Sunday, October 26, 2014

#45 - Jail Break (December 16, 2013 - January 7, 2014)

I have learned that the comments section at the end of each blog post was hard to navigate, so hopefully I've fixed it.  There's also a way to comment anonymously if that's an easier option.

Jail Break - or break from jail?  Ja'Nette was right.  I would need this time to recharge, take a break, reconnect.  The way this sentence is working out is stretching me to my limits, just sliding under the radar of what I can take with a positive attitude.

As much as I thought about and wanted my 'normal life,' it has taken longer than I expected to settle back into 'normal life' on the outs.  I came home to a clean house, shampooed carpets, happy kids, and a completely worn out husband.  (Should I smile, as I understand, or appreciate him that much more? Both, of course!)  You'd think that I'd just slip right back in and assume my role.  My friends and family support has exceeded all expectations!  I am amazed at how efficient everyone worked together.  My mother-in-law took on so much of my responsibilities, people brought in food, kids assumed regular school, practices, and activities.  I should have known, but it's so good to hear and see and know!  A piece of me is so glad, but another small piece kind of wonders if they missed me while they were being so efficient.

Jason and I sat on the couch the night I got home and talked for about 2 hours.  Maybe it was a mutual unspoken agreement that we both knew where to draw the line.  We have never had secrets, but sharing some of the hardest things we each endured this week didn't need to be said.  For the first time, I felt like I should hold back and not spill everything that came to my mind.  Maybe when it's all over and done with I will share, but I don't want him to worry the next time I go to jail.  (Who says that? - 'The next time I go to jail')  The parts of his week that were rough, he didn't need to share with me either and I didn't pry.  It was like we were protecting each other and already beginning to brace ourselves for the next round.  I know he had a hard time - maybe emotionally more than anything - after all, his wife is in jail and with very limited communication!  I am so thankful for those that pulled my load while I was gone, to give him 100 less things to worry about.

One thing we did talk about was the strong feeling I have to share our story.  I am hesitant and nervous and I don't know how it's all supposed to work out, but we agreed that if that feeling - that prompting - is real, then I should put myself out there.  Can I do that?  It kind of feels like going to sit at the table full of doctors again to hear what they have to say about me and shaking so bad inside that I can't move or talk or breath.  Can I put myself out there again for the whole world to see and judge and hear what we've been through?  Am I willing to share Bryer?  I'm so protective of her sweet little spirit.  She has come so far, but I don't want people to only see what she still lacks.  When I have scared feelings like this, I remind myself that God does not bring fear.  I did a quick scripture search and found 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  Jason is supportive of me sharing, but neither of us understand why.

Some of my highlights since I've been home...

Bryer has been good about going to sleep in her own bed, and then when she can't get comfortable on her own in the middle of the night she cries and I bring her to bed to snuggle with us.  (Different than any of our other kids!)  She can roll over when she's awake, but it still takes concentration, so rolling to get comfortable while she's half asleep is tricky, and trying to get her back to sleep is even trickier.  My first night home I I tiptoed upstairs to check on the kids and kiss them good night before I went to bed.  Bryer's bed was empty.  I turned around in the hallway and Jason looked sheepish and just shrugged his shoulders.  I knew by the look on his face that he had started a bad habit of letting her start out the night snuggled in our bed.

Crawling into bed, she woke enough to know it was me and then her eyes popped open and over and over she said, "Mom!  Mom.....  Mom!  (giggle) Mom!"  I laugh just thinking about it.  After 9 days of missing my family like crazy, I didn't even care if she ever went back to sleep!

I worried so much about Bryer regressing while I was gone and saying 'uk' when she wants to get 'up' out of bed.  We worked so hard on that one word for 2 weeks and she had just finally gotten it.  The next morning she was just as excited to see me as she was when I went to bed the night before.  When she was ready to get up, she said, "Mom..... (giggle) UP!"  Music to my ears!


Christmas may never be the same at our house.  Sickness poured through each one of us.  It ended with Jason, a few days before Christmas.  2 guys from church came to check on us and noticed our tree was still sitting outside, so they helped bring it in and set it up.  We barely got the lights on before Christmas Eve.  Funny that it didn't bother the kids at all.  They were still just as excited to have the tree up and their school-made ornaments stuck out as the only ones on the tree this year. Spending time reading, laughing, and enjoying them has been more important than the decorations this year.

I suppose I should have planned better and shopped more before I went to jail, but I was busy getting prepped for that.  It has been a rush to fill each of their 3 gifts.  We decided a couple years ago to re-create a part of the first Christmas in our home.  Baby Jesus received 3 gifts from the wisemen, so we have given each of the kids 3 gifts of their own.  One is fun (we let Santa take care of that one), one is needful, and one is spiritual.  It helps Jason and I focus on each of those needs as we make lists and shop.  It's simplified and rejuvenating and helps us stay focused on the reason for Christmas.  


Just like every Christmas since Bryer was in the hospital, we have very few pictures of Christmas morning.  That Christmas 3 years ago our time with our kids was so limited.  So when we were together - and especially on Christmas morning - I wanted to be right in the action soaking it all up.  I didn't want to be an onlooker taking pictures of them having so much fun.  They have opened their gifts and gone through their stockings sitting right on my lap or bunched up next to me on the floor.  I don't want to miss a thing by sitting behind my camera!  Each Christmas since has been similar.

One of the few Christmas pictures we have, after my Mom gave us all matching long johns (some were more excited to pose than others)!

Karen and Robin sent me home with gifts too.  What was in the wrapping paper (er, tissue paper that wraps a new roll of toilet paper) was an ipad from Robin.  (Eyes drawn on a pad.)  I laughed and laughed at her creativity!  When I opened Karen's gift, I thought about the day she had received a package of new underclothes from her Mom.  She kicked her feet up on the stool of the metal table next to her, locked her hands behind her head while she leaned back and said, "I'm sitting here eating a piece of chocolate, wearing underwear that no one has ever worn before.  It just doesn't get much better than this."  I laughed so hard.  Who knew wearing brand new underwear - not jail issued, used bleach-stained underwear - would be such a highlight?!  In the package she gave me one of the pairs of her brand new underwear and a pair of brand new socks.  For her to give away such a sacrifice made me laugh - and then miss her that much more.  Missing girls in jail.  Hmmm.... ya, didn't see that one comin!


