What Changed MY Mind
What changed my mind? Lots of things…hard things. To understand what changed my mind, you need to understand how life began for me. It’s not a sad story, at all. In fact, it’s a happy, loving, fairy tale sort of story. I was fortunate to have been born into a big, successful, happy family. I grew up in Southern, California. My father worked at Warner Bros. as an associate producer for television and film. He grew up in a family of entertainers. My grandmother and her sisters were Grammy nominated singers and they had a television show in the 60’s and 70’s that my dad grew up singing and performing on. His family was this big, close knit group of aunts, uncles, and cousins that did everything together. They were also of a Christian faith (a rare thing in Hollywood). I was taught that life was good, beautiful and to trust in God and say my prayers.
My parents were, and still are, in love. I have one younger brother and we got along well and had a lot of fun together. It was expected that I be grateful, kind and work hard. I was taught to believe I could do anything, that life was good, and I believed it always would be. Let me tell you, that is a fantastic way to think and an incredible way to feel!
I had never really been through something hard, so faith came easy for me. It’s easy to believe when things are good…not so easy when they’re difficult. One of my favorite quotes is, “My entire life can be summed up in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned.”
I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were too many things I loved, too many things I felt like I was good at, and too many things I wanted to try to just pick one. Being raised in an incredible family, I always knew I wanted to have one of my own. When I was just 18, I met a very, sweet guy and we got married when I was 19. Two years later, I had my first son. Two years after that, I had my second son. We moved to Utah right before I had my third son. By that time, we had been married for 10 good years. I was still of the mindset that life was easy, and everything would always work out for me.
September 2005 – Kaysville, Utah
It was the end of a long winter; my first winter in fact. My husband and I had moved our family from California to Utah when he was offered an accounting job for a large paint company in Salt Lake City. It was difficult for us to leave L.A. We were both born and raised in Southern California. It was home, but the promise of a beautiful 3500 square foot house, which cost less than what we sold our 998 square foot condo for, made leaving a bit less of a sacrifice. We had two little boys and I was excited to have a yard for them to play in. We were handed the keys to our new house on our ninth anniversary. We loved our neighbors and the boy’s new school. We had fun exploring our new town and painting the kid’s rooms. We planted a huge garden and grew our own pumpkins for Halloween. This was exactly the life I had imagined for myself. I was the stay-at-home mom of two beautiful, healthy boys and I loved that I was able to spend so much time with them. I had a good marriage and a lovely home. Everything was working out as I’d always hoped. It was a wonderful time in my life.
My boys had been very sick that whole first winter in Utah. The dry climate made it very difficult for them to get rid of their colds and they were on and off antibiotics for ear infections the whole season. I had one doctor tell me right from the start that he never prescribed antibiotics for ear infections. After he looked in my son’s ears, he whipped out his pen and told us to go straight to the pharmacy. We were at the doctor’s office again. My oldest had another high fever and the doc said his ears looked terrible. Off we went to our neighborhood pharmacy again. My oldest son is allergic to penicillin and every derivative of it, so something special is always prescribed. I went to pick up children’s Tylenol and orange juice while we waited for his prescription. When the pharmacist rang up our total, I was shocked at how much it was. I knew Cam’s prescriptions always cost more because of his penicillin allergy, but this seemed ridiculous. I asked why the cost was so much. After looking up my account the pharmacist informed me that my insurance had been cancelled. I told her that was a mistake because we had insurance through my husband’s work. I was getting frustrated. I had been up with my sick kids for days and hadn’t slept. Now the pharmacy tech behind the counter was telling me I had no insurance. I looked down at my sleeping boys with their chapped cheeks and red noses. “My insurance hasn’t been cancelled,” I said. “The insurance company said it was cancelled last month.” She looked at me sympathetically. “I’m sorry.” I stood there for a minute thinking, “This is just what I need. I’ll have to spend an hour on the phone with my insurance company trying to straighten out their mistake.” I pushed my cart of sleeping children to a bench in the pharmacy and sat down. After rummaging through my purse full of happy meal toys, tissues, suckers and antibacterial hand wipes, I found my cell phone and called my husband. I explained what had happened and asked if he could talk to his HR department and find out what was going on. He said he’d find out and call me right back. I walked through the makeup isle looking at lipstick shades and blush colors while I waited for him to call me back. Then I made my way over to the magazines and flipped through a copy of SHAPE. I turned page after page of perfectly toned, flawless women, which did not improve my mood. “Good grief,” I thought. I was standing there in a shirt smeared with little boy snot and I hadn’t had an uninterrupted sleep for days. Finally, the familiar sound of SpongeBob’s “ripped pants” song came blaring out of my phone. Every time it rang my boys laughed hysterically and I couldn’t bear to change it, even though everyone else around me grimaced when it when it went off. “Hey,” I said, “Did you find out what’s going on?” He explained that his company was shopping around for new insurance and that we should hang on to our medical receipts so they could reimburse us. I was dumbfounded. I asked if he knew they were dropping our insurance and he told me he didn’t. I told him that had to be illegal and asked if they were still taking money out of his paycheck for benefits. He told me he wasn’t sure, but he’d find out. I was floored! Firstly, because I could not imagine a company doing something like that to their employees; and secondly, because I couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed a change in his paycheck. He didn’t seem very bothered by the fact that we no longer had insurance either. He told me to pay for the prescription and promised me he’d find out what was going on. With that, I paid for our things and took my sick little boys home. Months went by and we continued to wait for answers from his HR department.
