Sunday, November 30, 2014

#50 - Schooled by Inmates (Journal Entries Through January 12, 2014)

I woke up this morning to the usual ding, ding, ding, ding wake up call, flushing toilets, and my 5 word pep talk to start out the day, "Wake up and be different."  Lots of talk about the delicious danish and milk for breakfast.  The girls say they have died and gone to Heaven with the food in here.  The inmates that cook do a really good job with their rations of ingredients for the month, but it was too sweet for me and I didn't finish it.  I went to get my CD player to listen to some music to get me in the Sunday mood, but my CD player won't read any of the CD's.  I'm hoping Rachel can help me figure it out when she wakes up.  It spins and spins, and then blinks 'No Disc.'  Just when I thought it would be great to have my own music, my CD player doesn't work.  I come from a line of box-savers that will keep all packaging in case something doesn't work right.  Now my packaging is going out with the trash from the property room and my CD player doesn't work.  Sigh. 

I have a couple girls that have been staying up with me in the mornings.  They are ones that aren't fans of the drama and they appreciate the quiet mornings.  Plus, they've learned that the TV isn't occupied in the mornings when all the rest of the girls go back to sleep after breakfast.  I was hesitant to make a request, but since my CD player isn't working, I asked if I could listen to a CD in the DVD player instead.  I haven't asked for any TV time, other than to listen to a few songs on my Hilary Weeks CD yesterday.  They both said that would be great, so I stuck in The Piano Guys CD.  

Who knew that jail walls could have such good acoustics?  From the very first note played, I got goosebumps.  Sawyr has become quite the fan of The Piano Guys after hearing them at school and I thought, "Sawyr would love the sound of them in here!"  Oh wait, I'm in jail.  I don't want my 9 year old here next to me to hear this.  It's an awful feeling to be in a place that I would never want any of my other family members to be with me.  

About half way through the first song (above), Sister came to the edge of the railing upstairs, sleepy-eyed and groggy.  She's usually very opinionated and voices her wants loudly, coming across pretty self-centered.  If something is bugging her, she'll yell from her bunk in colorful language, not bothering to get up to talk to anyone about it, but expecting that everyone will make changes for her.  I worried that I had the music up too loud.  She said, "What is this?!"  I told her that it was my CD of The Piano Guys and asked if we needed to turn it down.  She just said, "Maybe a little bit.  But I like it.  I'll listen to it later."  Then she turned and went back to bed.  What?!  Not only did she not yell from her bunk to turn it down, but she actually came out of her cell to find out what it was.  

Good Morning Sunday!  I'm ready for the day with The Piano Guys, church service soon, and visitors this afternoon!  


We are expected to have our cells tidy and our beds made if we are not laying in them.  When I was a teenager, my mom would have loved for me to have my bed made every morning like hers was.  I decided that it was much easier to sleep on top of my tidy bed, with a blanket to cover myself up with.  That's the idea I've reverted to in here.  I have compassion for Sawyr now when I ask him to make his bed on the top bunk.  It's a lot of work to make a bed when you actually have to be on it while you're making it.  I've reverted to keeping my bed made and just sleeping under my red fuzzy blanket so all I have to do is fold it at the foot of my bed when I wake up.  Plus it makes it easier to keep my stuff separate from jail stuff.  We bleach mop our floor and clean our cell every day, but it still creeps me out.  You never know what's happened or what's touched the bed, ladder, or floor.  


For scriptures this morning I came across a verse that says, "And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knowth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will."  

Maybe it explains some reason I'm supposed to be here.  I just have to keep the faith that God knows I'm here and is counting on me to be strong when I need to be and tender when those around me need to be.  It's a hard order to fill. 
There are lots of different ways to learn and understand about Jesus Christ and his gospel.  Maybe it happens in a church, during a conversation with a friend, with a neighbor, through reading, on TV, by meeting with missionaries, or a million other ways.  Today the thought came to me that our church missionaries wouldn't be aloud in here, but that the Lord should send someone for these women.  

Or is that me?  I have gotten to know them and love them.  I try to understand and have compassion.  I am glad it's not my job to judge them or decide what their motives are.  (Do they have alternative motives?  Are they really my friends?  Will they stay true to the changes they are making once they are out or when I'm not here?)  Being strong for myself is the easy part.  If that were the case, I could huddle in my cell 24/7 and do just fine.  But that's way too easy to go through this experience and keep to myself.  Whatever good I have to share, is meant to be shared.  I just don't feel adequate.  Heck, the strongest 'addiction' I can relate to is chocolate and that hardly compares to meth!  The good news is, I don't have to go through what they have, to have compassion and carry the spirit with me.  


At our church service today, we talked about Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel.  Most of the lesson was focused on Cain - the evil brother that killed his brother Abel.  It was about how Cain's descendants, even though they came from evil pasts, prospered and were productive, mostly in worldly importance.  The pastor compared it to a Val Kilmore movie where there's always a 'being' lurking in the darkness.  He talked about how we always have to be on the move and lookout for the evil around us.  I didn't feel that good, uplifting feeling I was hoping to leave with. 

After we left, Karen made the comment to me that the whole lesson was exactly how addicts feel - there's always 'something' on their tail.  It could be their conscience, or someone wanting drug money, or the cops, or the temptation of it all if they try to give it up.  "Always lurking in the shadows," was the phrase the pastor used.  As we talked, Karen said it was the exact opposite of how she felt when the bishop laid his hands on her head and gave her a blessing.  She said it was pure brightness and uplifting, like she could conquer the world.  I don't know that she would have seen the contrast before.

Although both experiences of the church service and Karen's blessing were good, it's about where the focus is.  Do we focus on the negative or the positive?  It is too easy to fall into the trap of fear or worry or 'what if' or the thought of failure.  By this point in our Bryer-adventure, I have a strong testimony that it takes a conscience choice to choose the good.  It's not that the fear goes away, but learning to accept that if we have faith then it will turn out just has Heavenly Father has planned for us - even if that means I sit here in jail stripes.  I don't think He makes bad things happen, but He allows adversity in our lives to help us grow stronger, to help us see our potential to overcome any temptation or adversity that comes up against us.  He has way bigger plans than what is confined to the walls of this jail.  In the meantime, His comforting spirit comes through music, or a verse of scripture that's particularly meaningful, or a thought that comes to my mind.  It's goosebumps when I get asked to pray or a smile that creeps across my face when I see one of these girls making changes for the better.  His spirit is what I feel when I am in this awful situation of serving time in jail, all for a medical misdiagnosis.


Today is visiting day, which means those that are getting a visitor (very few) 'get ready.'  I sat at one of the metal tables while one of the other inmates braided my hair for the visit.  Sister rattled on a long sentence with cussing every other word.  I have almost become immune to it by now, but Rachel elbowed her and said, "Don't talk that way around Krissi!"  Sister said, "Why?  I can talk however I want!"  One of the other girls kind of snickered and said, "What Krissi, you don't cuss or what?"  I could tell she thought Rachel was kidding.  I sensed all eyes turning to me - like all the music played and then coming to a record-scratching halt while they waited for my answer.  I said, "Nope, I don't swear," kind of surprised that I have spent 11 days now with these girls total and most of them hadn't caught on.  Another piped in, "Like you don't swear ever?"  I laughed and said, "Well, if I stub my toe or drop a glass plate, I might say 'Oh crap!'"  About this point, I was half way wishing Rachel wouldn't have said anything and half way realizing this was a way to make my standards known.  I shot her a 'Thanks a lot' look and she smiled back at me and shrugged her shoulders.  A few of them were intrigued with this whole way of life without cuss words - like maybe I would have some speech limitations if I couldn't fully express myself.  Finally Netty broke in and said, "I think it's good!...  Ya, good for you!"  I was relieved when all the attention wasn't on me anymore. 

The whole rest of the day Twinny would correct her words when she would slip.  Then she found replacements like mother trucker and flip and I tried not to smirk every time I heard a replacement.  These are inmates.  Like hard criminals.  They've dealt drugs, broken in to homes, stolen money, hurt other people - they've known no bounds of breaking the law - and now they watch their language - for me?! 


One of my very favorite sights is to get called out for visitors and to see several of them in the lobby in their church clothes.  They look so put together, colorful, and happy-looking!  In my days of constant black and white, colored church clothes make me happy.  There were 7 of them in the lobby that I could see as I sat down at the stool and looked at them through the window.  My emotions are so conflicted to see 7 people for me, while the rest of the girls sit in the common area without any visitors.  6 of my guests took their turns during my 30 minute visit.  I was so encouraged to see one of my visitors head to the front counter and then see Karen come around the corner, called for a visit with my 7th visitor!  I would have happily given her all of them if it would have made a difference. 
It doesn't even matter what we talk about during our visit, I am just happy for the break and to see friendly faces and feel the refreshing, good spirit they bring with them. 

