That Smell

woman in bed
By Gina Easley www.GinaEasley.com

By Jennifer James

It happens everywhere, in all kinds of situations; I’ll walk up to someone and smell That Smell. The last time it happened to me was the first day of Advent when all the families with young children gathered in our church parish hall to construct Advent wreaths. The smell wasn’t the first thing I noticed. In fact, when I first arrived with my husband and three children, the room smelled of old wood, fresh coffee, and evergreen boughs: genuine magic in the air. The Christmas tree stood in the corner, waiting for its bright lights and colorful ornaments. There were already some jars of peanut butter and Campbell’s soup under the tree for the food pantry. For me, it was the best of the Christmas season.

Then one of my favorite peeps at church, this young, amazing mom, with two little kids, came up and gave me a hug. I smelled the smell. You know it too, and it’s not armpit odor, or old urine, or greasy hair. It’s the smell of human skin trying to metabolize, to slough off, the stench of alcohol. You also probably know that this smell is not emitted (generally speaking) by some emotionally stable person who spent the previous evening nursing a tepid glass of merlot. Nope. This is the smell of poison, the result of one person consuming too much alcohol for his or her body to take. I know about this smell. I used to smell that way, too.

The first time I noticed my own skin generating alcoholic stench was one sunny December morning when I was teaching preschool. My husband’s company Christmas party had taken place the night before and there was lots of wine and beer. Lots of wine for me. Then, lots of chit chat. Chit-chat with my table mates about abortion. My Catholic tablemates. Whoops. Any grace I’d come to the table with had gone down with the third or fourth glass of wine. The next morning, I woke up nauseated and ashamed. This was a significant occasion for me, this one morning.

It would be very nice if I could tell you that I knew I’d been drinking too much, that I needed to stop or cut down. But no. I realized that I needed to do a much better job of hiding my relationship with alcohol. Otherwise, the jig would be up. And I was nowhere near ready to surrender my favorite thing, so no more drinking excessively in public.

There is a book called Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Not surprisingly, she likens her relationship with alcohol to one with a lover. I like the analogy because, like it or not, most of us have loved someone who or something that is bad for us. Sometimes the loved one is a parent, a lover, a boss, a friend. Sometimes a job or food. But no matter how disastrous the relationship is, there’s always a moment, an episode, an element of deep, searing satisfaction to the whole mess. In an abusive relationship, it might be the part when the abuser begs for forgiveness, swears that his victim is kind and generous beyond belief, that he might cease to exist without her. Shit, that’s heady stuff: who among us doesn’t want to hear that? If only the truth in those promises lasted more than an instant. And eventually, alcohol does something cruel to its lovers: it tries to kill us.

For years, I hated alcohol. My mother was an alcoholic. She was one of the kindest, bravest, most loving people I’ve known, but her relationship with alcohol sucked away a lot of that. She was quietly depressed her whole adult life, so far as I could see. She was never violent or cruel, not short tempered or really angry. She was just irreparably sad and the alcohol made it very hard to hide that. I didn’t want that for myself.

Because I was afraid of becoming as sad as my mom, I didn’t use alcohol in many of the glorious ways that so many miserable adolescents do. I didn’t use it to fit in or to grease social skids. I didn’t use it to feel more confident or brave. Nope. I went through high school as a bona fide misfit. I was pudgy (and this is before the so-called obesity epidemic hit America) and as a child, had been raised in a series of small, international communities. It was no big deal for me to have one classmate who spoke three words of English and another who was fluent in three languages. So when my family returned to the U.S. for good when I was fifteen, I had no idea how to navigate The American High School. When most of my peers were exploring chemical solutions to adolescent angst, I didn’t touch the stuff. In retrospect, this may have been a tactical error: I desperately needed some social lubrication.

Probably, these years of social pariahism helped make my introduction to alcohol so dramatic. Alcoholism is tricky business from a scientific point of view. The current thinking seems to be that some alcoholics are alcoholic from their first sip of alcohol, that their first drink was like a first kiss or something, that the compulsion to drink came with the first rush. Then, there are others who drink themselves into addiction: the folks who start by drinking “a couple“ of drinks a night, and gradually work into “a few” drinks a night, and then somehow start using it to make it through the day as some people use Diet Dr. Pepper or Starbucks. Some people are lucky enough to get some nifty little psychological tic (sometimes not until their thirties or forties) and find that deep breathing and Zoloft are not nearly as effective as a well-timed glass (or tumbler or stadium cup) of Chardonnay. I’ve known people with all these backgrounds. In a way, I am a person with all these backgrounds.

