26 March 2014

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"


Life is difficult. Sometimes life is lonely. There is no “happy ending” to this story. But there is no “sad ending” either. Jacob wants to get back together, but although that may seem perfectly romantic and a perfect dramatic final chapter,  here is the truth.
I don't want Jacob. I don't want a fairy tale. i don't want a romantic comedy. I don't want to be swept away with love notes, promises, roses and grand gestures. I don't want dramatic reunions in airports and public displays of affection. I don't want the past. I don't want a "happy ending" because I don't believe in the kind of endings that come in movies and books...in "happily ever afters."
I would like to be whole and happy in and of myself. I have hope. Hope that I can fully recover. Hope that I will be better next time. Hope that life can and will still be beautiful. Hope that, as Tolkien said, ‘You can only come to morning through the shadows.’ The last few years I have been through some very dark shadows; there were times that I thought if I felt any more pain I would die. I did not care if it was in a dramatic or exciting way, I just wanted it to be over and the pain to stop. But I am still alive. A very bright morning sun has risen on my horizon.
Some people say ‘I do not know how you do it! I would not be able to!’ I did not know that I ever had another option-- I just keep breathing and my life continues. Often I hear the statement, ‘I can not believe what Jake put you through.’ But I can not look at things that way-- as something that he put me through. Instead, I try to think of it as something that I am going through. It is hard not to be bitter and angry and sad. Sometimes I am bitter and angry and sad. I do not let the feelings linger; that shows animosity to my God. I believe that God did not “let this happen to me” and that this is not a trial He has given me. He loves me and never wanted me to suffer.  Suffering just happens with life. 

Would I have married Jacob if I knew what was going to come? It is irrelevant. I can not change the past. I married him. I believe that I made the best possible choice at that time with the information that I had. I loved him. I saw him as a good man. Back then, I could not imagine that he would ever choose what he did. Back then, I believed that life was and would be perfect. I learned. And that is alright, because I got smarter. I gained some important knowledge about myself and about life.
I know that life is hard; it's not a fairy tale. It's not all picnics and vacations and sunshine and snuggling and picture perfect movie moments.

I know who I am and I know what I am capable of doing.
Those who know me know that I have always been a hopeless romantic. Part of me still is. I may be a romantic, but I am also strong. Stronger than I ever knew.
In the end, I don't want a romantic story. I want reality.

After all, this is not just a novel; this is my life.

And this is not the end. This is just the beginning.

25 March 2014

Almost Over

i know i just posted, but i'm ready to end this. Here is the last chapter of my novel:

A few months after D-Day, I thought 'Things are going so well.' "So well” of course being a relative term. Jacob had been wearing his wedding ring again. He seemed lighter. He had not admitted to a relapse in about six weeks and although he was distant at times, I also felt like he was making an effort at being married. We started to plan a dream vacation to Maui. Unfortunately, in the three weeks before Maui, I started feeling all of the sudden like something was wrong. Even though I tried to ignore it, I broke down and started asking, ‘How are you doing on your goals? Have you relapsed?’ Jacob vehemently denied it. The doubting did not go away.
My problem was that in the past six months since discovery day, each time I had felt like something was very wrong, even when Jacob was claiming to be “clean” I had questioned and received an answer from him of innocence to any inappropriate viewing. The feeling remained and I re-questioned, usually eliciting the same negative response. However, each and every time, he later admitted or I later found out that he had been lying and his acting up had started around the first time that I questioned him. Hence, my continued concern. I even asked him, ‘You are not just hiding something to make it smooth sailing until Maui, right?" Denial. What could I do except trust him? And so I ignored my gut instinct, made a decision to trust and pushed on ahead, giddy about going to Hawaii.
We left for Maui right after the fourth of July 2012. June had been an exhausting and overwhelming month at work and with my church calling. I had spent a week at girls’ camp which drained me and left me completely worried about Jacob at home by himself, not even getting a phone call from me every night. It was stressful enough without worrying about an errant husband. I could not wait for the relaxation of a well planned vacation on a tropical island. But even when we got there, I could not shake my feeling of stress and unease. Mentioning it to Jacob, I asked him, ‘You are not going to drop a bomb on me as soon as we get home, are you?’
‘That is not the plan!’ he responded.

