Sunday, March 29, 2015

#67 - Saying good-bye for the last time (Journal entries from March 28, 2014)

Leaving doesn't get any easier, even if I did it every month for 10 years.  However, I have never appreciated my short 42 day sentence (minus the 5 days good time) like I have today.  I am leaving my family for the last week of jail time! 


Jason drove me up, with Piper, Walker, and Bryer along for the ride.  I was hesitant to take the 3 littlest kids because of all their questions when they actually drop me off, getting an actual visual of the jail, and having to say good-bye.  It's different than picking me up like they have done before with the good news of having me home.  No little kids should have to say good-bye to their mom when she goes to jail.  I'm sure Jason will deal with the questions on the way home.  How many days?  Why does she have to go?  How will she get home?
On the way up, I voxed with Hunter and Sawyr (a walkie talkie app).  They weren't responding to my first few messages of "Make sure you clean up after yourself while I'm gone."
"Don't forget to say prayers in the morning before you leave for school."
"The clothes in the basket are clean.  Please put away what's yours."
I sent them a message that two boys would be more interested in. 

"Are you hungry for chocolate covered almonds?" 

Almost instantly I got a message back.  (surprise, surprise!)  I played with them for a good 25 minutes, cutting out the part of the message where I told them where the chocolate covered almonds were.  "Go into my room and look in the..."
Hunter: "Mom, you're cutting out."
Me: "Go into my room."
Hunter: "Ya, we got that part."
Me: "Go into my room and look in the..."
Hunter: "Mom, you're cutting out again.  Just tell us where."
Me: "Look in the..."
(Jason and I were cracking up laughing by this point, thinking of them so desperate to find out where we hid the goods.)
Hunter: "Mom, you're cutting out too bad.  Just tell us where they are." (Sawyr groaning in the background, suddenly starving for chocolate covered almonds.)
Me: (in slow motion talking) "The         chocolate          covered          almonds         are    in      the..."
Hunter: "Mom, make sure you don't push the button again until you're done talking."
Me: "Is this better if I don't push it until I'm all the way done talking like this?"
Hunter: "Yes.  Now just tell us where they are."
Me: "Walk into my bedroom.  Turn left..."
Hunter: "Ya, then what?"
Me: "Turn left."
Hunter: "I got that part.  Where do I go after I turn left?"
Me: "To find the almonds."
Hunter: "Where are the almonds?"
Me: "Go into my room and look in the...."
(We were now laughing so hard, that the thought of going to jail had completely escaped my brain.)
Me: "We are going to loose service pretty..."  "I hope you..."  "this before..." They are in..." Let me know if you can't..." 
Jason predicted a phone call any minute as a way to seal the deal in real conversation before we lost cell service.  In less than 30 seconds, my phone rang, and everyone in the car started giggling - including Bryer, who always laughs when everyone else is laughing.
I could hardly tell Sawyr where to go to find the chocolate covered almonds.  I knew they'd waited long enough and could just see them devouring them as soon as they got a hold of them just because it was such a pain to find out where they were in the first place.

I told Sawyr, "Go into my room and turn left.  Then go back out of my room and into Dad's office.  They are behind his computer."
Sawyr: (totally confused) "Why did you tell me to go into your room to begin with?"
Me: "Did you get my messages to clean up after yourself and say prayers before school? 
Sawyr: "Yes.  What does that have to do with the chocolate though?" 

More laughter as we said good-byes and I could leave my boys on a good note - knowing they had also got my mom-messages to clean up after themselves, say prayers, and put their laundry away... all for the sake of some chocolate covered almonds. 

When we got to the jail, I made Jason do a lap around the building, just to see if any of the girls were outside at break.  I wanted some kind of idea of who's in there before I walk in.  Will they all be new?  Will they all be the same?  The one thing I'm not nervous about anymore is my Bunkie.  After 4 previous times, it has been exactly who Heavenly Father has picked out for me.  This time should be no different. 

I hugged and kissed the kids individually and looked them in the eyeball to tell them I loved them.  I wonder if Heavenly Father was so intent, or more so, in wanting me to feel His love, before I left His presence in the pre-existence.  I'm sure He was sad to see each one of us leave, hoping we would come back safe. 


I don't know if I'm getting to the point of having a good attitude going in, but at least it's not a bad attitude.  I worked my way through all the steps of booking.  It's the worst part of my whole week, because it's so humiliating to me.  The guard checking me in could sense my modesty and apologized several times about having to do all this all over again.  It's comments like that, that make me wonder if the guards have heard about the blog.  Or do they now understand the kind of person I am after watching me on their monitors 24/7?  I am someone who is here, not because I deserve it, but because this 37 days sure beats even the possibility of 20 years of the same thing.  I am in here by a strange twist of God's plan, trying to figure out what my purpose here is and continually asking myself, "What would He have me do here this week?" 

After I was changed, the guard had also made the emotional transition from looking at me as a civilian to an inmate.  In a serious tone, she asked if I get along with Robin.  Knowing Robin was a possibility of a Bunkie, I wanted to jump for joy.  I tried to contain myself and give her a polite, "Yes, Ma'am."  She said I would room in that cell for the week then.  Robin was one that has been studying the Book of Mormon along with the Bible.  She knows both books cover to cover so well.  She was the one I created The Plan of Salvation for, which maybe ended up being more for me than for her.  She is the one that is such a great, unselfish artist willing to share her talents. 

I escaped booking again without lice treatment in my hair, thank goodness!  The guard handed me an envelope that had come for me while I was gone.  I reminded her that it was still sealed and asked if she needed it back.  She looked softly at me and said, "We're not worried about your envelopes."  I smiled inside, knowing I had won that significant amount of trust. 

I walked into the pod to a strange silence.  No noise usually meant it was either time for the med cart to come in for medications or it was bedtime.  No other time was it ever quiet in the pod.  I took my plastic bag of belongings and bed roll to a cell on the lower level where I found Robin laying on her stomach reading.  She sat up on the bed when I entered and started gabbing right away, "I knew you were coming!  The laundry girls said we had a new girl coming with your size of clothes who was bringing her own underclothes.  I just knew it was you!  I knew you would be my Bunkie!"  I laughed.  That is jail gossip at it's finest. 

I turned around to a welcoming committee at the door.  Rachel, check.  Kris, check. Dani, check.  A new girl stood with them and I introduced myself and shook her hand.  (In mid-shake I remembered that's not the norm in here to shake someone's hand when meeting them.)  I don't know if it was my excitement for it being my last week, or the good mood I was in from all the laughter in the car, but I started asking questions of the new girl.
Where are you from? 
Do you have kids? 
How much time do you have left?
I realized that not once had it crossed my mind to ask her why she was in here, which seemed like such a big goal for me in the beginning when I first came to jail.  Now it had come so natural to find the good things to talk about, rather than the things she had done wrong to get here.  Rachel interrupted us, "Is this new?"
"Is what new?" not really understanding what she was asking.
"This confidence.  All the questions.  You're having a conversation with Nicki that you completely initiated.  Remember when you wouldn't even ask another inmate for a pillow from the laundry room?" 
We had a laugh, and she made me feel good to see that I have grown in here over the past months. 

Robin laid back on her stomach on her bottom bunk and they all filled me in on the drama.  It's quiet in the pod now because...
There were a few heated fights.  Some of the obnoxious girls went to The Hole for a while.
There was frustration and fighting over the T.V. so it got taken away.
The microwave blew up, so we don't have that privilege anymore. 
The coffee is being taken out earlier in the morning, so they can't drink on it all day.

Then Tuck stuck her head in, "But don't worry, I told them all you were coming.  I said you would be leveling out all the emotions soon so everyone could calm down."  I laughed at her comment and said, "I don't know about that, but I'm here."  Happy to also see Tuck here still, check.  Although I'd like to think it's me that they love having here, I know it's the Holy Ghost I can bring with me.  I wish they could connect it to God's love for them, rather than me.  I just feel like I'm the lucky one that gets to bring it to them. 

A couple of the girls commented on my curly hair being down.  (Flattery, I'm sure.)  Then 3 of them asked to see my wedding ring.  I panicked when I realized the guard in booking hadn't taken it from me!  How did I make it through booking with my wedding ring still on?!  That is definitely not supposed to be in here!  After showing the girls, I decided to find a time to hand it over to one of the guards.  First, to be honest.  Second, to prevent having to explain how my wedding ring went missing when I wasn't supposed to have it in here in the first place.