Facebook has not been on my priority list.  But after a few days of being at home and thinking about Karen, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see if I could find her just to see what a 'real' picture of her looked like.  In jail we have no make up, no hair products (except for pump hairspray which is stretched longer by adding a jolly rancher to it with water when it gets low), no accessories, no cute clothes.  I had gotten to know her in her plainest of plain days and had grown to love her.  When I found her profile picture, I had to really look close.  Hidden behind all the thick eye make up, red lips, party-going outfit, and heavy, sparkling accessories was the friend that God sent for me and who was a lifesaver for my 9 days.  Had I passed her on the street, I may have walked right on by without any eye contact.  You just never know who a person is on the inside, what they crave, how they hurt, how strong they are, what they struggle with, what they need.  You just never know!    


They say prison changes a person.  Ha ha, Funny.  Right?  But I am forever changed after just 9 days!  Not for worse, like the saying implies though.  It is what you make of it.  I'll try to put my feelings into words.  Today at church we sang the opening hymn.  Same ol' Sunday, same ol' people, same ol' routine getting ready.  But as I looked around at all these people sitting around me in the chapel, united in their singing, I felt so overwhelmingly blessed.  I have been reminded what it's like for others that don't have that support.  We all vary so much in our relationship with God.  We all make mistakes through the week.  But I gain so much strength in coming back every Sunday and finding a place in the crowd to worship, to try to remember why I'm here doing what I'm doing.  And sitting in a chapel full of imperfect people that are starting a fresh, new week right along side me.  Even though I sit in a chapel full of people, I can feel His individual love for me.  I love being completely submerged in this gospel.  I want that for these girls that hurt so bad.  I want them to know that He doesn't 'take it all away,' but that he does help us along and answer our prayers and put people in place to bear our burdens.  Why can't there be a foster care program for adults who need to be submerged in good and can accept all the blessings?!

By the end of the song, I couldn't even sing, I was so emotional.  If that first hour of church wasn't enough, I ended with the third hour of church in a room full of women - friends, acquaintances and a couple visitors.  There is something powerful in a room full of women.  My mushy heart was right on the surface already, now ready to turn liquid.  We sang a song together at the beginning of our meeting that I can't even recall what it was now, but I hope forever and ever that I remember the feeling that I felt in that room today.  After the contrast of where I have been for 9 days, this feeling is what I craved.  Soaking in that feeling, it reminds me of the song We're Sisters.  It goes for those that sat in that room with me today, as well as those girls I have gotten to know over 9 days that I can't stop thinking about.  And anyone in between.  There is strength in women.


The strangest call I make all month is the call to the jail to reserve my bed.  Like some twisted, crazy hotel reservation - who gets to pick and choose when they go to jail - and then call ahead to make sure there's room?!
Kids back to school after Christmas break - check.
Plan and carry out the monthly women's Relief Society activity - check.
Meal swapping accomplished - check.
Went to the temple - check.
Help at the school - check.
Family Night - check.
Go to jail - WHAT?!
I don't know if I will ever get used to this, but here we go again.

Jason and I agreed that 9 days was too long last time, so I'm going in for 7 this time, the minimum stretch I'm aloud.  Check in Wednesday, January 8, 2014.  I may be more nervous about going this time than I was last time just because I know what I'm going into now.  Will the girls be the same?  Will Karen be there?  Will I have my own cell?  Will Karen be my bunkie?  Will someone else be my bunkie?  Are the girls worse or better off than last time?  Will we pick up where I left off?  What drama has gone on while I've been enjoying my family?  How full will the jail be?  Will I have a top bunk with the light in my face?

My #1 prayer is for my family to be taken care of and protected while I am gone.  A very close second - the most sincere prayer about jail - is the same as it was last time - that God will have a hand in who my bunkie is.  Sharing such a small cell, toilet, sink, and routine with 1 girl for 7 days is an important detail of my life right now.  I know that if it matters to me, then it matters to Him.  Praying that I'm prepared for her, as well as her being prepared for me.  Deep breath!  He's in control....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#44 - Blessings of the Hardest 9 Days of My Life (Journal Entries from December 14 and 15, 2013)

Whew - has it really been almost 9 full days?  Or 9 full months?  Or 9 full hours?  I'm not quite sure! 
I woke up thinking, "There may be nothing worse than being blamed for something I did not do."  Here goes another day in jail... 
The girls crying in their sleep in the mornings is really sad for me to hear.  3 mornings in a row now I've heard it and it's not something my ears can get used to.  Having compassion for them seems to come easy to me, but there's a thin line between having compassion and taking on their sadness myself.  I have to make sure I am taking care of myself before I can help others around me.  I think about what my Mom's voice sounds like doing her pre-flight announcements as a flight attendant.  "Secure the oxygen mask to yourself before assisting other passengers."  My oxygen mask has been prayer, scriptures, and journaling in here.  My essentials!  I am thankful for the quiet morning hours to make sure I get plenty of oxygen before the drama starts for the day. 


With Saturdays being 'haircut day', Karen also filled me in on jailhouse facials.  The guards bring in the haircut box with scissors and clippers.  We have it for a few hours in the common area before they come get it again.  Then, when they just can't make a trip down to the Clinique counter at Macy's, or reach their local Mary Kay lady, here's what they use...

Deep cleansing cloths combo with wax kit built in - aka, women's sanitary pads.  (Just don't forget to use the sticky side to 'wax' first before you get it wet to scrub your face with the soft side.) 
Catsup facial - smear it all over your face and then rinse off using the tiny stream of water that comes out of the drinking faucet in the cell.
Cinnamon scrub - some other facilities offer spices in their commissary, so Karen said they use straight cinnamon with a few drops of water to make a scrub paste.  It stings and burns, but worth it I guess if that's the only choice???
Mustard cleanse - The vinegar gets in the pours and deep cleans anything else that the catsup and cinnamon didn't get. 

