The inspiration for her writing comes from moments in her daily life. The inspiration for what she spends much her time doing is born of her love of animals.
Texas County resident Jennifer Bressner writes a column called, “You’re laughing with me, right?” that has appeared in several area print publications. The content of Bressner’s pieces is usually laced with off-the-wall humor, witty observations and amusing anecdotes regarding the ups and downs in life.
“I like making people laugh and I try to include something uplifting or meaningful in my column,” she said. “It’s not always easy, because life! But even if I don’t have a happy or funny story, I hope people can relate to whatever struggle I’m going through.”
On her property in the northwest section of the county near Evening Shade, Bressner, 36, cares for many animals, most of which were either unwanted or were “rescued” from various undesirable or unsavory situations.
By many, we’re talking the higher end of whatever that word represents. On the “sprawling” four-acre spread she shares with her husband, Virgal, 38, and their three daughters (ages 14, 9 and 6), there are (in alphabetical order) cats, chickens, dogs, ducks, geese, goats, guineas, horses, parrots, pigs, rabbits and a turkey. The motley grouping gets along (as Forrest Gump said) like peas and carrots.
Bressner affectionately calls the property the Misfits Mini Ranch and Rescue. There’s a sign on the driveway designating it as Pygmy Goat Drive.
“I have always found a kinship with animals,” Bressner said. “All they ask for from us is love – and food and shelter and petting and cleaning up and lots of other things – but mostly just love. I find comfort in comforting them, which is why I generally take in ones who are sick or ‘need’ me.
“I also feel that there is no better way to teach children compassion and responsibility than in caring for animals.”
Virgal is an E7, has been deployed to Iraq twice and Korea three times, and currently teaches at the military police school at Fort Leonard Wood. Jenn is also former military, and was working as a mental health specialist at a military prison in Korea when she and Virgal met.
“Yep, we met in prison,” she said.
Military life later took the couple to Alaska and Hawaii, and it was on the island of Oahu that Bressner’s path down animal lane became clear.
“We wanted a puppy,” she said, “and we went to a rescue out in Waianae – the ‘other side of the island.’ We got a dog, and I started volunteering. It was just this guy with about 200 dogs in his backyard, with no government funding or anything.
“He had good intentions, but he couldn’t take care of them all.”
Bressner has since volunteered at several rescue operations and has taken in animals of many kinds that might not otherwise have been given a chance. She likes taking her kid-friendly animals to various events and functions, and she has even been known to dress them up (humanstyle) for special occasions. Many have whimsical names, like Brian the Biter (a goat), Daisy (a pot-bellied pig), Noodle (a goose) and John Travolta (a Muscovy duck). Noodle is a member of a group of five large geese that go by the collective name, The Gangster Geese.
“They’re always together, and it’s like you can hear them snapping their fingers when they walk toward you,” Bressner said.
TODAY’S EXPERIENCE, TOMORROW’S COLUMN
Writing on a consistent basis can even be traced to Bressner’s background as an animal lover. She met the editor of the Waynesville Guide through the animal rescue realm, and the rest fell into place.
“She asked me if I would write a blog,” Bressner said. “I thought I was just going into their online paper, but she put me in print, too. I was pretty flattered.”
Simply going about her routine gives Bressner plenty of material to write about, and numerous examples can be found on her website (of the same name as her column).
“I don’t have any parameters or assignments, so it’s usually what happens during my week,” she said. “Sometimes I just pull something out of my, um, pocket.”
Subjects Bressner has written about include everything from stifling summer heat to her “horrific pinky injury.” Last January, she made a trip to the Houston Walmart and was touched by a conversation she had with store associate Charlene Goslee, who had lost a son the previous year.
A story about that story appeared in the Houston Herald and was wildly popular on the Herald’s website (it’s currently No. 2 on the most-read story list for 2016 and is the only one in the top 10 with no connection to law enforcement).
“What a loveable lady,” Bressner said. “Every time I go to Walmart I get a hug and the most sincere look from her that I nearly well up with tears every time.”
FEELS LIKE HOME
After growing up in Montana and later living many different states (including California, Texas and both outside the Lower 48) and one foreign country, Bressner has seen several versions of life as an American. Nonetheless, that varied perspective that has led her to be a big fan of Texas County and she and Virgal plan to stay when he retires in a few years.
Virgal is learning gunsmithing and is already an accomplished knifemaker, while Jenn intends to return to school in an as yet undetermined capacity and perhaps find a format to fit her writing into book form.
“I don’t know yet what I want to be when I grow up,” she said.
Bressner’s mother has even purchased a home five miles from hers, and will move here in a couple of years when she retires from teaching in southern California.
“I just love this place and the people here,” Bressner said. “It’s such a great place to raise a family and people seem to genuinely care about each other. That’s something you just don’t find in a lot of places.”
When relating to her writing and life in general, Bressner likes using some familiar words from the 1975 Pink Floyd classic, “Wish You Were Here.”
“I always tell my teenager, ‘we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl,'” she said. “That’s one of my favorite lyrics, because it really tells the story of life for me. We’re all just thrown into it and doing our best.
“So I hope that my column – however insignificant in the big, grand scheme of things – touches people on some level and reminds them that we’re all just human beings. And to be nice to each other.”
LAUGH WITH JENN
To read dozens of examples of Texas County writer Jennifer Bressner’s humorous work, log onto her website, www.yourelaughingwithmeright.com.