Hope Deflated

The news came to me on Christmas Eve while talking to a friend about dreams of a future with my wife and children. They included enjoying the holidays together. The hope of those visions occurring for us all was thwarted by the news that friend would soon deliver.

“Hey. You didn’t get clemency.”

He had heard the unfortunate news that Governor Cuomo had only granted seven people sentence commutation, better known as clemency, and I was not one of them.

I was taken aback at first and questioned the authenticity of what he said. After verifying it quite thoroughly I felt a numbness arise in me. It was the same feeling you get when you hear of a loved one passing. It was the feeling you get when all of your hope is deflated.

The hope of being home for the new year, or our daughter’s third birthday, and even caring for my wife who is battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma were eliminated by the devastating news.

My wife, who has placed her life on hold for me for nearly seven years, sacrificing her own hopes and dreams, is all I thought about. How could I continue to make her suffer the daunting and challenging life that is being a prisoner’s wife?

I felt filthy, as if I had done some great indiscretion. Guilt consumed me, and ate away at any attempt of my heart righting itself with thoughts of love, overriding rationality. I felt that I had let my wife and children down by getting their hopes up in a system that is notorious for being unfair and partial.

I did not want her to continue to have to suffer, so I contemplated asking her to leave. I wanted her to abandon me and this awful life while she still could. I began to think that was the noble thing to do. I told myself that she deserved a life that brought her joy, and someone to share that life with.

I would no longer be her jailer.

She could be a free woman. In many ways, I saw it as me granting her clemency.

What is nobility? Or rather, who are we to deem what is the noble path to take when it regards another human life? Asking my wife to leave and salvage her life only seemed good on my end because of the hurt I felt. I was not thinking about how she would feel if I asked her to leave. I felt selfish. Asking her to leave was the easy way out of the pain I felt. It would cause her more pain telling her to quit and throw in the towel after all she had risked and sacrificed for me. I couldn’t do it.

I tried to work through the stress of the news, but it was so traumatic. I fell asleep that night in despair, the night of Christmas Eve, when despair from being away from my family is already consuming.

All hope was lost.

On Christmas morning I tried to put on a strong face. I tried to show joy on this most festive of days. I was desperate to speak to my wife on one of the only four phones for over fifty men to use in the block. I patiently waited for my moment, and as soon as I heard my wife’s voice my strong joyous visage crumbled. I became a mess. I could also hear the despair and sorrow in her voice. It was crippling. I could not encourage her. I too had hoped against hope and was let down. Again. I too was empty.

We both were absolutely crushed by the news.

We spent most of our call wallowing in the awful news that we were not recipients of clemency. I briefly spoke to our children about all the nice gifts they received, and how happy they were, but my mind was on the terrible news.

To me, this meant I was not worthy of mercy, nor of justice. It meant that I was unfit for clemency, and that those few who were chosen were more deserving than I. I felt forgotten. Overlooked. But more so, I felt like a failure.

Not to my own esteem, but to my wife and children who are far more deserving of my freedom. They are the ones who will truly suffer as a result.

Am I angry? Yes! However, I am far more hurting for my wife and children. Many don’t comprehend the hardships they face with having a husband and father in prison. It is a lonely existence. Our relationship is held together by infrequent phone calls, visits, and letters.

We are unable to connect and build strong family bonds in the ways most families are afforded.

Unfortunately, when the Covid pandemic hit those few life lines we cherished were further hindered. I have not seen my wife and children in months. Our visits, where we would be able to at least comfort and reassure one another of the love we share, have been eliminated.

We are struggling to maintain.

The devastating news we received on Christmas Eve hurt like hell, but it did not break us, nor did it make us stronger.

It was a blow that could not have hit at a worse time.

However, I know there is a God out there who is just and shows mercy. Although our hope of obtaining clemency is lost, we will create hope where there is none.

For God is merciful and just and it is in Him that we put our trust.

We fight on!

Clemency is a power the Governor can use at any time, for as many people as he chooses. Please let him know that he has forgotten Jacob Rouse and should grant him clemency today! Especially considering Elmira prison remains closed due to a pandemic and his family has been unable to visit for months. In fact, Elmira has been shut down far longer than any other prison in New York State.

