Sunday, December 28, 2014

#54 - I think I can, I think I can (Journal Entries Through February 1, 2014)

It started out as a normal day.  Breakfast, clean up, getting kids off to Saturday practices, returning emails, then I packed my things and took our 3 youngest to my in-laws and my mom met me there. 

And then....  My mom drove me to jail.

If it happened everyday for a year, I still wouldn't be used to it.  I go about my normal life for 3 weeks with mom responsibilities, driving to practices and piano lessons and volunteering at the school, signing permission slips and helping with homework and cooking meals - and then one day I drive 2 hours away and check myself into jail.  I thought it would get easier each time, but it never does.  It just never does. 

I walked through the doors, completely free, and spoke to the person through the glass to tell them I'm there to check in.  Surreal.  Like a strange movie, here I go again...

I'm trying hard not to be grumpy each time, but it's extremely hard not to break down and feel the injustice and unfairness in this whole situation.  I have to remember that I can do good in any situation I am in.  And if that's not with my family, then it better be darn worth it!  I have prayed diligently each time I have come in for 1 thing in particular - that the Bunkie I am matched with will be one I can be some kind of light to. 

Check in through booking did seem a little easier this time - or am I just getting used to it?  The guard on duty wasn't as thorough as they have been in the past.  I was thankful she skipped the 'flea dip' that's supposed to kill head lice, along with a couple other details.  Should that be a compliment of their trust?  I'll take it as a blessing, as degrading as the process can be. 

Every time I come, they start out friendly and buddy-buddy, asking how my day is going.  That slowly fades away as I move through booking.  By the time I've given up all my belongings and am dressed in stripes and orange crocs again, I'm considered an inmate.  Then they are all business. 

Funny thing is, I wouldn't have it any other way.  It would be awkward if I went through the process with someone that was not professional about it.  I'm not asking for any favors or special treatment, so I would rather be 'one of the girls' in there than anything more.  It's a tough job they do and they've done a good job and drawing the line and sticking to it. 

However difficult it is to check myself in to be punished for something I didn't do, I've wondered a lot of 'What if's' this time around.  What if all this sacrifice being here was translated into a moral strength for my kids?  What if it were translated into Bryer's continued development?  What if it were translated into more patience or energy for Jason as he takes care of kids while I'm gone?  Would this all be worth the sacrifice? 

Without a second thought - of course! 

But what if those blessings of 'what if' weren't seen in the near future?  What if it took a lifetime - or the next life - to see those blessings.  Would it still be worth it?  It's not immediate gratification, but of course it would be worth it!  The things that are of the most worth are also worth the biggest sacrifices. 

Hmmm.  Yes.  The things that are the most worth are also worth the biggest sacrifices

As I write that, I think that maybe these girls are of the 'most worth' to Him.  So this sacrifice this week must be worth it.  I'm human though and I still have doubts and frustrations and deep sadness and all the emotions that come with being in a place like this.  I hope I will be in tune with the spirit this week for Him to use me.   


They moved me through booking and gave me my bedroll and hygiene packet for the week.  Through a couple heavy doors that banged shut behind us, the guard escorted me to the common area once again and assigned me to a lower level cell with my new Bunkie. 

Nettie and I will be sharing a cell this week.  She's a strong lady and from what I've gathered, she's spent most of her life in the system in one state or another.  She's a black lady and keeps her short hair in cornrows most days.    She doesn't seem hardened though.  She's easy going and counting her blessings that she has a roof over her head and food to eat.  For the circumstances she's come from, this may be a step up.  She's as humble as they come.  I remember her praying at church the last time I was here and was touched by her words.  She seems content to be here and happy to have a simple talent to share, by cutting the other inmates' hair on Saturdays when the guards bring in the scissors and razor. 


Netty helped me get my mattress into the cover and sheets on my bed.  She's been around long enough to know all the tricks.  "Fold your mattress like a taco," she told me.  I kind of wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as she gave me tips to put my cell together. 

A handful of girls came to the door of my cell to welcome me.  Rachel was one of the first and I was so glad to see her still here!  There's a 1/2 dozen that are the same and they were all friendly and went out of their way to welcome me back and tell me they were glad I was here again.  Rachel said when they found out I was coming back in, she told everyone they needed to be good.  I've heard a lot of 'Oh my goodness!' since I've been here - far from the normal language used.  I have to laugh.  Rachel has fully taken a hold of her leadership position and I love to see her using it in a positive way.  I never said anything about watching their mouths or changing anything they do - especially for me.  It's unnecessary, but completely appreciated! 

At one point I heard one of the new girls ask one of the regulars, "Who is that?  Why does everyone know her?"  When someone new comes, the first question is always 'What are they here for?'  A normal reply would have included a list of the charges, what facilities the inmate has been through, rehab programs, etc.  I heard this inmate say, "Oh, that's Krissi.  She comes for one week a month."  I kind of waited, bracing myself to hear the charges or anything else that would identify why I am here.  But there wasn't anymore said about it. 


I talked to a new girl today.  She has 3 boys that she loves very much.  Before all of this, I think I would have thought, "If you love your kids so much, why do you let all this other stuff get in the way of that?!"  Since I've been here, I realize it's not that easy.  She is free of all the addiction that seriously runs her life.  It's not just a matter of not seeking it out.  It takes commitment - every. single. day.  And sometimes every single hour.  It's a struggle and a fight to stay clean.  And when she thinks she's doing good and staying away from the temptation, then the temptation finds her.

She said her 3 boys have keys that they wear around their necks.  They are the keys to their mom's heart.  As sentimental, and maybe a little cheesy as it sounded, I just imagine these 3 little boys running around on the playground with keys to their mom's heart flopping around their neck - while she sits here in jail because of an addiction she can't overcome on her own. 

I asked about her tattoos.  Just to write that seems funny.  I would have never asked someone about their tattoos before.  But she went into detail about her swirly bracelet with her boys' names on her wrist that swirls up her forearm.  She wants it to swirl all the way around and up her arm and around to the back of her neck where she'll have 3 hearts with keyholes in the middle.   

I'm not one for tattoos, but it's the way she tries to show her love I guess. 


The girls watched 'Cops' today on TV.  I was confused for a while, watching their reactions.  I remember watching it with my uncle a few times when I was little and singing the theme song, "Bad boys, bad boys, whacha gonna do?  Whacha gonna do when they come for you?"  We'd clap and cheer for the cops when they chased down the criminal and caught them. 

Watching it with these girls was the exact opposite.  The girls here show that same excitement, clapping, and whooping, but for the criminals trying to get away.  They yell things like, "Run faster!  Get out of there!  They're right behind you!"  It's the same for shows like Locked Up.  The bad guys are the cops to them.  It's a whole different world in here. 


