Sunday, August 31, 2014

#37 - Finding the Goodness in Jail (Journal entries through December 8, 2013)

I woke up this morning feeling more refreshed than yesterday morning.  I must have slept through most of the guards and the annoying bell that rings to log their bed check every 1/2 hour.  After breakfast everyone went back to bed as usual.  I borrowed Dolly's Bible and took my Book of Mormon with me to a table in the common area.  I read and took notes for over an hour.  During one of the guard's rounds, he asked me if I was doing okay.  I assured him I was fine.  He said, "I just wanted to make sure.  No one ever stays up in the morning after breakfast."  I told him I was fully appreciating the quietest time of the whole day.  He chuckled and agreed with me. 


I know people who love to go to the mall just to people watch.  The mall has nothing on the jail as far as people watching.  I have been intrigued every day by what goes on.  Sometimes it get to be too much and I go to my cell.  I was prepared to try to give of myself in here, to teach somebody something.  What I was not prepared for is what I have been taught in two days.  Today was one of those experiences.  Jail is a good place to learn a lot of bad things, but I'm intrigued by all the good that's within these girls too. 

Today a music video came on of Miley Cyrus.  Some of the girls talked about how hot she was and talk in detail about parts of her body.  But then a conversation broke out that I would have never, ever thought these girls would have.  Hardened criminals, girls with more holes from piercings than I can count, crazy tattoos and sad childhoods.  One girl started by saying, "You know what my Dad would do if he caught me doing a video like that?!"  (Honestly, I was surprised to hear she had a dad that would care!)  More chimed in, all adding comments about their Dads - wishing they had spent more time with them growing up or wanting a father figure to teach them between right and wrong.  Some talked about how they knew their dad's stance on skipping school or getting good grades, but that they never discussed drugs.  Those that had dads that were involved, talked highly of them.  Those that didn't, wished they had a father figure. 

I wondered what their dads would say if they could hear their daughters talk about them right now.  Maybe they think they have failed...  BUT...  Do they know how much respect they hold in the minds of their daughters?  Do they realize the positive impact they have had?  (Even that they can continue to have?!)  Do they understand that they fill a need that can be filled by no other person?  Maybe they had their own rough upbringing.  Maybe they didn't feel qualified for the job.  Maybe they felt inadequate.  But whatever impressions they made - good or bad - their daughters, right here in this jail, respect them and love them and need them.  

Do dads of little girls right now know how important one-on-one time is?  Do they take their daughters on Daddy-daughter dates or talk to them about boys and good grades and drugs and modesty?  Do they take their turn to tuck them in before bed and hear about their day?  Do they know that by doing these things that maybe they can prevent the things these girls in here regret? 

Too often boys get 'assigned' to the dad and the girls get 'assigned' to the mom.  And maybe it's supposed to be that way.  I know I'm guilty of it.  But I hope I don't underestimate the relationship I also have with my boys.  And I resolve to better encourage that relationship between our girls with Jason.  Funny that an inappropriate Miley Cyrus video would prompt that kind of discussion and spark ideas in me of how to make improvements at home.   


The food was good today.  I learned that Sundays are brunch days.  And I'm a breakfast kind of girl - 3 times a day if my family would go along with it.  The girls raved about how good the food is here compared to other facilities.  Other places serve the same thing every morning - usually oatmeal or mush.  I get it - it's cheap.  Afterall, they aren't here to be rewarded for the things they've done.  But I also know how grumpy my family gets if I prepare the same meal for them even a few days in a row.  Today we had pancakes, peanut butter, syrup, applesauce, and bacon.  I learned that there's another block of female inmates that prepare the food, which is why I never see them.  There's 4 of them that  do the cooking for over 30 inmates as well as the staff.  It's a job that earns $7/day.  And in here, that's a lot!  Some of the other jobs only earn .35 or .40 a day, so to work your way up to the kitchen is a big deal! 

I have never been so excited for the guards to come in as when they brought commissary today!  They brought me a calling card.  $10 for 20 minutes.  I also got a package of loose leaf notebook paper, envelopes, and stamps.  There are 2 phones in the common area that we can use most of the daytime hours, but they are out in the open so there's never a private conversation.  After some frustrating trouble with my calling card, I finally got to call home.  I guess I didn't realize what was happening in me until I heard Jason's voice.  The whole drive up before I checked in I had prepared myself to be strong.  Be tough.  Don't show emotion.  Feel the quiet strength of my Savior.  I still feel like I have to be on guard, even though there hasn't been a reason.  I mean, this IS jail.  I'm so thankful for my own little cell so that I can relax a little when I'm by myself.  Once I heard Jason's voice, it was like my real life collided with this jail experience.  It was like he was here with me.  Maybe that would be comforting to some people, but it wasn't for me.  I wanted nothing of my family to be a part of jail.  I want them to be protected, be shielded, be completely 100% separate from what I am going through.  I talked to him for the first time since I left the house 2 days ago.  I left my cell phone with Jason since all the teachers, therapists, and coaches have that number if they need something.  I told Jason I was fine.  He asked questions, but it was hard to answer, feeling like everyone was listening.  I let him know that the guards are nice, that I have my own cell, and that the food is good.  That was about the extent of our 6 minute conversation.  I felt lonely as I hung up.  The anticipated phone call didn't meet all I had hoped for.  I wanted to talk.  Really talk.  And not from a phone that's attached by a 12 inch cord that's hard to hear.  Or worry about who's listening and where the guards are monitoring my phone call. 


Dolly has filled me in on the things to look forward to each day.  Sunday is church for those that want to go and it's also a day for visitors for those who have them.  The guard announced that anyone wanting to go to church should line up, just like we do when we get to go outside.  They unlocked the door to go out into the hall and showed me the way to the jail library.  Now I know why it's called the MPR - multipurpose room.  It's one wall of books and then a couple tables in the middle of the room that we all gathered around for church.  There's a TV and a DVD player that the pastor used to put a CD recording into that he recorded from his congregation.  We sang songs about lifting our voice to the Lord.  It was different than the Sunday music I was used to, but it was nice to be sitting with other believers.  There were 3 other girls from the kitchen crew that came.  It just hit me ironically that we were all dressed in stripes singing praises.  Strangely, one of the best feelings came over me.  God loves each one of us the same.  Just like I don't have 'favorites' of my own kids or love them any less when they do something naughty, God feels the same about us.  He loves us.  And He wants us to know it.  When we are good, when we make mistakes, when we are ready to feel it, or not, He loves us.  Today that love came through a pastor willing to share His time with a handful of inmates dressed in stripes.  It felt surreal and awkward and comfortable and strange and familiar all at the same time. 


Today was a visiting day!  I love having something to look forward to, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.  I didn't know what to expect, so I hadn't asked anyone to come visit me.  I was surprised when they called my name and announced that I had a visitor.  I lined up at the door, excited to see who it would be.  They let me out of the common area and took me around and down the hall to two metal stools separated by cinderblock dividers that sat in front of individual windows.  I sat down at one stool and through the window I saw two of my greatest friends from our little town.  I was so happy I wanted to cry, but I didn't want them to mistake my happy tears for sadness.  They both were dressed in their church clothes and such a strong contrast standing there in the lobby, compared to the place I had just come from where women didn't understand their worth, where they cussed like it was common language, where there was inappropriate talk about showers and music videos and ugly criminal cycles.  These two friends of mine stood in the lobby, just being themselves, not realizing what light they have that shines. 

I picked up the phone receiver next to me and felt like I was in a bad jail movie.  Mandy sat across from me with the window between us and picked up the receiver on her side.  The recording said that we would have 20 minutes to talk.  I don't remember what we talked about other than answering her questions about how things are in here.  What I do remember is thinking about how this all started 3 years ago.  When Bryer was in the hospital, Mandy started texting me to let me know she was praying for our family.  Her heart was softening.  She asked if there was anything she could do to help and I asked her to keep our seat warm at church.  She returned to church and over time her husband was baptized.  After a while, they and their three kids went to the temple together for the first time.  I remember thinking that if I had to go through all of this just for her, then it was worth it.  She is not perfect, but to see her on the other side of the glass in her church clothes, and no matter how imperfect their family is, they are making choices to do better and better, it is worth it!  She was coming to bouy me up, to lift my burden, to visit me in jail.  But she also reminded me, just by her being there, that what I am going through is worth it.  To see someone's life change for the better and accept the Savior is worth the heartache, the stress, the time away from my family, the legal battle, the money spent.  It's all worth it.   

Next my other friend sat down at the stool across from me through the window.  The Lord knew the two visitors I would need today.  I sat across from one of my most sensitive friends and she had tears in her eyes.  In one look I remembered that it's okay to have emotion.  Just being in here 2 days, I had lost that.  I was being tough.  I didn't let on that I needed to cry, and she blinked back her own tears, but I needed to see someone else with emotion.  Not hardened hearts.  Not an emotional wall.  Not fake words.  I needed 'real' and 'raw' today.  God sent me KD to see that.  I also don't remember what we talked about, but the message she brought was just what I needed.  My 20 minutes was up too soon and I returned to my cell rejuvenated and renewed.  I can do this!  Man, I can do this!  I am NOT here by myself.  I have people praying for me and cheering me on and supporting me. 

Only 2 other girls got visits today.  I felt bad and wanted them to have an uplifting experience like I had. 


The girls that are in here have been tricked - fallen into Satan's trap into thinking that what they have done is okay, or that they are only hurting themselves, or that it's no big deal, or that they are just filling a void of something from their past.  I don't even like to talk about Satan or use his name, but he is real!  He's sneaky and he knows us - our strengths, our weaknesses, our temptations. 

