Week Thirty One

Just a Little Bit Longer

I was walking the other night and an announcement came on that tickets for Rod Stewart’s concert in Tampa, in July, went on sale that day.  I started thinking how nice it would be to go to it, and actually got excited at the idea.  As I kept walking, I realized how long it has been since I have truly been excited about anything.  I have gone through life, day by day, week by week, situation by situation.  I have been happy when it is time to be happy, sad & depressed the rest of the time, but never really appreciating the happy times or any of the times.  I am not sure if this makes sense or not, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I have been truly excited and appreciated life.  I am making a turn, and although it will not be easy, I am going to have a good life once I get through all of this.  Rod Stewart was my first concert ever, I was a senior in high school, and the (way too old for me) boy down the street, who I had a crush on for ages took me.  I had the best time.  I went to see Rod Stewart again about 10 years ago, and as much as I love Rod, and his concert was great, I couldn’t get truly excited about it.  I think I am going to find a way to go see the concert this year.  I am sure I can find a friend that will enjoy it as much as I will, if not, I know I can drag one of my girls to it.  It is something to look forward to as well as other plans that I am making for my life.  I know when I get home, a lot of things will change, some with me, some with others and some just the type of relationship others have had in my life.  It is time to finally put me first, I am worth something and will remember that when I get home.  I will need to remember to keep the negatives out of my life and focus on the positives and being the best I can be.  All of this will make me a better mother and better person in the end.

I can now officially say….next week I am leaving.  I am still dreading the halfway house, but it is closer to home, and since I have a job & house, I should be able to go home on weekend passes pretty quickly.  I will just do there what I have done here, be positive, follow the rules, and get out (and home) as quick as possible.  I cannot wait to spend a night back in my bed, with my girls in the house and my 3 year old and dachshund snuggled up with me.  I will work on getting him back into his own bed after the first few days, but in the beginning, he will have every minute of mommy time I can give him.  I will appreciate every moment I have with my children, and take advantage of every second I have them at my side.  I will probably drive my girls crazy the first few days, but I don’t think they will mind.  I am going to keep my first few trips home quiet.  It is not that I don’t want to see any of my friends, but I want to take the time to readjust to everything slowly.

It has been interesting as my time is winding down here.  After 7 months I have made some very good friends that I will miss tremendously.  At no point in my life did I ever think my main circle of friend would include lawyers, bankers, heads of medical groups, an executive assistant for a very interesting person, a former super model & a drug dealer.  This experience has opened my eyes to the rest of the world, and taught me how to interact with all types of personalities, which also should help make me a better person in the end.  I am trying to do as much as possible this last week to keep my mind busy.  My mom sent me a Sudoku book with 950 puzzles in it the week of Christmas (I think she got tired of me telling her every couple of weeks that I was out of puzzles) and told me she didn’t think I would be able to finish it before I left.  I may not finish all 950, but I just passed puzzle 400 so you never know.  I am looking at it as a challenge now.

Have a great week!  Next week will be my last post from here…then starts the fun at halfway house.
Julie

Last Chicken Day this Thursday!
No more visits!
Last Blanket Exchange this Wednesday!

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Week Thirty

Winding down

I went out and walked for about 45 minutes this morning, and then came back in and laid in bed.  One of the girls across from me asked why I was being so lazy, and I told her that in 3 weeks, I will be back in the real world, working 40 hours a week, and I was going to be totally lazy from now until when I leave (minus my walking of course).  Then it hit me, I am going to be back in the real world, behind my desk, working, in 3 weeks…it is amazing how scared I was for a couple of minutes.  I have gotten so used to not having to be responsible for anything the last 7 months, and now it is all coming back. I have not had to cook, plan a meal, wash dishes, grocery shop, pay a bill, do laundry, or take care of my little guy all of this time.  The girls, however, have been nice enough to have some arguments that I have had to referee while I am here, so I still have practice at that.  It is amazing how fast you get used to being “institutionalized”, on a schedule (to a point) with everything taken care of for you.  The idea of being back in an office, working with a team and with clients is a tad bit overwhelming, but I am going to a place that I love, with people who care about me, and am very excited about getting back in there.  The little things, like not having touched Excel in 7.5 months scared me, but then I remembered, I will be fine.  I know my stuff, I just have to get back in there and do it.