Is it any coincidence that after Karen was filling me in on the ingredients of facials, that she dreamt about Pronto Pups during her nap?!  A little sense of humor goes a long way in here! 


The med cart comes in at 11 am, 5 pm, and 10 pm.  It doesn't matter what we are doing, once the guard opens the door with that cart, everyone goes straight to their cells and it all gets quiet.  The guard calls one girl out at a time to receive meds.  I think I'm the only one in here that doesn't take anything, but I haven't paid much attention.  Today I watched the process from my cell.  Over and over it was the same, like robots.  The inmate came out of her cell with a cup of water in one hand.  Once she reached the med cart she held out her opposite hand to receive a pill.  She put it in her mouth, moved her hand completely away from her mouth out to the side and held her hand wide open to show it was gone, and then she took a drink of her water.  After swallowing she opened her mouth wide to show it was gone, sticking out and lifting up her tongue also to reveal any 'hiding spots.'  Karen filled me in on this process that I was so intrigued with.  The idea of addiction to prescription meds is so foreign to me.  I would have never guessed that they try to hide pills to trade for things later.  I haven't heard of anything like that going on in here, but that's the reason for the inspection. 


Today we sat at dinner and one of the girls who sat at the table with me completely caught me off guard.  We were eating chicken sandwiches, potato wedges and banana bread with frosting.  The food is great, but I can't get over the feeling of not cooking my own and then lining up like cows in a feed lot to grab our plate off the cart.  I don't like being at the mercy of someone else to bring my food to me and decide what and when I'm going to eat, no matter how good it is.  Maybe I shouldn't complain after hearing the horror stories of what they serve at other facilities.  As I sat down, I heard the girl across from me comment so naturally, "Man, this is the life!  Good food.  My own room.  I don't want it to end."  I have to give it to her for being so optimistic.  Maybe it was the "I don't want it to end" part that created a pit in my stomach.  I can't do this place for another 48 hours, let alone 'never wanting it to end!'  I can't imagine the places she's been for this to be 'the life' to look forward to.  It's sad really.  Beyond sad.  It makes me wonder all over again why I am so blessed.  Why was I born into the family I was sent to?  Why am I privileged enough to have a place to live and food to eat and people that love me?  I know she's being held accountable for her actions that got her here.  But when she was a 2 year old, innocent little girl, what made God think she could handle this life - with parents that would hurt her and desert her?  That He would allow her to be raised in a place where drugs are so easy to get?  That she could handle being beaten and abused by boyfriends over and over?  What made Him choose her for that life and me for mine?  I don't get it.  Maybe He didn't choose it for her.  We all live our lives as a result of someone else's actions.  It's agency - we are free to choose how we react in a situation.  I just can't imagine being so humbled that good food and a room to herself would be better than whatever is out there waiting for her when she gets out.  So much that she never wants 'this life' to end. 

What would she think if she had a glimpse into my life?  If she were a fly on the wall in my house when I complain about the laundry that needs to be put away - instead of being thankful that we all have clothes to wear?  What would she think about the half-eaten dinner or leftovers that we forget to put in the fridge?  What would she think about not only having her own room - a cell - but a whole house of her own that she can rent or own?!  What would she think, sitting in a church building full of friends?  What would she think to sit in a room once a month with our extended family as we sing together and take turns giving a lesson and we pray together?  As much as my life is incomprehensible to her; her life is so incomprehensible to me.  I can't even imagine it for a second because everything I have ever known is nothing at all like she's been living. 

We base our every decision on past experiences.  It made me think... If something better was right in front of her, would she recognize it?  Would she think it was too good to be true?  Would she be willing to give up pieces of herself for something better?  Would she be willing to be refined and come out better?  Would the sacrifice be worth it?  I think that of myself also... Am I ready to change and let go of imperfections, my own habits, my comfort - for something better?  God must know what a strong person she is, and I hope she's ready and able to see it when opportunity for something better comes to her in her life. 


Today I read from The Miracle of Forgiveness about a story of a man that was on death row in the penitentiary.  When his former friend visited him, he asked him the question,

"What message may I take from you to the young people in Zion?"  The answer was quick and positive.  "Tell them," said the doomed man, "to keep their lives so full of good works that there will be no room for evil." 

Another story I read in The Miracle of Forgiveness says,
"The story is told of a vessel stranded off the coast of South America whose Captain signaled to a passing ship to share their water with his passengers as they were suffering from thirst.  The passing ship signaled back telling him to let down his bucket into the water in which they were floundering, because they were in the mouth of the Amazon River and the water was fresh." 

It makes me think about what I may be right in the middle of and not doing.  Am I filling my life with so much good that there's no room for evil?  Am I taking full advantage of the tools right around me to help me survive and thrive in my circumstances - not just waiting for someone to solve my problems?  Am I applying the fullness of Christ's sacrifice for me and accepting His love? 

Later today I came across an answer to prayer in another book I've been skimming through called Daughters of Our Kingdom.  It seems like everything I have read in jail applies to me right here, right now.  Or maybe it's that I'm so humbled that I'm ready to read and apply it.  Like a verse of scripture, it carries meaning with it when I apply it to whatever I am going through at the time and the next time I read it I will apply it differently.  "You are now placed in a situation where you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms.  If you live up to these principles how great and glorious!  If you live up to your privilege, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates... If you will be pure, nothing can hinder."  Joseph Smith


Today there was talk about Christmas presents and how each person is planning to get gifts to their kids.  It breaks my heart that some kids will have an envelope under the tree from their mom with a friendship bracelet or a crocheted-something in it.  It just doesn't replace having your Mom there on Christmas morning.  I decided to create a gift for Karen to leave under our paper-bag-tree so she would have something to open Christmas morning.  I saved 2 milk cartons and rinsed them out so I would have 'boxes' to wrap.  In one box I cut out pictures of gifts Karen would like
- nail polish
- a cell phone
- a pair of scissors for a real haircut
- a mirror (better than the chrome-bumper-looking mirror that's in our cell over the sink).
I included a note explaining that all the 'gifts' in that box were temporal, worldly things that are 'nice to have,' but not really all that important in the big picture of things. 

