Being a wife


Several months ago, a friend of mine told me he was going to Afghanistan. As my eyelids shaped my eyes into spheres, I said, “I could never go there. People are always talking about humanitarian work in Africa and the Middle East and those are the two places that scare me the most.”

I was raised in a neighborhood where Caucasian was the minority. For the first sixteen years of my life, I grew to completely understand what racism was, from a very different perspective than the norm. Once we moved to a more Caucasian-populated area, I felt as if I was still the minority because I’d grown accustomed to feeling like I had Hispanic, African-American and Filipino roots.

I know what it feels like to, not only, be singled out because I’m white, but to be singled out because I’m female. Both of those, in and of themselves, are extremely terrifying to me. I used to carry a pocket knife to school in Junior High. Junior High! I was twelve years old and so fearful of harm coming to me, I would carry a weapon with me to stab a potential attacker. Why would I want to go to Africa and the Middle East and be singled out like that again? Especially when the media shares horrific stories of attacks in these places, over and over again. Why would I want to put a target on my chest and, essentially, scream out, “Here I am, you Violators of Women, you Haters of Americans, come get me! I dare you!”

Since my friend shared his story of going to Afghanistan, something began stirring in me. For the last several months, I’ve actually felt my heart becoming soft and intensely empathetic to the people of Afghanistan. I’ve reflected, over and over, on the fear I have of harm coming to me and the lack of faith I have in God if I ever had a chance to go to this country. I’ve cried, so many tears, as story after story of God providing a water well and a school and other supplies for these people in the desolate refugee town of Barek Aub. I’ve become attached to the familiar faces shown in pictures and videos as team after team travel from our church and help these people establish freedom after Russian and Taliban invasions have killed their family and friends and/or maimed many of them. The “least” of their problems has been a complete and total crush of hope… until our church became involved. The other day, someone shared how, for years, the Afghan people prayed to their god to bring water to their town. When we prayed to God, they got their well.

Our church is putting together it’s third and final trip of the year with a medical trip to Afghanistan. I applied to go and have an interview tomorrow morning. I have never been more passionate about doing something and more overwhelmed by fear, in my entire life.

Since deciding to go (once Jase gave his blessing, of course), I’ve been daily consumed with the pain the Afghan people have had to endure, the struggle they live with everyday and the fear a trip of this magnitude brings. I’ve also been consumed with wanting to share my life with these people.

How can I teach people (especially my own children) about Jesus’ love and passion for people, from the comfort of my free country, air-conditioned home and way-above-poverty income status? How can I show love when I’m almost a world away? How can I show faith in this God I serve if I never live that faith?

The more I try to write off the feelings of going, the more overwhelmed I am with a push to go.

If you pray to God, please pray for me and my family.

  • I am very aware of the toll a trip like this will take on me and my loved ones as I’ll be gone for ten days.
  • I’m aware of the danger I’m placing myself in.
  • From fruitlessly trying to raise money as a teenager for fundraisers to fruitlessly trying to raise money as an adult for a couple of mission trips and given the state of the economy, I understand the struggle it will be to raise the funds.

Given that knowledge and the fact that I believe in a God that loves these people and dislikes what they are going through and longs for His people to share a message of hope and love and help these people attain stability on their own:

How can I do anything but take a step forward and trust?

My counselor wasn’t available yesterday so we moved my appointment to today. Last night, I felt like canceling. I panicked and once again, felt that the money being spent on counseling might possibly be a waste and the freedom from the pain of my past and bad flashbacks might never happen. I couldn’t cancel at 11pm last night so I decided to give it another shot.

The session today was the most significant meeting I’ve ever had with any counselor. Ever.

She began talking about wanting to try a new exercise with me, “Breathing, Integrating and Grounding.” She mentioned that those suffering from PTSD usually have detachment issues. Detachment is a defense mechanism to protect the victim from further abuse. What she described was nothing short of a waterfall of enlightenment.