I have been going through my locker and it surprised me how I came in with nothing, and now am trying to get rid of things so I don’t have to take them with me.  My one friend (the one who gave me the boots) will be the recipient of most of the stuff I am leaving behind.  She is actually going to be at the same halfway house, but a couple of months later.  I realized how lucky I am to have a family, home and job to go home to.  She is homeless & jobless when she gets out, so I feel good being able to at least leave her a few things to help her out.  It really is sad to hear some of the ladies’ stories here.  Most of the ones without support have drug backgrounds, it is not their first time here or someplace like this, and I just hope and pray for them that they do get the support when they get out, so they don’t end up back here.

I have given up on my smile project.  I am still trying, but not going out of my way anymore.  I have determined that some officers here are just plain grumpy.  Others, now smile and say hi, so I am going to be happy with what I have accomplished. I am still trying to compliment them when I can, and just overall be friendly.

I have been watching my wildlife at night.  Foxes, pigs, armadillos, raccoons & bats all make for some fun watching.  Not everyone is as impressed with them as I am.  I will say, after finishing the Hannibal Lector series (by Thomas Harris, I never saw the movies), I am not going to look at the pigs the same ever again.  I have moved onto Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, which I am enjoying very much.  Thanks to my brother, who knows how much I love Star Wars and sent me the book, I read the Han Solo Trilogy (the stories of his life before he met up with Luke in Star Wars) and enjoyed them very much.  I am so bummed that I missed the new movie, and can’t wait for it to come out on DVD once I am home.

Have a great week!
Julie

2 more chicken days!
0 more visit weekends!
1 more blanket exchange!

Week Twenty Nine

Closer…Getting Closer

It has been an interesting week around here.  The guys at Pen2 ended up getting locked down for the week, and 25 of us were voluntold to go over and make them bag breakfast, lunches & dinners.  Somehow, out of 375 women, I was lucky enough to be one of the one voluntold.  At first I was not sure about it.  Everyone around me told me how terrible it is to work over there, long hours, lots of work, etc.  I went into it not feeling very good about the job at hand. Three other ladies from my unit, that I talk to, were on the list, so we decided we would just stick together.  One had done it before, and told us how her group made it work in the past.  After arriving at the Pen, and getting through all of their security and gates (think of the movies, one gate closes, the next one opens…pretty scary), we went into their lunchroom to start working.  Everyone split up into groups, and my group was responsible for four sections, a total of about 430 men.  That meant 430 breakfasts, 430 lunches & 430 dinners.  We sat down, got our plan of attack together and knocked it out in record time, and had a lot of fun doing it.  As a matter of fact, we finished so fast, we ended up helping another group, who was way behind, finish theirs.  The biggest difference, besides us using our own assembly line system, was, we only had one chief.  When you are working with a team, there can only be one chief/leader, the rest have to be the followers.  Some of the other teams broke down, because everyone wanted to lead, and no one wanted to follow.  The second day, we ended up taking over one of the other groups that had broken down and two of the girls did not come back for one reason or another, so that day we made about 755 breakfasts, lunches & dinners.  We noticed one of the groups in the back adopted our system, and finished very quickly also.  It was amazing to see the difference when everyone worked together as a team than when everyone tried to run the show.  As a reward, we had the best lemon meringue cupcakes I have ever eaten.  I don’t know why they get them at the Pen, and not at the camp.  It is probably a good thing though, I bet they are about 1000 calories each!  The downfall to the days..we had to get up at 4:45am!  For someone that is not a morning person, I was not thrilled with that wake-up time.  On Friday, we were up, dressed and ready to go, and at 5:30am they called over and told us they did not need us anymore.  Ugh!  I never saw so many women move so fast to get back in bed!  It made the week go by faster, I had fun, made some new friends and even had a very enlightening conversation with one of the officers at the Pen about how we were in the safest place we could be if there was a Zombie Apocalypse (I guess he is not used to talking to a group of women, and decided that would be a good conversation starter?).