Robin brought out a long, hand-written chart of the TV schedule, detailed with who wanted to watch what and when.  Genius!  The girls hoped this would be the solution to getting the TV back.  The girls are given so few possessions/privileges/control that they freak out about the few things they do have control over - T.V., coffee, the microwave, and their store commissary.  I think the TV schedule will give them a visual of thinking outside themselves to see each other's requests - that there really are people that have other ideas of what should be watched on T.V.   

The girls were anxious to hear about my month on the outs.  I was hesitant to share the details of my family activities, but I shared with them how they changed what I did on my weeks out.  I told Kris that I gave each of my kids a big lick on their faces when I got home - just like she said she would do when she got out.  We laughed about our kids' similar reactions of wiping it away, saying "Moooommmm!" but then laughing about the ridiculousness of it. 

I told Dani how I shared a video on Facebook about Deseret Industries where she used to work, and a guy just like her that got a fresh start.  I told her I cleaned out my closets to donate so that I could help other people like her.  She thanked me, I think halfway surprised that I would think about her while I was away. 

I gave Rachel a hug and told her it was from her mom.  I met her amazingly strong mother while I was out.  Although I can't pass along notes or messages, nor do I have any desire to, I feel honored to transplant a hug from a worried mother to a daughter who needs it.  In the mix of transition from real life to jail life, I remembered there's no hugging or touching in jail.  About that time the guard over the loud speaker told my welcoming committee to move away from my cell doorway, as the policy is to keep all doorways unrestricted. 


I got settled and unpacked my things into my locker.  I made my bed for the first time all by myself.  I folded my heavy plastic mattress like a long taco, and slid my mattress cover over it, careful not to let it touch the floor, and lifted it onto my top bunk.  Hello light in my face again - Can't say I've missed that!  I laugh that the very first week I was here, I didn't know what the mattress cover was used for and I spent the first 3 nights trying to stay directly on my blankets so my skin would not touch the used mattress I was sure was infested with germs, disease, and bodily fluids! 


After some peaceful reading and journaling, I'm headed to bed early at 7:30.  (When else can a mom put herself to bed that early?!)  I read tonight from the Book of Mormon and found a verse I hope for my kids to be like, "...they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all - they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God to walk uprightly before him."  Just like anything else I want my kids to do, I have to first do it myself so they can learn by example. 

So, on my To Do List this week -

Be exceedingly valiant for courage
Be valiant for strength and activity
Be truthful
Keep the commandments
Walk uprightly before God

Let's do this (right after a really long, good night sleep)!


For readers that are interested in Bryer's next step, here's the link.  We'd love you to join us to Wake Up and Be Different along with Bryer!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

#66 - Life on the Outs (Journal entires from March 2014)

In case you missed my special Wednesday post about the most asked question I get, here it is...


The best news all day was knowing I was leaving.  It was also the saddest news all day.  Is it strange that I'm so conflicted about leaving these girls?  This place?  This feeling of being in the protective palm of God's hand while I'm here?  Now I go back out into the world and adjust.  "I'm only in here 7 days," I tell myself.  It can't be that much of a shock to my system.  Yet every time... it just is.  Every time I think about those girls who have spent not days, but months and years behind bars and then are released to endure the shock.  I don't expect anyone else to understand that hasn't been here. 

Choosing anything in the whole store to feed my body - and feeling overwhelmed by those choices.
Carpet under my feet when I get out of bed in the morning.
Going from someone else taking care of my laundry, dishes, and cooking - to being in charge of those things for 5 other little humans counting on me.
The single flush of the toilet in the morning (who'd a thought that's so strange, but I laugh to myself for the first few mornings)
No more smells of coffee and bleach and no sound of the TV being on constantly
I will soon enjoy magazines that have all their pages still in tact, with color that hasn't been rubbed off. 
I won't have to wear flip-flops in the shower.
I won't miss the crunchy plastic pillows and scratchy wool blankets.

And then I will miss... The sounds of giggling after lights out - like some strange slumber party! 
I will miss... The contrast of Sunday visitors in their church clothes.  Soon I will be sitting in a pew at church with people all around me, dressed in their Sunday clothes.  It's such a bright sight after the black and white, the concrete and metal, and the language I hear hour-by-hour.  I never fully appreciated that sight until I sat behind glass to see my very own visitors file through in full color. 
I will miss... The girls, the conversations, the light I feel within me in here. 
I will miss... Feeling my purpose so distinctly. 
Most of all, I will miss my in-depth scripture study for hours and hours every day, including those times I get to read and explain so intimately with others to help them also progress. 

I have thought about the contrast of things in here and how it's helped me appreciate how good I have it on the outs.  I am thankful that God has given us opposites so we can see the good. 

Today one girl turned to her Bunkie and said, "Don't come home for a while, I'm poopin."  Of course "home" is considered her cell.  The rest of us would be paying for it soon enough as well in small quarters.   I just shook my head, counting down the hours until the guard would come get me. 


Tuck was sleeping while I packed up, so I decided to write her a letter.  I left it with my Bunkie to give to her when she woke up.  I also left several of my inspirational quotes and inspiring pictures in my locker, hoping they would be some sort of light to the next inmate to take over my space. 

I am so thankful to have gotten to know you!  I love your personality and sense of humor.  You have so many good traits.  You are always smiling, even when you are struggling or having a rough time. 

I hope you can feel how much Heavenly Father loves you.  Those that have hurt you will answer to Him.  For you, I know he has placed a strength in you strong enough to overcome these things.  Rise above them and be strong!  You got this!  It doesn't mean you don't cry to let it all out.  Just know that the tears are not forever. 

This week we met at every meal.  I would love to meet you in the temple someday.  There you can find relief, peace, and understanding and feel that unconditional, true, pure love that Heavenly Father has for you.  Until that time comes for you to go to the temple, I pray you can feel that love in your heart.

This picture I have kept as my bookmark in my scriptures, but I think you could use it.  The prophet says we should have a picture of the temple somewhere we can see it every day.  So find a place for it.

I love you Tuck and feel very blessed to be able to spend this time with you.  You have a special spirit and Heavenly Father has great confidence in you and a spot in Heaven waiting for you to make it.


I included a picture very similar to this one.
Photo Credit: Scott O. 

With that I packed my meager belongings into 1 grocery bag, my mail and 'souvenirs' for the kids into another grocery bag, and waited to be called.  A lot of the girls were sleeping, including Rachel, and I left quietly not knowing if they will be here when I come back for my last time.  With my Good Time approved and 5 days off my sentence for being a good inmate, it has worked out that I have one more week exactly to spend with the girls that God will have picked for me when I get back.   


