You know when life gets so busy that we barely have time to breathe? When there’s so much on the schedule that you have no choice but to say ‘no’; to turn down any opportunities that come your way? While it’s important to know our limits, to never feel bad for saying NO to someone… there are times when you just have to find time. When you just have to say YES.

This week on the ‘Be Well’ blog, Jen opens up about one such experience; about a recent opportunity that came along that she just couldn’t say no to. When it comes to opportunities like this one, they don’t come along every day. 

We’ll pass the mic to Jen now; the stage is all yours!

So, let me step back a bit to give you some insight into what things are like for Aidan and I. We’ve been working really hard lately, and over the past five years, to establish a work/life balance. Sometimes, the process of making that happen feels like a job in and of itself. Trying tirelessly day after day after day to put systems, resources and staffing into play to ensure that the Schoolhouse continues to run optimally and efficiently; so that Aidan and I are then able to work a reasonable schedule that prioritizes spending time together as a family.

That being said, sometimes in life, an unexpected opportunity comes along to collaborate and create with like-minded individuals. In these cases, you really don’t have much of a choice but to say yes (you’ll understand why as the story continues!)

So, here’s the thing: May has ALWAYS been a busy month for us. The student population packs up and prepares to leave the city for the summer; seasonal establishments start to open up for a busy season; Mother’s Day always ends up being a busy holiday for us; and on June 1st every year, we attend the Gluten-Free Fair in Riverview, New Brunswick (organized by the Moncton Celiac Association).

The Gluten-Free Fair is really important to the Schoolhouse, as it is a way for us to connect with our customers directly in New Brunswick. Without fail, it is always a busy show for us. We go with a huge spreadsheet of orders. Plus, it’s logistically tricky due to the fact that it’s held on a Saturday⁠—so we end up attending the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market and the Gluten-Free Fair in Riverview on the same day with two different crews.

That means the last week of May always ends up being one of the busiest of the year. It takes about a month of planning to pull off. Either my parents or Aidan’s parents fly in to help us out by watching the twins for about 3 days–which allows us to focus solely on the business and tasks at hand (we are always extremely grateful for their support).

At the beginning of April—a friend and newfound fan of Schoolhouse Jennifer Brodeur (JB Skin Guru) reached out to see, while she was in Nova Scotia, if we would be interested in doing a couple of photoshoots together to create some digital content. There was no thought in my mind but yes—absolutely! I’m in!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jennifer Brodeur, we introduced her on the blog a few months back. She is known by many as “The Skin Guru” and she is facialist to both Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Jennifer also happens to be a fellow celiac and she is the founder of an unbelievable skin care line, which I personally use and to say it has been life changing is truly an understatement.

Without hesitation, I said YES to her proposal. Right away. I asked her to let me know the days for the shoot and that was that.

Fast forward to a week later, Jennifer got in touch with dates, suggesting May 29th and 30th.

A lump developed in my throat. *Gulp*. Crap, only 3 days before the big Celiac Fair in New Brunswick. I took a second to think. Then, a deep breath. Aidan and I took some time to talk it over, and in the end, we decided this was an opportunity that we simply could not pass up. We just knew we had to figure out a way to make it work.

In the end, sure, it took a lot of planning—but we made it happen. Aidan worked side-by-side with the Schoolhouse team to ensure everything was ready for the big event and produced more product than we ever have been able to make in a single week. I focused on processing all of the orders for the fair and took on managing/coordinating the Schoolhouse contributions for the photoshoot.

Andrew managed all social media and communications, making sure I didn’t have to touch any of it, which was incredible! I also hired a food stylist, Jessica Emin—for the second shoot because it was far more complex. I worried I would be far too tired to give it my all, especially after two straight days of prep for two different shoots.

After all was said and done, this was the best decision I could have made. I let go and it just felt so right. Sometimes, when you’re surrounded by chaos, all you need to do is stop and listen to your gut. It turns out that my gut was 100% right, and it usually is. Our first photoshoot took place in the evening, at a small beach in Eastern Passage. Let me be real with you…it was freezing cold, OH, and it was drizzling to boot.

Poor Jennifer was frozen to the bone. I took care of the food styling out of my trunk in a wool fisherman’s sweater and a toque. The incredible Jazz Turgeon (Jennifer’s Director of Marketing) helped me style each and every plate, making sure they were protected from the elements. Nicole LaPierre (our fabulous photographer – check out her portfolio of work on her website here) was unbelievably professional, a real trooper—racing against the clock to get all the shots she needed. She was an inspiration. Everyone on site that day gave it their all and, despite the terrible weather, we pulled through.

The second photoshoot took place at the ever-so charming and elegant Tangled Garden in Grand Pré. Such a gorgeous location, and lucky us, the weather was so much better that day. Honestly, this time everything went off without a hitch. It must be said that I couldn’t have pulled it off without Jess’ help. She’s a food stylist unlike any other (do yourself a favour and check out her work—@eatwithjessie on IG!)

It was like clockwork. Passionate, powerful and confident women coming together to do what they love. My favourite part of the second photoshoot was, without a doubt, when we sat down at the end to enjoy the delicious food around the table in the garden. With all the hard work we put in, it was nice to be present in the moment together while soaking in our surroundings. What a truly magical evening.

I felt inspired; proud to be surrounded by such amazing women. It fueled my bucket and my soul. Good thing it did, because I had to wake up at the crack of dawn the next day. It was time to join the Schoolhouse team in the kitchen to finalize prep for our trip to New Brunswick. We woke up, drove to Riverview for the Gluten-Free Fair and met up with our New Brunswick sales team. It all went off without a hitch and we hit our sales targets out of the park.

It was such a pleasure to connect with our New Brunswick-based customers again, to give them a chance to stock up on their favourite Schoolhouse gluten-free goodies.

Looking back, it was a four-day non-stop whirlwind. But, you know what, I wouldn’t change a thing about how it all turned out. It was 100% worth every ounce of hard work and effort.

In health and happiness,

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