sidney, ohio. | wife. daughter. sister. mother. aunt. friend. homemaker. volunteer.

This is Mary Jane.  She is my namesake, my sounding board, my mentor, my aunt, my friend and my mother. Like most women, she juggles a lot. This beautiful lady has a strength like no other. And while Mary Jane would dismiss the following statement with humility, it is her unparalleled leadership that I admire the most. Mary Jane leads a good life, and leads by example. You may not enjoy this highlight half as much as me or my seven siblings. (She is adored.) But I promise, sweet Mary Jane will inspire you. Enjoy this inaugural j-jane post!


How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?

The rule in our family was that we could not get married before the age of 25. My parents wanted me to get a job, and do that job to the best of my ability. So I did. I worked as an editorial assistant and then at the library. I winked at my future husband, that was a conscious decision. I ended up parenting four (and then eight) of my sister’s children after she died. I did my very best to emulate my sister Rita and my mother Pauline. That was a very conscious decision. They were incredible mothers. I guess you could say my life chose me.

  

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

All eight of those children are all good people and they are all successful. Those kids have none of the fears I have always struggled with … and that is amazing and quite an accomplishment. I can’t take all the credit for their successes – but they are all fearless.

  

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

Fear has been my greatest obstacle. I have always lacked confidence. I am still working on this one …

  

How do you bring courage to a challenging situation?

I just do it. For example, I am terrified of swimming. I have always been afraid of it and one day I told myself “I am going to have the courage to do this.” I learned how to swim at the age of 71.


Do you ever feel guilty? If yes, what for?

Always, and it is a terrible trait. It offers no value really. So why I do it? I do not know. But I do think guilt can be bad and good. As a kid, you should feel guilty if you steal something or talk back to your parents. As an adult, if your stuffed peppers turned out terrible for dinner – feeling guilty is a little over the top.


What is your best advice on how to live life gracefully?

If you can believe in yourself, and follow through with the things that are important to you – life can be a graceful experience. Even if you fail, be thankful that you had the courage to try it.


j. jane side notes:

The talented John Black out of Knoxville, Tennessee took both photographs on this page. The beautiful shot at the top features Mary Jane and her two fellas (Baby Brother John Paul and Uncle Ted AKA Papa Bear). Mr. Black has been the only person on earth who has been able to capture the attention of the entire Stepleton/ Hook family at the same time. (Photo below.) There were curse words used to accomplish this great feat— but it was done and done well.  This was a special day for us all, as brother John Paul officially brought Courtney into the fold. It was a beautiful celebration. Check out Mr. Black’s work here.