Jo Ann Fawcett was heavily influenced as a child by the image of the happy family from the TV show Leave it to Beaver, which left her with some – perhaps unreasonable – ideas of what a marriage should look like, but her upbringing left her without the tools to build a successful one. Jo Ann was married seven times and experienced abuse, divorce, and death of her spouse. Her last marriage, to an inmate, lasted 20 years. Now, she’s sharing her hard-earned lessons with the next generation, the most important being: you are enough.
Jo Ann Fawcett is a native Californian now living in Portland OR. She has a thriving bookkeeping practice called Jo Ann Richards Bookkeeping. She is the mother of a grown daughter and proud grandmother of three. Jo Ann dramatically changed her life after seven marriages that included abuse, divorce, death, and being a prison wife. She left the Mormon Church after 30 years and never looked back. She found her strengths, gifts, and inner power, learning that dreams do come true. Midlife Magic, a memoir, is her first book. She is currently writing a second book, The Prince Was Wrong. Jo Ann welcomes opportunities to share her story with audiences that serve women feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and ‘stuck’ in their relationships.
Turning 40 and Marrying an Inmate
In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, Stephanie interviews Jo Ann Fawcett, a woman who had multiple marriages including a long-term relationship with a partner in prison. Jo Ann shares her journey of growing up with the idealized image of a happy family from the 1950s, influenced by shows like “Leave It To Beaver,” and how that influenced her life choices. She discusses her experiences with codependency, marrying multiple times, and the challenges she faced in her relationships. Jo Ann also talks about her personal growth journey, therapy, and the importance of taking care of oneself. She offers advice to her younger self and shares the wisdom she has gained as a wise woman in her 60s.
Highlights from the episode include:
- The impact of idealized images of family from the 1950s on Jo Ann’s early life choices and expectations.
- Jo Ann’s experiences with codependency and the challenges she faced in her relationships, including an abusive marriage.
- The decision to marry a man in prison and the lessons she learned from that relationship.
- The importance of self-care and knowing one’s own worth.
- Jo Ann’s advice to her younger self, including the importance of being employable, saving for retirement, and embracing one’s own identity.
Check out this episode to hear Jo Ann’s advice to her younger self and other young people from her perspective and her hard-won experience. And, if you enjoy this episode, please rate, follow, and review the podcast.
As mentioned: Steph’s appearance on Old Chicks Know Shit:
Do you have the Midlife Ick?
Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise. www.fortydrinks.com/ick
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The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
Stephanie: Hi, Joanne. Thanks for joining me today.
Jo Ann: Thanks for having me
Stephanie: I am so pleased to have you. We spoke a couple of months ago and talked a little bit about your story. Here's how I want to jump in or sort of find my, my pathway into your story. You told me, that you grew up in the 1950s with that sort of Leave It To Beaver kind of influence.
And that show made such a deep impact on society, even all these years later. And so what I'm really curious to start with was what was it that you kind of interpreted or internalized from that show that informed the beginning part of your life path.
Jo Ann: For me, it was just the image of the happy family. You know, mom is a stay at home mom. Dad goes off to work. Kids are happy, they have their sibling rivalries or whatever, and, you know, tension. But it always ends up when there's a happy ending and everybody loves each other and everything's cool. Always.
Stephanie: And wouldn't it be great if that were actually the truth?
Jo Ann: it sure would. And we know it's not.
Stephanie: And the funny thing is as I was as I was thinking about this conversation I did a couple of quick Google searches about Leave It To Beaver and kind of its impact on society and the interesting thing was that there was so much non ideal behavior in the shows. It was kind of of a morality play. And so sure, there was, you know, the Cleavers the center of the of the story, but almost everyone else in the story was that non ideal. So it's just so funny that, you know, the ideal is what we all remember of it.
Stephanie: Even your parents didn't meet that. Is that correct?
Jo Ann: That is correct. I did have a stay at home mom for most of the time. And my dad almost always had a job. There was one period where he was laid off, but he almost always had a job. And we had fun family times and we had some fun family vacations, but the re was a lot of arguing. And there was a time when they were separated. And my dad was an alcoholic. So, I could see that, you know, boil over onto the rest of us. And my mom was like, I learned how to be a codependent from my mom dealing with my dad.
Stephanie: Explain to me in your Interpretation what it means to be codependent to an alcoholic.
Jo Ann: it could be an alcoholic. It could be a drug
addict. you know, any, anybody who needs the, the caregiving and the handholding and you don't want to rock the boat because they'll get upset. You're being the people pleaser. And I was a middle child. I was the 3rd of 4 children. So it's like, I was the, the really good student, not that my siblings weren't, but, you know. I was a really good student and I was always people pleasing and I was always trying to serve others and that kind of thing.
when you go over into the side where you forget who you are, that that's too much.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah.