My days right now are spent walking, crocheting & reading.  My average daily schedule is:

7:30 – be up and dressed and bed made (I wait until the last possible second)
Walk 2 miles
read/crochet/work on my book
10:45 – lunch
walk a few laps
read/crochet/do puzzles
nap
walk a few laps
read/crochet/puzzles until dinner
4:45 – dinner (I feel like I am on a nursing home schedule)
walk another 1.5-2 hours, read crochet, shower
10:00 – bed

Rough day, huh?  I cannot wait to get back to work, I am going to hate giving up my afternoon nap though :-).  I am averaging 6-8 miles a day right now.  Every time I get bored, I walk.  I will miss the walking when I am on home confinement, I wonder how many laps around my backyard equal a mile?  It is funny, back in October, my goal was to walk 100 miles in 31 days, and did not quite make it, now I am doing it every two weeks.  I wish I would see the weight dropping with the walking.  Everyone here says I look like I have lost weight, but I am not seeing it.  I have cut back just about all sweets this week, and even have only been drinking 1-2 sweet teas a day (and water the rest of the day), so I hope to see some sort of change before I leave here.  All of the meals here are so carb loaded, it doesn’t help.

I am still working on smiling at everyone and trying to make other people’s day a little nicer.  Some of the staff here does not make it easy, but I haven’t given up yet.

Have a great week!  I am counting down the days!
Julie

3 more chicken days!
1 more visit weekend!
1 more blanket exchange!

Week Twenty Eight

Just Finish It!

I finally finished the last Christmas present for the kids…this one is for Bethy, so I am not going to say what it is, once I mail it out this weekend, hopefully she will post pictures of the presents.  I used a pattern from a magazine my mom had sent me.  I did the main part of the pattern, but left off the finishing touches, because they looked difficult.  One of the ladies here, who happens to have the same magazine and had been waiting for me to finish my project so she could see how it came out, asked where the last part was.  I told her that it looked fine like it was, and the last part looked too hard.  After a long (one sided) conversation on how life is hard, and if I just give up every time something is hard, I will not get anywhere. She told me to attempt it, and if I couldn’t get it, she would walk through it with me.  There were a lot of steps, but it was one of those things that when I broke it down, step by step, instead of looking at the whole thing, it was actually easy to do.  The project does look better, it looks completed.  As I come back home, I need to remember this, not get overwhelmed by the whole thing, but break down everything step by step.  In one of my classes, we learned that F-E-A-R has two meanings – Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise.  I have lived my life in the past by the first meaning, but my future will be based on the second.

I have been working harder on smiling at everyone possible, saying compliments when I can (I even sent the person in charge of food service the other day an email complimenting lunch), and just trying to be a positive person.  I thought about complimenting the guard, Ponytail, on not smelling like stale smoke during late count last night, but decided that might be one to let go.  He has been gone a few days, maybe he gave up his habit while he was off.  Junior has really settled down, and just we were starting to like him, he seems to be gone.  We think he has rotated to his next position down the road, and we are waiting to see who his replacement is.  Cowboy has been back a couple of days, and so has Joe Cool.  They are both just very pleasant, always have a smile and hello.  Stewie usually works on Ponytail’s off days, and he is another one that is relaxed, nice and if you respect him, he respects you.  Ponytail has relaxed too, and it has been very pleasant around here lately.  Again, show them respect, they show you respect and there is no need for unpleasantness. Our camp officer during the day is one that does not have a nickname.  He seems to irritate a lot of people here, because of his interesting sense of humor.  I actually like it, I guess it comes from being raised with my brother, I am immune to a lot of the irritations that others have.

When Bunkie left this week, she left me something that was always hanging on her bulletin board.  She read it daily, tried to live by it, and asked me to read it daily now that she is gone and try to incorporate it into my life.  Some things I have been doing already. I hope both of my girls read this promise, and get something out of it.

I promise myself:

To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person I meet.
To make all of my friends feel like there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet.
To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am try to the best that is in me.
Christian D. Larson

I received some really great news this week, but for now I am not sharing it on here.  It is a sign though that everything will be getting back to normal when I get home.

Have a great week!
Julie

4 more chicken days!
1 more visit weekend!
1 more blanket exchange!

