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,
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.
*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!)
*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.