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Center Snapshot: Jennifer Jones
Jennifer Jones. Image above: Jennifer Jones spends time every day at the gym, saying that it's the one thing she can be "selfish" about. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

She's up at 3 a.m. and out the door. Into the gym in Churchland by 3:20 for an hour of weight lifting and cardio training while the five boys are still asleep.

Tomorrow it will be an hour of cardio. She calls it a rest day.

Truthfully, there is no rest, because the workouts are relentless: seven days a week.

"It's the one thing I choose to be selfish about," said Jennifer Jones, who follows her gym session with breakfast for the boys and an early call at NASA Langley's Security section, where she answers questions about the electronic questionnaire every employee must fill out to work at the center.

"I have made physical fitness important in my life," Jones said. "I'm going to be 40 next year, and it is my intention to go into my 40s in the best shape of my life."

To do that, and to deal with the demands of five boys, she is going through something of a personal metamorphosis. Gone the spiked blond hair, extra time with makeup and shimmery dress, the marks of her on-stage presence for almost 10 years as the vocalist for Tidewater Drive, a regional band.

Gone the demands that she perform every Friday and Saturday or any other night a gig could be acquired. Gone the requirement for rehearsal every Wednesday. Gone every holiday spent entertaining. This December 31 will be her first New Year's Eve off in eight years.

Gone, though, is the limelight she relished for so long, performing with a Donna Summer-like voice -- "On the Radio" is one of her favorites, and she loves disco -- with eight musicians.

In their places is darker, permed hair. More time for the gym. A newly cultivated appreciation of opera. And a better way to answer 10-year-old Andrew.

"When my little guy says to me, 'Are you ever going to be able to come to some of my things at school at night instead of just the mornings?' that told me it was time," Jones said.

And so she gave up something she has been doing since shortly after graduating from Poquoson High School, since about the time she came to work at Langley, first on a mail truck, then in a series of jobs until she reached the security office.

In working at the center, she's doing what her mother and father have done before her.

There's more time now for Andrew, Jordan, 13; Sandoval, 13; Tyler, 15; and Marcus, 18.

"I've been tasked to raise five children," Jones said. "I'm not going to do it halfway, because I have to look in the mirror every single day. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long."

And the loss of limelight?

"I'm at peace with my decision," she said. "It was so intense. There was so much maintenance at being the focal point on stage."

And energy required to finish a performance, grab what sleep she could, go to work at Langley and still be "mom" at home.

She channels that energy differently now, and looks for new avenues. Jones has something of a list of things she wants to do at least once in her life. On it was to run a marathon (she did the Shamrock) and to hear opera in New York (she'll see La Boeme at the Metropolitan Opera in November).

And to pursue body-building.

A size zero already, 'I think it's beautiful when someone can transform their body,' " Jones said. "A lot of people don't think that muscles on a woman are pretty. I think they are beautiful. It's a challenge for me. If I compete next year like I plan to do, and I do well, I will do it only one time."

And then look for another challenge, as if a full-time job and raising five boys isn't challenge enough.

"My driving force is that I never settle," Jones said. "I can always do better. I'm trying to make myself a role model for the boys."

Beginning with heading to the gym at 3 a.m. every day while they're still fast asleep.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
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Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
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