Okay, so mom was busy peacekeeping and not rocking the boat and you were consumed with people pleasing and getting everything right How did that set you up for your early adulthood and bring us to, you know, your late twenties through to your thirties?
Jo Ann: Add in the component that I joined the Mormon church when I was a kid. And so again, here's the image of happy family, white picket fence, everybody's cool, you know, you, you get married, you have babies and everybody lives happily ever after, except that doesn't always happen either.
So I figured if I met a good Mormon and got married and started having babies, everything would be great. I just didn't pick the right good Mormons. And I also assumed that because we were both members of the church that we would be on the same page about all the important married things, you know, how we were going to raise our kids. How do we do church? But in the Mormon church, you have to get married. You don't just live with each other. So it's like, I had this image from the fifties and then being a Mormon, it's like, okay, everything's going to be cool.
I didn't talk about all the important stuff with any of those husbands. We just got married and yes, there were more than one. I just kept not getting it right. So that gets me into my messy forties.
Stephanie: I think your assumption makes sense that you would necessarily be either on the same page or at least close to the same pages on a lot of the really, you know, core values kind of things because you both belonged to the same church and you both believed in the same things and you both learned, the things that the churches teach. So, to me, that doesn't seem wildly, you know, outrageous of you to, to guess that.
Jo Ann: Yeah. The people I married, I'm not saying they're all like this because I know some wonderful Mormons that are happily married and have been forever. You also need to look beyond the person that you see at church, because they might have one persona at church and one persona at home. And again, their core values on the non church things might be different than yours,
Stephanie: There you go. Okay.
Jo Ann: We weren't on the same page at all when it came to the non church stuff.
Stephanie: Okay. How old were you when you got married the very first time?
Jo Ann: I think I was 20, but I might've just turned 21. It was not young for being a Mormon, getting married that young, cause that's kind of normal. I mean, I would have done it differently, obviously, if I'd known differently.
Stephanie: Sure. Sure.
Jo Ann: So
Stephanie: And then we know that, that marriage didn't work and your second husband was not a Mormon, right?
Jo Ann: correct.
Stephanie: That's who you had your daughter with.
Jo Ann: I did, and unfortunately he had substance abuse problems and eventually kicked me out when I was pregnant and then eventually committed suicide.
Stephanie: Oh God, how terrible.
Jo Ann: Yeah, it was.
Stephanie: And so here you are with a newborn, out on your own and then what happens?
Jo Ann: Thankfully, I was able to live with my parents. They were always kind of my, uh, fallback plan. And he, he saw her twice. And then, when she was a toddler, I met somebody else that was a member of the church and we got married and he turned out to be very abusive, but we were together like physically three years that took another couple of years to get a divorce.
Before he got physically abusive with us, there was a time we lived in a mobile home, a single wide mobile home in a terrible neighborhood. And he got angry about something. He'd come home from work. He got angry about something and proceeded to walk around the mobile home and break every single window.
It's like, excuse me, what's going on here? I was used to the yelling because we, we did fight a lot, but, this is a new level. I went to the bishop of the church and said, Hey, you know, what do I do? And I'm sure he didn't even talk to him, but I can't even remember that was so long ago, but I don't think he brought him in for a talk. We didn't have a, a three way, you know, husband, wife, let's sit down with the bishop talk. And he just said, Has he hurt you yet? No. Do you think he will? I go, well, I don't think so. But then we moved to Ohio and things escalated again, and then he did start getting physically abusive with both of us. And more so with my daughter than with me,
Stephanie: Oh, that's terrible
Jo Ann: could defend myself.
Stephanie: Right, right. Oh God. And she was just a little one at that point, right?
Jo Ann: was like two, three. Yeah, she was, she was a toddler. It was terrible.
Stephanie: Oh, that's heartbreaking. I'm so sorry for both of you.
Jo Ann: Thank you. It's taken us a long time to get over that.
Stephanie: Yeah, I'll bet. I'll bet. And you're still at this point, just in your mid twenties,
Jo Ann: Yep.
Stephanie: you're still kind of a baby yourself.
Jo Ann: Yep, I think I was like 23 when I had her. So I was still yeah, in my 20s. And a funny note, I don't even remember if I told you this was like when I went to my 20th high school reunion, I'd already been married five times. So I got the award for being married the most by our 20th. So by then you're not even 40.
Stephanie: Right, right. Yeah, you're, yeah, You're 38.
