent. Remember your actions toward the other parent just puts your children in the middle. It affects them more than anyone.

8) Set rules stick to them. Your children thrive when there are boundaries in place. You might not feel this way at times, but know that many children will test those boundaries just to see if you're serious. Be makes you children feel safe and loved.

There's so much more to say, but these are the biggest nuggets of advice I can give. 

Just remember that your children won't be little forever. You have a great responsibility of helping to create the foundation in which they will stand on as adults. Let that foundation be filled with love, acceptance, and guidance.

Happy 35th Birthday to Me!

This past Wednesday, I celebrated 35 years of being alive. It was an absolutely wonderful day full of well wishes from my friends and family. I really don't have anything to complain about when I think about getting older. With each year, I learn more about myself and the person God wants me to be.

Last year on my 34th birthday, I listed 34 things I wanted to accomplish before my next birthday. As I look over the list, I am amazed at how much my priorities have changed in just a year. 

Here's the list from last year with updates:

1) Lose 55 pounds
Not even close, but I'm not giving up hope

2) Intentionally spend time with Brenn every week

Brenn and I are in a really good place. I never imagined that as a 15 year old boy, he would be so open with me. I know he doesn't tell me everything, but I know he shares quite a bit especially when something is bothering him. I have made it a point to be intentional with making him a priority.

3) Post on this blog at least twice a week 

I haven't been consistent with this, but I have posted more lately.

4) Write an Examiner article at least twice a week

This isn't even a priority anymore. I have given up my Examiner days.

5) Start my relationship blog (I have A LOT to say in this area)

I decided not to do this and instead just include relationship posts in this blog. It's too hard to keep up with this blog let alone another one.

6) Start writing a book

Nope, but this is still in my plans

7) Run in at least two half marathons

I ran a half in April and will be running another next month.

8) Take at least two trips to see my family in South Carolina 

I spent a weekend with my mom and sister in Gatlinburg last November and then spent time with my family during Christmas. I also got to see them in July. Having a dependable vehicle makes all the difference!

9) Take a trip to New York to see my family

Nope :(

10) Work at growing my wreath business
This is still on my list, but hasn't been a priority lately. 

11) Go to at least one concert

I don't think I got to do this...

12) Declutter my home

My home is completely decluttered, but it is in a much better place. It's a work in progress.

13) Make a plan to get out of debt

I am very slowly working on this...

14) Start HOPE Ministry

Wow, I don't even know where to start on this one. Hope started in January and has grown by leaps and bounds. It's so awesome to see a dream come to life!

15) Be more involved with the Southern Convoy of Hope/One Day Ministry leadership team

I was still involved, but not really any more than I was the last year. More because Hope Outreach is taking up a lot of my time. 

16) Be a part of the Henna Tattoo Ministry at Bonnaroo again

I did one even better this past year. I was able to volunteer with Strings for Hope inside Bonnaroo. It was an AWESOME experience.

17) Work at the Nashville Rescue Mission at least once a month

Yes! This is still one of my favorite things to do!

18) Audition for a play

Nope, and I probably won't ever. I'm not a stage girl. :)

19) Go hiking at least four times

I did do quite a bit of hiking at the end of last year and beginning of this year. Not much recently though...and I miss it.

20) Spend quality time with a friend at least once a month

I have been able to spend time with friends more often. I love my Bible study girls group! And, a good friend and I reunited after months of not talking.

21) Read at least 10 books all the way through

I'm embarrassed to say I don't think I read 10 books all the way through. Another goal to include for this year.

22) Redesign this blog

Nope and I'm not in a big hurry to do it. I'm okay with how it looks right now.

23) Start training for a full marathon

I've decided that I just don't have the time to train for a full marathon right now. I'm going to stick to two half marathons and maybe down the road I'll do a full.

24) Go to at least one conference/meet-up

I got to do this! I was able to go to a missions conference a couple of months ago. It was wonderful!

25) Take a trip to somewhere I've never been

I did get to hike a trail in the Smokey Mountains that I've never been on. I guess that counts.

26) Start teaching Brenn how to drive (WHAT?!)

This child...I really thought as independent as he is that when he turned 15 in April he would immediately want to go get his permit. Nope. He still hasn't picked up the study booklet. He told me he really wasn't in a hurry.

27) Get a new washer and dryer
There's a long story to this one. The moral of the story is that I'm still looking for a washer and dryer.

