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?
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!
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
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
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!