Karen told me later all the things she had in common with my friend.  This same girl with so much make up and revealing clothes I could have judged and passed by on the street, is the same that has so many things in common and I have grown to seriously love!  The Lord works in amazing ways! 


Rachel and I were cleaning our cell today.  She had wiped down the toilet and sink.  When she was done, I sprayed the mirror.  Some of the spray had fallen on the sink, so I wiped that down again and Rachel stopped me.  "Wait?!  Are you re-doing my work?"
I said, "No! I was just wiping up what I got on the sink after I sprayed the mirror!" 

We had a conversation about being a perfectionist and she encouraged me to be happy with the way my kids do their jobs.  Sometimes it's hard not to be hard on them or to re-make the beds, re-fold the towels, or re-vacuum the floor.  She said from her own experience, they will learn that the job they do is good enough and give them a feeling of accomplishment.  Was I better about this when there were only 1 or 2 kids with jobs?  Their sense of accomplishment and feeling 'good enough' should mean more than a neatly folded pile of towels or perfectly vacuumed floor.  A parenting tip from an inmate.  Yup, I'll take it. 


I called home this evening and talked to Jason and our four older kids.  Piper and I decided it would be better if I didn't talk to Bryer since she would wail when I had to say good-bye, so it was easier on Jason for me not to talk to her.  I got to hear how Hunter's scout merit badge clinic went and how Sawyr's Native American diorama project was presented.  It kills me to hear their sweet voices on the phone, but the worst was Walker's little 5-year-old voice! 

Walker: Hi Mom!  Where are you?
Me:  I'm still in jail bud.  Remember?
Walker: Oh ya, but did the police let you use their phone? 
Me: Yes, but I had to pay a lot of money to talk to you.  

As immune as I feel to the cussing, it bothers me all over again as I talk to my family on the phone.  I want to protect their ears and not let them know what I have to hear every day.  And as I answered Walker's questions, I sounded just like any of the other girls in here - explaining again to him where I am and how it is that I get to talk to him.  The phones are out in the open in the common area, so there's no privacy or quiet place to talk.  The worst feeling in here is when my 2 worlds collide and I feel my heart break all over again that I'm not at home with them, doing what I should be doing.


Tonight I learned to crochet a little better.  I made my mom an uneven washcloth, and I was ready for something else.  One of the girls got me going on a beanie.  She wrote out the pattern, showed me how to count stitches, and how to use a crochet marker.  It's been a while since I had to really concentrate on making something and I was feeling confident in the challenge.  Just as I thought I had finished the first part, I had the other inmate check my stiches.  She eyed them closely and counted them and then proceeded to pull the yarn out, undoing my hour's worth of work in a matter of a few seconds.  She told me to do it again, and count better this time.  Then she made eye contact with me and realized she had pretty much broke my heart and just patted my shoulder and said, "Oh quit!  You can do better than that!"  Sigh.  Being humbled by another inmate! 

I took it back to my cell and spent another hour getting it just right, following the pattern perfectly.  It still didn't resemble anything like a beanie.  In fact, it was closer to the size of a coaster.  I was so frustrated that I decided to quit while I was ahead and just use it for a coaster.  I tied it off and cut the yarn off using the sharp edge of the bunk bed.  I went down to show my crocheting tutor, disappointed that I hadn't made a beanie, but excited at my coaster.  She took one look at it and said, "What the *** is this?  Where's the rest of it?"  I explained my frustration, but being okay that it was just going to be a coaster.  She said, "NO!  All you have to do is stitch singles after that to make it into a beanie!"  This time it was her looking disappointed.  She gave me thicker yarn to practice with so that I could see my progress sooner and not quit so easy.  I never saw a lesson coming from an inmate about perseverance!  :-) 


Tonight as I got ready for bed, I reached for the light switch to the side of the cell door.  And then I immediately felt silly - there are no light switches in here!  I went to sleep early tonight, to the sound of playing cards being shuffled and the TV up way too loud.  I'm glad I sleep hard! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

#49 - Worth the Jail Sentence Sacrifice (Through January 11, 2014)

Saturday mornings are different for some reason.  Maybe it's a change in TV programs.  Maybe it's the highlight of the week for the music channel countdowns that everyone looks forward to.  Maybe it's the weekend (although the 'weekend' in here isn't any different than any other day of the week).  The girls wake up a little earlier and like to 'get ready.'  What they are getting ready for, I haven't figured out yet. 

This morning I heard Karen singing in the shower.  She was loud enough that I could hear her, but not loud enough to hear what song she was singing.  She has a beautiful voice.  I just sat at my table in the common area reading and smiling to myself, now listening to this transformation happening in Karen.  I've never heard her sing in the shower before.  Was it the special visit arranged with my friend from church during visiting hours?  Was it the Priesthood blessing she received yesterday?  Is it her habit of getting up in the morning and reading scriptures more often?  Is it her divine purpose sneaking out through this jail?  Oh the extent Heavenly Father will go to save a soul!  It's miraculous and I feel blessed to be here to watch it unfold.....  Wait, I'm in jail.  Did I just say, "I am blessed to be here to watch it all unfold?"  I guess that's what God has done with my heart.  He's able to change an awful situation into something wonderful.  Like the note from my mom on the inside of my locker says,

Only God can turn a
a MESS into a MESSAGE! 

My heart is overflowing already this morning.  Even though it's not a visiting day and no mail comes on Saturdays, no church or Bible study, I feel completely uplifted and sustained by His spirit that's here which is really all that matters.   


It was a fun day to get my things out of property!  The guard in charge of property took me down to the property room and went through everything with me and was kind enough to let me fill out a property request for the items that came that I wasn't already approved for, and then he approved those things on the spot. 

I received:
*Red fuzzy blanket to replace the wool one I've been sleeping with, which also counteracts the hard bed pad I'm sleeping on and no pillow
*Yarn for crocheting - 8 skeins delivered, but I could choose 2 to have with me in my cell at a time
*2 books - "The Elizabeth Smart Story" and "My Name Used to Be Muhummad"
*Journal - no more numbering random sheets of loose leaf paper! 
*Long johns (I am FREEZING in here!)
*2 CD's
*CD player, earphones, and batteries.  It was like Christmas!
*Shower shoes - green flip flops

It was frustrating being here almost 3 full days before I got my property, but it came on a day I needed it most without mail and visitors to look forward to.  The CD player is an old-school style with just a few buttons.  No radio or custom playlist buttons, but the girls say that the roof has a reception blocker on it anyway so there's no way to get signals in or out.  Forget iTunes or Pandora - I never thought I could be so excited for a simple CD player and CD's! 

Today is a day I have been waiting for, for a long time.  The voice of Hilary Weeks is gracing the walls of this jail!  I am so thankful for her voice, her message, her spirit.  The pictures in the CD cover show her in a tattered, unkept, falling-down, broken building.  It looks like this place feels.  And sitting in this bleak backdrop.... is Hilary.... in all her beautiful simpleness, just smiling.  Ahhh Hilary, I have missed you like family! 

I was sitting in the common area journaling and trying to read scriptures, but I just couldn't stop smiling while Hilary softly played on the DVD player.  Not in my earphones where only I could hear, but her voice crept through the common area and into each cell.  I didn't want to wake anyone up that might be sleeping their sentence away, but I hoped that if they did, and started their day off with Hilary than we would all have a better feeling in here.


I'm warming up to the guards a little.  I'm just not sure how to take them.  They are always professional, but some are more friendly than others.  I just see some of the other girls make requests every time a guard comes in to make rounds and I don't want to bug them, which is maybe why it took so long for me to receive my property. 

Have you gotten mail yet? 
Have you gone through it? 
Is there anything for me? 
When are you bringing mail in? 
When are you bringing the hair cutting box? 
What are we having for lunch? 
What are we having for dinner? 
Did it snow last night?
Can we go to the MPR to check out books?
When can we go to rec?  (outside)
Am I being transferred? 
When will you tell us who is being transferred? 