Just the fact that she brought this term (detachment) up, clued me into so much of who I am. I have a problem with being apathetic toward people, my children included. Jase and I have often said that I would be a horrible counselor because my advice would be to “get over it.” I have a hard time keeping close friends because I have a hard time letting others in below the surface and/or I don’t feel like keeping friends and wearing their pain. However, more often than not, I severely ache for hurting people. In one respect, I deal too objectively with people and in the other, I’m too empathetic. Both seem to be on overdrive. I have no gauge in figuring out when I’m opening myself up too much or not enough. As I type this all out now, I wonder if my empathy turns on when I feel safe and the detachment/defense mechanism turns on when I feel threatened. I can’t even describe the elation I feel with finally thinking we’ve hit the nail on the head with the core negative issue that drives me. This detachment issue is what allows me to not be dragged down by people and the problems they need to share with me. However, it’s also the issue that prevents me from letting Jase (and others) close to me at times. This detachment is what closes me off from some people and situations. If I feel threatened, I shut down. My brain goes somewhere safe, while my body “takes” on whatever I feel is a threat. It’s the reason why I shut off from society and hole myself up in my house. Obviously, in most cases, becoming detached has hurt me and has hurt relationships I’ve been in. However, in cases where friends and family or teenagers I’m mentoring or have mentored have vented/complained/freaked out OR when a family member/friend/acquaintance has hugged me, or touched any part of my body and I felt threatened, this mental state has served me well. Better to detach rather than punch them out. 🙂

The detachment really comes on strong when I have flashbacks. The flashbacks are triggered by different things, either when I’m alone and there’s no understandable reason to have them or when Jase and I are intimate, whether it’s sexual or not. During the session today, I realized that when I start having flashbacks while around Jase, I shut down.  Now that I have a word for it, I know that I detach from Jase but it’s not complete. I start feeling like a victim and my brain tries to escape and detach while a physical connection is made but I fight back on that further because I feel like I’m being taken advantage of and being used. Since Jase and I have been together, almost 12 years, I’ve reacted the same way when I have flashbacks or feel threatened. I’m quiet. As was every single time I was violated while growing up, I recreate the same atmosphere. It’s quiet, dark and I shut down. My counselor gave me the most beautiful homework ever. When these flashbacks happen with Jase, I have to communicate with him. I know it sounds like common sense but it hasn’t been. I completely recreate my violation atmosphere and then am despondent. So, I have to tell him that I’m having a flashback and then have him tell me: “Open your eyes and mirror my hand in yours” then while being gentle AND strong (so important for both to coexist) he needs to bring me back to reality by asking, “What’s your name? What’s the date today?” Then tell me, “You’re safe.” I couldn’t stop crying when my counselor told me this because, instantly, I knew it would be the most beneficial advice I’ve ever had when dealing with my PTSD. For the first time since being violated I will start creating a new pattern when in despair or in fear.

I recognize when my detachment is well-used but I also now know when I’m using it incorrectly. Now that the problem is visualized, the correction can be made.

We all got back from our amazing whirlwind of a vacation, one week ago. Last Sunday, at 1130am, we pulled into the garage after Jase drove twenty+ hours straight through (minus time spent at dinner with Jase’s dad in Vegas). Needless to say, we all came inside and crashed. Until today, I haven’t ventured out with the kids since we decided to all take turns getting the flu for the last seven days.

Malakai got sick first. Initiating the family sickness by vomiting between our van and the gas pump at some gas station in Richfield, Utah at 3am. We drove away, impressed at the way the macaroni held it’s form and before anyone could write down our license plate number. We thought it was food poisoning from eating bad food at some bad casino in some bad city. A place Zoe mistakenly (although aptly) named “Lost” Vegas. However, after I got the fever, body aches, sinus and cough issues a few days later and then Cali got it after that and then Zoe… well, then we realized it was the flu. We all have lingering coughs and are still a little weak but the hard part is definitely over.

I’m very grateful that each of us (Jase must have been immune to what we were serving) got sick on different days. I never would have even thought to wish or pray for this but none of our fevers, chills or severe body aches overlapped onto anyone else’s days. Kai was sick for a couple of days, I was next, then Cali and then Zoe. I knew I was on the verge of shutting down and needing a nap on Wednesday afternoon and, thankfully, Jase was able to leave work early (and take off on Thursday) and take care of the kids (and me!) so I could allow my body to shut down, get sick and heal faster than if I tried to trudge through motherhood and sickness on my own. This past week was hard and frustrating, however, I’ve never felt more loved and appreciated as a mom than I did these last seven days.

That’s why I’m writing this.

