|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.