Sunday, September 21, 2014

#40 - A Letter to My Jail Bunkie (Journal Entries From Dec. 11, 2013)

"Ding, ding, ding, ding!  Breakfast in 5 minutes!"  Will I ever get used to that 5:55 am announcement?  Think I could implement that at home with an intercom system?  While I'm at it, maybe I will issue 1 cup and 1 spork to each of our kids and they will be responsible to bring it with them to every meal and only wash them once a day.  Ha!  It's a funny thought, but now I sound like a jail guard.  Sometimes getting all 7 of us together for mealtime would be easier if they all had an intercom announcement and spork in hand at the appointed time. 

This morning was back to normal after the crazy transfer day yesterday.  After breakfast everyone went back to sleep, I stayed up to read and journal.  It's so quiet in the mornings.  I can actually concentrate and think.  The more I read my scriptures, the more emotion I feel.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, being in here.  That line that I've drawn between real life and this life seems to blur a little once I feel myself going soft.   Real life is the fun chaos of 5 kids, homework, laundry, helping at the school, running Bryer to appointments, homework, sports practices, and bedtime routines.  This life...  I want my children to be nothing a part of.  It hurts to even think about them while I'm in here.  I so appreciate all the help of family and friends back home, but I don't want to think of someone else doing my job.  I don't want someone else helping with homework or hearing about their day at school or trying to get Bryer's needs met.  We've worked so hard with Bryer the last 2 weeks to form her lips together to say 'up', instead of 'uk' when she wants up out of bed in the mornings.  She finally got it the last 2 days before I left!  I don't want to think about her loosing that skill. 

When I read scriptures, I loose that line that I've drawn.  I get soft.  I think about them.  I get teary.   I miss Jason.  I hurt.  I remember the cute things they say and what their voices sound like.  I want to melt.  I loose my confidence that I can do this, and I remember so clearly that this is hard stuff I'm going through.  Being away from my family for these past 5 days has seemed like 5 months. 

In our house we don't say the word 'hate.'  I never set out for it to be a big, bad word, but I'll hear someone say at the dinner table, "I just H broccoli," substituting H for the word hate.  I try not to laugh in the moment, but I'm glad that the word hate is something they think about before they say it.  It's powerful.  I can honestly say that I hate being away from my family.  It's a big, strong emotion.  If I let it, it would just overcome me.  It's too easy to fall into the routine and give in to the 'hate' that surrounds me.  So this morning as I have been reading, I've decided that I have to match it with something good...  Some reason I am here...  Something I am supposed to learn or someone I am supposed to help...  Good will always, always, always overcome evil.  So in feeling that big, heavy, overwhelming sadness, I have to find the positives and feel God's plan for me here.  The easy way out would be to sleep my time away.  Avoid the feelings.  After going from Mom-mode of good chaos and running on less hours of sleep than I would hope, it would be really easy for me to go back to bed with everyone else after breakfast.  And if I'm here for me - than that's what I would do.  But I know I'm not.  God does not put us in places to let us sleep our time away... Or just 'get by'...  He expects more out of me.  Make it worth it.  Do what Jesus would do if he were here.  I've only got 1 chance at today to be completely aware of what my purpose is and what I can offer of myself. 

As I sat at breakfast today, I looked around at the girls.  Conversation is a lot quieter and less vulgar in the mornings than later on in the day.  I looked at their faces.  Their body language sitting at metal tables.  All the matching stripes.  The messy hair.  The crackley, morning voices.  In this strange place I find myself in, I had an overwhelming feeling of sisterhood.  These are not just random girls that happened to show up in this jail at the same time as me. Here I sit with these girls in the early morning and try to remember what it was like maybe before we came to this earth.  Did we all sit down together?  Did we know each other?  Were we friends?  Before we had bodies that had temptations and distractions and made mistakes, were we united?  Did we count on each other for help?  Did we make promises to help each other make it back in one piece?  What if God had to go to such great lengths to arrange my meeting with one of these girls, (I mean, really, how else would I have met these girls?) and then I was too caught up in my sadness or frustration or 'hating' my situation, to make a difference in her life?   
With that, I wrote Karen a letter after 7 am headcount.  I tucked it away to save.  I thought maybe I would leave it on the table for her to read after I left, 4 days from now.  But now that I've moved into her cell, I felt strongly that I should give it to her now.  We stayed up late last night talking and then continued more today.  We were kind of having a heart-to-heart and she said she was so glad I came when I did.  She said she was struggling.  She needed someone to be strong for her.  She needed a light.  She was feeling so down on herself for being locked up and missing her kids and regrets.  Full of regrets.  So, I handed her the letter.  She saw what it was, handed it back to me and said, "You're not even going to read it?"  Handing her the letter was enough - with me sitting here to see her reaction and not hide after I'm gone.  Now she was asking me to read it to her?  I took a deep breath and started, hoping that a confirming feeling would accompany what I had to say.   