I've made a list today about how this jail is similar to the temple.  They are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but they have their similarities.  That's really Satan's most successful way to work - make things seem 'okay' or 'no big deal' or that it's 'just you' that you're hurting.  Then he lures them away to lock them up.  This place is like Satan's temple.  It's easy to tell the difference between black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.  It's those grey, shady parts he can trick us into a sense of false security.  It's not in huge, grand decisions that we decide whether we will end up in jail or at the temple (or anywhere in between), but in the simple, mindless choices we make each day that determine our destiny.  I am thankful for commandments and standards that help me stay in check of the things that matter most, and to make changes along the way. 

1. Everyone wears generally the same thing.  In both the temple and jail, a person must change out of street clothes and into other clothing.  In the temple the women wear long, white dresses and the men wear white pants, white shirts and white ties.  When I sit next to someone in the temple their social class, their past, their life at home is not apparent.  We are all equal in the sight of the Lord - men and women alike.  I have found it interesting that even in times when women couldn't vote or own land, in the temple they have always been treated equal to men.  

In this jail everyone wears stripes and orange crocs.  With the exception of either white undershirts or orange undershirts, everyone has the same 'uniform.'  For this reason, it's actually easier for me to be in here with the girls.  I would never want to look or act 'better than them.'  It's given me unique circumstances to serve.  If we were all 'on the outs,' they wouldn't be girls that I would normally associate with, nor would they with me.  Some of them have been homeless and most have had drug problems.  Some are here for domestic violence or burglary as well.  This gives me a way to be among them, get to know them, to see them (from my perspective as well as them looking at me) in an even playing field.  It reminds me that I am a human being just like them that makes mistakes.  Although I don't deserve to wear stripes for my mistakes, it's symbolic of the idea that no one is perfect and that we are each loved the same - mistakes and all - by our Father in Heaven.  It's also a way to see them as a child of God.  Without judgment.  Without reservation.  I would have never thought jail stripes to be a blessing, but for the purpose of serving while I am here, they truly are a blessing.  

2.  They run right on schedule and there's a routine.  Maybe this doesn't have as much spiritual insight, but it's true of both places.  Both the temple and jail are very orderly places.  The temple I attend has sessions that start every hour on the hour.  They run like clockwork.  In jail, meals are brought at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm.  The guard with the med cart comes to pass out medication at 11 am, 5 pm, and 10 pm like clockwork.  TV off at 10 pm every night by an automatic timer, and we must be quiet and in our cells at 11 pm.  Head count at 7 am and 7 pm, which is also the shift change of guards. 

3.  The people in charge are some of the nicest ones.  In 15 years that I have been going to the temple, I have never met a grumpy temple worker.  They are always helpful with smiles on their faces.  I can't say exactly the same of the guards - after all, they do deal with prisoners for 12 hours of their day - but they are friendly and respectful.  The girls have stories of other facilities that are not so.  I'll count it as another blessing that I have been able to choose where I serve my time, and that I felt directed to this jail. 

4.  If you are in the right frame of mind, you leave a better person then when you came in.  The conscience mind is a powerful thing.  We can actively change our situation just by changing our thinking.  I do know that there are places that make it easier to be a better person and to think positive.  And there are places where it's harder to make mental changes.  The temple is one of those easier places.  I really just have to go in being 'receptive' and the feeling there takes over to help me leave a better person.  In jail, it's harder.  Satan would have these girls think that this place defines their worth.  That change is too hard or not worth it.  He would have them believe that this is where they belong permanently.  But for those that choose the opposite, it can be a turning point in their lives.  When there's no where to go but up, sometimes that's when it's the best time for change to happen.  If they could feel their worth, their divine purpose, and know that God has a plan for each one individually, they would see that they can overcome this - that this is not 'it' forever, it's just a sentence to fulfill on their way upward to better things. 

5. It's cleaned spic and span.  The temple is closed every Monday for cleaning, and then usually twice a year for a couple of weeks for a deeper cleaning or small repairs.  Out of respect of it being a 'house of the Lord' it's kept neat, tidy, and organized.  The carpets are white and intricately etched by hand.  The chandeliers are beautiful and free of dust. 

Although jail doesn't have the same intricacies of the temple, bleach is used daily.  The guard brings in the cleaning cart each morning and each pair of bunkies (cell mates) are assigned a day of the week to clean top to bottom.  Each morning we clean our own cells also.  I'm happy to clean, as I have been warned of Hepatitis C, lice, and other sicknesses that other inmates currently have or have had in this jail.  Over the course of my time there, I heard stories of other facilities that had mold growing, they wouldn't allow the inmates to use bleach, they didn't provide plastic gloves for deep cleaning toilets, they wouldn't replace cleaning supplies when they would run out, etc.  In those facilities the inmates are more sickly and unhealthy than the jails and prisons they had been in where cleaning was a requirement.  Another blessing of choosing this jail. 

6.  You must pass through some things in order to be admitted.  To enter the temple, a person must have a temple recommend.  To receive one, they must be interviewed by an assigned servant of the Lord.  We answer questions about if we are honest in all our dealings, if we are living the law of chastity, if we abstain from drug and alcohol use, among others. 

To enter jail, usually a person must be in some rough circumstances to be admitted.  For whatever reason, I'm supposed to be here right now.  I'm willing to be used by Him for good.  I'm here and willing to make the most of it. 

There is one stark contrast that I can see clearly through all the similarities.  Jail represents hardship, misery, and a stopping of progression in every sense.  We can't walk through a door unless a guard opens it for us.  We can't eat unless someone brings food to us.  We can't even see what the weather is like unless the guards open the 2 windows that line up to give us a small view to outside.  And in a bigger picture, we can't overcome our mistakes without repentance and understanding our Savior's role in that.  That goes for a mistake as simple as snapping at one of my kids to one of these girls robbing someone's home. 

On the other hand, the temple is a place all about eternal progression - what's beyond this life, to see the big picture of things, to understand our role in relation to God.  The temple represents joy and goodness and fulfillment and unlimited, wonderful possibilities.  Just like a train track, it's usually a simple choice that changes our direction - and in the end, our destination is at stake - miles (and years) down the track. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

#36 - Searching for a Purpose in Jail (Journal Entry from December 7, 2013)

December 7, 2013
I woke up this morning to assending notes, "Ding, ding, ding, ding...  Breakfast in 5 minutes," through the speaker in my room.  It doesn't help that everything is concrete, so it's echo-y in here.  I laid there wide awake, thinking I should hear the other girls getting up in the other cells, but it was quiet - Just like every time I woke up last night when the guards made their rounds.  I'm guessing it was every half hour that I heard the buzz they make with their tool on a button on the wall to electronically log that they were here to do bed checks. 

After five minutes of quiet, and me sitting on the edge of my bed wondering why everyone else wasn't getting up, the same voice on the loud speaker said, "Breakfast time!"  Then I heard rumbling and morning groans of not wanting to wake up.  Within a few seconds 10 toilets must have flushed all about the same time.  Seriously 10!  I laughed to myself.  So this is jail in the mornings... 

Ready or not, I walked out of my cell into the common area dressed in my stripes and had a seat at one of the metal tables next to another girl.  Pretty soon another girl joined us and I said, "Good morning."  She half smiled and pushed her hair out of her face.  The girls in the cells upstairs sat staggered on the stairs and some twiddled with each other's hair.  It reminded me of my college days of doing my teammates' hair for softball game days. 

Everyone had a plastic cup and orange spork except me.  I noticed a sign on the wall in big, bold letters "MANDATORY CUP AND SPORK EXCHANGE AT BREAKFAST EACH MORNING!"  (One of the guards mentioned later that he's seen a plastic spork filed into a sharp tool, so that's why they have to keep a strict count on them and exchange them each morning.) 

A new inmate I hadn't seen before pushed a cart of food in, accompanied by a guard.  "Good morning my apple blossoms!" the inmate said cheerfully.  No one said much as they lined up for food.  She gave us a bowl of bran flakes, sliced bananas on the side, packet of sugar, and a carton of milk as the girls mumbled through the line.  I grabbed my designated cup and spork as I filed through the line as one of the last ones. 

I had purposely found my place toward the end of the line so that when I had my food and was looking for a place to sit, I wouldn't 'accidently' take someone's seat.  I felt like I was in 6th grade again, hoping there would be a seat next to Dolly once everyone else was seated.  There was.  I bowed my head to bless my food.

When Jason and I were first dating, he was just back from a 2 year church mission.  I remember being at Wendy's and Jason and his friend blessed their food - right there in the middle of everyone at a public restaurant.  I was so impressed with that, that I've tried to do that also.  However, saying a prayer at breakfast in jail was new for me, and it made me feel like I was sticking out, as it wasn't something the other girls at my table did. 

Breakfast was a lot quieter than last night.  The girls weren't all awake yet for one, and I noticed the TV wasn't on either.  After breakfast everyone disappeared back to their cells to sleep some more.  I went to my bed to read "Let God Be God" that Dolly let me borrow, a story about Job from the Old Testament.  At 7:00 a voice came over the loud speaker again and called for headcount.  Dolly had told me that at headcount we should be dressed in our stripes and stand outside our cell door to be counted.  I had never taken my stripes off even to sleep last night, so I was ready. 

A guard came to the window and counted 14 of us and then waved.  That was the sign for everyone to go back to bed I guess.  Good thing Dolly had given me some paper and a pen and a book to read so I had something to do.  The silence was nice compared to the craziness last night. 


I miss my family.  I wonder how they slept, if they are up yet this morning, what they are eating for breakfast.  Today I will miss basketball games and giggles and getting the house and clothes ready for Sunday.  I will miss tucking them in and reading scriptures together and hearing the cute things they pray for.  I hope the jail can fulfill my commissary request soon so I can have my calling card to call home. 

