Sunday, April 26, 2015

#71 - A Bittersweet Last Good-bye (Journal Entries March 31-April 3, 2014)

Last night before bed I overheard parts of a conversation (in such close quarters, it's hard to not hear other people's business) and understood enough that Rachel was 'censoring' jokes for the girls to tell me.  I heard her say, "She won't get that one guys.  I promise you, her mind just does not go there!"  I had to laugh to myself as I went back to my cell.  First, that they felt the need to censor things from me.  These were some of the same girls that just weeks before were dropping f-bombs more often than any other single word.  Second, that they were actually having a conversation about my level of crudeness, or lack of.  It just makes me laugh.  I've never said one single word about them watching their language, but they respect me and I appreciate it.  To think that lil ol me, mom of 5, can have an influence in jail language. 

Pretty soon Nicki came to the door of my cell.  She said she had a joke - and it was clean - that the girls said I would think was funny.

A zebra went to Moses and asked if he was black with white stripes or white with black stripes.  Moses didn't know and told him to go ask Jesus. 

So the zebra went to Jesus and asked if he was black with white stripes or white with black stripes.  Jesus didn't know and told him to go ask God.

The zebra asked God, "Am I black with white stripes or white with black stripes?" 
God said, "You are what you are." 

The zebra came back.  Jesus and Moses asked the zebra what God said. 
The zebra said, "He just said, 'You are what you are.' What does that mean?" 
Jesus and Moses looked at each other and said, "Oh!  That means you're white with black stripes.  If you were black with white stripes He would have said, 'You is what you is!'" 

We had a good laugh, and I mentioned that she should have saved it for the talent show. 


There was a heated argument about the TV today.  After Robin drew up the TV schedule and everyone agreed on who would watch what at which time, the guards gave us the remote back.  Tuck and I were playing cards to pass the time.  A show that was not on the schedule was on and the content was awful.  If Tuck and I could have gone into a cell to play cards, I would have suggested that, but we aren't allowed in each other's cells.  Instead I tried to blank out the show as best I could, until I finally asked Tuck if she thought the other girls who were playing cards at the table behind me were even watching it.  She said, "I don't know, ask them."

I spun around on my metal seat and said, "Are you guys watching this?"  They said they were.  Tuck quietly pointed out that according to the schedule, Ellen was supposed to be on right now.  That's all it took for an argument to break out.  There was yelling and getting in each other's faces.  I spun back around on my seat to face the table and tried to ignore what was going on, not dealing with contention very well. 

Christina got in Tuck's face and said, "I told you we were watching this, and then you guys have to sit over there and talk **** to each other about how it's not on the schedule."  Ironic that this is why the TV was taken away in the first place?  I don't like confrontation and I really just wanted to hide in a hole! 

Tuck said, "Oh no, no, no, no, no!  Do you even know her? (pointing to me) Krissi isn't even like that!  It's Krissi!  Seriously!"  It was clear that the other girl didn't care at that point who I was, if I wasn't agreeing to what she wanted. 

I'm fine not watching TV.  I just wanted to grab Tuck and sit her back down and go back to playing cards.  Then as fast as it hit, Tuck apologized!  Other than being quick to get up from her table, Tuck really had done nothing wrong, but she was the one that apologized!  It's hard to apologize when you're wrong.  It's even harder to apologize when you feel you haven't done anything wrong.  It was obvious today that Tuck was the bigger person.  As soon as the apology came out of her mouth, the other girl calmed down.  They had a few more (calmer) words, went back to their seats, and the channel was changed to Ellen. 


Today they called for anyone who wanted to go out to break to line up at the door.  I grabbed my coat, hardly ever missing a chance to be outside, even if it is like a cage version of what's inside.  I needed out!  When the guard came to unlock the door and let us out, he pointed at me and said, "You might not want to go out.  You have visitors."  Eeek!  Visitors!  It's the best part of my whole week.  As the rest of the girls filed down the hall to go outside, I found a spot in the hallway on a stool in front of the window.  Sitting at that little window with a telephone on my ear to hear through the glass is like Christmas.  I can't hardly wait to see who has come to visit.  You'd think I'm secluded in here for years at a time.  Maybe it's that 'normal life' never really leaves me, so I crave it so bad when I'm in here.  Today I saw 6 familiar faces waiting their turn for me in the lobby.  It's absolutely essential to have visitors and mail in here for me to stay positive.  I know that for those on the other side of the window, it's tough to take time out of their day.  Who wants to go sit in front of a window and talk to someone they could talk to face-to-face next week instead?  Who wants to turn over a drivers license and get permission to visit with a friend or family member?  Who wants to wait in a line of people for 10 minutes of conversation?  In this instantly gratifying world of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, who has time for all of that?  These 6 people today do, that's who.  These 6 people that are willing to reach out and uplift someone that struggles every single day to stay positive.  These 6 people that are willing to do exactly what Christ would do if he were here on this earth, in this town, on this day.  He would come visit.  He has counted on them and they have followed through.  Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal from their side of the glass, but what I see from mine is love... support... the gospel in action... I see people that are willing to 'bear one another's burdens' as it says in the scriptures.  I see people that set aside their pride and busy lives to come visit an inmate.  In my world of black and white, metal, and concrete, they sit at that window in full color with smiles, and sometimes tears, full of emotion and life.  Real life.  Not this life.  Although I was strong today while I visited with them, I am not feeling strong now.  I feel silly that their presence has had such an emotional effect on me.  When that thought runs through my head of how I can do this another day, I know how.  I have that support from visitors and mail.  I feel God's love through those acts of service.