Unfortunately, even this last piece paradise with Jacob was tainted. My uneasy feeling crept in and out of our trip. I especially felt it when it was just the two of us hanging around in the hotel room. One afternoon we had spent the morning dancing around and returned to take a nice long nap. After a couple hours sleeping, I woke up and was ready to spend more time enjoying Hawaii. I attempted to wake Jacob in the nicest way possible. He woke up, pushed me away and very rudely rejected me, demanding me to leave him alone and making it obvious that he wanted nothing to do with me. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. Insulted, I grabbed my sandals and my iPod and left the room-- I was not about to sit around in a hotel room watching him sleep. 
Fuming, I hit the beach, hoping the waves and sand would calm me down. At first I just walked along, trying to calm down. Then I started wondering if he would notice I was gone and come looking for me. I knew that was wishful thinking and that for the last few months, Jacob had not paid attention or cared about my feelings at all. The more I walked, the more pieces of the truth dawned on me. I started to cry even though I did not really understand why. 
Now I know and can recognize-- somewhere deep inside of me, I knew. For the first time, part of me knew we were over. At least, part of me realized it would never be the same again. We were broken already and there was no way to be completely whole with him again. Panic welled up and to calm myself down, I blasted Enigma in my ears, let the waves lap my ankles as I walked, watched the sunset and let the tears fall. By the time I finished three or four songs I was under control, resolved to let it all go. I returned to the room. Sure enough, Jake did not even know I had left nor did he care; he had no idea of my inner torment on the beach. I said nothing. What could I say? And so we were swept ever towards the inevitable.
It was Sunday July 29, 2012. We had only been back from Maui for two weeks. Those two weeks had been horrid. I was back at work but Jacob had no school and no work-- it was his break. He was going stir crazy. Doom seemed to hang over our apartment. We blamed it on the post vacation blues, but something was not right. I wanted to know what was going on in his head. Finally, I said, ‘You have GOT to talk to me. What is going on?’ 
And then he opened up-- in a way I did not expect and I am not sure that I desired to hear what he had to say. He told me that he was unhappy. I knew he was struggling with his major and trying to decide if he wanted to stick with it, so I tried to direct him down that route, because I could feel what was coming, but it was no use. He told me that he did not love me. He told me that he was never going to be “the husband I deserved.” I asked him what he thought my expectations were in a spouse and he said, ‘Some one who can support your family, be a worthy priesthood holder, take you to the temple and actually have a career. I am never going to be those things. I want a divorce.’ 
Once again, I tried to persuade him to tackle one thing at a time. If he was discouraged about school, it was not a good idea to blame the stress and unhappiness of his choice of major on our marriage. We could fix one thing at a time!  We could first get him into a different program on campus and see if that helped. If he struggled with his testimony, he could ask to be released from his calling, work on rebuilding his testimony or even just not go to church and then we could see how he felt. If he was still unhappy and wanted a divorce, we could go to marriage counseling together. I pushed for that with all I had. ‘Please, please just let us go to counseling! It could not hurt! This is so sudden. Please let me try. Please let me try to make you happy. I do not know what I have done!’
He paced around the living room and started talking again. I sat curled up on the corner of the couch, watching him, not saying anything anymore-- just listening to his internal demons come spewing forth and swoop around darkening our house and ripping my life to shreds. Part of me wishes I would have been able to record what he said because it is all such a blur and I felt so numb that I no longer recall what was said. But then again, why would I want to hear all those horrible things again? In the midst of it all, he kept repeating, “I do not know. I just want a divorce. I do not know.’ 
What it all came down to was that he was done-- done with being married. He did not want the responsibility of a family. He was done with the gospel and trying to live the way someone else wanted him to. He was done being married. He was done with me. He maintained that he had not relapsed and it had nothing to do with pornography. I think he lied, but it did go much deeper than I had thought. He wanted to be a bachelor. He thought that it would make him happy to have no expectations and that he would stop feeling pressured and stop feeling guilty.  ‘But I don’t know. I want a divorce. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do’ he continued to interject.
I look back at that moment. Was that really me? Was that my life? Did that happen to me? Was that my husband and my marriage? How did it happen? How did it come to this? All my hopes and dreams. All my love. All my energy. All the times I looked at him, amazed to have him in my life. How? Why?
I finally asked him, somehow (probably because of complete shock) with no tears or anything, ‘Do you want a divorce or not? I can not take this back and forth anymore. I need support. If you want to try and work it out, I will turn to you to be my support and we can go to counseling and do whatever it takes to make this work. But if you are serious and want a divorce, I need to tell my family so that they can help me bear this. What do you want? This is a serious answer, Jacob. You better be damn sure you know. What do you want?’
‘Yes. A divorce. That is what I want. I want a divorce. I am done. I am sure.’