A couple things have stuck out to me in the book I read this morning, Let God Be God.  It's based on the story of Job from the Bible.  Job lost everything - his livelihood, his family, his friends, his home.  Everything.  Yet he still remained faithful and counted on God to continue to help him.  The book pointed out Job 23:10.  Job says "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."  Gold.  Job hoped to come out on top.  Even after all he had lost.  He saw it as a test of faith.  If Job can loose a lot more than me, I can have that attitude too.  I still am just trying to figure this place out and know what in the world God wants me to learn from this experience.   

Another quote that stuck out, "...I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction...  I have learned... everything that has truly inhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained."  It's true.  The hardest things I have fought back from are some of the best memories I have, because of the growth achieved through it. 


At breakfast I noticed that 3 of the tables were full, but there was one girl who sat by herself at the 4th table.  I decided to sit by her for lunch.  I bowed my head to bless my food.  When I was done and looked up to start eating, I noticed Dolly at the other table blessing her food also.  I smiled inside. 

I got to know the girl I sat by today.  She has long hair and has a friendly face.  It amazes me how open people are here.  They have no problem sharing what they are in for, who they have 'on the outs' waiting for them, what they want to do when they're out.  A lot of this girl's life has been heartache.  Her mom abandoned her when she was 2 so she was raised by her grandparents.  She was molested as a young girl.  She described relationships she's been in and out of - still not really connecting that they were abusive and unhealthy.  From her point of view it was her fault.  She's moved around looking for right answers.  She's had 4 kids, which she finally adopted out.  She knew it was best for her kids to have a better shot at life than what she had.  I told her how impressed I am at her unselfish decision to let her kids go.  I can't imagine having to make that choice. 

I know that everyone makes choices for themselves and has to withstand the consequences, but when does an innocent child - at 2 who has a mom who has abandon her - make the switch from what she's always known - to a better life?  If you've never been taught, what helps one person make good choices and another go along with their circumstances? 

As I sat there and talked with this girl not much older than I am, I felt incredibly blessed for the family and life I have been born into.  I also learned a huge lesson,

Unless you have walked every. single. footstep. in someone's shoes, you have no idea how you would react in the same situation. 
This afternoon I went out for rec time outside with Dolly and another girl, the one who had made a comment on my CTR ring.  When it's rec time, one of the guards announces it on the loud speaker for anyone who wants to go out for rec to line up at the door.  I felt like a kindergartener lining up to go out to recess.  I didn't really realize what they were announcing before and being inside for almost 24 hours was enough for me.  We waited by the door until they came to let us out; then we lined up in the hallway so they could unlock the door going outside.  When we walked through the door to go outside, I had a lot of emotions hit me at once. 
I was now seeing the inside view of the chain length fence we used to drive by when we lived in this little town.  The girls said this is the only jail they've been in that they can actually see out beyond the fences.  And the people driving by can see the inmates.  I can see a little bit of what I normally see driving through town - the gas station, a car repair place, the landscaping around the courthouse.  I remembered driving by once when my oldest 3 kids were little.  Sawyr noticed some of the inmates outside and he said, "There's the bad people!"  I pointed out that they weren't bad people, they just had made some really bad mistakes.  Piper said, "Ya, like maybe they pulled their sister's hair!"  We all had a laugh. 
But now, here I am.  On the inside of this tall chain length fence with circular barbed wire curled around the top.  Innoscent.  And feeling a lot like Job.  Wondering what in the world God thinks I am supposed to be doing.  Why would God think I need to be here right now?  How can I make this a good experience?  How can I serve?  What am I supposed to offer to these girls?  How can I muster up a good attitude in the middle of so much ____________....  I don't even know what you call it.  It's a whole lot of jail is what it is!  People that have made bad choices.  Horrible language.  Loudness that I can't escape - and this goes way beyond my 5 kids being crazy.  So many sad pasts. 
While we were at rec, I got to know Dolly a little more and the other girl that was out with us. Most of the girls in here have kids.  This girl I got to know has 3 that range from 13 to 3.  She has long, pretty, curly hair and a cute face.  Her teeth show years of drug use, but that's the only outward sign.  She's learned to smile so that she doesn't show her teeth.  She got emotional, talking about how her daughter started kindergarten without her this year.  She's missing out on so much while she's locked up.  I can't imagine having a desire for something so strong that it would override all other common sense and land a person in jail.  What a powerful thing a drug can be to trick a person into temporary satisfaction and thinking it's an escape from real life.  She told about the plans she has to be a good mom when she gets out, to pick up the pieces with her kids.  She said her own mom doesn't write to her, but another friend of the family from her childhood does.  Her dad is a native with a drinking problem and split personalities. 
I also learned a little about an older lady in the group.  She's got an awful mouth and walks around like she's the boss.  She talks about jail life like it's 'home.'  Most of the stories she tells are all about her years and years in the prison system.  Then she mentioned something today about her son who is currently serving in another prison.  He has a baby on the way.  I just sigh.  It's an evil cycle.  It's so 'normal' for them to spend their life in here.  That's what they know of their own parents growing up. 
There's been some kind of drama or another going on all day.  For a while it was about the haircuts.  The guards were trying to find scissors that were sharp enough to cut hair, but with rounded ends that were safe enough to turn them loose with.  The girls finally settled on a pair of scissors used to cut casts off, with the flat bottom blade.  As bad as I need a haircut, I think I can wait.  :-)  One girl keeps her hair really short so they brought in the buzzer for her.  She's the 'guy' of the group and a few of the girls call her Brother, so that's how I'll refer to her.  She has a hilarious sense of humor, but way too much 'language' for me. 
The girls got into a discussion about what's okay and what's not okay in the shower - one of the only places that's not monitored by camera.  Brother was very opinionated about it.  Let's just say I will be wearing my crocs from now on in the shower until I get approved for shower shoes.  And I'm so glad to have my own cell to go back to when the talk gets to be too much for me to handle.  I will be happy when my commissary gets here with ear plugs! 
My highlight of the day was getting to go to the jail library.  (It's the little things, right? ha ha) I found the book The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball and a Book of Mormon!  I'd like to have a Bible to go with it, but just having my own Book of Mormon to read is great news!  It looks brand new and I'd like to write in it and underline verses, but it's not mine.     
Finding my purpose in here is proving to be challenging.  Usually when a friend of mine needs something it can be fixed with a delivered homemade dinner or homemade bread or a note with cookies.  I feel like I have nothing to give here.  And after reading the whole jail manual start to finish I learned I'm not supposed to trade or give away anything that's mine anyway, as everything can be used to trade for 'favors.'  I had a frank talk with Dolly about it.  She just laughed with me about letting me borrow her shampoo, conditioner, pen and paper.  Man, I would have never made it my first full day without her!     
I can only handle so much at a time before I just go back to my room to read and re-group.  I miss my family so much.  I want to be home getting ready for Christmas with them, decorating and making gifts.  It's almost easier to try not to think about how they are doing.  If I think about them, I get emotional.  And emotions are not a good thing for me in here.  No wonder girls in here get hardened.  I'm only on Day 1.   
I don't know why I am so blessed to be sent to the family I have.  I am humbled again and again as I learn about these girls' stories.  It's not just a story on the news of a lady on drugs that was arrested for meth.  Meth use is easy to hate.  Being a bad mom is easy to dislike.  The girls I am meeting have years of pain they never dealt with, or started out life without a chance to succeed.  I am not so nieve to think that people shouldn't be held accountable for their decisions, but how does someone break the cycle or jump off the rollercoaster when that's all they've ever known?!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

#35 - My First Day in Jail (Journal Entries Through December 6, 2013)

I recently read the quote, 'Forgive yourself for the things you didn't know before you knew them.'  It's true!  And had I known what I know now, and the things I learned in jail, my journal entry would have been different on November 20.  You get it raw, as I wrote it, before I knew what I know now... 

November 20, 2013
Tonight Jason and I sat in a room with many others for Probation Orientation.  When I had made the appointment they said to show up early and bring my spouse or significant other.  But as I looked around, only one other person had a visitor with them.  Maybe that should have been my first clue.  Or maybe it was me in my khaki pants and nice shirt, while everyone else wore oil-stained ripped jeans or t-shirts with alcohol ads, tattoos, and multiple strange piercings.  Trying not to be judgemental - I'll assume that they all came from their mechanic jobs and were expected to wear their grubbies.

As I looked around the room, I saw one girl that looked like more of 'my type,' so when we rearranged our seats at the table, I found a seat next to her.  We started filling out paperwork and she pulled up her sweatshirt sleeves to start writing.  I glanced over and saw dark, crazy tattoos all up and down her arms.  Maybe not 'my type.' 

I signed away my option to have alcohol in the house, no drugs, to keep my new probation officer aware of any prescriptions...  Then I got to some harder ones.  Signing away my voting rights...  Initialing that we wouldn't keep any guns, ammo, bows, or arrows in the house, nor any hunting/pocket knives longer than 2 1/2 inches... I am to be home by 8:00 each evening until I clear it with my probation officer...  Those were harder to sign to.  Jason is a huge hunter - for him to make the sacrifice to give up his guns to store somewhere else - well, let's just say that is love right there!  :-)  A lot of our kids' sports practices go later than my 8:00 curfew.  I was glad Jason was there to read through everything with me and reassure me that we'd figure a way to make it all work. 