Jo Ann: 38. Yeah. And I won the prize. And it was a magnum of champagne and I didn't even drink then. Yeah. I gave it to a friend.
Stephanie: Oh God. So, you know, I like to use the framework that I, I found in this book called Passages by Gail Sheehy. And it's the concept of first adulthood and second adulthood.
And in first adulthood, you're doing everything you should do everything. All of these external authorities that we look to and trust are telling us that we need to do. We know by and large, these, these external authorities, whether they be parents or mentors or teachers or our churches, right? They want the best for us and they're telling us the things that that we quote unquote should do in order to be happy, healthy, successful, safe, all of those things. Do you feel like you know, from 20 to 40 or, or from your high school graduation to your 20th reunion, do you feel like you were doing a lot of shoulds?
Jo Ann: I was working as well. Cause I, you know, I had a job, I had a profession and, and I was raising my daughter most of the time as a single mom, even when I was married, I felt like a single mom and she didn't like any of the stepdads for good reason. But, um. I was still driven by the fact that I want my daughter to have a dad and I want to be the happy little family.
I want to be loved and I want this wholesome family. And I would have wanted that probably even if I hadn't been a member of the church, but you know, I saw my sister was happily married and she's still, they've been married over 50 years. So they've always, you know, I'm sure it hasn't always been a bed of roses, but you know. And then as, as my parents got older, they, they did have more peace, but, um, it's just interesting.
Jo Ann: One thing I love that my daughter who is doing with her daughters is like, she's already telling them now and they're, you know, one's 15, one's 18, but she started a while ago telling them, it's like, okay, don't do what I did, you know, get educated first, do these things so that you don't regret it and decide you need to go back and relive the twenties that you never had, you know. Do all the things, you know, do your education. Do your fun stuff and, you know. Yeah, not that you have to be wild and crazy,
Stephanie: Not that you have to live your 20s like I did.
Jo Ann: Nor like me.
Stephanie: There's two ends of the spectrum right there.
Jo Ann: Yeah. Were you a wild girl?
Stephanie: Oh, oh, Joanne.
Yes, I was a wild girl. I was a party girl. I was a big drinker for like 20 years, a big, big drinker. So I grew up in the seventies and the eighties, you know, very picture perfect kind of nuclear family, you know, two parents, three kids, some points we had a dog, um. And I was, I was a high achiever, in school. I always felt like school was a game I knew how to play. I used to say that to a friend in high school. It was like, I just know this game. It's it's, it's not that hard for me. One of the things I learned during the 40 Drinks Project, was that. I was pretty bold, even from a very young age. And I remember one of my grammar school friends told me a story about something I did and I, and I went and told my mother and said, can you believe that? And, and she said to me, she laughed. She said, well, why do you think we kept you on such a short leash? And, and it's really true. I was, I was really kept on a short leash, um, all the way through high school. And even when I was home through college, uh, and, and even in my twenties, you know, it was, um, you know, my, my parents gave me a freaking curfew when I was in college, when I was home on the weekends. And I was like, are you kidding? But they did. And I was a good girl. So I followed it, you know. Mostly.
I think when I was out there on my own, I was doing a lot of, really letting loose. And yet at the same time, I graduated Magna Cum Laude. One was not at the expense of the other. Although, in my late forties and now my early fifties, they both may have been at the expense of my long term health.
Jo Ann: Oh.
Stephanie: I hung out with people who were in a very social groups. I'm an extrovert, so I loved being out doing things and people. And I lived in Boston for maybe a decade and a half. From like my mid twenties through to my almost 40, there were, there were crowds of people that, that I, that would sort of age out of me because they were growing up, you know, getting married, having kids.
And I was still doing the same thing that I had been doing then. And so several, you know, groups and rounds of people and age groups of people would grow out of me.
Jo Ann: Interesting.
Stephanie: Do I regret it? No, I don't. I had a great time. I did great things. I have amazing experience. Could I have made some other choices? Yeah, sure.
I used to say I, I did one thing and I did it well. And that was drinking. I didn't dabble in, in other, uh, substances, but, uh, but Ooh, give me a couple of martinis, man.
Enough about me.
Let's, let's go back to you.
Let's start at your high school reunion. You had been already married five times and you're staring down the barrel at 40. What are your late thirties look like?
Jo Ann: I probably was just working. And, I was still an active Mormon then so just working and doing church and raising my kid because at the that high school reunion I was not married. My daughter was going to be a junior in high school and she got accepted to be a foreign exchange student to Japan for a year from like middle of junior year to middle of senior year. So that was very exciting. And then I, I met another church guy if I ever tell you I'm going to a church singles dance ever again, shoot me. Cause that's where I met all these
Stephanie: Tie you down.