Contact the Governor by phone: 1-518-474-8390

I am Wheat

I am the wheat, growing freely in the field. I am not your grain. I will not be gleaned by you. I will not be stored away, then stripped of my seed. They will not be beaten upon, tossed around, and grinded into flower.

I am the wheat, who’s seeds are free. Free to be blown by the gust of mighty winds to yonder. I will not be mixed with water, then molded into your dough. I refuse to be kneaded, beaten upon, and shaped into what you deem is righteous.

My flower will give life. My seed will grow in new fields, where they are respected and cherished. They will not be your dough, to be thrown in the ovens of change. Baked into a finished work of your desire. I will not be admired by you, then consumed, digested, then become your waste.

You will no longer receive your nutrients from me.

I am the wheat who is free.

Jacob Rouse

#06A6364NoMore! #ClemencyfortheHouseofRouse



Mine And Yours

He sat on the bench waiting to be escorted to the outside hospital. He told the officer that brought him up, that he banged his head on the locker in his cell as he prepared a meal for himself.

Knowing his history of conflict, his story wasn’t too believable. Since a teen, he had been a menace in his community.

At fifteen, after almost being hit by a car pulling out of a driveway, he opened up fire on the vehicle. By a chance of pure luck, none of his rounds struck anyone. However, his brothers one round from a sawed off shotgun hit the driver in the skull. That young man died a few days later in the hospital.

The three other teens with him that night went to prison for a combined 75 years to life. He went home free.

One would assume that narrowly escaping a life sentence, would scare anyone straight and away from the life of crime. That wasn’t the case for him. In the past fourteen years alone, he has been sent to prison on three separate occasions. He was doing life on installment.

He now sat in the prison infirmary with a deep gash over his left eye. The wound was so deep he needed stitches. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, new protocols were in play for prisoners being transported to and from the facility. Prisoners were now required to wear face masks and latex gloves.

As he sat on the bench, his hands and legs shackled together, he asked me to help tie his mask tighter as it was slipping down his face. At every sight of him my stomach churns. I remember that night and the horror that unfolded on Magnolia Street fourteen-years ago, because I was there.

I was one of the three sentenced to life for murder.

That night I had been hanging out with him, his brother, and another associate of mine. I saw the car almost hit him, and each one of his shots fire out of his pistol like a canon at the vehicle. I witnessed this behind the wheel of my car, nearly a block away. That night, we were in that neighborhood looking for the people responsible for robbing him of drugs and money.

For the past decade and a half, I have resented him for his actions, while taking accountability for my own. Our actions that night led to the death of an innocent man, Mr. Herschel Scriven. A pillar of his community.

At the time I saw him sitting on the bench, I had been eating a small bowl of pasta I made for dinner. My usual insatiable appetite began to flee as I stood before him. He looked small and helpless. Part of me pitied him, and part of me was furious. I blamed him a lot for why things happened that way, that night.

He opened up with some light pleasantries, and I entertained him, mostly hoping to keep distance and peace between us.

Nevertheless, he asked me a very penetrating question that left me stuck trying to answer it. “How has it been doing this bid?”

When I finally began to ponder the question I thought to myself, “How the hell do you think it has been doing THIS time for YOU? The audacity of this punk!”

I was angry.

I then realized that he just didn’t get it. And frankly, how could he?

He had been to prison three different times since that night, and was currently in for another violent crime.

I stumbled through a cliché response, trying to just move on.

Shortly thereafter he was escorted out to go on his trip. I remained behind the wall doing his time.

There was so much I wanted to say, so many things I wanted to show him. The true gravity of the situation. Like how hard it’s been raising three kids, with my wife, behind this wall. Trying to be a present husband to my wife who is battling cancer. Would he even be capable of comprehending this? I mean, he is a father himself. So I don’t know. I may never know.

This has been the third prison I’ve been in with him. The third time our paths have crossed. Reading this you may feel that I blame him for being in prison. It’s because I partially do. Yet, I still acknowledge MY ROLE in the TRAGIC events on that dark street fourteen-years ago.

I deserved to come to prison.

But not for this long.

Not for murder.

The Cost of Covid

A kiss. A hug. A foot rub. Holding hands. Our legs wrapped around one another’s. Always having to touch. This is my love language. Physical touch. I can’t get enough.

My love language is becoming foreign as days continue to pass by.

Today marks thirty.

