Week Twenty Two

Another week is done!

22 weeks here, I am learning more and more about the justice and prison system.  There is so much money wasted on having camps.  The white collar, zero risk inmates should be at home, on ankle monitors, not wasting their time and the government’s money here.  Most of those inmates could be out working, paying their restitution and contributing to society instead of living off the government here.  Just think about how much our tax dollars go to feeding, clothing, medicating, etc people who could be out there working.  Think about how many families are struggling at home, losing their houses due to loss of income, children that are without their mom, some that have been put in the foster system, which costs the government even more.  Plus, the programs designed for “re-entry” are not what they need to be.  Most people don’t think about stuff like this, I know I never did, and never cared, truthfully.  But now that I have seen the other side, I have to speak out about it.  I hope the new administration takes the time to really look at these situations.  Just from what I have seen (can’t wait to find out real numbers when I get out), all of the people who are here, that are NOT first time offenders and NOT probation violators are NOT white collar.  Almost all of the white collar people I have met are not repeat offenders. They all just want to get out of here and get their lives back. I have met one probation violator out of everyone I have talked to that was originally white collar, but her probation violation was for drugs.  The amount of tax dollars that would be saved on keeping the white collar, first offenders home, could help go for better re-entry programs for the people that do keep returning.  I am planning to spend a lot more time on this once I am home, my eyes have been opened to a whole other world.

I heard one of the girls here crying hysterically the other day.  My first thought was, please don’t let it be bad news from home.  Unfortunately, her brother had been killed.  I have seen several girls go through deaths in their families, they are not able to attend services and not able to go through the entire grieving process.  How sad it is so be away from your family during a time like that.  She did have 95 women around to comfort her, but it is not the same as having your family around.

I laughed last night during count time.  We had two male guards, and as they were walking through, I thought about how uncomfortable it had to be walking through 95 women, knowing that each and every one of them was watching and judging every piece of you.  No wonder we can’t keep male guards here for very long, that has to be a very hard walk, no matter how high their self esteem is.

I have no song this week.  I had a rough, depressing weekend with Thanksgiving, and the radio station I listen to has switched to Christmas music 24/7.  I can’t take it right now, just makes me sad, so I haven’t listened much.  Hopefully this week I will get out of my little rut and get back into everything.  I have been working on Christmas presents for the kids, and something special for Mom and Dad that is going out in the mail this week.

Have a great week!

10 more chicken days!
4 more visit weekends!
3 more blanket exchanges!

Julie

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Happy Birthday Poppa

Happy Birthday Poppa!

My grandparents, known to me as Nonny and Poppa, lived about 20 minutes from here.  I spent many weekends at their place on a canal off of the Withlacoochee River.  The memories of those times have been flooding back to me since I have been here.  Being near the woods, seeing all of the wildlife, hearing the birds all bring back so many memories.  We visited many times each year, but always made sure to visit the weekend before Thanksgiving, so we could celebrate Poppa’s birthday.  There was an orange tree behind the laundry shed that was always ripe and ready for picking, and he would make sure to save the prettiest ones to be picked by me when I was there.  When my girls were little, he would do the same for them, leaving oranges near the bottom so they could continue our tradition of picking oranges on his birthday weekend. I wish I had appreciated it back because I miss those visits so much now.  Poppa passed away 14 years ago and Nonny 16 years ago.

Their little house in a town called Lake Panasoffkee had so many memories in it.  I drove by a few years ago and the house was gone, the property totally changed by the new owners.  I wish my brother and I had been able to keep that property back after my Poppa passed away, but sadly, events of the time made that not possible.  I may not have the property, but I have the memories.  Every visit my brother and I looked forward to our trips out into the river with Poppa in his little motor boat.  I can still hear my Nonny calling to us to be careful and not fall out of the boat.  Poppa would always find a flower mixed in with the cattails for us to pick for Nonny.  I remember hiding it behind my back, taking it to her, and her always acting surprised that we stopped and picked her a flower.  I remember sitting on the dock with Poppa, fishing for blue gills with bread balls and cane poles.  How exciting it was when we would catch them (they loved those bread balls), along with the occasional shiner, catfish & mud fish.  I would stand by Poppa as he cleaned our catch at his “fish cleaning station” and then Nonny would cook them up for us that night for dinner.  I can still hear Nonny’s voice telling us to watch out for cottonmouths (snakes) when we went down to the river.  I remember the big alligator that sunned himself on the little island across from their place.  His name was Charlie.  I am sure there were several alligators in that area, but according to Nonny, Charlie was the only one around.  I remember Poppa teaching us how to aim and shoot his rifle (or was it a shotgun?  Are they the same thing?).  We would shoot rounds into a marker he had in the middle of the canal.  Poppa always had a big garden, and I remember going out and picking the vegetables with Nonny for dinner, helping her prep them, and then her getting irritated with me because I refused to eat them.   I will never forget Nonny’s breakfasts.  You would walk away from the table 5 pounds heavier.  Being raised in Georgia, Nonny was a very southern cook.  Bacon grease was the secret ingredient for most all of her foods…just a touch for flavor.  Biscuits were homemade, and the grits were the real ones, not instant.  She also always made sure she had little glass bottles of Coke whenever we visited, because Coke out of a glass bottle tastes the best and was my favorite.  I so wish my kids could have grown up with some of the experiences I had there, and I really wish I had appreciated them more while I was growing up.