Jacob was leaving for his annual training on the upcoming Saturday. At his request, I was to move out and be gone when he returned home from his two weeks away. That week we lived together might still be one of the strangest of my life. The thing was, there had been little yelling or fighting. It was all so matter of fact and so cold. We stayed in the same house, Jacob just moved into the guest room. I still went to work. We still ate dinner together. He asked me if I still wanted to run errands with him. We walked through the mall not holding hands. I wanted to scream. Inside I was screaming and yelling and crying and falling apart. Outside I said, ‘What would you like for dinner?’ and he said, ‘How was your day today?’ Every night I lay there in our bed with the bedroom door shut, wondering if he was sleeping. Once in awhile I even snuck into his room and crawled into the guest bed and did not even say anything. Just lay there. Sometimes I whispered, ‘I miss you.’ He would say, ‘I am sorry. Goodnight.’ And I would leave, feeling worse than before I sought out his comfort.
I did not sleep so well that last night. Once again I slipped into the guest room to find him watching a movie on Netflix; he could not sleep either. I asked him ‘Why?’ There was no answer. I could not comprehend that the next morning he would leave and I might never see him again. In the morning, oh so early, I heard him moving around, packing up the last of his bag. Before he left, he opened the bedroom door to say goodbye. I walked out to his car with him. He was in uniform. Why did he have to be in uniform for our “goodbye?” This time was so different. He was not coming back to me because he did not want me there for his return. I did not cry-- it was too unreal. We shared a long hug; not one piece of me wanted to let him go. He gave me a quick kiss on the lips and said, ‘Well, bye.’ I watched him drive away while I stood there in my pj’s. 
Back in the bedroom I texted my father, ‘It is so depressing when your life is like the words to a Dixie Chicks’ song. I am going back to bed.’ And I did. I went back to sleep without a tear.
When I woke up, I cried. I did not stop crying for weeks. But in spite of it, I moved to Dallas, moved in with my sister, and I worked on surviving.
And I decided to go to New York-- on my own. It was to get away. To clear my head. To be me and do something I wanted to do. To check things off of my bucket list. I was pumped. I bought the tickets, I did the research, I made the reservations, I packed my bags, jumped on the plane and left. I was to hit New York in mid-October-- just in time to see the leaves changing and enjoy beautiful fall weather. When my plane landed, I dropped my bags at the hotel, jumped on the metro and rode it into my first sightseeing destination.
I was standing in the middle of Grand Central Station when I got a call from Jacob. He was working on finalizing the divorce. As he was filling out a section about our ‘irreconcilable differences” and why we could not reconcile them, it got him thinking. He told me that he wondered if we could still make it work-- if our differences really were irreconcilable. He told me that he loved me and missed me; he wanted to put the divorce on hold and see me. He asked me what it would take in order to make it work. Listening to him tell me that he loved me I started crying. Right there, in the middle of this famous place with hundreds of people walking around me and taking pictures, I stood on my cell phone with tears pouring down my cheeks. I mentioned that it was awkward to be crying because I was in a public place.
‘Where are you?’
‘Grand Central Station.’
Then, ‘....Oh.'
Yet another dramatic, ridiculous movie moment.
Jacob told me that he was willing to give up porn in order to keep me. He promised to go to counseling, to go to group work, whatever he needed to do. I told him that I would think about it and get back to him. The only catch? He needed to know by the next day because that is when he was going in to the court to finalize the divorce.
This phone call gave me, for the first time I felt, some choice in what was happening in my life. And surprisingly, my initial reaction was "I don't want to make that decision!! Why do I have to choose?"
The rest of that day in NYC I spent by myself, wandering around, crying, smiling, forgetting everything, thinking of everything; I realized that I had been playing the victim card. I decided it wasn't what I wanted to do. Sure, I had been hurt. Sure, I had no control over many many things. But I realized I still had control of my own life and my own actions. Not only that, I DID want to be able to choose. And I have surprised myself with the tough choices that I have been able to make.
I called him back. I asked him questions about what he saw in our future, what he was willing to do, why he had changed his mind. I asked him about the church and his testimony. From a source that I believe was Heavenly, a question popped into my head.
‘Would you make these changes if I was not coming back to you?’
‘To be honest, no. If we get divorced then I would not go back to church or try to get rid of my addiction or take care of the depression you think I have.’
I knew what I had to say. I had the courage to say it. I knew that any promised change was coming from simply being lonely and not from his heart or a real desire to do better. Without a true change of heart, things would never really improve. And I was done. I could forgive him, but I did not want the life we had together anymore. It was tainted and it was over.
‘Jacob, I love you. I wanted nothing more than to be happy with you. But I cannot be married to who you are right now. I would not even date you. We need to go through with this divorce.’
I was sobbing. I felt like my heart was ripped out. I could barely speak.
He responded, ‘I can honestly say that I still love you. I really always loved your friendship and your companionship. I was always physically attracted to you. Please know that. I understand what you are saying.’
We knew it; we could not be happy together anymore.
‘I still believe you can do better than me, Jennifer.’
‘I always loved you, Jacob, and I will miss you.’
‘I love you, too.’
‘Goodbye, Jacob.’
The divorce was final the next week.
In the end, it was my choice. I was not a victim. And I am grateful. I am grateful for deciding to stay on a path I didn't originally choose, but that has ultimately brought me peace. I am grateful that when things spin out of control, I am still free to choose what new path to take.