Then we went over some of the options of classes we'd be taking.  The man leading the class started rattling off a bunch of acronyms, which I guessed were rehab programs.  A guy sitting near me said, "What happens if we've already done all those?"  The instructor went into more details about each of the classes - domestic violence, drug and alcohol rehab, things to do with robbery and other charges.  The guy said, "Ya, I've taken all those.... TWICE!"  I tried not to look like I was scared.  What am I getting myself into, hanging out at meetings with people like this?!  Get me outta here! 

Most of these people were fresh out of jail or prison.  It was then that maybe *part* of reality set in.  I am not being asked to 'go along' with probation.  I am not being asked to 'fit in' with these people.  I am not being asked to even just 'make do' until it is all over.  I am being asked to do two completely impossible tasks - let my light shine, and to serve these people.  Serve. These. People.  These people that scare me to death... These people I have nothing in common with...  These people who are guilty of some awful things... I feel very overwhelmed, completely inadequate, and way too far out of my comfort zone. 

How?  How can I serve these people that I don't have a thing in common with?  How can I let my light shine AND serve them, without it looking like I have 'pity' on them?  How in the world can I even know what these ladies will need in jail?  I just cannot relate to them at any level.  I can be nice, but does that land me in the 'take advantage of her' section of jail?  How can I be bold and stand up for myself and also be kind and nonjudgmental?  I think this is what they call 'living IN the world, but not OF the world.' 

As our meeting wound down, they passed around a sign up for the drug and alcohol classes.  The judge had not required me to take any of those, so I passed the clipboard along without signing my name.  One of the instructors of the class called me on it and several people turned to look.  She asked me to sign my name and she would double check that I didn't need those classes.  I wanted to sink into my chair to hide.  Don't notice me!  Don't pay attention to the clothes I am wearing.  Don't notice that I have the support of my husband.  Don't notice what she just said about me not being 'like you.'  Since when did being myself start to feel so weird?! 

A man across the room asked another question and distracted the class from looking at me.  He had long, thick needles through his ears, uncombed half-spiked hair, multiple large facial piercings, and overalls on.  He was jittery and fidgeted a lot as he asked his question while he stood and then sat and then stood again and sat.  I don't know what he asked, but I was just glad the attention was off of me.   
The reality is setting in that I need help preparing!  Who can I call that understands?  I need to know what I'm up against and how to be ready - physically, emotionally, spiritually.  How do I not just 'make it through,' but make it completely, 100% worth it?  That will be my prayer...  God knows.  He will show me.  I can do this with His help.  Maybe there is someone in jail that needs whatever I have to offer.  This whole thing has not been about hiding and waiting for the storm to pass - Bryer has taught me to dance in the rain!  I just need to know the steps to that dance! 

November 22, 2013
Tonight I got a phone call - an answered prayer - for 2 1/2 hours.  She was so insightful, so full of stories, so active in church, such a shining bright light!

A Mom of a friend had heard Ja'Nette speak at a women's conference.  Through the grapevine, I knew I needed to talk to her.  She had made some poor choices when she was younger and after making a turn around and trying to make things right, she was sentenced to 5 years in prison for her past.  For 2 1/2 hours she shared her experiences and realities from her time in prison.  Being the happy, positive person she is, most of it was about the amazing people she met that were so humble - so broken - that they were looking for someone to learn from.  She told about the lasting effects of those she was able to teach and learn along with - women that are still her friends today - women with broken, hurtful pasts that turned their lives around.
When she was done telling me about all the good things (all the much needed inspiration I needed to buoy me up), I asked her to warn me of what to be careful of.  She talked about how the holding cell was the scariest part because everyone is coming down off of their drugs/going through withdrawl/seeing things.  She talked about getting used to the toilets being out in the open and having very little privacy. 

She told me I am about to enter into a place where women are humble, have broken hearts, and contrite spirits - the things we talk about at church - trying to have ourselves.  They have no where to look, but up.  Some will be ready to listen, she assured me. 

As we ended our conversation, I asked her one more thing that has been on my mind - how should I explain to them why I am there?  She had already said that the women with crimes against children are ostracized, alienated, outcasts - even in the prison system.   She told me to tell the truth.  Tell them I was falsely accused.  I kind of thought - maybe being the outcast in jail wouldn't be such a bad thing.  At least I could just be by myself.  But again, I strongly feel that I'm not supposed to just get through it, but find something of myself to offer to others. 

After talking with Ja'Nette, I decided that when I meet the girls in jail, I won't ask what they are in for.  It will just give me reason to judge and I don't need that.  If they offer, that would be different.  Afterall, I wouldn't introduce myself to someone new at church and say, "So, what are you struggling with today?"  Jail should be no different if I'm going in with that mindset.  I can't let my curiosity get the best of me.  It's hard to love and serve someone if I know all the bad they have done. 

November 25, 2013
How exactly does a person 'choose' a jail to serve time in?  In all the court proceedings I've watched while I wait in line for my turn, I have never seen the judge tell the offender they could choose where they go.  If this is a blessing, it's the strangest way to receive a gift from God.  So, I went online to research my options.  Not exactly like hotel shopping for vacation.  They don't offer pictures of the cells, the amenities available, and meal options.  Some of them have pictures of the outside of the jail, and I kind of expected a picture to pop up on my screen of a picture just like the jail in my dream.  It would have been easier to choose that way.  I looked at how old the 6 jails were that were the options to choose from, how many inmates they house, and what the visiting hours are like, but it's very little information to go on.  They do that on purpose I suppose. 

As I've been praying about this decision, I remembered what my two oldest boys said after they toured our little courthouse and jail during a scout fieldtrip - "It's the best jail in the state Mom!"  That was over a year ago that my boys were so intrigued after the fieldtrip.  Of course they had nothing else to compare it to, but they had been sold on the idea.  I, on the other hand, am not so excited to going back to the same place where charges were originally filed.  Could I really go back to the little town we loved so much - not to visit our friends and family, but to go to jail?  I miss the people and would love to visit - but visiting hours shouldn't be a factor in seeing our good friends!  Could I really humble myself to check myself in to jail under the same sheriff's office that brought charges?  I have prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.  And the only thing that keeps coming to my mind is my boys voices echoing "It's the best jail in the state Mom!"  Oh this is so strange how this whole thing is working out! 

December 3, 2013
I have tried and tried and tried to get a hold of my probation officer.  I've left multiple messages on her voicemail, with the front desk, at 2 different offices, and still no calls back.  My sentence says to serve a minimum of 7 days each month, and while it would be so helpful for a call back for some direction (or use it as an excuse not to go this month!), Christmas is coming, so I've taken things into my own hands and made my reservations.  I'm headed in to jail.  Back to our little county where charges were filed.  Ya, humbling!  Making the phone call to 'reserve my bed' was the strangest phone call I have ever made in my whole life.  Really, who calls ahead to say when and how long they will be checking in to JAIL?!  No wonder Jason has started referring to it as my 'vacation!'  When I called, the officer on the other end made it clear that if I was choosing this jail because they allow smoking, that it was no longer a smoking facility.  A little speechless at my intentions being questioned, I assured her that I have no desire to smoke.  She told me I could bring a Bible, a journal,  two books, and my own underclothes.  Is this the saddest excuse to go shopping for a journal and long johns?! 

I found my undershirt and journal
I always pictured myself serving a mission with Jason when we are older.  I would shop for dresses and cute skirts and sturdy shoes or boots.  I did not ever plan on wearing jail attire!  This is shaping up to be the strangest mission ever, so surreal!  My Mom and I spent half the shopping trip laughing at how ridiculous this is!  Me in jail.  Really?!  It's hard to let it all sink in. 

I also talked to a lady that had gotten into trouble and had to spend time in the same jail I'm headed to.  She filled me in on some routines and what to watch out for.  She kept saying over and over, "You don't deserve this.  You don't deserve to be there!" 

December 5, 2013
All the preparations are done.  The meal schedule is complete with friends that have volunteered to feed my family while I'm gone.  I have a spreadsheet of who is in charge of practices and homework and driving kids to activities while I'm gone.  (Really, how do you break a Mom's job up into a spreadsheet anyway?  Maybe it's me trying to micromanage, but I want to have it worked out in my brain that at least my family is taken care of.) 

The last thing on my list was to fill Bryer's therapists in on all of it, as well as the other kids' teachers.  None of them had a clue.  Again, I have to find the courage to put myself out there and hope they understand.  I climbed that emotional mountain yet again. And at the end of explaining a condensed version, I told them that I'm headed to jail this week.  I hoped they all would be understanding, but there's always the fear of them siding with the doctors.  I have to risk being judged and criticized.  Whether they side with me or not, they need to know that our kids may (or may not) struggle this week without a Mom at home and expect some transition. 

Both meetings ended with hugs and some with tears.  I am so thankful to leave my kids and Jason with the support they need to get by!  I can't explain how huge it is for my heart to know they are safe while I am...  gone.  If God has asked our family to walk this journey, then He's also padded it along the way for us with just the right people. 
Jason and I decided to try to do 9 days this time, instead of the minimal 7 for the month.  It makes sense to leave for the weekend while Jason isn't so busy with work, then stay the week in the middle, and another weekend at the end.  So tomorrow, I leave my family for 9 days.  I have the same thoughts as I did in my dream - is it 8:00 Friday night or 8:00 Saturday morning that I check in?! 

December 6, 2013
I drove almost 2 hours back to our little town.  All by myself.  Without the radio on.  I sang hymns and kids' church songs most of the way, trying to fill up my spiritual cup.  When I got into town, I stopped to gas up so the car would be ready the following Sunday after my checkout.  I continued down the highway and then watched the jail pass on my left.  I just couldn't make myself turn in.  I justified that I would just drive a little further to a friend's house to say hi.  I was early for check in.  Then I changed my mind and turned around.  Then I made a lap in the parking lot.  I never visualized what checking in would be like and how hard this would actually be.  I finally parked, turned off the car, and bowed my head to pray. 

