Rainbows and Christian Music

I am only 2 days into week 5, but I had such a nice walk tonight, I wanted to share it.

We have a track here, which is very well used.  My goal is to do a mile every night, but there is always something else that comes up, or my latest excuse was the radio one of my buddies loaned me is missing a clip, so I couldn’t use it to walk.  This evening, I crocheted a little pouch for the radio that goes around my neck and made myself go out and walk.  The first lap around I saw a large rainbow in the sky.  I have seen lots of rainbows here and they seem so much bigger and closer than they do at home.  I thought it was funny to see a rainbow since it had not rained today, it wasn’t really even cloudy.  I was in the mood for some Christian music and turned to the Christian station.  As I finished my second lap and was looking for an excuse to quit, one of my favorite songs from church came on, “10,000 Reasons”.  I love that song, if you get a chance Youtube it.  Since I can’t get the station inside, I figured that was my message from God to keep walking and finish out the mile.  When the song ended, I was finishing my third lap, I noticed the rainbow was starting to fade, but was still there to encourage me to walk that last lap. I started the last lap and a song I have never heard before came on and the chorus, was speaking to me.  Based on the words to the song, I am pretty sure it is called “You’ll Overcome It”.  I finished my walk feeling uplifted, and even a little spiritual.  Was this all just a coincidence, or is God talking to me, in probably the only way he knew I would listen?  Did my favorite song come on to get my attention, and the next song come on to tell me that everything will be ok?  Believing is so hard.

Have a great rest of the week.

Julie

**Bethany’s note: I believe the song is Overcomer by  Mandisa, but I will chat with mom and see and find out if it sounds right.**

Week Four

Crochet, Visits & God

I can’t believe I have been here for 4 weeks already.  Now that I am working, time is passing faster.  I get up, eat, pack up my little bag with my crochet & my book and head out the door to my little tool cage.  In my down time I can read & crochet, so it is the job for me!

Speaking of crocheting, I finally can!  I was so excited when I was reading about the camp, and that the biggest pastime for people here is crochet.  I was disappointed when I found out you can ‘t just pick up a hook and start.  There are forms to be filled out, approvals to get before you can order your yarn.  Once  you order your yarn it is still another week before you can get started.  I was finally good to go this past Monday with all of my approvals, I had my yarn and could start.  The first project, twin baby blankets for one of the guys I work with on the “outside”.  I am more than half way done with the first one and I am so proud of it!  I did have to start the entire thing over when it just wasn’t working out right for me.  Fortunately, most people here who crochet are very eager to help, and thanks to one of the girl’s suggestions, it is coming out perfect now. I will have Bethany post a picture when I send it to her.  When I am done with the two blankets, I want to start on a stuffed dog for Landon for Christmas.  I just have to get everyone to start searching for a dachshund crochet pattern.  If anyone happens to have one, can you make a copy and send it to Bethany or directly to me?  I would really appreciate it.  I miss Pinterest right now.  By the way, I rolled my yarn in to balls this week by hand!  It doesn’t sound that exciting, but in this world of having to do everything now and fast, taking the time to sit and roll the yarn forced me to chill and take my time, which is something I need a lot of work on.

I finally had my first visit this week.  Bethany and Gabbi came up on Sunday to visit.  I was nervous, not knowing how it would go, but it went great.  They stayed for about 3 hours, and I am so proud of myself, I did not cry when they left.  It was so great seeing them!  I miss my kids so much.  We are going to work on getting Landon here to visit soon.  To have a visitor, it takes a couple of weeks of planning. First the visitor has to mail in the visit form.  Unless they are listed on my paperwork as immediate family, a check has to be run on them to make sure there are no issues with them coming here.  Once this is done, it is good for 10 years.  Then it has to be put in the system that they are approved.  The whole process takes about 2 weeks to get them clear to visit.  We can only have visits every other weekend, depending on if we are odd or even (I am odd – nothing new).  I told the girls the worst thing they could do is try to surprise me.  For visits we have to get dressed in full uniform, including the boots. I have seen so many people upset because they didn’t know they were going to have a visit, and were called as they were coming out of the shower, off the track, etc.  They are so frazzled by the time they get in there, they have a hard time enjoying the visit.

I have spent some time this week thinking about my relationship with God.  I went to Mass and enjoyed it much better than the protestant service they have.  I thought about reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  I finished Genesis and was even more confused than I started with.  Between the men taking a wife and a servant, loaning out their wives, and all of the other things I had a hard time relating to why that is supposed to make me trust in God, the way I was taught.  My Bunkie suggested I start with the New Testament, that I would be much happier.  She actually suggested I read the book of James first, then go back to Matthew.  I like the book of James much better than Genesis.  I have a pretty smart Bunkie.  Between the discussions with the shrink before I came in, and my time of thinking here, I have come to the following conclusions:

1.   I need to find a way to forgive God for not being there with me all the times I needed him.  I have read all of the things about him always being by your side, but I am still having a hard time believing that.
2.   I need to find a way to forgive myself for what I have done, much easier said than done.
3.   I need to ask God for Forgiveness.

