MOM CRUSH: JENELLE

PORTLAND, OR

EX PUNK ROCKER TURNED TEXTILE DESIGNER TURNED REAL ESTATE BOSS, JENELLE GIVES IT TO US STRAIGHT ABOUT NURTURING YOUR WILD SELF WHILE BEING PRESENT AS A MOM and how breastfeeding helped her found a successful business

INTERVIEW BY KARIN HESSELVIK

PHOTOS BY 22 PAGES PHOTOGRAPHY AND JENELLE ISAACSON

What's the first thing you remember creating?

Using my paintbrush with those pre-colored coloring books where you add water and color appears. I remember this vividly because of the excitement I had about taking them to the end of my street and selling them. I've always been inspired and motivated about creating something that I could sell. I'm not sure that counts as creating something but in my 5-year-old mind at the time it did! 

When I was 9, I stayed with my grandparents after school until my mother got off work.  I was in love with Madonna and the 'Like A Virgin' album had just been released. The imagery of that album was a huge creative inspiration for me. I sewed all my friends in my 3rd grade class lace gloves like Madonna wore from fabric I found in my grandmothers closet, and I wore my pair to her concert that spring at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with my mom.

I like the process of creating, the meditative time of threading a loom or getting lost in a painting, but what delights me most has always been the sharing. Whether it was having that something to sell so I could interact with people and give them something they wanted, or as gifts, or in an art show. Art has always been a primary vehicle for sharing things in my life. 

WHAT'S THE LAST THINK YOU CREATED?

The last thing I created (outside of work) was my daughter's Halloween costume. I sewed her a giant felt Skittles bag. Her nickname is Skittles and she wanted to go as Skittles for Halloween. The overachiever in me sewed the entire package. I almost kicked myself when I finally googled Skittles costumes and saw kids wearing all one color with an S on their chest. The project gave me that amazing feeling you get when your lost in a project, I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack two times while making it and she was over the moon when she saw it. I think she thanked me more times than all the Skittles she collected that night...

Are you a kid or a grownup?

I’ve always been a grownup. I search for the little girl inside a lot and meditate on allowing her to have room and space within my soul. But I was really born a grandpa. The old farmer from a Wendell Berry book, who wakes at dawn and doesn't know what’s wrong with the rest of the world, is the best and worst version of me.  

what are you most proud of?

My partner told me once that he loves that I'm up for anything. I hadn't thought about that before, but its true, I’m proud of my willing and enthusiastic “YES” to life. That and my shrimp Gumbo - it’s the one recipe I've mastered.

When are you your most creative self?

In a heightened state of emotion - whether it be love, sadness, anger, fear - and then being left alone to express it.  It’s hard to find alone time as a mom, business owner, partner, etc. 

What does freedom mean to you?

Choosing. Not as in, getting to choose whatever you want, like I can choose to never work again or I can choose to get on a plane to Hawaii whenever I want, but choosing THIS, choosing NOW. Damn that’s hard. 

name an offline and online place you turn for inspiration

For offline inspiration what comes up for me immediately is guided meditation or watching people who are good at something work.  For online, I'm a sucker for Ted Talks and podcasts like "The Good Life Project” and “Entrepreneur on Fire.” And textile Pinterest boards. 

Three words that describe your take on motherhood

Fierce.  Tender.  Being Humbled.

 

Photo by Jenelle Isaacson featuring her daughters Siiri and Tuula in their Halloween costumes

Photo by Jenelle Isaacson featuring her daughters Siiri and Tuula in their Halloween costumes

what role does creativity play in how you parent?

I have to remind myself that as alive as the musician and artist feels inside of me, my girls don't see that side of me that much.  I stopped singing in bands the year before my first daughter was born. I sang at a gathering recently and the girls were awed to see their mom in front of a crowd singing. They're my biggest fans and I can see that me doing my thing gives them permission on some level to be their wildest selves.  

What is a creative/life hack that you’ve learned as a mom?

There are no “sorries” in our house.  We focus on checking in and seeing how we can help, and on being present to one another’s pain or feelings. Also I try not to ever say “good job!” That’s hard, because I actually have to pay real attention to what the kids are doing and remark on something I notice. Really seeing one another in whatever role takes creativity. 

WHAT's the best thing about being a single mom? 

The first hour they leave for their Dad’s. And having more sex.  

THE HARDEST? 

Every hour after that first hour they have gone and I’ve caught my breath that I’m away from them. 

something you've learned about yourself since you became a mom?

The limits of my heart are much larger than I once imagined. And having kids won’t make you softer or less sexual or less selfish - all that’s still there and you just have to learn to deal with nurturing another being and your fierce wild self at the same time.  

What lesson did being in an all female Punk Rock band (Spread Eagle) teach you?