I cried as I thanked my Heavenly Father for this opportunity to serve my sisters.  I asked for His special blessing to keep me safe and that whoever would be my roommate would have a heart that is prepared and kind.  I prayed for strength and courage to share myself with these women.  As soon as I said amen, I wiped my tears away, gearing up to be tough. 

I took my bag of clothes, my scriptures, journal, and Sheri Dew's book "No Doubt About It" with me inside.  I had scheduled an 8:00 pm check-in time, but I was early.  I thought about turning around and coming back at 8:00.  I got the courage to walk up to the glass window where disbatch sits.  What exactly does a person say in this situation?  It's not like the teller at the bank, "I'd like to deposit this money," or to speak to the worker at McDonald's, "I'd like fries and a hamburger."  My words came out like I was checking into a hotel.  "I'm here to check in at 8:00."  That wasn't so bad.  She went to tell the officer in the next part of the room.  The officer told me to have a seat, to stay in the building, and my time would start now.  Great!  In fact, I could sit here all night!  That would be just fine with me.  Just count my time as long as you want in the lobby.  I don't want to go in anyway! 

I looked around and saw letters on the walls from past inmates about how good the food is, and a thank you for the nice facility.  Like a hotel review, right?  I'll just keeping telling myself that.  The officer then gave me instructions through the window to meet him around the outside of the building so he could let me in through booking. 

Booking.  That used to mean 'running fast' or something we would do at the libray.  Now booking was like something out of the movies.  They had the lines on the wall to tell how tall I am as they took my mugshot.  There was a computer for finger printing, and a long hallway with solid, heavy metal doors that banged shut and echoed down the cement walls and floor that were cold and sterile.  I glanced around and saw a small walk-in closet with about 20 full mesh bags labeled with last names.  There was also shelves and piles of orange crocs and it hit me that I would be wearing a pair of those before the day's end.  I know this should be serious, but it's so ridiculous that I have to laugh inside to survive it. 

I started through a series of routine check-in items - name, address, phone, charges, length of stay.  The officer said things several times like, "This is a little unusual since you'll be coming and going," or "this usually isn't the way it works."  It was a slow process with a new computer system.  It must have taken 2 hours, but I wasn't anxious for it to end because then I'd have to go to my cell and in with the other girls. 

There are parts about booking that I'd rather not remember, so I won't go into details.  In the end, I was wearing 'stripes' as the female officer called them - black and white striped pants with elastic waist and a black and white striped top kind of resembling scrubs.  My new 'outfit' was completed with the orange crocs.  The officer half joked and told me I was lucky because they had a right and a left shoe in my size.  Who knew this was my lucky day?!  (Ha. Ha!)  By now I just wanted to wake up from this crazy dream.  Or turn off the movie I was playing in.  This is just plain craziness! 

My bedroll wasn't ready yet, so the officer put me in a holding cell while he left for a while.  There was a small metal table and a metal bunk bed with an old, worn piece of padded plastic for the matress.  There was a sink and a toilet.  This was the first time, standing in there, that I thought, "Crap!  If I wanted to get out of here, I wouldn't be able to!"  From the edge of the bed, I could only take a few steps in one direction before I was at the door.  Normally I would have felt clostrophobic at the thought, but I didn't.  I can only count it as an answer to prayer to remain calm. 

After sitting there on the bed for a few minutes I realized this might be my last chance to use the bathroom without anyone else around so I took advantage of it.  Shortly after, the officer returned to finish up my booking.  He explained that I can't take my own books in.  No journal.  No scriptures.  No Sheri Dew book.  I respectfully explained that the officer told me I could when I called to reserve my bed.  He said all books need to be shipped in brand new from Amazon or another online company.  He said one time a man smuggled in a lighter, burned himself, and is now sewing the jail for his injury.  (I don't know what that had to do with my books.) 

In the process of things, I asked the officer a few questions - about how big it is in there, what the day tomorrow would be like, how many girls are in there...  He answered each one with, "Oh the girls will let you know.  They'll fill you in on everything."  I don't want the girls to fill me in!  I wanted to know from him!  He's safe.  They are scary!  I don't want to rely on them for anything! 

The officer gave me a squirt of an awful smelling chemical and told me to rub it into my hair.  It was to kill lice, "just a routine part of booking," he said.  The smell made me want to gag, let alone to put it in my hair!  He gave me strict instructions to wash it out in exactly 10 minutes.  I hoped he would put me back in the holding cell and let me shower in the same room where I had changed - alone, but he moved me along to take me into the rest of the girls. 

Not being able to take any of my books - and especially my scriptures - was like leaving a piece of my strength at the door.  I needed those!  For my courage, my reassurance, my strength, my perspective.  I tried not to be heartbroken, now having to rely on only what knowledge I have in my head. 

The officer handed me the bag with the rest of my underclothes.  He took me down the hallway through a door that clanged shut behind us, making me walk in front of him.  He unlocked the next door, let it also clang behind us, and motioned me toward Room 1.  I was standing in what they call the commons area.  There were 4 stainless steel tables bolted to the floor, a microwave, 4 open cell doors along one side of the room, and stairs that led to another 4 open cell doors up above, housing 2 girls in each cell for a total of 16.  The room was small, but the two story ceilings made it seem bigger.  There were 4 ladies, also in stripes, sitting at one of the tables playing cards.  They shook my hand and introduced themselves.  Then the oldest one, with long dark stringy hair asked, "So what are you in for, a DUI?"  (I learned later that it was a compliment that she would peg me for a DUI.  The ones that are in for DUIs don't outwardly show any major health signs - their skin isn't rough and they aren't missing teeth like some of those with other addiction issues.)  I explained that when my baby was 2 months old I found her not breathing during a nap.  I called 911 and did CPR until help arrived.  By that night at the hospital, they were accusing me of child abuse.

The older lady flipped and said, "What the ** is up with that?  That's all it ** takes to put you in ** jail?"  As she talked, it wasn't even like she was swearing.  It was so fluid and flowing from her mouth.  They asked how my baby is and I said fine.  I obviously wasn't ready to open up to these complete strangers about Bryer!  Either way, even they were taking my side.  I won't complain I guess. 

A younger girl at the table said, "I noticed your CTR ring.  I like it."  The older lady said, "What the ** is a CTR ring?"  The younger girl said, "Don't say that when you ask what a CTR ring is!  It stands for Choose The Right... or sometimes they say Corrupt the Righteous!"  They all laughed at each other.  Then they pointed me toward Room 1 that would be mine. 


My cell is small, plain, and has a sterile feel to it.  A set of metal bunk beds bolted to the wall, a small metal table bolted to the opposite wall with a seat on each side, also bolted to the wall.  The metal sink is attached to the toilet and there's a metal mirror that makes my face look deformed when I look in it.  There's a set of 4 metal lockers right inside the door as I walked in.  The only thing not bolted down is the trashcan.  The cell has a door to it, but it's left open all the time and there's a curtain across the doorway to shut if I need to change clothes or use the bathroom.

I was happy to see that there wasn't another girl in the room with me!  What a welcome relief!  I had prayed that whoever would be my roommate would have a prepared heart and be kind.  Does this mean no one is ready?! 

On the table was a set of wool blankets, a sheet, pillow case, and a set of 3 different sized towels.  All of the linens looked old and worn, some bare enough to see through.  But they were folded nicely so I hoped that they were clean.  I put all my own stuff down and took a look through the toiletries.  A small tube of toothpaste, simple toothbrush, and a mini bar of soap.  Hotel supplies, I kept telling myself.  There wasn't any shampoo or conditioner in my pile though and I wondered how I was supposed to wash this gross chemical out of my hair. 

I stepped back out of my cell where a lady was standing in the doorway of the cell next to mine, casually holding a book like she was pretending to read.  She was shorter than me and had a friendly face.  Her clean, dark hair was cut chin length on one side and much shorter on the other.  I said hi and introduced myself.  She told me her name, but that most people call her Dolly.  She offered that she was in for a DUI.  I felt awkward knowing right away what she was in for.  (Do people in 'normal' life come right out and admit all their mistakes in the first sentence?!)  I asked if she had kids, trying to change the subject.  Her face lit up as she talked about her three kids and what each of them are doing and who they are living with now that she's locked up.  For some reason the tattoos on her arm looked out of place as I heard her talk about her kids.  She referred to her book and said, "The books kind of stink around here."  Then she showed me a stack of books she had checked out from the jail library:  Let God Be God, The Bible, and Small Sacrifices.  I asked her if she had a religion or if she went to church.  She said she was baptized LDS when she was married to her first husband and had 2 kids.  She said she was the ideal mom back then.  They eventually divorced, she was vulnerable, and she married a guy that was not a good influence.  She switched to Christian Science and had another baby.  When she divorced that man, she used her divorce settlement to buy a bar. 

One of the girls interrupted our conversation and said, "You better wash that ** out of your hair or it's all gonna fall out!"  Dolly grabbed her full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner to let me borrow.  I found my way to the two shower stalls under the stairs, worried every minute of that shower that someone would walk in. 

When I got out Dolly gave me a pen and paper to use until I could get my own, which is how I'm able to write all this.  She gave me the rundown of what tomorrow would be like.  Wake up at 6 for breakfast, then everyone goes back to sleep until head count at 7, then more sleep or cleaning. 

It was really loud to try to go to sleep, but the noise wasn't the only thing keeping me awake.  My heart was beating louder than normal.  They never turn the lights off and I was happy for the option of a bottom bunk, just so the light wasn't 2 feet from my face the whole night on a top bunk.  I laid there for quite a while trying to block out all the swearing and loudness. 