Summer had arrived and I decided to take the boys back home to California for a few weeks to visit family. I walked into the house I grew up in. Familiar photographs and smells surrounded me. I carried my boy’s bags up the stairs and into my old room. We hadn’t lived a year in Utah, and I felt like I’d been away forever. I looked around the green room. I had painted that room by myself when I was fifteen. There wasn’t much left in it that suggested it was once a little girl’s room. Where a pile of stuffed animals and cabbage patch dolls once sat was now a treadmill. Shelves that once housed all my trinkets and books were long gone and replaced by artwork. I opened the closet doors and smiled as I found my posters still thumb tacked to the walls. Oingo Boingo posters, surfing postcards and garbage pail kid stickers still hung on the inside of my old closet, a tiny shrine to my childhood. It felt good to be home. I called my husband to let him know we had arrived safely and promptly got the boys in their swim trunks. Normally I am the first one in the pool, but I had not been feeling myself, so I put the boys in on the steps and dangled my feet in the water next to them. I sat there wondering, “What is wrong with me? I wonder if I’ve gotten some bug.” I continued to sunbathe and listen to the sounds of my boys splashing each other. I was trying so hard to get out of the funk I had been in, but I couldn’t seem to shake the sick feeling in my stomach. I suddenly sat bolt upright as a thought occurred to me. “I’m pregnant.” I let the boys finish playing in the pool and asked my mom if she would watch them for a few minutes so I could run to the store. Off I went to see if my life was about to change forever. I wandered through candy and shampoo and potato chips until I stumbled onto the pregnancy tests. “How do you pick a pregnancy test?” I thought. I’ve only done this two other times in my life and it’s always a bit nerve racking. Price is always a factor, but do you really want to be cheap when it comes to something like this? I finally settled on a “middle of the road” pregnancy test; not the most expensive…not the least expensive. I could live with that. Twenty minutes later I locked myself in the bathroom. I sat on the edge of my childhood bathtub breathing deeply, trying to take everything in. I knew what was coming next and it was not going to be fun. I tried to enjoy the next few weeks before everything went downhill. I took my boys to the beach and we had play dates with all our old friends. We went to the L.A. Zoo, Travel Town, and our old farmer’s market and ate at all our favorite restaurants. We fed the ducks at the golf course, ran through the sprinklers at Lemon Park and walked to the big oak tree up on Yosemite Avenue in the evenings. I tried to make it fun for the boys despite my growing nausea. Sure enough, by the time we returned to Utah, I could not go 45 minutes without vomiting. My mom had to drive the entire ten hours back while I slept with a plastic bag in my hands. I had gotten better at figuring out ways to handle the constant throwing up. When I was pregnant with my first son Cameron, I was hospitalized for dehydration. I just could not keep anything down. By the time I had number three, I had figured out that eating tiny amounts of anything from the B.R.A.T. diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast) would minimize the incessant vomiting. My anti-nausea medicine was $700 for twenty pills and our insurance still had not been sorted out. I had to have them to keep from losing too much weight. This severe reaction to pregnancy runs in my family. I have a cousin who had to have a pick line put in her arm so they could permanently hook her up to an IV. The worst part is it lasts the entire pregnancy. I knew I would be puking until the day I gave birth, but my condition would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It would keep me distracted from what was about to happen next.
I laid face down on the sofa with a trash can and a box of tissue next to me. If I kept my eyes closed the headache wouldn’t be so bad. I felt like I had the flu, only this flu would last for the better part of a year. Light hurt my eyes, smells were unbearable, my esophagus burned, and my stomach hurt from throwing up so much. I just wanted to go to sleep and not be aware of how everything felt. I heard the garage door open and knew my husband was home. I kept my eyes closed even though I heard him enter the room. “How was your day?” I asked. “Not so good. Jen, I need to talk to you.” “Okay.” I kept my eyes closed. “I’m listening even though I don’t look like it.” He was quiet for a while and I almost fell back asleep. “I lost my job.” I opened my eyes and didn’t breathe for a moment. I turned my head to look at him. “Wha….?” My voice trailed off. He crouched down next to me and put his hand on my back. “It’s going to be fine. I’ll have another job in no time. Tomorrow I’m going to scour the entire city and I’ll find something soon.” My brain still wasn’t fully functioning. “Did I just dream what you said, or did you really just tell me you lost your job? Because I just opened my eyes and I’ve been in and out of sleep all day and I’ve been dreaming about crazy things.” I looked at his face. Worried lines creased his forehead. I could barely lift my head. “I think I’m going to throw up again.” I put my head back down on my pillow and closed my eyes. I didn’t have the strength to think anymore and I didn’t want to. I just wanted to sleep. So, I did. I slept my way through the next few months of unemployment and financial ruin. My husband got a job, but it took three months and it was a last resort. He took a job as an accountant for a car dealership. The hours were terrible, and the pay was worse, but we were getting close to having another mouth to feed and our savings was nearly gone. When I was strong enough to sit up and look at our bills all I wanted to do was go back to sleep and hope that when I woke up everything would be better. How had things gotten this bad? Not only did we not have a savings anymore, but we were up to our eyeballs in credit card debt. Jared had been paying bills with the credit card to try and make our savings last as long as possible. I was amazed how fast things went downhill for us. A few weeks later the notices would start coming and then the phone calls from creditors. I was eight months pregnant with boy number three and I was scared.
I turned over and looked at my alarm clock. It was 3:27 am. I had to throw up again, so I jumped out of bed as fast an eight month pregnant woman could and ran to the bathroom. I bent over the toilet bowl and held my stomach. The pressure of the baby on everything inside me made the act of throwing up excruciating, not to mention the little guy was sitting on my bladder so I would pee my pants every time I threw up. While I changed my pajamas I thought, “When I die and meet God, this is one of the things I’m going to ask Him about. “Lord…why? I just wet my pants and I’d like to know what it is I’m supposed to be learning from this? Is it humility? I’m feeling pretty humble at the moment.” The only saving grace was there is no one there to witness it. I waddled back to bed and tried to get comfortable. No dice. I began thinking of our situation and wondered how we were ever going to get back to where we were. Would I have to start working? I did not want to leave my brand-new baby with someone else while I went off to work. That was not part of the plan for my life. I didn’t mind rolling up my sleeves and helping out my family, but with a new baby it just didn’t seem like a good time for me to be heading back to the workforce. I didn’t have a degree. I had gone to college but hadn’t finished. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about different solutions until my head hurt, and none of them seemed a good fit for our family. I felt desperate and I cried myself to sleep often. My belief that life would always be good was being replaced by absolute fear and panic.
I checked into Davis hospital at 8:00PM on March 16th. The plan was that they would get my labor started early the next morning. I’d gone into labor on my own with my first two babies and had no epidural. However, my second son was 9lbs. 8oz. and I was downright worried about the size of my third baby. The last birth had been excruciating and I was scared. My husband checked me in and left with the boys to get some sleep. The plan was for him to come back in the morning in time for my labor to be started. It did not work out that way. I went into labor on my own two hours later. By the time he got back to the hospital I had labored most of the night by myself. At 7:00AM I gave birth to my third son. He was an easy baby. He never cried and he was always smiling. It should have been a happy time for me, but it was not. We faced a lot of challenges and my husband had become short tempered and angry. I assumed it was because he was feeling stressed about our financial situation and having another baby in the house. He started keeping things from me, and if I asked him any questions, he would fly off the handle. I kept hoping for things to get better and I tried to be patient with him and our situation. When finances did not get better, I knew we would have to make some changes.