Words cannot express home.  It makes me excited and tired all at the same time.  I can't sit close enough to Jason and our kids to hear about their week.  Their words can't reach my ears fast enough!  They were excited about their souveniers, but I warned them that they were 'jail-quality,' not to exceed any great expectations.  I gave Jason his friendship bracelette that matches my 'wedding ring' that I wear while I'm in.  The bracelette turned out to be too small so he tied it to his cell phone case as a reminder that I'm thinking of him.  Hunter loved his new beanie with the strings that hang down, just as he hoped for.  Sawyr is now sporting some crocheted fingerless gloves - easier to catch a football with.  Piper loved the matching friendship bracelettes for her, Bryer, and their baby dolls.  Walker got a lizard bookmark (which was a bigger hit than I thought) and a crochet teepee for his army guys.  Tuck teased me and laughed uncontrollably that the teepee didn't have a door - one of those things that's only funny in the moment.  Walker didn't mind. 
This is how you make gift bags in jail - and also why none of the magazines are complete
Some highlights from my month... Our family took on the "I Pray When..." challenge by thinking of times we pray and taking pictures to document. 
When there are so many things I feel like I missed out on, I am thankful that there are some things that don't change.  However simple (and kind of cheesy) my gifts were, they appreciated them.  Their faith is in tact.  Jason's mom has done an amazing job taking care of all the mom things while I have been gone.  I can't thank her enough.  It took Walker about 3 days to ask, "Mom, how many more days until you get to go back to jail?"  I laughed at his wording of 'get to.'  He said that's how many more days until he gets to go back to the D.I. with Grandma.  I'm glad this whole experience is positive in his eyes, even if it means I'm missing for 7 days out of the month.  I'll choose not to be offended.  :-) 
When I was out earlier this year Jason and I met with one of the leaders of our church.  We had met with our bishop several times, but this felt different.  A couple weeks before the meeting a well-meaning family member warned that my temple recommend better not be taken away.  Now 3 months later, it's funny that that still sticks in my head.  It really had a profound impact on me.
It got me thinking...
1 - What if... my temple recommend really was taken from me?!  I have heard of others who have gone through church discipline and had their recommend taken.  It's my ticket to the most peaceful place on earth.  Could I make it without it?  Where else can I go where I feel that degree of unconditional peace - that solace I crave between weeks in jail? 
2 - If the leader we are going to meet with is truly inspired, he will understand that I am paying a price for something that I did not do.  Right?  He receives inspiration and has the spirit of discernment.  Right? 
3 - If my temple recommend is taken, how will I react? 
I somehow felt that this sentence I am asked to bear has been set upon me by the 'world.'  It's a test.  I can pass a test of the world with flying colors if I understand my purpose in God's plan.  But what happens to a person when they are critiqued by the very church that has been such a strength?  What happens when the single most peaceful, healing place is taken away when I crave it the very most? 
It was a serious and prayerful week leading up to my meeting.  I worked things out in my heart and my mind that would have come no other way but through divine inspiration from God. 
Going into the meeting, I knew I was walking in with a clear conscience with what I was being accused of and serving a jail sentence for.  That has great power and brings with it a great confidence in the eyes of the Lord. 
I also knew that this man Jason and I were about to meet with carries church and Priesthood authority.  That being said, he is a man of flesh and blood.  He makes mistakes just like anyone else. 
I decided that if it came down to it and he were to ask for my temple recommend, that I wouldn't hold it against him, nor the church.  I have come too far and received too many confirming experiences of God's love to let one man's mistake stand in the way of my progression.  I'll say it again, because it really has had that big of an impact on me.  I have come too far and received too many confirming experiences of God's love to let one man's mistake stand in the way of my progression.  Being in a leadership position, I would fully accept what steps would need to be taken to receive my temple recommend again. 
Jason and I had a good meeting.  I was able to share some of the insights and experiences of jail that have strengthened my testimony.  He shared divine counsel with us and I felt that warm and fuzzy spirit as we both spoke and listened.
And then we walked out of his office.  With my recommend still in tact. 
I don't believe it was all for nothing that I sent through that process .  I needed to prepare myself and work things out in my heart to know where I stand.  Where I stand. 
Today, I went to the temple.!  It was glorious and beautiful and peaceful just like I needed so badly.   
After my time inside, I took a trip around the outside, which is not usually my routine.  I found a unique perspective.  I wouldn't have noticed it before.  Looking through the bars at the most sacred place on this earth to me I wondered about the placement of the bars that reminded me so much of jail. 
Then I came to this open gate, inviting people in right from the street to walk the temple grounds.  The symbolism I took from it was not to keep people out - but to invite them in.  The metal fence is to keep the world out.  That same peaceful feeling I receive to recharge is there because it's different than what the world offers. 

Just as many of the girls have connected jail to being their safe place, the temple is mine.  In jail they are kept from (or protected from) their temptations.  They count on being fed, having housing, and are taken care of.  They are not really free though.  They can't come and go as they please.  They don't have agency to choose. 

The temple opens possibilities up.  By living the standards that make it possible to hold a temple recommend, I'm given more agency.  Like the song says, "Keep the commandments..... In this there is safety.  In this there is peace." 

While I was in the temple today I put names of my new friends on the temple prayer roll.  That means that hundreds of people that come through the temple will be praying over those names.  Individual daughters of God in this journey back to him.  Rachel.  Tuck.  Robin.  Dani.  Pam.  Netty.  These girls that He desperately misses having a connection to, are now being prayed for within the walls of the temple.  I know He will answer those prayers on behalf of those girls.  I can only hope they are ready to receive those answers and blessings. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Most Asked Question

Sitting here in front of my computer, I can't express how blessed I feel to get to know my readers.  When I first had the thought to share our story I didn't know if I would face more adversity through those that felt I was guilty.  Still, once a person receives a strong impression from God to do something, there's no other choice but to act on it.  In opening myself up, I have heard your stories in return.  (And I have yet to read one negative comment!)  I love the brotherhood and sisterhood there is in overcoming hard things.  I love that we can lean on each other. 

I love hearing how someone decided to stop smoking.  Seriously!  Smoking - a lifelong, hard habit to break. 

Another decided to begin a workout program after battling extra weight most of her life. 

Many, many, many have turned to the Lord in prayer and in returning to church.  These individuals that have made changes, have in turn, changed their families for the better.  It's hard to take that first jump.  Man, it's so stinkin hard.  Deciding in your mind to change - to do something different - is the first step.  We're in it together and most times that strength comes from God sending another person to help us along the way.

I have been asked lots of questions... Do I still keep in contact with the girls I served time with?  Where was the jail located where I served time?  Will I ever know what happened?  Do I feel like suing the doctors for false accusations?  How am I helping other families going through the same things?   

There is one question - one little person - that is always the #1 question...  How is Bryer doing? 

This little girl has been a miracle in the making.  I'd love to say that she has fully recovered, but that has not been in God's plan.  Doctors told us there was a high probability she would be a vegetable the rest of her life.  Feeding tube.  No speech.  No emotion.  No voluntary movement.   

No one informed Bryer of that expectation. 

She counts to 10 (and beyond), she feeds herself, she plays peek-a-boo, and loves to be packed around to play hide and seek.  She has been pretending to be different characters (Olaf, Anna, Nanny McPhee) since Halloween.  She rolls and scoots short distances.  Her siblings argue over wanting to sit by her in the car.  Her smile is contagious and there's not a trip to the store that her curls do not draw attention. 

She has literally changed lives. 

Not bad for a little girl who doesn't crawl or walk.  How many of us can say we've done that - and most of us have full use of our body?! 

Through a lot of research and answered prayers, we have found a surgery that will help Bryer.  What was going to cost $112,000 and not covered by her current insurance, we have found another insurance carrier that will cover all but about $10,000 of the procedure.  Bryer's diagnoses is Cerebral Palsy, which is a very broad term that means the messages to/from the brain are interrupted.  It makes it hard to control her muscles or purposely relax them.  She has spent most of her 4 year old life fighting against tight muscles to do what she wants to do. 

I'll explain the procedure and then how we want to include you.

The surgery has 3 parts:
  1- to form the hip socket so that her hips don't dislocate, which they will if left untreated. 
  2- Tendon lengthening in her heels so that she can stand flat footed instead of on her tight ballerina toes; tendon lengthening on the inside of her legs 
  3- Alcohol blocks in those same areas, as well as her arms so that she will have full range of motion.  The blocks interrupt the signal to the brain to stay tight, stay tight, stay tight. 

The big question is "Will she learn to walk?"  We feel that this is the best option to set her body up for the best possible outcome.  It will be up to her brain to make those connections once she is able to feel how her new body moves without all the tightness.  We are optimistic with the motivation she already shows, that she will want to walk. 

She will be under anesthesia and then literally "Wake Up and Be Different."

.... which is where you come in!  We would love for you to join us in Bryer's new challenge to

Wake Up and Be Different 

Her surgery is scheduled in Texas for May 13.  We have been warned that it will be a painful hard couple of weeks after surgery.  We want you to find a way to stretch yourself for the month of May and set a goal for a way you can also Wake Up and Be Different. 

We've set up a t-shirt campaign online and we'd love your support.

Click here to show your support.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

#65 - Cell Toss! (Journal from March 1-2, 2014)

I woke up this morning and the first thing my Bunkie said made my day.  "One more wake up kiddo and then you're out of here!"  I smiled at the thought of her calling me 'kiddo,' but also knowing that I would be home with my family soon.   


One of the girls had a question last night - What are the mushrooms called in Super Mario?"  When you want to know something in jail, they all say, "Check out," which really means ask the other girls. didn't know the answer, so she asked one of the guards.  He's a quiet guy and just shrugged his shoulders, I'm sure wondering why the name of a mushroom in a video game is even the least bit important. 

Just after lights out (which really are just dimmed, but that's better than the full lights like we've had), the guard's voice came over the loud speaker.  Usually when they use the loud speaker it's to tell one inmate to get off the lap of another, or to make sure they have their stripes on if they are in the common area (as opposed to their white or orange t-shirt).  He came over the loud speaker and said, "The mushrooms on Super Mario Bros. are called.......(suspense and waiting, so we could tell he was playing)...... Goombas!"  There were whoops and cheers from a few cells.   It made my bunkie and me laugh.  I don't think a person quite appreciates Google until they have gone without it. 


