(photos by Shelby Brakken Photography)
This month on our blog I’m absolutely delighted to be featuring Jennifer Coughlin! If you don’t know her, you should. Jenn and I first started getting to know another around the time that we opened up The Portland Girl (April 2015). We both spent a LOT of time at our local coffee shop and eventually got an introduction and ever since I’ve wondered why weren’t in each others lives a long time before!
I’ve always cherished my chats with Jenn. Her spirit is light and alive and she always has a smile on her face (a welcome change from most others on these dreary Winter days).
I got to know Jenn a lot better over the past year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and instead of falling inwards, she started a blog to keep everyone in the loop about her progress. In the midst of all the chemo and radiation, she kept smiling and remained positive. If she was worried, she took that worry and channeled it into raising a crap-ton of money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation (read more about that below) and more than ever, Jenn led with positivity.
It may sound cheesy, but I’m a big believer in role models to help get me through new things, scary things…really ALL THE THINGS. And while there is no “right way” to fight cancer, I hope that should I ever have to fight it myself, I fight it the way Jenn did (like a total badass). I never pitied Jenn, I was way too in awe of her courage and her grace to ever feel “bad” for her.
Breast cancer bites…but if I get it one day, I’ll always remember Jenn – and be inspired to take charge and hold onto as much positivity as possible while I fight it.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m a freelance writer, wife, mom and voracious gardener. I’m a New Jersey native who moved to Portland eleven years ago (after a two year stint on Maui).
What kind of a “Portland Girl” are you?
The farm-y type! I try to be outside as much as possible, in my garden, tending to my chickens and bees, hiking in the gorge. I’m pretty earthy, not a girly-girl, but a big believer in taking care of my body and skin. I try not to put anything in or on myself that is unhealthy. My makeup routine is pretty short and sometimes nonexistent, but I never skimp on my skin-care routine.
Favorite quote or motto?
“Tell me: what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
What is your biggest outlet for your creative expression?
I think this varies depending on what’s happening in my life. Normally, I would say writing, though there are times when I need something more hands-on, and less “brains-on.” I just recently finished nearly ten months of breast cancer treatment, and I needed to focus a lot of energy on the fight, so I didn’t have a lot leftover for writing. But I found keeping my hands busy – making crafts with my son, gardening, worked almost as meditation – keeping the dark and scary thoughts at bay.
What 1 food and 1 beverage could you not live without?
I’m a coffee fanatic, and very particular about it! I love food and cooking, and I like variety, so it’s hard to say what one food I couldn’t live without. Maybe I should be honest and just say butter:)
What is your favorite part of living in Portland, OR?
The people! I have met so many awesome folks from all walks of life here, and feel super blessed with amazing friends. This became even more clear when I got sick, and our community really rallied around us. People cared for our son, brought us food, and offered us lots of emotional support.
The Portland Girl staff was part of it, too – the ladies offered me makeup tips when I lost my eyelashes and eyebrows, Anna did healing body work on me. There is nothing great about cancer, but I have also been overwhelmed with gratitude to all the people who cared for us during our ordeal. With the help of friends and family near and far, we also raised $15,000 for the Susan G. Komen foundation during their Race for the Cure campaign. We had a team of 38 friends locally who participated in the race with us, too. It was an amazing, pay-it-forward moment for me, and I think I am definitely hooked on fundraising!
What is your current self-care routine, and why is it important to you?
I’m in the midst of creating a new self-care routine since my “new normal” has begun, post cancer. I’ve always been pretty good about eating right, though there is always room for improvement. I’m also carving out more time for exercise, and developing better sleep habits. I’m getting used to my new body, and the medically-induced menopause I’m in now, so I take lots and lots of supplements to curb the side effects and help me feel my best.
Before bed, I wash my face with Portland Girl cleanser, and then apply my beloved Susan Grace face cream and Kimberly Sayer eye cream. In the morning, I just splash my face with water and apply my creams again. I drink tons of water and take lots of E and B vitamins to care for my skin from within. For mental self-care, I’m making time for myself more of a priority, though that is still a work in progress!