Jennifer Rowan

Occupation: Sales Representative, Animal Rescue Volunteer, School Volunteer
Resides: Maiden
Age: 40
Family: Husband Patrick and two sons


Where are you from?
I’m from Orange County. I was born in Newport Beach and raised in Huntington Beach. I moved from the City of Orange, which some people here have heard of because it’s the most historic city west of the Mississippi.

So what brought you here?
I had a friend, who's now passed, who introduced me to our now good friends in Newton. My husband and I knew that we were probably going to be making a move in life. We didn't know what we wanted to do. We took three weeks off to take a road trip out here, and while we were here we bought a house. This was the day my life changed. We bought that house, and we moved to North Carolina. We quit our jobs and just kind of went with it.

What was it about being here for those three weeks that inspired you to buy a house?Previously, I lived in Mooresville for six months for work, so I somewhat knew the area but my husband had not been out here. It was about the pace of life. Cost of living was a huge influence, because we could put a down payment on a house or pay for a house. In Orange County, we couldn’t do that with the cost of living there. Here, we could do what we wanted to do without having to worry about it. We knew we wanted to have kids, we knew that was our plan. We knew we could make a home here. There was so much more opportunity here.

What do you do for a living?
I’m a sales rep, and I work from home. I sell harnesses and connectors for Freightliner engines. I was in the diesel performance industry for a long time in California, and I did real estate as well.

Was it easy for you and your husband to find work here?
Absolutely. I tell everyone who visits us, "If you're not working in Catawba County, it's because you don't want to work.” That's the only reason I can think of, because there are jobs if you're willing to work. It may not be the job you want that day or for the rest of your life, but if you need to make a living and have an income, you can do it here.

You move here and get settled. You're thinking family. Tell us the story about your family.
We had been here for probably about a year, and we had talked about adoption. That was my plan even before I met my husband, but he was on board. With the way our life is structured here, we thought, we can do this. We went to Family Builders because we wanted to do a non-private adoption. That was just what we wanted. We spent probably about a year taking the classes and getting licensed to foster. Before we knew it, we had our kids.

How did you find them? Or how did they find you?
I literally got an e-mail one day. I saw an e-mail from a social worker. That was a Friday, and we had to give them a decision. That day we gave them one, and then we didn't hear from them. This is very much the process of adoption in any county. It's very fly by the seat of your pants when it happens. That following Wednesday, my husband was off work and I was off work. We went to Charlotte just to shop and hang out, and we had a phone call that they were bringing our new foster son to our house that night. We raced home. We had to go buy a bed. We had a nursery set up at home, thinking we were going to have a baby. He was seven.

It started out with fostering and then moved to adoption?
Yes, I've actually asked to volunteer with the county to share our story because the adoption system here in Catawba County is fantastic. The social workers here are amazing, and the mental health support is amazing. It's really hard for older siblings to get placed together, and there's a lot of misconceptions around adopting an older child and what that looks like. I just think there's a big need here in this area.

Walk me through the transition from fostering to adoption. You know you want to have a forever family, so how does that evolve?
This was foster only. Their plan was not adoption. A few months later, our other foster child came to live with us because it was right before school started. It took about a year and a half to get their situation resolved, and then the judge changed their plan to adoption. And of course, they didn't even need to ask us. We were already 100%.

What is life like for your family now?
Our oldest is leaving for college in August. I’m excited, but the closer it gets, I’m also getting super sad. Our youngest is going to be in sixth grade. Our life is just totally normal. That's the only way I can describe our life. Both of them are super into sports. Our youngest is into baseball, football, and basketball, so when one's ending you're registering for the next one. Especially football, which here in Maiden starts in August. It's exceptionally normal, which is what I like.

You think your life's going to be weird or strange if you adopt, but it's not. We're like any other family that has two kids. They just do life. And it's been really neat because we didn't have family out here. The family they still have contact with has really become an extended family for us. It's been a good experience.

How has the community supported you?
It’s been incredible. They've been totally supportive. No one here ever treats our kids like they were adopted or even looks at them or thinks of them any differently. People rallied around us and made sure we had everything we needed.

We understand you’re involved in volunteer work for animal rescue. What got you into that?
I did a little bit of rescue in California with dogs. When we got here, I saw there was a need. Dogs and cats don't have it great out here. The shelters are very crowded. We want to help get the dogs ready to be adopted out faster. The rescue takes them in, gets them ready, and provides medical care prior to adoption, and I help them. We do adoption events once a month. They take in owner-abandoned dogs, dogs from the shelters, dogs that have been hit by cars. We've had dogs that have been shot. I fostered one who was rehabilitating from an injury, and I ended up keeping him.

So adopting is just a part of your DNA?
I never thought about it like that. I guess it is.

You’re fostering dogs and you have dogs of your own. At any given time, how many dogs do you have in your home?
We have seven of our own. The most I've ever had is 11. Normally you do one or two fosters at a time. Most of my dogs are small. Five of mine are smaller, and then I have two others, one medium and one large. Right now, our foster's only six pounds so she's easy.

What are the rewards of being involved in animal rescue for you?
If you know dogs and if you spend time with dogs, and neuroscience backs me up on this, they do have emotions. They have feelings. They process love the way we process love. And they know it. You know when a dog finds their proper family. They know it. When our dogs leave us, they're not sad. When they get to their new home, 99.9% of the time, they take off running toward their new family. They're happy. The alternative is letting them die. That's a terrible alternative.