24 March 2014

The dark part of my story

"Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it...Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." Brene Brown

In the Spring time of 2011, something felt wrong. I had what I have always called "the weird feeling." When I was a younger girl, often times as I would lay in bed trying desperately to fall asleep, the bottom of my stomach would drop out, anxiety would build and my head would spin in circles. I had the sense that something was not right, or something bad was going to happen or I was forgetting or missing something very important that was somehow just beyond my reach.
No matter how hard I tried, I would not be able to shake the feeling and would end up all in fits and sweats. Finally, realizing that sleep would never find me in my current state, I would creep down the stairs to find my mother. I would sit at the bottom of the stairs and whisper ‘Mom, I have the weird feeling.’ She would give me a hug and ask, ‘Why are you worried, Jennifer?’
‘I don't know. I just am.’
‘Everything is going to be alright. Go to sleep and you will feel better in the morning,’ she would say as she held me. That is all it took. I heard the words. I believed them. I went back to bed. I fell asleep. And, just as she predicted, I felt better in the morning every time.
That spring I had the weird feeling again. I turned to my husband; I expected him to make the problem go away, just as my mother had. He would say the words I asked him to, word for word, ‘It is all going to be ok, Jennifer. Everything is going to be ok.’ It helped-- a little bit. But the feeling never completely left and every night it would be a little bit stronger.
As the cold wet spring stretched on for what seemed forever, I told myself that when the sun came out and the summer came, I would be happy again. The season started turning to summer and I was far from feeling content. And so I made a decision--  I was going to be happy, positive and glad about life. I could force the weird feeling to leave. Everything was going to be ok, because I wanted it to be ok, dammit.

And I was ok through the summer. I forced myself to be ok. But as the summer turned to fall and the fall turned to winter, it was clear that everything was not ok.

