Here’s a piece of advice. When you ask Jen to do a job, get out of her way because she will get it done.
That’s been her style since she became an On My Own of Michigan member more than 20 years ago.
“Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” Jen said in looking back on her accomplishments.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. In fact, right now I’m conquering some of my greatest fears,” she said.
One of those fears, for example, was the telephone. Jen has a speech impediment and the phone was a challenge for her. She worked with support people at OMO years ago, and brought her natural-born determination to the task. Soon she was handling the telephone like a pro.
“I have two phones now,” she said, one plugged into the wall at the apartment she shares with Aaron, her husband of 10 years, and one that she carries in her purse.
Finding love and getting married was another dream that Jen thought she might never realize. And then she met Aaron at OMO, and the rest is history.
“I’m just so glad my mother lived to see me get married,” Jen said.
Once, Jen said, her greatest fear was that she would lose her mother and the support she provided.
“She took care of me,” Jen said. “What would happen if she should pass away, I kept asking myself as a child and young woman. How would I take care of myself? How would I find transportation. Who would fix my meals?”
And then Jen joined OMO, where she learned the skills she needed to take care of daily chores, like cooking and cleaning and finding the transportation she needed on her own.
“OMO helped me learn that I have to rely on myself, not my mom or a sibling,” Jen said.
Along with self-reliance, though, Jen also learned that it’s okay to work with others to achieve your goals. “Working with others doesn’t mean giving up your independence”, she said. With that in mind, Jen is now busy starting an online business, selling the knot-tied fleece crafts, such as blankets, ponchos, and pet beds, that she has learned to make.
“My own business–that’s something else I never thought I’d have,” Jen said. “Now I’m working on making it happen. My brother, Paul, is giving me advice. But I’m figuring out how to do it.”
As Jen works on her latest goals, she said she keeps in mind what her mother taught her, through deeds as well as words:
“’Don’t listen to people who tell you what you can’t do,’ my mother told me,” Jen said. “She showed me how to turn negatives into positives. She taught me what I can do. On My Own and my mom helped me to accomplish my dreams. I know there are other people out there who are afraid. I hope they come to places like OMO so they can do what my mom always wanted for me—to be the best I can be.”
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Profile written by Dan Koger, as part of the Harry Lebovitz Fund.