Jo Ann: Exactly. Um, but I do love dancing, but, um, so, you know, she was getting ready and I was dating this guy and here's, you know, here's one of my things. It's like the next time I got married, I know now it was because she was going to be gone for a year and I didn't want to be alone. We courted a while. And I think we got married before she left for Japan. I would not advise marrying somebody or living with somebody just because you don't want to be alone.
Stephanie: Right, right.
Jo Ann: That's not, that's not a good idea.
Stephanie: Did you know you didn't want to be alone at the time?
Jo Ann: It didn't, I was not thinking of it in those terms. I said, Oh, I've met this great guy and Oh, he's cool. And you know, we're in love and we're both churchy and la la la. And we like to go to dances and stuff. But you know, obviously after we got married, that stopped, you don't go to the singles dances and they don't really have too many dances for married people in the church. So, you know, so we just started doing our lives. We each had jobs and, you know. Um, he had a son that lived with us that I didn't really get along with, but. You know, so it was just, yeah, I didn't even think about, Oh, I'm going to be alone. I better get married. I hadn't even thought of that. It just, he showed up right about the time and that just seemed like a good idea. But you know, had I realized that's what I was thinking and doing, I would have not done that.
Stephanie: Right. Okay. So it was, it was completely unaware to you.
Jo Ann: Yeah.
Stephanie: So tell me about your 40th birthday.
Jo Ann: Oh, gosh. Okay. So that, that husband, um, he'd say, well, where do you want to go for your birthday? And I can't even remember the restaurant. You know, let's just say I said Red Lobster. We'll just say that because that's one of my favorite places. And. You know, he, he took that in and I come home from work and okay, let's go to dinner and we show up at like Chevy's, which is I like Chevy's, you know, when they used to have Chevy's, it's a Mexican restaurant. And you get a big sombrero, you know, if you're willing to put it on for your birthday, it's like, well, this is fun, but this is not what I asked for.
Well, this is where we wanted to go. It's like, excuse me, whose birthday is it? Whose big birthday is it? I ate my dinner and I didn't stand there and have a tantrum in the restaurant because that's just not what I do. And we went home, but I let him know I wasn't happy about it. I'm sure I let him know how unhappy I was that he preempted my request. but I had some wonderful girlfriends and. 3 of them took me out on three different times after that one birthday dinner and we went to three of my favorite restaurants. So I celebrated my 40th birthday three times. Well, four times, three at three places that I really wanted to go. So, you know, my, my girlfriends took better care of me than the husband. You know, as far as helping me celebrate. You know, that sucks.
Stephanie: Yeah. That does suck. Yeah, was that a commonality for him in the marriage that he would not listen to you and just do what he wanted to do?
Jo Ann: I'm seeing definitely now yes. My daughter came back from Japan and things started kind of unraveling. And we separated for a while then we got back together. And I started going to therapy. And I remember coming home one day or, you know, we were both home from work and I said, well, I'm, I'm going to therapy. I think we have some things we should talk about. No, it's all your problem. I'm not going. It's like, okay, so that that was basically it. And I said, well, okay, then that that's it. You know, if you can't help me work on this, then obviously we're done.
Stephanie: What kinds of things were you working through in therapy that you were learning about yourself about making these choices?
Jo Ann: It's a good question. I don't think I included that in my book. Part of it had to do with personal, you know, uh, My, my own like self esteem, certainly, and maybe communication issues. And then maybe my thought patterns or my belief systems, especially growing up in the church about sexuality and whatever, and what's allowed and what's not. What I thought was bad. It was not a bad thing. And my, my therapist helped me look at things differently, but, some of it might've been my codependency.
After I'd left him, I started taking some more college classes because I worked on my accounting degree for years. I remember taking a psychology class and it was fabulous and I got A's on all my papers because I had personal experiences to go along with every topic that we had to write about. So okay, well, this is easy to write about. I just talked about this in therapy type of thing. So a lot of personal work and like that. So, yeah.
Stephanie: Okay. And that was at the first time in your life you had really started to look inward and ask those kinds of questions?
Jo Ann: Yeah, I think so.
You know, you're, you're busy thinking about other things, but I, I hadn't thought I was like, I should work on myself, you know.
Stephanie: Well, and I think that's absolutely 100 percent indicative of this transformation, this transition that we go through, right? Because we talked about first adulthood being this reliance on the external authorities and all the things they tell you, you should, and the transition really happens when we realize that, hey, wait, I've got a whole bunch of experience now and I can make my decisions based on my own experience and what I know works for me and the things that I know about myself. Frankly, in the last two years of doing this podcast, every time I have one of these conversations, I take the conversation back and I like go digging around in my own self for, for some of these things. that transition happens when we start then making decisions based on our own authority and our own experience. You're doing some of that personal growth work and some of that introspection work is, is actually a hundred percent right on time.
