stress

I remember the first time I noticed I was stressed. I was six years old, and I was right before my first piano recital EVER in the second grade. My teacher was Mrs. Mattera, and I was one of the youngest in the recital. I had been picking/scraping at my scalp, and because of that, I had some raw patches. Since I was blonde as a little kid, it was very noticeable, and I remember my mom cajoling me with a “prize,” if I didn’t do it the week prior to the recital so my hair “wouldn’t look yucky.” How about looking at the root cause, Mother, no fucking pun intended? 

Years and years passed, and I learned to resist the urge. Then after I left an abusive home situation, I started the same thing to the sensitive area behind my ears. Fortunately, at this point, I was in therapy for what happened in my childhood, and my therapist made the connection as a self-harming mechanism, much like my restricting eating (anorexia) was. I was 5’7″ and 107 lbs. At age 20, I decided I refused to restrict my eating any more. I willed myself to be better. And I was… as far as consuming calories went. 

Recently, I’ve noticed the self-harming habit of picking at my cuticles creeping in. I don’t even notice it most of the time, just wake up bruised and sore. My husband notices it constantly and will swat my index fingers away from viciously picking at my thumbs. I’ll do it until I bleed. 

Today I noticed my daughter watching me, and I had no idea I was picking. She gestured at my fingers, making an affirming noise, and started copying me. I cried. Please, gods, no, don’t let my sweet baby have this same bullshit. They see; they do. What a wake up call. Take care of yourself, because the best little bit of you may be watching and copying. 

change, change, change

I used to like to think I’d reached the age where I have had enough new experiences, new friends, new places to live. I had finally started to like where I was. Re-enter my childhood boyfriend who flew 10,000 miles to see me in RI, whisked me off to Asia to get engaged, adopt a kitten, get married, buy a puppy, get pregnant, and give birth to our perfect little girl. It’s now almost three years since that first date at the Patriots game, and I am on my third continent in three years. I was sure I’d be broken-hearted to leave my beachy island life in Okinawa.  After an amazingly restful 2 weeks in Southern California with my in-laws, we headed to Germany. We’ve been here almost a month. I love it. It is never easy to move to a new country and especially with the recent attacks in Europe, at times I feel vulnerable here. But change is good. Stagnation is awful. I’m here and determined to make this an amazing experience for my family and me. I’m glad you can share the ride through social media. 😘

it’s in a box for a reason

Today, I checked our APO box on base. I found a lovely card from my aunt, a postcard from our wireless carrier, and a… subpoena? My heart was pounding as I opened the envelope and found out I was to be on standby for a subpoena in Broward County, Florida, between the dates of June 6 and June 17 for a trial for the charge of second-degree murder. As soon as I saw the name on the case, all the feelings rushed back. All the feelings I had pushed down five years ago. That experience had been compartmentalized and repressed and stowed away in a neat little place where it couldn’t bother me or touch me in my current happy life as a wife and mama. It’s one thing to bring trauma up of your volition in a therapeutic setting; it’s quite another to read a legal document that metaphorically kicks you in the gut and leaves you gasping for air on the ground, curled in the fetal position. 

I am definitely not the first person in the world to witness another person’s life being taken from them. As the wife of an active-duty US military service member, I cannot imagine the horrors witnessed by our Soldiers, Airmen, Seamen, and Marines deployed to combat zones. But this was still something impossible for me, personally, to process.

Because of this glitch in my emotional processing ability, when this shit went down five years ago, I just kind of tucked it away. Five hours after the incident, I was clocking in for a Sunday morning shift at a bar on the intracoastal. I was super-tired and more than a bit hungover, but I worked my shift. Over the next few days, I saw the crime scene investigation trucks parked outside the bar where it happened, since I lived across the street. It made me feel panicky for some unexplicable reason. I was relieved once the tape was removed, and the cop cars left. The bar opened for business as usual. Everyone in our neighborhood was talking about it, and I had many friends that shared my same experience that early morning. Some of those friends were even hospitalized for injuries because of their heroic efforts.  But I didn’t want to talk. Inquisitive customers would ask me about it while I was behind the bar at work, one block over from where it happened, and I would get pissed off and snap at them. I had no patience for chit-chat with people who I felt wanted to sensationalize and gossip about what was the loss of a life: sacred, sad, and far too soon. 