I have determined that I need to accomplish these items in this order, before I can move on.  Now I just have to find the best way to do it.  I have been talking to a lot of people who seem to be so deep with their faith, but I can’t get past the feeling that it doesn’t apply to me.  I still have a lot of work to do on this subject.

Lastly, prison popcorn is good!  Werther’s candies, melted with caramels & butter and mixed with popcorn and peanuts…can’t wait to make it for everyone when I get home.

Have a great week!

Julie

Week Three

Classes, Guards, Job & Medical

The week started off pretty quiet.  I signed up for one class this semester, Event Planning, and went to the first class on Monday.  There are 15 people in the class, about 5 didn’t speak English and only me and 4 others brought paper & pen and were ready to start a class.  In the end, the class only lasted about 15 minutes, because the air went out in the building.  We will see how next week goes, I guess.

I was asked about how the guards are.  Most of the guards here also work at the 4 other prisons on the the compound, all male prisons, one low security, one medium,  and two high.  There are some scary people over in the high security prison, and the fact that they have to have two, is even more scary!  The guards are tough when they are here, but overall friendly.  You show them respect, they show you respect, you treat them like crap, they remind you that you are the bad guy (girl) and it isn’t pretty.  I have yet to find one that is mean, as a matter of fact, most are very friendly, as long as  you follow the rules.

I finally started my job this week.  The facility warehouse for the entire property is located next to us.  I am the tool clerk in the Electric department.  Basically, I am a tool librarian, someone needs a tool, they come to me to check one out.  I am learning all sorts of different tools, and their real names, which are very different from the names I have given them.  I am not sure where I am going to add tool clerk to my resume.  The job is easy, but it is away from the camp (by about 200 feet) and I feel like I am getting out into the real world and working instead of laying around reading all day.

The medical here, overall is pretty good.  They have been on top of my hemoglobin since I walked through the door at a very low number (longtime problem).  They retested it on Thursday and when the results came back Friday, it had dropped to blood transfusion level.   So off we went, one of the guards and me to Leesburg Memorial, for a weekend of blood transfusions, iron infusions, and other tests.  It was no fun, and between all of the blood tests they had to run, and all of the issues with actually getting my veins, I had a total of 28 pokes for the 48 hours I was there.  My arms are still sore!  My numbers came back up enough to get released, but I will have more appointments with the hematologist (who happens to be part of the same group I saw in Tampa, so she has all my records!!  Yay, we don’t have to start over from scratch), and the other specialist for the issue that caused my hemoglobin to drop so fast to begin with.  I keep hoping the government will decide I am too expensive for this short amount of time and send me home, but the RN here (who is also very nice) told me to keep dreaming.  During the time while I was at the hospital, they have a sub contractor guard service that stayed with me until it was time to go home.  I was very unimpressed, and if it weren’t for the fact that I may have to go again, I would love to blast them right now.  Instead, that will wait until I get home.

The worse part about being away is missing my family, talking to them on the phone is hard, because I just want to jump through it and hug and kiss each one of them.  The highlight of the day is mail time.  We all stand there waiting, anticipating for a letter, just a short note.  It is so exciting when one comes in.  If anyone wants to write, get with Bethany, she can get you the address.  Several people have subscriptions to their hometown newspapers, they said at least this way they get mail every day.  My favorite though is the little old lady that gets her soap opera digest each week.  She is so excited when it comes in, and we don’t see her for the next couple of hours as she reads it cover to cover.

I am signing off for week 3, tonight I am learning to make Prison Popcorn.  Sounds yummy, might have to make it for family dinner one night.  I will post the recipe next week.  I am also supposed to learn how to make brownies….I am looking forward to that one!

Julie

Week Two

Laundry Bags, Commissary & Church

Week 2 has finished and again, it wasn’t that bad.  Trying to think of it as an extended vacation, I don’t have to do my own laundry, cook or even clean the bathroom.  If it wasn’t for missing my kids so much and feeling guilty about my parents having to do so much, I might actually enjoy it to a point.

The week continued with more medical appointments (they do a full workup to make sure you are fully taken care of).  Since I have been here, I have had a full exam & blood work, chest x-ray, TB test, EKG & turned down the pap and mammo since it has not been that long since I have had one.  To me, the government is spending a lot of money on someone that will be here less than a year, but that is for another post.

The hardest thing so far was figuring out how to get the laundry bag tied so it will not come open in the wash.  If it does, then you have to hope no one else’s does, or you have to get everything sorted out.  My first one opened partially.  I lost a sock in the the whole ordeal.  Since then, I have mastered tying the bag and there have been no issues.

