Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A friend returns to her cheating husband

Recently, I made a new friend. We didn't know each other very well, but we had coffee a few times and bonded over the pain of cheating husbands. I thought I would see her last week, but she wasn't returning my calls or emails. Finally, her mother (also a friend of mine) called to let me know that she had returned to her husband. Wow. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

It was amazing to me that she had gone back to him. She had gone to a lot of trouble to move herself and her two kids away from him in the first place. I actually admired her. Unlike myself, she had the guts to leave. I wished sometimes that I would do that. BUT THEN SHE WENT BACK!!! I was kinda mad at her. I still am.

It just happened that I got that info on the day that I was taking our tax papers to the jail for Jake to sign. It also happened to be visitation day at the jail. I haven't seen Jake in person since before his sentencing in November, except when I saw him at the advisement hearing for the new charges. I've been practicing strict boundaries with him since he was re-arrested, only allowing him to communicate with me through letters unless it is urgent (and I get to decide urgency). It gives me a sense of peace for myself and justice towards him to have these boundaries. And I hope it protects me from being manipulated by him.

Anyhow, I was thinking about visiting him that day, although I was really on the fence because I knew there was no good reason for visiting. Then I found out about my friend going back to her cheating husband. That tipped the scales for me and I did not go see him. In fact, I took a little pleasure in the idea that he would know that I came in person during visiting hours but chose not to visit . . . Actions speak louder than words, you know?

I guess the point of this entry is to describe how much easier it is to make a judgement call about someone else's life. I can easily say that my friend should not have returned to her cheating husband because he is so obviously a jerk and will never change and together they will just ruin the lives of their kids. And yet, here I sit. Lame, right?

I have oodles of loved ones and caring friends saying, "Leave, leave!" I hope they all know that their words are not wasted. They make me feel safe and strengthen me. I think I am leaving in my own way. I'm setting up boundaries and testing them. I'm dividing our accounts and possessions. I'm making plans independently that won't change based on his situation. I am setting up a new shop, so to speak, it's just in the same location. Some days I get giddy thinking about myself as the "new sheriff in town" (the town being our household). I may be moving at a snail's pace (and I may make lots of excuses for the silly ways in which I do things), but I am moving forward. And I am building my own life.

The only question is, if there was a nuclear war today that dissolved all societal structure and Jake came walking up to the house as a "free" man, where would my boundaries be then? It is likely they would crumble. That is why I usually count his incarceration as a blessing!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shoveling shit and feeling depressed

I was really affected by the pastor's wife suggesting I needed anti-depressants. When she said it I thought, That's funny, I don't feel depressed. But now I feel depressed!

I just had one of those funny days where I was having a good time while the sun was up, but now that the sun has set and I see the time creeping toward bedtime I'm getting really down. I find myself sighing a lot and thinking negative thoughts. The majority of those thoughts are about money and how I'm not making any. I seem to work, work, work, but have nothing to show for it.

When my mother was visiting, she witnessed this constant "work" I'm doing. A lot of the things I do involve sorting out bills and obligations that Jake left hanging. It involves lots of phone calls and research on the internet and sorting his junk to sell online and the like. At the end of one exhausting day, I couldn't think of a single thing I accomplished. I asked my mother why I was so worn out and she said, "Because you're shoveling shit. And it's not even your own shit."

It was sort of a surprisingly crass thing for my mother to say, but it defined my life right now so well that I think of it at the end of every day. I'm shoveling shit. I pour myself another glass of wine and raise a toast to all the shit I shoveled each day!

That brings me back to depression. I was trying to think of what was making me depressed. The shit shoveling.  The lack of alone time. The lack of parental support . . . Yeah, yeah, but those are old news that I thought I had gotten used to. The stress of a new job? Sure, but that is equally balanced by the promise of a paycheck. So that brings me to the wine. Yes, I think I will blame the wine that I started drinking again when my mother visited.

It relieves some pressure to have something to blame, even if it is an unlikely one. It gives me something to change - something within my power - with the hopes that I'll feel better in a few days. So tonight I had a cup of my favorite tea instead of my usual glass of wine. Cheers. And here's to a brighter tomorrow.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Down Day

Sabrina spent most of last night puking. She's doing better now, but we're both weary. My body still hurts from work last week and I start again tomorrow. I was saddened after hearing several of my coworkers having a very racist conversation on Friday and it is still bugging me. The pastor's wife suggested I need anti-depressants. My confidence is very low right now, so maybe she's right. I called my in-laws this morning and stuck my foot in my mouth several times. Then I called my own parents who had to reassure me that they still like me after I burst into tears when they gave me honest criticism.