My youngest son was nine months old when I took a job at a floral shop. I had worked at a few florists before my kids were born. I just had a knack for design. The job was only three days a week, but they were full days. I would have to help open and close the shop, deliver, take orders, and design the arrangements. I hated leaving the baby, but my family needed help. My husband’s job had become unpredictable. He never got paid when he was supposed to. They blamed it on the recent plunge in the economy and that no one was buying new cars. We tried to sell our SUV through his dealership, but that would turn out to be a big mistake. My husband took the Xterra we owned outright and told me that they were going to auction it off. He said it would probably sell soon because it had low miles and was in such good condition. We bought my folks old, used van to replace it with our tax return money. All the while, our situation continued to get worse. I worried about how we were going to keep our house. Buying groceries had become stressful. There were some nights I would feed the boys and I would not eat because I wasn’t sure we would have enough food to get through the week. We were lucky we had a pantry full of food storage to help us get through. I wasn’t making that much money, but at least it was steady. We could always count on my payday. I knew if we could make it to Friday, there would be a little something more to live on for the next week. Friday had come again and I was grateful for the small amount of relief we received from it. I sat at the kitchen counter pouring over our bills. With calculator in hand, I figured we would be able to get back on top of things soon. Between my paychecks and my husband’s paychecks we should have been able to pay some things off and at least lower the payments of a few bills. I was excited to tell him the news and show him all the figures I had worked out. When he came home from work, I showed him the numbers. He seemed excited by the news and was ready to buckle down and stick to a new budget. If everything came together the way I had planned I would be able to be home with the kids again soon. My parents watched the baby while I was at work. They had recently moved to Utah after realizing they could sell their house in California, pay cash for a house in Utah and retire early. I was so grateful for their help. It made leaving my son a little easier knowing he was with his grandparents, but I wanted to be with him. I remember going to pick him up after work and my dad showing me a video of my little guy pulling himself up to stand for the first time. I pretended to be happy and proud, but my heart was really breaking. My baby was doing all the incredible, fun things babies do and I was missing it. My goal was to help get our family’s finances back on track as soon as possible so I could be home again for my boys. Not only was I aching to be with my boys, but I felt guilty for not being able to keep up with the house like I had before. I always prided myself on how clean our home was, and I loved to cook and work in the garden, but I couldn’t continue to keep up with all the things I had done before I went back to work. I just could not fit everything into my, now limited, schedule. I tried, at first, but that only led to a whole lot of tears, exhaustion and self-criticism. That was one of the first things I had to learn after going back to work. I had to learn to let go of a few things. It was not easy for me, but it was necessary. Our circumstances spiraled downward pretty quickly and so did my hope. We eventually had to sell our truck and become a one car family. Our SUV still hadn’t sold, and my husband kept telling me it was being moved from auction to auction across the country so we couldn’t get it back to sell it ourselves. This was a source of tension because we desperately needed the money and the stories he told me regarding the Xterra never quite made sense. I would ask questions, he’d start yelling that I was nagging him and I’d never get a straight answer, but he assured me that everything would work out. Having one car would prove to be a challenge. I would have to get up early to drop my husband off at the commuter bus before returning home to get the boys ready for school and me ready for work. I’d then get the 2 oldest boys on the bus and then drive the baby up to my parent’s house and drop him off before going to work. After work I’d drive back to my folk’s house, where I would pick up all three boys because my mom would pick the big boys up from school. Then I’d rush to meet my husband at the bus stop and bring everyone home. My in-laws came up to visit us and felt bad for our situation. They gave us their old car, which was gratefully accepted. It came as such a relief to a family who could not seem to catch a break.
With all these things going wrong for us, I started to let the thought “life is hard’ creep into my mind. And I let it set up camp there.
I was working at the flower house when one of my co-workers hollered that I had a call. I put down the yellow roses I was arranging and answered the phone. It was my husband calling to tell me he’d been in an accident. He said he was in Salt Lake at an intersection and had a green, left-turn arrow. As he was going through the intersection, a man failed to stop and hit his car on the passenger side, totaling the car we’d just been given a month before. Jared went on with the story, telling me no one was hurt but he didn’t know if we’d get anything for the car because he’d forgotten to put the new car on our car insurance policy and he was driving uninsured. He said he and the other man involved had exchanged information and he would call the other guy’s insurance company as soon as he got off work. My heart sank. Days went by and he still couldn’t tell me what was going on with the car his parents had given us. I would never see it again. He told me our insurance company was trying to help him get information on how to get money from the accident, but he would never give me details. I asked for phone numbers so I could call and take care of things, but he refused. He told me he didn’t need me to do it because he would take care of it. Months went by and nothing was resolved. I begged him to give me phone numbers of people I could contact to no avail. We now waited to receive money for two vehicles. I spent a lot of time praying. I started feeling like I had to do everything on my own. I thought if I wasn’t moving…I wasn’t moving forward and I became afraid to sit still. I desperately wanted things to be like they had been before, but the challenges kept coming. My husband’s paychecks were becoming more sporadic and he always had an excuse why he hadn’t been paid. A few times he told me he had locked his paycheck in his desk drawer at work and forgot to bring it home. At this point our phone constantly rang from creditors trying to get a hold of us. It became so exhausting we started refusing to answer the phone. We told the boys not to pick up unless they could hear on the answering machine that it was someone we knew.
My husband dealt with the stress by turning to sports. He had always been a big football fan, but he had become consumed with it. After work he would turn on ESPN and watch all the highlights and updates. When Sports Center wasn’t on, he’d get on the computer and check scores. He knew which players had been injured, who was playing who; he kept up on all of it. Soon it wasn’t just football he was interested in. He became obsessed with baseball, soccer, hockey, even tennis. Our family had a tradition of sleeping in the loft together on Friday nights. We would stay up late watching movies and eating junk food. The boys loved it, but little by little, their dad began skipping our “sleepovers”. We would ask him to join us, but he always wanted to stay downstairs and get caught up on what had happened in the sporting world that day. I thought it was his way of dealing with everything we were going through, so I didn’t push him to join us. There were so many things I was frustrated with and I needed answers to, but I didn’t want to be a nagging wife. I tried to time things just right. I had to wait for the right moment to ask a question and I was never quite sure what would be on the other end of it. It was the definition of the term “walking on eggshells”. Sometimes he was understanding and tried to comfort me and other times he’d just get mad. I couldn’t understand why Jared’s behavior had changed so dramatically in such a short amount of time.
I have learned to never say, “Things can’t get any worse.” The cold, hard truth is that things can always get worse. In February of 2007, Jared came home and informed me that things had gotten so bad at work that half the dealership had been laid off, including him. We soon got behind on our mortgage and the phone continued to ring off the hook. One afternoon there was a knock at the door. It was a man who explained how our house had been recorded in the county offices as being way past due. It was now public record how far behind we were. He offered to buy our house and told us there would probably be many more offers.
I couldn’t understand how this could be happening to us. We were two smart people who could figure things out. I was doing everything I could think of to help our family and nothing was working. I could no longer talk to my husband about what was happening because he’d just shut down, and I was too embarrassed to tell anyone else what was really going on. I thought we were the unluckiest couple on the face of the earth.
With my parents help, we were able to get a few of the house payments caught up and the real estate agents off our backs, but our phones and cable were shut off. Somehow my husband figured out a way to get the cable back on. I couldn’t figure out why the cable was so important to him when there were so many other things we needed to take care of. No matter how bad things got, he found a way to pay the cable bill. I knew watching sports was his outlet, but I could not understand sacrificing other things our family needed for a few hours of T.V. I was becoming more and more frustrated and my weariness showed. One day after work, I headed to my parent’s house to pick up the baby. I sat down at the kitchen table after a long day on my feet. My mom asked how my day was and I burst into tears. My dad sat across the table and asked what was going on. I told him I didn’t know, but that everything was so hard, and I was tired of fighting for everything and not seeing anything good come of it. He looked across the table at me and said, “I just want my daughter back.” I was aware of how sad I felt, but I didn’t realize it was so apparent to others.