When I left this morning I told Walker that I would call home about 7:30.  I should have known better.  When I'm locked up, there's no guarantee that I will be able to call at a certain time.  My phone privileges hadn't been turned back on yet so I couldn't call until 8:30.  I tried not to pace while I waited to call, thinking I was looking like all the other moms in here that say they will do something and then don't.  8:30 was past his bedtime.  Luckily he was still awake.  I sat in the chair right next to the phone - mostly because I have to sit right next to the phone with the cord as long as it is.  (Wouldn't want it to be long enough for someone to swing it at someone or use it to strangle themselves.)  Walker seems fascinated just by the fact that he can talk to me while I'm actually in jail.  "Are you in jail now?"
"Did the police let you use their phone?"
"Yes, but it's expensive to call."
That was all he needed.  Just a check in and to confirm we're all okay.  I'm glad for Jason and our families that make things as normal as possible for our kids while I'm gone.  Still, his sweet 5 year-old voice made me tear up, as short as it was. 


Before bed one of the girls that's been here a while asked, "Why are you here again?"  I reminded her that I found my 2 month old baby not breathing during a nap.  I thought that much information would be enough to jog her memory for her to remember my story and charges.  She looked at me like she didn't remember, so I went on.  "I called 911 and did CPR until help arrived."  Still no indication that she remembered.  "By that night they were accusing me of child abuse."  It seemed to hit her out of no where.  She sat there just shaking her head, "That's just crazy.  They don't know who you are, do they?" 

I just laughed at the irony of it.  No, actually they don't. 


I had a hard time going to sleep.  I laid there thinking about my family sitting in church tomorrow lined up in a pew without me.  I thought about how refreshing and rejuvenating church is.  It gives me oomph for another week.  I thought about how much preparation we put into church.  We spend Saturday shopping, cleaning, and doing laundry so we can take Sunday 'off.'  We sit in a pew in our Sunday best, teach our kids to be quiet and reverent, spend 3 hours at a church service, Sunday School and then separate guys from girls for separate lessons.  We do all this with kids in tow and trying to look and be our best. 

And then... life happens for the next 6 days.  It's messy and chaotic and full of changes to try to adjust to.  All of that learning and knowledge and good feelings that we absorbed on Sunday has to last us for 6 days as we are tested, tried, tempted, and feel the disappointments of life.

It's easy to apply patience, faith, hope, love, charity, and be Christ like when we are all dressed up looking our best on Sunday.  The real test comes through the week.  I think a person's traits are magnified through the things that test them. 

My feelings haven't changed - I still would rather just huddle in my cell on my bunk.  It would be easier to mope.  Feel sorry for myself.  Let the emotion take over.  Miss my family.  Be mad at the injustice.  Get frustrated. 

But God did not create us to be miserable.  He didn't.  Like the verse says, "Men are, that they might have joy."  I know that joy comes from thinking outside myself.  Be a light.  Find something of myself I can share.  Set a good example.  Laugh with someone.  Be a good friend.  Understand.  Have compassion.  Be a listener...  That all sounds easy when I'm sitting in church...  And a lot harder as I lay on a thin, worn mattress in jail listening to a big black lady snore on the bottom bunk under me with the light in my face. 

...In 6 more days, it will be fully squeezed out of me and I will need to refresh.  I will pass this test this week.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

#53 - Jail Break #2 - Life on the Outs (Journal Entries Through January, 2014)

Home has never felt so good.  As hard as I have tried to keep my regular schedule in jail, it still throws me off to come home and actually move at a quicker pace.  A week shouldn't make that big of a difference, but I haven't had anyone else depending on me - and actually, I've been doing all the depending on other people.  Meals, laundry, mail - all of that part of life has been handed to me for the past week.  As much as I don't like it, it's still a struggle to get out of jail and make all those decisions and prioritize while having 5 littles and a husband counting on me.  That's just after a week of being gone and walking in to a clean house with laundry that's all caught up!  (Thanks to my extended families.)  I have thought a lot about what needs to happen when these girls get out.  How would this transition be easier for them?  Most of them are sent to a half-way house, which isn't really the best circumstances since there is a high rate of relapse from what I hear. 

The kids loved the idea of Cheerio necklaces that Karen made for them from her breakfast cereal.  They have no idea that she gave up her meal to make gifts for them. 
At church I looked around at all these people that seem so blessed compared to the stories I have sat with the past week.  While I'm in jail, I try to keep my real life separate from jail.  But now that I am on the outs, in the midst of all my blessings, I wonder how I can share more of my real life with jail life.  I've worried about feeling soft in there and staying tough, not wanting to mix the two, but now I wonder how I help these 2 worlds collide?  I would love these girls to get out and be enveloped by a rich, warm community of support and be submerged in service and hard work and helping others right from the start - so much  - that their temptations would go by the wayside.  Like the verse in Luke says, "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall loose it; and whosoever shall loose his life shall preserve it."  It does no good to always be looking to satisfy ourselves.  That's when we lose our life right along with the purpose of it.  But if we loose our life (our desire to satisfy ourselves) in the service of others, that's when we can see and understand a bigger picture.  I want these girls to experience it first hand what it's like to help someone and think outside themselves.  I want them to feel that tingling from head to toe or wet eyes that come from the spirit when they have helped someone. 

There's a whole big world out there when we don't just focus on what's in front of us, but instead, who is beside us and what we can do to help.  These girls have focused so long and so hard on their own problems and what's wrong with them.  That's a heavy feeling to bear.  Maybe they have forgotten that others have problems too - and even more - that they could be influential in helping them! 


One of the most asked questions I have gotten since I've been out this time is how the kids are handling all of this.  We have been open and honest with them from the start.  They knew originally that I was going to jail because the doctors thought I hurt Bryer.  It sounds harsh to put it in writing, but it's the blunt truth.  After this last 'vacation' (that's what Jason calls it) I was able to explain to them how God used me for good in there.  They ask me candid questions and I give them honest, kid-level answers.  If this was just the beginning of gospel discussions, it would have been hard for them to understand, but we've talked about God's Plan for us and our family so often that any discussion - from 2 mintues to 2 hours comes naturally.  Here's a few of their questions from this week, and my response. 

Is it scary in there?  It's a scary place, but I'm not scared while I am there.  It's never a place I would want to be without the Holy Ghost to help me make decisions. 

Is the food good?  It's really good!  Piper would like the chicken alfredo, Bryer would like the canned peaches, Walker would like the little milk cartons they give us, Sawyr would like the pulled pork, and Hunter would love use his creativity to make something out of nothing. 

Are the girls mean?  Some of them are onery, but no one has been mean to me.  They don't use nice words and they don't talk very nice to each other.  There's a lot of cussing every single minute of every day. 

What do you do for fun in jail?  I play a lot of solitaire.  Some girls put big puzzles together.  We read a lot and watch TV, but there's a lot of girls to share 1 TV, so I don't usually get to choose what we watch. 