This is not my best day ever. And it's not even noon.

I'm going to make a chocolate cheesecake:

1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 TBS sugar
1/4 cup chopped almonds (optional)

Blend ingredients. Press into bottom and sides of a 9-in pan.

3 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 unsweetened cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in coffee and vanilla, mix well. Beat in cocoa just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared crust. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes (mine seems to take longer) or until center is almost set. Remove from oven. Increase temperature to 425 degrees. Combine topping ingredients (below). Spread over cheesecake. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 10 minutes more or until done. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge. Cool for 1 more hour. Chill overnight.

Topping (optional)
1 cup sour cream
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sliced almonds. 

Alternative serving method: Cool as long as you can stand it and then start munching on warm cheesecake while drinking chilled white wine. That's my plan.

Getting a Job

I have a graduate degree in science and I'm a successful grant writer and columnist. I'm tech-savvy, have great customer service skills, and make good first impressions (on future employers, at least). So aren't you dying to know what my cool new job I got with my stunning resume? I'm a temporary, part-time, office assistant. I file. All. Day. Long.

I'm really happy to have this job - no joke! Back in my single days - before I had kids and before the economy tanked - I had never gone to a job interview and not been offered the job. No wait, a restaurant wouldn't hire me as a waitress one summer because I didn't have any waiting experience. But other than that, I've NEVER been turned down for a job after the interview. So why did I get turned down after three different job interviews before I got this current position? I have a few theories. First, I live in a small rural town. They don't have a lot of high-paying science or writing jobs for me to apply to, so I applied to everything and anything. Second, I'm over-qualified for every job I applied for, which employers don't seem to like. Third, I was competing with at least ten other over-qualified people for each job. My conclusion is that it's not me, it's the job market. Right now, the economy is down which has pushed good people out of jobs and pushing otherwise non-workers back into them out of financial desperation. Now everyone is competing for meager pickings.

It was difficult to apply for jobs that I didn't really want at wages that were dismally below what I need. But Jake really left me in a financial bind. I put off serious job-seeking for a year and scraped by on miraculous tax refunds and gifts of money from anonymous donors at church. Right at the beginning of the year, I decided to take a serious stab at building a writing career. I really threw myself into it and felt like I was starting to understand the writing world when Jake was arrested again. It took away all my confidence. At least when he was on probation there was a chance that he could help with the bills. But with him in jail, I'm the sole bread-winner and my "writing career" wasn't ready for that pressure. So I applied for every job under the sun and finally got one.

All last week, I filed my little heart out! I have multiple paper cuts on each finger. My children went to daycare full time, but they seem to be handling it well. I must have made a good impression while I was tucked away in the filing room that they've nicknamed "the dungeon" because they invited me to work more hours in the coming weeks. I get to set my own schedule, so I'm thinking of working four full days filing and one part day writing. Maybe I won't have to drop my writing dreams after all . . .

In case you're wondering if my spouse's ugly situation is the reason I didn't get some of those jobs, I don't think so. As far as I know, only one employer knew about my family history and I'm confidant they didn't hold it against me because they're my church. My supervisor and all my peers at this new job commute into our town every day and don't read our paper, so they are blissfully unaware. I'm sure they will figure it out in a few months, but by then I hope they know me well enough to only think less of him and not me. What a sad way to face the world, right?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Con Man

Have you ever been conned?

I remember being conned by a guy in San Francisco when I was 12. I was with my mom. We wanted to ride the cable car, so we were reading the instructions on the ticket machine. A guy came up, offered to help, and sold us two tickets - one was valid and the other was expired. On the cable car, the ticket collector made us pay for another ticket. It was embarrassing. It made us feel stupid and sad. We had lost money, comfort, pride, and self esteem. It ruined the whole day. Still, as much as I enjoy San Francisco, it makes me think of that day and causes me pain.

My husband's actions have recreated those feelings of being conned. Only take the feelings of one instance on one day and multiply them times every day of every year of our four years of marriage. Add to that the pain that is attached to every memory of him as a husband and father - every memory that I used to cherish. I can't even look at our children without feeling such deep sorrow. They deserved a father, not a felon. We were conned.

Grief is the other part of what I'm feeling. I shouldn't say "other" since my emotions are all intertwined. I should say that sometimes my ever-shifting array of emotions resembles grief. The husband I thought I had has died in my mind and heart, over and over. The worst part is that it never stops because he is actually still alive. It's like having a ghost haunting you in the image of someone once dear to you. It keeps the pain fresh.

