Jennifer – Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

December 21, 2021
Three pictures of Jennifer. One with Minnie Mouse, one with her smiling, one with her in a mask with sunflower picture in background.

One of the reasons I love being the Residential Programs Manager at Irby Ranch in Pleasanton, CA is getting to know all of the unique residents. Jennifer, who is this month’s Irby Ranch Resident Spotlight, is a great example. Jennifer lives at Irby Ranch with her young daughter and partner. She is a great advocate for living independently. “Just because we have different kinds of learning and other types of disabilities, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do what other people do,” she told me recently. “You can’t judge a book by its cover – a lot of people have disabilities but these same people are doctors, engineers, and stuff. You can’t doubt their ability to live how they want to live.”

Hear what Jennifer had to say when we interviewed her for our Sunflower Showcase event.


On Living Independently

Living at Irby Ranch is Jennifer’s first experience living independently. Prior to that, she lived with her Mom who is her biggest supporter and taught her “how to manage a house and household responsibilities.” Jennifer said that she felt confident to live independently because her Mom told her that “everything sticks with you and you manage it well.”

Selfie of Jennifer and her momJennifer lists her strengths as being caring and respectful. She appreciates what she has and doesn’t take things personally. She says she gets this last strength from her Mom. Growing up with just her Mom, Jennifer says that she absorbed a lot of her Mom’s personality. Her Mom recently made a comment to Jennifer that, “you act just like me when you talk to your daughter.”

Moving out of her Mom’s house was challenging, but rewarding. She said that when she lived with her Mom, they would “bump heads” a lot. “Moving to my own apartment has increased my appreciation for my Mom and everything she has done for me. It has strengthened and deepened our relationship (and) motivated me to be better every day,” she said. “Now, we are constantly calling (or) texting each other. I miss (my) Mom!”

Jennifer with Disney character GoofyWhen I asked Jennifer what living independently meant to her, she replied:

  • Don’t have to depend on others to start stuff, such as house tasks.
  • Can take care of my home. Don’t need validation that everything is set in place.
  • People don’t doubt you!
  • Buy all supplies for the house all on my own!

Jennifer’s tips for those who want to live independently:

  • Don’t stress!
  • When you get stuck, look and reach out to resources available to you.
  • Make friends!
  • Don’t be alone – (it can) make you feel depressed and lost.

On Living at Irby Ranch

Jennifer has been living at Irby Ranch since October 2020. Jennifer’s Regional Center Case Manager suggested that she should try living independently and recommended Irby Ranch. Jennifer and her partner were hesitant at first but “decided to give it a try.” She admitted that, “it was hard to pack everything up and hard to leave Mom. But I was kind of happy at the same time (as it was) something new!”

Jennifer's apartment door with Christmas decorationsJennifer loves being able to decorate her apartment at Irby Ranch however she wants. Her partner “doesn’t care as long as I’m happy,” she said. She loves her kitchen and that everything is easily accessible. It “feels like home!”

Jennifer’s days are busy working at a local restaurant – sometimes at two different locations. She enjoys napping (she and I have a lot in common), watching football and her favorite TV shows (General Hospital and 9-1-1), and listening to music, which helps her relax when she’s frustrated or upset. Jennifer loves Disney – Minnie Mouse is her favorite! She’s not fond of having her picture taken, but enjoyed taking pictures with the characters when she visited Disneyland for the first time a few years ago. Jennifer also enjoys cooking – her favorite dish to cook is Chilaquiles. She also likes to bake sometimes and made an M&M cake for her partner once.

Thoughts on the Pandemic

Jennifer shared that there are a few things that frustrate her with regards to living through the pandemic. She said that she’s always spraying the door with Clorox; “too much sanitizing – I’m tired of it!” While wearing a mask is challenging and sometimes “freaks me out” because of her asthma, she understands that being safe is most important.

Plans for 2022

Jennifer hopes to keep working at her job in 2022 and looks forward to “continuing to be in a great relationship” with her partner. She shared that being a Mom is her greatest accomplishment and that she is very proud of her daughter who is in kindergarten this year. Jennifer looks forward to spending more time with her in 2022. “As a Mom, I wish my daughter would stay a kid forever and not grow up.” I think many Moms feel the same way!


Inspired by this article? Donate today!


Story by: Pratimajit Kaur, Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch Residential Programs Manager
Contributing Writer: Rachel Clark, Sunflower Hill Communications Manager

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap