Jenny and her family seem to have figured out how to live a happy life. They live in a gorgeous cabin in a small mountain town in Southwest Colorado. They are raising two amazing kids and run their own goals/planner company, Commit30, from their home. Jenny believes in spending as much time outdoors as possible — and they even have a treehouse, a pond, and a zip-line to get everyone outside. I think you’ll love this peek into their lives. Welcome, Jenny!
Hi! I’m Jenny and I’m married to my best friend Will. We have two amazing kids via open adoptions — Samme, age 15 and Henry, age 10. I’m a 20 year ovarian cancer survivor so I couldn’t birth children the old fashioned way. We are so thankful to be their parents and are grateful everyday for their beautiful and brave birth families for choosing us. We see the children’s birth families every year and love that the kids are loved by so many people.
We live in a great little mountain town in Southwest Colorado and we work together running our own small business from home — and we are still married despite living and working together day in and day out.
We knew this was the town we wanted to raise our family in and after my cancer diagnosis at age 23 we both left our great jobs in the city and moved here to make a go of it. My husband started his own outdoor adventure/event production company and I took a job as a director of a local nonprofit.
A few years ago I started Commit30 as a way to help encourage other people to go after their goals and dreams today, because we don’t know how long we have. We always say, “Stop wishing and start doing!”
Commit30 started off as kind of a side hustle but took off beyond our wildest expectations so Will closed up his outdoor adventure companies two years ago and is now working full time with me, alongside our kids and my parents who help us ship — it really is a small family run business.
Since we work from home we needed to make the space work for us for both life and business. We carved out small home office areas, turned our garage into a shipping and storage area (no cars fit in there), and created spaces for rest and family time. For example our loft is a playroom, reading nook, and home workout area.
We also wanted to make sure most of all that our kids and their friends (especially now that they are pre-teens and teenagers) have a happy, safe and fun place to hang out.
My husband lived at home for a year and a half after college to save up to buy his first house in the Boulder area. A few years later, after having roommates to help with the mortgage and working multiple jobs to pay for grad school, the market was booming and we were able to sell it for a lot more than he originally paid for it. That equity allowed us to buy our dream property in our dream mountain town, even thought it was a stretch for us at the time.
It wasn’t a dream house when we bought it though. It was a little stone cottage built in the 1950’s, and had been a rental for most of that time. We were riding our bikes by when we saw the realtor putting up the For Sale sign. We fell in love with it at first sight. We called the realtor the second we got home (pre- iPhone days) and scheduled a showing for the next afternoon. It was not in good shape and needed lots of love. But we saw the potential and put in our offer.
We spent the first 12 months (with the help of our dads and brothers) gutting the 800 square foot cottage and cleaning up the property. There were 7 layers of linoleum floor on top of beautiful, original hardwood floor that we were able to mostly salvage. But once we pulled up all of that linoleum tile there was a 3 inch gap at the bottom of all of the doors, requiring all new doors.
We lived in the small cottage for several years while we saved up money to add onto it. Once our daughter was 2 1/2 we added on additional living space and a few years after that put in our pond. A few years ago we saved up to remodel the kitchen and put in granite countertops. Just last summer we added on a larger garage for storage for our business. It’s been a labor of love for almost 20 years and we’ve done the majority of the work ourselves.
It’s a blessing and a curse having a handy husband because he is capable of doing most of the work himself (thereby saving lots of money), but also is a one man show so the projects take a lot longer than if we hired a crew. We’ve basically done work on the house when we’ve saved up enough to do it without adding on to our original mortgage (which we are diligently working to pay off early), and when Will had time to tackle projects.
I’ll be honest though, the house still isn’t done. There are still baseboards & trim upstairs that isn’t finished. There are some older windows and parts of the roof that need to be replaced. We need a new wood stove because the antique one we have, while cool looking, doesn’t actually emit heat in the winter (and it’s cold here in the mountains). It’s a work in progress but we truly love it here.
Real estate in our town is nutty and very expensive. We got lucky and bought in before the market really took off. We also got lucky because while tons of buyers were looking at this property, most were scared away by the sheer amount of work involved to make it even slightly livable, so our offer was accepted. We like to say we were young and dumb and didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.
We love being outside — hiking, biking, kayaking and skiing. So when we were remodeling and designing the house, it made a lot of sense to try and figure out how to merge our living spaces with the outdoors as much as possible.
We have these huge sliding doors that open to the back deck and we have those open all summer long. We put in as many large windows and glass doors as we could to let natural light in and see trees from all the windows. And we have lots of plants. That’s something you can do anywhere —- buy some big potted plants (good for your spirit and your home’s air quality).
A few summers ago we (meaning my husband and my dad) built a treehouse which is now one of our favorite places on our property. The kids have sleepovers in it. I go up there and practice yoga or use it as a quiet place to work or write (as my home office is right off the kitchen and in the center of all of the activity). This summer we added a zipline from the treehouse across the pond and finished off a bike track around the property.
We really wanted to create a home that encouraged outside play and adventure. (You won’t find an Xbox or video game console here). And most of all, we wanted to create a bright and happy home where the kids (and their friends) always feel like they can come home to — and hopefully someday grandchildren as well!
Our kitchen is the heart of our home and we try to have family dinners several times a week. This has gotten more challenging as the kids’ practices and rehearsals go later, but we do schedule several throughout the week. I’m a big fan of meal planning and we use our crockpot all the time.