Happy birthday Poppa!  I am sure Heaven has a canal that you can throw out a cane pole and catch a fish..with a bread ball.  I hope they have oranges today with lunch, so I can eat one in your memory.

Week Twenty One

Armadillos, Writing & Same Old Fun

Another week is over, and I have been amazed every night at this little armadillo that plays by the track.  I have named him Armando (could be an Amanda, but I like Armando), and love watching him walk around without a care in the world, digging for whatever armadillos dig for, and loving life.  He seems to know where the sign is for us not to cross, because he usually stays on his side of the sign.  The noise of the ladies running and talking on the track does not disturb him at all.  Up until now, the only armadillos I have ever seen in the wild were squished on the side of the road, so seeing him walking around just really makes me happy. I have been seeing the foxes too (named Copper 1 and Copper 2), in the evenings.  I wish they would come out during the day so I could see their coloring, but that has not happened.  They do encourage me to walk longer, because I want to keep watching them.  I ended up walking 5 miles the other day, just so I could keep seeing Armando playing in the field.

I have been working on my book, and some other projects around here.  I actually sent Bethy the first chapter to save for me.  I will be sending her more as I have time to sit and type them into an email.  I can’t wait to get home and be able to type on my computer, and edit as I go.

I survived the dentist this week and no longer have a hole in my tooth.  She was very nice, and I was very proud of myself staying calm the entire time.  I also went out to the hematologist this week.  At first I did not like going because we go in uniform with a guard, so sitting in the waiting room, everyone sits and stares at the “convict” with the guard.  I can see how uncomfortable they are with us there, but both times I was taken back very quickly, so that was a plus.  I guess they wanted me out of their waiting room.  They are setting up a day for an iron infusion, which lasts a few hours.  We will see how many people I can freak out in the infusion room with my guard.  We had a long talk in my Threshold class about holding our heads up high, so that is what I did in the waiting room, and even smiled at the people waiting.  There is not much longer, I just need to get through all of this so I can get home and keep working on holding my head up. In the dining hall, they painted “encouraging” words on the walls this week.  One quote was “No one can make you feel inferior unless you allow them to”.  I am working hard on remembering I am worth something, and I want to make sure my kids know they are too.

We heard a story in class this week.  A group of frogs were hopping down a path towards the pond.  There was a hole in the path and two of the frogs fell in it.  They tried and tried, but they could not hop out.  The other frogs told them to give up, they will not make it, and the first frog laid down and died.  The second frog kept trying, and the frogs on the outside kept waving to him, yelling for him to give up.  Finally, exhausted, the frog jumped with all of his might and made it out of the hole.  When he got out, he read the other frogs lips as they said “why didn’t you give up?” He told them that he is deaf, and he thought that with all the waving and yelling he could see them doing, they were encouraging him, so he felt like he could do it.  Life is what we make of it, we can let others bring us down, or find ways to be encouraged.

The song this week is one of my favorites “How Many Kings” by Downhere  I love this song and was so glad to hear it several times this week.  It is on my iPhone and one I listen to when I need a little pick me up.

I am not looking forward to the holidays coming up, especially Thanksgiving this Thursday.  I love this day with my family, and will have to find a way to make it special with my temporary family here.  I can’t wait to see them all on the video chat that afternoon.  Christmas is around the corner, and if anyone wants to send a Christmas card, I would love to get them.  Just let Bethy know and she can send you the mailing information.  We are able to put them up on the weekends, so I will be decorating my cube each weekend with my cards.

Have a great week!

11 more chicken days!
5 more visit weekends!
3 more blanket exchanges!

Julie

 

Week Twenty

Good Morning, The Dentist & I’m Okay

Twenty weeks are done, the holidays are coming and I am trying very hard not to get depressed about not being with my family.  I have set up a video chat for Thanksgiving day, so hopefully I will get to see a lot of them at the family dinner.  It is amazing how much you can miss people and realize how much you did not appreciate them.

We had a long conversation this week about people saying good morning.  It always amazes me, as I walk my grumpy, half awake self to the bathroom, how many good mornings I get from the ladies around me.  At 6:00am, every weekday, the kitchen duty officer announces “mainline is open” (breakfast is served).  We have some that start the announcement with Good Morning, and others that just say mainline is open and hang up the intercom.  Most mornings that is the first voice we hear, and the nice Good Morning goes a long way.  Even for us non-morning people, just those two little words seem to mean a lot.

