Relationship Advice

A Trip Down Memory Lane And A Marriage Lesson

At Home With The O'Neil - A trip down memory lane and a marriage lesson

First of all, I need to apologize for my blogging hiatus. The good news is my digital marketing consulting business took off and I have been very busy since I last wrote.  The sad news is I had to let something go and unfortunately this blog, which was supposed to be my outlet, was the thing.  Let’s try this again.

I was inspired to come back and write after I came across this photo while cleaning Chuck’s desk.

First Engaged Photo 1.1.11

It was taken after he proposed on 1.1.11.  What is special about this photo is that I didn’t even realize it was taken.  We were both in a fog but someone grabbed my camera and grabbed a few shots of the moment.  I think we are both in a state of shock at that point.  When I stumbled across the retired camera under heaps of papers, I popped out the memory card and saw our young faces looking back at us.  And – I am not making this up – our wedding song came on iTunes at that moment.

Even though this picture was taken just 5 years ago and we have been together a total of 13, I feel like SO MUCH has happened since this photo.  We both look so young and carefree and I think “Oh babies, if you only knew what was coming.”

  • Two months after this photo was taken my maternal Grandmother lost her battle to Alzheimer’s. Which really was a blessing because she had been diagnosed with the disease 10 years before that and it was hard on the family to watch her slip away from us.
  • A few months after that photo we found out Chuck’s Aunt was diagnosed with cancer and she passed away 3 months before our wedding.
  • 15 months later Chuck was promoted to management at his job after working there since he was 14.
  • 18 months (exactly) after this photo we were married.
  • 20 months after this photo my Mother became extremely sick and almost died.  A bug bite that became infected with medical complications where she ended up in the hospital. We found that she had a vascular disease, that took its toll and left her with brain damage. Even though some days it feels like Alzheimer’s the doctor’s remind us it isn’t. However, her memory has been impaired and her personality has changed.
  • 20 months I started graduate school.
  • 21 months I dropped out of graduate school to take care of my parents.
  • Two years-to-the-date I started my first day of unemployment after accepting a severance package at my old job.  I was so stressed with this job that I was under chronic stress and my hair was falling out.  I just found out that in order for this to happen your body is under stress for an extended period of time.
  • 30 months to the date our beautiful, sweet, kind and loving Niece was born who brings us so much joy.
  • 31 months to the date I launched my business JO Social Branding with the un-wavering support of my husband.
  • Month 33 – Today (month 63) becomes a blur.  Launching a business takes time, perseverance, in some cases disillusion and from a working spouse, trust, patience and an over-abundance of love and support.

See what I mean?  So much has changed and I know it is called life.  The one constant is our love and if anything it has grown stronger.  Somewhere between month 21 and 31, I felt guilty for Chuck.  This was not the woman he married.  I know I have changed.  Any human would.  Especially with the health situation with my Mother that my families battles with daily.  But he stood by me and loved me more.

The point I am getting at is this:  I am thankful for the dark moments because they have made the light ones so much more special.  There is a quote, and of course I cannot find it in this moment, but it is about choosing love and staying together despite everything that is ripping you apart.  Not that our marriage was in danger with any of these instances.

But when times were tough we choose to lean in and support one another rather than lean apart and try and fight it alone.

And to my husband, even though you made me wait 98 months BE (Before Engagement), I get it now.  You wanted that solid foundation in place for those rough times.  Thank you my love.

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3 Things On Our 3rd Year Anniversary

At Home With The O'Neils - 3rd Anniversary

June 1, 2012 is a date that melts my heart.  It is the day that we vowed to be Husband and Wife.  I am so honored to be in this life and in a loving partnership with my best friend.  Chuck and I have been dating/married over a decade, and in October it will 13 years since our first date.  I am still amazed by all the good and bad we have experienced and how strong we have become because of it.

So as we celebrate our 3rd Anniversary and look forward to many, many more, I want to share 3 things with you, our friends.