It’s hard to be a mom. Children don’t really grasp showing gratitude and they’re great at wanting bigger and better things. They don’t understand that this job is looked down on by so many people and that moms lose so much of what they feel their identity is in quitting the jobs they got salaries and benefits (and respect!) with and trading that for harder work with no pay. The dishes never stay clean, the dirty laundry is never gone for more than a day and those dang toilets always get that nasty orange ring RIGHT after you feel you were just on your hands and knees (contorting your body in ways you never thought possible and trying to keep hair out of your face while keeping chemical-covered hands away from everything). On top of the housework, taking chef courses would be extremely beneficial as would taking any and every class/course available that would help aid in creativity with games, crafts, errands and tantrums with three cranky children that don’t think you have one intelligent piece of advice to give. This is a thankless and disparaging job. Or… that’s how it feels sometimes.

I was needed this week. I was reminded that this precious job I have been entrusted with is worth more than money could ever pay and is more valuable than all the accolades the world has to offer. This week, the flu caused my nine year old son to forget that he has a computer and cool transformers and lego sets and caused him to ask me (more than once!) to just sit near him or to lay by his side until he fell asleep. After Malakai got better, the flu caused me to rest and allow Jase to take care of me in ways that he’s been aching to help. Then two year old Cali got sick and was forced to be a *still* toddler and reach out for, and snuggle and relax with her mommy. Finally, Zoe got sick and the little girl that I need to remember to let be a fragile six year old instead of trying to toughen up, became fragile and weak and I relished that.

For the last seven days, meals were frequently eaten on a sheet on the living room floor and movies were a constant must. Malakai and Zoe were beyond ecstatic once they realized they each got their OWN bottles of gatorade AND their own popsicles! And the hugs, kisses and cuddles were passed around hundreds of times.

I felt loved this week. I felt appreciated. I felt taken care of and genuinely respected. I know the kids and Jase did too. Being in such a vulnerable state left all of us feeling so much more in love and grateful for what we have and what we’ve been blessed with. Each other.

A few years ago I saw an amazing dress at a thrift store and immediately knew I needed to buy it and wear it in a photo shoot. Jase takes great pictures of nature but I’m usually the one, behind the camera, in pajama pants and t-shirts, taking pictures of people. I knew we’d have a great time doing something like this and he jumped at the chance to share in this experience with me.

I’ve been scouting locations and ideas for this photo, ever since I bought the fifteen dollar dress. I thought an old rundown mine, barn or old factory would be a great location but I changed my mind once I realized those things would take the focus off of the image I had in my head. So… yesterday, after talking it out with Jase, I decided that nature would be the best location. I needed to narrow the list down to what type of nature shot: field, marsh, mountain landscape or forest? Looking at pictures online, I realized that “forest” seemed like the best fit. Now, all we had to do was find the perfect spot. I thought we’d have take a two-three hour drive into the mountains but after cross-referencing Colorado landscape images online with Google Map street views, I realized we had some prime location spots about thirty-forty minutes from us, in Boulder.

Since Malakai and Zoe were at a slumber party and we wouldn’t see them until noon at church the next day, Jase and I decided that we should do the photo shoot in the morning before church. We thought it would be fun to wake up before sunrise but we slept in and getting ready took longer than anticipated. We left the house at eight o’clock and headed into Boulder Canyon.

I didn’t know if my hair should be straight or wavy, up or down but Jase helped in that decision. Although I knew I wanted my eye makeup to be extremely dark and dramatic, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what it should look like. I was online last night for about an hour, just checking out eye makeup images. I started the application process on myself once we were on the road this morning but it ended up looking like Amy Winehouse did it. So Jase, being the artist he is, completed my eyes for me.

Jase and I talked about what we’d need to bring on location for a picture preview, without interrupting the camera, because I’ve had a “vision” of what I wanted it to look like for about three years. Last year, we had his camera hooked up to one of our mini televisions when Jase took pictures in our garage for a headshot I needed. However, lugging around a television while hiking to a forest location did not sound enjoyable to me or Jase. So, Jase decided to bring his laptop for viewing shots and/or dumping his card.

