|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.|
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!|
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...