3 Things I Love About Chuck

  • His hugs. They are all-encompassing, keep me safe, squish me against his chest and squeeze out all the bad I have had in the day.
  • Laid back attitude.  I am a constantly stressed, overachieving, Type A personality.  He balances me.  Nothing can really shake him and if it does, he bounces back pretty quickly.  He is my rock.  He keeps me grounded and sane.  He also has the ability to drive me insane but that is another post.
  • How he taught me to love myself.  When we met, I was young.  Just coming out of high school with a ton of insecurities, he quite literally taught me to smile.  Having braces for 7 years, I had grown insecure about my mouth.  We started dating 4 months after the braces came off.  He would always ask me to smile and show him my “pearly whites”.  I was so used to hiding my mouth that I refused to smile.  He banished that and other insecure habits.  He also taught me to love myself, by sharing with me what he saw and loved about me.

3 Things I Love About Being Married to Him

  • His unwavering dedication to those he loves.  When times were financially tough when I decided to start my business, he told me he would eat Mac and Cheese the rest of his life, if that is what it took took for me to reach my dreams and make me happy. .
  • Our language. Over the years we have developed a secret language that only the two of us know.  Born out of stories and moments that we shared and cherish and laughed over.  Funny words, words mashed together.  Secretly our own.
  • Someone in my corner.  No matter what he is right there, by my side, willing to fight life’s battles with me and for me.

3 Songs That Remind Me of Us

Lifehouse – Take Me Away – Our first dance wedding song.  We were dating for a short period of time when he claimed this as “our song” back in 2003.  It is even on the Jeannine’s 19th Birthday CD he made for me just a little over a month of dating.

Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud – I get teared up every time I hear this song and think of us. I cannot wait to grow old with Chuck.  Well I can wait to grow old, but I am happy that it will be with him.  Seeing my Paternal Grandfather take care of my Grandmother with Dementia and my Father in a similar situation, I have witnessed true love.  I have 100% faith that Chuck will be there for me whether I am with it or not.  Even when I gave him an out and told him, if I had a similar fate, I wanted him to live his life.  He told me he wouldn’t leave my side.

Edwin McCain – I Could Not Ask For More –  The words of this song speak to me.  I am so blessed to have found the love of my life at such a young age and to have experienced so much with him while we are still so young.  Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for him.


3 Pictures of Us That I Love 

Chuck and Jeannine Salem Willows 2003

Yeah we were babies when we first started dating.  This was taken in August 2003 at the Salem Willows Amusement Park in Salem, MA.

At Home With The O'Neils Wedding Day

I love this moment right after we were announced Husband and Wife.  I love how candid this shot is, pure loving bliss.


This photo was taken on our honeymoon in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  I love how symbolic it is, we will look out at our future, holding one another side by side.

3 Pieces of Marriage Advice

I want to share 3 pieces of valuable relationship advice that was given to me through the years.

  • Value your time together –  and apart.  It is quality over quantity of time spent together.  Make sure you have enough time for yourselves as a couple, your alone time and your time with friends.  It is all about finding the perfect balance.
  • Treasure what you have.  Love is like holding sand in the palms of your hands.  If you hold too tight it will slip through.  You need to cradle and cherish it.
  • Never go to bed without saying I love you.  Even if you are angry and have a fight that cannot be resolved in that moment, always make sure you let the other know that you still love them.

I know this was a super cheesy post, but if you haven’t figured it out already, I am crazy about this man.  Here is a little video of the past 13 years.  I am looking forward to many, many more.  Happy Anniversary my love!


Life Lessons from Climbing a Waterfall

At Home With the O'Neils - Lessons from Climbing a Waterfall

I am going to take you back in time with this post.  It is easy to call back to the warm Jamaican sun and amazing time we had on our honeymoon in Ocho Rios.  Prior to our wedding when we shared that we were headed to Ocho Rios, people would state, “You need to go to the Dunn’s River Falls!”  One wise person, told me to purchase water shoes for the Falls.  I didn’t think anything of it.  Flash forward to the honeymoon, as I stood on the beach at the base of the waterfall, I remember thinking,

Wait. We are actually CLIMBING the waterfall?!

Then, I immediately threw fear aside.  I didn’t know the next opportunity I would have to say I climbed a waterfall.  There was also some romantic notion of us saying we climbed a waterfall on our honeymoon.  So we joined hands and we began to climb.