I had a proclivity to anxiety and panic attacks from the start (my psychological tic), started consuming a few drinks about mid-way through college, with little effect. I was waiting for a magical transformation to transpire from the elixir smuggled into dorm fridges via grungy backpacks, and when it didn’t happen, I lost interest. That was probably the point in my drinking experience when I could have stopped. I was well ensconced in the life of a social misfit in college, just as I had been in high school, and I could have muddled through the social challenges unaided by alcohol if I’d been truly aware of how my genetics and experience made me such a likely candidate for alcoholism.

That was the time when I could have stopped. That doesn’t mean I would have. And I remember the night I started drinking with purpose, with an understanding that an alchemy occurred when enough beer was consumed. Some friends from high school had gotten together at someone’s house, the parents conveniently out of town, and rum, beer, god-knows-what beverages running freely. I got drunk. Like, crawling up the stairs, stumbling into things, drunk. And while the hangover hurt like childbirth, I had found some magic in that night: for just a little bit of time, I felt normal. I felt good, even. Pretty, funny, accomplished. Ha.

Alcohol was my first love. It was like a secret passport, giving me license to be a person I never knew I could be. Add beer and I wasn’t afraid of anything. Because I started this chapter of my life in college, I could look to the right and to the left, and always find someone who was drunker than I was. It never occurred to me that I might have a drinking problem: I was having a good time! It wasn’t like I was a diligent student before I discovered alcohol, and drinking didn’t make my schoolwork much worse than it had been previously.

Despite the hangovers and ill-advised hook-ups, I survived college intact. I collected a degree and a boyfriend. The boyfriend, Ed, was an anomaly. Ed was handsome, kind, wise, and funny. He was nice to me. He drank beer right along with me, but I didn’t have to be drunk to be with him. God bless him, he married me. And besides alcohol, Ed was the only thing I’d ever found in my life that made me feel whole.

Shortly after college, my husband and I were struggling professionally and financially, and I was having trouble finding work. I spent a lot of lonely days in our crappy little apartment feeling sorry for myself and watching whatever VHS tapes were available for loan at the local library (my Blockbuster habit was breaking us). I noticed that a beer (or three) around four in the afternoon helped to make the evening more pleasant. And again, alcohol became the only way I knew to feel okay again.

But even alcohol and a kind husband weren’t enough to fix everything that was broken in me. I was a hot mess. By my mid-twenties, I was overcome with weird, irrational fears, and some whiney-flavored depression. I was working at the preschool with young children, whom I loved. I didn’t always love the adults who came with them, however, and frankly, young children in groups bigger than—well, two, being generous—makes me a little panicky. So, I would come home from work at about four and drink a bottle of wine. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

In the meantime, I was having gruesome nightmares involving faceless vampire-like beings and dead people who inexplicably opened their eyes. I was convinced that I would die very soon. It would be cancer or AIDS that did me in, and I was too petrified to even contemplate going to a doctor to confirm or disprove my insanity. As a result, I would require my poor husband to examine my lumps and bumps and to tell me I wasn’t dying, really. You can imagine that Ed had his hands full. But somehow he managed not to drink a bottle of wine every night. It was a mystery.

Eventually, after one particularly grueling night of drinking and weeping (I had just watched a chick flick about a young woman who died of cancer: surely, I was next), I called a counselor. God bless Eleanor, she talked to me and my inner child, and we all talked about my mom and I actually got better, kind of. Every good alcoholic knows to lie about their alcohol intake unless they’re itching for an intervention, so I never told Eleanor how much I drank. I started taking Prozac and it helped my brain even out some. I wasn’t so worried about dying all the time, and got down to the business of living. I still had wine as an ally, but I was trying to control my drinking now. Only weekends and such.

For me, it wasn’t long before the weekends seeped into Wednesdays and Mondays and who could really blame me for a glass of wine on Tuesday night? A couple of years passed. I left teaching and tried another couple of gigs: travel agent, legal secretary. I settled in as a receptionist at my local veterinary clinic, feeling sorry for myself for my lack of ambition.