I remember when we were interviewing architects, they all (except for the one we hired) told us it would be far easier and less expensive to tear down the stone cottage and start from scratch. But we had put so much love, sweat and tears into making it a little home for our family of three at the time, that we just couldn’t bear to tear it down.
So it took a huge machine and an insane crew to drill thru the river rock siding in two places to tie together the old part and the new. We lived in it while we were adding on to it which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but we did it to save money. It wasn’t one of our easiest years by any stretch.
We love living in the country for the space, privacy and quiet (we live about 20 minutes north of our town, but half way between town and the ski area which is pretty perfect). As the kids have gotten busier with activities and social obligations we spend a lot of time in our car driving them back and forth to practices, rehearsals and friends’ houses.
Sometimes we joke that we should sell the house and move into a condo in town (less to take care of, the kids could walk to school, we could bike to the farmers market), but this is really the place we see ourselves growing old in.
We have had two major wildfires on both sides of us (the first one the summer we purchased the property in 2002, and then last summer another large fire broke out about ½ mile north of us). Every spring we do more and more fire mitigation and add additional defensible space around the property. Preparing to evacuate for wildfires makes you realize how little you really need and how little you can take with you in the event of an emergency — your family and pets, your photo albums, some clothes and that’s it.
We used natural and reclaimed materials in as much of the remodeling and construction as we could. Our wood stairs are reclaimed beams from an old warehouse that was torn down, and the rock fireplace is actual river rock from our property, as is all of the river rock siding on the house exterior. We have concrete floors so our kids can scooter around inside and out. Our next project is saving up for solar panels.
We obviously aren’t interior designers and never hired one so I’d say it came together really organically. We say we have a low key southwest/mountain vibe when building and decorating our house.
We have such an eclectic (aka random) mix of antiques, homemade items, and Ikea furniture, but I do have a few favorites, like our dining room table. It was made by an older man who used reclaimed Swedish barnwood (it was our first big home purchase together).
I think one of the things I get asked about the most is our big Gather sign in our dining room which we got from Sundance Catalog. We also collect shot glasses from all of the places we visit. We had the racks custom to display them made by a shop on Etsy.
The antique hoosier cabinet my parents gave us is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in the house. My mom bought it when I was little (she fell in love with it at a garage sale of an older couple one day and I vividly remember her coming home and telling my dad that she needed to borrow him and the truck to go pick up something that she couldn’t live without and could barely afford).
It was my mom’s baking cabinet when I was growing up and I love all of her and the previous owners notes in it. We turned it into a bar of sorts.
The sink in our powder room sits on top of an antique butcher block from an old restaurant in my hometown in Upstate New York.
I think my favorite season here is summer — that’s when we really maximize our outside time. We eat outside and hang out by the pond or creek a lot. Fall is beautiful here and the hope that the spring blossoms bring after the winter is always welcome (at least in my book).
My husband, who grew up in the Colorado mountains and loves skiing and snowboarding (our kids love to ski too), would probably say that winter is his favorite. But other than Christmas time I could do without the snow. In fact, if I could do a house exchange with a family in Hawaii for a month or two each winter I’d go for it in a heartbeat.
I hope my kids have fond memories of their childhood — of our home, of our immense love for them, of our family adventures, of our kitchen dance parties and the garage shipping antics. I hope they forget the times I was tired or impatient and the crazy periods of business growth where we were working so much. I hope they are inspired by our entrepreneurial journey and I hope we’ve imparted on them that you can be great, present parents, have a wonderful relationship with your spouse or partner and have a successful business.
I pray that our hard work ethic continues to rub off on them and that they use their gifts and blessings to help others. And most of all, I pray for them to be brave and go after their dreams.
Their laughter and joy is my favorite. I feel like we have achieved our number one goal of raising kind, funny children. They make us laugh all the time. I will miss their sweet little faces once they leave the nest. I actually can’t even write about it without tears coming to my eyes. I always joke with them that they can just stay here forever and take over the family business. That’s generally met with eye-rolls.
Our daughter has big Broadway aspirations and our son wants to either be a professional golfer or own a tire store. ;) So we continue to give them wings, experiences, and love so they can fly the coop someday. I just hope this is a home that they want to return to.
Our business coach once encouraged us to think about what kind of relationship we want to have with our children once they are adults and to cultivate that love, harmony, respect and trust each and every day when they are younger. I love that advice.
I wish I had listened when everyone told me how fast it goes by, how quickly the children grow up. It truly does and I just hope that I was present enough and that I slowed down enough to really savor them, and that I will have taught and encouraged them enough to go out into the world and follow their dreams.
Thank you, Jenny! One of the things that I love about this series is how sometimes the small decisions in life turn into the biggest turning points — seeing a space go up for sale on a bike ride, starting a small side hustle that turns into your livelihood. It’s really wonderful to see how life makes little twists and turns that can turn into great things if you are willing to sort of go with the flow and change plans midstream.
And I’m super jealous of the amazing outdoor living space Jenny and her family have cultivated. The pond, the treehouse, the zip line; it definitely seems like an amazing place to raise a family. And what a great way to encourage your kids (and yourself!) to spend more time outside and less time in front of a screen.
How do you motivate you and your family to spend more time outside? Do you have great outdoor spaces nearby? Or are you in a more urban area where nature might be trickier to come by? What is your favorite way to spend time outside?