I didn’t realize it at the time, there were many life lessons in this feat, especially those tied to marriage.  At a little over 2 and a half years later, there have been ups and downs, but we have gotten through them together.  I truly believe life was preparing us for those moments as we scaled the waterfall, basked in wedded bliss.

Chuck can’t swim. Even though we were never going over our head there were times he was very nervous.
There may be times when one of you has a skill that the other doesn’t possess.  Be sure to put your faith and trust in the other to guide you through the task at hand.

As we began to climb the waterfall they told us to take hands with the others in the group for support.
Always walk through life, with that support by your side.  They will either be there to catch you when you falter or you two will crash together.

Sometimes, quite literally you feel like you are over your head.
Take a deep breath and push through, everything will be alright.

Sometimes you feel like you are climbing a mountain (or waterfall).
Carefully place tiny steps, one in front of the other.  You will get to the destination – eventually.

Even though the climate was hot, the water was cold.  It was nice to be in water than a pool and it felt very refreshing.
Life can be as refreshing as the cool water, but it can also be cold and have quite a sting.  Embrace it all.  It is life and for the most part beautiful.

With waterfalls comes rocky terrain.
There will be times the water is choppy, or the rocks are slippery, or you feel you may get swept away.  In these instance, hold on tight to the other person.  Their support will guide you through.

With waterfalls comes rapid waters.
Lesson 2:
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, rather than fight it, but make sure you are smiling doing so.

You are literally in a rain forest and surround by Nature’s beauty.
Don’t forget to stop and just take in the beauty that surrounds you.  To often we rush to meet the end goal and miss beautiful moments along the way.

At the base of the waterfall it didn’t look as intimidating, however as you climbed you saw that it was much larger.  At one point I looked back and saw immense beauty and was surprised at how far we climbed.
It is okay to look back and reflect, but don’t do this too long.  There are fun adventures lying ahead.
Lesson 2:
When you reach that peak or destination, reflect on the experience and be revel in the experience together.

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Think about the times in your life were you went out of your comfort zone.  What lessons did you learn along the way?

Topsfield Fair & Our Fall Bucket List

Friday night we attended the Topsfield Fair. If you aren’t from the Northeast you may not have heard of it but it is the oldest fair in North America. Since we live in such a historic are in Beverly, MA, like many things, this is essentially in our backyard, just 2 towns away. People come from all over to attend the Topsfield Fair and it is no small affair. This year Kellie Pickler was one of that acts, last year it was Angie Miller. Attending the 10 day fair is a staple of living in the Northeast. It starts in the beginning of October and ends on Columbus Day weekend. Tractor shows, fruit and vegetable exhibits, farm animals, rides and games, concerts, contests, parades, the list goes on and on.

This year was special because it was the first time we experienced it with our 15-month old niece, Jordyn. She is probably too little to understand. However, it was definitely memorable for us, experiencing it through her eyes. She had a blast running around, saying hi to strangers and eating Auntie’s Fried Dough. Of course having a toddler in tow is a little difficult to experience everything, but we made the best of it and had a blast.


Jordyn Marie on the loose at the #topsfieldfair. Is that a toddler or an cute bear that came to life? #toddler #adorable #love

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The Topsfield Fair is the kick off to celebrating fall. Here is a list of our fall bucket list.

Fall Bucket List - At Home With The O'Neils

  1. Apples galore. Apple picking, apple pies, apple sauce, apple cider, apple cider donuts, apple crisp.
  2. Baking Apple Pies. Jeannine and her mother have a long-withstanding fall tradition of baking apples pies together when the weather becomes cooler. 
  3. Football.  Chuck turned Jeannine onto Football. Before she used to think it was annoying or at the very least an event to socialize in high school on a Friday night. But now we are both into it and root for the New England Patriots.
  4. Soups & Stews. One of our favorites is Beef Stew although our latest addiction is Loaded Baked Potato Soup. 
  5. Leaf Loving. Raking leaves and then jumping in the piles and going leaf peeping.
  6. Bundle up and go for a walk.
  7. Corn mazes and hay rides.
  8. Pumpkin carving and roasting the seeds.
  9. Drink em up! It’s now time for Apple Cider, Hot Chocolate, Pumpkin and Cinnamon Lattes.
  10. Sweater weather. Packing away the flip-flops and bringing out the sweaters, jackets, mittens and scarves.
Connors Farm 2008

Chuck posing at the Corn Maze in Connor’s Farm in 2008.