Today I saw my blog in print.  Maybe that shouldn't be weird, but it was.  Mostly because it wasn't me that brought it in.  And it wasn't sent to me - it was sent to Rachel by her mom.  It was a strange piece of home that I didn't bring in here and it carried a lot of mixed feelings.  My words were on the page.  The words I had transcribed from my journals and typed from the comfort of home on my computer.  And now these girls were reading it.  I had told Rachel about the blog, but I wasn't prepared to actually see it myself in here.  That line between home and jail is getting blurred again.  Can I share my 'real life' and still protect my family?  Can I share this jail experience with my family without all the negativity creeping into our home?  The line seems to be fading that I have worked so hard to keep.  After my prayers today, I felt okay about things.  A sort of comfort.  It's okay that these girls read my story.  It's okay that they feel my pain along with my faith.  Maybe they can connect to that pain and rely on my faith until theirs is strong enough to stand on their own.  If it's something that will help them, then I am more than willing to share.  God has not given me this experience to keep to myself.  He has a bigger plan and I trust that He will protect us as this line fades. 


There is one event that happened today that has defined my jail experience.  One of the guards came in to make an announcement.  Girls' ears perked up.  They came wondering out from their cells.  They muted the TV to hear what he had to say.  He announced that there would be a Cell Toss.  Yes, a capitalized Cell Toss.  The guards come to look for anything that might be shady, contraband, illegal.  (Don't ask me how it's even possible to get things in here.)  The guard carried a plastic milk crate box and placed it near the front of the room.  He said that in 10 minutes he would be back to pick up the box.  Anything that was dropped into the box in those 10 minutes would be immune from consequences.  He added, "You could put a long knife into here within 10 minutes and it would still be exempt." 

He stopped talking and asked if there were any questions at all.  No one answered.  I figured they would all go back to doing what they were doing - really, how much illegal items could be in this place?  Aside from the rumor of a make-shift tattoo kit, I hadn't even heard of anything illegal.  The guard left the room and I went back to dealing my cards for solitaire. 

The girls immediately scattered.  I looked around to see that I was the only one not running to find what I could from my cell to throw into the immunity box.  Had I really been that naive?!  Was there really that many things right around me and I had no clue?  I felt better that they weren't coming out with a knife or two.  They did come out with CD players that weren't theirs, which had been passed around the pod once the original owner got transferred.  They had the thin, flimsy jail-issued pens with a shampoo sticker wound around it to make it thicker, then shrink wrapped with their saran wrap from their lunch sandwich to form a good, solid pen that was sure to leave the writer cramp-free.  They pulled out pumice stones they had stolen off the cleaning cart so they could use them for their feet.  They dumped empty shampoo bottles into the box (which can be used to make alcohol with the right ingredients, I learned).  I looked upstairs at my Bunkie, who shrugged her shoulders, showing me that we were the only cell without some sort of something to put in the box.  I decided I'd go up and talk to confirm that this was the case.  She said, "You might want to get rid of a few of those," as she pointed to the stack of National Geographic magazines on my bed.  Technically we're only allowed 2 magazines, even though no one follows that rule.  Guilty of reading too much?  I'll admit it.  I saved the 2 magazines that had articles about brain research and put the others in the pile under the stairs to go back to the library. 

Soon after the guards came back in.  They lined us all up at the door in the common area.  He took a look in the milk crate, happy with the amount of contraband items he had squeezed from the pod.  One by one, they took a girl out in the hall.  Then they would call the next one out, not returning the ones before her. 

Even though I wasn't worried about them finding anything in my cell, I was still a little nervous about what they were doing with us and where they were taking us.  I heard a pair of bunkies behind me whispering, "Did you get that one thing out of there?"  There were similar conversations going on and I could feel the tension of the girls as they were asked to separate from their 'home' and the few belongings they had. 

I waited my turn and when I was called out, I walked through the heavy door into the hallway.  I saw a cheerful lady from town I had met before on the outs.  Her smile and cheery countenance was out of place for the situation, but it made me feel more comfortable.  She asked if I had anything on me.  I handed her a pen from my shirt pocket, which she set on the window seal.  Then she proceeded to pat me down.  I felt like I was in some twisted movie, not real life. 

When she was done, she returned my pen to me and pointed down the hall for me to walk to the door of the jail library.  When I opened the metal door, the room was filled with the girls that had gone through the process before me.  It was quiet and when someone did say something, it was only about something they had missed from cleaning out their cell or worrying about something one of their friends still had. 

I know it was a worrisome time for the majority of them, but the fact was that there was nothing they could do about it now.  After a few more girls entered the room after me, I announced that I had gathered them all here together for the talent show.  Half of them laughed and half wondered if I was really serious.  Realizing I was kidding, they lightened up a little and quiet conversations began.  I turned to Rachel and said, "I feel like we should play a game."  I had seen that look before - 'You. are crazy.  This is no time for a game." 

I waited for another few girls to enter the room, and then the guard came in to do a headcount to make sure everyone made it to the room.  He said they would be searching all the cells and we were to remain in the room until they were done (like we could escape, even if we wanted to).  After he left, I asked if anyone had paper.  I had eyed a board in the corner on an easel.  One of the girls found a piece of paper laying on top of the books that lined one wall of the room.  I tore the paper into small pieces and told the girls to write a word on it that we could all guess.  As they wrote (and some rolled their eyes, but came up with something anyway) I set up the easel.  I wasn't completely sure if the guards would let us use it, or what they would think by watching the monitors while I set up.  We decided to play top cell inmates against the bottom cell inmates and started a game of Pictionary. 

I caught Rachel's eye during one of the girls drawing.  She was half smiling and half still thinking I was crazy.  Either way, I had a group of 15 inmates all playing Pictionary during a stressful time while they waited to hear what would be found in their cells.  Time seemed to stand still for a minute while I watched them laughing and shouting out guesses, and watching those with artistic talent volunteer to go first to earn points for their team.  Their stripes and orange crocs seemed to disappear and I only saw their laughter, their enjoyment, and their interests. 

When the teams switched, Tuck yelled over the chaos, "Hansen, this is feeling a lot of family night!" A couple others piped up that they agreed, feeling tricked.  I shrugged my shoulders, guilty as charged, and asked her, "It does, huh?  Isn't it fun?!"

We went on playing back and forth and joking how the bottom cell team had all the artists, and the score showed it.  We were interrupted by the guard as he unlocked the door and asked if we were ready to head back to the pod.  Several of them said we weren't ready to go back, but he lined us all up anyway.  I erased the board and tried to gather up the pieces of paper, not to leave the room a mess after all our fun.  We filed down the hall back to the pod.   

The only difference to my room I could tell was that my blanket was moved and my locker was left open.  The other girls settled back in, minus a few of their belongings.  For some that was more painful than others. 


Is it a coincidence that today's step in the Plan of Salvation is Resurrection and Judgment?  I have found so many parallels in today's events with Heavenly Father's plan. 

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 - "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."  This is a free gift that Christ has given all - that our body and our spirit will be reunited. 

John 5:28-29 - "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."

Alma 41 - The whole chapter is good and talks about resurrection, but it also talks about how we will still have the same characteristics and traits that we have here. 

Revelation 20:12-13 "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." 

I thought about as we were called out of our cells for the announcement.  We were given fair warning of what we needed to do.  We needed to get rid of anything that was not in line with the rules (commandments).  I relate this to repentance and giving up sin.  For some, they had lots to 'clean out.'  For others, not as much.  For me, it was just extra magazines - but still, they were extra magazines and were not in accordance with the rules.  The important part was that we still had our agency to choose for ourselves if we would get rid of those things or risk keeping them.  We could give those things up, or hold on to them.  For many, it was scary either way.  In jail we have so few possessions, that to give up those few things (like a CD player that didn't belong to a certain inmate), it's like giving up our livelihood - the way we know and feel comfortable living.  In real life, it's scary to give up those items - those habits - those friends - those grudges.  But if we could see what blessings are in store for us, it would not be hard for us to choose. 

As I have assimilated this place to Spirit Prison and Spirit Paradise, I thought about waiting in line to be searched as the process we will go through to be united with our bodies again.  We will each be resurrected.  Christ gave us this gift through His atonement.  I will be resurrected with my body the same as the old person in a wheelchair is reunited with hers; the same as the wild teenager with piercings and tattoos smoking pot will be resurrected with his.  I'm still curious with what age our bodies will be when we are resurrected - to our perfect frame (say, our 20's?).  It's a nice thought. 