Do you get to go outside?  Yes, but it's only when they tell us it's time to go out.  And we come in when they tell us it's time to come in. 

Do you miss us when you are in there?  (I had to choke back tears before words would come out.)  I miss you like crazy and think about you the whole time!  I miss your voices and reading to you.  Every time I talk to you on the phone while I'm in jail, it makes me cry to hear your voices.  I miss cooking your food and hearing about your day at school.  I miss tucking you into bed and waking you up in the morning.  I miss your smiles and giggles and hearing what you pray for. 


Piper interrupted my dinner prep tonight and took me by the hand to show me something in her room.  Before we walked in, she had me close my eyes and led me through the door, across her room, and told me to kneel down.  When I opened my eyes I saw a big lego creation.  She proceeded to tell me all about the jail she had built and told me about each of the details, so matter-of-fact.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! 

Here is one of the girls sitting at one of the metal tables, with the guard watching her.  I have to say that the tables are pretty true-to-scale, especially for Piper not being there to see it! 

Piper didn't offer many details about this part of the jail, and I was a little nervous to ask why this 'inmate' looked like she was standing in the corner.  She said, "Oh, this girl is just going into her cell to get her spork and cup out of her locker before lunch."   

This is the rec yard where we can go outside.  We have a jailhouse cat, Junior, that visits and we can pet it through the fence (she left a little hole in the fence).  The kitchen girls feed Junior hotdogs and leftovers.  Piper told me, "It's even orange, just like the real Junior, Mom!"  Also notice the guard on post 'watching' the inmate in the rec yard.  I told Piper that they keep an eye on us outside, but I forgot to tell her they watch us from a monitor, not actually a person outside with us. 
She was so happy and proud to show me her creation.  I hugged her and as sad as I feel that I have to leave her one week a month to go back to jail, I am so thankful that she is well-adjusted and taken care of.  Creating a jail scene was not scary or worrisome to her, just a fact of life.  God has not only helped me weather the storm, but protected my kids as much as possible and helped them understand it along the way. 


Sawyr asked to take a copy of my cell drawing to school today.  Like Piper, he's so matter-of-fact about it.  I've held a lot of the rough details back since he's my sensitive kid and worries the easiest.  When it's all over, I'll explain that what a tough place it is to go.  Until then, he sees it as a positive experience where I am able to help others for a week at a time.  Why wouldn't someone want to share a picture of that place?....  Other than it's a jail cell.  He's not ashamed or embarrassed.  He wants to show his teacher and his friends.  After a long talk, I made him a copy.  I told him that if he wanted to show his teacher, that would be fine.  She's so sweet and understanding.  She is a safe place for him to talk, to share his excitement, as well as his worry if he has any.  I agreed to let the picture go to school.  He told me later that he wanted to show the whole class, but they (conveniently) didn't have time.  Talented teachers with such tender hearts and tactful judgment don't come along every day.  For Sawyr, she has been a gift and a tender mercy from God while our family goes through a rough patch.    


I got curious.  I know I should have learned my lesson before when I looked up Karen's Facebook page.  Her 'look' had thrown me off and awaken me to her real life - with the benefits of make up, hair products, real clothes, friends on the outs... her lifestyle.  I looked up the girls I remembered first and last names for.  And one by one, I was surprised.  They weren't jail inmates.  They were real people with friends and selfies and make-up.  It's amazing how 'real' they became once the rest of the world could get a hold of them.  In jail, they are stripped of all of that.  They are down to literally nothing.  Many of them are so humble.  They have hit bottom.  The friends that loved their parties are gone.  The make-up to cover their heartache - gone.  The clothes and parties and fun and boyfriends.  All gone.  Even the good things they did have going for them - family, support, a home, pets.  All.  Gone.  Separated from them for a time. 

While I was looking through some profile pictures, the banner popped up along the top of "People You May Know."  I scanned through several on the list.  2 of the guards.  The captain.  Was this coincidence?  Was someone messing with my FB?  I laughed.  Um, ya, I know those people.  They read my mail.  They keep me safe.  They hand me stripes and check my belongings when I check in through booking each time.  Again, my jail life and real life collided, right there on my computer screen.  Like one of my favorite quotes goes, "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.  You either have to laugh or cry.  I prefer to laugh.  Crying gives me a headache."  (Margorie Hinkley)


When I am in jail, I pray about home.  When I'm at home, I pray about jail.  Will I always feel this way?  I know where I am needed and how much I love my family, but there's a piece of my heart that I leave 2 hours away when I come home each time.  I never would have seen it coming.  I wonder how the girls are, if they are getting mail, if they are staying out of trouble. 

I called my mom and asked a big favor.  I knew Karen was going to court and I really wanted to go, but I have made an agreement not to have contact with other felons while on probation.  At the time I made that agreement, that didn't seem like a hard thing to do - I don't know if I even knew any felons.  And if I did, I didn't realize they were.  But now my eyes and heart has been opened to these girls.  I wanted to support Karen, but I also knew I needed to stay true to my commitment - so I asked my mom to go in my place. 

She went to the courtroom and sat in the same room as Karen, but Karen had no idea of the relation.  Court did not go well for her and they sent her back to jail.  After court, my mom introduced herself to Karen's mom in the hallway.  For my mom, I think it's been like I have been away at girls camp, and she was happy to meet another one of the moms.  Karen's mom was short with her and not very friendly.  I forget (and I'm sure my mom did too) that for these girls, it's not a good thing they are there.  It's probably embarrassing for their families and puts them in a tough position.  My mom walked away with much to be desired from the introduction. 

I am thankful that she went anyway.  She was willing to do something I could not do myself.  I am thankful for her service and great love for me that she would be willing to support an inmate that she never knew.  One that had shared shampoo with me and showed me the ropes from Day 1. 


I have stayed up too late most nights while I've been home.  My mind is never settled about Bryer.  I always feel like I could be doing something more.  I love to read and learn, so Bryer has been my subject for research.  Last night I was up way too late researching options for surgeries and alternative therapies - anything outside the box or on the front lines for cerebral palsy research.  I was probably more tired that I thought, but I started to break down emotionally.  I was mad that I was 'wasting' all this time in jail.  I was mad that we've spent the last 3 years spending money on court and attorneys and probation and jail housing and expert witnesses - instead of investing that money toward Bryer and her recovery.  I was mad that the time spent during her first 3 years of life - precious time that the brain learns the most and we can't get back - that instead of spending all our time researching what could be done for her, we spent time researching defense plans and SBS misdiagnoses and other cases and finding doctors to testify for us. 