After another few months, my husband finally got a job as an accountant for Utah’s largest power company. It was a company with a good reputation, and it was a raise for us. By this time, we were so far behind on everything I didn’t think we’d ever be able to dig ourselves out. However, I was relieved to find out we would finally be able to get insurance coverage again. Any mother of all boys will agree this is just about the best information one can hear. It came as relief to the soul of an overworked, overwhelmed woman who prayed her boys would not break an arm or crack open their head because she couldn’t pay for it. Mothers of all boys will, also, attest to the fact that the odds of injury are stacked against you. The next time you see a group of brothers hanging around, just observe them. You’ll see what I mean.
I took another job at a grocery store in town as the floral manager. It was better pay and they would be more flexible with me and my schedule. I started working from 9:00am to 5:30pm Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday and Friday nights from 5:00pm until 9:00 pm. This way my folks only had to watch the baby on Mondays and Tuesdays and their dad could watch the boys in the evenings as I left for work. I still didn’t love the situation, but I was grateful for my new job and the little bit of extra money I was making. With the start of my job, I opened a small checking account in my own name so I could have my paychecks direct deposited into it. I could no longer count on anything being in our family’s bank account and I felt something telling me I needed to have an account that my husband didn’t have access to. I still hoped things would start looking up for us and it finally seemed as though things were changing for the better.
My parents had offered to take me and the boys with them to California for a week to visit my brother and stay at our family’s cabin. My husband couldn’t go because of work, but the boys and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit with family and friends. We had been through so much and I was excited to get away and take a break from all of my worries. While we were there, my husband called with some good news. He told us he had been given an insurance packet to fill out and that we’d be covered by the end of the month. I told my family the good news. They were almost as relieved as I was. I went back to my vacation with a renewed sense that everything was finally starting to work out. We still had not seen a dime from either car, but I believed we were about to turn a corner.
It was the day before Halloween, and I had gone to the store to buy a few things for our Halloween night celebration. We always have hot cider and chili waiting to warm us when we come back from trick-or-treating and I always make caramel corn, so we have something to munch on while we watch scary movies. I knew I had enough money in my account to cover the groceries. I could balance my checkbook to the penny, but when I went through the checkout my debit card declined. I knew it had to be a mistake, so we tried it again. It declined again. As luck would have it, my dad walked into the grocery store and saw me standing at the checkout. He came over to say hi and I explained what had happened. He paid for my groceries and I told him I would be able to pay him right back as soon as I called the bank and figured out what was going on. I took my groceries home, unloaded the baby and got on-line to check my account. There were three withdrawals from an ATM in town. I knew I hadn’t made any withdrawals, so I called my husband. “I just went to the grocery store to buy a few things for tomorrow night’s dinner and my debit card declined. I just checked my account and there are three withdrawals from the Kaysville ATM and I never go to the ATM. Have you used my card?” “No. I wouldn’t do that! How much money is missing?” “It’s three separate transactions for twenty dollars each.” “Jen, I wouldn’t just take money out of your account without asking. It wasn’t me. I’m so sick of the bank making all of these mistakes with our accounts. This is crap!” I went to the bank and asked them to look up my account. They informed me that the withdrawals had all taken place around six o’clock in the morning. My husband usually left for work by then, while I was still asleep. The gentleman that was helping me told me they could pull photos from their security camera so I could see who it was. I was a little afraid to find out, but I had to know. I asked them to pull the photos, which they informed me would take about a week. One week later I received a phone call from my bank telling me they had the pictures. I drove down and held my breath as a man behind a desk showed me photos of the person who had made the withdrawals on my account. They were all my husband. I wanted to throw up. The gentleman behind the desk asked me if I wanted to press charges. I had never been asked that before. I stood there trying to make sense of everything while he waited for my response. I told him I didn’t want to press charges and left. This was my husband, and while he hadn’t been himself for a while, I still held to the hope that things would get better. I thought this was just one of those rough times most marriages go through. I believed if I could be strong and stick it out, that everything would somehow work out. That is what I’d been taught. My parents had always been happy and in love and I had seen them work together and work through everything side by side; but this didn’t feel or look anything like that. It felt like the world had waged war against me and I was fighting alone for my marriage and my family. I left the bank and headed home. While driving I realized that I had never been without my debit card. I tried to figure out how he would find the chance to use it. All the transactions happened around six in the morning, which means he would have to take my debit card out of my wallet, go to the bank, make a withdrawal and then come back home to put the card back in my purse before I woke up. I wondered what I was going to do. When he came home, I told him that I had ordered pictures from the bank to find out what the security cameras showed. He continued to play along. “Good! This is ridiculous! This bank sucks and they’re always making mistakes.” As I stood there listening to his reaction, more and more pieces of me died inside. I wondered what I had ever done to make him lie to me this way. What would cause him to be so careless with the heart and life I’d entrusted to him? The insurance he’d promised through his work was still not in effect. More excuses. He still couldn’t tell me what was going on with our missing cars, and money kept disappearing. To make matters worse I had been handed an envelope at work explaining that my paycheck was being garnished to pay for leftover medical bills from the birth of my youngest. All of this was going through my head while I sat and listened to him betray my trust. “The photos came in today.” I waited for his response…silence. “All three transactions showed a picture of you.” He continued to say nothing. “Why did you do it and why did you lie to me? Why did you let me go into the bank and go through all of this if you knew you did it? I don’t understand what’s going on.” “I just needed some money and I didn’t want to ask. You’ve been so careful about every penny and I wanted a few bucks.” “My paycheck is being garnished! We have three boys to feed and we are behind on all our bills, including our mortgage! Yes, I’m being really careful with my paycheck. Nothing you ever tell me seems to work out. This little account is the only thing I have that I can financially count on, and now you’ve taken that from me!” I had spent the last year hoping things would get better. I wanted all of these things to just be bad luck. I thought our situation was the product of a bad economy. Lost jobs, sparse paychecks; I had been suspicious, but all his stories seemed somewhat reasonable with what was going on in the midst of our country’s economic downturn. Now I had proof he was lying. I just didn’t know how far his lies went, but I can tell you that everything crossed my mind. We talked all night about what was going on. He said he was feeling stressed about everything and told me he was sorry. He said he hadn’t been himself and he didn’t know why he didn’t tell me, but he was embarrassed by his actions. We talked about how we needed to work together to get through everything and he apologized, again. I have always been quick to forgive, and he would learn to use that against me.