Will it be scary for us?  Will we feel nervous?  Will we feel comfort when we reach the next step and see a cheerful face that reminds us we are headed in the right direction?  Or will we sit and worry about all those things we should have gotten rid of and didn't?  Will we kick ourselves for not listening to the warning?  Will we mourn the life we could have had with our sacrifice?  Will we feel sheepish that we wanted to hold on to those items, those bad relationships, those grudges, or habits?

Or will our spirit run to be reunited with our body?  Will we be overjoyed to reach the next step?  Will we feel free, knowing we have taken full advantage of the warning and taken care of all those mistakes when we needed to?  Will we meet God on the day of judgment having full confidence that those mistake we made were taken care of and that we can stand faithful before Him? 

Every single person is in this process right now.  The same feelings I had sitting in that room are the same eternal feelings I have about these girls - I would love to scoop them all up and return home with them.  I want to see the happiness on their faces and hear their laughter and know we are together at 'family night,' reunited together after taking care of all the big and little things that keep us separated from God. 


I went to bed on an emotional high and ready to meet my family tomorrow.  Before I covered myself in my red blanket on my top bunk, I saw my reflection in the mirror with black and white stripes, an orange undershirt, and matching orange headband.  I laughed at what I saw, knowing that even jail is no stumbling block to what Christ can do to a person's heart.  It's the inside that matters. 


I can't express how blessed I feel to connect with so many old and new friends and hear stories of how you have been touched by this adventure.  There are a few questions that I get asked repeatedly, but one is asked far more than the rest and something that is a current day struggle for us.  I will have a special blog post on Wednesday to answer that question.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

#64 - Breaking Through Walls (Journal from February 28 and March 1, 2014)

Maybe the last couple of days of each week I'm here should be a piece of cake - the downhill slide before I go home.  That doesn't seem to be the case.  I miss my family more, my emotions are closer to the surface, and the language gets to me easier.  I'm also learning that the last two days are the times I get bombarded with the most questions and discussions.  I never know who will be here when I get back each time, so I try to soak up the time with them while I can.  I'm reminded over and over in the back of my head that I will never get this opportunity again.  Several of the girls asked how long until I come back the next time.  

This morning the words rang in my head, like every other morning.  "Wake up and be different."  Today was one of those days I just wanted to pull my snuggly red fleece blanket up over my head, hide from the light in my face, and go back to sleep.  I don't want to wake up to oatmeal with a side of peanut butter.  I don't want to put on my stripes.  I don't want to stand in line waiting for the mandatory cup and spork exchange.  I don't want to be in jail.  Period.  I'm ready to go home.  Still, there are things to endure, work to do, and conversations to be had. 


When we read scriptures as a family we try to relate the verses to what it means to us and make it personal.  So for my studying this morning, I looked up the word 'Prison' in the index and topical guide.  It sounded personal enough.  I knew stories of people from the scriptures that were imprisoned, but reading it in here brought on new meaning and I found myself getting teary, relating myself to them in a direct, personal way. 

I read about Joseph in the Old Testament.  He was falsely accused of making advances toward Potiphar's wife and imprisoned because of it.  Falsely accused.  She had a piece of his coat as 'evidence,' which likely would have stood up in court.  But I know all to well that so-called 'evidence' does not prove guilt.  My heart went out to Joseph as he sat in a prison cell, maybe much like mine (minus the running water and indoor plumbing).  I felt if he could endure it, then I could too. 

I read about Alma and Almulek in the Book of Mormon who were falsely imprisoned and the walls around them fell and made them free.  I took a look around at how impossible that seems, and then at what a miracle it would be if the prison walls really did fall down.  I connected with these two men and could feel myself get excited for them for this miracle to happen to them, to set them free. 

I read about Daniel from the Old Testament and how he stood his ground and continued to pray, even though others had made a law against it.  He was thrown into a den of lions as a consequence.  Seriously.  A den of lions!  He trusted God and was saved from the animals.  Although I'm not being fed to literal lions, there are times when the language gets too crude, the walls seem to tall, and the doors seem to heavy.  I'm left with the same tactics as Daniel - prayer to my Heavenly Father.  I also have felt God's watchful hand in my situation and have connected to that same protection Daniel felt. 

I finished my scripture reading feeling fulfilled and overwhelmed with gratitude.  One of the last verses I looked up said, "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." 

The last phrase resonated with me, "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."  I wanted to break down and cry.  I know that I am a stronger person than I was before Bryer.  I know my faith has been tested and has grown stronger.  I know that my relationship with God and with Christ has a stronger foundation.  Has it been hard?  Absolutely!  Has it been worth it?  I wouldn't change it for anything.  So as I sit here in jail in stripes, journaling with a flimsy plastic pen with my testimony unwavering of the love God has for me - yes, all these things 'shall be for thy good.' 


As we were cleaning the pod today I had the courage to ask if I could listen to my Hilary Weeks CD.  I never want to step on any toes.  These girls are here for a lot longer than I am, so I don't want to take any of their TV time away, but I also would love to hear my own music and share it with them.  I had 4 different girls ask about what we were listening to - not in a bad way, but in wondering what was different from the VH1 top 20 they were used to.  I left my CD cover out on one of the tables and Kris came to sit down and read the words to Beautiful Heartbreak as Hilary Weeks's voice echoed against the cinderblock walls and concrete floor.

As I also listened intently to the words for the 500th time, I was touched again.  I remembered my life before Bryer and wondered how one little 35 pound angel could change things so drastically.  There are times that I miss being the story time lady at the library for the kids, or helping so often in my kids' classrooms.  I miss 'normal' craziness with 4 kids without therapy and doctors appointments and research until the wee hours of the morning.  And then I think about all I have gained, wrapped into a special little girl with a contagious smile.  And that is a Beautiful Heartbreak that I would never want to live without. 

By the end of the song I was in tears - not convenient emotions to have in jail - and so was Kris.  She asked if she could borrow my CD cover to copy down the words.  When she was finished, she came out of her cell into the common area with her eyes dripping even worse when she went in to copy the words.  I felt bad, but I also hoped there was some healing in those tears.  I hoped she could feel her purpose and her potential.  Most of all, I hoped she could feel her Savior's love through those tears. 


There was a confrontation today and Rachel was involved.  I don't know the whole story, but one of the guards had to come in to settle things.  Rachel told me later that the guard on duty told the other girl that was involved, "We have not had a single problem with [Rachel] since she's been here and I don't expect it to start now."  The girl was being warned not to start stirring the pot.  The way Rachel told me, I could feel her confidence grow.  She now officially has the respect of the officers on duty.  She has something to stand for and defend her integrity.  The girls in here have so little.  Aside from their store commissary that disappears when they eat it, or the crocheting needles and yarn to keep them busy, there is very little that is their very own.  I am seeing a new Rachel as she is growing and changing.  They are small changes, but changes nonetheless.  "Wake up and be different."  It does my heart good to watch it happen in action in here.  She is learning to take back herself, to build her own integrity, and to take a stand for something and has gained respect. 


At the close of 5 days away from my family and only calling home twice, my heart is breaking to not know every detail of the week.  During break today I saw geese fly overhead and they started honking, just like Bryer has learned to do.  I smiled up at them, feeling silly that a bunch of honking geese could make my eyes leak.  A kid drove by in the passenger seat of a pickup.  As he passed, he stretched his neck out the window to catch a view of the inmates a little longer.  I didn't recognize the boy, but he very easily could have been in one of my kids' classes at school, or he could have attended one of my story times at the library, or a family reading event.  It makes me miss my kids.  Half of me wants to know what they are doing every minute of the day, and the other half of me doesn't because it's too painful to not be a part of it.  This is not a safe place for healing and emotions.  I have to be tough.  Blink back my tears.  Ride it out for another couple days.  


Maybe to some it's strange that Jason doesn't come visit me in jail.  Or even write.  And maybe it's even stranger that I'm okay with that.  There are some things a marriage just should not have to endure.  Spending time in jail being falsely accused ranks high on that list for me.  We read all the time about giving your all in your marriage, being there for your spouse, being supportive.  As much as I would love a letter from Jason in the mail while I'm in here, I'm perfectly fine protecting him from that aspect of this trial.  It's okay that I don't ask his heart to break as he writes out my name attached to a jail address.  It's okay that he doesn't sit on the other side of the glass and talk through a telephone for a recorded conversation.  It's a piece of him that I don't want in here.  It's easier to draw the line between the harsh reality of this place and the peaceful comfort of home if I can separate people from it.  Our wonderful friends and Jason's brother and his wife have been my lifesavers, offering a break from my cell and common area for a peek through the window at support in full color. 