I sat in front of my computer screen and bawled.  Why would God think all of this worldly 'junk' would be more important for us to go through than the importance of our little girl?!    In all my frustration and tears, the thought came to me that if Bryer was supposed to be completely healed, then she would be.  If God wanted her to be perfect, then He could make that happen.  If she was meant to be up running around and playing dress up, then she would be.  Christ healed a blind man.  He healed the leper.  He brought Lazarus back from the dead and made him whole.  That is not His plan for her

Being so humble and in tears, I can accept that.  I can accept that it is for a reason that she is the way she is.  Again, I re-align my thoughts with Him.  Where is the line between what God would have for her, and where I am supposed to help?  Where's the line between surgeries, proceedures, and therapies - and the fact that she is learning and growing just how she is supposed to be? 

This morning as she ate her oatmeal, she grabbed the spoon from me and for the first time she said, "By By Felf."  I asked her, "You want to do it by yourself?"  She giggled and affirmed, "Huh!"  I scooped her oatmeal for her and then handed her the spoon.  It was awkward, but she got the spoon to her mouth, closed her mouth around the spoon, and then pulled it back out.  She giggled, being so proud of herself, that a couple pieces of oatmeal fell from her mouth.  It made me laugh too.  Maybe she is closer to God that I give her credit for.  Maybe I need to listen to her cues to understand my role in what God has for her life.  I am not here to fix her, no matter how much research that entails.  Maybe she is already whole - not in a sense physically, but spiritually.  Being physically whole will come in the next life. 


While I have been home, I have continued with the blog, and this week I tried to get 2 blog posts done in 1 week so that it would automatically post while I'm in jail this next time.  I've had to revisit the long, painful days we spent in the hospital with Bryer, wondering if she would make it, all the interrogating, Christmas day split as a family, and all the stress came rushing back to my body.  There have been times as I have re-read my journal, that my body has physically shook.  It takes all I have to go back to those days and transcribe them to the blog.  At the same time, it's healing for me to go through it slow motion.  Everything was happening so quickly at the time that I didn't have time to process it all. 

I don't think it's a coincidence that we have a family living downstairs in our basement apartment that has a brand new baby girl.  As I have gone back to revisit the hours that drug on and the stress that my body remembers, I have felt so much comfort holding, rocking, and swaying back and forth with this sweet baby girl.  Abby has been a blessing to me to heal my heart while I grieve in slow motion.  She's a baby to fill my arms when I go back to a time that I couldn't hold my own baby girl. 

We had the family up for a game night the other night and as I swayed with this little girl in my arms, she peacefully went to sleep.  My heart went soft to watch her sweet little eyelashes so peaceful, much like Bryer looked before she had gone to the hospital. 

It's no accident that this family's own house flooded and they needed a place to stay.  It's no accident that they are hear to help my family while I am gone to jail.  It's no accident that I have a baby to hold while I re-visit my painful journal entries.  God gives us ways to heal our hearts when we are ready and when we are willing.   


In between each jail stay there are things that are essential for me to do.  Visit the temple is on the top of my list.  Attending church as a family bouys me up and re-charges me for my next week away.  There's normal kids stuff and house work, preparing the meals, and transcribing my journals for the blog.  The first time I went to jail, the church arranged for meals to be brought in.  The second time I went, I took meals to 7 friends in 1 day the week before and then they took turns bringing my family meals while I was gone.  This time, I have arranged a freezer meal swap, so my family has meals to eat while I am gone.  It feels good to be self sufficient, even in the middle of trials. 


Walker asked me tonight at dinner when I was leaving again for jail.  I told him I was leaving in a couple days.  He said, "Oh good.  I'm ready to go shopping with Grandma again!"  While I could have taken offense that he was ready to ship me off to jail again, I am thankful that Jason's mom has been such a rock for our family while I've been away.  She has taken over my role of taxi driver, homework helper, chef, maid, referee, and nurse.  Because of her, our kids are not being tossed from one house to the next.  They keep their regular schedules of school and practices. 

In the meantime, they are gaining a stronger relationship with their grandparents.  They are creating memories and games and inside jokes.  What could be a stressful situation has become a way to share our kids in a way we never have before.  It could have been so detrimental to 5 kids to have their mom in jail.  Instead they are creating positive memories and will look back at this time with smiles - like Walker says, "All the shopping I got to do with Grandma!"  We are a close family as a whole, but our kids have not had such an individual, personal relationship with Jason's parents like they have now.  The Lord strengthens families in mysterious ways. 

I'm ready, re-fueled, and headed in for another week... 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

#52 - 16 Days Down, 26 to go! (Journal Entries Through January 15, 2014)

My normal quite morning was interrupted like I have learned to expect every Tuesday morning in here will be.  Transfer Day.  I am just glad I'm staying put.  The anxiety levels increase and the same Tuesday-morning questions start at breakfast...
Who's getting transferred?
How many are leaving?
Do the girls in laundry know?
Do the kitchen girls know? 
When will we know if we are leaving?
How fast do we have to pack?
Where are we being transferred to? 
What rooms and bunkies does that leave open for moving around?
Do we have new girls coming?
How many?
From where?

In between all the questions and girls pacing, I got a surprise!  A huge dose of morning Mail!  Yes, with a capital M!  The guard handed me a pile and said she was sorry that they didn't get through it all yesterday.  That's why they didn't get it to me when I was so anxious yesterday during mail call.  I feel bad for thinking that maybe they were playing mind games.  I knew I had to have mail that came over the weekend!  It's so hard to not have any say over my things...  My property that was shipped in exactly how they instructed me, but 3 doors and 2 hallways separated me from getting it to me for 3 days; mail I have to wait to get while they read through everything; I can't turn off the lights to go to sleep; we have to wait for more toilet paper; limited when we can clip our nails; when we get our haircut; when we can go outside; when we can come back inside.  I don't know how girls last for years in here without going crazy!  No. idea!  Again, I realize that if I am going to have a jail sentence, a week at a time is a gift from God.  Strange, but a gift from God.  :-) 

The mail was worth the wait and took me an hour and a half to read through everything...  And then I read through it all again later.  The support and optimism was just that good!  Pictures from little kids tug at my heart... Cards and letters from people I don't even know...  a crossword puzzle...  a mini-lesson on courage... Pictures of ice sculptures in another state...  A newspaper article...  I could feel the sincerity from family and friends.  As I fed my spirit with all the mail, the verse came to me, I will "pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."  (Malachi 3:10)


Robin thought maybe she'd be transferred, so she returned my Elizabeth Smart book that she had borrowed.  She's in the other pod since she works in the kitchen, but some of the guards are good about letting us borrow books from each other.  Inside the cover, a paper fell out.  When I picked it up, I found another treasure she had drawn me.  It's better than having my camera in here! 

This is her depiction of the common area along with the cells.  4 cells on the bottom and 4 on the top.  2 showers under the stairs (only 1 at a time in the shower area though).  Although she drew some of the doors shut, the doors are actually bolted open all the time.  The 4 octagon tables in the common area are bolted to the floor, along with the round seats that are welded to them.   