Things seemed to get a little better for a time. While we still struggled financially, his paychecks were steady and my paychecks helped slowly whittle our bills down. My paycheck continued to be garnished to pay off hospital bills, and I had signed up with a debt consolidation company that was helping us pay our bills. The phone slowly stopped ringing off the hook. It seemed we’d finally turned that corner. One day I was looking over all our debt and realized if we could just pay off one specific bill we’d be able to roll that payment into others and be able to pay everything off much faster. Then I remembered that we had opened IRAs a few years earlier. He and I had both opened one in each of our names. I knew I’d be penalized for cashing it out early, but the benefit of taking it early and paying off our debts outweighed the penalty I’d pay. I went to my filing cabinet to find the information on my IRA. It was no longer in my file. I searched other files, thinking I had mistakenly put it in the wrong one. An hour later I had been through every file in the filing cabinet and found no sign of either of our IRA accounts. Frustrated, I laid down on the floor next to the mess of papers I’d just made My husband walked in. I told him I’d been looking for our IRA paperwork, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. He looked down at the floor. I knew that look and I knew it meant a bomb was about to drop on my house again. The next few minutes would reveal that he had taken both our IRAs and cashed them out. I asked him how he was able to cash mine out without me knowing. He told me he forged my signature. I sat listening in disbelief to his story about how the baby had just been born and how we had a lot of bills to pay and he didn’t want me to worry so he closed the accounts and used them to pay some of our debt. I think this was the start of the numbness that began to set into my heart. I dared not hope for too much because it hurt so badly when it didn’t’ work out. I poured so much effort into making things right and being good and it seemed I was getting nowhere. Once again, he begged my forgiveness and I gave it to him hoping that things would still be alright because this incident had happened before our agreement to come together (even though I thought that was a given in a marriage). Besides, hadn’t things been looking up for us? I told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Health insurance still hadn’t come through for our family and I finally gave up on asking him about it. I went to my boss and asked him what I’d need to do to get insurance through my employer. I would have to work at least thirty hours a week for three months to qualify for it. I started taking on extra hours in different departments to make the required time. This meant I now worked an extra night a week and added an hour to each of my night shifts. By the time I got home from work my kids were asleep. I hated it, but I knew we would need insurance. Something kept telling me to find a way. Around this same time my husband was asked to go to Chicago on business. He explained that his company was a part of other power companies across the country and they would be sending him to help with some of their books. So, off he went to Chicago. While he was there he was able to go to a Bears game (his favorite pro-football team). He called and told me he was able to go with a co-worker during some of their down time. He sounded so excited and happy. I was glad he was getting out and doing something he loved. One day while he was gone I came home to a notice on my front door telling me the payments on our house were months behind and if we didn’t take care of it by a certain date our home would be auctioned off. The total we needed to come up with to keep it from being sold was $15,000. I felt the feeling of absolute panic rise up within me. It was an exhausting life I was living. I didn’t feel like me anymore. I started expecting the worst all the time. I ran to the phone and called my husband. He seemed as surprised and worried as I was, but he said he’d make some calls and we’d figure everything out. I was still hoping he’d come through and that I’d be able to rely on him. He called back and told me he had talked to the mortgage company and that some of the payments had been found, having been sent to the wrong department. However, some of them had still not been located. They were looking for the rest of them, but it looked like everything was going to be alright. As the next few weeks passed, I would check with Jared to make sure all the payments were accounted for. Little by little He said the payments had been found and the lawyers had been contacted to stop the auction proceedings. The day before the original date was set to auction off our house, I had the strange feeling I should call and make sure everything had been taken care of with the lawyers. About an hour later I received a call while I was at work. “Jen, we’re in a little bit of a pickle.” “What’s going on?” I said. “I called the lawyers and they said the mortgage company says we still owe them back house payments. The house is going up for auction tomorrow.” I slammed down the phone, now thoroughly convinced that if I didn’t take care of everything in my life by myself, no one would. I explained to my boss that I was having a family emergency, clocked out and headed home. I found all the numbers for the lawyers and my mortgage company, and I began the ultimate goose chase. I called the mortgage company and they told me there had been no payments for six months and there were now lawyer’s fees tacked on to all the charges. How did I not know the payments hadn’t been made for that long? The last time we had trouble with our mortgage we received letters in the mail almost daily, and we had received phone calls from every real estate agent in town trying to offer us a way to stay in our house. But the housing market had dramatically dropped since then. No one was buying houses and Jared always brought in the mail. I wouldn’t have seen any notices. I was about to lose my house; a house I had spent a lot of money on and poured a lot of money into; a house I loved in a neighborhood where my children had incredible friends and wonderful influences, and I wasn’t about to walk away from it. I called my dad in tears and explained what was going on. My dad ran down to his bank, took out a loan for $15,000 and took it down to the law office that was heading up our auction. My house was safe…for a little while. When I called my husband to tell him the house wasn’t going to be auctioned off, he seemed agitated. I had expected him to be relieved, but he was mad. It seemed strange to me. I called the mortgage company and told them what my husband had told me about the payments being sent to the wrong department and they assured me that could not happen. There were no “other” departments. When I asked my husband what was going on, his story changed.
The Western Union Fiasco
This next part of the story is what I now refer to as “The Western Union Fiasco”. My husband told me he’d been paying the mortgage through Western Union. That, in itself, was an argument because I couldn’t understand why he’d been paying the mortgage that way. He told me that the mortgage company wouldn’t accept personal checks once payments were a certain amount past due, so he’d been paying another way, but he couldn’t produce any confirmation numbers. That was another argument. When he could finally produce confirmation numbers, they were hand scribbled on a piece of torn notebook paper. I called the Western Union headquarters and began trying to track down where all the money had gone. They told me the confirmation numbers I gave them were nothing like their confirmation numbers. My husband assured me the confirmation numbers were real. So, we started investigating to see what had happened with all our lost mortgage payments. Western Union was concerned that one of their stores was pocketing money. So, my husband went to the Western Union he’d been using in Salt Lake to confront them about the lost payments. I asked to go with him, but he refused. He came home and told me the Western Union he’d gone to had closed and was no longer where it had been. Again, he swore not only to me but to my parents that everything he was telling us was true and that he’d be able to pay my parents back as soon as possible. He would look me in the eye and swear with the conviction of an innocent man that everything he said was absolute truth. One day he called and said he’d found where the Western Union had moved. He said he’d gone to a store that was located next door to the old location and asked questions. He was able to get a phone number and contact them. Apparently, they’d been trying to get a hold of us for months because they had all these payments that were going to the wrong place and they had no way of contacting us. They had re-opened their store in another city so my husband went down to get our money back. That afternoon my folks came over to visit. I was sitting in the kitchen with them when my husband came in through the garage all excited. He set $2300 cash down on the counter in front of my dad. We just stared at him. He started explaining that he’d gone down to the new location of the Western Union he’d been using and demanded they give him some of the money back. They said the $2300 was all they could give him, but when the manager came back they’d be able to get all of it to us. We were ecstatic! I thought maybe I could believe in him again and find a little faith.