I hope you know your potential.  If Heavenly Father were here in this cell with you He would hug you and give you a pep talk.  He would cry with you when you are missing your kids.  He would know how you feel to miss your Dad.  Maybe He could give you some insight to what your Dad is up to, up there.  Then I think Heavenly Father would give you insight to yourself - How you were before this life.  I don't remember what that was like, but I know He has saved His strongest, most valiant spirits to come now!  He knows you.  He knows your heart.  He knows your strengths and your weaknesses.  He knows you will pull through and your best side will come shining through. 

Until you get out, please know that you were an answer to my prayers.  I prayed sincerely that I would find a friend - someone whose heart was softened.  I knew I would need help and someone to show me the ropes, but I also hoped I could be of some goodness or light to someone else.  I don't know if you've felt that, but I know you've answered my half of my prayers. 

Love you!

I looked up and there were tears streaming down her face.  As naturally as it could have felt, we hugged.  Now you tell me that God did not have a plan in that!  Here I am, finding myself in stripes and orange crocs, sleeping on a top bunk with a light on all night long.  Eating food that's brought to me at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm on schedule.  Lining up like a kindergardener for the chance to go outside.  God has put all that in front of me.  And I was able to make a difference.  I think about what a strange place I am in with strange women and strange clothes.  A mission was never supposed to look like this!  But I feel very strongly that today, through that letter, that I did what Christ would do if He were here.  This morning I underlined the verse that says, "Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness?  Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden."  Isn't that our purpose?  To strengthen those around us...  Be a light... Be an example... Don't hold any goodness back... Treat others with compassion...  Reach out to others that need a friend... Even in the very strangest, very hardest circumstances.  No, not even in those circumstances...  Especially in those circumstances! 


Today I borrowed a Bible from another inmate.  As I scanned and flipped pages, waiting for something really inspirational to hit me, I came across a verse that was underlined.  Phillipians 4:11 says, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."  The part 'be content' was underlined several times.  In the margin I read a handwritten note that said, "Topical Guide - Thief."

'Thief' isn't in the Topical Guide at the back, but as I flipped the surrounding pages, the page with 'theft' had a bookmark in it.  I don't know what this inmate is in prison for or even if these were her notes and underlines, but I had a glimpse into the internal struggle of someone trying to overcome  temptation, all through a couple sections marked in a set of scriptures.  This struggle between stealing and being content with what she has.  It's thought provoking. 

With that provoking thought of being content with very little, I received my store commissary today!  I've never been so happy for my own shampoo, conditioner, brush, and a treat of hot chocolate!  I 'paid Karen back' and squeezed some of mine into her containers that she had let me borrow.  She didn't even mind that the 'flavors' of shampoo mixed.  :-) 

Mail came again today.  I don't know how I made it through the weekend without mail, now that it comes daily on the weekdays!  I got 4 letters today, including a 5x7 of my family!  I *may* have let out a little squeak when I saw it.  Oh I miss those faces!  And I can just hear Bryer's giggle!  I tried not to tear up.  In strong contrast, it's in color!  Everything here is so monotone.  White walls.  Grey metal bunk beds.  Grey concrete floors.  Stainless steel tables.  Dark colored bedding.  And then my family picture arrived!  Karen noticed I had a picture of my family and asked to see it.  I kind of have mixed emotions about having their picture in here all of a sudden.  I'm so, so, so excited to see their faces and have something to look at when I'm missing them so terribly, but I also don't want my kids exposed to anything in here - like having their picture in here would really expose them.  It's a silly thought, but I'm so conflicted about it.  I showed it to the girls that were sitting around me and then I put it away.  It's part of my real life that I don't want to mingle with this life


One of the officers came in an announced today that he found a spork out in the rec yard outside.  He asked if we needed a cell toss.  The girls repeatedly assured him that we didn't.  (I learned later that a cell toss is when the guards come in and go through whichever cells they want, looking for anything that doesn't belong.) 


I now have more compassion for Sawyr.  Making the bed on the top bunk is hard work!  I used to get frustrated at him that he wouldn't just get it done, or that his blankets weren't just right.  Now I know.  And I will give him a big ol' hug when I get home.  Maybe I won't even ask him to make his bed anymore.  :-) 


In the movies they show inmates making marks on the wall, marking days off to keep track.  I guess it was bound to happen.  Today I started mine.  It's not on the wall though, it's in my journal.   Today I asked Karen about Good Time that I read about in the jail handbook.  She said once I have served 25 days, I can request Good Time, which is 5 days for every 30 off my jail sentence for being a good inmate!  Even the possibility of having to spend 5 days less in here had me excited!  I've started planning out my dates to be done!  42 sentenced days minus 5 days good time, equals 37 days total, minus the 5 days I've already been here, equals 32 left!  Like a young girl with a crush, I want to doodle '32' all around my paper. 


