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.