By the time I was miserable enough to quit drinking, I was not missing days of work, only occasionally driving drunk, and not closing down the bars. I’d never had a drink in the morning. I’d never cheated on my husband. My life was simply, quietly, a mess. Because alcohol had become the most important part of my life. I loved my husband but only wanted to spend the day with him if the day included alcohol. I loved my newborn nephew but resented the idea of caring for him over a weekend’s time because I knew I’d have to stay relatively sober for the duration.

So I quit. After much consternation and many false starts, some meetings in church basements and coffee shops were involved. Reluctantly, I acknowledged that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own. I went to meetings because I was more afraid not to. I didn’t find them as comforting as many people do, but at least I was in the company of other people who understood what it was like to love a drink more than anything or anyone else in the world. Eighteen years later, I still don’t drink and still go to meetings.

In my experience (and only mine), the twelve-step programs are kind of like church: you can find a fundamentalist church if that’s what floats your boat. If you’re more of a universalist who doesn’t dig creeds or rituals, you can probably find a worship service to accommodate those preferences. As alcoholics go, I’m more of a universalist. I couldn’t have maintained my sobriety or sanity without good therapy and a lifelong relationship with antidepressants. I don’t like it when people make a list of rules that I have to follow if I want to live. That doesn’t feel like hope to me—more like a threat. Still, those famous twelve guidelines and the people who brought them to me were a part of my salvation because they promoted humility, honesty, and kindness. There aren’t many places you can find those attributes in this life.

I stopped drinking because one morning I understood that I couldn’t have a full life if I kept drinking. One of my friends from work had come to visit me the night before. She was a much more advanced drunk than I was. At least that’s what I told myself. We sat around and drank and drank until we could barely stand. We felt sorry for ourselves together. We watched soap operas and god knows what else. When my husband came home from work that night, I am quite sure that he felt that sickness in his chest that all people who live with alcoholics feel when they open the door and find a stranger inhabiting the body of their loved one. My friend and I slurred our greetings to him, giddy with our chemical wisdom and angst, and then my friend got in her car and drove home. Yep. Just like that.

And when I woke up that next morning, it was with That Smell emanating from my pores. That same smell I get when I hug a person in the parish hall at church, when a bank representative leans in to show me where to sign. I know that the person across from me is suffering, not just from processing toxins through their pores but from trading away little bits of their soul, one glass at a time. There are a lot of us out there. You can tell us by the way our eyes light up when someone pours a drink. The way we joke about needing a drink. All the time.

All of us stop drinking at some point. It’s just that for some people, that point is death. When people “die” from alcoholism, it’s often not from cirrhosis or an automobile accident. It can be a fall. Or a fight. It can be a quiet, chemical whisper telling you, “one more pill won’t hurt.” After alcoholism seduces its victims with easy laughter and imaginary confidence, it sets out to spread darkness, like a nasty cancer. You’ll know the darkness when you choose a glass of wine over your child’s cry or a blurred drive home over your personal, legal, and moral safety.

So when I smell That Smell on someone else, I want to hug them. I hope they’ll drink a lot of water and get a nap later in the day. I want them to know that they are not alone, that other people have woken with that same crust on their souls.

For me, kindness made all the difference. I had to understand that I was suffering from a physical, moral, and spiritual disease, and that I had to find a way to live as it was, not as I wished it was. And damn it, life can be a mess sometimes. It can be magical, uncomfortable, frightening, tender, tedious, and exhilarating—sometimes simultaneously—and none of it is in your control. Still, there is a certain freedom in accepting this chaos and in walking through the messiness with your spirit intact.

Weirdly, I found myself enjoying being a sober person. I found that it was okay to be wickedly uncomfortable at social settings, that I didn’t have to punctuate every event, good, bad, or boring, with a drink. Sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life.  But I don’t wake up poisoned anymore, with That Smell on my skin, or in my heart, for that matter.  And that is a reason to celebrate every new morning, whatever the day ahead might hold.

•••

JENNIFER JAMES lives with her husband and three children in rural Virginia. After graduating from William and Mary in 1989, Jennifer moved to Gloucester County, where she found work as a teacher’s assistant and veterinary receptionist until 2000, when her first child was born. After an approximate decade of diapers and interrupted sleep patterns, Jennifer started writing with purpose in 2010 and has been at it since. This is her second essay for Full Grown People. A good story is her favorite thing.