What are some of your favorite things about living in Maiden?
The close-knit community. The willingness of everyone to help out and get to know you. If anything happens, people just show up at your house to help you out. My husband's dad passed away and we had members of our church coming over, bringing us dinner. That's very different from the lifestyle you have in California. And, to be frank, it was something I had to get used to. In California, I lived next door to people for years and never even knew them. I was fine with that because I was just used to it. The first time someone here asked me where I lived, I was like, “Who are you and why do you want to know?" But now I know.

For me, I love the schools here. I love Maiden Elementary. The teachers are amazing here. I wish I had teachers, growing up, like the teachers here. They just invest so much personally in the kids. In fact, right now my youngest is at a camp with his first grade teacher, who we met when he first came into foster care. She's still part of our lives.

I think it's because of the small community. Everyone does know everyone. It's like having an extra support net. When you drop your kids off at school, you can't be there. They're going through things, tough emotional things, so many kids. I never worried about my son at Maiden Elementary, because I knew if he was having a rough day they'd pick up the phone and call.

I never had that. My teachers were all academic. I don't think I knew any of my teachers' first names or anything about them, and class sizes were much bigger. It was very formal. It's still very professional at Maiden, but it feels more like a family. You can tell they actually care. They're not just doing a job.

How do you feel about quality of the education your sons have received? Do you think they're getting a good education?
Yes. My dad is from India, and he emigrated here for college many moons ago. He would hate me for saying "many moons ago," but it was a long time ago. He would say that education at school is great, but it's only worth the effort that the child and the parents are willing to put into it. I don't expect them to do everything. They give students all the tools. But I support my kids to use them. That can be hard to do, especially when they get to the age where they really don't want you around. It's a little bit easier when they want you to be at school. But there's still ways you can open up conversations. Ask them about their homework. With our kids, they don't do anything until they get their homework done. We're a sports house, but it's academics first. And they have to have good grades and good conduct if they want to play sports.

Do you miss anything about California?
The food. The food. The food. The food. Do you know Fernando? Taco Boss [a food truck in Maiden]? We literally almost cried the first time we ate there because Fernando is from Mexico via California. It was our first taste of actual California-style food since I've lived here.

We miss the diversity. We travel, and we try to show our kids other ways of life. We believe that everyone lives their own life, so be it. We went to D.C. over the summer. We do museums. We go to Asheville. We talk about our cultural experiences and what we believe in and how to open up that dialogue with others.

Do you feel that living here gives you access to a lot more because of where we're situated geographically?
Yes, we say that all the time. You can drive for 13 hours in California and you'd still be in California. You drive 12 hours from here, you'll be in Maine. The access to the history of the area is great. There's a lot of things you can get to. I think Catawba County in general, vacation-wise, is fantastic because it's pretty close to Charlotte. There's no traffic.

We grocery shop sometimes in Charlotte because they opened a Sprouts, which was our grocery store back in California. We went to Lake Lure the other day just for lunch because you can. So why not, man? It was an hour stress-free drive. The airport is super convenient, too.

If you were to meet someone considering moving here, what would you tell them?
Do it, because you can carve out the life you want here. Any type of lifestyle you want, you can find it here. If you are in L.A. or New York or somewhere like that, it's shoved in your face. Here, you carve it out for yourself. And I think that's a huge plus because when you want a big city experience, you can have it. And when you don't want it, you can just be. To me this is a small town. Most of the towns in Catawba County would be considered a small town atmosphere. You can just live your life in a relaxed place. And there's no stress.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Catawba County?
We spend too much time probably shopping and going up to Hickory, and just walking around downtown. We go to the splash pad.

Here in Maiden, most of how we spend our time is sports-related. We do a lot of town activities. We have Merry Maiden downtown, which is amazing. All the stores stay open for one night. The churches come out and do free food, and everyone sings Christmas carols. It sounds so corny. It sounds like I'm describing “Funny Farm,” the movie with Chevy Chase. But it's real. We're not completely crazy. We do Christmas carols at the gazebo, and Santa Claus is in the gazebo. Everyone just gets to hang out and be a child on Christmas.

How has the town or the area changed since you moved in?
When I look at Maiden, there’s a little bit of a line between the older generation and the younger generation. I think there's value in each, and I feel like Maiden’s on the verge of a lot of change. I think Maiden's probably going to grow a lot more and expand. You know, we have Apple and GKN, so people come to visit and work from across the world. That influx is spurring a little progress, but I think part of the charm of Maiden is it holds on to some of its roots. It’s a good mix.

You’re obviously very connected here and very involved in the community. How much of that was based on who you are, and how much of that was because of Maiden?
It was 80% Maiden. If it were up to me, I'd be a hermit. In California, I was somewhat involved but nothing to the level I am here. Most of that is Maiden. The people living here want to meet new people and want to make new friends, and they want to welcome people to this community. When you have that, of course, you're going to want to be part of it. Who wouldn't want to be part of it? It's a great thing. It's like living in a movie.

The things we have here are things you really do see in movies. Piedmont Hardware? Sam, the owner, is second generation and her son Blake is third generation. They're the reason you need to shop at a local hardware store. I go there all the time. I worked on our house before we moved in and I don't have a lot of know-how, and she would get me all set up.

Penny at the antique store, she took us in on holidays. We spent our first holidays here with her. Asia, who owns the new bakery, her daughter goes to Maiden Elementary and I subbed in her class. So we're all connected. You can't be in a town this small and not make connections.

Sometimes people think a small town is more closed off, and not as welcoming, and it sounds like that's just completely the opposite here.
I think if we came here and were brash and pushed our ideology on everyone, people would probably not welcome that. Who would welcome that in any town? It's about learning the culture here and how it works with the culture where we grew up and making the two mesh together, which it does. There's plenty of open-minded people. Plenty.


Interviewed on July 5, 2018