Their list of questions is never ending.  (It kind of reminds me of my kids at bedtime who need a drink... and then a hug... and tucked in better... and they forgot to put their homework in their backpack... and forgot to tell me something for tomorrow... the list goes on and sometimes you just have to laugh and say "This too shall pass.")  They don't have anything better to do than know what's for lunch and when to expect the next excitement of going outside or to the library or what the weather is doing outside. 

Rachel taught me how to hold the crochet needle and yarn today and I tried to make a wash cloth, but it turned out like an ugly, uneven Barbie shawl.  (That's what I'm calling it anyway.)  She showed me the sharpest edges on the bunk bed where I could scrape the yarn back and forth to cut it.  (Who needs scissors when you've got a metal bunk bed?!)  She also taught me how to make friendship bracelets so I made 5 to take home to the kids out of the yarn.  It's changed my whole mind frame to have something to do and new to learn - and find a connection to the other girls.  The crochet-instruction and bracelet-making are just the medium to get to know them. 

We were talking about what is for lunch and Rachel said, "I've gained a lot of weight since I've been in here!"  I kind of thought she was joking or exaggerating, until I looked at her and her face was serious!  She was stretching on the floor of our cell while I stood in the doorway.  She looks great to me, so I asked her, "How did you lose that much?!"  She just stared at me with a blank look for a minute.  Then she said, "Ummm.... I haven't!"  She looks completely healthy and I can't imagine her 50 pounds lighter than she is, and how unhealthy that would have looked.  I have learned to love Rachel and sometimes I forget - a lot of times I forget - that she led a whole different life on the outs.  Drug addiction took over her health so much that she became a shell of a body, so empty inside.  She desperately wants to be a good wife and mom when she finds the right guy.  She also knows that she needs to get healthy and be active.  She is naturally a good leader to those around her.  The girls are drawn to her. 

We talked a little bit about her life on the outs.  I told her about the conflict our family has had with giving people money on the streets.  Jason almost always gives money.  I give food.  His reasoning is that he is held accountable to help those in need.  They are held accountable for what they choose to do with that help. 

I told Rachel that one time recently we drove by a homeless man on our way in to the grocery store.  Sawyr, our 9 year old, noticed him first and asked if we could buy something extra for him while we shopped.  We decided on some bananas and Sawyr was so excited to pull up next to that guy on our way out of the parking lot and hand him a bunch of bananas! 

Rachel said in that circumstance, she would rather have had the money.  But being in here, aside from her addictions, she said we should opt for the bananas every time.  She said she could only say that now while she's not influenced by other factors.  I felt a glimpse of that struggle and appreciate her honesty and outlook so much!  I can't imagine having a temptation so strong that it overrides any logical thinking, and common sense, but it is so real for so many!   Their strongest desires and goals are high jacked.  What seemed to be something liberating, or fun, or entertainment, now holds them hostage and trapped in their addiction.  Being in here, these girls are free from all of that.  They can rely on someone else's strength and know they don't have to fight temptation constantly.  I wish they knew that they are not alone in this struggle of temptation.  They can overcome it and achieve any goal they want!


Is it strange that Rachel and I only seem to be friends in our cell?  I'm not worried about it, but I just think it's funny.  We have such good conversations and stay up to the wee hours of the morning talking, but during the day she sits at her table and I sit at mine.  She's not rude or unfriendly, just distant.  There's a place and a time for everything and I'm okay with that. 

The only thing I can relate it to is trying to mentally separate my 'real life' from 'this life.'  To protect my emotions and the hurt I feel in being away from my family, I have to move to a different place mentally when I come in here.  I don't talk about my family much in here, and try not to blur that line.  Rachel doesn't have the benefit of coming and going like I do a week at a time.  For her, maybe being in our cell is her break, or her place to let down her guard.  Being out in the common area, she has to maintain some kind of front.  Survival to an extent.  It's months and months of jail life.  I don't blame her for that, and I'm happy to have a safe place for her to talk when she needs to. 


Today there was a heated argument between Karen and a couple of the other girls.  I could sense that tensions were rising early on.  There were already words flying here and there after the fight that went on while I was gone this last time.  It finally peaked and there were strong words exchanged in loud voices, to put it nicely. 

I think it's always harder making a life-altering change for the better.  We have to step outside our comfortable little box and routine and make a change...  Break a habit...  Try something new...  Stand a little taller...  Do what we know we should, but haven't been...  By Karen trying to make a change, the other girls think she's acting 'better than them.'  It's hard to continue on a different path, but still have the same surroundings.  I think Satan would have us think that we need to be confined to our comfortable little box where we know what to expect and are comfortable with our habits.  Sometimes when we are ready to make a change, it's easier to jump completely out of the box and start fresh.  Move away.  Change friends.  End a relationship.  Attend church.  Something that outwardly signifies that change.  Karen is in the hardest situation - to change her habits, while still being confined to this box with the same people and same routines that got her here to begin with.  I gave her a little heart-to-heart pep talk today after the argument cooled down, the only thing that I could think of that would help her continue to make changes for the better while she still feels stuck.


Today I got the courage up to sit in the haircutting chair.  Armed with new, clean stripes to put on after my haircut, I asked Netty to give me a trim.  Karen stood next to me for emotional support.  She asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this - in jail - when I could wait until I get out instead.  I told her, "Na, I already have someone watching my kids, so I better take advantage of it."  We had a good laugh at that.  Netty cut about an inch off the bottom and evened up my layers.  I grabbed a curl off the ground to save for my mom.  In my letter home this afternoon, I used a scrap of crochet yarn to tie the lock of hair together and a piece of my shampoo label to fix it to the margin of my letter.  I laughed, just thinking of my mom's reaction when she would open it.  She's saved my hair, teeth, all kinds of weird things in my baby book.  A lock of hair from my jail house haircut would fit right in! 


A while after the guards came to get the box of hair cutting scissors and the electric razor, they returned again.  One called everyone's attention and asked if they needed to do a cell toss.  I wasn't sure what that was, but Rachel explained later that it's when they search all the cells and tear them apart as much as they need to, to find what they are looking for. 

There weren't any comments to the cell toss.  The guard said, "We are missing the hair cutting scissors...  I'm going to let whoever has the scissors have immunity for 10 minutes.  If they are on the table within 10 minutes then that person won't be punished." 

There were muffled comments and snickers between girls and then it was pretty quiet for those 10 minutes.  When time was up, the guard came back in and asked to speak with one of the girls.  I was in my cell so I didn't see what happened, but the scissors turned up and the girl got in trouble for trying to hide them.  She lost her privileges - no phone calls and no trips to the library.  I don't think they can legally hold her in from going to break outside, but no phone calls was a big deal to her and she was MAD!  After the guards left she ranted and raved, "We're *** criminals!  We are *** trained to think that everything is a *** set up!  They say put the *** scissors back and hand them over and no one gets in trouble.  I'm not stupid!  Everything is on *** camera in here.  Everything is recorded.  I would have *** been in trouble!  We're *** trained that way!" 

Whew!  Think I'll go put some Hilary back in my ears... 


At 7:00 the bell rang for headcount like normal for the shift change.  We all lined up against the wall of our cell doors and waited for the guards to come to the window and count us.  As we waited, one of the girls turned to the girl next to her and said, "I have a wedgie.  Can you get it out for me?"  So she did.  Then they both looked at me.  I just shook my head and raised my eyebrows with a smile - that 'mom look.'  They laughed back, knowing they got whatever reaction out of me they were going to get.  Yup, I'm in jail.  THAT would have never happened in real life! 


This evening I broke out my hot chocolate.  It's my one treat while I'm in here, but it costs way too much with all the fees they tack on top of the original price to get it in here.  I have savored it just for that reason, hoping to stretch it through all of my sentence.  As Karen has taught me - if you make food in the common area, it's nice to share.  If you take it to your cell, that that's the cue that it's all yours.  The other girls shared their 'jailhouse concoction' of caramel popcorn (microwave popcorn with caramel ice cream topping), so I decided I'd share my hot chocolate.  I was thankful for only 2 takers that wanted some.  Karen warmed up her water in the microwave and then brought her cup to me.  She asked if I would use my spoon to spoon some mix into her cup so she didn't get her used-spoon in my chocolate mix.  The other girl obviously didn't see that whole interaction and once her water was warmed up, she came over and scooped right into my chocolate with her spoon that she had just eaten dinner off of!  I just stood there, watching my whole container of mix spoil.  All those comments the guards warned me about at booking about the possibilities of Hepatitis and HIV being in here all came rushing back to my memory.  I tried not to over-react or be OCD about it, but my hot chocolate was now contaminated!  I just put the lid back on and took it to my locker.  Good thing I mixed mine up first.  I enjoyed my last cup of hot chocolate and decided I better find another comfort when I need it.  Sometimes there's just no substitute for some good ol' chocolate! 