Commissary is once a week.  The first couple of weeks cost a bit, by the time you purchase all of your personal items (soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc), plus things like shorts & t-shirts.  There is a $90 spending limit each week, so you have to budget out your spending.  There is also a lot of food, snacks, etc available for purchase.  Some people just live on the commissary food, which to me is not only expensive, especially when you have free food waiting for you in food service, but you can’t live on Ramen and prepackaged foods.  Some of these women have told me they have gained  30-40 pounds here.  No wonder, when you see what they eat all day.  I have stuck to having a few snacks for in between meals, crackers, peanut butter & peanuts and refuse to buy all of the other crap.  The prices are about what they would be in the “real world”.

I went to my second (actually second and a half) church service on Sunday.  I have been to the Nondenominational service twice, and watched part of the Spanish Nondenominational service the other day since they held it outside.  I am not finding my spot here so far.  The regular service is a gospel type service, and is too loud for me.  I now know how my dad felt when they added a contemporary service at our church and he said it wasn’t like real church to him.  The Spanish service, is actually in Spanish and English, but the going back and forth was confusing, and the preacher was also very loud.  I am going to try Mass this week and see how I like it.  I might be getting back to my original roots.

I have found it interesting how many families are here together.  There are a couple of sets of mothers and daughters and at least one set of sisters.  I spoke with one girl, about the same age as my daughters the other day.  She had just arrived a few days earlier and was telling me her brother was behind the fence in the Coleman Men’s prison.  As much as I miss my family, I wouldn’t want any of them here with me.

This week I should be starting my job, which will be nice.  I will be happy to have something to do.  I have read 14 books in the last two weeks, it is time to work!  I will let you know how it goes.

Julie

Week One

Week One

Welcome to Camp!

Driving up I-75, the reality kicked in, I am going to prison.  Minimum security camp, but still prison.  How did I get here? How does a person, who grew up afraid of making mistakes, and never got in trouble in school, end up in prison?  There are so many things I could blame it on, abandoned by my father at 5, things that happened in my childhood that I never talked about until about a year ago with a psychologist, psychologically, controlling abusive ex-husband, second psychologically abusive husband, the list could go on.  I had so many plans, so many wants and desires, but I could never make an of it work for me. No matter how hard I tried, something always blocked the way.  I blamed a lot of the “blocking” on God, and am still having a hard time working through that.  I was raised to believe that God is the all powerful, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Maker of all Men.  That we can do all things through Him, he is the Almighty Father, there to take care of his children, the Shepherd, taking care and protecting his flock.  So if he is supposed to be protecting me, where was he? Why was I, the Child, the Sheep, swept to the side?  I am determined to answer those questions while I am here.

The girls drove me to camp, and tried to keep the conversation light and fun.  Bethany just turned 22 and Gabbi’s almost 20.  They have been so supportive through all of this, but these poor kids, dealing with all of this as well as trying to figure out how to be adults.

We arrived at Camp Coleman at 11:30 am.  The report letter said to report by noon and do not be late.  We arrived to locked doors.  We went to the front office and were told to wait in the car until noon.  The letter forgot to mention not to be early either.  When the guard arrived to process me in, I said good-bye to the girls (and did not cry) and went with him.  It was all very simple.  We went through my medicines I brought, a female guard came into the clothes closet with me to get my “newbie” uniform, all the way down to some lovely white granny panties (it was all very modestly done), and handed the clothes I came in back to the girls, who were waiting outside for them.  She even told them to get along on the ride home for me. Then I had a brief meeting with medical, took a pregnancy test (negative, it better be or I probably would have had a heart attack right there), and they handed me a bag with sheets, blanket, towels and a cotton nightgown.  They called for the “inmate in charge” of my new home, Unit F1, and she took me back and showed me around.  Everyone was so nice!  They went out of their way to collect some snacks for me, loaned me some shorts and a t-shirt until I could purchase my own and even gave me a pair of tennis shoes that someone wasn’t using anymore, so I wouldn’t have to walk around in the little ones they provide.

The cubicles are about 10’x10′, with a 4′ opening for the doorway and the walls are about 5′ tall.  No bars, no doors just a nice little home.  My bunkmate is very sweet, and told me all of the ins and outs of being here.  The surrounding cubicles are all women in their 50’s and they have taken me under their wings and been helpful all the way around.  My cubicle is in the very back, the last one in the row.  It is nice because at night, we are the furthest from the flushing of the bathroom and the lights in the lobby area.  We had two counts after I got there, one at 4pm, one at 10pm.  They come in, yell count, everyone stands quietly in their doorway and two guards come through and count everyone.  They also do three counts during the night, at midnight, 3am and 5am.  They are silent sleeping counts since the front doors are not locked they have to make sure we are all still there.  I was told by other inmates, it is a 5 year sentence, in the real prison, to attempt to leave, so no one even tries.  Everyone just wants to do their time and go home.

The rest of the week was filled with getting situated, with uniforms, medically and throughout the camp.  The food is not bad, could use a little more spices, but I am surviving.  The uniforms are olive green men’s work pants, a brown t-shirt, an olive green belt and an olive green button down shirt.  We only have to wear them from 7:30am to 4pm and for visits and the rest of the time we can wear the shorts or sweats that can be purchased.

I have survived my first week, and will write about the second week soon.

Julie