On Monday, something terrible for me happened….my filling fell out.  I have this terrible fear of the dentist.  I don’t know why, I actually had a really nice dentist growing up, but as soon as I even start thinking about going in to see one, my anxiety level goes through the roof.  As a matter of fact, the last time I had a root canal and some other dental work, I went to a sedation dentist, who knocked me out and took care of everything.  Here, if you have a dental issue, you have to go to dental sick call.  Unfortunately, it is not open on Tuesdays, so I had to wait until Wednesday morning.  One of my friends joked around and said she would go with me and hold my hand, and when another friend (who is a lot more street wise and tough) heard the conversation, she said there was no way anyone was going with me, I am in prison and need to toughen up and deal with it.  It doesn’t sound very nice, but she is actually a good friend, and had a point.  It is time to toughen up.  I did say a prayer, took a lot of deep breaths and survived dental sick call.  The x-ray showed there was no infection (and I am in no pain, just have a big hole in my tooth), so they said they would call me back in this week to fix it.  I have been doing a good job of staying calm, just need to keep doing that when I actually get in there to get it fixed.

Well it happened again.  Apparently, some of the families of inmates here need to read my blog.  During my visit on Sunday with Gabbi, someone tried to sneak something in again, got caught, inmate went to County Jail and I am pretty sure her visitor did too.  Was it really worth it?  Now the whole camp is on edge waiting to find out if we have lost visits again.  With the holiday coming up, it was very selfish of this person to put the whole camp at risk.  I feel really bad for the girl across the hall from me.  She is the one whose mom was flying down last time this happened to visit her on her birthday.  This weekend is the makeup visit, and we may end up losing it too.  So I will say it again, if anyone comes here to visit a family, friend, etc, DO NOT bring anything with you.  Whether you think you are being nice, or they ask you….DON’T DO IT.

I’m fine, I’m okay….those are the answers I always gave if anyone asked how I was doing.  I could have been at the worst moment of my life, but I never wanted anyone to know it, so I would always tell them I was fine.  The song this week, “When I’m With You” by Citizen Way talks about not being okay and that it is okay to let the real you come out.  It is really neat to be walking the track, hearing the song on the radio through my headphones and then having someone walk by me singing the same song.   Speaking of walking the track, now that the sun goes down earlier, there have been more little critters coming out of the woods and walking around the grass near the track (not too close).  Last night, I spotted 1 armadillo (he was so cute), two raccoons and two small foxes (that was cool, I have never seen one in the wild).  It is nice to be near nature and see all of the creatures come out to visit.

Have a great week!
Julie

12 more chicken days!
5 more visit weekends!
3 more blanket exchanges!

Week Nineteen

Write a book?

Another week is done and I am getting closer to getting out of here.  The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to get brighter.  I am starting to look towards what I will be doing when I get out of here, and hoping everything will work out for the best.

I started writing a book about a week ago.  I had all my ideas down, and started the first chapter.  Last night, as I was going to sleep, a new idea came to me.  It is a total different direction, and will end up being inspirational fiction, something that I never thought I would write.  But this is the new me.  I sat today and wrote an outline and the first chapter.  It just poured out of me.  I am amazed at how inspired I feel, and I know that I have someone higher up, inspiring me.  I am ready to write the second chapter, this afternoon.  I wish we had some sort of word processor here.  My choices are a typewriter (which I would spend more time trying to fix typos than accomplishing anything) or type it in an email and send it to my house.  If we didn’t have a 25 minute limit on emails, and have to pay .05 cents a minute while we are on it, that would be an option.  So I am handwriting it.  Bunkie read the first chapter and is very excited as to where it is going.  I will keep everyone posted on the progress.  The book I started last week, has been pushed to the back burner, but has not been forgotten.  I really like the story line I came up with for it, but this other story has to come first.

I did not make my walking goal.  It was close.  I ended up walking 294 laps in 30 days, which is almost 91 miles.  I finished off the last 9 miles over the weekend.  I have been spending more time exercising all the way around though, and have added ab work into my walking routine, stopping after every lap or two at the equipment and doing some sort of sit-ups.

The song I have been hearing all week is called “Hello My Name is…” by Matthew West  It really seems to describe where I am right now in my life.  I love how God is working through the radio to help me, week by week.  I hope others are enjoying the songs as much as I have been.

13 more chicken days!
6 more visit weekends!
3 more blanket exchanges!

Have a great week!
Julie

To Forgive or Not to Forgive

To Forgive or Not to Forgive

We were discussing forgiveness yesterday and why it is so hard to forgive.  We each gave an example of a time we were not forgiven, or a situation that there was no forgiveness, that affected us.  I told the following story, not realizing how much it affected me until I told it.  As part of moving on, I am telling the story and then letting go of the incident.