Rachel talked a lot about her mom tonight.  So many of these girls come from sadness, broken homes, criminal parents, or have been on their own from really young ages.  Raechel's mom seems completely normal by Rachel's standards, whatever that ideal is in this world.  As Rachel said, "She's never used a day in her life."  She's worried a lot about letting her mom down and the disappointment she's caused.  She worries that it reflects on her mom's parenting skills.  To the untrained eye, she is a mother of 2 girls that struggle with awful addictions.  I don't know her, but I think if you look a little closer, I'm sure you'll find a courageously, strong, tender woman who has weathered the storms right along with them and worries about them every. single. day.  I'm sure she worries about where she went wrong.  I reminded Rachel that God plays a part in families and that Rachel may have been sent to this wonderful woman because that's who would love her unconditionally and see her through the rough spots.  I am sure her mom hasn't led a perfect life (who has, really?), but maybe God knew she could handle the stress and worrisome feelings her girls have brought.  Maybe He knew she had exactly what it would take to help them through it.  And when it gets to be too much, I hope she can feel her Savior's love to help her keep going anyway. 

I think I will write to her and have Rachel stick it in the envelope with her next letter....  On second thought, that's probably against the rules. 

Another night down, in the wee hours of the morning, Rachel and I ended our conversation.  I tried to get comfy on my top bunk, on my hard bed roll, snuggled under my new fuzzy blanket (thank you Mom!) and tried to ignore the light in my face.  Just as I was getting comfy, Rachel said, "Will you pray us to sleep?" 

Without a second thought, I rolled over onto my knees and offered a prayer for the two of us. I thanked God for these unusual circumstances that has brought Rachel and I together and for the good friends we have become.   I prayed for Rachel to feel the love that God has for her, and for her to have the strength she needs while she fills her sentence, and for our families to be kept safe while we are here.  I thanked God for our safety and asked Him to bless the guards for their efforts and help them to know that we appreciate the hard job they do.  I closed 'in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.'  Then Rachel repeated Amen, thanked me, and told me good night. 

I laid there for quite a while, just thinking, and getting teary.  I just got to offer a prayer for Rachel and me!  Not because I asked to, but because she asked me to!  I feel so blessed to be a part of these girls' lives.  I am thankful to watch the changes and miracles happen over a short amount of time and be some kind of instrument for good in here.  I am thankful for that peaceful feeling to know my family is safe and taken care of while I am gone. 

Just as I rolled over to go to sleep, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  By the angle of it, I got a shot of myself laying with the red blanket covering my lower half and the black and white stripes covering my upper half. 

And I remembered that I am in jail...  For something I didn't do.   

I have been too busy feeling blessed that I had kind of forgotten for a little bit where I am.   

This is one of the songs from the Hilary Weeks "Every Step" CD I received, that echoed in the jail this week... 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

#48 - Protection in Jail (Journal Entries Through January 10th, 2014)

I don't know why it hit me different this morning.  I've just felt more lonely for my family this morning.  I wonder if they've slept good, what they are having for breakfast, if Piper's hair is done for school, if their homework got done and if they will remember to take it with them.  Then here I am, sitting in my stripes... in jail... reading my scriptures.  The contrast of everything is surreal.  I don't belong here.  I thought about a lesson that I sat in on not too long ago.  The teacher had passed around a questionnaire for us to take a survey on where we stand on different things in our lives.  I don't remember all my answers, but I know there was one area that I could have done some improving on.  In the area of Faith, Patience, Humility - yup, those have all been sufficiently tested and tried and I know where I stand on those.  But there were items on the paper that rose some questions for me.  Interestingly, it's been those specific things that I've had the time to work on while I'm in here.  I've tried to have regular scripture study, but as a mom, I never get more than about 20 to 30 minutes at a time.  Now I spend hours reading and learning.  Sheesh.... Did deep, meaningful scripture study and diligently gaining gospel knowledge have to include wearing stripes and being locked in a room?!  :-)  Scriptures are a protection, no matter when/where/how I read them. 

I found the same questionnaire that was used as a handout in that lesson. 

This morning I read Jacob 6:3 "How blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard."  Blessings of hard work....  I feel like this, here and now, is hard work, so I did a search of 'vineyard' because it seems to refer to the Lord's work in that way - which is what I'm doing and applies directly to me.  Isaiah has been really hard for me to understand, and I had talked to Robin about it the last time I was here - so she came up with a page full of tips and fun facts to shed some light on it. 

In Isaiah it starts out as Israel being an apostate, rebellious people.  If I'm applying the scriptures to myself, in the here and now, that also applies.  Apostate?  Rebellious?  Corrupt?  The first chapter uses words like desolate, rebelled, sinful, iniquity, forsaken, provoked, anger, and revolt.  It's a reminder to me that the scriptures were written for what we are going through right now - not necessarily for back when they were written.  Then verse 8 it says, "And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a harden of cucumbers, as a besieged city."  And that is how I feel.  "Left as a cottage."  I don't feel that God loves me more than any one of these women, but I feel lonely, like the only one that has a purpose - a direction - and understanding of even a sliver of what my potential is.  What's more - I want them to have that!  I desperately want them to understand God's purpose for them, the strength he can offer to overcome their weaknesses and temptations and struggles!  I only know because I have had his direct help during the past 3 years.  I know it and feel it so strongly that I want to share it. 


All morning I have been waiting for Rachel to wake up!  We've had such good conversations at bedtime and I was hoping for more.  This 'slumber party chatting' until 2 am does not mix with staying awake at 6 am after breakfast.  I gave in to a nap, feeling guilty that Jason is probably working his tail off at home doing my job and his, and I'm in here sleeping.  Moms are not supposed to take naps!  (Moms are also not supposed to be in jail!)  I'll mark it up as a tender mercy and one of the 'vacation' perks like Jason jokes about. 


Finding balance with everything - so with gaining some spiritual insight to the scriptures, Robin also has taught me some practical jailhouse beauty tips... :-)

Empty toilet paper rolls make good curlers.  If you're looking for bigger waves, find the hottest water in the cell block and fill an empty shampoo bottle, wrap your hair around it, and wait. 

Use the tip of your pen or pencil to grate off some deodorant.  Mix the ink/graphite together with the deodorant to make eyeliner. 

Add a drop of water to a skittle and then use the shiny, liquid coloring for eye shadow, lip stick, coloring a picture, all kinds of things! 

You can wet a wad of toilet paper down, squish it into a cube, wait for it to dry, mark dots on each side, and use for dice in a pinch.  Oh who am I kidding?  Everything is used 'in a pinch' in here! 

If someone needs a Q-tip, they have to wait for the med cart to make rounds at the designated time.  They charge waaaay too much for individual Q-tips.  Make your own with very, tightly rolled up toilet paper.

Who needs Pinterest or Life Hacks for random things in jail?!  (Sometimes you just have to make a conscience decision to laugh!)


It's strange to be a prisoner and not have control over the items that are considered 'mine.'  I still haven't received the items I had approved and shipped in, now going on 3 days.  I don't want to be obnoxious and the guard on shift is intimidating to me so I didn't want to approach him about it.  I just turned in a kite (paperwork requesting it) instead.  He came to talk to me about my unusual circumstances and how to handle my things and reprimanded me not to have excessive items shipped in.  I don't know what is considered 'excessive.'  A couple of my own books, music, and crochet supplies can't be considered 'excessive,' can they?  He pointed out that I have a blanket being held in property that I wasn't approved for.  While that sounds like a nice comfort to have (and a big improvement from the scratchy wool blankets and thin, worn sheets), I can do without since I didn't even know it was shipped in and I'm not approved to have it.  I've had so many people willing to support me and want to send things in, but property is so regulated that I've had to be particular with who sends what.  The rest of the girls have to communicate with someone on the outs to have their items shipped in and count on someone else to pay for the items.  I don't know why I'm any different - I just do it online while I'm out rather than paying .50/minute to call out.  Either way, I'm frustrated that I've waited so long (3 days feels like 3 weeks in here!) for 'my' things.  Most of my side of the conversation was 'yes sir,' and 'no sir.'  I understand the policies and why they have to have so much control over what's brought in, but I really would like something to do to help pass the time! 