In my prayer I thanked God for Dolly.  Although she doesn't look like the girl in my jail dream that showed me the ropes, Dolly has been a blessing for me today - and I don't have to go farther than right next door to ask a question, because I am scared to death to go any further than that. 

There is always something to be thankful for. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

#34 - Sentencing For A Crime I Didn't Commit (Journal Entries through November 19, 2013)

October 2, 2013
I went before the judge today to enter into the Alford Plea.  We stood in the hall with my attorney before hand and he informed me that I would actually have to 'plead guilty.'  Hold up!  Stop!  Saying the word guilty was not part of the plan.  I asked if I could say the phrase Alford Plea of Guilt or Guilty by way of Alford Plea or just plain old Alford Plea.  He shook his head and said I must say the word guilty. 

After stewing in my frustration, I could either let this pit in my stomach grow, or I could find confirmation if this is ok.  Jason and I found a quiet spot on a bench down the hall and bowed our heads to pray.  I can't say that the frustration was swept away all at once, but I felt better by the end of the prayer.  I will have a time to explain myself to the judge at a later time, so I felt good about that.  I have to know that this has all been part of God's plan.  He knew I was so headstrong to go into trial to prove my innocence.  He knew I would need specific words ('sentenced to only weekends' and 'Alford Plea') in order for me to understand exactly how I could accept His plan.  I am thankful for those specific answers to prayer.  I just didn't want to say guilty. 

By the end of court, I had a handful of papers in my hand.  My rights were read to me, I signed papers that stated I understood what I was doing and was not under the influence of any substances, that a pre-sentence investigation was ordered, and a whirlwind of other legalities including no guns in our home and my voting rights would be taken from me.  It's hard to comprehend it all and I wasn't really ready for all the details.  They set a date of November 18, 2013 for my sentencing.  That's when the judge will decide how long my probation will be, if there will be any jail time, any fines or other issues to be taken care of.  Toward the end of our court appearance, the judge asked my attorney something about me needing a drug and alcohol test.  He said confidently that it would not be needed.  It's all a blur.  I walked in to court today with 'innocent until proven guilty' status (even though I never really felt like I was treated that way).  I walked out with a fist full of papers that only guilty people carry with them.  I hope God knows what He's doing because this is all seems so wrong in the worldly scheme of things! 

October 6, 2013
Today I came across a verse of scripture that has really got me thinking.  Maybe it seems silly, but I've been scared to tell God that I don't want to go to jail.  More than anything, I want to do what He would have me do.  Maybe because of the impact of my jail dream, I am hesitant to ask for something otherwise.  Today I read from the Bible in Luke when Jesus was kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was about to take upon himself all the sins of the world.  I still can't comprehend how that happened, but I know that He did.  As He knew the huge task He had coming, I'm sure he felt anxiety and stress and very overwhelmed.  In Luke 22:42 He says, "If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."  In other words, He's asking God - if there's any other way to get around this, please don't let me suffer.  BUT - not my will, but thine be done.  In the end, He was willing to be obedient if there was no other way to complete the task at hand.  Anxiety and overwhelmed and all, God heard His prayer and knew there was no other way.  Christ bled from every pore of His body, in great agony as He felt every sin from each person - past, present, and future - come upon Him.  It's just incomprehensible to me. 

This verse helped me understand that just because I voice my anxiety to God, does not mean that I'm being disobedient.  He wants to hear from me.  He wants to know how I'm feeling and what's going through my head.  And in the end, after I have explained how much I want to stay with my family and not go to jail (He needs to know it scares me to death!) that I will also end with "Not my will, but thine be done."  Bottom line.  So that was my prayer.  I did it!  I found the courage - through Christ's example - to tell God I don't want to go to jail.  But I also told Him I would be obedient to what He asked of me, and if it comes to that, then I will go, knowing it's His plan. 

October 8, 2013
I received a call a couple days ago, early one Saturday morning, from the Department of Corrections, stating that I needed to set up an appointment for my Pre-Sentence Investigation Report.  She threatened jail time if I didn't schedule.  (Sheesh!)  So much for a lazy Saturday morning; my heart was beating, trying to keep up with all this new jargon.  What is it and why and when and where?

So today I went for my PSI (presentence investigation)...  All these new acronyms and vocabulary!  I sat in the waiting room at the Department of Corrections.  On the walls were posters for AA meetings and counseling services and warnings about how pit bull dog fights are illegal.  There were signs on the bathroom doors that said not to use the bathroom unless you've gotten permission from the probation officer first.  Is this a dream?  Somebody please wake me up! 

Finally a lady opened the door and called my name.  She called me back and very sternly told me to stand up against the wall.  She spoke short and choppy, to make sure I understood every single word she was saying with an urgency that paranoid me.  "Stand against this wall and don't move.  I am going to walk down the hall and get the camera."  She stearnly stated that she would take my picture, then I would remain standing there while she put the camera away.  Then she would escort me to her office.  She treated me like I was going to whip a gun out or something.  Here I am, completely harmless in my kahkis and nice shirt, while a group sat in the waiting room with oily, ripped jeans, grubby sweatshirts, and baseball hats.  Maybe I should remember who she deals with everyday. 

She started the interview just as briskly as she did our introduction.  She went through all my paperwork and asked if I had any other explanations as to what happened.  I hesitated and then said no.  I have been taught to say no, so that the prosecution doesn't have any 'leads' to dismiss.  I don't know if I answered that right or not.  Honestly, there are many things that go through my head about what could have happened - everything from the neurosurgeon's diagnoses of chicken pox and meningitis to one of the kids helping with her that day.  At Bryer's last appointment her doctor asked about the very large birth mark that runs the back of her neck.  He suggested I look up café latte spot, as there are a lot of disorders associated with those types of birth marks.  As this lady asked about any other explanations, I didn't let on that there's a bunch of possibilities, but nothing for certain.  At what point do I not have to worry that they will turn my words against me?! 

She pointed out that the judge didn't order a drug and alcohol screen and testing.  She said there are only about 1% of people that come through her office that aren't required for this screening.  Should I have felt honored?  It's just something I don't do and never have.  It doesn't make me better than someone else, it's just one of those life's choices I've made.  She treated me like I should feel special for making those choices.  Just my life, nothing out of the ordinary. 

As she worked her way through my file, she came to the stack of reference letters.  I had asked people to witness to my character through letters, as the court forms required.  She flipped through pages and pages of them.  She said usually people come in with anywhere between two to five letters of reference...  Not over 20 like was in my file!  I didn't tell her that these were only the ones I could get on such short notice.  There would be more letters ready before sentencing.  Was she holding this against me?  She paused at the letters printed on letterheads.... from doctors offices, therapists, the school district - all people willing to sign their name to my integrity.  She said the stack was highly unusual, and by this time her voice had softened and she was talking to me like another human being instead of a felon. 

At the end of our meeting I was asked to take a personality test - strange questions like "When someone cries, does it make you sad?" and "Do you ever blame someone else for your situation?" and "Do you ever feel like someone is following you?" and "Do you find yourself getting angry over minor things?"  I answered as honestly as I could, but partially thinking of other motives they had for me.  Of course I feel sad when someone is crying!  Doesn't everyone?  Is there such a thing as being too compassionate?  Question after question made my head spin.  I was glad when it was over.    

October 17, 2013
I don't know how it snuck up on me.  I've spent 2 years preparing, and then I felt like I just let it all go.  I didn't deep clean the house.  I didn't make freezer meals.  I didn't even talk with teachers and therapists to let them know what was going on.  I just hope that I will come home tomorrow night.  My emotions are toast.  I have had enough and can't do anymore.  Running 5 kids to/from basketball, soccer, dinners, cleaning up, preschool, homework, and a million other mom things is ENOUGH.  I seriously don't have energy for all this court stuff - as important as it is.  My husband and kids should take highest priority, so I guess that's just what I've done subconsciously. 

We talked with the kids over the past few days, but in more detail tonight.  They know there's a possibility I might not come home, as they could arrest me or book me straight into jail.  Sawyr is the most worried so I told him I would call the school to leave him a message when we knew the outcome.  (What exactly do I say in that message anyway?)  For the rest of the kids, it's been so long and so many court dates.  All they ask is, "Will this be your last court date?"  They just know that when it's the last one, then it will be decided what's to be done.  This is it.  And when I'm so toast and ready to be done at this point, I have to put on my big girl panties and go for just one more court appearance.   


For 2 weeks I have been worried and thoughtful about what my closing comments will be in court.  Do I take the position of compassion, "It makes me sad that doctors can make this big of a difference in one family's life," or do I be bold enough to say, "I physically do not have it in me to hurt a child."  The bottom line is - I am not a victim here.  And Bryer is not a victim.  I have been straight and true with this challenge from God, yet every time I tell the truth or re-iterate it again, it gets twisted or used against me.  How can I find the strength again to say what's on my mind, speak the truth, and have it be heard and felt the way that I feel it in my own heart and know that God knows it?  Can it just be enough to be an understanding between me and Him?  Do I have to put it all out there again for the world to see and hear?  It makes me feel so vulnerable to try over and over to tell the truth and have it not be 'enough.' 