Kris is the older lady with the choclear implant.  I have really, really enjoyed getting to know her and learning about her family.  Her kids are almost all grown, and she has a faithful husband that drives hours 3 times a week to come see her.  Kris is a naturally happy person, but something has been bothering her lately.  She doesn't have that usual pep in her step.  I've been grinding my wheels with limited resources to find something to do for her.  It's not exactly a plate-of-cookies-with-a-note kind of opportunity.  I can't do a plate of cookies - but I can do a note.  We could all do notes!  On hearts!  Like a 'heart attack' they would do for a teenager's birthday at church!  No, that's a silly idea.  Who writes messages on a bunch of hearts?  This is JAIL!  What am I thinking?! 

Really, who does that?!....
ME!  That's who!  After mulling it around in my head and thinking of all the reasons why I shouldn't, I decided to not only do it, but call in for help.  I went back to my cell and explained the need and idea to Robin.  Immediately she got that squeely voice and was ready to start tearing paper hearts out with me!  As we tore and talked, and wrote, and talked, I began to sense that maybe this was not for Kris at all, but for those girls that could serve her.  Robin's eagerness changed as she had a purpose - at least for an hour or so.  She found a bunch of conversation hearts from a magazine she had actually used scissors (gasp!) to cut out when she was working with the kitchen girls, so we used those too.  I got up the gumption to go around and ask the girls to write a message to Kris on a heart or two each - including the girls that over reacted over the TV.  They were hesitant, but added their own short note. 

Some of the hearts had quick messages on them, some of them long and thought-out.  I couldn't wait to collect them all.  We waited for Kris to get out to go switch the laundry again so Dani could spread them out on her bed.  As soon as she left and I passed the hearts on to Dani, there was excitement buzzing.  (To think I almost didn't follow through!)  This is just what we needed in here today! 

When Kris got back, Dani came barreling out of the cell and panicked at her down the stairs, "Look what happened in our cell!  Come fast!"  Kris hiked the stairs as fast as her short legs would carry her, with her concerned face the whole way. 

Then we all waited.  And waited.  The TV went mute.  Conversations turned to whispers.  Silence doesn't happen very often in here.  After reading every. single. heart, Kris came out of her cell in tears.  First she punched Dani's arm for making her worry.  We all had a good laugh, and Kris knew the joke was on her.  The TV came back on, the conversations went back to normal levels.  Kris hugged Dani and asked her who did this.  Dani pointed her down the stairs to me.  I didn't want to take the credit.  It was all the girls that helped.  Without any respect for the handbook's rule of no hugging, Kris made her way down the stairs, grabbed me and gave a big squeeze.  In her muted, hearing-impaired voice with tears in her eyes she stood back and grabbed hold of my arms.  "You made my day," she said. 

It feels good to end my day on that note.  We read scriptures tonight with Cal, Rachel, Tuck, and me.  We didn't have much time for a prayer before lights out, so 'Sister Tuck' didn't knock doors.  It feels good to be in here and feel my purpose so clearly.  Tonight I gave a prayer of only graditude.  I didn't ask for anything.  I only listed off my many blessings to my Heavenly Father, and included this time in jail as one of my greatest opportunities. 


The same feeling I went to bed with last night is not here today.  The residual good mood doesn't last and it's a constant struggle to feel happy in here.  Constant struggle.  2 1/2 days left in here and days like this, I want out NOW.  It makes me tired to be strong.  I feel worn and spit out.  I have felt this feeling before and I think I'll just hang out in my cell for most of the day.  Sometimes there's a feeling that I want to tuck in and hibernate in my cell, but I know I should be social.  And other times there's a strong feeling to just hunker down and hang out for the day and try to recharge. 


Sometimes it's just not easy to watch someone be happy.  Sometimes you just want to throw that pity party, cry it all out, and feel sorry for yourself.  I get it and I totally respect that.  I've been there.  You gotta do what you gotta do, but then don't stay out too late at that pity party.  Pull yourself together and find something to be thankful for.  I so badly want these girls to see their potential.  The happiness that I feel that maybe feels a little annoying to them at times, comes from doing just that.  I have wanted to crawl in a hole.  I have wanted to take my kids and escape to a secluded cabin to protect them.  But it's the times I have found the blessings that help me understand this horribly tough refining process. 

It's so hard to see Point A to Point B, especially in here.  Sometimes God doesn't show us a clear path to Point B.  Sometimes we must go through Point 1, Point Triangle, Point 5.c and things that don't even make any sense at all, to arrive at Point X, ending up so much further ahead than Point B ever was.  His plans for us are so much further than our own expectations, hopes, and dreams.  It reminds me of the song, "The Woman I Was Before."  Who was I before this life that God would think I could handle this?  What does He see in me that I don't see in myself?  How can I reconnect with that potential He sees in me? 


There is a painting in my mind that I have pictured a lot while I've been in here this time.  It's Christ standing at a door, knocking.  For as long as I can remember, I have known that the door knob is not on his side, but on the opposite side of the door.  As it says in Revelation 3:20, he is knocking and waiting for us to let him in. 

Until now, I have always felt that the painting was accurate.  I keep staring at the door to our pod here and it tells a different story.  In here, the girls feel stuck.  Stagnant.  Like Cal and Tuck argued - it's a waste of time.  I pointed out to them that in earthly time, this may be a waste of time.  But if they look at it from an eternal point of view, it's part of the repentance process.  It's a time to study and reflect.  It's a time to get back on track - mentally, physically, even spiritually.  This time in jail is an important step to repent before we can move on.  We can't really progress if we're not willing to repent and change. 