Mail has been such an uplifting part of the day for me.  People have no idea how much a card - in full color - matters in here!  A handwritten letter is almost unheard of on the outs, but in here it's a treasure!  So much that the last time I left, I was hesitant to take my cards and letters home.  I was afraid that they would be my only mail and I wanted something to read and re-read over and over again.  I did get the courage up to take them home and hoped that my friends and family would send more this time around - and they have!  The ones that have touched me the most are the pictures from the kids.  I have a soft spot in my heart for kids anyway, but to be on the receiving end of a little rainbow or handwritten note with scribbled out words just makes my day!  One picture came from Piper today.  A simple, bright yellow heart with "I love you MOM!" written on it.  In contrast of the cold steel tables, hard concrete floors, and bolted-down furniture, it really was like a bright ray of sunshine to my day!  I'm in a place that I don't feel sad to be reminded of my 'real life' on the outs.  I feel protected and full of purpose and I have a strong sense that God's tenderness is watching over our family.  For whatever reason we are separated this week, these are days that I won't get back - whether I am with my kids and Jason or not.  I want to make it worth it and do all I am supposed to do in here.  God knows these girls' hearts.  I just have to trust in Him to say what He would have me say and do in here. 

For Christmas, I asked for sewing lessons from my Mom.  Today, my first lesson came in the mail...  a copied pattern explaining all the sewing vocab I would need to know to read a pattern.  Reason #1,342,496 that my Mom is the best!  I have completely soaked up my first sewing lesson (and read it more than once or twice) and am ready for more! 


There's such a difference between girls who are sorry for what they have done to be in here, and those that just... aren't.  That's not by my judgments, but what they say.  One girl bragged today about stealing a TV from her girlfriend's house and then inviting her over to watch it, and laughed when her girlfriend didn't even realize it was hers!  She said she's not sorry for anything she's done and that she's hasn't hurt anyone.  She doesn't seem to have a conscience.  Then there are those that are so sick and tired of being in here, they really do have a "broken heart and a contrite spirit" like the scriptures say.  They are ready for a change, but many don't know what that next step is.   

Today got called out for a special clergy visit.  It's a break from the drama and cussing and more drama.  It's a way to re-charge and re-connect.  The bishop here is an amazing man.  We talked about the girls in here and I told him that Karen was talking about the last Priesthood Blessing she received years ago.  The words of the blessing have faded, but the feeling has stuck with her.  At the end of our conversation, I mentioned to the bishop that Karen would probably appreciate a clergy visit whenever he had time.  I hung up the phone and waved good-bye through the glass window as he got up from the stool to leave. 

I hadn't been back in the cell block very long when Karen got called out.  She was gone for just a little bit and then returned, smiling.  She was gone hardly long enough to have such a smile on her face.  She said the bishop was going to try to arrange a blessing if it was possible to meet in a room face to face, rather than through the window.  A few minutes later she got called out again. 

When she came back, she carried her shoulders different, her face showed relief, and she had a pep in her step.  I was kind of disappointed when she made eye contact with me, winked, and then went to her cell.  I wanted to hear about it! 

Later she told me a few of the details of what was said in the blessing.  They didn't seem like huge things to me, but then I don't expect that it would.  Each blessing is individual and personal.  The things that were said were meant for her.  I encouraged her to write down as many of the details as she could remember so that she could go back to it later. 

Sometimes with experiences like this, I forget that I'm in jail.  I feel blessed to help arrange a much needed Priesthood Blessing and see someone else with that same protection and vision. 


This afternoon I watched Netty work corn rows into another inmate's hair, trying to figure out how to turn my fingers to be able to practice.  She is a solid, quiet black woman who Karen knows from a different facility.  Karen has said what a sweet woman Netty is.  Most hairdressers I have had are talkative.  Netty is... not, so I'm not sure how to take her.  Then again, I've never had a jailhouse haircut either.  The girls in here are self-trained.  Most of them say that haircut days once a week are just trial and error.  I will decide before tomorrow if I am brave enough for a jailhouse haircut. 


A funny conversation today that was another reminder - I'm in jail!  (Girls names are the nicknames they have for each other.)

Twiny: Can you bring me the hairspray that's in there?
Sister: It's just water now.
Twinny:  Why is it just water?  I put jolly ranchers in it!
Sister:  That was a really long time ago! 

There was also some funny teasing about Brother licking the remote to the TV.  Brother is very OCD about things and when it's her day of the week to clean the cell block, you know it's been cleaned really well!  She's has the perfect job in laundry for her - with lots of bleach.  The whole conversation about her licking the remote to change channels was probably more funny to me than normal, but there's not too much humor in here that's appropriately funny. 

It hurts to talk to family, but I couldn't stand it any longer.  Withholding my property, and no mail tomorrow, I needed some real voices to hear from.  Apparently I called just in time.  Jason was tearing the house apart looking for the baby wipes, in the middle of a poopy diaper.  There was such relief in his voice that it was me calling.  I told him right where to go to find the extra packages of wipes.  I got off the phone laughing and wanting to cry all at the same time, and thinking, "A Mom should never have to go to jail!" 

On an upside, Brother brought me matching stripes tonight.  To the untrained eye, a person may think that all the tops and bottoms of our stripes are matching, but there's a big difference.  The fact that Brother went through and picked out stripes that were equally faded and also didn't have holes, was a great compliment to me.  She also called me by name, something that doesn't come quickly to most of these girls.  Until now, she hasn't talked to me much.  So now I have 'matching' stripes to put on tomorrow when I wake up.   

Rachel and I had another long night of chatting.  Most of what we talked about I won't repeat.  I'm not here to exploit anyone's mistakes.  She shared some of her most personal struggles, the scariest times of her life, the most damaging of relationships, and her lowest of lows... too much for one human being to ever have to endure.  Surprisingly, she doesn't seem mad or angry about her past, but ready to move forward with a lifetime of experiences to grow from in a different direction.  After all the negatives and being arrested, she was sentenced to a rehab program called T.C.  She talked about how it's a program that's perception-based and at first I thought that was awful.  I've been taught to be held accountable to God.  Through our 3 years of trials, I've had to reaffirm to myself how important that is - that it doesn't matter what other people think.  Otherwise the feeling of being wrongfully judged for something I didn't do would overcome me. 

Rachel explained that at T.C. many of these girls have put up walls and do not care at all about what anyone thinks, so they live their lives not being accountable to anyone and floating through conscience-free doing whatever they want.  T.C. teaches them about other people's feelings, how their choices affect others, and about being held accountable.  For them, they have to have someone here and now to be held accountable to, so any of the girls can 'write them up' at any time.  Rachel said she's had over 100 write-ups in 1 day - for anything as little as being sarcastic.  At the end of the day the girls confront those they have written up.  Those that made mistakes cannot offer any justification or explanation - they are only aloud to say, "I will take care of that," or "I take full responsibility for that."  Listening to her talk, Rachel expresses herself so well.  It makes me wonder what she was like before T.C.  My sense is that she's always been a good communicator. 

With one week left at T.C. Rachel got in trouble for bartering coffee.  Bartering is a big no-no in all these facilities - for reasons I would have never even imagined!  Hers was not bartering for anything more than goods, but bartering none-the-less.  Listening to her talk, I wonder if Rachel was feeling nervous about being done with T.C.  I've heard her talk about self sabotage and I wonder if that was the situation.  Some would say it was a failure for her to not make it out of T.C. with a week left.  I think it was incredibly brave of her to realize she wasn't ready to be done yet, if that's the case.  Either way, she was transferred the day before I was sent here and I have loved being her Bunkie!  It is amazing to hear her thoughts on the day and how she processes things.  She could seriously be a councilor or motivational speaker. 

I told Rachel about my lunch experience today.  It's the same experience I've had before here.  I looked around the room and wondered again if I may have known these girls before I came to earth.  Did they sit next to me and my family as we heard about the Plan of Salvation?  Did I hug them as I left the pre-existence?  Did we make promises to each other to help each other on earth, only to have forgotten them as we each gained a body at birth?  I brought it up to Rachel tonight and she said it was really thought-provoking for her.  She said she's never met anyone with such a wide open perspective of things.  She's interested in ideas about what happened before this life and what will happen after. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

#47 - Wake Up and Be Different (Journal Entries Through January 9, 2014)

I woke up to the little jingle through the speaker in my cell.  Breakfast in 5 minutes.  Ugh!  I so did not want to get up.  What do I even wake up for anyway?  For a breakfast lineup followed by the rest of the girls all going back to bed?  Do I wake up for the silence in the morning?  I want to sleep away this bad dream I'm stuck in for the next 6 days. 