We drove around the Boulder Canyon area for about an hour, stopped off at three or four different areas and made about five different u-turns before finding a great spot with great vehicle access, secluded, away from the public, with a clearing, near the river and with an availability to cross the quick-moving river without getting swept away or completely submerged and while carrying a stool, tripod, laptop, camera, diaper bag, my dress, the under garments, Cali and her stroller. Since Jase only had one pair of shoes, he initially crossed the river and scoped out the location while barefoot. The moss-covered rocks quickly taught him that we’d both have to sacrifice and have soaked shoes if we were going to get this shot. So, Jase went to church barefoot and wearing heavy, wet jeans. The sun was shining once we arrived but the clouds rolled in for perfect lighting and rolled away once we were done.

Jase took over four hundred pictures this morning and we spent over an hour in our exotic location. Cali sat, perfect, in her stroller, the entire time. This experience was so amazing for me and Jase and both of us feel so much more in love after planning and accomplishing this together.

Here’s Mr. Genius (a.k.a. Jase), dumping his card, and Ms. Perfect (a.k.a. Cali), keeping herself occupied with her baby:

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

I’m sure Jase will work on some of the pics and make them look awesome, but here are a couple unedited versions, click them to enlarge:

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

And here are several unedited versions without links to enlarge:

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

I’m sorry, I just got overwhelmed. No one tells you how hard this is all gonna to be. Marriage, being a parent: it’s the hardest job in the world and nobody prepares you for that. Nobody tells you how much you have to give up. I feel like I gave up so much. I’ve given up so much of what made me who I am but I can’t say that because I’m a very bad person if I say that. But I feel it. I really do, I feel that sometimes. I did make a choice. I made a choice. Even if it’s harder than I thought, I don’t regret it. I’m very sure. I just think these things are gonna happen and we’re gonna get through them. We’ll get through them together.

That could have been written by me. I’m sure, in one way or another, I’ve said/thought this exactly. Numerous times. This was a scene from a movie that we watched last night but let me start from the beginning of the weekend.

The message at church this Easter weekend was amazing. I never thought it would be possible to actually enjoy a church more as the time spent there increased, but it sure is true for me, Jase and the kids regarding this new place we’ve found. I love that our church thinks so far out of the “box” from most churches, or every church that Jase and I have attended. For instance, on a weekend where everyone tries to look as perfect/shiny/new as possible, our church theme for the Easter weekend was geared around trash. As in, the trash company. The church screens that have announcements before the service, had animated flies buzzing around and the entire stage was designed as a junkyard, with tons of actual junkyard items strewn amongst the stage and musicians. It was an amazing and curious sight to see stacks of nasty tires, a rusty car’s axle, pieces of car parts, an old, rusty, broken, dilapidated fridge, a keg, and many other random pieces of junk in a place where so many religious freaks would claim was tainting “holy ground.” Our Pastor made an amazing reference in that, everything on that stage was, at the beginning of it’s existence, new. His message for the weekend was that most of us live our lives to better ourselves: strive for fame, a bigger house, fancier car, nicer body, better job, better spouse, more money. He pointed out that those things, in and of themselves, aren’t wrong but that most of us will spend our entire lives trying to fulfill these goals and at some point, we look back on our lives and wonder what went wrong or wonder what we’re missing. Most of us spend our lives living for things that we thought would bring happiness and all we’re left with is regret and a lack of joy. We end up resembling the junk on the stage: old, used up, rusty, broken and sad-looking. “You’ve spent money, time and energy that you can’t get back. Sometimes it’s no big deal; a few dollars here, a couple of hours there. But, what do you do when you realize you are wasting your life?”

The quote that I started this entry with is from “Marley and Me”. It’s very interesting that Jase and I decided to rent it as our family movie last night. I couldn’t believe the similarity of the overall theme of this movie and the message at church. I found myself crying a lot during “Marley and Me” and it didn’t even have to do with the dog. It was so much deeper than that. I related with that movie so much because I feel like the main character, Jen, reflected so much of who I am and on so many levels other than the name itself. 🙂

Jase and I decided to forego a college education. We started college but didn’t complete it. We got married young and were pregnant six months after we got married. We went into marriage and parenthood with virtually NO outline or counseling. Comparing us to most of our friends, you’d see that we did our life pretty much backwards. Almost every other couple we know began their twenties with schooling, then their career, then premarital counseling, marriage, got some animals and then started to have children. We’ve always been trailblazers, but reflecting on our life for the past eleven years has often brought me to thoughts of concern and regret. What will I do once the kids are all in full-time school? Will someone hire me after being home with the kids for so long? Is it too late to go back to school? What if I am just as horrible as a student now as I was in High School? Does anyone my age relate to me without me having a degree? Am I good at doing anything without a college degree? The questions go on and on. For some reason, I have no problem forgiving people around me and loving on people despite their faults but I have issues with letting myself off the hook, forgiving myself for mistakes and being happy and ok with who I am. I have severe issues with judging myself.

