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Meet Jennifer Tanner [Staff Spotlight]

Where are you from?

Plano, Texas (just north of Dallas)

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I start my mornings in the kitchen, making breakfast for the family (when Stacey is off, otherwise just me and Abe) and prepping ingredients for dinner later that day. I style each plate and photograph them for my Instagram and the cookbook that I’m in the process of writing. Then Abe and I head across the street to our neighbor’s house, where we have been helping her build/maintain an organic vegetable garden. She has stage 4 cancer and does organic vegetable juicing as part of her treatment, but organic produce is expensive, so this garden is a way to ensure that she has plenty of fresh, quality ingredients for her juices. (It also benefits us because it’s an amazing learning experience for Abe. Nothing connects us to our food more than growing it ourselves!) We water, pull weeds, harvest, do the occasional odd job, etc. Then we either head back home to take care of housework or out to run errands. I try to squeeze a class at Mission in there whenever possible. I find that I feel better (though definitely sore! 😂) on days that I attend a class. My mood is improved, as well as my quality of sleep later that night. On nice days, we might stop at the park for some fresh air and sunshine. On rainy days, we often hit up the Exploreum or GulfQuest for a bit. Then we’ll come home so that Abe can catch a nap. While he naps, I usually write/edit recipes or call to check on my parents back in TX. Or (let’s be honest here) sit and stare at the wall, zoning out completely because parenting a “spirited” (read: savage) 3 year old baby-beast can be soul-suckingly hard sometimes. Then he wakes up, and we get back into the kitchen. It’s really important to me that Abe learns to cook. It is unfortunately becoming a lost art form, as the rise in delivery apps makes takeout faster and easier than ever. Fortunately, he is a natural foodie and enjoys our kitchen time as much as I do. I end my days relaxing at home with my family, either watching a movie, reading, playing board games, or putting on some tunes and having a dance party (Abe’s favorite).

How would friends and acquaintances describe you?

Awkward, geeky, funny, sarcastic. Basically a huge nerd. Loyal. Self-deprecating. A bleeding heart liberal. Gay AF. Devoted wife and mommy. Always cooking.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Becoming a mother. It took a LOT of work, determination, and heartache for us to become mothers. We tried (using an anonymous donor from a reputable sperm bank) for years without success. Years of ultrasounds, ovulation tests, fertility treatments, failed attempts, dashed hopes. Not to mention the cost! Then we finally had our first positive pregnancy test (we were over the moon!!) only to have it end up in a miscarriage several weeks later. It was devastating, and we almost decided to give up, unsure we could handle that kind of heartbreak again. But then we found something called a Known Donor Registry, a social networking site connecting women with sperm donors who are willing to be known rather than anonymous, and through it we met a really amazing couple who had 3 kids of their own and loved being parents so much that they just wanted to help a struggling couple have that experience. With their help, we conceived again, and Abe joined our family in 2016. Stacey legally adopted him shortly after. We still keep in touch with our donor and his family, and we consider them very dear friends. Words cannot express how grateful we are to them.

What would you do differently if you had a chance?

I would have “come out” a lot earlier in life. I knew that I was different at age 8. I realized that there was a word for that difference when I was in like 6th or 7th grade. I had crushes on girls instead of boys and was baffled by my friends’ infatuations with members of the opposite sex. Because I was raised in a very conservative home (where I grew up hearing slurs about gay people) and went to a Catholic school (where we were taught that being gay is a sin), I learned to hide this about myself at a very young age. I had a couple of serious boyfriends in high school and college and pretended to be straight until I was in my mid 20’s, when I finally found the courage to just be myself. If I had been honest with myself and others much earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have had to deal with quite as much guilt or self-loathing throughout those formative years. Maybe I would have found others like myself and had a support system instead of always feeling alone. Not to mention the confusion and frustration I would have spared my poor boyfriends! 😂🤦🏻‍♀️

Do you have any hidden talents?

I crochet pretty well. And I can name every preposition in the English language in alphabetical order.

What is your favorite thing about Mobile?

The trees! Those huge old oaks that create the most awe-inspiring canopies over the streets, especially here in Midtown. I find myself missing them anytime I’m away from Mobile. Also, for a city situated in the “Deep South,” Mobile is surprisingly diverse and has a solid LBGTQ community. It is really unexpected and heart-warming to step into a coffeehouse or restaurant or store and spy a rainbow flag or sticker and know with certainty that, should I choose to hold my wife’s hand or kiss her, we wouldn’t be denied service or asked to leave.

What is your favorite class at Mission Fitness and why?

I am in love with the WaterRowers! So CoreRow is probably my favorite, although Pilates+ was the first class I tried, and there is still nothing quite like it. For me, it is the epitome of challenging, and even though it is normal for me to want to die during (and the day after) that class, it gives me such an exhilarating rush of pride when I somehow survive it each time. So I keep going back for more. CoreReform is also really fun, and I have been meaning to go to that class more often. Especially as I work my way up to trying RRR again (which by the way apparently doesn’t stand for Row+Reform+Regret 🤷🏻‍♀️)

What motivates you to stay consistent with your workouts?

Cake. Cheese. Butter. Did I mention cake? Seriously though, I have had heart problems my whole life. I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, which is a rare condition where 4 different defects are present in the heart. I have had multiple open heart surgeries to correct it (the most recent one was right before I got pregnant with Abe) and am going to need another pulmonary valve replacement in the next 5-10 years. So because my heart doesn’t work quite as efficiently as most people’s, it’s especially important that I exercise to keep it healthy and strong.

What do you like to do when you’re not working out at Mission?

Cook!!! I also love to read. And spend time with my wife and kid.

Any tips for current or potential members?

For potential members: The idea of group fitness classes can seem incredibly intimidating. Trust me, I know. I am not graceful. I am not coordinated. I am not even remotely athletic. I am the red-faced person in the corner, panting and wheezing in a growing puddle of tears and sweat. But everyone at Mission is so freaking nice. Like the genuine kind of nice where you know they really are glad you’re there and aren’t judging you at all. The instructors are awesome, and the classes are addictively fun. Just suck it up and go. You will be SO happy that you did. Seriously.



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