To announce transfers, the guard came in with a big clear trash bag.  All the girls seemed to hold their breath as he walked across the common area to a bottom cell and told Sister to pack her things.  He stood there as he watched her empty her locker full of belongings into the bag.  He made sure she didn't give anything to any other inmates, and also made sure everything she had to transfer was 'legal.'  They took her bag down to the property room and left Sister there to shower and get ready. 

This whole process was different than last transfers.  The last time I was in jail (man, that sounds strange!) one of the girls passed out a lot of her belongings to other inmates, and then when she wasn't transferred she got them all back.  I don't understand it all, but I know Sister was not happy about the way all this went down. 

Next up, the same way was Brother, to pack up her things, and then Mama J.  I'll be sad to see Mama J leave.  She's like the Mom of the group and has a kind of calming manner about her and can find the sense of humor in any situation.  Those ones are too few and far between in here. 


Once the girls got transferred out, the new pecking order began.  With Brother and Sister gone, it left 2 empty seats at 'The Table,' like the popular middle school lunch table.  Rachel occupied one of the 4 seats already, but I watched as she invited one of the new girls to sit by her there.  Hmmm.  I never saw that one coming.  It's kind of entertaining to sit back and watch the chemistry change.  This new girl was one that Rachel and I had talked about needing a friend, so I had to smile inside to see that Rachel was taking her under her wing. 

It's a strong contrast of the phrase used in here all the time - but especially leading up to transfers.  "I came in by myself and I'll leave by myself."  I think it's a wall they put up, but also a defense mechanism to avoid getting hurt.  Both times before transfers I've seen girls pick fights and start arguments with those they are closest to - distancing themselves in preparation to leave.  Maybe they fear that abandonment after getting close to someone. 

While I wouldn't recommend finding BFF's in jail, it's also not part of God's plan for us to do this by ourselves.  It's the letters of encouragement, an inmate willing to share her shampoo, or a ride to jail next to my husband (I'd rather a different destination, but I appreciate his support) - those are the things that get a girl through it! 


There were also 3 new girls transferred in, so we're at capacity again, on the girl's side at least.  Rachel pointed out that it was nice of me to help the new girls.  I didn't know what she was talking about.  She said, "You know, when you showed them how to fill out their in-house commissary so they could have stamps and envelopes.  You told them when wake up time is and what the daily schedule is like."  All those things that felt so new to me when I first came...  I'm no seasoned veteran, but everyone needs a friend! 


There's been freezing temps in the mornings here.  I do my lunges and jumping jacks to keep warm and wake me up in the morning.  Lots of times I'm the only one that chooses to go out in the mornings.  When I'm ready to come in (sometimes sooner than later depending on the tempature), I stand at the heavy metal door waiting for someone to notice I'm standing there.  In the event that no one notices, I am supposed to continue standing there.  One time I waited for over 15 minutes watching my breath in the cold, wondering if they had forgotten I was out there.  I pushed The Button to the right of the door.  Immediately a guard unlocked the door, and then reprimanded me that the button was only to be used in case of an emergency.  I've learned it's best not to explain myself.  It's easier to finish my week on good terms.  I do understand the button.  The same button is in each of the cells, at the door to the common area, and at each door throughout the hallways.  What I don't understand is how to get someone's attention when I'm ready to come back in if they don't notice I'm there. 


Karen showed me an article in the most recent church magazine.  The Ensign.  It's an awesome, faith-building magazine that comes each month and is put out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  A friend of mine brought in a stack the last time I was here.  I was amazed to see the article "Real-Life Changes Inside Prison Walls."  I love that this inspired magazine has had this timely message - for not just the types of people I see at church each week, but for those that may be struggling to overcome similar situations as the girls in here.  It is more proof to me that God loves these girls and wants the best for them! 

When I came home, I took this picture.  You can also see the friendship ring on the right, which Karen made for me to replace my wedding ring that I couldn't wear in jail.   Here's a link to the whole article.


Tonight was Bible study, and maybe one of the highlights of my time here so far.  Not because of the Bible study itself, but the conversation and opportunity that happened.  The girl Rachel took under her wing thought she'd be leaving today and she didn't.  She's anxious to get on with her life and start her rehab programs instead of just sitting in here for another week, at the very least.  She's had to begin this tough journey of coming clean on so many levels.  She's gone through the detox phase physically, but now she's feeling the emotional effects.  She spilled her heart out on the table at Bible study about her 2 year old little girl that she left, living in a camper with her parents who are also doing drugs.  She cried out her regrets and frustrations and all the coulda, woulda, shoulda's that she wishes she could go back and do over.  She talked about how hard this life is and pleaded to know why.  It was heart wrenching to watch this young girl - so young - go through so many emotions all within 20 minutes time.  She's been clean less than 30 days and is coming to a fast realization of all the hurt she's caused and her little girl she took for granted.  She wants it over - erased - deleted - to start over - but it's hard to ignore that she's stuck in this place.  It's a pretty overwhelming feeling to be here and feel 'stuck.'  There may be nothing worse than a feeling of not being able to progress. 

As several of us filed out of the MPR room and back down the hall, waiting at each door for it to be unlocked for us, I thought about what the new girl had said.  I listened to the other girls in line say how sorry they were.  Then one of them casually mentioned, "Let me know if I can do anything to help."  Like a trigger, my mind sped up for what I could do to help.  The rest of the girls got back to the common area and went about their regular activities.  I kind of wondered, "Did they hear this girl's pleading?  Hadn't at one time, they felt that same struggle and hurt?" 

If someone told me in the middle of our struggles, "Let me know if I can do anything to help," I honestly would not know how to respond, let alone ask.  People stepped in with fundraisers, family meetings, a call for fasting, organizing dinners.  Sometimes people that need help are blinded and need direction.  They need hope and faith and prayers in the most essential of ways.  I could not have known all of this 3 years ago, but as I stand here in jail, I know it now!  Of all things, those were the traits that carried us through our trials up to this point. 

I went back to my cell and stewed.  And prayed.  And stewed some more.  If Rachel had come in, she would have questioned my pacing and quiet tears.  She hadn't gone to Bible Study, and although no one has said it, I've understood that what happens in Bible Study, stays in Bible Study.  Like I try to keep my real life separate from my life in here, these girls' only 'out' is Bible Study, so out of respect, it's kind of kept seperate.

I couldn't make a dinner and take it over like I would for a friend on the outs.  I couldn't give her anything of mine - and besides, what would I give her?  I couldn't put a Band-Aid on it all.  I know this girl sitting here in jail can't have a quick answer with a snap and everything is fixed.  What I do know is that she is hurting.  As hard as it is to watch, I've learned that it's okay that she's hurting.  In order to change, she needs to feel the depth of what she's done.  In the meantime, she needs some hope.  Faith. Prayers.  The essentials.  How could I transfer my own hope and faith to help carry her?  I thought about the single most influential way I have felt that and it is through music.  I went to my locker and pulled out my CD of Hilary Weeks, praying there would be a message of comfort I could share.  It's not exactly a full list of YouTube songs to have access to, but I knew God could use Hilary to pull through for this girl! 