Thirty days since I was last able to kiss my husbands lips. Thirty days since I was able to feel his strong arms squeeze tightly around me, revealing his intense love and gratitude. Thirty days since I was able to hold him as he held our daughter. Thirty days since our last “Sophie sandwich.”

I’m learning to speak a new language. A language Jacob was forced to develop over fourteen years of incarceration. Words of affirmation.

This feels even more foreign for me, as I am a “deed and truth” type of lover. “A-C-T, I-O-N, action boys action! That, with a little bit of dipping and clapping, was a cheer I shouted at the football field in high school.

Now, I shout it at my husband. A husband confined by prison walls. A husband greatly limited in his freedom of expression. Yet he tries. And he keeps on trying, even as I am cheering, and not in the way I vowed.

Shackled to the system, he is suspended from seeing his wife and children, “For his safety.”

So the best he has to offer are his words, received through the limited actions of calling me every chance he gets, writing letters, and most recently, sending emails. Nearly 6 years ago, this was exactly how we fell in love.

No visits. Just words.

But in prison, nothing comes for free.

Yes, everyone in America pays for postage on a letter. But only prisoners, the poorest people in America, pay for phone calls and emails.

And because my husband is a prisoner, I am a prisoner too.

So I pay for the phone calls. I pay to email him. I also have the option to pay to send him photos or video grams. He is not allowed that option. So I haven’t seen his handsome face in thirty days. The next time I am finally able to see it, I’m not letting it go. Not until they separate us, again.

I try to send videos of Sophia often, so he isn’t totally shocked and broken by her growth on our next visit. Date unknown.

Each of those thirty second videos cost four stamps. Stamps range from thirty cents to twenty-three cents, depending on how much you are able to spend on a package. Of course with good marketing, the more you spend, the more you “save.”

If you picked up on that, you’re right, thirty seconds of video costs anywhere from $1.20 to $0.92 to send.

As long as I pay my phone bill, I can send a thirty second video to all the people in my contact list for free. They will receive it almost immediately.

The videos I pay to send to my most cherished person, are most often received days after being sent.

Like the one we sent the evening before his birthday. The kids and I sang happy birthday to him, and blew out the candles on a cake made for him. A cake he would never have a bite of. He received the video a few days after his birthday.

I’m able to send emails a bit more frequently than videos, as each email only cost one stamp.

ONLY? Where I live, emails are free. Except for the prisoner. They pay for everything.

My prisoner makes $0.25 an hour working in the infirmary. While mostly he cleans and serves the men in this area, he often is required to clean the blood of another man left behind on cell floors. For TWENTY-FIVE CENTS PER HOUR.

One hour of work is not enough to pay for a single stamp to email his family.

He makes less than $16 every two weeks. It would take him an entire month of work to be able to afford the least expensive stamps. Which would then leave him with only a few dollars for any toiletries or food he needed.

Sending one email per day for a week, will cost him about eight hours of work.

The rest of our communication costs fall to me. The essentially single mother raising three kids on her own. One with a life threatening metabolic condition. As if that’s not financially straining enough, we are also currently and temporarily bearing the cost of fighting cancer outside of medical coverage.

As prisoners, in order to maintain our marriage, we must pay for otherwise free services to society.

Each thirty minute phone call costs $1.43.

When visiting regularly, we limited ourselves to one hour per day in phone conversation, as that was all we could afford. Now that visits have been restricted, one hour a day with your spouse is like a blink of an eye. Please, don’t get it twisted, we are GRATEFUL for ANY AND ALL time we have together.

But, the fact remains, families of incarceration face every day burdens that most people don’t know exist. As we cling to the threads of relationship we’re able to weave together with determination, we are exploited by a for profit system of punishment. Broke, in more ways than one.



Quarantined Prison Birthday

Today was the first time in my life that I was unable to spend my birthday with a single member of my family.

This may sound selfish, and some may feel that because of where I am it is fitting. No matter what your opinion on the matter we all come from some sort of community that includes people who love and care for each of us. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are just as significant to the ones we love as they may be to us.

They are moments in which we set apart time from our busy schedule to devote to those we hold in great esteem, to honor them and show them our love.

These moments most certainly should be spontaneous and happen more often than a few times per year, but for people like me, it is all we have.