Then I cut out things with a note explaining things that are eternal - things beyond this life. 
- A camera - to capture family memories
- A clock - for sacred time on this earth for you to think and develop
- A picture of a guy flying, in full armor - full armor to protect you and wings to carry you where you are headed
- I found a big, black bold statement, "DISCOVER YOUR FAMILY!" 
That's what I hope for her.  I stacked all the pictures in the 2 milk cartons with the notes on top of them to explain them.  I squished the tops down so they made a square box.  I used the tissue paper that the individual rolls of toilet paper come wrapped in for the wrapping paper.  Then I found scraps of string from another girl's friendship bracelet to tie up the box.  I took the textured foil seal from my hot chocolate container and formed it into a curl to put on top of each of the boxes for a bow.  I stuck them on the table by the tree, next to Karen's decoration for today - a snowy white tree skirt (made from toilet paper).  I'm so proud of how our little Christmas scene is starting to look!  Karen got teary when she saw the presents for her under the tree.  I'm kind of sad I won't be here to see her open them.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - which is actually a big change from the influence of the ba-hum-bug girls that have not enjoyed Christmas all growing up.  Karen said she wants to go cell to cell 'caroling' on Christmas Eve.  I hope she really does!  Man, she's a kick in the pants! 


Karen was gathering her pile to take to the shower.  She looked at the pile of all white clothes and said, "Look at that!  It's so much white, you'd think I was going to the temple!"  We both half laughed and then I told her, "You know how hard I would bawl to see you all dressed in white at the temple?"  She said she knows she could do it.  The fact that the pile of white clothes even reminded her of the temple amazed me.  She left for the shower and I sat on my top bunk smiling, just thinking of what a miracle I have watched happen in a week's time of her thoughts and mind frame change.  I hope she will be strong once I am gone.  I hope she will continue to read scriptures and pray and develop that relationship with God. 


I talked to the Captain today about when I would get out tomorrow.  Being on probation, I have an 8:00 curfew until I can meet up with my probation officer to do otherwise.  I will check out of jail at 7:30, so the Captain made some phone calls and said he would vouge for me in what time I left if it's an issue.  He apologiezed about the mix up of not being able to use the booking phones when I leave.  They brought me another calling card this morning, so I was able to let Jason know this afternoon that I'd be checking out about 7:30. 


(Sunday) I went to church with a few other girls today.  The pastor talked about the blessings of their congregation's new church building and how their prayers have been answered.  I love to see God working in all religions!  The pastor also talked about The Last Days of the Harvest, which was the basis of his lesson today.  It made me thankful that other churches believe this concept also of the second coming of Christ and they also have that perspective and urgency.  We should be unified in that purpose to bring people to Christ.  The world is getting scary.  I am so thankful for direction from prayer, going to church, tender feelings and promptings that come to my mind - instead of making decisions only based on myself.  I love the quote "Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized." 

I was sitting at one of the tables, planning out how to make the rest of my last day in here go by faster.  I would finish the Christmas décor that Robin would give to Karen every-other-day after I leave, I planned to take a nap, have lunch - and then Robin came to sit down and talk.  Not about anything special, but it was just nice to sit and chat.  She's wonderful with lots of potential.  I hope she understands that, going out on Jan. 2 into the rest of the world.  She's got to be a strong spirit to take this!  In this whole eternal perspective, of all the people there are on this earth, I am thankful to get to know her specifically.  It's strange circumstances that got us both to this point, but I know God had a hand in that. 

Robin got up and left, and next Crystal came to sit down.  She vented her frustration at her decision to go back for more rehab programs or not.  She has 1 good friend on the outs.  That's it.  1 friend.  No family.  No parents.  No siblings.  No kids.  One. Friend!  But as lonely as that sounds, she is a Somebody.  Heavenly Father knows her by name and loves her so much!  I felt prompted to tell her as she sat there across from me at the table, "I will miss you Crystal."  She looked at me surprised and said, "You will?"  She went on, "I feel so unlovable, like no one could ever care about me or miss me."  This 41 year old girl sat in front of me that has gone her whole life not knowing who she is.  She is a daughter of God.  The amazing, ultimate God that created the heavens and the earth and the stars and the sun and moon, also created her.  I wrote her a letter to leave and stuck it in an Ensign magazine article with a few hand-torn snowflakes.  (Would you believe I found a church magazine in this place?!)  This is the article I left for her... perfect just for her! 

Sitting there at the table, it reminded me to be available for my kids.  If I just sit, they will be attracted to that just as these girls were today.  It's too easy to be busy.  It really is.  There's always dishes that need done, clothes to be folded, a floor to vacuume, dinner to cook.  But if I just sit, they come to talk.  These girls just needed to talk, to vent, to ask questions.  They needed someone who was available.

With going home tonight, I decided to give in to a nap.  After all, Jason has joked that this is my vacation.  I woke up to a car alarm, thinking it was mine.  It's a strange feeling to think my car alarm is going off and there's nothing I can do about it.  It turned out to be on the TV. 


The grand finale of my week has happened.  When I started out here, I was the only one to pray at my table.  I noticed another table that would pray at dinner, but the girls that decided to sit with me over the course of the week all prayed silently to themselves.  Yesterday I asked if I could offer a prayer aloud at our table.  It's taken all the courage I could find, gathering it all up all week long just to ask.  I originally moved to Crystal's table when I noticed she sat by herself - now Robin and Karen had joined us.  I got the privlidge to pray with these women!  This evening was the fourth prayer we have said together.  I felt silly getting emotional, asking God to protect them and help them understand their potential and help them to be strong.  When I finished and said Amen, I didn't feel silly anymore.  It was touching.  A unique experience to pray with these women as we all sat in a jail dressed in stripes around food that was made and brought to us.  It's the humblest of circumstances and I got to be a part of it!  It is something to get emotional about!  The girls were right there with me, understanding the feeling of praying together. 

What's neat is to see these women take over their own talents and environment and make it their own.  Snowflakes rockin the cell block, Christmas presents being made for each other, giggles about wholesome jokes.  Happiness in the journey.  That's what it's all about! 