Today I asked for a Priesthood blessing.  I knew it was the best medicine for the situation, as I finish up my comments to the judge before he sentences me.  As Jason and our friend Todd laid their hands on my head, most of the blessing was done in a spirit I cannot explain in writing.  Only a small part of our brain is used for actual communication.  The rest is utilized for movement, reasoning, seeing, smelling, tasting, etc.  So I literally don't have enough brain to explain in words the spirit that I felt.  I can say that I was reminded four different times that this is God's plan for me and He is in control of this situation.  It may have been the longest blessing I have ever had, and was certainly one of the most peaceful blessings.  As Jason and Todd first layed their hands on my head I felt a heaviness settle in.  I didn't realize it right then, but it was almost like I could feel Heavenly Father's sorrow for me.  It makes me think of the Bible when Lazarus dies and Christ weeps with Mary and Martha.  Christ knew He would resurrect Lazurus, but it didn't keep Him from having compassion in that moment and crying with them.  That's the only way I can explain how I felt about God's feelings for me.  I knew that He felt my worry and pain.  As the blessing continued, I felt a lighter, peaceful feeling come over me.  He is in control.  This is His plan.  He is orchestrating all of these details just right to give me the experience I need.  I was in tears by the time Amen was said. 


I am all for doing the Lord's will.  Reading scriptures? Check. Family prayer? Check. Treating others how I would like to be treated? Check.  Help the needy? Check.  A checklist of the Lord's will.  Going on a mission to jail?  I have to say I am hesitant.  Willing, but very hesitant.  I felt like when we took advantage of the Alford Plea then everything would work together.  I felt so much better knowing the extreme, the limit, the very worst scenario.  And now I think, "What if what God thinks that is the very best scenario for His plan is what I consider to be the worst?"  Can I trust Him with my physical safety in jail if it comes to that?  For 180 days, if the judge decides that?  With my spiritual safety as I try to help those around me?

Tonight after the blessing I sat down and wrote my thoughts to the court.  They flowed through my fingers onto the keyboard.  I stopped every once in a while to change a word or phrase, but for the most part the words came as God prepared me.  This whole experience takes "I will go, I will do" to a whole new level. 

Oct 28, 2013
Bryer got her new set of wheels!  When we ask her if she wants to get out, she shakes her head no and says, "MmmmmmORE!"  As hard as it is emotionally not to have her attached to my hip, it makes it that much easier that she likes her bright pink set of wheels! 

 Nov. 12. 2013 - Hansen Family Picture...  As I looked at this picture again today, I kind of got teary.  Maybe it is just coincidence that Jason and I are placed right in the middle.  We have so many around us willing to stand with us, to help us protect our family, to keep us in tact.  They have not told us, "Let me know if there's anything you need."  They have encircled us, put their arms around us, prayed with us, and kept us going.  I. am. blessed. 

November 18, 2014 - Sentencing
Jason and I stood in line for the metal detector at the entrance of the courthouse and met a few friends that were there to support us.  We took the elevator up to the 3rd floor and I was not prepared for what I felt as I got off the elevator.  Was it a spiritual feeling or a physical feeling or both?  The hall was packed full of people to support me.  Friends, family, professionals, our character witnesses...  I made it through about the first 5 to give hugs and then I had to stop.  I couldn't get 'soft' and emotional.  I needed to stay focused.  Strong.  Confident.  Ready to face this huge trial in front of me on sentencing day.  On the way in to the courthouse a friend gave me her ipod and said to listen to the song on it by Hilary Weeks.  In fact, that's just what I needed to hear exactly at that moment. 

I felt so overwhelmed with support - people that had driven hours and hours to show their support, friends I hadn't seen in years, family from near and far.  The halls were packed.  Here we were, at a pivotal point in our case - nearly 3 years after it had started.  It was all coming down to today.  All these people who have fasted and prayed for us, donated money, helped with our kids, brought meals, been a shoulder to cry on - were now all in one place (and many others with us that couldn't be in that hallway today).  The energy and overwhelming amount of tenderness I felt is beyond words. 

As we walked into the courtroom, I took a seat between my two attorneys at the table marked Defense.  Jason took a seat as near to me as he could possibly be without sitting next to me.  The prosecutor and a couple other helpers she had sat opposite us.  Our support filed in quietly and sat squished together on the benches to try to fit as many in the room as could.  They were informed that they had to be sitting, there would be no options of standing along the walls.  I learned later that there were still more out in the hall that didn't get seats, and some stayed anyway to show support. 

After the "All rise" for the judge and some information stated for the record, the judge began with witnesses for the prosecution.  The child abuse doctor from the hospital took the stand.  It bothers me to hear him testify.  A lot.  I get a sick-to-my-stomach feeling as he tosses around phrases like it's every day vocabulary.  Shaken Baby.  The words still make me physically sick.  Yet he has become so accustomed to saying it that he doesn't hardly stop to hear what he's saying.  "To a high degree of medical certainty" is the phrase.  We are human beings.  So complex, so magnificent, so awe-inspiring, so intricate, and he thinks that we can narrow something down to a 'high degree of medical certainty?'  It's 'medical practice.'  Just that - practice.  In the end, I'm not mad or frustrated.  I feel a deep sadness for him that he lives a life that when he goes to work each day he is called in to diagnose child abuse.  The physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse of children - sweet, innocent children that Heavenly Father loves and cares for so deeply.  I know that it happens.  I realize there are people out there that should be punished for crimes against children.  But to have to go day in and day out and diagnose abuse?  What a sad, lifeless journey.  It makes me sad for his spirit of the things he has witnessed and helped prosecute.  Some maybe were in the same boat as me; innocence.

After showing pictures of Bryer in the hospital - pictures of her hooked up to all the machines that I will never, ever get used to seeing - and discussing in strange, vague terms, my attorney asked him what exactly he thought happened on December 19, 2010.  He couldn't really say.  He had his medical evidence to a 'high degree of medical certainty,' but he couldn't explain the skull fracture without any outward marks.  He couldn't explain the lack of broken ribs and no whiplash symptoms or injury to her spinal cord.  The doctor acted a little frustrated that we were expecting him to say what happened.  After all, if they are going to accuse me of this, then they better know what they are accusing me of.  He sited the triad of symptoms - the ones I read over and over about in all the similar misdiagnosed cases I learned about - the brain bleeding, brain swelling, and retinal hemorrhaging.  I was glad when he finally took his seat. 

In addition to all the support that lined the benches, we also had excellent character witnesses for me.  We had a friend of ours who is retired from the FBI and was a captain at the sheriff's department.  He did an excellent job at talking about what he has seen in his years in law enforcement and how he personally knows my profile does not fit the mold.  He testified to my integrity, my honesty, and my role in the community.  He shared specific examples of ways I have dealt with our kids in a respectful, calm manner. 

Each witness that was called had a different point of view of who I was.  The next that testified was a close friend of ours we knew through church and the schools.  He was a past County Commissioner and continues to be very involved in the community and schools.  He talked about setting up the tech side of things for a broadcasted conference to the schools through The School for the Deaf and Blind.  He talked about the process it took for me to attend these conferences with Bryer and two other kids in tow.  The conference was mainly for educators of children with visual impairments, but they allowed me to attend as one of the few parents interested in the training.  He testified of me going 'above and beyond' for Bryer's needs.  It became apparent through my attorney's questions that my importance in Bryer's development was essential.  I watched my attorney prove that I was a necessary component to be in the home for Bryer, fighting for no jail time. 

Next up was a teacher Hunter had and who I was Art Mom for.  She testified on the relationship I had with the kids in the class - that I came dressed in character to entertain and make learning fun, how I sent them on scavenger hunts to find clues about our artist of the month, or came up with games to quiz them.  She brought a lighter side to my personality, and then immediately got choked up trying to defend me.  I blinked back the tears myself, listening to all the good things she had to share about me.  She testified through tears to my character, my influence in the schools and community, and dedication to my own children.  She gathered herself, to try to remain professional, and then talked about how she had applied some of the trainings I had taught through the library with her own daughter.  She pointed out that she has trusted us with her own daughter in our home and testified that she wouldn't hesitate and, in fact, would feel lucky for her little girl to have my influence again. 

It's a humbling thing to go through all of this- and then to ask others to stand and witness to my character is just that more humbling.  Our witnesses talked about details of my life and how I have touched them that I never would have thought were a big deal. 

Our last witness was Bryer's Occupational Therapist from Infant Toddler.  The lady I had such mixed feelings about in the beginning - that I felt we should just do this program to satisfy Health and Welfare.  But we had grown to love her like family.  We looked forward to her regular visits and what she had to teach us.  Now, she was testifying on my behalf.  In my heart, I never wanted to ask any of these people to put themselves out there for me.  But they were more than willing to bear my burden, to shed some light on the kind of person I am.  Bryer's OT talked about her own reservations when she received the initial paperwork on Bryer's case.  It caused her to mill it over in her head before meeting me and she had to get in the right mindset before coming the first time.  She talked about how not too far into our visits, that things obviously didn't make sense.  She watched my patience when Bryer was so inconsolable in the beginning.  She saw how I treated my kids and pointed out that I get down to their level to talk and treat them with love and compassion.  She is acutely aware of Bryer's needs and therapy services, as she has made regular visits to our home over the past 3 years for Bryer's therapy.  She questioned quickly the things that were in her file and the family she saw taking care of Bryer, as they did not match up.  She pointed out how much research and learning I do for new therapy methods/care/services for Bryer.  She said several times that it was hard to bring 'new' things to work on with Bryer because I was always a step ahead on what the next phase of therapy was, and that she wished more of her families would be like us.

At the end of all our witnesses, I had my chance to address the court.  I stood at the podium in my white button up the front shirt, skirt and chunky heals, ready to finally say something more than stating my name and saying "Yes Your Honor." 

I gathered myself and took a deep breath.  And then I started in on what God had helped me prepare in the weeks before, taking pauses every so often as I tried my best not to get emotional. 