I was fortunate to be the last person in this facility to be allowed to visit with his family on the Family Reunion Program. It’s a place where you are allowed just under two days to be with your family alone. My wife and children planned a whole day in celebration of my birthday. They prepared me a nice brunch and a hometown dish for dinner. Our sons acted as waiters, bringing the dishes to my wife, daughter, and I. They were such gentlemen, and I was so moved by their act of love.

Today, I miss those wonderful boys, along with my precious daughter and amazing wife. I love thinking on times like those. They get me through the dog days of being confined.

Today my community is filled with people who I do not share blood with, nor close bonds, but we came together as if we did and broke bread. For most people behind bars this is a common experience.

Camaraderie grows when there is a shared struggle.

This is present beyond these walls at a time like this, where millions of people are confined but are building connections with total strangers abroad. This struggle is bringing many in our divided nation together. It may be the one good thing that comes from this trial.

Love For Purpose

I usually stand at the gate until I see the blue van that holds my family disappear. Waving goodbye and blowing kisses to my wife and children as they return to their normal lives.

I am always thankful for the time we shared, but always saddened that our time together has come and gone so quickly.

After the van vanishes behind the large blue gate to the outside world, I return to the unit to do my last minute tasks. I wash a few cups my children drank orange juice from, plates they ate cinnamon buns off of, and wipe down the table where my two year old daughter smashed berries into.

I always try to bury deep the anxiety and sadness I feel from seeing them leave.

Trying to return to prison with that energy on you can send you into a deeper depression. I run through my mind the events that need to be done before the day is through, so as to not think on missing them. I walk from room to room making sure nothing was left out of order, then I see the Barbie dolls my daughter slept with through the night. It’s impossible to compartmentalize the joy you feel from finally building a connection with your own child.

For the past two years I have been fortunate enough to see my daughter on a weekly basis, despite it being for a couple short hours here and there. So many memories of her life have been in the visiting room of this prison. From finding out we were pregnant with her, discovering her gender, to her first steps in the children’s area. Unfortunately, like the rest of the world, our lives have been greatly altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. I am now unable to even hold my daughter because of the cancellation of visits throughout New York State Department of Corrections. Whether or not I am for or against the ban on visits is not the case. It is the toll that events like this have on the bond a father and his young daughter are trying to build in already restrictive circumstances.

Social distancing is a fact of life for those confined and their loved ones.

We can never grow tired of one another’s presence, because those moments are too few and far between, and too near and dear to our hearts.

I long to do the dishes, clean the bathroom, or simply take out the trash for my wife. Anything to lighten her load. These chores we commonly dislike, are opportunities to show our love for those we care for. A well cooked meal, a foot rub, or even making a cup of coffee. These are all chances to show our love.

Every forty-five days I get that opportunity, however, the next time I will be able to do so depends on the ban that further separates us.

If you are in a position to show love, do not hold it back. Do not wait to share it. Discover a way to bless those you care for now. For if we can love today, why wait until tomorrow, which is not promised. If you live for purpose, love for one too.

Where, Hope, Are You?

It’s been an insane couple of weeks. The insanity spread and increased rapidly. It became consuming and distracting as I instinctively went in to warrior mode on my husband’s behalf.

That’s what love does, right? It drives us to action.

But sometimes that action increases the madness. It leads us further away from the solution, into a pit of helplessness and despair.

After writing to multiple news outlets, the Governor, reform organizations, and posting like a mad woman on social media, there was no ground gained. Fumble.

I still want my husband home. He still deserves to be home. He still works hard to make himself a better man, and a highly eligible candidate for sentence commutation. But it’s been three years, and we still wait. Maybe it’s because we have waited, but not still. Ya feel? We’ve acted. Pursued. Pushed. Cried. Fought. Pleaded. Begged. We still wait. We need to wait, still. (Psalm 46:10)

I took a break today to return a phone call from days ago. The woman I called has been a tremendous blessing to our family, in many, many ways. She asked how our car situation was, and I was happy to tell of the goodness of God.

Six months ago the engine in our car died. It was another stressful ordeal. I, of course, began to try and solve the problem myself. I looked ahead to put together the finances and determined I had it all figured out. But the sources I was depending on, the yes that I was given, was revoked and all that I put together fell apart. Devastated, I tried to figure out what to do next. I had no idea.