Jo Ann: I really. Went back to working on that stuff again in my 60s, because then forgot it all for the next 20 years with the, the next guy.
Stephanie: Okay. All right. So let's talk about your early forties you're single for a couple of years at this point.
Jo Ann: I think it took us a couple of years, probably even to decide. It's not like we were trying to get back together, but we hadn't really navigated and said the divorce word. So it, it didn't like, I didn't move out and then file for divorce. It took us a while just cause we were just letting things, the dust settle.
But eventually my roommate is somebody I knew from one of my jobs and her husband was in prison and I'd been there to visit him a couple of times with her. And I'd been to visit this other nice, cute young man. I would go visit him regularly, so visiting the prison did not scare me.
She came home one day and said, oh, there's this really nice guy. He's your age. He's smart. I thought, oh, smart would be a new kind of boyfriend. And at the time I was just starting to date somebody probably, you know, my age and he had a job and he was not in prison and, you know, we, we met at a church dance, but he was not a member of the church.
So we were starting to do dancing, you know, other places and stuff. So it's like that kind of that relationship was starting to be a lot of fun. And then I met this other guy in prison and decided, oh, I want to, I want to, you know, I'm choosing him over the free guy. Okay. Another wrong, bad, bad choice for me, not because I, I think, you know, marriage or partnership with somebody in prison is, is totally the worst thing you could ever do. And for a long time for me, it worked. But anyway, so I met this guy. He's really smart. We wrote for 2 months. Then we met in person and we courted for 5 years and we got married and we were married for just over 20 years. So, it's a really long time.
Stephanie: Yeah. do you think you could put into words why you chose the man who was imprisoned over the man who was not?
Jo Ann: Well, he was really smart and I really loved the intellectual side of him. He highly educated. He grew up in a military family. He had all these fascinating experiences as a kid growing up in this military family, getting stationed all these places He just had all these great stories and he was interested in so many things and we started talking about, you know, I left, I didn't leave the Mormon church because of him, but I left because we started talking about things that opened up my eyes to many different things and it just became more interesting to go visit him than it was to go to church for half a day on Sunday.
And because if you're a Mormon, it's a whole way of life and it consumes a lot of time. And I was just more. You know, thrilled with this guy and he seemed to really like me. We just seemed to have all, I don't know if we had all these things in common, but we had plenty of things in common and we just enjoyed chatting and telling stories to each other. I had told the other guys, like, I'm sorry, gotta go.
Stephanie: Wow. What kinds of things were you talking about with this guy when you said they opened your eyes to other things? What kinds of things were those?
Jo Ann: Well, eventually, you know, I learned about witchcraft, and I learned about fairies, and I learned about UFOs, and aliens, and Because he grew up with fairies his whole life and he knew a lot of witches and his dad and he were both involved with the military side of UFOs and aliens in their military careers. So it's like, huh, this is pretty cool. You know, I grew up watching Martian movies and then thought, okay, well, that's a fun movie.
Jo Ann: But I, I learned more and more and so I, and I learned about the world and I learned way more about other cultures because he'd been so many places and it was just fascinating to me to learn about all these other countries and all these other people and, you know, and, and he was very charming. Just charming, charming, charming. And I was just like, Oh, okay. This guy's really cool. And he, you know, he supposedly has money and, you know, his family has a nice house over there. Ooh, I was just enamored with this guy and put him on this very high pedestal. Also not a good idea.
Ha ha ha ha.
Stephanie: they do, but I also wonder if he got to stay on the pedestal longer Because of your forced separation. I mean, you guys weren't living together. You guys weren't, you know, you weren't, you know, day in, day out, you know, that kind of stuff.
Jo Ann: yeah, I'm sure now that that would we wouldn't have lasted very long because as I learned over time and I, I mean, he was an only child. So I knew he was a spoiled brat and he would freely admit that. And over time, you just learn that if you just went along with his agenda and his cool ideas, because he made everything sound so cool, and he made everything sound like his idea was the best idea and his agenda was the best.
So I didn't know that. I was like, okay, now I'm falling right back into the people pleasing and, you know, my whole life is revolved around working, visiting him, occasionally seeing my family, and hoping the holidays work out so that I'll see him some of the time and still see them. And everybody's happy, you know, everybody gets a part of me on Christmas or Thanksgiving. Hindsight obviously is if we had lived together from early on, we, we would have never made it because, you know, we would have never made it.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of the, a lot of the, the stuff that. You know, makes a life with someone and that the things that drive you nuts about the person you live with, you know, that's the, the kind of stuff that, you know, can make or break. I mean, they're little things, but they, they truly can add up and make or break up a relationship.