The long drive home....  I sang songs and smiled a lot to myself.  I knew I would feel relief in leaving and going home to my family, but I didn't expect to feel so good about what I've done for the past 9 days and the feeling of God right there with me.  Jason met me in the doorway.  There were no words, but lots of tears.  I walked upstairs to see if any of the kids were still awake.  Piper came running down the hall to me.  She was the only one that was still awake.  Being home and being able to burry my head into Jason's hug and bawl, my heart immediately felt patched back up after being in so many pieces and so many places for 9 days.  Home has never felt so overwhelmingly good! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

#43 - Nearing My Breaking Point in Jail (Journal Entries From Dec. 13 and 14, 2013)

Every morning my eyes pop open to the breakfast announcement and I look around and think, "Yup, I'm still here...."  This morning I witnessed something that brought tears to my eyes.  Every morning since I have been here I have stayed up after breakfast to sit at the metal table in my stripes and orange crocs with the hard cement floor under my feet.  I have chosen to use the quietest time of day to read scriptures and to journal.  I sit alone....  until today.  I had a friend choose to do the same. 

Everyone had finished eating and they were heading back to their rooms.  Karen grabbed her cup and filled it with coffee, then non-shalauntly walked over with her Bible in hand and asked if she could join me.  I wanted to squeal and hug her and jump up and down, but I just smiled really big and said, "Of course!"  Truthfully, I could hardly concentrate on my own scriptures as I watched her out of the corner of my eye.  I watched her sit in front of her open Bible, sip her coffee, and turn the pages.  I took note of the tattoos on her arm and felt like I was witnessing a miracle.  I hoped she felt the spirit as she read like I felt.  I loved watching a change happen right before my eyes.  A daughter of God slowly coming to realize who she is and what she can become.  I kept my head down and tried not to sniff too often so she wouldn't realize I was crying.   

Any coincidence that I read this verse today?....  "And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people." 


I went outside for break this morning by myself to 1/2 inch of snow on the ground!  It's so strange to be inside and not even know what the weather is on the outside unless we go out.  Not many of the girls want to watch the news and that's the only other way to see what the weather is doing.  It was a blessing to be able to shovel the small rec area.  It was a change from my lunges and jumping jacks to wake me up.  I was happy to have a tan, jail-issued coat to wear.  Maybe the Cabella's brand embroidered on the front should mean it's a good coat, but the zipper doesn't do it's job anymore.  I wondered if making a snowman was against the rules.  I don't think I'm supposed to take anything out to break with me, but maybe I could use the icicles that form in the holes of the chain length fence for parts of the snowman's face? 


After headcount at 7:00 am the tv came on.  It was hard to concentrate on whatever scripture reading I was getting done.  Karen switched through channels and we watched part of The Today Show.  A story came on that was really touching. 


When the segment ended, I turned to Karen and said, "You know those could be our kids, right?"  She looked thoughtful and staring blankly at the screen she said, "Yes, I know.  It's weird."  I didn't like how I felt to have my 2 worlds collide again - feeling that tender piece of my family while I am here in such a hardened place.  As hard as I try, I can't seem to keep them separate.  I can only imagine what Karen felt.  She's been in a lot longer than I have and she'll still be serving time when I'm all done.  I have missed my family so much all week, but today it really started getting to me especially bad.  It was too hard to even hear Jason's voice when I called him a few days ago, so I have avoided calling home again.  But not hearing his voice is worse than not hearing it now, so I've decided to call again tonight. 


I only have a couple days left here.  I have to say that I have more mixed feelings that I've ever expected to have.  The girls here get transferred in and out so often here, so I don't know if any of the same ones will be here when I come back next month.  One side of me is so ready to be with my family and go back to my normal life for a few weeks before my next week in here.  But the other side is kind of sad to leave these girls.  I hope I've done everything I was supposed to do and learned all I was supposed to learn.  I hope the seeds have been planted deep enough with a couple of them that where ever they go from here they will remember and build on it.  So, I've started my preparations to leave. 

Karen and I have gone back and forth creating a Christmas decoration for our cell each day.  Karen calls our décor our 'Be-Dazzle,' like the machine that puts rhinestones on clothes and purses.  Today was her turn to come up with some Be-Dazzle.  She very carefully ripped out a shiny star ornament out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine and stuck it above the picture of Mary and Baby Jesus that sits on our small metal table. 

I started planning and looking for inspiration for what decorations to leave.  Robin said she would keep them for me and give them to Karen on my designated days even after I am gone.  (I can't tell you how excited I am to have them carry on this excitement of Christmas after I am gone!)  I scanned magazine after magazine today looking for ideas.  I found some camels in a National Geographic, perfect to add to the wise men.  There was another magazine with an article about the middle east, so I bookmarked the pictures of those men.  I settled on one that I thought could work for Joseph, but he was armed and had straps of ammo along his chest and waist.  I tore another piece of the magazine to look like a piece of fabric to cover the ammo, hung over his shoulders.  I did the same for 3 men standing together to make the wise men.  Then I went cell to cell to ask if anyone had any empty toilet paper tubes and found enough to mount each of the magazine people to, sticking them on with toothpaste, so they would stand up by themselves in our nativity scene! 

I used the foil seal from the top of one of the girl's Pringles cans to crease and tear another star out to put on top of our Charlie-Brown-paper-bag-Christmas-tree.    I also started folding squares of my notebook paper and hand-tearing them into snowflakes.  One of the girls saw me tearing snowflakes and asked for some for her cell too.  I have nothing better to do than spread some winter wonderland, right?  Since it wasn't a surprise anymore, I sprinkled some mini flakes on our table.  Then Karen had the idea to use string from some of the girl's friendship bracelets and hang them from our curtain rod.  The guard didn't like that idea and said we're not aloud to have things tied and hanging from our rod, but that we could tape them to the window.  Good-bye to the rest of my deodorant label.  :-) 


Last night as I was right in between being awake and sound asleep, my eyes popped open and I realized I forgot the church Christmas program that Piper was supposed to sing in.  I had to shake the sleepy fog to realize that all those arrangements had already been taken care of.  My mom made her angel dress.  I had someone to pick her up early that night to take her to the church for practice.  She would have grandparents there to watch her sing.  Whew!  Ok.  She didn't miss the party, it was just me that missed it.   