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Under the Bed and Dreaming at Hillside House

reader
By Gina Kelly www.ginakelly.com

By Jennifer James

About thirteen years ago, my husband’s grandmother, Miss Elizabeth, was moved to an assisted care facility. Initially, it seemed surprisingly nifty. There were big screen televisions, prepared meals, and lots of friendly staff members. Except for the occasional funky smell and confused outburst, it felt a lot like a geriatric college dormitory setting. This was a happy surprise—I had anticipated grungy green walls, stained linoleum floors, and rows of abandoned bodies anchored to wheelchairs. Instead, I walked into an open, airy atrium, decorated with large, luxurious Boston ferns and a spacious bird cage, home to a few brightly colored finches. Two cheerful ladies sporting tight perms and meticulously coordinated track suits greeted me as I stopped to look more closely at the finches. I was not crippled by sadness, walking into this place: a genuine blessing under the circumstances.

All kinds of folks landed at Hillside House, as I’ll call the facility. Elizabeth had been diagnosed with some nasty “female” (it was, in fact, uterine) cancer six months earlier. She had most likely been ill for some time before the cancer had been detected, but she had ignored some symptoms, assisted by well-intentioned physicians along the way. By the time her illness was acknowledged and diagnosed, it was statistically unlikely that Elizabeth would recover. Her treatment plan was labeled “palliative,” designed to give maximum comfort and healing without subjecting her to rigorous procedures and quasi-lethal medications. Reluctantly, the family agreed that she could no longer live independently and Hillside House seemed the least-terrible option available. Which didn’t make it any less terrible for Elizabeth.

•••

When I first met Elizabeth, she was in her late fifties and I was engaged to her grandson, Ed. Ed and I had met in college, fallen quickly and completely in love, and caused our parents all kinds of consternation as a result. Especially Ed’s parents. My parents were divorced and disorganized and fairly unconcerned with societal expectations and judgments. Sure, they hoped Ed was not secretly a serial killer with a collection of severed Barbie doll heads under his bed, but he seemed respectable enough, with his gentle Southern accent and aspirations to become a high school English teacher. On the scale of crazy in our family, he was hardly a blip on the screen.

Ed had grown up in a small, rural community, where your life was fodder for community review sessions, courtesy of your friends, neighbors, and your very own  respectable family members. What they knew was this: I had not been raised in Virginia, my (ahem…divorced) parents were both Yankees, and I had been baptized in the Catholic (aka “Papist”) church. I could have come with more familiar credentials, and certainly, a more civilized bloodline.

Still, Ed seemed to like me fine, and that was good enough for Elizabeth: she fed me right along with the rest of the family. Ed grew up three miles down the road from his grandparents and spent many happy days eating freshly fried chicken and as many ice cream sandwiches as he could manage at their kitchen table. Elizabeth didn’t talk about how she felt, or how you felt, or what was wrong with the world today; she was busy putting more potatoes on your plate and checking to see if you needed more chicken. She was a pragmatist, by necessity—dreamers in her time didn’t have a great survival rate. After all, there was too much work to do: there were parents, and grandparents, and if you were very, very lucky, children, to care for. Elizabeth did what was expected of her: she tucked her own dreams away and nurtured those of her children.

And Elizabeth loved children. She taught them handwriting and prayers and how to slaughter a chicken neatly. She fried piles and piles of salt fish and potatoes at four-thirty a.m. on winter mornings so “the boys” (she’d had two, three counting her husband) would have a good breakfast before they set out hunting. Both of her sons married spirited women who may have wanted their husbands home on chilly winter mornings, and as the years passed, Elizabeth found herself preparing fewer and fewer early-morning fish feasts.

When I came to the family, Elizabeth and I developed a heartfelt, if timid, affection for one another. We didn’t really speak one another’s language, but eventually I learned to shift my conversation to weather predictions and local news, and she learned that I was not judging her on the tenderness of her chicken or the tartness of her fig preserves. We became allies in the muddy world of multi-generational family allegiances, and by the time Elizabeth became a resident of Hillside House, she was much more like my own grandmother than any kind of in-law.