"On December 19th, 2010 my daughter Bryer’s life was changed forever.  We returned home from church where I had taught 3 and 4 year olds about the birth of Jesus.  Bryer was fussy most of the day, but I thought I had nailed it down to the dairy I had eaten the day previous.  4 of 5 of my babies have had milk intolerance – so when I even have butter on my toast, it gets in my breast milk and they let me know about it. After making lunch I went to lay Bryer down for a nap after she had fallen asleep in my arms.  When I went to check on her 5-10 minutes later, I found her not breathing.  I scooped her up to take her downstairs, called 911, and I did CPR, as I was certified to do, until help arrived.  I was calm and not worried.  I had helped another of our kids through seizures, so I had experience in staying calm to help him through it and expected this to be a similar situation. 

I do not know what happened to cause Bryer’s body to shut down.  Other medical opinions have suggested the seriousness of an infant with chicken pox, which was confirmed at the hospital; lack of oxygen; low apgar scores at birth; blood pooling in her ears; meningitis; blood clotting levels that were out of normal range; the traumatic intubation process; the conflicting MRI scans between the two hospitals; illnesses associated with a large café latte spot which appears on the back of her neck – all of which are not caused by abusive trauma. 

"I can tell you what DIDN’T happen to cause Bryer’s brain injury.  I did not and would never hurt Bryer.  It is suggested that her injuries are consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome and refered to as abusive head trauma.  It makes me absolutely sick to even say those words.  I have received at least 6 trainings that I can remember on SBS, the first at an early age as I took the Safe Sitter course for beginning babysitters through the hospital.  I received routine training with each of my babies before leaving the hospital – including Bryer – just 2 ½ months before.  My last 4 babies were colicky and milk intolerant.  I was used to crying and knowing how to help them through it, including cutting milk products out of my own diet, ways to hold them to ease discomfort, and breastfeeding them through it.  The first months of a newborn’s life are precious and invaluable.  I am thankful for extra help around the house, with meals, and help with older kids from family members, other women from church, and my husband as I recover and enjoy the intimate time to snuggle a tiny infant.  Bryer was no exception. 

I am naturally a calm person.  To discipline I use time outs when my kids are little and as they get older I have found that talking with them about their actions or having them re-do the situation is enough to change their behavior. 

My educational background is in Education and Child Development.  I received my Associate Degree from North Idaho College in Early Childhood Development and my Bachelor of Arts Degree from Lewis Clark State College in Interdisciplinary Studies: Education and Humanities.  I have continued my education through holistic healing classes, parenting classes, courses through ISFDB broadcasted to local schools, and in reading books about development.  I have also taught in the community through state library programs “Every Child Ready to Read,” and brought more than 180 books to underprivileged kids through the program “First Book.” 

So with this much going for me, it has been asked, “Why not take it to a jury trial?”  As others have attested to through letters of recommendation, I am a woman of integrity and honesty.  To me, the most important thing through this whole case is to tell the truth.  100% truth. I was willing to go to trial – because pleading guilty to something I DID NOT DO would be lying.  After complications with our lead expert witness, I was advised by 2 different attorneys about the ramifications of taking it to trial with even the possibility that we don’t win.  It was discussed that a No Contact Order would be immediately put in place so I would not be able to see my kids and could serve prison time for years with probation on top of that.  Still, I could not agree to plead guilty to something I did not do.  The Alford Plea was brought up as a way to continue to be 100% honest while not having to take the risk of going to trial.  My family is simply not worth the risk.  I realize that this comes with a certain amount of sacrifice on my part as a way to comply with the prosecution. 

My life is not about me.  My husband works full time and provides for our family financially.  I am the primary caregiver for our 5 kids during the day while he works.  I am not in this to raise ordinary kids.  Our kids are involved in sports and scouting activities to foster teamwork, confidence, work and leadership skills, service to others, and build positive relationships.  It is a team effort by my husband and I to raise these wonderful kids to be productive examples in society.  This is my work as a stay-at-home-Mom.  The 3 that are old enough are in advanced classes at school, and all 3 maintain near-perfect gpa’s.  My oldest is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout.  Their teachers boast that they are leaders in their classrooms, they stand up for kids being bullied, set an example against bad language, and wish there were more kids in their classes with as much family support. 

Most of my days start about 6:30 am when I wake our three oldest kids up, make them breakfast, make sure hair and teeth are brushed, they are dressed in clean clothes, homework is in backpacks, and they are on time for the bus.  I have about a ½ hour to myself which I gain inspiration for my day from reading scriptures and motivating messages.  Then the younger 2 kids are awake, ready to eat and start homeschool lessons for our kindergartener.  After schooling, home therapy for Bryer, packing lunches, and cleaning up we are off to Bryer’s preschool.  She spends nearly 3 hours a day 1-on-1 with a therapist in an inclusive group of kids her age where she is a highlight of the group.  This preschool takes 1 ½ hours just in driving time each day, but it is worth it for her to receive the best therapy designed for her.  She is learning to sing, communicate better, use her body differently, and interact with kids her age.  While she is there I spend time at the library reading to our kindergartener, playing basketball with him at the Y, or going for walks or to the park.  We have also offered our time and service to family nearby as a way to fill our time productively while Bryer is at school.  After picking Bryer up, we head home for the older 3 that have returned home for school.  It’s time for homework, snacks, routine chores around the house, and cooking dinner.  We eat dinner together as family most nights where we hear about the highlights of the day, have discussions about how to handle problems at school, or how they did on a test that day.  After dinner my husband and I split responsibilities for driving and helping coach basketball or soccer practices where 3 of our kids play – and 2 of them on highly competitive teams.  If it’s not sports practice, then it’s Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, or a rare evening to catch up on things around the house before bed.  Many of my evenings are spent on the computer researching different therapies for Bryer, looking for ways to fund her needs, learning about her development, and preparing homeschool lessons for the next day.  It was my passion even prior to being a Mom, which I fully enjoy, and all the kids benefit.  Our weekends are spent as a family attending 5 basketball games each Saturday for the 3 kids that play, or soccer games when the season permits.  Sundays we attend church together as a family, accept teaching assignments, attend leadership meetings, I plan activities for my church’s Relief Society, and find time to play games, make treats, and enjoy each other’s laughter.   Somewhere in that week there is time for about 13 loads of laundry, 10 loads of dishes, vacuuming, school projects, volunteering at the school, practicing spelling words, service projects to stay current in Scouts, and over 12 hours just in driving time to and from activities. 

My personality is one to make the most of each situation.  This court case is no exception.  I have found the silver lining in the smallest of blessings.  Through it I have found great blessings and even miracles.  I have been blessed with a supportive husband, and 5 wonderful kids, one of which has very unique needs, requires extra attention, and is the very center to our family dynamic. 

In the agreement Judge, there is the possibility of jail time.  As I am one to make the very best of each situation, I would also apply that quality in jail if need be.  But in the most humble way, I would ask that you not make my family suffer by not having a mother in the home.  The every-day interactions disappear too soon and it’s these formative years we cannot get back.  My education and background has been specially designed for Bryer.  As a favorite quote of mine goes from David O. McKay, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." I am needed more at home for my kids, to encourage their academic development, provide a strong character foundation, and provide for Bryer’s unique needs than I would be in jail. 
Shortly after my closing comments and both sides giving their closing arguements, the judge called for a recess before making his decision.  I was happy to have Jason able to join me as we visited with our attorneys.  His presence is such a strength to me.  Our attorneys felt very confident in the case we presented.  I really felt like the judge would come back in and read to me my length of probation and maybe some fees involved - without jail time - and send me on my way. 

"All rise!" was called and we stood again for the judge's entrance.  We took our seats again and listened to him restate things for the court record.  He rattled off a whole bunch of legal jargon and law codes.  He talked about the maximum and minimums of each criteria.  I was trying to stay so intent, but as he went on and on and on, it was hard to follow him.  Just tell me my sentence already!

Finally he stated my sentence.  He agreed first with the agreement of not filing a No Contact Order.  5 years probation.  (Less than the 7 the prosecution was fighting for; and I learned later that we can go back to have the case closed sooner than 5 years.)  Court fees in the amount of $228.50.  (Not the way I would like to spend $228.50, but it's do-able.)  Then his voice got a little mumbley and he took lots of pauses and tilted his head at his paper back and forth from the stand.  He went on to sentence me to 200 days in jail, 158 of those being discretionary.  I had no idea what this meant, but my attorneys explained later that I would serve 42 days in jail.  Whew.  Jail time?!  For something I didn't do.  Big breath!  42 days away from my family.  He went on to explain that because of the long process to check in and out of jail, he was requiring me to serve a minimum of 7 days straight each month.  (Not weekends in jail that I had prepared myself for!)  He did tell me that because of overcrowding at the closest county jail, that I could choose from 6 different jails in the district.  (Who gets a choice at where they serve?!)  Shortly after we all rose while we dismissed the judge for the last time. 

As we filed into the big hallway, I hugged those that came to support me, and there were a few tears shed.  As nervous and scared as I am to really go into jail, I had an overwhelming feeling that this is my mission.  To somehow take the gospel - the light of Christ - inside the jail walls.  This was only the beginning!  Whew! 

Sawyr had been especially concerned that they would arrest me, so I called the school to give them a note.  When he got home that day, he handed me the pink slip of paper from the school secretary.  It read, "Sawyr, your Mom will be home when you get off the bus."  I had a little chuckle at how crazy this is all turning out to be!  I have no idea why the Lord thinks I am the one to be in jail right now, but I'm willing to be a tool in His hands, however crazy that seems. 

November 19, 2013
I heard a song today that hit me different than it ever has before.  Hilary Weeks sings to my heart again, as I prepare to take this giant step into jail to do whatever I'm supposed to do there...