Just as I was just wanting completely out of this situation, a strong thought came to my mind, "Wake up and be different."  It was like the thought itself just pulled me up out of bed.  Wake up and be different.  What does it mean?  Wake up because I'm sleeping?  Or maybe wake up from my negative attitude?  Wake up and realize what God needs from me?  Be different.  Different from what?  My negativity?  Different from the rest of the girls?  I can't explain if it was a message from God, but it was motivating and positive... and in my frustrated, negative thoughts it definitely didn't come from me. 

Wake up and be different. 

The phrase was making a comfy spot in my brain, and then I was interrupted by all the flushing toilets at one time.  I kinda had to smile to myself and shake my head.  Yup, another reminder that I'm in jail!  My Bunkie was still laying on the bottom bunk.  I left the room and lined up with the rest with my cup and spork in a line like cattle to file through and get my breakfast.  She pulled the curtain for her privacy to get dressed and then came down to file into the line.  I've learned to do the 'Bunkie Shuffle' and so far it's worked to not have to use the bathroom in front of someone else.  Any mom knows that it's bad enough that as soon as you head to the bathroom, you have little hands knocking on the door or fingers peeping under the door needing your attention for something.  Having a grown woman in the cell takes it to a whole new level.  I've been Rachel's Bunkie for less than a day and I can already tell that we'll do just fine in that department. 


This morning Karen stayed up with me and went to break outside in between scriptures.  We got about 3 inches of new snow so I got to shovel.  It was nice to have something to do out there, especially since my orange crocs weren't very compatible with my normal lunges in the snow.  Even shoveling, the snow packed into the holes and made my socks wet. 

Karen didn't last long in the cold and the guards let her back in.  Another inmate came out on the other side of the fence, where the kitchen inmates have their break area.  She's a strong lady and when she shoveled snow, it made me feel pretty puny.  She'd huck big shovels full of wet, heavy snow all the way up over the barbed rings along the top of the fence.  My best bet was to throw it through the chain length fence.  I kind of wish she could hurl me up over the fence - and I haven't even been here a full day!  I don't know how these girls make it in here for such a long time. 


Later on I came out to break again with Brother (yes, she's been transferred back), Sister, and another girl.  Brother made an ice sculpture into a throne for Sister.  She sat down on her throne and asked for her hot chocolate, drank with her finger up, and talked in a fancy accent.  In between all the cussing (which they don't even realize they are doing) they are pretty funny girls playing princess in their prison stripes.  I think I even laughed at this whole situation I found myself watching.  Sometimes it just hits me.  I'm in jail!  Like - real jail.  With real inmates... and I couldn't get out if I tried.  That's weird.   

As soon as we went back inside the guys came out.  Depending on who is on shift, the guards will shut the shades to the window so we can't see down the hall to the outside when the guys are out there.  Today they didn't.  The girls watched as the guys dismantled the throne Brother had worked so hard to build.  We learned later that they didn't get too far into it before one of the guards came over the loudspeaker outside and warned, "You're making the wrong person mad."  Brother does the laundry for the whole jail, and Sister seems to have something going with one of the guys, however that is supposed to work.  They have their own code to communicate and have gotten caught passing notes.  Jailhouse drama. 


The phrase has been creeping in and out of my mind all day.  Wake up and be different.  I've thought about what it's physically like to be different.  Bryer is 'different.'  People see her in her wheels and stop, or stare, or show curiosity, or ask questions, and usually comment on her head full of ringlets.  People are also drawn to her.  A random lady in the checkout stand kissed her on the head as we were shopping after Christmas!  If someone was going to need help or to reach out, they'd need to know where to go.  Like a boat lost at sea, its captain looks for the lighthouse.  Personally, I'd rather huddle in my cell or stick with Karen and not stand out.  I don't think that's God's intentions for me though.  I'm naturally different in here.  I'd like to think that's a good thing, but I don't feel like I blend in, other than my stripes match the rest of the girls.  That's not to say I'm better than them at all - just different.  So far I feel like it's a struggle to stay positive, let alone being able to reach out to someone.  Scriptures are key for me to continued to stay uplifted.  The mail and visitors from 'the outs' doesn't hurt either.  :-)  I had mail waiting for me when I got here, and more every day that I've been here.  One of the guards today said he doesn't think he's ever handed out as much mail to one inmate as he has to me.  Today I got letters from 3 different states, and from people I have never met.  I don't know what I have done to deserve such support, but it sure lifts my burden.  Mail call is a high light of the day Monday through Friday.  I just wish the other girls got more mail - for the same feeling of support, encouragement, and happiness it brings me. 


I've been trying to understand this flawed justice system without letting it completely wipe me out.  Not many people get a look from the inside that aren't supposed to be here.  I'm paying for something I didn't do.  So there's got to be a reason in God's big plan that I'm here in the circumstances I am - choosing the jail I serve time in, scheduling when I can come and go, and planning around my family's schedules.  I've wondered why these girls just sit here - no programs, no classes, no rehab, nothing to better themselves.  They have AA every other week and a rotating clergy member that comes for Sunday church services and Tuesday Bible study.  Other than that, it's a lot of TV, reading, and sleeping the time away.  I asked Karen about the situation and she explained that at other facilities there are programs and rehab and things that take up time.  This place is a transfer hub for those in between facilities, those on 'reflection' (a time out for being kicked out of their rehab programs), or those that have finished their programs and are waiting to go before the judge.  She talked about the time she spent going through her rehab at another facility and then being sent to The Hole.  For 3 days she had nothing except a Bible.  She spent a lot of time thinking - and then finally reading.  In the end she said it was the best 3 days she could have spent with herself.  Not too long after that she was transferred to this jail and 2 weeks later I came.  God works in mysterious ways.  She told me that she had reached a plateau - she knew where she had come from and where she wanted to be, but finding her point A to point B was looking really hard.  She felt blessed that I came when I did.  I, on the flipside, had been so blessed by her preparation.  I would not have made it my first week without someone to ask questions, share shampoo, and fill me in on all the jail etiquette. 


A surprise visitor came today.  Robin came in pushing the food cart to deliver a meal today!  (Never thought I'd be excited for another inmate as a 'surprise visitor.')  When I left the last time, I expected her to be released soon after I left.  I was so glad to see her, but so sad that she's still here.  She said they didn't release her on parole because of a confrontation she had at a facility before here.  I know how many details she tried to plan - a ride 2 hours from home, a car seat ready for her son, a place to live, and a job to return to.  Those were her priorities.  Now she's still here, so I'm hoping for more scripture discussions, but it makes it hard while she's in the other cell block working in the kitchen. 


My day ended without getting my property - again.  First I have to wait for the right guard to be on shift.  Then I have to wait for that specific guard to have time.  They did say I have an item that was delivered that isn't something I was approved for, so that's even more time consuming for them.  Just walk me down to the property room and go through the things with me!  I thought I had taken care of all the details - the appropriate property approval forms, having them shipped from an approved online store, having them shipped within the required 21 days of being approved, making sure they were received before I returned for my 2nd trip in here.  My things are not really my things in here.  I know the guards are busy and they have worse things to remember than my property, and I'm trying to be patient, but I'd love to get my hands on my crochet supplies for something new to learn in here.  I don't like confrontation, so even speaking up to one of the guards as they make rounds is intimidating for me.  I put in a kite instead, requesting my property again


My conversation with Karen today renewed my excitement for my new Bunkie.  I know I've prayed for the right girl to share a cell with, but I was having a hard time feeling a connection to Rachel since she's so quiet.  Until tonight.  We layed in our bunks after lights out (or so-called lights out - the light is still on, and it's 2 feet from my face on the top bunk) and talked into the wee hours of the morning.  I asked about her family, trying to find an alternate conversation starter than the usual, "What are you in for?" that all the other girls ask.  I about jumped off my bunk when she said she used to go to church with her grandma when she was little.  She talked about the things she remembered and the feelings she felt there.  She remembers watching her cousin go up in front and receive some kind of award, and she remembered some basic things that she learned in her primary class.  She said she still believes in God and she knows He loves her.  She opened up with heartache she's felt and holes in her life that she needed to fill.  She told me a little bit about how she got addicted to pain killers and then it escalated from there. 

In her way of telling her life story, she went from being little and attending church to escalating fast into drugs.  Even though there were years in between those times, there was a strong contrast in those two pieces of her life. 