The most alarming thing that happened was the feeling of a distance that entered our marriage. It started small--  barely noticeable at first. Jacob lost interest in helping me with prepping the garden before the winter so that it would be ready to go for next spring; he did not even cover his precious strawberry plants before the frost came in and killed them off. Watching the withered plants hurt me deeply somehow, especially when he seemed so unmoved by the fact that they died. 
At bedtime, there was less cuddling and loving. In fact, Jacob stopped going to bed at the same time that I did. All of the sudden it became an issue, ‘I do not have to keep the same sleep schedule as you!’ he would object. And so he would come “tuck me in” and then go back to the computer. Sometimes I would beg him to stay in bed with me, even if he was reading or playing on his phone. Acquiescing, Jacob would cuddle in with me--  at least until I fell asleep. Hours later, I would awake at two in the morning and find that Jacob was no longer in bed; I would find him in the computer room, completely engrossed in a video game. We argued more over stupid little things like driving into town, going to the gym, church callings, what to do on the weekends and family gatherings. Rarely did I ever see Jacob working on homework, but schooling was another subject that could not be broached without an argument ensuing.
Emotions I never thought would enter my marriage creeped their way in. I felt abandoned. I was frustrated. Having been in the relationship for many a year at this point, I understood that relationships in general (and definitely ours in the least) move like rollercoasters, with high points and low points. We were at a lower point, but I suspected with hope that shortly we would climb back up.
I also started to question myself-- many a long hour I spent talking with my older sister, discussing anti depressants or some other form of mood stabilizing drug. Depression, bi-polar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder all run in my family. The “weird feeling” had become part of my daily life again and Erika suspected that I was struggling with an anxiety disorder. Perhaps what I felt in my marriage was all part of uncontrollable anxiety. The down was caused by my own imbalance, so I believed. With this belief, I felt even more grateful for Jacob— I felt like he deserved a much better wife than I was and he was so patient with my shortcomings and my need to hear him constantly say, ‘It is all going to be ok.’ Of course it would be irritating for him sometimes; of course he would need a little more alone time if I was going to be such a downer. And after all, how could I complain when he told me the words I needed to hear and still put me to bed every night?