Jo Ann: We both grew up in the fifties. His dad was very much, it's like, I make the money here. Here wife is your household allowance to buy the groceries and do whatever it is you need to do. And, you know, I came into the picture. He had been dead 6 months. She had no, I mean, she now knew she had some money. But she didn't know how much of it he'd like moved over here so that she would never touch it, you know, um, because she just, she knew how to spend. She certainly didn't know how to save and she was used to a very nice lifestyle and getting what she wanted. So bless her heart. Um, but she didn't know how to manage the money.
So it's like, I quickly immersed myself in helping her. And by the time I met her, she was starting to have dementia. So it's like, let's sit down and, you know, let me help you pay your bills. And that guy's a scam artist that's just sold you that trust, you know, so I was helping her negotiate some difficult financial things.
When I would talk to my ex, I go, okay, well, when you get out of prison, how are we going to do the money? Cause he was the same way. When he was married before me, you know, she had, she had a job, but she didn't make much money. So like he made all this money with the military and I think he had her gave her an allowance or not, or he just paid all the bills.
Jo Ann: I'm a bookkeeper and I need to know about the money. And my mom was never really allowed to know about the money. And I would just get the, Oh, sure we will. Sure. I'll we'll, we'll talk about, it's like, I knew he would never tell me the whole picture about his money. Even he never did while we were together and he wouldn't have when he, if he'd been free, so it's like, okay. You know, it's like, uh, okay, well, we're gonna have to talk about that more. Cause I need to be kind of a hands on kind of wife when it comes to the money. You know, I'm, I'm not stupid. And I can handle working on our fan lines together.
Stephanie: Well, in PS, you know, living as you were, you were in charge of the finances.
Jo Ann: I was, you know, I was making all the money. If he had money, I never saw it. Years down the line, he sent me 500 bucks to help with a roof repair. And it's like, I, I paid lots of money through the years to take care of his house.
Stephanie: And was there, when you got married to him, was there any sign? I mean, how, when was he going to get out?
Jo Ann: He has a life without parole sentence, so technically he may never get out, but there's, you know, he, when I met him, he was working with a lawyer who actually ended up frauding him. So, okay, that took away that legal. So he's, he's been, you know, trying different legal things and I know he currently has, lawyers that try to research different ways that might help life, you know, people with life without. And if California gets his act together, they might have to release some of those life without that have been down so long, you know, that they should have been out by now long.
The laws were when he was convicted, that if you do 15 years of good time, we'll, change your sentence to like 25 to life. And then you can start having parole hearings. So he should have, you know, he should have been eligible for parole a long time ago.
Stephanie: Okay. But when you got married, it was not like, okay, five years and then, and you'll be out. It was, you, you knew it was,
Jo Ann: Well, no, I didn't. Because he said, Oh, I've got this lawyer working on this. And he truly thought he truly, he didn't, he didn't know at the time that that lawyer was going to fraud him. He truly thought, Oh, I should just be, you know, a couple more years and I'll be home. Like I can do two years.
Jo Ann: Two years turned into 25.
Stephanie: Wow. Wow. So what was your life like while you were married to this man for 20 years?
Jo Ann: I'm a bookkeeper. So for a long time, I was, I was somebody's employee and then I've been self employed for a long time, but I was always working. I haven't been a stay at home mom, except the first 5 years of my daughter's life, you know. And she's in her mid forties. so I work all the time, especially now that I'm self employed, but I work all the time.
Eventually, I was part of a networking group. So, you know, I had a group of people that I could see once a week, but I was usually just seeing my clients and I would talk to my daughter on the phone. And my daughter lived, you know, we both lived in California for a while until she was going to have kid number 2.
Jo Ann: She moved to the Pacific Northwest. And so I would go see her a few times a year. My sister only lived like 3 hours away up in the California foothill, low mountains, and I would go see her, you know, several, a few times a year, especially for the holidays and depending on where the ex was again, especially like where he is now, and he's been there for over 10 years.
Okay. I could go see him like Thanksgiving. And then drive quickly to where the family was going to have dinner and spend a few days. And I could do that with Christmas. You know, I could go see him and then go see them for a few days. And I would usually go see my daughter before Christmas. And I think I was only with her family once or twice actually on Christmas day, because I didn't want to leave him alone on Christmas day. Cause that's not what a good wife does. You don't leave your husband alone. So it was kind of this, this dance of working and having very little social life. I had a couple of friends that every now and then I would go out with to a dinner or a movie or whatever. It was mostly working and trying to keep up with the house, which is big and needy and, um, and then seeing him. He didn't call me very much cause he saved that for his kids. I would see him once a week and it was for several hours sometimes most of the day.