I don't think I did anything special.  It's the same thing any woman in my place would have done if they felt what God would have them do.  I scanned through the CD and a song stuck out like it never had before.  I found one of comfort, perfect for her.  I could hardly wait to walk down to her cell a couple doors down! 

I found her crying on her bed, nearly an hour after Bible Study had ended.   It confirmed my thoughts that the well-meaning gesture of "Let me know if I can do anything to help," was not working.  Her bunkie had left her alone.  The other girls from Bible Study played cards like normal and cranked up the TV loud.  I stood in the door of her cell and spoke her name.  We're not aloud to go into each other's cells, so she had to be willing to come out to me, which I didn't know if she would do.  She sat up and wiped her eyes away, I'm sure feeling silly that I had found her still crying.  I told her I felt bad for the things she shared at Bible Study and that I had a song that maybe she would like. 

As she climbed off her top bunk, I wonder what she was thinking of me, but it didn't really matter.  She was willing to make the short walk to hear what I had for her.  I am here to offer whatever help I can and put myself out there.  Over the course of 3 years, I have learned that what God thinks of me is more important than what others think of me.  It's still hard to put myself out there, but it's so worth it! 

I handed her my earphones and clicked through to the right song.  She handed one earphone back to me and said, "Don't you want to listen with me?"  I asked if we could sit, and then I took one earphone and she scooted closer so we could share - right there in the doorway to her cell.  The music played the words of a good friend - even as Christ would say to her right now. 

Right Here, by Hilary Weeks

I already know you're strong
You don't have to hide your tears
Even the bravest
Have moments of fear

I can see beyond today
And I believe, I believe in your tomorrow

When it seems your dreams have abandoned you
When doubt is pounding at the door
When the flood is rising
When the fire of hope has turned to ashes
When the road fades beneath your feet
I'll be there by your side
I'll be there for you
Right here
Right here

As the clouds begin to part
When the blue is breaking through
When your dreams
Come looking for you

You won't have to call my name
'Cause I'll be here, I'll be standing here beside you

When you see miracles surround you
When the grass is green on every side
When the sun is shining
When you are standing at the summit
When the sea parts to let you thorugh
I'll be there for you
Always I'll be with you
Right here
Right here

When the song ended, she sobbed.  She thanked me for letting her hear.  As the guard made his rounds and made it to the end of the line where we were sitting, she reached out and grabbed me to hug me unexpectedly.  I squeezed back, knowing that the timing of her hugging me was not great.  The guard, in his gruff voice, said, "We don't allow physical contact in here girls."  Then he turned to leave.  We looked at each other and kind of had a laugh.  No regrets. 

We talked about this life and where we came from before earth.  I gave her the scripture Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee."  We talked about God's plan for her and why we are put in hard situations.  From my teary eyes to hers, I said, "I don't know why you've been sent to the family you have.  But I know that God sees serious strength in you.  He knows that with His help, you can get through this and succeed.  You can be a good mom for your little girl.  You'll need His help though!"  By the end, we were both crying and emotionally wiped out.  She asked if I had any other songs for her to listen to, so I put on "Beautiful Heartbreak," one of my favorites.  Again, I felt a sisterhood with this girl.  No matter what differences our pasts have had, I am thankful to be put in a situation to help bear someone else's burdens.


Rachel and I had more good conversation about her addictions.  She talked about her struggles with the father figures in her life and trying to fill that void.  We talked about what a positive father figure would look like in her life.  I reminded her again that she has a father that misses her and loves her very much - her Heavenly Father.  She is literally His child.  As much as I have missed my own kids while I've had to spend time in here, I know Heavenly Father has missed Rachel terribly as she has made choices that have kept her from staying close to Him. 

I am sad to leave tomorrow, hoping I have done all I was prompted to do.  I am thankful for tender mercies.  I am thankful that it only lasts a week at a time, as it sucks all my energy to stay positive. 


This morning I was thankful for my regular routine - and to know that I get to leave in a few hours!  I spent my morning putting on the finishing touches for the 'souvenirs' to take home to our kids.  I tiptoed around the cell as I showered and packed up my things.  Rachel was still sleeping when I left.  I don't know if she'll be here when I come back again.  I left her a note on the table reminding her of her worth and her potential. 

As I reversed the booking process, the guards became friendlier.  I can't imagine how hard it is to do their job day in and day out.  It's a hard line they walk between being professional and friendly; protecting themselves and not being taken advantage of.  By the time I was done changing out of my stripes, having them go through my things to take home, and getting my coat on, the guard started talking to me like a regular person.  I laughed to myself when the guard unlocked the door for me to leave and said, "Have a nice day!"  I felt like I was walking out of a movie.  This surely cannot be my real life! 

My mom was there to pick me up.  I have never been so excited to have lunch with her!  I gave her my washcloth and showed her my new crochet skills.  I was excited to tell her all about my stay, but even more excited to get home to Jason and kids! 

Here are the souvenirs... Basketball player paper bag puppets for Hunter and Sawyr, a hat for Bryer, crochet flowers for the girls hair, a ninja mask for Walker, and friendship bracelets for all of them.  Also pictured is my purple Barbie shawl and  the coaster I made that was supposed to be a hat.  Not bad for jail supplies!   

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#51 - Choices and Agency in Jail (Journal Entries Through January 13, 2014)

When I talked to my family at home yesterday I knew Jason wasn't feeling good.  His parents took the kids to church with them.  It stresses me out to know that my family needs me out there and there's nothing I can do about it.  Jason and I have had this agreement since we got married that neither of us would have a bad day on the same day, nor  get sick together on the same day.  After breakfast my body reacted to the stress and my stomach started to churn.  Most of the girls went back to bed and I tried to distract myself from being sick by reading scriptures.  Even being in jail, a body doesn't wait to get sick.  It would be so much easier if I were in my own house with my own comfy bed.  I dreaded waking up Rachel.  I was trying my best to keep it together and then they called for 7:00 headcount.  That would be easier than waking her up myself.  She would have to get up anyway.  I felt bad for the next hour, that instead of going back to bed, she sat in the common area while I was sick in our cell. 