When the mail came yesterday, I received another letter from a lady I don't know named Patty.  Today I received a book in the mail - with the author being this lady.  The book is titled, "The Man Who Killed My Daughter."  I read through half of the book this afternoon and am touched by this woman's story of forgiveness of the man who put an end to her daughter's life.  She even made visits to the jail to meet him and help him through this trial of his, putting her own grief and frustrations behind her.  I am touched that she would single me out to share her story with me.   

I left the original book for another inmate to read when I left, so I'm using the Amazon stock picture. 

All I have to do is sit down at one of the tables and someone will come sit down and talk.  It's a trick I need to use with my kids - just sit down and make myself available.  Today it was one of the new ones, a Hispanic girl with long dark hair.  From the time she sat down I could tell she was discouraged, carrying a lot of guilt with her.  It didn't take long for her to open up and share stories about her kids.  Her brother came from Texas to get them while she's in jail.  She had such sincere remorse about the times she sat in front of Facebook instead of listening to her kids or helping them with their homework.  She said she only made it to one of her son's basketball games at the Boys and Girls Club - not because she was working, but because the screen on her cell phone was more important, or she just didn't want to get ready and leave the house.  She admitted that she was lazy and slept a lot, expecting her 12 year old to take care of the 4 younger siblings.  By now she was bawling, hardly getting her words out.  She worries that she is a disgrace to her family, as no one has ever been to jail before.  She told me of one of the last mornings she had with her kids.  One of the younger ones tripped and fell on the way to the bus.  When she came back to the house, crying to her mom, this girl yelled at her that she was going to miss the bus and that she better hurry up, not taking any interest in her torn pants or hurt knee.  She sobbed uncontrollably with remorse and I was in tears by now too.

While I think that tears play an important part of healing, it's not a healthy frame of mind to hang out in.  I also have learned that when you let go of something, it must be replaced.  As I sat crying with this girl, I searched my mind for anything that would help her move on and replace these guilty feelings she was releasing.  The thought came to me to ask her to play Yahtzee.  Silly.  Who wants to go from bawling to playing a dice game?  But the thought wouldn't leave.  When there was a lull in conversation and she had wiped her tears away, I asked if she wanted to play Yahtzee.  She started crying again and said, "That's one of the games my kids always wanted me to play with them, but I never let them teach me."  As if the words just came out of my mouth without me intending them to, I said, "Good.  Then I can teach you and you'll be all ready to play with them when you get out."  She wiped her eyes again and a smile broke across her face, the first I had seen since she sat down at the table a 1/2 hour before. 

We sat and played 3 games of Yahtzee.  I suggested she send her score card home to her kids with a note of her good intentions to get out and play with them.  She was excited at the idea, but is so new that she doesn't have any commissary items.  I shared an envelope and stamp, knowing that what would go into the mail would be more important than anything I could send. 


It wasn't long until Tuck came to sit down and proceeded to spill her heart also.  She talked of her childhood, her family, regrets, and her son.  She spoke about her addictions and how it is just easier to numb herself from it all.  She explained her awkwardness in her son's life - how he has been raised by her mom, so when she gets out she feels out of place.  She feels stuck in here and can't progress, but she's not really sure what to do once she gets out either.  She's too old to be at home, but not ready to be on her own and take on her child.  She has missed so much of what a mom is supposed to do and feels guilty, overwhelmed, and inadequate.  The scriptures talk about having a 'broken heart and a contrite spirit,' which is what I felt so strongly from Tuck as she sat crying next to me.  Again, I felt that if she was letting go of so much, it must be replaced by something worthwhile.  We have read scriptures together pretty regularly, and even though it wasn't our normal time before lights out, I suggested we read together. 

We found a corner area against the cinderblock wall where we could read even though the TV was loud, the girls were active, and there were lots of distractions.  I wish I could remember where we started, but we skipped around following the footnotes.  There was a light with us as we read and I could see Tuck's face change through emotions of sadness to interest to happiness.  All those distractions didn't seem to bother us.  I felt a deep dark hole being filled with goodness.  It wasn't necessarily the words that we read together as I explained them, but the feeling of Christ sitting there with us.  We ended by talking about The Plan of Salvation and where Tuck fits into this plan.   

As I have researched and prayed and thought about all the steps in The Plan of Salvation, my understanding has been built further on each step. 

We came from the Pre-existence where we lived as spirits with God.

We chose to come to this earth and follow Christ's plan.  We received a physical body through birth. 
We are here to be tested and to learn about Christ.  It's a commandment to be baptized as part of that.
When our time on earth is done, we pass away.  Our physical body is buried in the ground, while our spirit separates from it.

The next step I have found so profound that I can hardly explain it within my paper and jail issued flex-pen.  It's what I know to be true of what happens when we leave this life and have connected so intimately to this concept. 

Our body and spirit are separated.  While our body is buried, our spirit goes to a place called the Spirit World.  There are two parts to the Spirit World:  Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison.  As I have grown and learned, I felt this all to be true, but studying it in here - in a prison - has brought confirming feelings so strong that can't be denied.  I have to explain the basics before I explain why I feel so strongly about it. 

Those that go to Spirit Paradise are those that have received the gospel of Jesus Christ and have been baptized.  Those that go to Spirit Prison are those that either have not accepted the gospel or have not had the opportunity to learn about it.  This is huge to me.  Like a big, huge ah-ha moment.  If it's a commandment to be baptized in this life, then it would not be fair to those that live in a time or area that don't have an opportunity to learn about the gospel, right?! 

Those that have passed on and are in Spirit Paradise can go to Spirit Prison to teach those people about the gospel!  Huge blessings!  What's more - It's not too late for those that are in Spirit Prison to learn, repent, and accept the gospel.  But there's still that 'minor detail' in the commandment to be baptized.  How can they be baptized when they have 'lost' their body to the grave? 

That's where our temples come in.  In the temple, we are baptized for those who have already passed on, by proxy.  We give them an opportunity to receive all those blessings of baptism that they missed out on while they were on earth.  From Spirit Prison, they have the full right and privilege to accept or deny that baptism.  Nothing is ever forced.  Everything is considered opportunity.  God will never take away our free agency.  He wants us to be with Him because we want to be with Him - not because He has forced us. 

A few scriptures that explain it:
Psalms 142:7 - Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me

Luke 23:42-43 - When Christ was hung on the cross he hung between two thieves.  In verse 42 one of the thieves says, "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."  Then in verse 43, Jesus replies, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." 

1 Peter 3:18-19 - "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;"

Alma 40:11-14 - "Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.  And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.  And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.  Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection."

I feel so invested in this piece of the plan, because that has been my mission here.  To share and teach those that don't have the gospel, or those who have lost it.  With every ounce of my being, I feel that this is a preview of what it may be like - that those with the gospel who have passed on have the privilege to teach those spirits who live on without it. 

With complete confidence in the plan, I have cried with them.  I have mourned with them.  I have felt a small piece of their struggle.  I hear over and over of their frustration that they cannot progress in here.  They can't move forward.  They are stunted.  They can't be reunited with their families, without a piece of glass between them. 

Everything about this place teaches me that Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison are real.  It's ongoing right now while people pass away as I write.  There is hope for those who have passed on without the gospel.  God is a just, fair God.  He desperately wants us to return to Him.  He's provides a 'second chance' for repentant hearts that need Him.  For that, I am grateful.  Like Him, I want to see these girls break through these walls, find their potential, and attain it.  Overcoming what holds them back.  Reunited with their families.  Living with God again someday.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#63 - How a Mormon Mom Handles Pressure in Jail (Journal from Feb. 27, 2014)

This morning I worked on the Plan of Salvation quite a bit.  2 1/2 hours seemed like 20 minutes.  I can count on two hands how many times I have spent over 2 solid hours submerged in Bible and Book of Mormon verses.  It's usually 20 minutes here or 30 minutes there.  It felt good to start off my day. 

Phones have been turned off because of girls (and guys) being transferred.  I still don't understand why it's such a big secret who is leaving, when, and where they are going.  I do know that word travels fast, even when it's not all accurate.  And that's not just in jail. 