The door to our pod is intriguing.  I think about what it's like in Spirit Prison versus Spirit Paradise, where our spirits go after we die.  Those that have received the gospel teach those that haven't.  Until they receive it, they are stagnant... Stuck... Maybe feeling like it's a waste of time - I'm sure with lots of thoughts of 'Can't we get on with this already?'  But when we learn and accept the atonement, Christ has that key to open up doors for us.  He helps us out of captivity and sin.  But like in the original picture, he doesn't force us to open the door.  He doesn't come pounding or pushing.  He lets us know he is there.  When we are ready, he unlocks the door for us - whether he's on the opposite side of that door, or right there with us teaching us personally - he holds those keys. 

I had Robin draw the door to our pod because it really is so intriguing to me.  I am so thankful for her sharing her artistic ability with me!  She's like a walking camera.  I also took notice of the slot that maybe was used to pass food or mail through at one time or another.  It provides a means for our physical needs, but doesn't help us spiritually.  The only way to progress is to get out and use our own agency. 

Tonight I sat at a table with Tuck, Cal, and Nikki and read a few verses from Ether.  Then we called for prayer before lights out.  Rachel joined us for prayer.  As usual, I ask if anyone else wants to say the prayer.  I rarely get any takers, but tonight Tuck said she would!  It is one thing to read and pray with these girls.  But to hear one of them talk to God... literally talk to God... has got to be one of the most sacred experiences for me.  Tuck has always been too nervous to pray out loud, until tonight.  It was smooth and sincere, and exactly from a soft spot in her heart.  Knowing they can pray on their own means they don't rely on me anymore. 

Good night.  Yes, GOOD. Night. 


Maybe I should be looking forward to being out tomorrow, but I'm having a hard time disconnecting.  Today was packed with many of my 'bucket list' kinds of things.  Cal and I made an original game - Convict Pictionary.  We played with Tuck and Rachel and laughed so hard we almost peed our pants.  We even folded paper into an origami box to keep the pieces in and I let Cal have it.  She will need it worse than I will - and somehow my family and friends on the outs just won't laugh as hard as I have in here playing it. 

We also announced the talent show for anyone that wanted to share a talent.  After so much anticipation, I was a little let down with only 4 of us playing along.  Rachel and Nikki started out with Cat's Cradle and then went back and forth turning the friendship string into different shapes - the Eiffel Tower, Grandpa's Trousers, Grandma's Trousers, and more.  They got a round of applause. 

Robin and I did "You might be a convict if" comedy act and took turns reading off funny details of jail life. 
If your hair gel consists of conditioner, jolly ranchers, and clear toothpaste...
You might be an inmate.

If your whole wardrobe consists of scrubs, white undergarments, flip flops, and crocs...
You might be an inmate.

If you get dressed in the shower...
You might be an inmate.

If you put half your lunch in an empty milk carton and set it in your window seal to save for later...
You might be an inmate.

If you suddenly awaken from your nap to stand at your bedside for count time...
You might be an inmate.

If your mascara is made of ink pen and toothpaste...
You might be an inmate.

If the only food in your kitchen is nutty bars, moon pies, and items to make a jailhouse spread...
You might be an inmate.

If the only dice you own is made from toilet paper...
You might be an inmate.

If you mount your bed to the wall...
You might be an inmate.

If you have a one-piece stainless steel toilet/sink combo in your bathroom...
You might be an inmate.

If you sleep with the lights on...
You might be an inmate. 

If the best feature of your room is that you can see both the clock and the TV from your bed...
You might be an inmate.

If you regularly have others in the room with you when you use the bathroom...
You might be an inmate.

We ended with another round of applause.  At least the talent show gave 4 of us something to keep us busy for the afternoon. 

Today I got good and devastating news from the guards.  The good news was my paperwork stating they would let me trade my own 3 personal books for the coveted vintage Readers Digest books that I have scoured thrift stores for, to create a Pinterst craft.  I'm so excited I could hug someone - but that's against the rules.  :-) 

Later this afternoon, the guard brought mail in.  His stack was smaller than normal and I assumed that most of it was probably for me.  As he read off names to come get their individual envelopes, the pile got smaller and smaller, until there wasn't anything left for me.  I tried not to hang my head, but so disappointed that I hadn't gotten anything.  On his way out, the guard motioned me to come with him.  A little nervous, I followed.  When we got into the hall and the door was locked behind us, the guard explained his case.  He told how the girls get so excited for mail.  He said he can hardly stand to see their eyes as big as quarters, hoping for just one envelope.  He explained that it breaks his heart to see them let down each time when a big stack comes in and then one by one, it's given away to someone else.  I completely understood, because I had just felt the same way moments before.  He handed me a stack of mail.  He said there are girls that will be in this jail for months and never get a single piece of mail from anyone.  He didn't want to be the one to crush them with my pile of mail, so he was giving it to me privately.

I felt crushed myself that these girls would have their own hopes crushed by my personal support system.  At the same time, I have never had so much respect for a guard as I did today.  His compassion for the inmates touches me.  I am thankful to have served my sentence here, as one of God's details in this crazy plan.  I know that those that lead and work in this facility do their very best and do a tough job with integrity.  I count it a blessing to get a 'sneak peak' behind a tough system and the people that are too often criticized for the work they do. 

I humbly walked back through the door with my stack of letters and slinked back to my cell to open them by myself, hoping no one would see the amount of mail I came in with. 


I read some last verses with Cal and Tuck tonight before I leave tomorrow.  We read about the brother of Jared, who was led to the edge of the ocean and then asked to cross.  I explained the story as we read individual verses aloud.  Even when we are faced with an overwhelming problem (say crossing the ocean with no skills to even build a boat - or serve jail time for something I did not do) the Lord has the end in sight.  He sees the obstacles and provides a way for us to overcome them if we will trust Him.  He doesn't take our trials away, but He will help us through them and give us those tools we need (family, friends, financial opportunities, the comfort that comes from the Spirit).  As the brother of Jared made barges under the Lord's direction, he was inspired.  The waves and storms were not calmed, but they had ways to breath and survive the storm within their capsules.  There is always the means to pray available.  And it's never too late. 