December 26, 2011. D-Day. Discovery Day. Some details I remember so distinctly and yet everything is in a fog. I barely recall the words that were spoken-- those words that now seem so critical to my happiness or lack thereof. I went to work like normal. Jacob was on winter break still. He offered to have dinner ready that day. During the day I texted him a couple of times like normal-- he told me that he was making homemade egg rolls with the deep fat fryer I had given him for Christmas. I warned him that our neighbor might be stopping by to borrow some eggs. Driving home I was anxious for the delicious food and a quiet evening; when I opened the door to the house the smell of fried food had permeated every corner. Jacob was withdrawn, but then this had been our normal as of late. We sat down to dinner and I chatted about my day. When I asked him about his, he said, ‘I have something I need to talk to you about, but we can talk after dinner.’ Instantly I felt the egg rolls I had eaten start tossing in my stomach. Nothing could have forced me to take one more bite. Bile began to rise. I did not know what was coming, but I knew it would be brutal.
‘Just tell me. Right now.’
‘Jennifer, I have been lying to you for eight years. I am a liar. You do not even know me at all. I have put up a facade the whole time that we have been together.’
Stunned Silence. Internal voices screaming, ‘What the hell? What is going on?’
‘The thing is-- I am addicted to pornography. And I have lied about it the whole time we have been together. And I am tired of lying and I am tired of trying to hide it. And what is more, I have lied about so many more things. I flunked all of my classes last semester and when I was trying to think of how I was going to lie and cover it up, I decided I was tired of lying.’
I vomited in my mouth. ‘Since when have you looked at porn?’
‘I don’t remember. Since I was thirteen or fourteen.’
My mind calculated-- fifteen years. Fifteen years of addiction. Of lying. I had no idea what to say-- so I said nothing.
‘I was not even going to be here when you got home from work tonight. I was going to be gone. That or so drunk that I could not even tell you. I wrote it all out in a letter for you. But then you told me that our neighbor was going to stop by and I did not want to be drunk when she got here.’
‘You were going to be drunk?’
‘You bought alcohol?’
‘You didn’t drink any of it?’
‘Where is it?’
The beer was promptly dumped by me down the kitchen sink and the stinking bottles deposited in the outside garbage can. While working on that I kept thinking, ‘What do I do? What do I say? This is not Jacob. This is not my life. This is not happening to my marriage.’
Then Jacob gave me the letter. I have no idea what it said, but I remember what it contained. He confessed his addiction, he told me that he had lied about almost everything for as long as he could remember, and then the REAL hammer hit (as if pornography and masturbation had not been enough). It said that he could not picture our future lives together.
And then I realized I was in deeper than just an addiction. ‘You were going to leave me?’
‘That is what I have been telling you! I am no good! I look at naked women. I masturbate. I lie about everything. I do not know if I even believe in God anymore.’
‘So, you don’t love me?’
‘These actions are not the kind of things you do to someone you love.’
‘So, you don’t love me?’
‘I don’t know what I want anymore.’
‘So, you don’t love me?’
‘No, I DO love you. I am just so confused. I am so tired of lying. I thought you would scream and yell when I told you. I thought you would leave me. I did not think you would still be here.’
Then my stubbornness kicked in. I loved this man. I made a covenant to be his wife. I WAS his wife, dammit and I was going to stay his wife. We were going to battle this addiction. We were going to win. Enough was enough. It was time to take action and make a plan. I ripped up the letter.
‘I am here. I am sealed to you. I am not leaving. We are married. We will overcome this. Will you do this with me?’
Did he ever answer me? I don’t remember. I also don’t know if he really wanted me to go or really wanted me to stay. Both, probably. I have never seen a man so torn in my life. I felt like I needed to comfort him. ‘This is not him,’ I kept telling myself. ‘This is his addiction.’ I repeated this phrase to myself hundreds of times over the next seven months. I still have yet to figure out at what point it stops being the addiction and starts being him, his choices and his actions. Somehow we came to the agreement that the first step to take was to speak with the bishop and seek out counseling. Once the plan was set, Jacob went to clean up dinner and I went upstairs.
Then it hit me. Sort of. The first wave of understanding hit me. It has been over a year and I feel like I am still being bombarded with waves of reality. Like I have been a rock perched on a beach-- the waves come, sometimes huge and overpowering, smashing into me with everything they have one right after another. Sometimes they lap at me, barely tickling my feet, but each time I realize my situation a little more. Once in awhile, the sea is calm and I think that perhaps I finally am fully aware of my life-- only to have a storm recommence. The first wave was one of the hardest and, even though I am a superb swimmer, I thought I was going to drown. I did drown.
When I began the project of writing my story, I fully intended to spend large amounts of time focusing on what I went through during this period of time. I wanted to write it out-- to pour all my pain and heartache into this novel. The compulsion to write about the first few months of 2012 stemmed from the belief that if I unloaded on these pages, I would not have to carry any of the hurt inside and also that someone else might benefit to read what I went through if they ever have to go through the same tragedy.
But now that it comes down to it, I find that I don’t want to go into details for so many reasons. First of all, how could I even begin to accurately describe the pain? I did not have the words for it in the moment, my journal pages through those two months are shockingly blank; I do not have the words for it now. There is no way to convey what it feels to have your life torn to shreds, your very purpose for breathing questioned, to be told that perhaps you are not wanted any more, to feel worthless, ugly and used. How could I describe having my heart carved out of my chest and trampled on by the person I loved most in the world? I will not be able to explain the nights lying alone in bed, feeling every single muscle in my body tighten tighten tighten until I could not breath and my muscles shake and shake and shake from the exertion-- while my spouse is in the other room on the computer. Or sitting at the front desk at work, answering phones, greeting customers and answering dozens of times a day the question ‘How are you?’ with a smile and a ‘Fine, thanks’ and feeling the panic, terror, shame and anger rise into my throat but knowing that I could tell no one-- not even my friends, not even my family.
I wanted so badly (so much that it physically hurt) to feel loved and have someone hold me and tell me that I was beautiful and that I was wanted; I craved that attention and I turned to the person who had covenanted to fulfill that need for me into the eternities-- only to be rejected. Not only that, but rejected for a plastic princess in a size double D bra prancing around in a video-- rejected for a movie and his own hand. I woke up every morning not knowing if that day my husband would want to be married to me or not, not knowing if his bad mood was because he was feeling guilty for indulging in pornography, not knowing if his good mood was because he masturbated in the shower, not knowing if he was imagining another woman while he was intimate with me-- not even caring as long as he was with me at all-- but caring ever so much. Wanting to know what he was thinking, feeling, wanting, seeing; not wanting to know anything at all.  
I do not have to read Dante to know about hell and punishment. I lived it. The uncertainty. The see saw. Total annihilation day after day after day. The bullets coming from my own husband. Until I looked at the cars coming down the road in the opposite direction and sobbed because the only thing I wanted was to jerk my wheel, smash into one of them and stop feeling at all.