Stephanie: When you were married to your previous husband, you had started in with some therapy. Did you ever continue that in any way throughout the next 20 years? Did you ever explore any personal growth?
Jo Ann: It wasn't until I moved away from the family home, kind of in the beginning of Covid that I started seeing a therapist. And I still see her. You know, I don't have to see her as often because the huge drama is over. But I mean, I would, I would, you know, go to my acupuncturist person and, you know, we'd talk a lot because obviously, whatever was going on with me affected what my body was doing. And was clearly evident in my body because there were certain signs that okay, things are really unhappy with your body because you're really stressed out. And on the outside, I didn't seem stressed because I hold it all together. And on the inside, I was a mess.
Stephanie: In what ways?
Jo Ann: I was just stressed, you know, it's like, oh, here's another big repair I have to hurry and pay for. And I need to have the money. And, oh, I was saving that. I don't even remember why, but it's like, oh, now it gets to go into that sewer repair or that roof repair. And I didn't even start saving for retirement until I turned 60.
Another thing I advise any of you 40 somethings, start now.
Jo Ann: I was getting stressed about growing older and him never coming home. it just all kind of got to me because I was living on my own and the house is old and creaky and needing more and more and more.
Stephanie: It's interesting before we pressed record and we started talking, you know, a lot of times these conversations, the arc that I like to create is sort of the before, you know, what, what brought you to your transition and then the middle, what's the messy middle, and then what does the after look like? And some people have really clean and clear messies and afters. Your messy part lasted the better part of 20 years.
Jo Ann: It did. And, and again, for the longest time, I didn't know it was that messy.
Jo Ann: It was that fall of 2019 before we all really even knew what was going to happen. after I went and spoke at a UFO conference, I came back and just started thinking about things and it's like, okay, we really need to start having a plan, you know, because again, he'd always told me he had money. So it's like, how are we going to, you know, how can we access some of that? How can we leverage some of that?
What can we do so that I don't have to work and drop dead at 90, cause I'm still at my computer doing that person's books. Cause I refused to do that,
Jo Ann: but I knew I couldn't live alone on social security. So,
Stephanie: What was his side of that conversation
Jo Ann: You know, at the beginning it was just like, okay, you know, I get it. And, and then we kind of dropped it for a while. Cause I, I knew you don't poke the bear.
And I just kept going on with life. And then I took a psychic development class.
Stephanie: Mm hmm.
Jo Ann: That's part of my woo. And the last exercise was let's do a ritual on cutting an energetic cord with something that no longer serves you. My goal was I just want to cut the cord with the relationship as it is, which still not to me did not mean divorce. And like a week later, COVID was shutting everything down. it just kind of went downhill from there, even though it was a roller coaster for the next three years and the divorce is final, but we're still not done because he still owes me money. And, you know, what are we going to, we're still haven't resolved what to do with his house because he just refuses to sell it, even though it needs to be sold.
And there's still drama going on, so I'm still in therapy, but, you know, I'm working on the book and I've pulled myself out of it because I needed to take care of myself. And even if you stay in a relationship or don't, you got to take care of yourself or you're not going to be any good for that other person, you know. Or if you're single, you're not going to attract the right people. Obviously, I didn't do this soon enough, but you're not going to attract the right people unless you've really taken good care of yourself and you really know what you want.
He didn't like anything I wanted. He wasn't going to provide any of that. And it was like, I have to take care of myself.
Stephanie: Give me an example of something you stood up and said you wanted.
Jo Ann: Why did you marry me? Why do you love me? It's like, because you don't tell me and you sometimes, spouses or partners will say, I love you because of this, this, and this. Like, I never got any of that. I would get a look nice today or thanks for coming. He would always thank me for visiting. He would always put me off. he would never give me an answer when I would ask him that in person. He goes, well, what man has to say that if I'm with you, then I love you I shouldn't have to spell it out.
Well, why not? Why can't you articulate, you know, give me one thing. Is it my hair? You like my smile. I know you like hugging me. He just couldn't and wouldn't elaborate because, you know, a good wife should know that I'm with her because I like her.
I need articulation. I started, you know, I like started pushing about the money. It's like, I need to stop paying for the house because I can never retire if I'm still paying for everything. But his attitude was, a good wife would just be happy that her husband provided her with this nice house.