Last night, when putting the kids to bed, Zoe was reflecting on her day and complaining about all the things she wasn’t able to do over the course of the weekend. Instead of being grateful for what she had done and what she was able to have, she only saw what she lacked. Without even seeing that this was a setup that she unknowingly placed me in for instruction, I found myself sharing with Malakai and Zoe that the complaining they do in life has got to stop. When they have bad moments in their day, they don’t have to rule their entire day, “a bad day”. I shared with them that they have a choice to make. They can either live their lives focusing on what they don’t have and what they aren’t able to do, or they can focus on the positive things that make up so many moments of every single day. You can have good days with bad moments OR you can ignore the goodness and just have bad days all the time. I didn’t even realize I was also talking to myself until I came downstairs later.

I needed the message at church this weekend. I needed that movie for an added emphasis last night. I needed to teach my children an important value so I could hear my own voice speaking something that needed to go in my own ears. I need to be reminded that 1.) I’m not alone and 2.) I have a choice in life.

I can live in regret and guilt. I can give up. I can live in failure. I can live with unfufilled expectations.

OR

I can live in happiness. I can be effective. I can live in triumph. I can live with a focus on the future and making that future and the people in it, better.

What does all of this have to do with Easter? As the pastor put it, “It means everything”.  Without Jesus, there is no hope. If He simply died and then was buried, He would have been no different than any other man. But He rose from death. Without Jesus, the possessions we strive for in life, even our bodies, have no purpose. Without Jesus, we gather, consume, deteriorate and die.

Without Jesus, there is no hope. No purpose. No fulfilling reason to live. I choose to share that hope with myself. I choose to share that hope with my husband and children and with everyone around me.

What do you choose?

  • the way Jase still holds the passenger door open for me.
  • sharing jokes and laughter with Jase and the kids.
  • the way Cali has conversations (with no one) on our cell phones.
  • it when Malakai and Zoe tell “Knock, Knock” jokes.
  • playing battleship with Malakai and coloring with Zoe.
  • when Cali roams around the house then comes and pushes her way onto my lap, even though my laptop is there.
  • when Jase looks at me.
  • when we all blow kisses at bedtime and the way we “catch” all of them and put them on our cheeks.
  • that Malakai loves science and mechanical-minded things and Zoe loves drawing, coloring, reading and writing and that both of them love music.
  • hearing Malakai on his drums, especially when he plays that song from 20th Century Fox.
  • eating sushi and watching movies with Jase.
  • when Cali calls out “Mommy?” from her crib and when she roams the house saying, “Daddy?” over and over again.
  • when Cali puts a shirt just on the top of her head or around her legs and then starts cracking herself and everyone else up.
  • when Jase emails or IM’s me for the sole reason of saying, “I love you.”
  • it when Jase and I talk about the things we’d invent, the movies we’d write, the commercials we’d do and the t-shirts we’d make.
  • when Zoe paints pictures, over and over, on the computer and Malakai can spend hours creating songs on GarageBand.
  • that Zoe and Malakai still get scared at night and crawl into our bed.
  • that while I’m writing this, Jase is beside me watching Sarah Connor Chronicles on his laptop and his hand is on my knee.
  • that my children still hold my hand.
  • when Malakai and Zoe slide down our stairs, even if they aren’t allowed to.
  • that Jase loves a clean house and that he helps, so much, in keeping it so.
  • when Cali hums the “I Love You” song and the “Go To Sleep” song when she’s going down to sleep, whether we sing it to her or not.
  • the way Cali dances (think Bill Cosby).
  • when Malakai tests Zoe with math and spelling.
  • when Zoe and Malakai read to Cali.
  • watching Malakai and Zoe’s faces when I surprise them with a “Yes” answer when they ask me, with doubt, for treats at the grocery store.
  • cuddling on the couch under a blanket, with Jase and the kids, watching Christmas movies… or any movie.
  • the blessing that my husband and my three children are to me.

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