I've had some thoughts in the past months of sharing my story from the beginning.  I even talked to my mom and Jason about it.  The thoughts have come and gone, but now the thought won't leave.  I've been praying about it.  Honestly, it's scary to me.  I would have to go back to my journal and re-live the day Bryer went to the hospital, remember how hard it was to watch her be intubated, remember what it was like to have our kids taken from us, the trauma of Christmas that year, and all the judgments the doctors made.  That might be the worst part.  How can I put myself out there?  Expose myself to anyone and everyone that wants to read it?  Maybe that's no one.  Maybe no one cares what happened or how we made it through.  What if they don't believe me?  What if I have to face more ridicule or judgments? 

Even as I write this, I feel negativity creeping in.  I know that God does not bring negativity.  That comes from the adversary.  Satan tells us that we can't, not to try, to just give up, to just sleep away opportunities.  I know there is so much good that has come from all of this.  God has been with us from the very beginning.  He's provided miracles in our lives, working out the timing and circumstances exactly how we needed them.  The lessons I have learned are invaluable to me.  I will pray tonight with more willingness to share my story, if that's what God would have me do.  It still feels a little silly to me.  It's just my journals.  I guess it doesn't matter.  If God wants me to share, then I will. 

For more unity in the blog, I'll skip ahead to the journal entry the following morning... 
I woke up thinking about a name for a blog, feeling so comfortable about the idea of sharing myself with anyone who wants to read my journal.  The Bryer Effect was a title my mom had suggested a while ago, thinking I should write a book.  I've co-authored a book before.  It was a lot of work and turned out to be something we just sold to our friends and family.  A blog seems less overwhelming - and those that want to read wouldn't have to pay for it.  If someone else can receive help or inspiration or perspective by our hardship, then it's worth it to me to share.  This morning I started thinking of the double meaning.  Bryer is our sweet little girl that has accepted all life's challenges as they were given to her and does it with bouncy curls and a cute little giggle.  She's overcome a lot of the odds and is so much better than the doctors ever predicted her to be.  But a briar - a thorn - is not always so easy to have a good attitude about, as Bryer has.  Getting caught up in a briar patch would be a struggle.  The more you fight to get free, the more you get tangled and scratched up.  Maybe the best way not to get tangled - have patience and faith and look for the good, however hard that is to actually do in real life.  And in the process, we are stronger because of Bryer (or briar patches in life). 


I doodled today and created a reminder for myself.  Wish I had some crayons or colored pencils.  Karen said if I want color for my picture, I have to order skittles or M&M's from store commissary.  They soak a few pieces of candy in a little bit of water and then use a stick of rolled up toilet paper or the cotton part of a tampon to 'paint.'  The M&M's are flat colors and the skittles dry a little bit shiny.  Oh the things I learn in jail!  Maybe I'll 'paint' with Piper when I get home when skittles are a little easier to come by. I hung it up with a piece of the back label from my shampoo (you can see along the top).  The mind is a powerful blessing! 


  1. I am so grateful you have chosen to share. I struggled with infertility and it won. I have adopted 8 children out of foster care and I am currently fostering 2 sweet girls. I am heartbroken by your experiences. I have birth Mothers who are currently incarcerated and some who's struggle with addiction led them to ask me to adopt their children. I often hear the assumed judgements of others about my children's birth parents and I often offended at the assumptions. We do not walk in others shoes and have been admonished not to judge. My heart aches for you and your family and what this trial has brought you, but again, I am so grateful you chose to share! I believe their truly is two sides to every story and compassion and understanding are warranted on both of sides of such an imperfect system.

  2. Maybe, Sawyr could have a sleeping bag for his top bunk & just use a fitted sheet to cover the mattress?

  3. This echoes in my ears from the movie "Song of the South": Brer Rabbit says to Brer Fox "Oh, whatever you do, please, please don't throw me in that there briar patch."
    Brer Rabbit knew it would be the means of his salvation if Brer Fox did just that.

  4. "I had an overwhelming feeling of sisterhood.......and try to remember what it was like maybe before we came to this earth. Did we all sit down together? Did we know each other? Were we friends? Before we had bodies that had temptations and distractions and made mistakes, were we united? Did we count on each other for help? Did we make promises to help each other make it back in one piece?"
    This warmed my heart, this is where it's at. What a relief to not be judged, but, to be loved & to have the wonder of our souls looked for.
    The people that made the difference in my life looked for the good in my soul.