My memory of this time is warped around the agony I was experiencing. The following months were eternal. Each day was like the last yet every moment was different. Nobody knew what was happening in our lives-- we pretended. We pretended for the world, we pretended for our families, and sometimes we even pretended for each other and for ourselves. Most of the months following seem like one moment of prolonged misery with each memory running into the next. There were glimpses of happiness, but it was all on the surface. The end was rushing toward us ever faster.

19 March 2014


i have two amazing Grandmothers.

Grandma Parker and Gramma Nina
i attended both of their funerals this year. Both of them were up there in years (mid 90s). Both funerals were celebrations of their lives and how they had "endured to the end." i am happy for them and jealous of the release from this world that they experienced.

It has been a strange emotional journey for me. i loved them both dearly and am sad that they are no longer there to hug. But what has been the strangest thing about losing them, was watching my parents. i have seen them each lose a parent before (both of my grandfathers have already passed) but somehow i missed their emotional reactions. This time, i cried to see my parents cry and hurt to see them hurt. Perhaps it was because i kept thinking of what i would be going through if it was MY parent. And that possibility is ever so much more real now. After all, they are the next generation now that my grandparents are gone. 

But that's not really what this post is supposed to be about. More than anything, i want to express the gratitude for my heritage. i am grateful for what they have given me. 

From my Grandmother Wanda Miskin Parker i got the red in my hair. i got my stubbornness and determination.

My Grandma and i
 i have the goal to serve as many missions as she did (one down, three to go!) i will always make shrimp cocktail for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

This might be my new favorite picture
i think of her often as i run--remembering her on her long (and fast!) walks. Grapefruit will always remind me of her, as will Rummikub, rolls and silly campfire songs. i can only hope that i have as mush sass as she did. Plus, she was one CLASSY lady.

Wanda and Woody Parker

From my Gramma Nina Norton Wadsworth i got my tenderness and my sensitivity. i have the same love for beautiful things that she did.

Teenage me and my lovely Gramma
i have the goal to pass on the embroidery and quilting skills that she taught me. i will always love "Peas and Potatoes" and can't wait to attempt my hand at her cake recipes.

Just a few months ago
i think of her often as i watch the irises blooming in the yard, eat strawberry jam or see the Tolkien calendar hanging on my office wall. Laces and roses will always remind me of her, as will gorgeously decorated wedding cakes, lipstick, apple trees, pink tissues and waving goodbye by opening and closing my hands. i can only hope to have her stunning white hair. Plus, she was one BEAUTIFUL woman.

Vaughn and Nina Wadsworth

What a legacy i have to live up to.

i love you, Grandmas! i will miss you. But as Ray Bradbury said, "No person ever died that had a family. I'll be around a long time. A thousand years from now a whole township of my offspring will be biting sour apples in the gumwood shade."

12 March 2014

i don't run to be skinny...

...i run to be bad ass.

And let me tell you...that is exactly how i felt on Saturday around 9:30 in the morning.

i ran a half marathon.

It still sounds weird to say that. i ran 13.1 miles in a race. Before 9:30am. Just because i could.

My training began in June of last year and started with just walking. i remember being terrified to run my first mile. i would look at the runs that were coming and think "there is no way that i am going to be able to run four miles." But since June i have faithfully trained four days a week....even running on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

A friend from work, Dale, set up my entire running plan. He has been my trainer and my moral support for the entire process. As if personally adjusting my plan wasn't enough, Dale came to Vegas to run with me.