That I can rock anything in heels. That not sounding or looking like everyone else can be your greatest strength. That people will sexualize you, doubt your abilities and push you to open for them (support their shows), so you'll have to always be willing to fight for your position as a headliner. That no matter what they throw or scream at you, stand on the edge of the stage and kick them off with your high heel boots - because if they haven't been on stage before, they're just haters and you don't have to listen to them.

your favorite spread eagle lyric?

"My tits are heavy with milk, I use to be smooth as silk, my head is pounding with guilt, my heart pumps strong through silt… Ma Ma Ma Ma MA MA MA MA MAMA!"

Explain why breastfeeding helped inspire your approach to your own business (living room realty)?

Anytime I have had a non-negotiable in my business, it has flourished. Getting clear on what I want jumpstarts things. Breastfeeding was a non-negotiable for me, I needed to have my baby and my work life blend in a way that I could do what felt right for our health and well-being. Turns out I was going to have to start my own brokerage to make that a reality. It was the thing that fueled me to make it work for myself and my family.

Having my girls released a giant grizzly bear inside of me that doesn't take no for an answer. I can  now claw through a work day with a force I have never possessed before. Being able to strip down to the priorities and get things done.  It's also helpful to have these non-negotiables in your life to help you build the foundation of your business. In the end, it's your values that matter. If those are rock solid, nothing can mess with you. 

what's a personal mantra that has become a living room mantra?

Cultivate joy through gratitude. 

What is your most important role as a (female) boss?

Being the boss. Standing confidently in the seat of power, giving feedback, demanding excellence, defending our business values and staying comfortable with being the one calling the shots. I also think people need to see me enjoying myself and to make room for celebrating our achievements and high-fiveing the team. I find that some women aren't comfortable playing "the quarterback" or working with a female boss. We have to celebrate each other and the wins more. 

How has becoming a mother influenced your career and how you operate your business?

I don’t hesitate in hiring other moms. I trust they will hustle and get the job done, even if it means their desk is absent more due to sick kids, life etc. Outside of the agents, we have an all-female staff on our Real Estate side. Property Management we have 3 great guys. Being a mom is also grounding, I have experienced some challenges professionally that threatened my business and knowing those ladies love me whether I’m cleaning an office or running an office, as long as I'm happy. It's helped me to let go of the outcome at times and find meaning in deeper places. 

How do you nurture yourself?

Lots of books, good food, tea, meditation, acupuncture and energy work with Regenia Benton.

How do you stay inspired?

By staying challenged. My work as a business owner and CEO is really inspiring because inside of my work are the challenges of being a leader, which means I have to work both on skills to run the business and personal development to be a better leader and person.  It's a never-ending mountain to climb.  Inspiration is as essential as breathing. I actively pursue books, poems, speakers, experiences and people who inspire and challenge me.

How do you define success?

That there is joy and love present in your work. One of my favorite quotes about success is “You succeeded in gaining respect for your work because you did not work only to survive, but to demonstrate your love for others.” P. Coelho

What’s your biggest struggle right now?

Transitioning from the fast growth trajectory that my company has been on, to stepping outside the business to work on larger writing and speaking projects. The tempo of the work is different and I have to wean myself off the high of the hunt (recruiting) and step into a more reflective space. 

Who is your female spirit animal or lady crush?

Michelle Obama. I’m gonna miss her. I actually started crying answering this. Her authenticity, grace and power. Her family has me thinking a lot about legacy. My local crush is former governor Barbara Roberts. Tearing up again, the fact she got into politics by fighting for her sons right to an education and fought that battle all the way up the Capitol steps is inspiring. She shows me what it means to truly be an Oregonian. 

What’s a question you wish more people asked?

It's not the question I’d change, I’d change the listening. So few people really open themselves up to the answer and so few of us allow ourselves to truly answer.

What does the word community mean to you?

I think my purpose on earth is to help build community. It means connecting one another, celebrating each other and seeing one another.

One thing you would still like to do?

Every year my family and I make a list of 50 things we want to do in our lifetime. I make one for myself personally too. On the top of my list for the past few years has been go to the Kennedy School of Leadership at Harvard. And for something I have no control over is become a Grandma. 

ONE LESSON FROM 2016?

Don’t overthink it. Your first instincts are worth trusting.

ONE DREAM FOR 2017?

To complete my book about Punk Rock Business Strategies and Marketing and to do a TED talk. Is that two? I swear they go together. Just like me always trying to get a little extra!

ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO TELL ANOTHER POM POM MOM TRYING TO FIGURE IT ALL OUT

Go for it.  No one who has accomplished what you are seeking out to do has been smarter, has something you don't or knows something you won't figure out. The only difference between them and you is that they did it. So do it!

Jenelle at the Women's March on D.C. in Portland - photo shot by a friend

Jenelle at the Women's March on D.C. in Portland - photo shot by a friend

jenelle isaacson is mom to tuula (9) and siiri (almost 8) and the ceo and founder of living room realty, a successful real estate business based in portland, or.

www.livingroomre.com