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! 

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