Before lights out, some of the girls passed around my 'yearbook' to sign.  I will forever cherish the words written by my fellow inmates in those pages of my Book of Mormon.  Words and phrases that touch my heart like: have truly inspired me...
...thank you for bringing light into such a dark place...'ve made a huge impact in my life... have brought peace to this place the minute you walked in...
...thank you for the reminder that God loves me... reminded me there are good people in this world...
...I've grown within myself because you reminded me to believe in myself... saw me as a person, not a hardened criminal... are a true blessing and have touched so many lives...

With that, several of the girls said they would purposely be sleeping when I leave tomorrow, and we said our good-byes tonight. 


The morning seemed to drag on and move full speed all at the same time.  Have I given adequately?  Have I grown in the past 37 days?  Have I proven faithful in this trial?  Have these girls had every opportunity to feel God's love while I have been here?  I have not prepared myself to feel sad leaving!  I am so ready to be back in Jason's arms for good and to be home with my kids! 

The guard announced over the loud speaker, "Hansen!  Roll up!"  He didn't have to tell me.  My bedroll was already stripped and taken care of.  My personal belongings were bagged up, I had given away my stamps, my paper, and my shampoo and conditioner.  I said my last good-byes and a guard came to the door to call for me. 

The inmates lined both sides of the walkway and started singing, "Na na na nah.  Na na na nah.  Hey, hey, hey.  Good-bye!"  I fought tears through my smiles, giving (completely 'illegal') hugs, saying good-bye and being so happy for my new chapter all at the same time. 

Most of the time I have forgotten I'm in jail, but sometimes that reality hits.  Most of the time I look past the girls covered in tattoos, holes from their piercings, their missing teeth, and drug-damaged skin.  Once in a while I see their earthly body and then I am reminded to look deeper at their spirit.  Their spirits that I feel so strongly that I sat with before this life.  I am forever grateful to get to know them in all their earthly struggles, side by side to help one another. 

I let my mind wander a little and every so often, and I wonder how trial would have turned out.  Would I have been found innocent as I am?  I know that God answered our prayers in exactly the right way that He needed us.  I will try very hard not to second guess that plan.  His plans are always the right way.  Even if it means going from Point A, bypassing Point B, and making my way to Point X in what seems to us as disarray.  I am so thankful for this opportunity He has given me.  I am not the same person that entered this storm 4 years ago and I wouldn't have changed a thing about it because I know we walked hand in hand with God the whole way.  There is no replacing the strength, the friendships, and enduring faith I have found.  It is evidence as I watch my well-adjusted kids in their compassionate ways, their growing testimonies of God, and pure happiness.  What more could a mom ask for?  Today I leave this jail with tears and run home to my family for good! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

#70 - Building Momentum, Knowing I'm Leaving (Journal entries from March 31, 2014)

Today is just a jumble of thoughts.  I feel like I'm scrambling and running out of time.  Like a missionary at the end of service, I wonder if I've made a difference, done what I was supposed to do, and if it mattered to anyone besides strengthening myself. 

This morning as I studied scriptures, I started to wonder if we are held accountable to God for what we are taught or for what we internalize and believe?  More specifically, am I held accountable for things I have been taught - or only the things I have gained a testimony in?  That side of the question is easier to answer than the other way I have been thinking of it. 

Are these girls held accountable for the things they have been taught, or only for the things they have internalized and believe, however small of a testimony those things are starting out as?  My prayers today have been tender and sincere trying to understand.  I want to pad the way for them.  I want them to succeed and I want God to see how hard they are trying.  I want them to grow in those little bits of truth I was able to feel while I have been here with them. 

In answer to my prayers, I have felt a comfort.  He knows them and loves them far more than I do.  As protective I feel over those I consider friends now, I have been reminded that they were His before I was here, and they will still be His after I leave.  He also desperately wants them to return to Him.  He wants to pad the way, but He also wants them to stretch and grow.  It's hard to grow in a padded room.  For those bumps, God has provided a Savior to pad the way - a way to repent and try again.  I am so thankful for this gospel that succors me, a mother of 5.  And in the same way succors a girl without family.  God has answered my prayers as my kids were taken away, and will answer the prayers of these girls who struggle with addiction.  It is all encompassing and a safe umbrella for anyone who will accept it's protection. 

When Bryer was in foster care and we didn't know where she was or who was caring for her, I had to turn it over to God.  I had to ask him in all humility to watch over her and help her feel my love even when I couldn't be right with her.  I feel the same about several of these girls.  I love them like family, so I have asked God to watch over them and prompt them in ways they can feel Him, to keep them safe, and continuing in this search for truth and in bettering their lives. 


I got mail today - overflow from the weekend, and it never gets old.  I was ready to hear from family and friends!  In one card a family member wrote, "You will never have to endure this again," and then closed with, "The good times will be rolling soon."  But as I peeked out my cell door to watch the girls crocheting together, sharing inside jokes, and my Bunkie peacefully reading scriptures on her bottom bunk, I don't feel like I am 'enduring' this.  I feel privileged to be a part.  "The good times" are already rolling, and will continue when I get home.  Life really is what you make of it.  Seeing God's plan working in me has made all the difference.  Some may ask, "Why me?"  That would be easy to ask, being cooped up in jail for 7 days at a time for something I didn't do.  It would be easy to ask "Why me?" dressed in stripes and orange crocs, being stuck outside until someone notices I've been standing at the door for 15 minutes in the cold.  It would be easy to ask "Why me?" when I sleep with a light on, 2 feet from my face all night long.  It would be easy to ask "Why me?" when I have to leave my sweet kids with my husband and mother-in-law for a week separated from them, humbled and desperate for their voices and hugs. 