Working in a church for several years had some very negative affects on me personally (not focusing on why I am here, I am focusing on me).  What you see when you are behind the scenes can drive someone away from the church forever if they let it.  There came a time that a church member, upset with something the minister had said during a meeting, had sent out an email to several people who had attended the meeting.  It was a pretty bad email, and of course it got back to the minister.  The member that sent it, sent out a second email apologizing for the original email that had been sent in haste while he was upset and apologized to the minister.  After a few weeks of the minister being obviously upset still with this member, a meeting was called with the member, the minister, the chair of the staff-parish committee, and me as a witness.  The member started the meeting apologizing once more, and I could see that he was truly sorry, and it was a very sincere apology.  When he was finished, the minister pulled out the email, which he had laminated, and told the member that every morning he reads the email, so he can remember what is out there against him.  There was no acceptance of the apology, no forgiveness.  I was in shock.  How can someone preach about forgiving, and not be able to do the same himself?  This was just one of several instances I witnessed over the years, by several ministers, of carrying around a grudge.  My group and I did discuss that ministers are human, but it still comes down to practicing what you preach.

Forgiveness is a very hard thing, for everyone.  I am working hard to put things behind me and let go of the grudges.  I hope that this minister was able to shred the laminated email, and truly forgive the member.

I pray that everyone can find a way to forgive me for all of the hurt I have caused to my family, friends, church and everyone else.

Julie

Week Eighteen

More Of The Same

Another week is over here at Camp Coleman.  We did our final speeches in Public Speaking class.  The subject was about how things will be when we get out of here.  I did mine on the top 12 things I have learned during this entire process the last two years.

1.  Spending time with my family and the ones I love is something that I will never take for granted again.
2.  I will never again believe everything I read in the paper or see on the news.
3.  Nothing is black and white, there are shades of gray in just about every situation.
4.  Don’t go by first impressions when I meet someone.  Take the time to get to know them before forming an opinion.
5.  Ask for help when I need it….It is really not as hard as it seems.
6.  Contrary to what my mom told me, cheese in a can or bottle is really not that bad.
7.  I will never complain about lack of drawer or closet space again.
8.  There are more uses for female products than anyone ever could have guessed. That could be a whole blog on it’s own
9.  Divided tray plates are the best thing in the world for someone with major food touching issues!
10. Eating tofu will not kill me, and when cooked right, is really not that bad.
11. Never again will I waste money on storage containers, when peanut butter jars can be reused.  Currently have them for creamer, sugar cubes & lemonade.
12. Velcro will be banned from my house, I never want to hear that sound again.  Our belts wrap around our waist with velcro, so every time you undo it, there is about 15 inches of velcro that rips…it is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me

Some of the girls in my unit threw a Halloween party on Friday night.  It was very interesting, especially the costumes they came up with.  I stayed down by my cube, and watched all of the fun when the guard came in and broke up their party.  It was amazing how fast some of those girls could move.

When you end up with a room full of bored women, they have to find ways to entertain themselves.  We have nicknames for a lot of the guards, and we all know exactly who we are talking about when we say them.   Most of them don’t stay long, I think we scare them away.  They would rather be over at the real prisons with the bad guys instead of stuck here with a bunch of women.  The Italian Stallion, Cowboy, GI Joe, Charmin Bear, Little Guy, Overtime and Stewie are just some of the names these guys are referred to as.  It is all in fun.

Speaking of fun, my Bunkie had made a comment that someone’s birthday was on Feb. 2nd.  I told her they were a Groundhog baby.  That started a very long, comical conversation about #1 what is a groundhog & #2 explaining Groundhog Day.  You don’t realize sometimes how silly something sounds until you try explaining it to someone that has never heard of it, and they are looking at you like you are totally crazy.  We asked the other Spanish girls around us, and none of them knew what a groundhog was or what Groundhog day was either.   I finally tracked down a Spanish – English dictionary, and found out the translation for Groundhog, but it didn’t help.  Apparently they don’t have them in Cuba or Puerto Rico.

The song this week is Grace Wins by Matthew West  It is so nice to remember that there is forgiveness and grace, at least by God.

Goal update:
So far I have walked 247 laps, which is almost 77 miles.  I only have 5 days left to get the last 23 miles in.  I am going to try, but I think I will fall short a little bit.  I am happy with the fitness classes I have been taking, which have taken away some of my walking time and energy, but they have been very good for me.

Looks like the dates are not changing, so I am just going to be happy with what I have.  Some people are still fighting it, but it is time to realize there is a reason for everything, and let it go.

14 more chicken days!
6 more visit weekends!
4 more blanket exchanges!

Have a great week!
Julie