I surrendered. I FINALLY, after so much unnecessary heartache, gave it over to God. My Provider. Oh, what I could’ve saved myself from if I’d only done this in the beginning. I was able to share that after only two days of full surrender I received an email that changed our whole carless situation. A minivan was gifted to us by someone I’d not yet had the privilege of meeting. It was the exact make and model we had been hoping for. A gift.

When I shared this testimony with her, she reminded me that I should be doing the same thing with my husband. Surrendering his case for freedom to God, who is able.

How many times will I learn the same lesson?!

I often remind God of the Mumford lyrics, “I walk slow.” I do. He knows that.

After the phone call, I sat down to read my Bible.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The LORD shall reign forever-Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

I have put my hope in princes. In man. Man has many times failed me. God never has.

The reign of the wicked will not last forever. But the reign of God shall.

God has gifted us with an attorney, and two amazing law students. God is making the way. He is preparing the road before us. Our road, as evidenced right now, has potholes and areas of darkness, but we know it is only temporary. We only need to daily surrender. Moment by moment, surrender.

We will not stop sharing our story, our talents, our hopes and dreams. We won’t stop being a voice for the voiceless. What we will do is surrender, we will be still and know that He is GOD. We will praise the LORD. He alone is our hope.


Locked Down In Love

Eleven days ago I rushed out the door of our “trailer” visit, trying not to inconvenience the officer there to take us out. We’d told him that we needed to get to our homeschool co-op by ten that morning. Usually, we would take a couple minutes to give multiple rounds of hugs and kisses by the van, as we said goodbye for now. This time around, we pecked a couple times, gave a brief hug, and rushed in the waiting vehicle.

Little did we know, that would be the last time we would see each other indefinitely.

I look back both with regret, and also immense gratitude. I regret that I put anything above our very precious time together. That I didn’t slow down and embrace the gift of the moment. We said our goodbye as if we knew with certainty we would see each other again in a few days. However, I feel completely favored that we were the very last family to go out on those privileged visits. (And our hearts mutually break at the thought of those families whose visits were cancelled, if only temporarily.) I’m so thankful that the last time we were together was spent in privacy. All together.

We were able to celebrate Jacob’s birthday in a special way. He and I pretended to go out to a restaurant for dinner. We sat next to each other at the round table in the small kitchen, as our kids waited on us. They took our order and filled our plates with the Rouse version of the Rochester garbage plate. That’s what Jacob asked for, that’s what Jacob got. We enjoyed the meal, and then moved in to the living area of the unit to dance together.

That wonderful night feels like decades ago. I miss my husband so much it hurts.

We have found it difficult to talk about that time together, or anything else for that matter, as we have been consumed with the global “pandemic.” We have been forced to have difficult conversations. We have prepared to not be able to have any conversations. We have created plans and preparations to endure what might be a long and lonesome journey through this state of lockdown. Each of us consumed with concern for the other.

Jacob is amazing at focusing on hope, gratitude, and being optimistic. He’s got joy. Real joy. Endless amounts of joy. One of the reasons I fell so deeply in love with him. He does everything within his power to pull me up there with him when I’m looking toward the gloomy storm. God provided me with an amazing, loving, selfless, patient, gracious, kind, gentle, humble partner. I feel so honored.

His joy has not faltered through any of this uncertainty we currently face. His joy has remained despite the lack of care his Clemency application has received over the last three years.

Perhaps, God has the greatest birthday gift for him. Perhaps, God will move the heart of the Governor to do justice and love mercy. Perhaps Governor Cuomo will fairly, and with due process demand his Clemency Board to remove all men that are eligible and well supported in Clemency to be sent home. Especially considering the devastation that awaits the New York State prison system.

Perhaps, I will be able to dance with Jacob here, in our home, isolated together, in safety. Locked down in love.

People struggle being locked down for one week. Jacob has been locked down for the last 14 years. Charged as a murderer. A murderer who wasn’t even on the scene. A murderer who didn’t even have a weapon.

I pray he isn’t murdered by the hands of the state, who threatens thousands of lives with their inaction in the face of potential catastrophe.

Our joy remains. Our love remains. Our hope remains. Our God remains.

Please, if you feel led to call, Governor Cuomo can and should release Jacob Rouse and others like him, immediately. You can ask him to do so by calling 1-518-474-8390.

Thank you for being here with us. Keep your joy! God remains.

The Gift of Fight

My husband and I are coming up on our four-year spiritual anniversary. We’ve written about this special memory in previous blogs. It’s a date we love to celebrate even more than our legal wedding anniversary.