In a moment of anger, a week or so after Jake was arrested, I said to my friend J, "It would have been easier if he had died." I regretted those words almost immediately because, well, they just aren't nice. I believe death is a serious thing, not to be wished on our worst enemies. But those words still ring true. If he had died, the grief would have an end. If he had died, I wouldn't be embarrassed to talk about him. If he had died, I wouldn't worry about the other kids at school shunning my children because of what their father is. And (most shameful thought of all) if he had died, his life insurance would keep us afloat instead of this financial hole he has left us in.

Death would have been easier. That's just a fact. But if he were to die, I'd probably regret ever thinking it.

But then, maybe this is part of the con - making me a victim of my own angry thoughts.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The three types of sex offender wives

PLEASE NOTE: This is a popular post for some reason. I have a theory that it pops up high in the google search for "sex offender wife". Well, if this is your first time on this blog, I want you to know that this is not my best post. Please peruse the blog for some of my more current and thoughtful posts. Also, there are many stories in the comments of this post from others like us, which you are welcome to read and reply to (we all need support). But when you are ready to share your own story, please do it on this post: Wives of Sex Offenders - A Place to Share

When I read about other women in my situation I tend to categorize them. There are the women who practically wear a shirt that says "He's not the man you think he is." I would call them the "denial" group, except that I hate that word myself. Also, I feel that you shouldn't label someone as being in denial simply because they love and support a person, no matter how much wrong that person has done. They are the love group.

And there are those who lean heavily on Jesus. I wouldn't have guessed that this would be such a theme among betrayed wives. But then, it makes sense because we have had our lives turned upside-down and inside out. Who do you turn to when that happens? This is the faith group.

The women of love and faith are the ones that populate the internet. But I would like to conjecture that there is a third group: the angry group. You will hardly ever find this type in any chat room or forum or blog because they feel the betrayal so acutely that they would rather walk away and not look back. They will divorce quickly and move far away from the scene of the crime and tell their children that daddy is dead.

These are just my ideas based on very little evidence, so don't take them too seriously.

So which am I? I'm all of them, of course. I still love Jake, which is why I'm still here. I found God in the horror of last year and He kept me afloat. And I'm so burning mad that I can't stand it some days. All wives of sex offenders are really a mix of these women, even the wives who walk away and never look back. I guess we just pick a direction to lean and some lean more strongly in one direction than others. I started with the love group, joined the faith group, and made a big jump into the angry group right before I started this blog. I think I sit squarely in the middle now . . . but there's always a chance it could change.

In case you missed it, I finally posted the second half of the story I was dragging my feet on. It is just the beginning of my story from last year, which I plan to relate in time. In this moment, though, I just want to get back to blogging regularly now that I'm not shamefully avoiding unfulfilled promises!

Friday, March 9, 2012

February 16, 2011 (Part Two)

(This is the sequel to this post.)

I think it was two hours after he had called that a local police officer showed up at my door. I was glad that Elise had fallen asleep on the sofa in front of a movie, so she wouldn't ask me any questions. The officer asked to come in. Honoring Jake's agreement to cooperate, I let her in.

My mother-in-law had been driving by to check on me at that very moment, so she came in behind the officer.

Kay and I stood for a moment, expecting the officer to ask us questions, but she instructed us to sit on the sofa. She sat at my dining table in the next room. And we all just sat silently for over an hour with zero explanation. Kay would look at me periodically as if searching for an answer. I would just shrug and sniffle (I had been crying on and off all afternoon). Finally, I grew annoyed with the awkward silence and asked the officer what was going on.

She said, "I don't know. I was instructed to watch the computers and wait for more instructions." So we waited a little longer.

Suddenly, my yard was full of cop cars. I looked out the front door to see my husband signing some paperwork. I had enough presence of mind to move Elise to her bed before they all came in. When they entered, I hugged Jake and asked him what was going on. He said they just needed the computers. He had one personal laptop and a business laptop (the one he had been erasing).

It turns out that they didn't just want the computers. The paperwork he signed outside the door gave them permission to search his personal things. They took apart his office and bagged every storage device they could find. They also bagged a few playboy-type magazines (they really had to dig for those because I never knew he had any). This process took hours and it felt like our house was flooded with police. They even asked for permission to view my computer, which was in a different room and I agreed since I actually had nothing to hide.