I know that church is not a cure-all.  I know that people of all kinds struggle with addiction and struggles and tests of faith.  But there was a distinct difference between the little girl Rachel described as going to church with her grandma and the one who fell into addiction.  I had to stop her story to ask why she stopped going to church.  She said that her sister said a prayer in class and the teacher told her that she prayed wrong.  Her mom, being so protective of her little girls, didn't let them go back. 

My heart aches for Rachel's sister - that little girl sitting in a Sunday primary class, trying so hard to do the right thing and having the courage to say a prayer out loud - only to have her teacher say she didn't pray the right way.  I wanted to leave the jail right then and wake that teacher up and have a talk with her.  Does she know there's no right or wrong way to pray?  That there's no right or wrong place or time or mood to pray in?  When we pray, we acknowledge there's something bigger out there than ourselves - That He's listening to us - That we matter - and that He. Will. Answer.  There is nothing 'wrong' about that! 

I have seen faith and prayers in action happen in the way a 4 year old prays for his lost hermit crab... and a little girl in tears over a missing shoe... and a boy afraid of the dark... and myself in the trenches of potty training... all the way to sitting here in jail praying for a way to connect to my new Bunkie.  Prayer is a direct line to be able to talk to God anytime we want.  There are guidelines of how to pray, but those should never stand in the way of offering our heart to him. 

We start our prayer "Dear Heavenly Father," by addressing him - like I would address a friend if I were going to start a conversation.  We thank Him for all the blessings we have.  Then we ask for those things we need His help with.  And we close 'In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen."  The heartfelt things come in the middle as we really think about what we're praying for. 

I wasn't there in that classroom, but I hardly believe that Rachel's sister prayed 'wrong.'  I can't say that I wouldn't do the same thing that Rachel's mom did in her shoes, in protecting her daughters.  They were sent specifically to her.  Without going to church herself, there wasn't an opportunity to approach the teacher or have an open conversation about it.  Knowing what I know and having the testimony I do, my heart hurts to know these girls' learning was stunted about God's plan for them.  Somehow it drove a wedge into something that could have been a great strength and protection for them. 

I know that a choice to stop going to church doesn't automatically end in addiction.  In fact, there are many that go to church anyway that struggle with addiction - and lots of really uplifting people that choose not to go to church.  I just know that attending church every week is a huge strength to me.  One of Jason's favorite things he learned from his church mission as a 19 year old was the quote, "My favorite smell in church is cigarette smoke."  Everyone has a vice or something they struggle with.  Some are outward, but for many more no one can tell what any one person struggles with.  Either way that person is at church, trying to learn and grow and maybe turn something hard over to God.  It was so comforting for me to hear Rachel speak from her heart and not to have given up on God... to know that He loves her.  It confirmed again that the things we teach our children will be strong rooted.  Here Rachel sits in a jail cell after so many struggles, but through it all she still remembers the things she was taught as a little girl. 

She talked about being a spiritual person, but not religious.  We talked about the difference and agreed that being religious was based on a specific religious denomination.  Being religious included the church's interpretations of things and specific ways to live.  We agreed that being spiritual is far wider reaching.  We are all spiritual - because we are spiritual beings.  Our bodies will get old and die and become separate from our earthly bodies.  Our spirits will live on, just as they lived before we had a body for them.  I shared with Rachel the quote that was on Bryer's hospital bed as she fought for her life 3 years ago. 

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience." 

She had me repeat it again and then was quiet for a while.  She was quiet for so long that I thought maybe she was asleep.  Then she told me good night. 

It could not be any more true today as I lay in a jail cell as it was the day our Bryer girl was fighting for her life strapped to machines.  That day she chose life.  She chose to stick it out.  To be brave.  To choose God's plan for her.  I don't know if she understood the limitations she would endure, but I know she does it now with a happy face that lights up a room.  She spreads joy.  She sings at the top of her lungs in the car.  Her life has meaning and purpose.  She has a smile so big that she has to concentrate to relax her mouth to form her lips together to say "Mom."  The least I can do is follow her example and have that attitude as I can reach out to these spirits I spend time with in jail. 

I went to bed way later than I should have, but it was worth the good company.  Wake up and be different.  Yes, I think I will. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#46 - Digging Deep and Finding My Bravery for Jail (Journal Entries through January 8, 2014)

I've listened to "Brave" dozens and dozens of times on repeat in the car this week, getting my courage up to go back to jail.  On Monday I caught a glimpse in the review mirror of them all singing at the top of their lungs - from Hunter all the way down to Bryer.  It doesn't just take my bravery, but our whole family.  It's hard and I don't like it, but music has an effect on us to help carry us through it. 

(Random Girls Camp video has nothing to do with my jail time, other than the song that was so inspirational for me going in.) 

Brave, by Hilary Weeks

There are moments when you feel it and you know,
Something amazing is happening within your soul,
And nothing can hold back what's inside you. 
Let it move you.
Let it lead your heart.
Don't be afraid to let yourself believe in who you are. 
Cuz today you're gonna be brave.

You are brave.
Let your brave come through.
Let it define you. 
You are meant to be brave.

Get your shoes, grab your courage, open the door,
You're about to see a you you've never seen before
And Heaven will be there beside you.
In the moments when the walls seem way too high,
trust your instincts, breath, and start to climb,
Cuz you have always been brave. 

You are brave.
Let your brave come through.
Let it define you. 
Cuz you are meant to be brave.

When you think you can't,
Strong when you have fallen
Bold enough to stand and be. 
You are Brave! 
Let your brave come through.
Let it define you.
Cuz you are meant to be brave.
You are brave.
Let your brave come through.
Let it define you. 
Cuz you are meant to be brave.

There are moments when you feel it and you know,
Something amazing is happening within your soul,
And nothing can hold back what's inside you. 

Even with feeling close to God, it doesn't make it any easier to leave my family.  The morning before I came in was rough.  After a week of preparing all the details, schedules, rides, meals, sports, scouts, and the house cleaned up, I felt weak and tired, and still felt like I was abandoning my family.  I told Hunter good bye and kissed him on the top of his head as he left for school.  I said, "I'll see you next Wednesday by the time you get home from school."  He said, "Oh, it's today you're going to jail again?"  I felt defeated and emotionally drained that he wouldn't remember.  Maybe I should count is as a blessing that he is always so optimistic and happy and doesn't let things get to him. 

Sawyr has an Indian diorama due at the end of the week, and I wanted to make sure he got it done and could turn it in early on Wednesday.  He finally had his Indian tribe and huts placed and glued just how he wanted them.  I decided to take the kids to school so he wouldn't have to maneuver his project on the bus.  He climbed in the car and I shut the door behind him.  By the time I got in at my side of the car, he was crying.  I didn't realize I shut the door on his project, knocking over the plastic deer and play-doh cactus he had worked so hard on.  Piper was mad that I had misunderstood how she wanted her hair done.  On the way to school I just about slid through 2 intersections on icy roads taking them to school.  By the time we got to the school, I was also in tears.  I kissed them both on the tops of their heads and told them to have a good day, feeling that would be hardly enough to carry them through a whole week without me.  Any other morning wouldn't have been a big deal.  I could walk them in to school or make them a treat for when they got home.  We could talk about it, apologize, and move on.  I felt guilty and frustrated and disappointed that I was having to leave them for a week in jail. 

When I walked in the door back home, I was an emotional mess.  My mother-in-law was there ready to take Walker and Bryer for their day.  She asked if I was okay.  "It's a crappy day to go to jail," I cried to her, already completely defeated before 8 am.  She hugged me until I could pull myself together.  I want to know what the big purpose of all of this is.  I'm tired of this process and I only have 9 of my 42 days served. 

Jason drove me the 2 hours on slick roads.  We held hands tighter than normal and he talked me into being okay.  I don't know what I would do without him.  He reminded me of funny things the kids said, how this will all be over soon, and how strong I am.  Too soon we pulled into the jail and kissed good-bye.  I have thought today a lot about how Jason does it.  I can't imagine how he feels to drop me off, completely unsure of what I'll face this week, not being able to check in, and feeling helpless in protecting me as he always has.  Maybe that's why he could only drive me to the jail.  He emotionally couldn't walk me to the doors or to check in at the window.  It's so hard being at a point that we have to say good-bye.  A couple should never have to endure the things we have together.  It could have made or broken our marriage.  We chose to let it strengthen us.  It still doesn't make it any easier to say good-bye and know he'll be Mr. Mom for the week without me. 