About three months before Elizabeth got sick enough for anyone to notice, I learned I was pregnant with my first child. This was a considerable relief to everyone involved. Initially, our families feared that our lickety-split trip to the altar indicated that a “six month” baby was on the way. After a year, there was no baby. Several years passed, in fact, with no baby, and family members began to wonder whether we were incapable of reproducing or just too selfish. Ed and I kind of wondered ourselves, so when we learned a wee one was on the way, we leaned into the future with happy resignation and notified our parents and grandparents accordingly. The ensuing excitement was tinged with achy sorrow as Elizabeth’s illness unfolded parallel to my pregnancy.

•••

So there we were: Elizabeth, wondering how she’d ended up in this silly establishment full of old people and food without nearly enough seasoning, and me, wondering kind of the same thing.

One afternoon, as we sat in a sunny spot on the back terrace, a tiny, hunched-over woman who I’ll call Miss Emily shuffled by. As she went back in, she threw us an accusing look, as if we’d just pelted her car with raw eggs or something like that.

“What’s wrong with her?” I asked. “Are we sitting at her table?”

Elizabeth snorted, coughing a little in the process. “Aw, don’t worry about her. She’s always on a tear.”

“Why?”

“I don’t rightly know, honey. She won’t talk to anybody. She just rushes around here like somebody’s after her.” Elizabeth sipped her chamomile tea. “It sure is aggravating, I’ll tell you that.”

I saw her point.

•••

A few weeks later, Hillside House had become much more familiar to me. It felt less like a college dormitory, and more like the set for an episode of The Twilight Zone. At first, everything had seemed pretty normal. Which I guess it was, since aging and death are normal realities. Still, it’s outside the norm to find a whole building purposed for housing folks in this chapter of life, and there was a certain sensibility that colored the residents and their visitors accordingly.

For example, we’d gotten used to a woman I’ll call Miss Agnes, who sat on the loveseat in the corner, singing, “I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready for my ice cream.” Sometimes she got a little pissed and sang louder, in a growly tenor: “I’m READY. READY. READY FOR ICE CREAM.” And so on. The nursing assistants spoke to Miss Agnes gently, and would sometimes guide her to the next activity or simply let her chant the day away, dreaming of ice cream.

One afternoon, Miss Emily skittered by the periphery of the room we were sitting in, and I asked Elizabeth if she had heard anything that might account for Miss Emily’s strange behavior

“Oh, honey,” Elizabeth sighed. “Miss Emily is nuttier than one of Grandma Sutton’s date bars.” That much I knew.

This was her story:

Miss Emily was a book thief. Since her first day at Hillside House, she’d been collecting printed materials. She started with a stash of brochures at the front desk and soon moved on to the large print Reader’s Digest magazines. Because she only took a few at a time, nobody noticed at first. God knows, no one ever saw the woman sitting, much less settled in with a good book. Two or three weeks into her residency, however, Miss Emily’s secret was uncovered. The staff tried to keep the old lady relatively happy, while quietly culling her print collection from time to time.

I was impressed. I wasn’t sure I’d be innovative enough to snatch reading materials like that.

Elizabeth let out a very soft harrumph and said, “Well, Jenny, I don’t know what in the world that crazy old woman is thinking. What is she going to do with all those foolish books anyway?” I said nothing in response, but thought I knew exactly what “that crazy old woman” was thinking. Exactly. And I tried not to hold it against Elizabeth.

•••

Books are not a nicety for me; they’re a necessity. Books have always been my friends. There were long periods of time in my childhood when I was surrounded by lots of unhappy adults and books and not much else. The books made excellent allies, even the duller ones. Also, since the adults involved were pretty busy being miserable, they didn’t have too much energy to squander policing my reading selections. I learned a lot about sex (a few choice scenes from Peter Benchley and Ken Follett) and frontier living (Laura Ingalls Wilder) and deeply disturbed loners (Edgar Allen Poe) at a tender age.

As I grew older, and mercifully, gained access to a broader selection of books, I glommed onto young adult fiction. At a certain point in time, I probably could have recited full chapters of Judy Blume books from memory. I loved a book called The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger. I am still moved to tears by Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light. The clueless (if loving and well-intentioned) adults in my life had very few helpful pointers for a chunky teen with poor social skills. If Judy Blume couldn’t teach me how to talk to boys, who could? Who would?