Meanwhile, a social worker showed up. Let's call her Umbridge, shall we? She seemed nice enough at the time, but it was also midnight and I was in emotional shock. She took Jake to the kitchen to talk and the police chief sat with me on the sofa. She asked me a few questions, like if I knew what was going on. I related the little that Jake had told me about the situation. I really had very little to tell her. But while we were talking, I could hear what Jake was telling Umbridge. He was saying something about running his hand down the girl's front. That was the first moment I realized that I was being lied to by my own husband. That is really when the seed of my anger was planted.

The police chief left me then with Umbridge. She smiled and said sympathetic things that I wanted to believe, but I could tell she was just going through the motions. She basically asked the same questions as the chief and I repeated my words, but by this time I knew that I was just repeating the lies Jake had told me. I felt like a fool.

Umbridge asked me if my husband had ever been in trouble for anything like this before. It popped into my mind that he had told me that he had been investigated for improper behavior toward a student at the first school he taught at. He had reassured me that it was just rumors. After all, the investigation found nothing, not even a student to claim that he had acted inappropriately. (This is one of the many pieces of information I had in my life that I never put much stock in, but maybe if I had put all the pieces together . . .) I mentioned this to Umbridge and emphasized that they investigated to no end.

She asked, "Do you believe that he has done nothing wrong?" Her tone was clearly judgmental. I was speechless. I couldn't give her a straight answer.

I think I said, "I believed him earlier today. I'm not really sure what to think right now."

Umbridge explained to me that Jake would have to live somewhere else during the investigation. Amidst sobs, I asked her how long that would take. With a little pout that I suppose she thought was sympathetic looking, she said, "Oh, sometimes a few days, sometimes longer . . . " She also said she'd be back in the morning to talk to Elise. She had Jake and I sign an "action plan" agreeing to some basic conditions and then she left.

Almost immediately after she left, all hell broke loose. An officer found a book in Jake's office that apparently had pictures of nude children in it. For the record, I had never laid eyes on it until that night . . .  but I knew about it. This is the point in the story where everyone freaks out and says, "You knew about this book!" and it starts all the shitty feelings all over again. So please, for my sanity hold yourself together for one more paragraph.

Jake got it in his head one day to buy rare books on eBay to resell on Amazon. This is one of many hare-brained schemes that I just rolled my eyes at and thought This will last ten seconds and be forgotten with the next project. Jake proceeded to find a rare book and he described it to me. I nodded with disinterest and went on with my life. I never heard about the book again. So in the moment that I heard the officer explaining to the investigator what was in the book, I recalled Jake's description of the rare book he planned to buy and resell: "a book from the 70's to teach children about their body." I knew it had to be the same book. I walked numbly to the office and looked upon the cover of the book. It was simply bound in black velvet with only the title on the front, "Show Me".

I just about puked when I saw it. Of course, I thought, of course this is child pornography. Why else would it be bound in black velvet? I should have been furious that he had bought such a thing and brought it in our house, but I was so horrified that I could feel no other emotion. I wondered to myself if he knew what it really was at the time he bought it. But I couldn't yet bring myself to think that way about him - not quite yet. Instead, my horror was slowly replaced with a feeling of guilt.

I said to the investigator, "I knew about the book." The whole world turned upside-down for a moment as the investigator turned on me. I tried to explain, but he just seemed to be yelling about how I had participated in buying child pornography. Finally, Jake convinced him that I had never looked at or really known what it was.

Jake had looked at it. He admitted to that. The investigator went crazy again. I remember standing there in my kitchen holding my precious 3-week-old baby, sobbing, while the investigator yelled, "We will take away your children! Neither of you will ever see them again!"

Suddenly, I straightened up and stopped crying. I had been passively listening to the investigator ask Jake the same questions over and over. He was grilling Jake, wheedling for confessions. I said something to Jake like,,"He's just trying to get you to say something damning. You should stop talking." To this day, I can't believe I said that, but part of me wishes I had said it long before the police entered my house and created the recurring nightmares I have about that night.

The investigator was mad at me. He said, "I'm just trying to help." Then he gathered everything and everyone up, including Jake, and they left.

It was 2am. I was left alone, watching through the window as the car lights faded away into the night. I just stood in the dark, silent house with my ears still ringing from the accusations of the investigator. I let out a few sobs, but then found that I was too tired to even cry. I went to the bedroom. Elise was asleep in her little bed, just opposite ours. I curled up next to her. I left the lamp on and lay there with my eyes open. I might have slept, but not much. I was scared that someone was coming to take the kids and I had to be ready . . . Ready to fight? Ready to run? I don't know, I was just holding on to them, like they were my only lifeline. It was a long night.