Check in was a lot of the same as last time.  I will never get used to the sound of the heavy doors shutting behind me in each room or hallway I walk into.  I will also never get used to the feeling of being 'ushered' from the guard behind me.  When I'm shopping and ask the clerk to help me find something, s/he will lead me to where I need to go.  In jail, the guards have been trained to walk behind the inmate, so they give verbal cues of where to turn, when to stop, and what door to wait at.  The guard asked if I had any medical conditions that prevented me from sleeping on a top bunk.  When I answered no, the guard asked again if I was sure.  I learned that most inmates come up with some medical reason why they can't have a top bunk - bad knees for climbing, seizures, anything that will keep them from sleeping with the light in their face I am sure. 

Once I was changed into my stripes in a private area and was waiting for the guard, I said a prayer to myself that I will be both strong and tender this week.  I prayed for my Bunkie again also, that whoever I will be rooming with would be who God wants me to spend time with.  The guard took me back with my bedroll and the few items I had left at the jail from what I purchased last time I was there - shampoo, conditioner, a hair brush, and writing supplies. 

I walked through the door to the common area and the heavy door shut behind me.  Here I go again...  Karen saw me walk in and her face lit up.  I have to admit that it was nice to see a familiar face too and know she was still there.  At the same time, I felt a little strange walking in and already knowing someone in jail.  The guard directed me to a cell upstairs where a woman was sleeping on the bottom bunk.  When I put my pile on the table, she woke up and rolled over.  It was a lady I remembered from last time I was here and I felt instant relief.  I hadn't gotten to know her very well, but I had watched her enough to know that she prayed before she ate and I hoped that meant good things were in store.  I asked her what happened to her Bunkie from when I was here before and she said she is in The Hole (solitary confinement) for fighting right now.  Immediately I felt like I was intruding.  I can't explain a feeling of not being in the room I felt I should be in.  First, the girl's personal things were still in there.  She had only taken her bedding with her to The Hole.  I didn't want her to get out and find that I had taken over her place.  And if she's in there for fighting, I don't want to step on toes with a person like that right away.  It's a strange feeling to be directed to a cell, but not feel like I'm welcomed.  Second, I spiritually felt like I was supposed to be somewhere else.  I can't explain that feeling because the lady that was in there was clearly 'safe.'  She would be a good Bunkie for the week!  Why did I feel like I shouldn't accept that? 

After I got out of the shower to wash the routine flea chemical out of my hair at booking, a guard came in and asked me to move to a different cell 2 doors down.  Even though I had already started trying to settle in and had made my bed, I felt relieved that I was being moved.  There was a new girl that had just gotten there that was on the bottom bunk.  I moved my things down to her cell at the top of the stairs.  Pretty soon the girl whose bed I had taken was released from The Hole and came back to her cell.  I'm glad I wasn't there when she returned. 


My new Bunkie seems nice, but is pretty quiet.  Her name is Rachel.  Even though she's new to this facility, she's been transferred around enough to know other girls.  In the common area there are 4 metal tables and I've watched the girls cycle through here.  The longer they are here, usually the closer they get to sitting at the table closest to the door.  It's like the coveted junior high table where the popular kids sit.  Rachel has only been here a day I think and she's already sitting at the head table.  I have no desire to try to 'fit in' at the popular table where the regulars sit, but I'm intrigued at how the dynamics work and change as girls are transferred in and out. 

I got my few things organized in my locker and my bed made and then just sat on my top bunk.  Ok, I'm here.  Now what?  What am I supposed to do?  I just want to leave.  I want to go home and hear how my kids day went at school.  I want to smooch on Bryer and read books with her and Walker on my lap.  I don't want to be here.  What could be more important than my family?  Especially with the rough morning we had together.  I want to go home and make sure everyone is okay.   I don't want to try to find some way to fill my time when there's plenty of more important things that need done at home.  I said a prayer to help me understand why I have to be here when I haven't done anything wrong.  I don't deserve to be serving a jail sentence for a medical misdiagnoses. 

I wandered downstairs to say hi to Karen and see what books there were under the stairs ready to be taken to the library.  Karen filled me in on the fight that went on and the drama since I left.  Karen was the one to be attacked, as was her side of the story.  The other girl had another story.  At first I felt even more upset.  After so many neat experiences with Karen, I felt frustrated that she hadn't kept that up while I was gone.  As I have thought about it since, I can't blame her.  This is a rough place.  I only lasted 9 days last time before I was completely shot and ready to go home and rejuvenate.  For the 3 weeks I've been home and spent Christmas with my family, she's been here.  She did say how much she loved the milk carton gifts she got to open at Christmas and told me that she had parts of our Christmas scene she saved for me. 


After a boring stroll through the common area and saying hello to a couple of girls I remembered from before, I found the jail handbook and took it back to my cell to copy down some wording for the requirements for Good Time.  Karen told me before that I could get 5 days off my sentence for being a 'good inmate,' so I wanted to make sure I was following all the requirements to make that happen. 

"Every county inmate serving a jail sentence in the jail who has a good record as a prisoner and who performs the task assigned to him/her in an orderly and peaceful manner, shall upon the recommendation of the sheriff and the judge, be all owed 5 days off their sentence for each 30 days sentenced.  Housing fees must be paid in full before good time is allowed." 

Last time I was here I put in for the jail seamstress position, but they had denied me the job because I am a temporary inmate.  I decided to put in for another job, just to be sure that I was attempting to receive a responsibility.  I don't want them to have any reason to deny me 5 days less in this place than I have to be here.  I've been paying my week at a time for housing fees as I come, but I will bring enough next time to cover the remainder of my sentence. 


I want to get to know Rachel, but she's a little intimidating for me.  She's quiet, so I don't know what she's thinking.  She sits with the girls that have been here a while, so I guess that automatically makes me feel intimidated by her.  When she woke up this afternoon, I got up enough courage to ask her a question to try to start a conversation.  I asked her if she knew what the process is to get property that's been shipped in.  She didn't know, but she said she could ask one of the other girls.  I don't think she was being rude, but she was so short so it's hard to know how to take her.  I'd much rather her ask one of the other girls so I can huddle in my cell.  Karen and Crystal are the only other ones I feel comfortable talking to. 

I have property that my mom ordered and had shipped in while I was home.  Everything has to be shipped in brand new from a website.  No personal packages since people smuggle things in that way.  (Weird!)  I think there's a CD player with headphones, a Hilary Weeks CD, and some crochet supplies from my grandma.  If I could get my items, at least it would pass the time learning to crochet and I'd have good music in my ears. 

Last time it took me a day or two to figure things out and settle in.  I hoped it would be quicker this time, but I'm feeling pretty lonely trying to find my purpose here. 


Before I came in the first time, I made a decision not to ask the other girls what they are in here for.  I wouldn't normally introduce myself to someone new on the outs and ask, "So, what are you struggling with?"  or "What are your temptations?" or "What big things have you done wrong in your life?"  So I don't ask these girls either.  I've had to get creative with how to introduce myself or how to start a conversation. 

I went outside to break with some of the girls today.  We were just standing around so I asked one of the girls what she likes to do when she's out.  She looked at me and offered one word.  "Drugs."  I was kind of taken back at her honesty and didn't really know what to say to that.  She's young, maybe not even 20 yet.  "Well, that's honest," I told her.  I asked her what she used to do when she was younger and she listed off years of volleyball and swim team with awards she received.  It threw me off to hear about all these successes when, here she sits, in jail.  Maybe she was exaggerating, but she didn't really have a reason to lie to me. 

I'm going stir crazy.  I just want to go home.  I have such a hard time going a mile a minute in Mom-mode to down shifting to a slower pace with so little to do.  I borrowed Karen's Bible and finished my day with an inspired verse I opened up to: 

Luke 22:42, "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."

The footnotes sent me to 2 other verses (Mark 14:36 and John 6:38) that are similar.  So timely, it reminds me of the pleading I did to God before sentencing when I was facing a maximum 180 days.  It was also the words Christ spoke when He knew the hardest part of his life's mission He needed to fulfill.  I had asked God just this - please don't make me endure jail time, but then added - if it's His plan, then I will try my best to go willingly.  The judge decided on 42 days - a lot less than 180!  Not what I want, but what God wants for me, and maybe for whatever connections need to be made in here.  This week will be for Him.  Not for me.  Not for my family.  But definitely for Him.  When it gets to be too much, I'll rely on that.  And I have to have faith after I've prayed so sincerely for a Bunkie that I am supposed to spend time with.  I have to know that Rachel is who He has chosen for me.  I'll try to be brave.  Let a new week begin...