Where I stand, mustering up all my courage even still in my stripes and orange crocs, I put on my matching, hand crocheted orange headband and say, "Why not me?"  If we'll quit worrying about why life isn't going as we have planned and thank God for helping us see His plan, we will gain a different perspective - one that's so much more worthwhile beyond our own tunnel vision.  However much pain and frustration I've had over my own plans and what I should be doing, I have also so enjoyed reaching out to these girls, sharing inside jokes, and looking forward to what the next week of adventures will bring... What God's plan will bring. 


I saw jailhouse make up in action today.  Maybe on the outs I wouldn't have taken a second look, but in here I know the limited supplies!  Ink pen for eye definer.  Fireball smeared on her cheeks for blush, to compliment the jolly rancher lip gloss.  I tried not to stare, trying to figure out the ingredients for her make up.


There was a change in here yesterday.  There seems to be smaller little clicks of girls that group together, and there's a distinction between the ones that still have the oomph to try, and those that don't.  Maybe it has to do with the length of time they've been in, or maybe it's that they will go stir crazy if they don't, or maybe that the ones that don't try anymore have been knocked down enough that trying to be better in here is just a waste of time.  I watched Dani step outside her comfort zone and walk across jail 'clicks' to ask to workout with a couple other girls.  Until now there's been some tension between those that workout, and those that don't.  Dani has been here a long time, so for her to give it some oomph was inspiring!  I watched as she tried to keep up with the girl that used to be a trainer and the other girl who used to hit the gym 4 times a week.  Pushups, wall squats, tricept dips, jogging back and forth like tigers in a cage along the end of the cells. 

I watched the girls from Dani's regular group as they yelled out and kind of teased her in the beginning for 'trading sides.'  Then I saw her push through with perseverance to finish the workout, sweaty and huffing and puffing by the end. 

Dani was the start of it yesterday.  She was the first to go to the 'other side.'  The girls in here have a hard time with someone trying to 'better themselves' in here and misinterpret it to mean they are trying to be 'better than others' in here.  With Dani starting her second workout today, I decided to jump in, and brought Tuck with me.  If ever it was uncomfortable to workout with someone watching, it was now.  Inmates.  Cameras.  I usually prefer to do my lunges, triceps dips, and jumping jacks in the mornings when I go out to break by myself.  I suppose this workout for me was mostly to encourage Dani and let her know she's amazing for making the leap.  She's been here long enough to gain respect of the long timers and willing to finish a workout with the newbies.  Walking that line just doesn't happen in here, but she did it gracefully.   


We had a good Bible Study with the two ladies from Mountain Life tonight.  We got on the topic of regular church attendance.  One of the girls from the kitchen said she always sent her kids to church without her.  Her father taught her that she needed to be right with God before going to church; otherwise it would be spitting in His face.  Because of her fear of irreverence toward God, she chose not to go ever.  She said she didn't want to give her life over to Him and then mess up.  It's scary to accept Him - maybe her last chance and she doesn't want to let Him down.  While I believe that repentance and 'being right with God' is an important part of the gospel, if we all waited until we were perfect before we went, then the pews would be empty!  I testified to her that we go to church to accept Christ and continue to change our life that it's a constant process - not change our life before going to church.  I'm glad that this is a continual process, and that I have a chance each week to take the sacrament bread and water to remember Him and get back on track, set new goals, and remember what He needs from me. 

That led into a conversation about communion and the two ladies leading the discussion brought out their canned grape juice and saltine crackers.  They talked about being right with God before taking communion.  They said a prayer and then passed it out.  I was the only one, as usual, who didn't take part.  Again, I felt different and strange, even though I knew I was okay not taking it.  While I'm so glad that the girls here have that opportunity, I am happy to wait until I get back to church on the outs to have the sacrament.  It still didn't make it any easier to know I was the only one feeling left out.  I don't like the feeling of thinking they are all looking at me and wondering why I'm 'not right with God.'  We closed our meeting shortly after and we walked single file back down the hall, waiting at each of the doors for it to be unlocked for us until we made it back to our pod. 

As we crossed the pod to our cells, Robin was walking at a quicker pace.  When we got to the cell, she seemed frustrated.  She dropped her books on her bed and then just said bluntly, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Yes," knowing something was really bothering her.
"I noticed that you never take the communion, and it doesn't matter who brings it!" 
I explained what the sacrament means to me when I take it every other week that I'm out.  It's frequent - because I need that weekly, to reset my goals, to think about my path, to try to do better this week than I did last.  I also talked with her about the Priesthood - the literal power of God - to bless and pass the sacrament. 

I explained that while I'm happy for the girls to have a way to honor their religious beliefs, there are enough things that are not similar for me to feel comfortable accepting communion.  Robin accepted that and respected my answer.  She said it made her feel so much better just to know why! 


Tonight I read scriptures with Tuck and Cal.  They had a reading assignment from their clergy visit out of the Book of Mormon.  We read the first part of Helaman, chapter 5.  When we read verse 12, I explained a trick I use to 'liken the scriptures to me,' to make them more personal.  Verse 5 reads,

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

When I use my trick, I replace words like 'my sons' and 'you' and 'ye' with my name.  So I substituted Tuck's name in this verse.  It wasn't until I started reading it with her name, that I felt so touched to hear this piece of council to her, a recovering addict trying so hard to do what's right, straight from God.

"And now, Tuck, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye, Tuck, must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you Tuck, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye, Tuck, are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

She didn't comment right away.  She just stared thoughtful at her scriptures while Cal commented on how powerful that was!  As we finished the 27 verses, I asked them to visualize what we had just read as I recapped it - all that these 2 men overcame to then go out and be missionaries and preach the gospel. 