This afternoon we watched Home Extreme Makeover.  Dani stood in front of the TV with her long, dark hair swaying back and forth for most of the show.  She cries sad tears with the families in the beginning when they are in dire need.  Then she cries happy tears when they reveal the new made-over house in the end.  The show is touching to me, but even more so to watch Dani watching the show. 

I have been continually intrigued with her and all she's been through.  There is such a great amount of good in her that it's hard for me to imagine her on the outs and how she got here.  Thinking that her tender heart must have stemmed from her earliest memories, I asked her what her first memory of her mom was. 

She didn't even have to think back.  Immediately she said, "I remember when I was about 5, I was kneeling down at the coffee table and I watched my mom get high on heroine."  She went into details that I could never even imagine.  I wanted to plug my own adult ears, let alone think that an innocent 5 year old could witness it first hand.  So impressionable.  Like a sponge to soak up the habits of her mother as her first role model.  It makes me physically sick to my stomach. 

I dared to ask her how her life went after that.  She said when she was 14 her grandparents picked her up from a meth lab, and her mom died shortly after that.  Her relationships with men, although she felt were normal, were... not. 

She told me of a fun 'game' she liked to play with some of her friends at the casinos where she's from.  They would enter the casino through different doors while communicating on cell phones, so the cameras wouldn't catch them together.  She would find a lady sitting at a slot machine with her purse sitting on the chair or the floor next to her.  She'd make small talk - ask for directions, if she's visiting from out of town, how the winnings are today, anything to get the lady's view in the opposite direction of her purse.  Then her friend would sit down at the slots on the opposite side and when the time was right, s/he would get up and leave with the lady's purse. 

Dani said she couldn't count how many credit cards she stole using this routine.  They just wanted the card, and then would stick the purse in a mailbox somewhere, to be delivered to the owner within the day.  In the meantime, they would print fake id's and rack up hundreds or thousands on the card before it was cancelled. 

Ok.  Wrong.  It's obviously stealing.  In her mind, it really is a 'game' and only that.  I wasn't ready for the mixed emotions of what she told me  she did with the money and how she justified it.  During one spending spree, she had her young cousin with her.  He was living with abusive parents, was short on food and clothes.  She used the stolen credit cards to buy him what he needed to get by for the next while.  That time, she knew the lady who was checking them out and she was sweating it that she'd be caught, but never was.  She talked about how she bought homeless people food, donated clothes to the needy, and helped those around her. 

Listening to her, I could tell that nothing I could say would change her mind or her path of justification.  I finally said, "I don't get it Dani.  How can you cry at Home Extreme Makeover and care about people so much, but then turn around and steal their credit cards?!"  She tried to explain that she didn't consider it stealing.  Those people would get their money back through fraud protection.  In her own words, "There was nothing lost over it and no one got hurt."  I pointed out that it did hurt someone - her.  She's in here.  She seemed to shrug it off as a fact of life. 

In the next breath she's talking about helping someone else.  It makes me want to know how she would have turned out with a good, quality set of healthy parents.  She has run around stealing, lying, cheating, and dealing for most of her life looking for happiness in all the wrong places - be it the only places she knows to look. 

I felt hopeful when she said she got a job at Deseret Industries, the church thrift store, and that she had a mentor there that set her up on a good path.  They offered to pay half her schooling to be a dental hygienist, let her shop the store for work clothes, and do whatever they could within reason to help her.  (Immediately I felt the urgency to clean out my closets at home and donate to the D.I.)  I don't know what went wrong, but she admits it was her fault that she quit that path, and my heart tried not to take a plunge, knowing the potential she could have fulfilled. 

The subject changed and she started talking about one of the other inmates that has been trying to better herself while she's in here.  Dani made a comment as a whole about 'us inmates' all being the same, and then quickly backtracked and said, "See Krissi, you're on a whole other level than us.  But she's not.  She can't act better than us when she has the same drug addiction, the same alcohol problems, the same s*** that we are going trough.  She's not better than us!" 

On one hand, I appreciated the compliment that she didn't see me as 'one of them,' but at the same time I wanted her to feel her worth.  I am no better than her in God's eyes.  And because this particular inmate is trying to work to be better, does not make her 'better' than Dani either.  This life is not a competition on who can be better than the next person.  God's love is unconditional.  He doesn't love me more than He loves Dani.  He doesn't love the inmate anymore now that she's trying harder, than when she wasn't.  What He can do is share more of His blessings with her, and as she works and makes an effort to do better, she will feel His love more easily - not because there's more of it, but because she's closer to Him in her heart.   


Mail came today and in it was a Readers Theater play from a friend of mine.  I laughed to myself when I opened that envelope.  How could I get the girls in here to do a Readers Theater?  The thought of it makes me laugh just writing it.  It may not end up as a performance, but it gave me another oomph to pursue the talent show.  I have started pointing out things - like when one girl breaks out in a dance across the concrete after a phone call home.  I say, "Hey, you know you could save those moves for the talent show."  I usually get a laugh like, "Ya right!"  I've made similar comments on hair styling talents, crocheting, singing, and dancing.  Every once in a while I catch Rachel out of the corner of my eye shaking her head and smiling, and (I'm sure) thinking how crazy the idea sounds.  I don't even care - and sometimes I smile back at her and remind her that she should be finding a talent too.

After one of these comments I made, Dani turned it on me.  "What are you going to do for the talent show Krissi?"  I hadn't really thought about it, as I was having so much fun finding talent in the other girls.  I shrugged my shoulders and, being completely na├»ve, asked her if she had any ideas for me.  (Did I really ask another inmate that?  Have I forgotten I'm in jail?)  She popped off immediately and said, "Yup!  I've got the perfect talent for you!  I can teach you to twerk!"  I laughed it off.  Real funny.  But then a couple more joined in.  "Ya, let's teach her how to twerk!"  One of the girls turned up the music on VH1 a couple notches and another girl got up off her metal seat to show me how it was done.  I felt my face get red.  Embarrassed and flustered. 

By this many days down of my sentence, I was feeling more confident in how to handle these situations, but this one caught me off guard.  I shook my head.  I shuffled the playing cards in my hands, trying to ignore what was going on around me.  The words entered my mind that I have repeated as a young women leader at church hundreds of times, "We will stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places."  (I thought - Really?  Now?  In jail?  With other inmates?  I just want it to be easy to stand as a witness.)  A few more girls started in 'twerking' and showing off between them how low they could go.  They were so busy dancing among themselves that they kind of forgot about me, which was great... Until one of the girls turned to me and said, "Just try it!" 

Something about an inmate in stripes - however sweet and wonderful they are - that when the words come out, "Just try it!" I just don't trust it.  I shot Rachel a look across 2 tables.  She was smiling at the possibility of me trying it out, and maybe enjoying watching me squirm a little bit.  I raised my eye brows at her like, "Help me out!"  In true leader fashion, she gathered her words and said, "Guys...  Seriously...  Mormon mom of 5!  Don't think you'll get her to twerk."  They all agreed and boo-ed the idea of quitting on me, but I didn't even care.  They all took their seats or went back to their cells, at the simple comment from Rachel.  The music turned down a few notches and I dealt myself a new hand of solitaire and breathed easier, laughing at finding myself in these situations. 

As I have thought about the peer pressure I endured, I wondered what would happen if I 'cracked.'  Would they have pushed me to do more - pass notes, take things out when I go, hide things for them?  Would they loose respect for anything I've stood for while I've been here?  Like Dani said earlier, "You're on a whole other level than us," would she still have felt my standards?  And if I gave in, would I have been a very good representative of the Savior?  Maybe I'm overthinking this little dance move, but I think it's the little things that shape bigger things.  In all times.  And in all things.  And in all places.  I have worked so hard to love these girls as they are, to learn from them, to teach them, to do whatever crazy mission I have in here.  Twerking is just not in the plans. 

What also made the difference was the choice girl I am able to call my friend.  Rachel, although she thought it was funny, could read my embarrassment and 'help' signal with just a raise of my eyebrows.  Like I have said over and over, her communication skills and reading people are beyond exceptional.  It was a friend that bailed me out.  When it could have been easier to join in and laugh, she saw my struggle.  She came to my rescue.  Another inmate rescued me today.  I never would have seen that one coming.  It's a testament to me of how important friends are - dare I say, even in jail?  I know these girls have many trials and live different lifestyles from me on the outs, but for the time being, they are clean and fully aware of the opportunities around them.  Today Rachel took charge and helped me wiggle out.  For that, I am grateful. 