There has been coffee trouble in here and I am glad I don't drink the stuff!  There's a handful of girls that have containers they have saved from their store commissary - salsa, shampoo, peanuts - anything that comes with a twist top lid.  They fill them to the rim with coffee in the mornings, put them in their thin window seal to stay cold, and then when they wake up for good at 10 or 11, they warm it up in the microwave and have their coffee.  Some of the new girls caught on and filled up on their coffee too, so there wasn't enough by the time the regulars went to fill up theirs.  Oh the comments that started flying like, "Those little munchkins *** stashing their *** coffee like hoarders."  The regulars were mad that the new girls did the exact same thing they were doing.  I don't get it. In 'real life,' I'd say, "It's coffee girls!  Just coffee!"  But in 'jail life,' I can see how worked up they get over the simplest things because they have very little control over anything that goes on in their life at this point.  Tensions were rising and I could tell that this could be the beginning of something bigger.  As I walked by to throw something away, I paid a compliment to Sister, one of the ring leaders.  At first she studied my face to see if I was joking or making fun of her.  She would be the first to call someone out if they were messing with her.  When she realized I was sincere, she said thank you, and then the subject changed and things started to cool off.  I caught a smile from Rachel out of the corner of my eye.  I suppose the whole situation was enough for the new girls to realize not to mess with the coffee. 

The funny thing is...  Their agency to make most of life's choices has been taken away by being in here.  They cannot make choices about when/what they eat, what they wear, and when they talk to family.  But, they are still given agency over their attitude an the way they treat others. 


I was fixing my ponytail this morning and my hair tie broke!  With long, curly, crazy-without-mouse hair, I was upset that my hair would be in my face for the remaining 2 days.  One of the girls took the broken band from me and tied the ends in a knot so that I could use it again.  Maybe I haven't been in here long enough to realize that when something is broken, you still don't throw it away! 

Rachel tried to help me with my broken CD player, but it's not reading any CD's.  Instead, I have used my batteries to listen to someone else's CD player. 

One of the girls at church yesterday requested us to pray for her and for someone she had offended.  This woman explained how her victimizer used to choke her in her sleep.  She would wake up, not being able to get free, with her tongue heavy in her throat.  She still has flashbacks and nightmares of the repeated offenses.  Her Bunkie has repeatedly come to wake her up, and touched her in her sleep.  Her experience has taught her to sleep so softly that even with the lightest touch, her mind will race back to that place.  In her words she was very 'assertive' Sunday morning and now her Bunkie has been offended. 

It made me think of how many times I may have offended someone, not meaning to, or been offended easily.  Have I reacted the same as her Bunkie, thinking how much that person over-reacted, or have I given that person the benefit of the doubt?  Maybe they are having a bad day or just lost a loved one or are worn out from caring for a sick family member.  I can't imagine what these girls have been through before they have gotten to this point.  I have heard it said again and again not to touch someone in here while they are sleeping.  Before, I only had an idea of why, but this woman opened up and shared her heart and requested prayer on her behalf. 

I love that the girls that attend church here are so willing to share prayer requests.  On the outs, it's maybe a form of weakness to ask others to pray.  In here, they are already humble and have no where else to go but to each other and God. 


I got to know one of the other girls better during break outside today.  For not having make up in here, she's naturally very pretty with dark, naturally wavy hair and dark eyelashes.  She looks way too young to be in here, and even younger to have a 2 year old little girl.  I envisioned a supportive family back home that is worried sick about her, doing all they can to help.  As I talked to her, I couldn't have been farther from the truth.  She said she was a good mom the past 2 weeks.  She stayed clean, she played with her little girl - knowing that sentencing was coming up.  When it came time for court, her mom drove her to the doors of the courthouse, dropped her off, and drove away.  She said at sentencing her face was covered with meth sores, her hands were shaking, and she was scared at the possibility of going to jail for the first time. 

She said her family used to go to a Christian church when she was little.  She wanted to be an FBI agent when she got bigger.  Her mom has a picture of her handcuffing her teddy bear.  When she was 9, they lost everything when her dad was arrested for growing marijuana in their house.  She watched him leave in handcuffs, at the hands of the police, and learned that police were 'bad guys.'  They took her dad from her and she decided she didn't want to be an FBI agent anymore. 

As I listened to her talk, her eyes got a panicked, distracted look and her head started shaking, watching something pass on the highway.  I turned around to see a state trooper turning in to the parking lot of the jail about the time she said, "Oh ***, there's a cop!"  Even locked in jail, her body and emotions reacted to law enforcement.  She calmed down when she realized she is already in jail.  She's thought about breaking out.  Another girl in here made it out before from a different facility.  She was on the run for 17 days before they caught her and brought her back for another 5 years.  Craziness! 

She talked about her daughter and how scared she is that she'll never find her again.  Her and her daughter were living with her parents in a camper, moving around to avoid 'things.'

Again, I wonder why I was sent to the family I am in.  Why was I so blessed to be stable and taken care of?  Why did I feel so confident and strong the very first time a friend offered me a cigarette?  I had no idea that as a 7th grader that decision was the fork in the road for me.  After I finished my conversation with the new girl, I went back to find my Book of Mormon.  There was a verse about choices that I found.  Nephi 2:27 says,

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity."  

Choose liberty and eternal life...  Or choose captivity and death...  It all starts with a choice.  I know where jail lands.  It's confinement.  It's claustrophobic.  It's stunted progression.  It's alienation and a separation from my family.  I suppose that's the way sin feels, even though I'm here for something I didn't do. 

The good news is that there is always repentance.  Jesus has died for our wrongs, if we will accept His sacrifice and act on it.  Liberty and eternal life.  The exact opposite of captivity and death.  Being free to choose for ourselves.  Unlimited potential.  Families for eternity.  Freedom.  Sounds refreshing!  (and like a lot of hard work that's completely, 100% worth it!

I came across a couple quotes in The Miracle of Forgiveness today.  Spencer W. Kimball says, "The difference between the good man and the bad man is not that the one had the temptations and the other was spared them.  It is that one kept himself fortified and resisted temptation, and the other placed himself in compromising places and conditions and rationalized situations." 

The other quote I really liked says, "The greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of the soul.  A victory on the inside of a man's heart is worth a 100 conquests on the battlefield of life.  To be master of yourself is the best guarantee that you will be master of the situation.  Know thyself.  The crown of character is self control." 

I think about the drugs that have played a part in these girls' captivity.  They are physically being held captive right now in jail, but even on the outs their addictions have held them captive.  Satan has tricked them into thinking that a life of drugs or stealing or murder or driving under the influence is liberating, free, getting rid of the things that hold them back, breaking the boundaries that rules provide.  Commandments are there for a reason.  Not to force us to obey, but to give us more freedom to choose for ourselves without being "under the influence," (or is it under Satan's influence?)


Karen asked this afternoon if things were more peaceful in here.  I recounted the day.  Coffee drama.  Cussing.  Songs I would never let my kids listen to.  Girls tearing pictures out of magazines of other nearly-naked girls.  Bunkies arguing.  Loud, solid metal doors that bang shut.  Um, no, I wouldn't consider it 'peaceful.'  She said she has just felt so calm and peaceful and thought maybe things had changed in here.  I told her it was her that had changed.  The scripture reading, waking up early, singing in the shower, visit from a friend, the Priesthood Blessing, going to church.  That's the way to feel different in here.  It happens on the inside, not the outside! 