Walking with a little more pep, Tuck got up to go knock doors to ask those to pray with us before bed.  I had to giggle at "Sister Tuck" making such a good missionary as she gathered the girls in.  We had quite a few with us tonight.  We stood in a circle around one of the metal tables with the outside edges of our feet touching and our arms folded.  I prayed for each of the girls in the pod, as well as the guys next door and the girls in the kitchen pod.  I thanked God for the guards and the way that we are treated with respect by them and the way they treat us.  By the ending 'Amen' the lights had been dimmed, signaling that everyone should be in their cells, but the girls in the circle waited for the end of the prayer to move.  When we were finished there was a guard at the door who cleared her throat and everyone scattered, kind of giggling. 


I will cover my last 4 days of jail in next week's blog post.  
Then... May will be a big month for our family!  Our Bryer is having hip and muscle surgery.  We have invited anyone who wants to set a personal goal to 'Wake Up and Be Different' along with Bryer.  Set your month-long goal by May 1.  I'll be posting goal ideas and tips on The Briar Effect Facebook page.  Go 'like' us there if you haven't already! 

Also, I need your help!  I have been so inspired from stories of every-day people that have overcome challenges.  I want to feature them on the blog during the month of May.  Do you know someone who has overcome adversity?  Was it you?  A friend?  A family member?  Sometimes it's something that we bring on ourselves (though I don't want to bring up someone's past who's not comfortable sharing) or sometimes it's just something tough that happens to us to refine and teach us. 

Please send your own story or a nomination of a friend/family member to or message me on The Briar Effect Facebook page.  I'd love to share a picture of the person when they are featured, if you have one.  We need inspiration during May to give us oomph to meet our goals!  You, or someone you know may be that inspiration!  As a small bit of incentive, I'm giving away "Wake up and Be Different" bumper stickers.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

#69 - The Pride Cycle (Journal from Sunday, March 30, 2014)

"5 minutes 'til breakfast!" woke me up coming from the loud speaker... followed by the routine reminder in my head, "Wake up and be different!"  The phrase has helped my mornings seem purposeful.  I never know what lies ahead for a day in jail, but at least I know where I stand and what my standards are.  Like Joseph B. Worthlin says, "Come what may and love it!" 

In church today we sang these songs:
In Moments Like These
Above All
We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise

The pastor has recorded a CD of songs of him singing and playing his guitar with his congregation so that we can sing along with them.  The songs aren't the hymns I'm used to, but they bring a welcoming feeling and if I closed my eyes I might even feel like I'm in a real congregation. 

We talked about the similarities between 2 sacrifices: Abraham taking his son Issac to be sacrificed; and Christ dying on the cross as a sacrifice for us.  In my mind, I also asked "What sacrifices do I offer?" 

Issac carried his own wood to the place his life would be taken; Christ carried his own cross to the hill on Calvary.  What hard pains am I asked to bear?  Do I do it with such grace as these 2 did?  Do I keep an eternal perspective of why I'm being asked to do something hard? 

Abraham and Issac walked for 3 days to find the place of sacrifice; Christ was resurrected after 3 days.  The number 3 intrigues me within the gospel.  The Godhead has 3 personages - God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost.  I heard it illustrated before that if you marry a man and woman, like two pieces of rope intertwined, that when you let go of the ends, it unravels.  If you include God in that marriage and braid the three strands of rope, when you let go of the ends it still stays braided.  The groups of three make my brain work. 


This afternoon we watched Ladder 49 with John Travolta.  It was a feel-good, emotional movie that left 1/2 the girls in tears.  As I looked around at all the emotion, I don't remember it ever feeling so 'soft' in here before.  It definitely wasn't my first and second weeks here.  What has changed to let them show some emotion?!  A couple girls that had been in their cells reading during the movie came out and saw the tears.  They said, "Oh **** no!  I'm not watchin that movie!  Look at ya'll!"  We just laughed.  The movie was a good escape from jail for a couple hours.


Rachel and I sat crocheting at a table today and talking about all the drama that went on before I got here.  She said she told the girls, "We just need Krissi to come and calm us down."  It made me feel good, but I wish they could find that calmness within themselves.  It's in there, but it can't come out when there's chaos.  They have to find time to regroup and recharge themselves before they can calm anyone else down.  Rachel's leadership skills have kicked in more than once already since I've been here and she's been able to put out fires before they start between girls.  Doesn't she know she also carries with her that calmness and serenity?  I think she underestimates herself.  Toward the end of the conversation she put her yarn and crochet hooks in her lap and looked at me.  "What are we going to do when we don't have you to look forward to each month?!"  I'm sure I looked at her with a blank stare thinking the same thing - as hard as it is to leave my husband and kids, what am I going to do when I don't have her and the other girls to look forward to?  I never saw this coming.  I only know that all at the same time that it's stinkin hard to leave my family, and that I love being here with the girls.  I know the extreme sadness of not being there to share the funny moments of my kids, and the equal amount of joy on the other end of seeing these girls progress.  Funny that this was supposed to be a punishment.  The Lord works in mysterious ways. 


Rachel's Bunkie came to show me a picture today.  It was of an old, shriveled up lady who looked to be about 50 years old.  She had grey-ish green skin and sunken in cheek bones with a body frame that couldn't have been over 100 pounds.  As I looked at the old woman for a minute, Nicki said, "I keep that picture to remind myself to never go back to that."  I couldn't believe it was her!  Here stood a cute, wavy haired blond girl with a funny sense of humor and healthy figure.  She said, "You know those commercials - 'Meth. Not even once.'  Ya, that's me completely strung out and thinking I looked hot.  Now I say - Meth.  Not even once!" 