Time heals all wounds, and certainly served all of us involved just as well as the adage promises. Life went on as before. As always, out of sight, out of mind; we all moved on. Unfortunately, this is the most common emotional survival technique in the bar scene in South Florida, because otherwise, there would be no coping with such rampant loss.

Back to present day, in which opening the subpoena was an emotional tasering. It jolted me out of my protected, happy little life 10,000 miles away from that bar and slingshotted me psychologically back in time, five years. Ultimately, I am glad Brian Krebs is finally being held responsible for his crime in court. I hope he is given the harshest sentence possible for this charge. I just know that my re-living  this in my head today is just a minuscule fraction of the pain felt by Jimmy Pagano’s loved ones on a daily basis since he was killed; there is no way for them to so easily banish those feelings to an emotionally remote location as I did.

I am incredibly proud of myself for this blog post. It was not written without tears, but in writing about it, I do feel as though even if I didn’t completely open this specific box, maybe I was able to peel back the wrapping just a bit. 

*In Memory of* 

James Pagano and his Music ✌🏻️ and his Life  ☮ – RIP, April 17, 2011. 

that pcs hell…

– watching your life being packed away into wooden crates 

– sending your fur babies to stay with friends for a couple weeks, missing them so much it hurts, worrying that they think you gave them away, trying to tell your toddler where they are, and wondering if she gets it

– living out of a suitcase and knowing that’ll be life for a month or more

– watching the immense stress your serviceman of a husband is under trying to get everything done 

– paying $3,000 just to get the pets to Los Angeles, never mind Germany

– feeling the sadness of saying goodbye to the island where your life started to come together… Engaged… Kitten… Married… Puppy… Pregnant… Baby, now Toddler. So many feelings

– distancing from friends so it’s not a sad, emotional goodbye, cause let’s be fucking real; it is NOT a “see you later.” <insert eye roll, repeat>

– trying to be gentle with your teething toddler who is so damn resilient, but also just so damn clingy

– hanging in there. Keeping on. Being strong. Smiling. ‘Cause that’s what we do. Countless women have done this with their families and pets. I can do it. I will do it. 

Much love to my ladies who are boarding my Fenway and Beedoo. Thanks to everyone who’s made time to see us and offer best wishes for our next chapter. Thanks to my husband… for giving us a good life and keeping Addy with her fur-siblings. ❤️

June ’16 = 🇯🇵➡️🇺🇸➡️🇩🇪 

just breathe

 I had a glorious hour to myself today. HusBon took Addy in the stroller and walked with her and Fenway a roundabout 3 mile route to meet me at the beach.

Today was one of those magical, sunny, clear, 80 degree spring days. I drove to the little beach a mile from my house, stopping at Family Mart beforehand for an iced coffee, a cherry Chu-hi, and a water. I sat on my quilt…by myself. Alone but NOT lonely. I brought a book but didn’t bother reading it. I took pictures. I climbed up a rock. I waded way out (super low tide). I cartwheeled. I snarfled the sunshine and sea air in by the lungful. I drank my drink and sat cross-legged and motionless and breathed.   

An hour or so after they left me at home, my husband and the baby and the dog joined me at the beach. I felt calm, centered, and so damn happy to see them. 

Sometimes all I need is an hour – the opportunity to sit alone, in silence, and just breathe.

  

an open letter to myself

Hey, Joce. It’s me, you. I have seen how you are struggling lately, barely treading water, and I figured it was time to step in and have a little chat. Looks like you are desperately needing some positive self-talk. So, just wanted to say…Hey.

Hey, Joce. The whole “momming” gig seems to be especially challenging for you lately. Being the primary caretaker for a toddler is not easy. You are justified in feeling overwhelmed and as if every fucking day is just another fucking Groundhog Day and will be so on and so forth until the end of time. Just remember that behind the teething and fussing and tantrums that she throws at you, that YOU are your daughter’s whole world. She is such a pleasant, sweet, sociable little being BECAUSE of you and all your investment parenting. You’ve got a lot of experience from caring for your siblings, and you are totally killing it as a mother to your own child, even if you feel like no one sees it or gives a shit.