I made my phone call and talked to Jason.  I heard Walker's little voice in the background and I started to get teary.  He seemed like a big boy when I left, but being in here I could hear all the innoscence in his 5-year-old voice.  Jason's voice was strong and comforting.  So much that I wanted to just let myself crumble and let him take over.  He said Piper was asking to talk to me, so I saved a few minutes on my calling card to call her at my Mom's where she was staying the night.  I let Jason know that the Captain had given me the okay to use the booking phones to call home on my way out Sunday evening.  More than likely, it will be snowing, so he was happy to know when I'd be leaving. 

Then I called my Mom to talk to Piper.  At the sound of my Mom's voice, and then followed by Piper's I wanted to fall apart.  I could hear my voice start to shake.  I just wanted to scoop her up and head for home.  I want to tuck her in and hear about her day.  I want to help her with homework and hear who she sat with at lunch.  Now I know why missionaries in our church only get 2 phone calls home each year - voices from family are too hard to hear on the other end of the line!  Letters and cards are much easier than voices. 

For a few years I have adopted one of my favorite routines from an idea I heard from Hilary Weeks.  A lot of times when I go in to check on my kids before I head to bed, I will make sure they are covered up, and then lean over their sleeping body and whisper to them, "I believe in you."  Most of the time it's because I really do believe in them.  I love to watch who they are becoming and help them find their niche in this crazy world.  I love to watch their personalities and talents develop.  Once in a while when I've had a rough day with one of them in particular I will still whisper, "I believe in you," but I do it more for myself.  To remind myself why I do what I do, to remind myself that I really do believe in them and they have been sent to Jason and I for a specific purpose.  I've been doing this for years, but I have never gotten a reaction from them as they sleep.  A few weeks before I left for jail I overheard Piper and Walker playing house.  Piper was pretending to sleep and I peeked into the room just in time to watch Walker lean over his sister and whisper, "I believe in you."  It sent chills down my body and brought tears to my eyes, surprised that he even knew that I did that!  Piper didn't act at all surprised by her brother's whispered comment (not normally something this little stinker would have said at all!), leading me to believe that she remembers me doing it as she sleeps too.  It was a tender mercy for me to witness, but now it makes me miss them that much more. 

I don't want to be in jail anymore.  I can't do this.  I want out.  Now that I've heard my family's voices, I'm toast.  I'm shot.  I'm ready to be done.  I call 'uncle' to God.  I've tried my very best for the last 7 days and I hope it's enough for Him.  In less than 48 hours I will be home-bound.  I can't get home fast enough! 


(Dec. 15) I was approached today by one of the guards.  As he stood near me while I sat at one of the metal tables, I had to look up to him to see him talking to me.  He let me know that I wouldn't be aloud any special privlidges when I left.  Not understanding what he was implying, I said that would be fine.  He went on to explain that I will not be aloud to use the booking phones when I check out tomorrow.  I politely explained that I had gotten permission from the Captain and he said it would be okay.  I explained that I didn't have my cell phone with me to let my husband know when to expect me and that if it's snowing, he should know when I'm leaving to drive the two hours home.  He said, "It's not our responsibility to allow any other inmates to call when they leave, so we won't allow you to either."  I was trying to be as respectful as possible.  I told him I had just used the rest of my calling card since I understood that I would be able to use the booking phones.  I told him I could put in another in-house request for another calling card, but that I am already late for that deadline to have it in.  As the conversation went, he became more accusatory of me asking for special privileges.  If it is one thing I have been acutely aware of in the past 3 years, it's the sensitivity of my intentions.  I was not intending to ask for special privileges.  I was only trying to get home safe, and on snowy roads in a little car, I felt Jason should know.  We ended the conversation with him telling me I could try to put in a request for a calling card, but he couldn't guarantee it.  It would be up to the guards on the next shift.  I wanted to crawl in a hole.  He went on with his rounds and I slowly packed up my things and took them to my cell.  Karen overheard, as I'm sure everyone else did, and asked what that was all about.  I broke down.  If that discussion had happened at the beginning of the week maybe I would have taken it better.  As it was, I blubbered to Karen about my motives being questioned and the frustration of just wanting to go home.  I'm just done. 

The next guard that was on shift received my request for a calling card.  When she made her rounds I stopped her and explained what was going on and why the request was in late.  As she was talking to me, a voice came over her radio that said, "Tell her no!"  I wanted to crumble.  Seriously?!  I have not had a problem with the guards this whole time and now they question me on the day before I need to leave?  Have they not watched the camera on us 24/7 all week?  Before I got too defensive, I realized the voice on the radio was probably the Captain, and the guard was standing there smiling at me.  She was friendly and said, "We'll see what we can do."  I don't know what's going on in the control room, but I think things will be okay. 

I went back to my cell, trying to stay up beat for just a little while longer.  I read Mosiah 2:17,  "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."  If that's what He has required of me - to serve - for the past 8 days, then I can finish the last day out strong.  He's with me.  I can feel it.  And as that verse explains, that if I am serving these girls, then I am really serving Him.  I kept reading and in chapter 3, verse 3, I was reminded that I am not a help to anyone if I give in to frustration or sadness or being upset.  "I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy." 

Ok, suck it up.  Move on.  The Christmas spirit is here.  I can help the girls feel Christ's love for each of them.  I am watching miracles happen in Karen.  Serve Him by serving these girls in this circumstance?  That... I can do - maybe just for a little longer before I need a break - but I can do it! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#42 - Stretching My Creativity in Jail (Journal Entries through Dec. 13, 2013)

More of the same this morning.  Wake up and read scriptures and journal.  The night before last Karen and I had been up late talking so by 8 am yesterday I gave in and took a nap.  I dreamed about having a normal day and I so needed that!  Cooking my own food and washing my family's clothes has never sounded so good!  I needed a normal day home with Jason, so that's what I got in my dream.  I didn't want to wake up. 