January 2009 The Year of Unraveling
From My Journal January 7th 2009 I’m so exhausted from financial upsets I can barely convey the complete agony I feel. We had another setback today and I’m really trying to keep my chin up when all I feel like doing is hiding under the covers and crying.
From My Journal January 15th 2009 Today I was able to take the kids to the doctor for the first time in over three years. I got my insurance. It was so nice to feel like a great mom again. The doctor raised Ethan’s prescription dosage and gave Cameron some allergy medicine. He should be feeling much better soon. I love those boys and I desperately miss seeing them in the evenings. I pray Heavenly Father will answer my prayers.
From My Journal January 19th 2009 I’m struggling today. For the first time in my life I feel like I’m nothing. I feel tiny and insignificant. I wish I could talk to my husband, but he doesn’t understand and all he does is get angry and raise his voice. I’m curled up in bed and I’m feeling abandoned and un-loved. I feel like a failure.
From My Journal January 20th 2009 Today was a day I hope I can soon forget; worse than yesterday. I seem to be able to find no light on this earth or in my life. While logically I know God is with me…emotionally I feel abandoned. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I can’t confide in my husband; like he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to listen. For the first time in my life I’m really scared for my marriage.
It was a Wednesday morning and I was taking a bath with the baby when my phone rang. I wasn’t about to get out of the tub, so I let the phone ring until the answering machine picked up. After we were dried off and dressed, I went downstairs to see who had called. There was a message from my husband’s aunt. I was surprised because we were not close to this aunt at all and I wondered why she’d be calling us. She was angry in her message, and she asked why we weren’t returning her calls and why we hadn’t paid her the money we owed her. I felt the rug being pulled out from under me again. When he came home I asked if he had borrowed money from his aunt. He didn’t know what to say and would not answer me until he knew where I’d heard about the money. I told him she’d left an angry message on the phone, and I demanded to know why he had borrowed money from her, what he had borrowed it for and why I didn’t know about it. Again, he came up with the answer that we had a lot of bills to pay and he didn’t want to worry me. This didn’t appease me. I was the one taking care of our bills and I knew none of them had been paid. I pushed for more specific answers to which I got none. He apologized over and over again and said he had other bills to pay. He said he knew how I much I worried about our finances and didn’t want to worry me anymore. Since I could not get a straight answer to where the money went, I changed the subject and asked him how much money he had borrowed. Again, he looked at the floor, so I knew to brace myself before he answered “$5,000.00”. It was a good thing the kids were outside, because I went through the roof. I asked if there was another woman, if he didn’t love me anymore, and I asked if he was doing drugs. He said it was nothing like that. He told me he was paying odd medical bills and other things that had been neglected but needed to be paid. I didn’t believe him, and I was so angry I could barely breathe. “Do I know everything?” I demanded. “Yes, I swear. Things are crazy, but I’m not lying.” The next day I was still in a fog and in my pajamas dusting the dining room when the phone rang. It was a cousin of mine who, through a weird twist of events, knows the aunt that my husband had borrowed money from. “Jen, I can tell by our conversations that you don’t know what’s going on. Do you know he has borrowed money from his aunt?” “Yes. I found out yesterday because she left an angry message and I confronted him about it. He told me he borrowed $5000.00 from her. “He told you he borrowed $5000.00 from her?” she asked “Yes.” “Jen…he borrowed $10,000.00 from her.” There are not sufficient words in the English language to explain how I felt at this exact moment. I remember sitting on one of my dining room chairs, staring out the window trying to decide what to do and where to start. I watched my kids and all the neighborhood kids ride their bikes around the cul-de-sac while my little guy sat playing with some cars at me feet. All this time the goal was to get out of debt so I could be home for my family. The baby cried every time I left for work and I dreaded it. Now we were back at square one. Everything I had accomplished was for naught. I was back at the starting gate. When my husband came home I confronted him. He wanted to know how I knew that he had actually borrowed $10,000. After I told him how I knew he finally confessed what had been going on. He said he’d been betting on sports. He told me he’d started out making a lot of money, but he got cocky and started placing larger bets, but he lost. He had used the money he borrowed from his aunt to pay his gambling debts. He said he was being threatened and they were threatening to hurt his family. The fact that they threatened to hurt me, and the boys and he didn’t tell me scared me to death. I ran to the closet where our suitcases were and started filling them with the boy’s clothes. I called my dad and explained what had happened and asked if the kids and I could stay with them. My dad said that gambling was an addiction and that my husband would need my help. I had to leave for work soon and I did not know what to do. I tried to call my boss and change my schedule, but he had already left. I went in to work barely able to function. I remember standing alone in the back room, barely able to function.
From my journal February 19th 2009 Today was terrible. I found out that my husband has borrowed large sums of money from family members to pay for money he lost betting on sports. Not only did he not tell me, but he lied to me about it. I feel betrayed and scared and alone. I never expected to be in a situation like this. I cried so hard I got a migraine and almost threw up. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad and angry and scared in my life. I almost packed the boys up and left for my folk’s house. He is out on the couch right now. My life is an absolute mess right now and I don’t know what to make of everything. I’m stunned. I’m scared. I pray.
After my husband had confessed his gambling addiction I felt a difference in my house. It was like a spirit had come back into our home. There was a physical difference I could literally feel. I hoped maybe this was the start of a healing process for our family. My husband went to an addiction recovery course. I tried to be positive and reaffirm that I believed in him and I believed things would be better. Some days were easier than others, but we were still in a world of hurt financially.
I was grateful to know what had been going on with My husband. It helped me understand so many of the changes I’d seen in him. I was trying to be positive and believe everything would work out. I never wanted a divorce. It wasn’t something I ever believed I would have to go through, and I certainly didn’t want my children to have to go through it. I believed most marriages broke up because of pride and selfishness. For me divorce was just not the answer. If there was anything I could do to help my marriage, I was going to do it. I would not be the one who wouldn’t forgive. I would ask Jared to be honest with me and tell me everything, and then I would move forward hoping it would bring blessings and healing to my family. That being said, there were still a lot of things going on that needed to be resolved. It constantly tested my patience. His paychecks never came when they were supposed to, and we were still missing the money from the cars, mortgage payments and money from Western Union. One afternoon he called me from work and told me there was a tax expert there for his boss who was offering to help a few guys in his office do their taxes. Jared and I had always done our taxes together, but he asked if it would be alright for him to go ahead and have them done since the guy was already there. I reluctantly said okay. A few hours later he brought the paperwork to me at work so I could sign it. I was busy with a customer so I quickly signed it and he left. We received our tax return within the next few weeks and I didn’t think much of it until a few weeks later. I was in my bathroom pulling my hair back in a barrette when a voice from inside me said, “Check your tax returns.” I stood there for a minute with my hair in my hands. It was quiet in the bathroom. As I stood there for a minute I felt it again, “Go check your tax returns.” I clipped the barrette and went to my filing cabinet. Jared was sitting on the sofa. “What are you doing?” “I just realized I haven’t really looked at our taxes and I figured I’d take a look.” I noticed him wince in his seat. I pulled out the taxes and looked at our bottom line. What did we make this year? The amount wasn’t even half of what he was supposed to be making at his job. “What is this? This is wrong.” “Umm, no it’s not.” “Have you looked at what they say we made last year? It’s not even close to what you’re supposed to be making. This is the government we’re dealing with! You don’t mess with the government! What is going on?” He looked down at the floor. “No, don’t look down at the floor,” I thought. “I know what it means when you look down at the floor. Please don’t look down at the floor!” I tried to brace myself. “I’m not working at the power company anymore.” The rest of this story, and most of them from here on out, end with me curled up in the fetal position on the floor of my closet in tears. He proceeded to tell me that he had lost his job, but had taken an unpaid internship with the same power company in an attempt to become one of their field men. On the side he was doing construction for a buddy of his who owned his own company. I asked him why he didn’t tell me. He told me he didn’t know. I think lying had just become habit for him. He told me he would find out about becoming a field man in a few weeks. I prepared myself for more of the waiting game.