In a short recap, Jacob and I determined to make a binding commitment before God to love one another for eternity. We needed no other witness, no piece of paper, and no ceremony to tell us we were married. We sat in the visiting room of Attica Correctional Facility and made vows, with God as our only witness, to enter the holy marriage covenant. It was us and God against the world. Love conquering all.

We couldn’t fathom the ways in which our vows would be tested. Our love was so fresh and impenetrable.

It still is, and always will be, impenetrable. However, our armor has some dings in it after four years. The world has thrown some fiery darts our way. So has the system in which we are currently and temporarily obliged.

It is a system claiming to promote strong familial bonds, while it’s very structure mocks that claim. We have witnessed the beast devour families, all the while threatening ours.

We’re proud and determined as we enter our fourth year of Godly marriage.

It’s incomprehensible that four years have already passed. Time truly does fly. Yet, it doesn’t go fast enough when you look ahead to when walls won’t physically separate you.

It is a battle in itself to not rush God. We trust in His timing and His plans. We trust in our individual purpose, as well as our marital one. We are on the mission field every day, thankful to be used, longing for the day we’re holding hands both spiritually AND physically in the field.

With that being said, my gift to my husband this anniversary is a whole new fight. A fight for his truth. His justice. His freedom.

It has been more than a year since we have sent application to the Governor of New York requesting clemency. It has been more than two years since his name was recommended by a now retired superintendent.  Yet we wait in a process so slow the tortoise and the hare have finished the race.

Currently you can read one-sided, sensationalized, false, media stories about who my husband is and why he is incarcerated. It is beyond time that truth prevails.

My gift to Jacob, my gift to our marriage, my gift to our children, is a diligent fight for freedom.

Lord, help us! We trust You in this endeavor, in our marriage, in our family, and in our predestined mission. We love and trust You in all things, in all ways, for always!

Please join us in our quest for truth and justice. Hit the follow button on the right hand side of this page. Thank you, and stay tuned!






College or Family

Years ago I volunteered as a mentor for at risk youth in a program called A Look For Alternatives (ALFA). In the program we tried to instill in the youth that the most important things in life were family and education. We taught them that you should hold each of these in high regard, and to never let anything come in between you and them.

Little did I know that I would be faced with the very dilemma I warned the children about.

After transferring to a facility that was closer to my wife and children, I was blessed with an opportunity to further my education through the Cornell Prison College Program. For five semesters I enjoyed participating in this program, as well as the Family Reunion Program. That all changed in the past weeks.

Recently, the administration here at Elmira decided that the men who participated in both programs could no longer schedule FRP dates on nights where they had class.

This “rule” put the families of those men at a great disadvantage.

For my family, we have to settle on dates where half of our family may not be able to attend.

I am now forced with making the decision of dropping out of college in order to spend quality time with my family.

Why are we being punished for doing the right things?

I understand and still believe education is important, but not at the expense of my family.

My family is my first ministry. My time goes to them first.

Never let anything come between you and your family. We only get one, and our time together is short.

Be thankful for them. Choose them.

The washer spins and shakes noisely as I sit in what will be likely the quietest moment of my day.

Already my coffee is near cold as I have spent my precious hour of personal time looking up blogs and articles of someone who can explain my daily struggles to my husband better than I can. I couldn’t find any that truly explained what I wanted him to understand. They talked about exhaustion, both physical and mental, the messes that could never quite be caught up, the neediness of dependent children, the lack of rest and alone time, the lack of intellectual adult conversation, the fact that by the end of the day there’s so much exhaustion there is barely anything left to give. They talked about many daily struggles. But none of them talked about the added struggle of the incarcerated spouse/parent.

The last few months have been the most of our marriage. We have shared our joys, our love, and mostly beauty surrounding our marriage. To be real, raw, and vulnerable, I want to share the challenges.

My husband has been fighting the battle of maintaining joy and positivity in an atmosphere blanketed with violence, depression, oppression, hate, racism, abuse, and so many other plagues I will never understand. I don’t live there. I try. I listen to his eye witness accounts. I am troubled and anguished with what I hear, but I know deep down, I will never fully understand his pain. His battles.

Nor he mine.

Since I can’t fully understand his, I can only write mine.