This morning as I journal I hear a couple girls crying.  It's not an unusual sound in the mornings to hear someone crying in their sleep.  Most girls sleep with ear plugs so they can't hear their Bunkie snoring or crying or flushing the toilet in the middle of the night, or the guards coming in and out to make rounds.  Because they sleep with ear plugs - and many of them have nightmares so bad - there was a big discussion about how to wake someone up.  Like people with post traumatic stress disorder, some of these girls will completely come undone if they are touched in their sleep, even if it's just their Bunkie coming to wake them up.  I can't imagine what some have been through to never feel at rest.  A molester after them, or their dealer, the cops, an angry boyfriend, who knows what they dream about.  It certainly isn't a normal day of doing laundry and helping kids with homework and kissing my husband when he leaves! 


I was journaling this morning and one of the guards walked by doing her rounds and said, "You better not let them catch you with that."  I didn't know what she was talking about.  She pointed to my pen and explained that it was contraband.  The pens we buy from in house commissary are so thin.  It's like writing with just the ink insert insides of a regular pen.  When I'm doing a lot of journaling my hand cramps up.  But, they are safe.  :-)  If someone tried to use it to stab someone, it would bend.  I guess that's why they call them flex pens.  Karen had showed me how to use the label from my shampoo to wrap around the pen to give it something thicker to hold on to.  Now I learn that it's considered 'contraband,' as anything that's not being used for its original purpose.  Some of the girls used the saran wrap from their sandwich to wrap really tight around their label-wrapped contraband pens and then it makes them really tough and rigid.  With a shampoo label and saran wrap, they are much tougher.  I took my label off and I'll learn to deal with the hand cramps.  It was nice of the guard to warn me.  After she left, I realized it was funny that she said, "You better not let them catch you with that."  We're on camera 24/7 in here (except the showers and individual cells) and who knows how often they listen to conversations.  I can't help but think that she knows I'm not a threat.
Here's 2 of my actual flex pens and 2 flex pencils.  You can tell by the bent pencil on the left, they are pretty puny! 

There's been some drama in here today.  One of the girls put in a kite (paperwork) to move out of Robin's cell that's next to Karen and I.  Everything is so gossipy in here, so I'm not even going to guess what I think happened.  Robin got called out for a little while and when she came back a couple of the girls had taken down the curtain and rod to her cell, thinking they were being funny.  She needed to use the bathroom, and that's the only little bit of privacy she had, which was now gone.  Plus she was already feeling defensive about her Bunkie moving out.  There were words hashed out from the top balcony of cells down to the bottom and girls screaming and I thought for sure a fight was going to break out.  It got more heated until they were yelling in each other's faces back and forth. 

I don't like contention.  In a fight or flight, I'm definitely a flyer, so I retreated to my room.  There wasn't anywhere I could go in the whole area that would have been far enough away.  I felt bad for Robin and wanted to help, but this is the first big argument I've witnessed and sticking my nose in the middle of it was not going to change anyone's mind.  The other girls ended up giving Robin her curtain and rod back, laughing about it. 

As I sat in my room, I tried to think of something I could do for her without it looking like I was taking sides.  In my 'real life' a homemade dinner or plate of cookies or a note in the mail would work just fine.  Oh who am I kidding?  In my 'real life' I would never have to take a dinner to someone who got their privacy curtain taken away and had a roommate move out and scream in their face. 

In here, we're not aloud to give property away or be in each other's cells.  What would I even give her anyway?  I have nothing!  She doesn't want my deodorant or used soap!  Service opportunities are hard to find.  There's no quiet place to even talk unless you are in your own cell talking to your Bunkie.  I went back to reading my scriptures and then an idea came to me.  Robin loves the Bible - and she's trying to fit the pieces of The Book of Mormon in with it.  After talking to her yesterday, I learned that she has less than a month left in here before she's out for good.  So, I decided to make her a paper chain to count down the days - She's gotta be excited to get out of this place!  I anxiously started folding paper back and forth on a seam and tearing strips to create the chain.  Who needs scissors?!  Then I looked up verses that I thought she would like and wrote a verse on each strip.  I realized I was going to have to attach them somehow and I left my tape and stapler at home.  ;-)  I decided to sacrifice the oh-so-important label from the deodorant.  I tried to tear the smallest little pieces, just enough to fix the ends of the strips of paper together to make the chain.  At about that part in my project Karen came in and laughed at me, asking what in the world I was doing.  I smiled and held up my first 5 links, "I'm making a paper chain for Robin to count down until she can get out of here!"  We both just laughed.  This simple, torn paper chain took me most of the afternoon to put together, but what else did I have to do?  Plus, I loved looking for verses she would like! 

When it was done, I kinda felt proud of my work - however rough it looked.  After all my work, I started to wonder that maybe she would take it the wrong way.  I wouldn't want her to think she 'owed me' something.  I asked Karen and she gave me the okay - that Robin was safe.  Man, it's hard being thoughtful in here!  I don't want to worry how someone is going to take a little kindness! 

I walked over to the door of Robin's cell.  She was laying on her bed reading and I could tell she had still been crying.  She looked up from her book and I said, "I made you something!"  She put her book down and smiled a little - I'm sure thinking what I was thinking - what can you make in a place like this?  With the paper chain resting in one hand, I grabbed one end of it and held it up so it was dangling where she could see it.  "It's a paper chain with scripture verses to count down your days until you're outta here."  She stood up and shook her head with a big smile and asked me if I was serious.  The smile on her face with her red, teary eyes, was worth the whole afternoon's work.  So, so worth it! 

When I was baptized, I made a promise with God to 'bear one another's burdens."  I feel like today, I did just that... to make someone smile after they had been completely worn out.  It feels good to do what Jesus would do if he were here. 