After last night's prayer group that we gathered up, Tuck was feeling confident.  Tonight she took her scriptures with her and knocked door-to-door on each cell door frame asking if each inmate wanted to come read with us.  She is a short, spunky girl with choppy dark hair.  She was all business with a pep in her step.  She gathered up me, Robin, and Cal to read together.  After her missionary efforts I started calling her Sister Tuck, joking that she needed a name badge.  Really, how often do we go next door to ask our neighbor if she wants to read scriptures with us?  These things just do not happen in real life! 

We read about the Pride Cycle that happens over and over in the scriptures, but I added that it also happens within us too.  We are doing well and things are going good.  If we are smart, we continue to stay close to God, but lots of times we forget where those blessings are coming from.  Sometimes unrighteous pride takes over and we forget to pray, read, learn of Him.  In the scriptures they use the words wickedness and abominations.  After their own plans fall apart, they are humble enough to ask for help again and turn to God. 

I didn't have Pinterest in jail, but here's a sample of the Pride Cycle

We read the verse Alma 21:17 when they are turning back to God, "...the Lord began to bless them, insomuch that they brought many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, they did convince many of their sins, and of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct."  Then in verse 23 it even says, "...they were zealous for keeping the commandments of God." 

I wanted to rub my eyes to see if this is a dream.  Am I really discussing scriptures and application with inmates in jail?!  It helped me question where I am at too and what differences I need to make so I don't fall into that pride trap.  Even in jail, it would be easy to fall into that cycle.  I don't come in nervous anymore, humble and craving that essential guidance like I did in the beginning.  The girls all love when I come.  I have to remember that it's not me that they love - it's the light of Christ in me.  There's enough conversation and crocheting that it would keep me busy without reading my scriptures so diligently.  I think it's natural to try harder when things are bad and we desperately need God to help us.  It's when things are going smoothly that it's easy to forget all those essential things that we still need to do to strengthen our relationship with God. 


Tonight Tuck taught me a new card game called Garbage.  I'm not much of a card player and it takes me a while to catch on, but I knew I shouldn't be intimidated to let Tuck teach me.  She was patient and even helped me write down the rules so I can teach the kids when I get home. 

While we were playing cards one of the guards came in to count us.  She stopped at our cell to talk to Robin for a minute.  I laughed when the conversation ended with Robin calling out in a Toy Story Woody voice, "Yer my fa-a-a-a-avorite deputy!" 

32 days down, 5 to go.  I'm keeping track in my journal by marking off my boxes.  That part of jail movies really happens in here.  It keeps my mind focused and since I haven't seen a calendar in here the whole time, it helps me remember what day it is too. 


An update on Bryer...

She was casted this past week for them to build a brace for her to wear post-op.  Our goal was to come up with the remaining $10,000 that insurance wouldn't cover of her surgery.  We have broken the $6000 mark as of now!  There's 3 days left to get your Wake Up and Be Different t-shirts.  Go to this link to read more about the surgery, and set a goal for you to Wake Up and Be Different in the month of May.  Wear your shirt through the month of May, but especially on May 13 when Bryer goes for surgery!

A sweet friend of ours set up a Go Fund Me for Bryer also, if you'd like to donate that way.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

#68 - Inmate Prayers (Journal from March 29, 2014)

I met a new girl today.  Word travels fast around here and I heard she was receiving clergy visits from my friends from church.  That alone is so huge - these girls have received so much hope and direction from church leaders that they have also helped this new girl get visits.  It just goes to show that when something helps you, you want to share it.  It makes me just beam that clergy visits have gone on without me here and they are showing the new girls the ropes. 

It's kind of like when I teach my kids something and I hope they get it.  Then I see them in action and they are putting it into practice.  Teach a person where to go for help and you'll help that person.  But when you see that person also teach others, you know they've internalized it and there's no limit to their reach. 

The new girl was out to break with us today.  She was standing away from the other girls, all by herself, with her face so close to the chain length fence that keeps us in.  I knew that look.  If you get close enough to the fence that you can see it right through it, it almost feels like you're not stuck behind it.  Almost.  I had tried the trick many times.  I'm only here 7 days at a time and I feel it. 

I introduced myself to her, but didn't get much in return other than her name.  (I'll call her Cal for privacy reasons.)  I stood with her just quiet for a little bit.  Sometimes a person just needs to know they aren't alone.  I sensed that she didn't want to talk yet, but I didn't want her to feel lonely either.  Before long she said, "They said you were coming."  I smiled, not really understanding what that meant.  She went on, "The girls.  They told me about you."  I shrugged and told her that I hoped they were good things.  She opened up and told me how much she missed her kids - that her 16 year old was being difficult and wouldn't talk to her anymore.  I learned about her other kids and a little bit about their personalities.  She misses her kids terribly bad!  Too soon it was time to go back inside.  I walked away feeling a connection to Cal, even after just meeting her, and I'm so excited for a week to get to know her better. 


Each week I come, I have to feel out the connections between everyone.  The tensions seems a little high, but I don't know if that's just from all the privileges being taken away.  There are two girls in here that workout every morning and every night.  One used to be a personal trainer and she seems a little intimidating.  I want to workout with them, but I want to make sure I can keep up.  I've also heard some of the regulars bad mouthing the girls who workout because they are 'trying to be better than us.'  Why is that such a personal matter?  Anytime someone in here tries to better themselves, they get backlash.  Maybe it's jealousy?  Whatever it is, it leaves an awful feeling in here. 