In the end, if you’re a reader, it doesn’t seem to matter so very much what you read. There is magic in seeing the world from another point of view, regardless of whose it is. And yet, there are some people who never quite get the magic. Elizabeth was one of those people. She read when obligated, but reading held no special pleasure for her. Maybe it correlates with the “no dreaming” environment she survived; her life had been shoved into external experience. Reading was an activity only the idle could afford, and she was too busy making sure that everyone was equipped with clean undies to read some trifling book. And hell, who really knows what batty Miss Emily was up to? Maybe she was just an elderly hoarder. She never said.

I like to think she read everything she took, though. Especially the Reader’s Digest. When it’s me, sitting in the determinedly cheerful atrium of Hillside House or Young at Heart, or wherever I end up in my final days, I hope I’ll have books to read, and I hope they’ll be my books, and not crappy little fliers and magazines stashed around the assisted care facility. I can see the fun in skittering around and snatching things too, though. It doesn’t matter if you call it a nursing home or an “assisted care facility” or the geezer house. What it means is, you can’t live by yourself anymore. Because you’re too old or too sick. And the next benchmark is not a new car or Hawaiian vacation. Even the crazy lady singing for ice cream had to know that. So you might as well enjoy the ice cream and read everything you can.

•••

I never did talk to Miss Emily, and Elizabeth lived for ten whole days after our baby was born. On the way home from the hospital, we stopped by Hillside House to introduce our new boy to Elizabeth. It was quite an event. Elizabeth was very sick by then, and spent her days drifting in and out of awareness.

Ed and I walked into the familiar atrium with the baby, hope and despair in equal measure bubbling around in our hearts. The old ladies gathered around to coo at the little one and to give us hugs. I was sobbing before we even got to Elizabeth’s room. The rush of raw joy and sadness coexisting made everything seem so terribly fragile.

We walked into her room. One of her sons sat beside her bed, holding her hand and quietly weeping. My husband and I sat down on the other side of the bed and she shifted her head slightly so she could see us.

“Oh, Jenny,” she said softly. “He’s just darlin’.” Then she managed a wink and a tiny chuckle. “Little boys are the best, you know.”

She was too weak to actually take the baby in her arms for long, but I put his tiny body down in the crook of her arm and he stayed like that for a minute or two. Then the spell broke and the baby cried and we had to leave.

We saw her one more time after that and the baby cried from the first moment we walked in. Finally, someone took the baby into another room, and Elizabeth took my hand.

“Jenny. Jenny, do you think I’m dying? Do you?”

In general, I like to think I’m okay being near very ill people. I think it’s because I am gifted in the finest nuances of denial and can carry on a quasi-normal conversation with the dying. I can discuss the weather, their medication, other family members, etc., etc. The problem is, I don’t want to scare the dying person. If they don’t know they’re dying, I don’t want to be the one to break the news.

I took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I think that’s between you and God, Elizabeth. I don’t know. But either way, it’ll be okay.”

Elizabeth coughed slightly and squeezed my hand. “I expect you’re right, Jenny. I expect you’re right.”

Just then, my husband walked in and reached for Elizabeth’s hand, resting his on top of mine. “Grandma, we’re going to have a little boy running around our hill again.” My chest caved in. She would never see our little boy run down the lovely, green hill that lay behind our house. It was the same hill she’d run down as a tiny girl, and that her children, and her grandchildren had called home. I thought I might smack my husband in the gut for reminding her of what would never be.

Of course, Ed was just as frightened as Elizabeth was, probably more so. And all he could imagine was how much she’d enjoy feeding another little blonde boy with an enormous appetite and smiling eyes. I think he was so happy and proud to have our little dumpling of a person to show his grandma that for a moment, he forgot that the story would go unfinished for her.

Elizabeth smiled again, the perfect grandma, wanting to comfort one of her boys one last time.

“Oh, Eddie,” she said softly. “I’ll dream of it.”

•••

JENNIFER JAMES lives with her husband and three children in rural Virginia. After graduating from William and Mary in 1989, Jennifer moved to Gloucester County, where she found work as a teacher’s assistant and veterinary receptionist until 2000, when her first child was born. After an approximate decade of diapers and interrupted sleep patterns, Jennifer started writing with purpose in 2010 and has been at it since. A good story is her favorite thing.