Words by Terrell Manasco | Images by Blakeney Clouse
Tiffany Oliver has more energy than a lightning bolt. Even sitting still, she reminds one of a coiled spring.
She’s practically addicted to staying busy, but her penchant for being easily distracted has earned her a nickname from her co-workers at Jasper Family Clinic. “Everybody calls me ‘Squirrel,’ because they say I cannot focus on one thing at once,” Tiffany deadpans. “My nurse will say, ‘Your squirrel is on 100 today. Go in your office and get yourself together.’”
A conversation with Tiffany is peppered with humorous comments and funny faces. A self-described “social butterfly” with a self-deprecating sense of humor, she can effortlessly endear herself to anyone within 5 minutes.
Originally from Senatobia, Mississippi, Tiffany was living in Oxford and teaching biology at the University of Mississippi. Eight years ago, she and her husband, Eric, moved to Jasper. Now 200 miles from her parents’ home in Memphis, all she wanted was to be near her family again. “It was scary because I didn’t know anybody,” Tiffany says. “I traveled home a lot to see my family. I needed my comfort zone.”
Adjusting to life in a town where she didn’t know anyone didn’t come easy. In her typical, hilarious manner, Tiffany recalls one night when she tried to order a pizza. “I called about 10 or 11 p.m. Domino’s stays open to 3 a.m. in Oxford,” she says, laughing. “They said, ‘Ma’am, we’re closed!’ The tone was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ (laughing) I was like, ‘Why is Dominos closed?’ Eric said, ‘Tif, this isn’t a college town. Just eat something from the kitchen.’ I was like, ‘Okay, Dorothy, you’re not in Oxford anymore.’”
For a while, Tiffany worked as an administrative assistant at Bevill State Community College, but she wanted more. Missing her family and stuck in what she calls a funk, she went to nursing school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I got my Bachelor of Nursing in 11 months, which was…difficult,” she says.
January 2019 marks Tiffany’s fourth year as a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner at Jasper Family Clinic. Her patients are as young as 13, but most are in the 50-plus range. “I handle a lot of our patients with chronic musculoskeletal issues,” she says. “Research shows that when you’re chronically in pain, a lot of times you are not happy. If I have a headache but I’m in a good mood, my perception of how bad my headache is, is totally different. I see that a lot on my job.”
Tiffany finds joy in helping people feel better, but admits her job isn’t always pleasant. Even with her buoyant personality, there are days when being positive is a challenge. “We see a lot of tears. We see addiction,” Tiffany says. “We see people with their plates full and sometimes I’m going in to lay something extra…and that’s a hard day.”
But not all tears are preceded by sad news. Sometimes there are tears of relief when a heavy burden has been lifted off a patient’s shoulders. “I really enjoy what I do because you get to see lightbulbs go off and smiling faces,” she says. “You never know what people are going through. If I’m just a little bit of light to somebody…”
Together, Tiffany and Eric have three children: Alex, 16, E.J., 8, and Marley, 5. Between volleyball, football, and gymnastic events, her evenings and weekends are usually booked solid, but she doesn’t mind. “My family is everything,” she says.
But even moms need a stress release valve. Two years ago, Tiffany went to an old airport runway in Jasper and started running. Like Forrest Gump, she just kept going. “I tried and didn’t even run half a mile,” she says. “I could not breathe. I thought I was going to die.”
After a week, Tiffany was discouraged, but she wouldn’t give up. That December, she ran in her first half marathon. “I cried when I finished,” she says. “It was cold, I couldn’t feel my face, but I was like, okay, I found my thing. A runner’s high is real. When you finish, you’re like, I could go save the world. Running is the remedy for everything for me.”
Tiffany now has a small village of close friends, but when she moved here eight years ago, she felt alone and out of place. To her, “home” was Memphis. She’s very grateful to the people she met who welcomed her and took her in. “The Byars, God bless them. I just love them so much,” she says.
One day, Tiffany was surprised to discover something unusual about herself—she no longer thought about being in Memphis. “Jasper has a way of growing on you,” she laughs. “Now when I plan for the future, I plan to be here in Jasper.”
Perhaps someday she can order that pizza after midnight. 78