Jennifer and Dale 

My guy also came along for the ride...and the run. He hadn't been training nearly as long or as hard as i had, but was determined to race anyway. (PS: He did great, finishing only 30 people behind me)

So proud of my guy

Saturday morning we woke up ridiculously early and headed off to the start line. It was chilly, but warmed as the sun came up and ended up being perfect running weather. At 6:45am, the race began! The course looped around the Red Rock Canyon Visitor's Center once and then curved around the entire "Scenic Drive" of the Park. What made it so intense was the elevation! Check out the elevation guide in the top left corner of the map. We gained almost 1,000 feet in the first 5.3 miles. Then lost all the height we gained. There were some wicked climbs and just as wicked downs. It was not an easy run.

Course Map

My goal was to finish, but i am actually surprised at how well i did. My finish time was 2:19:16. There were 389 runners; i was the 208th. In my age category, i was the 18th of 45. Not too bad for my first one!

When my foot hit the finish line i felt tears spring to my eyes. i did it!! i can still barely believe it. i was pumped full of adrenaline. i felt like i could conquer the world.

You know what, maybe i did in my own way. i conquered my world.

Just after crossing the finish line

PS: A shout out to my sisters who sent me pizza and flowers after the race.

PPS: i was sore on Sunday and Monday but by Tuesday was feeling pretty much back to normal. This week is a week off running. Starting Monday, the training continues. Ragnar, more halves and a full marathon, here i come!

04 March 2014

Talking about the hard stuff

So much of what is now a major part of my life is usually surrounded by guilt in society. The topics are not part of "appropriate conversation" and are discussed in hushed tones and behind closed doors, if at all. If i bring them up, i am usually met with sympathetic eyes or i feel the person automatically recoil, as if they will be contaminated by the topic or even by me.

These words are taboo:


The stigma is there and i wish that it wasn't. i wish that i could say "my husband was addicted to masturbation" or "my marriage fell apart because of pornography" or "i go to therapy and take anti-depressants" or "i am divorced" without feeling judged or that i just created an awkward situation.

i was told once that i should be careful about talking about how destructive pornography and masturbation are (and were in my marriage) because "you might offend someone! What if they have an addiction or a spouse who struggles?"


Addiction thrives on secrecy. Fear, depression, shame and worthlessness thrive there too. If people were more open with these topics and those issues in their own lives, perhaps less women would feel alone. More men would see the consequences of their actions. People wouldn't be as afraid to speak of it with one another. Judgments wouldn't be so harsh. There would be support and understanding and love.

And maybe, girls wouldn't be as naive going into a marriage. And maybe couples would have the "hard conversations" that are needed so desperately before commitment.

Once, about a year ago, i said that i wanted someone who would say from the very beginning "Here I am. This is me. It's all out here on the table."

My guy has been like that. We have never skirted around any discussions. Perhaps some would say that is a little intense. Just a couple dates in and words like depression, divorce and addictions were the theme of quite a few conversations. But thank heavens! i am grateful that we can talk and create that openness and honesty in our relationship.

Neither of us are looking for perfection in the other, although we are both striving for it in ourselves. And we don't have a perfect relationship either. Relationships are hard anyway and ours is just beginning. But we have a pretty good start.

i know his weaknesses. He has told me about his past. He has shared his feelings about divorce and anti-depressants. i know exactly where he stands in regards to pornography, masturbation and cheating.

He knows about my baggage. i have told him about my fear, my insecurities, and my control issues. He knows exactly where i stand in regards to pornography, masturbation and cheating.

Do i compare him with my ex? Most certainly. As i should. And, man, is there a night and day difference. i see it most in the transparency, in the honesty and in the communication.

His own words capture what i have felt from the beginning with him: "I am not your ex husband and I won't make the decisions that he did."

i hope that in the future, more people will be open to talking about the hard stuff. But for now, i am grateful to have my guy who doesn't skirt around anything.

Besides, he is  cute!

Side note: i'm also grateful for how he encourages my self development. After running the first four miles of a twelve miler with me, he went to go lift while i finished my run. Before he slid off the track, he gave me a "good game" swat and said, "You got this!" He somehow managed to support me and boost my confidence in myself--that i could do just fine, and maybe even better, when he wasn't there next to me.