My last day for mail call before I get out in 2 days!  I got 3 letters from family.  One from my mom, one from my dad, and one was a card from my Grandma.  I think about how hard it must be for them to sit down and write to me, their daughter or grand daughter, in jail for something I didn't do.  Mail is such a huge uplifting piece of encouragement for me!  When they bring mail in the guard hands us our opened letters (everything gets read before it's delivered) and then we have to take it out of the envelope, write down the return address if we need it, and then give them back the envelope.  I've learned that some people hide drugs in the seams of the envelope or on the back of the stamp or return address label.  Such a strange concept for me!  When I opened my Grandma's card there were 3 little tags that had been fixed to the front of it that were removed.  The guard explained that tape and sticky foam can't be allowed in, as it could also have drugs on it.   (Really?!  From my Grandma?!  But that's what they deal with.)  I set the cards up in my locker to look at every time I opened it.  I put the round tags aside. 


Karen has filled me in on who her Bunkie was before me.  She was a prostitute from Nevada that got pulled over.  The offers she gave the cop as she was pulled over made me want to just plug my ears and sing, "La la la la la!"  People actually act this way?!  She was released and then got pulled over again and brought back.  Karen pointed out what an 'upgrade' she got when I moved in.  (That's the strangest way of a compliment I've ever received!)  I don't know how the guards do their jobs day in and day out.  They must have a sense of humor about it all.  Most of them are personable with the inmates, but they always remain professional. 

Before I came, I was praying so sincerely about having someone to show me the ropes - a friend in jail, if there could be such a thing.  I had no idea that would be such a tall order for God to fill.  Karen has been such a blessing.  Most of the girls have spent so much time in jail/prison that using the bathroom in front of someone else does not even bother them anymore.  With little kids at home, I know how it is to finally shut the door to use the bathroom and they come knocking on it within seconds...  But having another woman within a few feet of me while I use the bathroom is taking it to an whole new, unsettling level.  2 things have helped me survive: a mom-sized bladder that can hold it until it's convenient (no stopping the car on a road trip once the baby is asleep or dragging kids through the germy grocery store bathroom - I can wait until we get home) and a Bunkie that understands and gives me my privacy.  I have yet to use the bathroom in front of someone else, which is no small accomplishment in here!  Who knew I would ever need that kind of blessing?!   :-) 


Yesterday I was reading on my top bunk when Karen popped up off her bottom bunk and said, "Hey! Did you know today is the first day of Christmas?"  I looked confused.  "You know, the 12 days of Christmas?"  This is the first I've heard someone actually be excited about Christmas.  There's been talk in the common area about TV shows to watch and the few girls that want to watch Christmas specials always get out voted.  It's strange after being out just a week ago and to see all the stores with their Christmas lights and music playing.  It's magical with all the glitter and gifts and songs about a babe in a manger.  Like the song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"  But a lot of the girls in here don't want to have anything to do with it.  Like one pointed out, Christmas day one year was when her mom and dad got in a blowout and her dad was hauled off in handcuffs.  It sparked a discussion of drunken parties busted by cops and drug use and stress.  Christmas is not the same happy time to many of them as it is for me with my family.  A lot of them have kids that will miss their moms for Christmas too. 

I just can't imagine having to struggle with something so much that it overcomes you and separates you from your family.  What an awful guilt that must come with that realization. 

So last night, Karen and I talked about Christmas, and I was happy that she was excited about it.  I suggested that we come up with a decoration for each of the 12 days of Christmas.  I think she kind of thought I was crazy, but she was up for the challenge.  We talked about how our craft supplies are so limited (haha!) and that our creativity would have to be stretched to the limits!  She said she'd take care of today's decoration and left the cell to rummage through the pile of books and magazines under the stairs that were ready to go back to the library.  She came back with a coloring sheet that one of the local pastors had brought in that one of his grandkids had colored.  A person cannot quite appreciate a real crayon-colored picture until they are in jail!  This was perfect for our first day of Christmas!  So we stood it up on our small table, waiting for the rest of the decorations to join it.    
I am thankful for the child who took time out to color a picture for some inmates s/he would never know.  It kicked our Christmas season off in the right way with Baby Jesus at the very center! 
That was yesterday's decoration.  Today they served our lunch in a brown paper sack, which gave me an idea for our Christmas tree.  Piper brought a craft home from school before Halloween so I used the idea to make a tree from a paper bag.  I tore strips from the top and twisted them into branches.  On the branches, I hung little round tags from the card my grandma sent.  I didn't have any string to hang the 'ornaments,' so I tore really thin pieces of paper and twisted them up to thread through the holes in the tags.  They say Hope, Love, and Joy - perfect for Christmas ornaments!  Karen was so excited to have a tree - however Charlie-Brown-looking it was, and invited several other inmates to the door of our cell to check out our Christmas décor.  I sat back and watched as she was giddy with excitement to celebrate this inspirational time of year, thankful that I could play a small part in that.  It's fun to see her get excited about Christmas. 
The tags got lost in the jailhouse shuffle, but here's the re-created Charlie Brown tree similar to the original
I have been having such a hard time finding way to reach out, to connect, to bring the light of Christ to these girls.  Today I found some simple (and kind of homely) ways to express it - A paper chain for Robin and a Christmas tree for Karen.  When you've got nothing else, the littlest things count!  I know there's a reason I am here before Christmas.  It's magical because of the birth of Christ.  He is the very center and I am so thankful for his very real, tangible help while I am here!   I came across this scripture this morning and it's settled in with me, "...he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female..." Yes, Bond and Free.  Even those that feel stuck - he invites them to 'partake of his goodness."  I am thankful for this adventure I have with Christ by my side to show me how to love in a real, tangible way and show that love unconditionally to these girls.   
Until now, I have not asked much of my readers.  As you have read through my journals even to this point, you know I have a soft spot in my heart for these girls.  I want them to overcome their trials and challenges and temptations.  I want them to succeed.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about them individually.  I will let you in on an update, that as of recently Robin was released from custody.  I don't know where she is or how she is doing, but I would ask those that read my blog to pray for her.  Some day I hope to meet her again when the time is right.  For now, she may be the one standing in line behind you at the store or the clerk at the checkout stand or the driver in the car next to you at a stoplight.  Be kind.  Be patient.  Pray for her that she can overcome the things that are a struggle for her, that God would give her extra strength.  And if by chance you notice someone new at your church, please welcome that person and introduce yourself.  It may be her, or someone like her.  With as many as read my blog, I know that we can make a difference.