I hope you have some time… I’ll try to keep it interesting. Let’s start from the very beginning.
I was born Jacqueline Lamenzo, but always called Jackie…until 4th grade, when I decided that I needed to be different and wanted to start spelling my name Jacky. My parents let me (foreshadowing their very cool and supportive parenting that would continue throughout this story) and my 4th grade teacher was extremely confused. But this about sums up my childhood. Doing things differently — and doing them boldly.
In 5th grade I was at Joann Fabric’s with my mom and my best friend, Libby Pinkham. Libby and I had been having lemonade stands and were trying to figure out how to take them to the next level. We saw a rolling cart and pooled our money to invest it into our lemonade stand business. Our thought process was that since we lived maybe 25 houses apart, we could walk up and down the street and hit up WAY more people than we if stayed in one place. Brilliant, I know. Turns out, a plastic cart meant for minimal wheeling doesn’t do well on the pavement, but, again, this about sums up my go-getter attitude from the get-go. I was destined to think outside the box and do things differently.
Fast forward to a few months after my 18th birthday. I left for University of Hartford to study Early Childhood Education. I was told that if I wanted to study abroad I had to go my sophomore year since I had to do student teaching my junior and senior years. My parents encouraged me to go on this adventure, even though it would be the longest I’d ever been away from home. So I left, at 19 years old — to Florence, Italy with my college bestie Beca Salinardi. Florence opened my eyes to the world. We were able to explore other European cities and I fell in love with the new cultures, smells, and styles they each had.
Something you should probably know about me — for all my life, I was known as The Picky Eater. The one who ate the kid’s menu diet long after I passed that fine print point of “for children 10 and under.” The one who had grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, pizza, and buttered pasta noodles; essentially anything veggie-free and full of carbs, sugar and fat. It became a part of me that I hated but it was a fear bigger than me that I couldn’t explain. I was just fine in Florence because of the abundance of pizza, pasta and bread. But I knew I couldn’t travel to many places without it being a struggle.
It wasn’t until I took a job in Beijing, China at 23 that I knew I would need to let go of my food phobias. I prepared to make the biggest change of my life – bigger than moving to China for a year – to start trying unfamiliar and scary foods.
In that year I surprised everyone and, most importantly, I surprised myself. I tried (and really liked) so many new foods, from fruits and vegetables to things you couldn’t have paid me to try before, like mushrooms, eggplant and tofu. I realized how much I was missing (Mom, *please* don’t say I told you so) and grew a new interest in nutrition. I decided to enroll in Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to learn more about why I should continue trying new foods and eating healthier. Learning the reasons behind healthy living has made the continuation of my journey feel comfortable, when it used to induce anxiety. Overcoming this life-long fear gave me the chance to go help others. As soon as I was certified as a Health Coach, I started working with adult picky eaters and parents of picky eaters.
A few months after I had enrolled in IIN, my year in China came to an end and I packed my bags and headed back home to Needham, MA. I stayed with my parents for 6 weeks and quickly realized I needed my next adventure. My Uncle Jay, his wife Tarah (too young to be my “aunt”), my youngest cousin Jimmy, my Grandpa and my Mima were all living in Austin, TX, so it was an easy move to a fun buzzing city. I was able to spend time with family I got to see maybe once a year if I was lucky, and I continued working on my health coaching business.
In July of 2015 Tarah, (my aunt who is too young to be my aunt) suggested I keep my name on the sub list at the school I was substituting at. When I sent the email to the principal, she replied back that she was looking for an Operations Manager - essentially the business manager for the elementary school I already knew and loved. It seemed to be the perfect position for me and I accepted. I worked there for 3 years and took pride in my work there.
It wasn’t until I was signing my contract for my 3rd year that I was informed that I wouldn’t get a pay raise for 6 years and when I did, it would be $250/year. I was shocked and felt completely undervalued. And I knew that with the fire in me, I couldn’t sit at a desk working for the same amount year after year for 6 MORE YEARS before seeing any upward movement. I knew I needed to add something to my day job to bring in more income.
So I thought and talked to many people. I considered nannying (lots of past experience), waitressing (zero past experience), getting a weekend job (meh). None of these things would allow me to have the same amount of free time I was used to and I didn’t have much time to give after working M-F 9-5.
I started writing my first children’s book, Addy Wants to Fit In. It’s my story as a child being a picky eater, and my hope is that it gives a voice to children who have a hard time trying new foods. Once I self-published the book in January of 2019, I realized it had built a path for me back to teaching. I now offer School Visits and Writing Workshops for young writers, as well as offer a course for adults looking to self-publish their own books.
I am excited to be living out my passion writing, coaching, traveling and loving on all my family and friends who have supported me all this way. Connect with me on Facebook or Instagram, or reach out below and let’s chat!