Hey, Joce. You’re not getting enough sleep, but despite your irrational moments here and there, you are still a highly functional human, and that, in and of itself, is badass. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique. You can rest assured (pun intended) that you will be able to hold your own if you are ever subjected to this for any reason. Just tell them upfront to water board you.

Hey, Joce. I know you feel like your body is never going to be the same. News Flash: It won’t. But one day, this baby will wean, and you won’t be obligated to nurse. You will be able to go back to a consistent lifting schedule. You’ll build your strength and endurance back. And guess what? You’ll never have to push a baby out EVER AGAIN. You’ll never have to start from ground zero again. It’s all ups at this point. You have a whole lifetime left of being able to focus on getting stronger. This is a short season in your life. This too shall pass.

Hey, Joce. It’s all right to be pissed about situations beyond your control. You cannot pick your family, but you don’t have to put up with their fucking bullshit. The point is not to get bogged down in bitterness or anger, because… Fuck that. You have too much to do and too much love to give to the family you have created. Be grateful you know this, and do not buy into a false sense of obligation. There’s a damn good reason you left that drama-shit behind 17 years ago. 

Hey, Joce. Military life is difficult at times. Your husband can tell you this better than anyone. It’s not wrong to feel isolated as a mom and and a wife and a fucking person in general. He is your best friend and your biggest fan. Don’t try to do everything by yourself; you two are a team, and he is your partner in raising that baby. Stop being afraid to ask for help when you need it. 

Hey, Joce. It’s okay. Seriously, dude. Remember, you got this. You’re a boss. Anytime you need a reminder of that, look at where you are and all you accomplished, in spite of where and whence you came. 

Good talk. 😘 Get some goddamn intermittent sleep and kick ass tomorrow. 

happy mornings

There’s really nothing like my baby girl in the morning. She wakes up a little foggy these days,  nurses a little bit, and lays back down with me for a few minutes. Once she wakes up all the way, she gives me the biggest smile and usually says, “What!” She’s just so amazed for another day of this beautiful life. I say good morning, ohayogoazaimasu, and guten morgen to her, and we have a big hug and a kiss. I give her a clean diaper, and we head downstairs. It’s so funny to watch her stand up and “find her legs” after first waking up. I let the dog outside, while I go to the kitchen to start my coffee. She always waits at the window and watches him sniff around the yard, usually tapping on the glass and yelling directions. I put on music for her, and she really likes the song, “Happy,” by Pharrell, bobbing her head and stamping one foot. Her transition from baby to toddler is complete. As I’m sitting at the kitchen table typing this, I see her over in the living room, standing on top of a tupperware storage container, arms outstretched, bopping along to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” She catches my eye, and pulls up her pajama top to show me her belly button. She’s just EVERYTHING. Good morning, we’re gonna have a good day.

one of those days…

…when you wake up more exhausted than you were when you went to bed, if that is even possible, because your child was up all night.

…when you realize you’re out of milk for your coffee, or worse yet, out of coffee.

…when you cannot seem to finish one goddamn task because your toddler needs you just so much.

…when the dog is driving you crazy because he keeps barking, or chewing on the baby’s toys, or chasing the cat, or eating baby wipes.

…when you rewash the load of laundry in the washer for the fifth time.

…when you walk away from the couch for thirty seconds where you were attempting to fold laundry and turn around to see all of it strewn on the floor, with the dog and the baby sitting on it.

…when you feel like a crackhead because your eyeballs are practically vibrating from all the coffee, and you forgot to eat anything.

…when you think to yourself, “will this fucking kid just take a fucking nap for Christ sake!?!”

…when you cut the playground session short because it’s too much effort to keep other people’s kids from knocking your kid over.

…when you just try to make it to the point in the day where it’s acceptable to pour a glass of wine or you don’t even bother trying.

…when you realize you’d rather make a peanut butter sandwich with a spoon rather than wash a butter knife.

…when it’s a huge relief when your husband gets home, but you ruin it by picking a fight over nothing because you’re so irritable.

…when your toddler accidentally head butts you during a tantrum and splits your lip open.

…when you just want to sit in a room, in the dark, alone.

…when you feel like nothing was accomplished whatsoever.

…when all you want to do is turn your brain off.