By the way, the book never showed up in the evidence against Jake. I was told that it really was a collectible book with the aim of teaching children about their bodies, but that it was edgy in an artistic way (it was the 70s, after all). Still, if you ever come across a book called "Show Me" in black velvet, walk away. Or better yet, throw it in the burn pile and take a picture for me. It represents too many horrors from that night.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is that you, God?

If you've been wondering where I've been, I've been avoiding all of you because I can't seem to write the second part of my story and I'm ashamed.

But I came running back to tell you about my weird day yesterday.

Despite all my recent dreams about moving on in the world of relationships, I spent the last week anxiously awaiting a letter from Jake. In my last letter, I told him how scared I was about the mortgage. I told him I wouldn't stay here and let the mortgage suck me dry, no matter how much I love the house. I told him he should think about selling it and that I was packing.

Around the time I sent the letter, I told his parents something similar. Kay seems to get it and supported the idea of selling the house, but Big Rev is classically in denial. He said, "Well, I think your moving too fast on this," and "We should wait to see what happens," and even "Are you going to leave the house to go into foreclosure?" And I, in my own classic form, get riled up, snap at him that this is not my fault, and then feel guilty about it for days.

Big Rev really did work on me and made me feel guilty. I was anxious about the letter  because I thought I had started a fight with Jake, like I always do with Big Rev. After all, Jake is the one that I really want to yell at.

But when I got the letter yesterday, it was so nice! It was full of suggestions for items among his belongings that I could sell. He even managed to get through the whole letter without any self-pity or excuses - unheard of! It was actually a pleasure to read and I my daydreams of a new man were quickly replaced with daydreams of a pleasant pen-pal marriage. (Yes, I'm so weird, I know.) I was almost giddy!

But there was one thing wrong with the letter. He said he didn't want to sell the house. I was totally expecting that, but it ate at me. It didn't make me feel guilty for thinking about moving. Somehow, it actually firmed my resolve not to go down with the ship. I was just thinking that I would put that in my next letter when my phone rang. A friend of mine invited me out to coffee.

This friend recently moved back to this area, where she grew up, because her husband was having an affair. We have a lot in common because we both were betrayed and suffered from our husbands' bad choices. We both showed up happy to the coffee shop, though. She told me she had just received a phone call from her husband the night before. He was crying (Crying! she emphasized) and asking her to come back. She said "maybe". I told her about my almost perfect letter. Then we started sounding off each other. I asked her if she could really trust him. I shared my doubts that a cheating man will ever change. She listened to all my options about leaving or staying and she said, "Evie, you could really be happy somewhere else. You could find love again." I wish I had said it back to her because it is true for both of us. Instead we started joking about how to properly screen a potential mate (more on that later). In the end, I think we left the coffee shop a little sobered by each other. I wonder if that's why she called me. Did she think I would understand her excitement over the phone call from her cheating husband more than her mother or sisters who are in good relationships? Did she know I would reflect my own pain back on her, reminding her why she really shouldn't go back? I wonder.

Oh yeah, when I told her about my current job search and how I was hoping I would hear from the job I'm really interested in before the job I just applied to as a back-up, she said, "I think the job you get first is the job God wants you to have." I don't usually think that way, but it sure would be nice if God would put up some big road signs.

That night, another one of my friends called totally out of the blue to tell me her man troubles. I explained my day to her and that all I would give her is negative opinions about the opposite sex. Then we moved on to financial stuff. She happens to be in the foreclosure business, so she has some ideas about houses and bankruptcy. I told her that my dad keeps suggesting bankruptcy for me and I keep ignoring him. She gave me the 411 on bankruptcy and told me that I'm a "good candidate" for it. As she talked, I thought, Is this a road sign, God? Is bankruptcy really my future? And then she also reiterated the idea that I deserve better, that I should move on, like everyone who cares about me says - except my husband.

So that brings me to the final thing. At 2:30am I wrote several pages to Jake about my anger over the massive credit card debt that I took onto my credit cards to save him from default on his own two years ago. I pointed out that he hasn't once thanked me or apologized for that gesture, as if that was just a normal task of a wife. I told him that I was considering bankruptcy and how unfair that it is me and not him since it is his debt. I told him that my credit score went from the mid-700s to the low-500s because of that, but he never asked or cared, although he was plenty concerned about his own credit score. It is all just so unfair and I feel so foolish for ever falling into it. And then I asked God to relieve me of my anger so I could sleep.

It was a weird day with so many abnormal occurrences that I feel there must have been meaning to it all. The letter, coffee, the phone call. What is the theme? What are the road signs? Leave now? File for bankruptcy? Or was it just another day in a meaningless, chaotic world?