28) Do some type of exercise every day

This is really been a challenge. Brenn's football schedule in addition to everything else he's involved in plus everything I'm involved in means there's very little down time. I am doing my best to made exercise a priority. I try for at least 4 times a week.

29) Get the windshield fixed on my car

Instead of getting the windshield fixed, I just got a new car. :) 

30) Work at waking up at 5:30 every weekday morning

Nope. I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not a early morning person. I do much better working later in the evening.

31) Work at being in bed by 9:30 every weekday evening

See above :)

32) Log my food every possible day

I really need to work on this one.

33) Pray more

I do pray more but I can always do better

34) Work at learning how to crochet

I haven't done much of this at all. I would like to, so maybe sometime this next year.

Not too shabby! 

Now onto my list of 35 things:

1) Lose 55 pounds

2) Post on my blog at least twice a week

3) Start writing a book

4) Run at least two half marathons

5) Take a trip to New York to see my family

6) Work on growing my wreath business

7) Continue decluttering my home

8) Continue making a plan to get out of debt

9) Work on getting Hope Outreach's non profit status

10) Work at Bonnaroo again

11) Work at Nashville Rescue Mission once a month

12) Go hiking at least 4 times

13) Go camping at least once

14) Read at least 10 books all the way through

15) Go to at least one conference/meet-up

16) Take a trip to somewhere I've never been

17) Start teaching Brenn to drive

18) Get a new washer & dryer

19) Do some type of exercise at least four times a week

20) Log my food every day

21) Have quiet time every day

22) Journal every day

23) Start working on college stuff with Brenn...this makes me tear up

24) Do at least two craft shows

25) Continue to work on growing Hope Outreach

26) Get a new couch

27) Take Brenn on a Summer mission trip

28) Work on growing my blog

29) Make a prayer closet

30) Establish an emergency fund

31) Clean up my back patio and make it a cool place to hang out

32) Go to the beach

33) Cook one new dish at least once a month (and blog about it)

34) Broadcast on Periscope regularly

35) Spend time with Brenn every day

Cant wait to see what's happening a year from now!

Dating Long Distance

I've always said I wouldn't get involved in a long distance relationship. I felt it was almost impossible to keep the relationship going when you live so far away from your significant other. 

My feelings haven't changed much on this subject, but I am now dating someone who lives about 500 miles away from me. We met in July of this year, so it hasn't been a super long time.  It has been long enough to get an idea of what dating long distance is going to entail. Since July, he's been to Tennessee twice and I'm getting ready head to Florida in November to visit him. 

In some ways I've enjoyed the way we've gotten to know each other. The relationship has not progressed too fast and I haven't felt pressured to push the timeline of the relationship any faster. I also like that we are pretty much forced to have conversations on a regular basis. We text each other maybe once a day and talk to each other on the phone almost every evening. When we do get to see each other, we take advantage of every moment because we know there is a time limit to the visit.

I still have my reservations about dating long distance though. A friend and mentor told me not too long ago that she and her now husband dated long distance. She told me to remember that because we  don't live close to each other, we don't really get to see how the other person acts in everyday life. 

I had told "J" that I'm not interested in being in a long term long distance relationship. He does understand my feelings and is in the precess of relocating to Tennessee. He was planning to do that before we even met. We don't know how long it will be before he can move because there's so many factors to the process. 

In the meantime, I'm learning some things about the success in dating someone long distance:

1) Make sure you speak to your significant other regularly throughout the week. I don't mean text each other, I mean have an actual conversation on the phone or through Skype. 

2) Make plans at see each other regularly (preferably once a month if you're not too far from each other). This is hard, especially for single parents. Thankfully, we are pretty much on the same schedule as far as weekend visitation.

3) Make sure to communicate when you're upset or if something is bothering you. This is good advice even for couples who aren't dating long distance, but especially for those who are. It's already stressful enough being so far away from each other. Allowing feelings of unhappiness to fester will only make things worse. 

4) When the time is right, make goals to close that distance. This is going to take sacrifice from one or both people. Usually one person is sacrificing much more by moving closer to the other. Make sure to be sensitive to each others feelings and talk things out during this process.

5) Learn to trust each other all the time. This is HUGE. If you can't trust the other person then you don't need to be in a relationship with him/her. Really take the time to decide if you can handle not knowing what's going on with your significant other 24/7. 

I'm new at this and I'm still learning. Some days are easier than others. At the end of the day, I feel like pursuing a relationship with "J' is something I want to do. We just have some hurdles to overcome because of the extra distance between each other.