From my journal April 27th 2009 He got the job at the power company. He’s making $15,000 more than he was. He’ll have benefits from the get-go. The weight this takes off my shoulders is unbelievable! I’m so proud of him despite my anger at past events. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish.
The joy from that last journal entry would be short lived. I wanted to keep my family together, but inside I was getting more and more numb. One day I went out to get the mail and there was a letter from one of my husband’s other aunts. I opened it and there was a check for a thousand dollars in it with a note. She told him she was happy to help but she would need him to pay her back as soon as possible. I was furious. When he came home we had another long talk. I told him that we needed to take care of our own problems and not involve anyone else in them. He told me he would tear up the check. Later that night he brought in a letter he wanted to read to me. It was a letter thanking his aunt for being so gracious and trying to help us. He wrote how he appreciated her help but we were working things out on our own. I told him it sounded like a nice letter and he said he would send it off the next day. A few weeks later I received an E-mail from his same aunt asking when he could pay her back. I told her I was under the impression Jared had ripped the check up. She then sent a copy of the deposited check. I asked her not to send him any more money and told her we would find a way to pay her back. I geared up for another miserable night. I didn’t make much of the situation when he came home; I was too exhausted. I did, however spend the entire night in my mind replaying the evening he came and read me the letter he’d written for his aunt. The whole thing was an act to throw me off while he went ahead and cashed the check anyway. I was sick…again. Soon after that he called me and told me the X-terra had finally sold and that they were wiring $10,000 into our account that day. I got on-line and sure enough there was $10,000 in it. I called my folks to tell them the good news. My dad asked where it had been wired from. I didn’t know, so I called the bank to find out. They told me the money had been put into our account from a branch in Thousand Oaks, California, the city where my in-laws lived. My world had become a world of lies, mistrust and arguments. Things began to hurt less and less because I came to expect ruin. All the while I prayed frantically, trying to hang on to the tiniest shred of hope. One night I was curled up on the side of my bed praying. Everyone was asleep except me. I cried as hard a soul could cry and begged God to help me. I needed an answer. I didn’t know what to do. After sobbing and praying for about 45 minutes, a voice from inside me said, “Sell your house.” I heard it as clear as if someone stood in front of me and said it to my face. My heart sank. I loved my house. My children had friends and a great school and a big yard to play in. I didn’t want to sell my house, but I needed something to change. I couldn’t go on this way anymore. I felt my way in the dark down the stairs and turned on the light. I sat on the floor in the middle of the family room and looked around at all my photographs. I looked at my kitchen island where I had made meals for my family and dunked cookies in milk with my kids. I looked at the colors I had painted on my walls and the curtains I had fashioned for the windows. I sat there and cried for another hour before I gave in, took a deep breath, exhaled and said to the stillness, “Okay…we’ll sell the house.” The next morning I talked to my husband about the possibility of us selling our house. He didn’t want to move either but understood that we might need to under our current circumstances. I called my cousin’s husband who was a real estate agent and told him we wanted to put our house on the market. He explained that the market was terrible, and it wasn’t a good time. I told him I would do a little research and get back to him. Everyone told us not to sell our house. I could not find one person who agreed it was a good idea. I slowly talked myself out of moving. I was convinced if we were really supposed me to move something would tell me again. So, I waited for another answer and we would end up not putting our house on the market. So here is a lesson I learned the hard way. When you know the universe has told you to do something, don’t question or hesitate because it might not tell you again. Things were about to get a lot worse and they might have been easier had I just listened.
From my journal May 20th 2009 Today I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated with myself and my own weakness, and I’m frustrated with husband and his lack of responsibility. He floats through his days…”I didn’t know we had so many bills. I didn’t know we were so behind.” If I ask him any financial question regarding money owed to us he gets nasty. I try to bite my tongue and smooth things over, but I just want to punch him in the face! I’m so angry with him and the way he’s treated me the last few years. I crave safety. All I want is to feel safe and protected by the man who promised to cherish me. I feel as if he’d stab me in the back to protect his lies. I’m angry with myself for letting it get to this point, but I’m the only one in the family holding it all together and I’m exhausted! I pray for relief. I don’t know how much longer I can hang in there.
From my journal June 9th 2009 No money still. Honestly I feel disappointed, lied to and I feel like a fool. He keeps telling me it’s coming, but I think he’s full of it and doesn’t want to tell me what’s really up. I don’t even ache anymore. I’m just numb and being numb is an interesting place to be because you really don’t care anymore.
From my journal June 13th 2009 Our phones and computer have been shut off. I’m so tired.
By the time August arrived I had reached my limit. My husband and I had an ongoing argument about him bringing home his paystub so I could see it. He would bring home cash and tell me he cashed his paycheck and that he forgot I wanted to see his paystub. We would argue over how he could forget when we had been over it so many times. This went on week after week. I would plead for him to bring home his paycheck…he would tell me he would…and then he would come home with cash and tell me he forgot. I had no phone numbers for his work and he wouldn’t tell me anything about who he worked with. If I asked him how his day was, he’d just say, “It was work.” I finally told him I wanted him to take me to where he worked. Initially he was angry, but then he said he would take me. So, one morning I put Cameron and Ethan on the bus for school, buckled Chad up in his car seat and followed my husband to work. He drove me to a large power plant in Salt Lake City and told me I could not go in because security had been bulked up since 9-11. I watched him drive to the far side of the power plant and waited for a few minutes before I got back on the freeway and headed home. I still didn’t feel right. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do.
I wanted everything to be good. I wanted to be able to count on the person I had counted on for the last thirteen years. I wanted to believe him. I wanted the life I’d planned for. This was not it. I prayed for patience. I prayed for peace of mind. I prayed everything would work out. I prayed for a miracle, but the coming weeks would be almost unbearable, and they would change my life forever.