The kitchen girls have brought in a bean dish twice now and barley, which is new in the previous 4 weeks I've been here.  Are they trying to be healthier?  There's also a big jug of ice cold water we can fill our mugs with so we don't have to drink the luke-warm water out of the sink that's attached to our toilet.  That's a plus.  :-) 


Tuck came to the door of mine and Robin's cell today.  She had her scriptures in her hand and asked if I would read with her.  Robin heard her from the bottom bunk and said, "What am I - chopped liver now?  I've been reading with you every day!"  Tuck apologized and said, "I love reading with you!  It's just that Krissi is a limited time edition, so I want to take advantage while she's here!"  I laughed at Tuck's quick wit. 

I grabbed my scriptures and we found a table to sit and read.  When else in my whole life would a girl like Tuck ever come knock on my door and ask to read scriptures?!  This just does not happen in real life.  It's such a blessing to be here with these girls - to read with them, to listen to them, to help them understand the big picture.  It's such an honor to be here with them.  (Wait, I am in jail, right?  For something I didn't do?!)  Oh it's all a matter of perspective.  Happy people will just be happy. 

Tuck is a character.  She's one of those that's happy no matter what.  I wish she knew how awesome she was, once she's on the outs.  She talked about her Dad today and how he wants to get her a set of her very own scriptures with her jail number engraved on them.  "So they always know who she is," he tells her.  She laughed about it, so I laughed along with her, but I still hope she doesn't define herself by a jail number.  I really don't like negative labels, and a jail number would definitely rank up there as a negative label. 


After reading and having such a good gospel discussion today, I teased Tuck about being Sister Tuck, like they call the girl missionaries from church.  Tonight she went to knock on Cal's door - kind of halfway kidding after I was calling her Sister Tuck.  She asked Cal if she wanted to pray with us before bed.  Tuck was so surprised that Cal said yes, that she ran over to my cell and (almost) yelled, "She said yes!  She said yes!  Now what do I do?!" 

I said, "Well, we should probably pray with her...  And we should probably ask any others if they want to pray with us too."  Robin had been reading on her bottom bunk through the whole conversation and was cracking up at all the excitement.  When Tuck left, I told Robin, "You don't want to miss out on all this praying, do ya?"  She agreed to come out and join. 

We were up to 4 of us sitting around one of the metal tables.  They were all looking at me, like I was supposed to know what to do to invite the rest of the girls.  Yell at them to join us?  That seemed a little irreverent to start a prayer.  So I got up from the table with them all watching me and I went to the first door and knocked on the door frame of the open door.  "We're going to say prayer out here if you want to join us."  I got a grunt.  Not promising, but it was my very first experience at knocking doors!   

I decided to walk up the stairs.  Maybe it was the eyes of the other 3 girls watching me that gave me confidence.  Rachel's cell was upstairs and I knew she'd at least talk to me, even if she didn't want to come down.  Anything is better than a grunt.  She agreed - and then she asked her Bunkie to come too!  Whoo Hoo!  The girls at the table were so excited to see 2 more join our group.  As I made my way to the last 3 cells, I got polite no's.  I told them I'd let them know again tomorrow night.  :-)

I'm pretty sure I skipped all the way down the stairs.  I was about to pray... to God... with 5 other inmates!  Real live, honest to goodness, jail inmates!  Talking to God!  Cloud 9, I tell ya!  I was so excited that I don't remember much of what I said in the prayer.  I prayed for our safety and for our families while we are in here.  I prayed for the girls in our cell block to get along, and that we would be good examples for each other.  They all said amen after me when I was done, which usually signifies that they agree.  We sat and talked for a while and I soaked up this renewed connection I felt to each of them.  Seriously, who gets to do this?!  Who gets to knock doors in jail and ask people to pray together?  Who gets to go to jail for 7 days out of the month, feeling renewed from a trip to the temple, buoyed up by family, and feel God's presence here.  I do!  I get to do this!  Amazing.  I'm not forcing religion on them, but only showing them where I have received my own strength.  I am so thankful for Tuck for initiating this process and the excitement of praying together! 

They came in with the med cart at the regularly scheduled 10 pm and everyone scattered back to their cells to take turns in the common area taking their pills. 

While Robin and I talked quietly in our cell while they handed out meds, Robin asked about challenges.  She has been trying to understand - really understand - about how God's will works and how it fits with doing our best.  I felt that maybe she somehow felt God was punishing her.  As I sat at the small table across from her on her bottom bunk, I asked her if she really knew how much God loved her.  This is a conversation I have never had with anyone on the outs before one-on-one, but it felt so natural to express it to Robin.  She looked down at her book, not making eye contact with me anymore.  I explained the huge amount of love that God has for her and how much confidence He has in her to get through this.  He doesn't set us up for failure.  That's not His plan.  He wants the very best for us, but that takes lining ourselves up with His will. 

As we were done, she wiped away her tears.  She said, "I just want to clone you and repopulate the earth with you.  It would be a lot happier place."  I shook my head, hoping she had gotten the message.  It's not me that made her emotional.  It's feeling the Holy Ghost testify of those truths to her - that God really does have a huge amount of love for her.  It's not me that needs to be cloned.  I feel blessed to come. 


In my prayers tonight I thanked Heavenly Father for this opportunity to be here in jail.  I thanked him for the girls that are here this week.  I thanked him for sending me to a family that would be supportive of me, as well as being married into the same, and asked that He watch over them each individually.  I tried not to cry as I pleaded with Him to keep my husband and kids safe - emotionally, physically, and spiritually - while I am away from them.  I didn't want Robin to hear me sniffling as I crouched on my top bunk asking God for his blessings this week.  Having a mom in jail is not a good situation, to say the least.  I am thankful that He has preserved their innocence and resiliency.  That in and of itself is a true miracle

I learned a while ago that if you can't change something, then give it gratitude.  It may not change the situation, but it will always change the person.  Being grateful - even in hard times - can make the difference between sinking or swimming... of flying, as I feel like doing tonight.