Jo Ann: I go, yes, it's a nice house and a really nice neighborhood, but it's over a hundred years old, dude. And I can't keep up with all the upkeep and it's big for me to do and still work and make all the money. You know, even though to him, you know, compared to what he used to make in the military, what I make. It was a drop in the bucket, even though I make good money.
Stephanie: Yeah. so you said you've been in therapy for the last couple of years. I'm
curious, what does your therapist say about being alone and being happy with yourself?
Jo Ann: Number one, she thinks I've done phenomenally, you know, she's very proud of me. And I basically am happy with myself. Yes. I need to start getting out and finding people, you know, my age that like to do the same kind of things that I'm starting to do with that. You know, COVID has kind of kept me isolated because I'm old. I don't want to get it. And, you know, my daughter just got it, even though we're all vaccinated and, you know, it's like, how did you get it?
But anyway, it's like, I don't want to get it. Okay, because I'm 1 of those vulnerable people. But I am happy with myself and people are just going to have to take me for I am.
So it's like, you know, if I can find a walking group. You know, this weekend, if it doesn't rain, there's a witchy group, that's going to go for a walk in my neighborhood, and it's like, good, sign me up. And there's a, you know, swing dance lessons that you can go to without a partner and just have fun. You know, one of my granddaughters goes, I need to try that.
Stephanie: So tell me, now that you have made these changes in your 60s tell me what you would tell your younger self.
Jo Ann: I made a list,
Stephanie: Oh god, How well prepared. I love it.
Jo Ann: You know, I'm a professional student and I love to get A's. I would tell my younger self to be employable. Regardless, be employable because you could split up at any moment, or they could drop dead. And now you have to go to work. Unless he's left you several million dollars.
Okay. And like I said before, start saving for retirement early. You know, unless you have the opportunity to be in a good job, and they've got a pension plan for you. That was never my case. And don't put your eggs in 1 basket. Don't don't assume that that partner is going to be taking care of you forever. Maybe you're going to stay together forever. And I hope that for you, but. You know, even if you would, you should probably, you know, save a little nest egg for yourself so that you have a little stash just for fun, you know, pocket change as my grandma would call it.
And again, get to the place where you're taking good care of yourself, knowing what you want and be happy with who you are, because that's going to come out and again, if your partner can't handle who you really are, then you know, they probably shouldn't be your partner, you cannot live your life by how others see you at or the labels people put on you.
Jo Ann: I tell people, well, I'm this badass 60 something year old witch and I have never been happier and if you don't like me too bad. I'm not out there raising ruckus. I'm not a party girl, no offense to those of you who are. It's just like, were okay. were okay. You got to stand in your own power, no matter what age you are. And it's okay to change if another path needs to be taken. I'm not telling people what or how they have to be because that's not who I am and that's not what I'm here for You know, self care is beautiful.
Stephanie: Mm hmm,
Jo Ann: Self care. You know, I love my monthly massages and I go on a lot of walks and, you know, that that is my meditation and my exercise. You have to know that you are enough. At no matter what age you are, because all my exes, that was my message. You're not enough the way you are. You're not enough the way you are.
I've learned to embrace new, interesting things later in life. Let me do this for the rest of my life.
Jo Ann: So, you know,
Jo Ann: And make that bucket list of who you want in your life. It's okay to have a list that you're probably not going to check them all off, but, it's okay to have a bucket list of who you want or what kind of person you want in your life, but you need to be that kind of person yourself.
You said, know who you are and I want to know what you know about who you are now that you didn't know earlier.
Jo Ann: Two things. I am enough. Well, maybe three. I am amazing, and that doesn't come from an ego place. And I love to embrace the title. I just said don't use titles. But it's like, I am a wise woman crone. I'm old. And crone doesn't mean you have to be old, but I am old and I have lived enough. So I have some wisdom in these bones and, you know, if you want to hear about it, great. If you don't, it's okay too. But it's like, you know, I have wisdom. I can tell you what not to do or what didn't work for me.
Stephanie: Oh, Joanne, that's wonderful. I'm so proud of you for learning those things about yourself.
Jo Ann: Thank you. Me too.
Stephanie: They were hard won, but you, you did, you won them.
Jo Ann: I did. And I don't have to do those ever again.
Stephanie: Right? Right? You did those.
Well, thank you so much for being with me today and sharing your story and just being just so generous with, with all the details of your, of your path and your story. It's, it's been really, wonderful to, to hear about it all.
Jo Ann: Well, thank you for having me. Cause you know, like I told you when I reached out, it's like, I'm well past 40. I don't know if you want me, but you know, thank you for letting me share.