One Week Later
It was a Wednesday morning and Chad and I were in the front yard playing. I was pushing him on a scooter when my husband’s car turned into the cul-de-sac. I could see he was crying. I went to the garage to see what was wrong and he informed me he’d lost his job. I didn’t feel surprised at all. He said he couldn’t understand why this kept happening to him. We talked about what we were going to do. He told me he was getting a small severance package and we would still be getting some back pay. He complained that his back was hurting really bad and I told him it was probably the stress of everything. We still couldn’t turn on our computer so I told him I would go up to my folks house and use their computer to look for jobs. While I was there, he called and told me his back hurt so badly he couldn’t breathe. I ended up taking him to an insta-care facility where they thought he had kidney stones. They took x-rays and told us they’d let us know what they found. We received a call the next day from the doctor telling us it wasn’t kidney stones. The x-rays showed a number of growths in his abdomen and they needed to see him right away. Jared’s diagnosis was testicular cancer. It had metastasized and spread to his abdomen and lungs. He would have one surgery every Friday for the next three weeks. The first one was to remove a lymph node, the second one was to remove a testicle and the third was to put a port into his chest so they could plug chemo into him easily. I had to keep up my hours at work so we could have insurance for all of this treatment. A co-worker of mine was out for two months having his own cancer treatment so I was expected to pick up some of his slack. I started working 40 hours a week and was dealing with all of his appointments, surgeries and prescriptions. I felt like a single mom because he was knocked out from pain medicine most of the time. I also knew we would now have to sell our house. My in-law’s had bought a house in Utah and came up to help as soon as they found out about the cancer. One day after they got here, my dad was driving down Main Street, past their house, and felt the uncontrollable need to stop and talk to them. They were surprised to see him, but invited him in. He asked them if they knew anything about what had been going on. They knew different stories than he did. When my dad called me later, we were able to piece a few stories together and realized that things were much worse than we realized. My husband had been lying to everyone and was borrowing money from all our family members. We decided to go talk to a counselor about what to do. As we sat there discussing our concerns more and more pieces to the puzzle were found. We all thought he was still lying about his job, which led to questions about his business trips. His parents believed he’d been hanging out in their vacant house. We knew he’d lied to them about the $10,000 they’d wired to our account. We couldn’t fathom how two cars could disappear. The list went on. Our counselor suggested we have an intervention that night. We left right away. When I walked in the front door with my in-laws and our counselor, my husband was furious. Everyone waited in the living room while I went to the kitchen with him. He looked at me and said, “I knew it! We’re done!” “You’re not even going to talk to them?” I asked. He just glared at me. Then he reluctantly went into the living room. Our counselor asked him how he was feeling, and then told him we were all concerned for him. My husband looked at him and said, “There’s nothing wrong with me. My wife THINKS there’s something wrong with me.” I sat there silently and looked straight at the counselor while my husband ranted and accused me of being the problem. Finally, the counselor asked if my husband really worked where he said he did. He scoffed and said, “Yes”. The counselor looked at me and said, “Jen, go and get your tax returns.” I went upstairs to the filing cabinet and grabbed our most recent taxes. Our counselor sat in the chair across from us examining our paperwork. “There’s nothing on here that says you worked at a power company.” I wanted to be somewhere else. I felt sick. He was backed into a corner and finally confessed that he hadn’t worked for the power company all year. I knew in that moment that everything else had been a lie. There was no more hoping that everything would work out. I knew there was no more money coming. I knew the cars were gone and we’d never see a penny from them. I knew the Western Union Fiasco had just been another cover up for his gambling. I knew the house payments really were behind and that no payments had been misplaced. I knew he had lied to me hundreds of times daily, all for the sake of his pride. How many times had I forgiven him? He promised he was telling me everything and I, in my naiveté, tried to believe him. He knew I would, and he used it against me. I hated him for that. He took my best qualities, my forgiving nature and my power to believe, and used it against me. I put the house on the market knowing full well if we didn’t sell it soon we would lose it. I did not care anymore. I was ready to give everything I owned away if it meant having peace back in my life. Oh, the clarity that comes with letting go. None of it matters! I no longer cared about the house or my things. I just wanted to feel safe and happy. My plan was to move my husband in with his folks so they could take care of him while the boys and I would move in with my folks. He needed constant help and I had to work or he wouldn’t have medical benefits. I told the boys and all our neighbors and friends we were moving in with my parents because he had no immunity and we didn’t want to get him sick. I would use the time away from him to decide what to do next. Our house sold in one month. It was a miracle, seeing as how other houses in our neighborhood had sat on the market for over a year. The family that bought our home needed us out in a few weeks. I remember thinking, “We might as well get it all over with at once.” I dealt with a bigger workload, my husband’s cancer, packing the house, my children, and the realization that my marriage was over by running. I lost a lot of weight because there weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needed to be done. I couldn’t stop moving. Our neighborhood brought dinners every night for a month, and though it was difficult for me to accept the help, I was so grateful for one less thing to worry about. I will never forget the kindness that was offered to my family. You can never know how much it meant.
My parents were out of town when the boys and I moved our things into their basement. They had helped move quite a few things before they left to go see my brother, but we still had some things like bedding and clothes to move in. I was exhausted. Most of the neighbors had showed up to help and it was a major ordeal. We moved everything into two storage units. I remember lying in bed that night and thinking, “I forgot how it feels to climb into bed and feel safe.”
My parent’s home was a place of refuge for me. I no longer felt fear every time the phone rang or someone knocked on the door. The house was gone and with that came so much peace.
After 3 months of intense chemotherapy my husband was told he was in remission. It was a relief, but I knew it meant we would now have to face a lot of tough decisions. Jared wanted everything to go back to the way it was, but every time I considered the possibility of going back, I felt sick. I told him if he wanted to move forward, he would have to come clean and tell me everything. He told me I was living in the past and we should just move on from there. He refused to tell me what had actually happened. I told him I couldn’t trust him until he was willing to tell me the whole truth. So, here’s how that worked out. I still don’t know what really happened to the cars. I don’t know what happened to all the lost house payments. I don’t know how he paid for his trip to Chicago or why he went (because we know it wasn’t a business trip). I don’t know where he gambled or how much he actually lost. I don’t know the “friend” he worked for or how long he worked for him. I don’t know if he ever actually worked for a power company. I don’t know if the “Western Union Fiasco” ever actually happened. I don’t know if he ever finished his addiction recovery classes. I don’t know how much money he actually borrowed from our family and friends. I don’t know the truth about anything that happened in the last four years of our marriage.
The process of going through a divorce is a wretched one. Aside from the broken hearts and bruised egos, the ripping in two of a life shared is excruciating. Sitting around dividing up photographs and C.D’s, cookware and camping gear, you can’t help but feel as though you’re losing half of your life. I’m not even going to mention the agony you go through worrying about what this is going to do to your kids. But, when all is said and done, if you’ve paid attention, you may have found you’ve learned a few things…