Connors Farm 2008_2

Jeannine giving the goats some love at Connor’s Farm Corn Maze in 2008.

What do you think of this list? What would you add or replace?

Fall Bucket List - At Home  With The O'Neils


9 Tips for Moving in Together

A friend of mine just moved 5 states away to move in with her boyfriend. They have been dating for 2 years and are very serious about one another.  Shortly into dating, he accepted a job in DC and they have had a long distant relationship ever since. This friend of mine is nervous about making such a big move.  It can be scary to just uproot everything to live with someone.  I keep assuring her things will be fine. If it is meant to be the transition will go smoothly – or at the very least the kinks will work themselves out without too much damage.

Washington Living Room_2

Our apartment when we first moved in.

As I dished out advice I couldn’t help but reminisce of when we moved in together. Chuck and I have been together for 12 years, we lived together for 5 and have been married for 2. I remember our moving in process.  I knew the move could make or break us.  There was a time in that 12 year period where we split up for over a year.  When we came back together, we promised one another if it didn’t work out that was it.  We wouldn’t do the back and forth thing.  Lucky for me (and him) it never came to that.

When it was time to move in, the jitters were there.  I was afraid that he would be too messy, or I would want my space and he would always be around.  But we made it work.  As a matter of fact the transition was much easier than I imagined. It was like two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly. Yes, we had some kinks to iron out, however prior to moving together, one of our main sticking points was finding enough time to spend together. As we dated we lived 4 cities apart, we both worked with 2 cities in between, and there was a large chunk of time I was an overzealous college student.

Washington Living Room Now

Our living room now, sporting a “lived-in” feel.

When we moved in together, that fight never happened again.  It was easier to be together, living with the one you love.  I wanted him to go out and have fun with his friends, because I knew he would be coming home to me.  As for the messy slob side – Yes he is a slob, I am a neat freak. That conversation still takes place.  But that is it.  We are so happy to live and co-exist with one another. We have our home and it is filled with everything that is us.  When it came time for marriage, the big step was already taken, we were just making it official on paper.

To couples thinking of cohabiting, or even those who are married and living together, here is my advice to you.

  1. Split the chores 50/50. It is both your space therefore you should share responsibilities. When we moved in we divided the household tasks among us.
  1. Respect the other person and their space. We have a small 3 room 1 bath apartment. It is easy to get crammed but he has his area, I have mine and then we have our space together.
  1. Help the other when then ask for it. This was a learning curve for me. I just assumed he would see dirty floors and think to sweep or a trash can overflowing and it would tip him off to take the trash out. I would become upset when he didn’t, but he shared with me that he isn’t a mind reader – or tuned into those things. When I asked he would take care of it.
  1. Learn their quirks. I know Chuck is a last-minute Sally. He is going to want to shave 10 minutes before we have to leave and hand me a wrinkled shirt 5 minutes before we go out the door. I make sure, I am ready before him and then am there to help get him out the door.
  1. Surprise one another. Don’t be afraid to bring flowers or dessert home. And every now and then surprise the other with a candlelight dinner.  One of Chuck’s favorite things to do is to go food shopping and buy stuff (I like) but least expect. When we first lived together, after a while I told him the gourmet olives were a nice touch but not if they cost $7 a container.
  1. Go on dates. It is always nice to get dressed up and head out to spend time together.
  1. It is also nice to plan movie or game nights in. Something should be said for being able to live with the person you love and being completely comfortable in your sweat pants as you lay together on the couch.
  1. Don’t hog technology. Our computer is in the living room. The rule is one person on the computer, the other gets the TV.
  1. Compromise. Life is all about compromising. When Chuck and I were first together (before the split) we were both selfish. We wanted 100% our way and didn’t care about anyone else.  When we got back together we promised to listen to each other and to make this relationship work.  That is what compromise is about, 50% of the way is a hell of a lot better than 0%.

Those are 9 tips that have helped us on our journey from dating, to cohabiting, to marriage.  What advice do you have of living with your significant other?