Enough of this roller coaster of emotion.  Between Home Extreme Makeover making me all mushy inside and hearing the things Dani had to endure as a little girl, and the test to see if I would twerk, a phone call home was overdue.  When Jason picked up the phone, I smiled at the simple sound of his voice.  Then I  immediately heard Bryer in the background saying, "Hi Mom!"  (giggle) "Hi Mom!"  (giggle, giggle - over and over)  I know that laugh and those words all too well - the smile that spreads over her face so big that she can hardly relax her mouth to put her lips together to form the word 'Mom.'  I talked to her for a little bit in between giggles.  Jason put me on speaker so Bryer could still hear my voice while I talked to the other kids.  Piper told me she earned Citizen of the Month for the character trait Honesty. 

It was enough to hear Jason's voice.  And then my sweet girls added to it.  To hear Piper's example of honesty just finished it off and melted me.  Had I been home today to hear her news, it may have been different.  In here, I sit.  Locked in jail - because I too have been honest.  Like Dani saw her mom's example, has Piper seen mine?  I can only hope that she would stay strong.  Be honest - even when it's hard.  I pray that my family - and especially my kids - are not negatively effected by all of this.  I got off the phone, barely holding back tears, until I could make it to my top bunk.  As bad as I need to hear their voices, it just kills me inside to know I'm not there.  Back to the scriptures for comfort, needing what God could say to me.  I looked up the key word 'comfort' and found the verse, "For the Lord will comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord.  Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."  In this dreary jail, I needed to know that it can be a place like Eden.  Joy.  Gladness.  Thanksgiving.  The voice of melody.  Mmmm.  That sounds good. 


A few of the girls today were complaining that there's no smoking at this facility anymore.  I remembered back to when I made my very first call to reserve a bed here and the guard on the phone assured me that they would not allow me to choose this jail solely on the idea that I could smoke - because that was no longer accepted.  Um, no.  I don't smoke.  That wouldn't be a problem, I assured her. 

I asked the girls what made the difference and they said it all happened about the time the new sheriff took over.  Knowing the sheriff, and impressed with the change, I asked what other changes have come about.  They listed off a bunch of positives.  He brought AA back in every other week.  They said another leader was passing notes and they had the program removed.  The girls pointed out that there's no guard on duty at Bible study and church services now.  They also have a lady coming once a week to help with GED or miscellaneous classes the girls can help lead.

Although I haven't been a fan of this sheriff's office in the past for originally filing charges against me, I am happy to hear all the positives under the new leadership.  I'm happy for the girls - who stay a whole lot longer than I do - to have ways to better themselves.  I so badly want them to be able to progress, and these single chances throughout the week are opportunities to do that. 


A friendship has been growing between Kris and I.  She's the one with the cochlear implant and makes me laugh every. single. day.  They way she talks about her kids.  How involved her husband is.  How she likes to stay busy in here.  I will miss her.  Today she said when she gets good news from one of her kids at home she tells them, "I'm so proud of you, I'm gonna lick you like a happy dog!"  And then she imitates how she grabs her grown son's face and licks him from chin to cheek.  Man she makes me laugh! 


Another good friendship that has formed is with Tuck.  We sit and pray together at every meal and are in a habit of reading scriptures together at night before bed.  We have asked the other girls if they want to pray with us.  We get anywhere from 4 to 10 of the 16 beds available in here.  She pointed out at lunch today that she still obeys what her mom taught her - don't drink out of other people's cups, don't talk openly about sex, and don't eat off someone else's plate.  She talks like she just came from church, but then also talks about her guy friend that I worry isn't a healthy relationship for her. 
I can lead her to uplifting books in the library, read scriptures with her at night, have prayers and gospel discussion, but I can't make her change.  I've helped her arrange weekly clergy visits in here too and they give her reading assignments, but it's up to her to do it.  Even in here she can make choices to change - get up early, read on her own, change her language, etc.  Rachel too.  But most of the time they choose not to.  That's the hardest part - is seeing the potential and wasted time in here, when they are waiting for all the 'changing' to happen once they get out.  Maybe it's easier to spot in other people, but I'm examining myself too and taking inventory of where I need to change and not wait to do it for an easier time or more convenient place.     


I can't count how many pens I have gone through while I've been in here.  I keep them safe until they have been completely run dry.  At home we have oodles of pens and can't find a single one, but in here my 1-2 pens are so important that I just don't loose them.  They are the life to my journaling and my sanity.  I usually carry mine in the pocket on the front of my stripe top.  Last time I was here I was stretching in the rec yard and my pen fell out of my pocket.  I didn't realize it until I was locked back inside.  It took a lot of courage - and a full day to gather it - to ask the guard on duty if he found my pen.  He said he'd bring it back on the next shift, and then I was gone when he returned.  Loosing a pen has never been so sad. 

This time, I decided to try to be more bold about asking for my things.  I was supposed to have yarn sent in while I was gone the last time, but it didn't come on time.  I mentioned it to Rachel and she knew I was trying to get up the nerve to ask the guard.  When they made rounds the next time she blurted out, "So if someone had a package delivered here, would it be automatically brought in to us, or would we have to request it."  Not feeling ready yet to talk to the guard about it, I was glad that Rachel opened it up for me to get an answer.  We tag teamed through the conversation with the guard, as she helped me gain courage to open my mouth.  After the guard left she said, "Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"  I admitted that it wasn't, but I still didn't like it.

Then she pointed out, "Ya, but I saw earlier that you made strides with your Bunkie."  Wondering what she was talking about, I looked at her puzzled.  She said, "Ya, you stood up for yourself and asked her to leave when you had to use the bathroom."  Embarrassed that Rachel had noticed, I realized that was the first time in 27 days that I had asked for privacy, and not just worked around my Bunkie's coming and going.  We laughed, thinking how insignificant that would be in the 'real world.' 


I needed some good news today - my kite (paperwork) was delivered approving my Good Time!  It cuts 5 whole days off my sentence for being a good inmate!  So by the end of my week here, I will be down to 7 days left!  5 days.  FIVE DAYS!  Five days more I get to spend with my family.  Five days less that I won't be an inmate. 

I won't be an inmate.

Oh I never expected that thought to sound so hard to comprehend.  Maybe it's like a missionary when they realize they only have a few weeks left for the work they were sent to do.  Or the last weeks of pregnancy before a new baby rearranges everyone's schedules.  Now I feel like I am grasping at time to do what I need to be doing.  Have I made it all worth it? 

I received a piece of mail today that said, "Pretty soon this whole nightmare will be over."  As I read it, I got defensive.  In the beginning when our kids were taken away from us, it was a nightmare.  Being separated from my family for 7 days at a time - yes, nightmare.  Spending money on attorneys and witnesses - nightmare.  But this - loving and teaching and reading scriptures with these girls.  Not a nightmare at all.  Even pressure to twerk.  (Laugh)  Not a nightmare.  Just a big giant way God has helped me through a rough patch.  Having Him with me so intimately for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Will that change when... I won't be an inmate?  I don't think I want to give that up. 


I finished my next step in The Plan of Salvation - Death 

Genesis 3:19 - In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Alma 11:42 - Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.  It states that we will pass through physical death, but that it's only temporary.  Because of Christ we will be reunited with our bodies later. 

Alma 12:24 - And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.  The phrase 'probationary state' hit me.  I am on probation - by law - right now.  So I found symbolism in what that means in the big picture.  Right now I am being asked to live a certain way (which really is not much different than my normal) in preparation for being off probation, which in the big picture would be the time to meet God.  Those things I do or don't do on probation will affect how I feel when I meet God again.  Will I feel guilty for things?  Will I be happy to see Him?  Will I have gathered as much knowledge and understanding as I need?  Will I have done the things He's asked of me?  Those mistakes I have made, have I repented and made them right? 

Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows how painful death can be.  It's the memories, the relationships, and that sting of them not being there to call on anymore.  In the most touching family tributes I have witnessed, I've been impressed with those that celebrate the person's life.  Endings are sad.  And death is a very real end - but only temporarily.  It's ending this chapter that their body and spirit were together on this earth.  But just like their spirit lived before this earth, it also lives on after this life.  At death, the body and spirit are separated.  The body is buried in the ground, but the spirit lives on.  And that should be celebrated.  As I have worked on this section of The Plan of Salvation, I have felt so strongly that these things are true.  It's not just a Band-Aid to put on a wound when someone dies, by saying their spirit lives on.  It really is true.  What happens next in the plan is even better than that!