Seven months ago I birthed the most beautiful baby girl I had ever layed eyes on. She was a representation of the love my husband and I share. He always call her, “our love child.” That is accurate. She is.

The last few months has been a full blown choice of hard work and committment as the love has been hidden under luandry piles, car problems, HOURS of nursing, business building, and an infinite list of other day to days.

The face of our precious infant makes us smile as we remember the love we share, yet as we remember, resentment rears it’s ugly head as we count the ways in which that love has changed. Not that we don’t love each other. We do.

These days we have to work with what we know and not with what we see.

Before our daughter our visits were frequent and long. Our “trailer visits” were spent attached to one another, full of energy and bonding time. Our phone calls were focused, full of sweet talk and loving on one another.

Enter Sophia.

Middle of the night diaper changes and nursing make one day run in to the next. Longing for a self care time, as well as much needed sleep, a difficult decision has to be made first thing in the morning. Do I take advantage of this brief moment of quiet and solitude, or do I take the opportunity to get the rest I know my body needs. Do I feed the need to feel like an individual person, enjoying the personal fulfillments such as quiet time with God, reading, or writing while enjoying a delicious cup of hot coffee in silence. Or do I feed the rest to my brain and body that is red flagging me to slow down with aches and pains and bruises and fatigue?

The children begin to rise. While I love them deeply and dearly, I ask myself, really? Already?

Lord, I have so much to do, and I don’t know how to fit it all in.

So then begins the decision making of where to start. Where to give the precious time I have.

Usually it starts with hand washing the pooped cloth diapers on my knees, bent over the boys bathroom tub. While in there, I am reminded of how the toilet needs cleaning, and probably the floor too. Let’s not get started on the toothpaste all over the sink. And how did they manage to get it down the cupboard door? Look at the light switch how dirty finger prints cover it, and the mirror that needs to be wiped down. Don’t they know how to hang up their towels? The floor needs sweeping and no doubt mopping. I just turn the light off and pretend it’s all done, because those things can for sure wait.

I know I have a small amount of time while Sophia occupies herself with her toys. How do I best use this time? I need to check my emails, I have orders to fill for the business, graphic designs to be created, jewelry to make for the vendor show. I have two boys to feed. No real counter space. No clean pans. They can’t eat cereal again. They need real food.

Laundry, there’s so much. Let me throw in a load. That doesn’t take too much time. I’ll start a load and then wash a pan to make their breakfast in.

The first load of laundry is going. Great! Off to a good start. Sophia thinks her toys are my house plants. Let me grab her and redirect her to her toys. The floor holds more than her toys. I don’t want her eating any of the carpets holdings, so I grab the vaccuum and begin to vaccuum the main floors where she plays and crawls. I’ve learned to close doors to limit her explorations. As I begin to wind the cord back up on the vaccuum I look over to see potting soil on the carpet I just vaccumed and the drool slobbered chin of the daughter I’ve redirected about a dozen times already. I clean her off first and again set her in front of her toys. This time she cries.

I unwind the vaccuum cord once again to suck up what I couldn’t replace back to the potted plant. The boys are not coming at me with, “I’m hungry.”

I know, I know.

“Can we just have cereal?”

“No. I’m going to make breakfast. You need nutrition, not junk. Put the vaccuum away and help with your sister.”

I head to the kitchen to wash a pan for breakfast. The sink is full. I have to empty it out before I can wash anything. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes. I need to put them away first. “Boys, dishes.” As a team we empty the load. Sophia has crawled out to supervise. I begin to load it back up again, and I’m beginning to feel better about the immerging kitchen space. Now I can wash that much needed pan. The boys are occupied, Sophia seems content, let me just bang out all of these pans while I can. Half way through and the crying starts. How far can I push it. I choose to keep going. She’ll stop in a moment. She crawls to my feet and pulls herself up my leg. There’s no more time for the tasks of the kitchen. My daughter needs me. So I take off the gloves and pick her up. Smothering her in kisses. Another diaper change is needed before another round of nursing.

I sit in the recliner, cold cup of coffee at hand. I pick up my phone to multi-task. The display reads almost noon. I tell the boys to just make their own breakfast, and I’m sorry. I check my emails and go through the list of potential vendor shows I can add to my schedule. Sophia is asleep. I try to gently rise from the chair to put her in bed so I can get back to work, but she is not having it.