She also gave me a green friendship ring she made.  It was a welcome replacement to my wedding ring that I'm not aloud to wear in here!  Plus it gives me something else on my finger to fiddle with. 


The girls were watching Locked Up.  I had more fun watching the girls' reactions to the show while they watched Locked Up.  I've had enough jail by living it, I don't need to watch it on TV too.  During a commercial break, one of the girls ran to get her pen and paper to write down one of the inmate's names on the show.  She pointed out, "It was only home invasion - and plus, he's cute!"  She plans to look him up when she gets out.  Whatever keeps her mind occupied while she's here. 


The guard came in this afternoon and said there is a lot of mail.  It's Monday, so they have overflow from the weekend.  She said they would be in to deliver it sometime before lights out (which is 11:00).  That's a long wait for my highlight of the day!  After not feeling great all day and worrying about my family, some support from the outs sounds really good about now. 

2:00 came and went.  No mail.  3:00 came and went.  No mail.  I told Rachel that I was going to take a nap and to wake me up when the mail comes.  She said, "Want me to wake you up if you have mail or are you sure you'll have mail?"  Maybe I was too smug, but I told her I was positive I would have mail.  About 5:00 I woke up.  No mail yet.  Do they like to play mind games?  Hold out for a reason?  Rachel did arrange for a pillow while I was sleeping.  I've felt a little intimidated by the girls who work in laundry, so I haven't wanted to ask them for a pillow.  I've made do, but Rachel noticed during my nap that I was sleeping without a pillow.  She did told me I needed to stick up for myself.  "It's a pillow!" she told me.  "They are not scary!  Just ask!"  I felt silly that she had noticed that I have been pillow-less for 5 days and called me out for not sticking up for myself.  She has a way of being assertive without hurting feelings.  She has a genuine way of communicating and I love watching her use her mouth to make positive things happen in here. 

Mail finally came at 8:00 tonight.  The guard came in with about 15 envelopes, which I didn't think was a lot, but maybe it was relative.  Each time she called an inmate's name to come get a piece of mail, I wanted to clap!  Like, "You're the next contestant on The Price is Right!"  I was so excited for each of them to have an envelope of excitement to open.  One by one, they went to get their letter, opened it, and returned the envelope to the guard.  I saw the pile grow smaller.  And then the guard left.  No. More. Mail. For. Me.  Out of 15 letters, none were for me.  That hasn't happened since my third day in here before people knew how to write to me.  I was sure there would be my own stack of envelopes that had collected over the weekend!  Feeling humbled, I sulked back to my cell to finish The Elizabeth Smart Story.  Rachel came back up to the room just to check in, but I know she was making sure I was okay without my mail.  She didn't need to ask and I didn't need to say.  She's very intuitive that way. 


This may be the first time I actually feel sad about leaving in a couple days.  I hope that whatever good I was meant to share, has been shared.  I hope I have said the things that needed to be said and done the things that needed to be done.  Like the girls have joked, "YOLO!" 

Like most nights, Rachel and I talked for a long time after lights out.  Not too far into the conversation, she started asking questions about my life.  A couple of the girls have been interested, but most of them struggle so much with thinking outside themselves that they aren't really concerned with someone else's past or feelings.  The other girls asked why I was in here.  I would explain, "I went to check on my 2 month old during a nap one day and she wasn't breathing.  I called 911 and did CPR until help arrived.  By late that night they were accusing me of child abuse."  That was the end of the story for most of them, which was fine with me.  I'd rather keep my 'real life' to myself.  Rachel, on the other hand, was relentless with questions.  "How is Bryer now?  Do you know why she stopped breathing?  How do you feel about it now?  Are you mad at the doctors?  What does your husband think?"  And then she asked me, "Was your family there when you were arrested?" 

Time seemed to stop for a minute while I realized that I am sitting here in stripes on a top bunk of a jail bed, having a conversation with another inmate - and I have never been arrested.  Rachel chimed in, "How does that happen?!"  The thought sunk deep into me, that as hard as all of this is to go through, that I have chosen this route.  I have chosen God's divine plan - His precise, exactly perfect plan - to get hope and love and compassion into the walls of this jail.  It's not me at all.  I just feel so blessed to be a part of it all.  It feels good to be an instrument in His hands. 

On that day, Bryer had to make a choice whether she would accept a life of physical challenges and stay with us or if she was done with her earthly life.  I don't know if she knew what was at stake or what was in her future, but I'm so thankful she made the choice to stay with us!  I found myself opening up to Rachel about what a special spirit Bryer is and how incredible it is to have her in our family.  I told her about the chicken pox and misdiagnoses of SBS.  I shared with her the dream I had early on about being sent to jail for weekends - not for myself, but to help the girls there.  I told her I wasn't mad at the doctors - that they have only used their limited knowledge to make a misdiagnoses. 

She stopped me a few different times, in disbelief that this could really happen.  Until now she had opened up to me, but I had closed myself off to most everyone else, only to let the the positivity I had show.  Karen didn't even know much about how Bryer is now.  I felt I was meant to share love and hope, not my story.  But the more I talked to Rachel, the more questions she asked and the more she wanted to know about my whole life - not just me in this jail life.  Before I knew it, I had become an open book for Rachel.  She knew my heartaches, my struggles, and especially my blessings in being here individually and specifically with her. 

In return, she has reminded me what a blessing I have waiting for me at the end of each week.  I mentioned during our talk tonight that I struggle with getting one of my kids to do his chores.  She reminded me again of a tip I had forgotten - agree with him!  "Yes, it does stink to have to do the dishes every day.  I wouldn't want to do it either if I were your age, but our family is counting on you for plates to eat dinner on and bowls to eat breakfast out of."  That's far better than taking an opposing side and fighting about who has to do the dishes. 

Rachel will be a wonderful mom someday.  I hope she will get that chance.  I am in awe every day to watch her communication skills change situations in here and make a difference.  She's a natural-born leader and has just used her skills with the wrong direction.  I love this tag-team game we play to help strengthen and teach each other.   


It really is all about choices.  No one handcuffed me and made me come to jail.  Even a jury didn't hear my case and put me here.  I chose to pray and allow God's answers to lead me.  It's not sacrificing myself and my family for 20 years like many others are serving time, but it's exactly what I can do one week at a time.  Choosing God's way doesn't mean it will be easy - in fact, lots of times it's much harder!  But I know it's always worth it!  As a friend of mine used to joke when we were going through something hard, like childbirth - "I can do anything for 6 hours!"  So it is here.  "I can do anything for a week at a time!"  My time this week is ticking down and I pray I've done my part.  I hope I have learned everything that was meant for me.  Maybe this is how God felt when He sent each of us to earth.  Like sending one of my kids off to kindergarten, I've tried to buoy them up and shared what I needed to, now it's their turn to make their own choices.  It makes me sad to leave these girls, as I don't know if the same ones will be here when I come back the next time.