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

This morning Bunkie left to go home.  I firmly believe that God planned for me to room with her, knowing she was what I needed.  We have a cube in the back (some call it the suburbs), it is quiet, at the end of the row, and not much traffic walking by.  Before I arrived, whenever the bottom bunk would come available, there would be a line of people in the councilors office trying to move to it, and it would never stay open more than a day.  When the girl left that was in there before me, the councilor said he was not moving anyone for a while.  It was two weeks later, when I came in, that bunk was open and I was placed in it.  This woman is amazing, she is a true friend and I will miss her very much.  When I was down, she was there for me, pulling me out on the track to walk, or just talk.

Bunkie told me a few months ago that the two girls that pulled her family into the issue that brought her here, were here also.  She had never met them before she arrived here, but knew their names.  This morning, one of the girls came to hug her goodbye, and told her that her last name was not common and was she related to the mutual person.  She said yes, and then the girl asked her if that was the reason she was here, and again Bunkie said yes.  The girl started crying and apologizing.  You see, Bunkie had never said anything to her about it, instead was nice to her the entire time she was here.  The girl asked her how she could have been so nice to her all this time, and Bunkie replied “I forgave you a long time ago”.  The girl was truly shocked, hugged her again, and walked away.  It was amazing to see the mercy and grace that Bunkie showed this person.  After the girl walked away, I told Bunkie how moved I was by what had just happened, and she told me that I have to forgive, it is the only way you will truly be free.

I learned a lot from Bunkie over the last 27 weeks, I wish her the best of luck with her future, and am honored to consider her my very good friend.

Have a great rest of the week!
Julie

Week Twenty Seven

Happy New Year!

Time is getting closer, and I am trying not to stress about it.  I never thought leaving here would be a scary thing.  How will things have changed at home? With friends? With family? How will people feel about being around me?  How will people feel and react to me when I go out.  In discussing these concerns with some friends, one reminded me of the story found in John 8.  It is about a woman who broke the law, she was caught in adultery.  The sentence that was supposed to happen was for her to be stoned.  Jesus was there and the people around decided to test him, stating that he preaches about kindness and love, but she broke the law.  Jesus basically told them to do what they needed to do, but for the first person to throw a stone at her, to be someone without sin.  In the end, everyone walked away, and the woman was spared.  No one is without sin.  How many people have drank just one too many, sure that they are good to drive home, but praying the whole way that they don’t get pulled over?  Just because they did not get caught, did not mean they did not break the law.  How many people have turned an old couch into Goodwill, received the receipt and listed its value at $800 instead of the $50 it was actually worth, just to take a bigger tax write off?  Just because it was not caught, does not mean it was not tax fraud.  How many people used, or even sold, drugs in the past (or present)?  Just because they were not caught, does not mean they did not break the law?  So the only thing I ask, before people bring down their judgment on me, for my wrongdoings, to think of their own.  Just because they were not caught or not punished does not mean they were not wrong.

I heard a song this week, that has been stuck in my head.  It really describes what I have been going through, trying to make the changes in my life, and trying to forgive myself for everything.  It is called “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” by Danny Gokie.  If you listen to it, try to really listen to the words, it talks about leaving yesterday behind, you don’t live there anymore.  So true!

My Bunkie leaves this week. I am so happy for her. She has made a major impression on my life over the last 27 weeks, and I will never forget her for it.  She has taught me a lot and I will always be grateful for the time we have spent together.  I really wish her the best of luck in the future.

With the new year here, I have wishes for my adult daughters and for my 3 year old son for 2017.

Wishes for my daughters:
* To learn to move past the thoughts of loneliness and be happy in solitude
* To realize that they do not need to be in a relationship to be happy and that no one is responsible for making them happy, they are their own best friends
* To remember if they spend too long holding on to the one that treats them like an OPTION, they will miss finding the one that treats them like a PRIORITY.
* To remember that NO ONE can make them feel inferior without their consent
* To work towards a closer spiritual relationship with God
* To continue their educational goals, and not let any obstacles stand in their way.
* To remember F-E-A-R has two meanings – Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise.  The choice is theirs.
* To remember that no matter what, I love them more than they could ever imagine.

Wishes for my son:
* To know that his mommy is always here for him and loves him very much, even when we are apart.  I am ready for separation issues when I get home, and will use patience and understanding as we work through them.
* To use every opportunity to learn something.
* To learn more and more about God and his forgiveness and love.
* To take advantage of being a kid and play!

Have a great week!
Julie

5 more chicken days!
2 more visit weekends!
2 more blanket exchanges!