And then, you see your daughter smiling in her sleep and realize that you are the one who built her, nourished her, cares for her, loves her so much that it takes your breath away. Then you sneak away to apologize to your husband and give him a hug. You give the dog a treat before you put him in his crate for the night. You finish your wine and go to bed because tomorrow you’ll start again.

 

 

back to blogging

I’ve been neglectful of this blog lately. It can be tricky to find time to respond to text messages, much less sit down at the computer and string together sentences into coherent paragraphs. But, in the spirit of self-care and my sanity, I’ve decided to put aside time for myself at least once a week to check in with a blog post. Maybe it won’t be fancy, with colorful pictures throughout, or full of informative tidbits. More times than not, I guarantee it’ll be stream-of-(un)consciousness. Sometimes just getting thoughts out there is helpful.

I decided to rename the blog to reflect my state of mind. There’s a meme about moms and coffee and wine and chocolate. It’s completely accurate for me. Also, I feel like when I started “Okinawa Bubbles,” I aspired to blog about too much stuff… locations, activities, recipes, blah blah blah. So, welcome to the inaugural post of

coffee&champagne&cookies

If I’ve learned anything since becoming a mother, it’s that I need to lower my expectations of myself. I’m not going to be a perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, friend, #fitmom, blogger, or anything else. But I can certainly just keep at it and appreciate myself for doing the best I’m capable of that moment.

i’m lost without you, e-byrne

For my G, the unflappable  E-Byrne;

Just wanted to say THANK YOU:

For being such a cool kid when I met you at a BBQ, you were wicked pregnant, with a crazy tiny MOB running around and a super energetic JZ bopping about. You ate a cheeseburger with no bun, and I swear you winked when you said you didn’t eat gluten.

For meeting me at Torii pool when Harry was only 2 months old and MOB was starting to be a serious terrorist. For listening to my silly early pregnancy concerns. For showing me it was possible to wrangle children and strollers and bags and towels and still portray yourself as being in control. For not giving a fuck and just sitting on the step of the van and nursing Harry like a boss in the parking lot. #normalizebreastfeeding

For answering my Facebook messages and questions about pregnancy, even when it involved me revealing too much information. Questions about boobs, and vaginas, and things of that nature.

For letting me hold and cuddle the squishy Harry and take pictures of him.

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For listening to me bitch and moan about how I didn’t feel well and wasn’t having a glowing pregnancy. For helping me not to give a fuck and trust that the mommy instinct would kick in and I’d love my baby. Oh, man, did it.

For always taking me seriously, even when I asked you if you thought 6 pairs of nursing pads were enough to pack in my hospital overnight bag.

For buying AK the absolutely coolest item on the baby registry: Hello Kitty powder puff.

For giving me ALL your baby gear – bassinet, car seat mirror, swing, walker, bumbo, so many clothes, tons of toys.

For the homemade candy, cookies, peppermint lip gloss, and candied nuts at Christmas.

For hating baby showers, but attending mine because you liked me that much. And bringing a Harry along.

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For visiting me in the hospital after I had AK. For bringing me chocolate covered strawberries. For the homemade lotion bars. For letting Harry be the first baby that AK ever met. For knowing that 15 min is the perfect length of time to visit a mama and day-old baby.

For coffee at your house, anytime I wanted to come by. For letting my kid be friends with your kids.

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For not judging me when I said I was only having one baby.

For being a good baker of all things delicious and wheat-free.

For the coffee.

For liking my Instagram posts. For understanding the the imagination that goes into Little Girls of Anarchy. For telling me I was a bad ass for doing a cartwheel at 9 months pregnant.

For all the time and messages (on a goddamn broken screen iphone) over the time we’ve been friends: consoling, complaining, validating, being clever, communicating through Facebook stickers.

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For cutting my hair and for fixing AK’s when I cut hers.

For our matching wave tattoos. For understanding the therapeutic value of clear water and the sound of the surf.

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Did I mention coffee?

For being quite possibly the most bad ass mofo of a mama I’ve ever met.

For not crying when we said goodbye. And not judging me for blubbering.

I miss you, friend, so much. Oki isn’t the same without you, but I’ll see you soon. xoxo

All my love,

J-Owens