Tag Archives: corrections

Evidentiary Hearing v 1.0

How do you process the start of a journey that is going to decide your other half’s fate and ultimately yours? If you’re me, you apparently eat way too much ice cream, do not sleep nearly enough to function, and you cry a little, but not too much. That is how I am currently processing the aftermath of attending my first ever evidentiary hearing. I`m not going to lie: the hearing was terrifying for me (having no experience with this type of situation), anxiety inducing, but an event that I am glad I was there for because I want to support my husband as we weave our way through some back road that cannot be turned around on, so you have to just keep moving forward even though it sucks and you are so lost and you have no idea what is going to happen next. Buckle up and brace yourself for what is around the bend.

*click click click* The camera man is taking photos, thankfully not of me or the immediate family sitting in the courtroom with me, but he is taking photographs of the expert that is testifying. Photograph after photograph after photograph. He is taking photographs of the judge and the lawyers. He is taking photographs of Jeremy. My Jeremy. My stomach knots up the way it did before I got out of the car that morning. It knots up and my hands and pits are sweaty and I can hear my heartbeat in my ears and I`m trying to hear what all is being said, but my heart is drumming in my ears and I keep hearing the *click click* of that fucking camera in front and to the right of me and I want to get up and slap the whole thing out of that man’s hands. I envision myself doing just that, getting up and just slapping that stupid camera out of his hands and onto the floor just so he will stop taking pictures of Jeremy.

I look over at my husband, this man that I had only ever been with behind prison walls. This is our first time seeing each other, in the flesh, outside of a prison visiting room even though we have been married nearly 9 years and have a friendship that spans almost two decades. I look over at him and he is so focused, handsome, scruffy with his glasses on and just looking forward and taking notes,  aware that the photographer is clicker happy. I keep looking at my husband and he happens to look over and we exchange a smirk off camera, a knowing smirk, an understanding one, some secret declaration of “It’s okay. I`m here and you are here and we are here and I love you”. If all that can be said in a smirk, we said it and I was glad for that exchange in my moment of sweaty armpits and desire to slap the camera onto the floor. I wanted to have a  full on Braveheart moment and just slap the camera down and yell “FRRREEEEDOOOMMM!!!!!”. Not the appropriate time for that I guess.

While the clicker happy camera man is taking photo after photo, some “junior reporter person” is shadowing him, and by shadowing him, I mean she is recording footage of the testimony on her phone and moving the phone around like she is at some concert for a band she likes and she is trying to capture all the action. So, clicky McClickerson and mobile device concert capturer are hard at work for the Las Vegas Review Journal. There was also a reporter taking notes, who ended up writing an article which is half “facts” all fucked up, half “that is not even true, did you just make that up?” I am aware of note taker, camera person, professional phone recorder person, the judge, the lawyers, the prosecution, bailiffs, court workers .My eyes do laps around the courtroom, examining expressions while scientific terms flood my ears, just barely audible over my heart that will not calm. Back to Jeremy, back to sweating, back to looking around. This goes on for nearly two hours and I exhaust myself.

After all is said and done, we walk out with no answers because this isn`t a decision that can be made lightly. There is too much to examine, to weigh, to consider. The decision will mostly likely take the judge the entire 60 days to reach and I`ll be holding my breath until then, playing out scenarios about what happens next, what the judge will say, what appeals will be filed after to challenge the “winning” side, how long this will go on for, if my husband will ever have a chance at getting out of prison. This process will most likely continue for longer than I`d like because the system does not go swiftly and it does not go off without a hitch. I spend a lot of my time in a precarious space when it comes to thinking about what is going to happen next. What I do know for certain is that I will be at every court hearing and take every low-key smirk from my husband that I can get. I also know that I will face my anxiety to support the person I love the most in this world and that I believe in second chances.

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Shades of freedom

There is so much hesitation when talking about Jeremy’s potential for freedom, for release into the world and into my embrace. There is so much hesitation and so much trepidation that are at war with my hope and the vision that I have in my head of a life with my life partner. So much that I normally don`t even want to talk about it. I cannot talk about it some days. The thoughts and the feelings that those thoughts own sit on a shelf in the back of my mind, there for accessing but not for showing. What is the truth? That I`m terrified of my husband never getting a second chance and I feel a sense of overwhelming nervousness that he will, that we will be able to build a life after so many years of being apart the majority of the time. I live in this space between crying while laughing and laughing while crying and sometimes I`m not sure which one is which. There are days when I`m not sure if my life is very empty or very full. All I know is that I have a faint glimmer of hope and sometimes that is all you need to get out of bed in the morning, committed to your cause, ready to give it all you’ve got even though you are tired.

Jeremy and I have never known each other outside of prison walls. We have never eaten a meal at our dining room table together or held hands in the rain or been able to leave each other silly notes that are part smart ass, part madly in love. We have never shopped for groceries together, embraced in sadness beyond the barb wire. We have never shared immense joy the moment it happens out in the world, far from the confines of the prison and its rules, its walls. But…it feels like we have done all of those things and more. These last 15 years have felt like anything real is supposed to feel, complete with its ups and downs, two steps forward and ten steps back. No crazy imagination necessary. We built our own version of freedom ourselves and have sustained each other with the restraint breaking completeness that unconditional love provides. Him and I in our little bubble in the middle of a visiting room, on the phone with our louder than life laughter and the passionate affirming silence of two people who don`t need to say a word to know. We know each other better than we know ourselves and I never thought I would have that with another person.

The other day Jeremy told me that his friend Mike was rolling up and transferring to a prison up north, that he was giving up on his appeals and wanted the freedom of being at a prison that allows more time outside of the cell, but not one that inmates are really releasing from. This prison up north is where he is going to get comfortable, to settle into his sentence and maybe where he is going to leave this world. This news was unexpected and caught me off guard. “I didn’t know he was leaving. You didn’t tell me” I said​. I like Mike quite a bit and in fact, I just saw him the last time I visited. When he saw me, he lit up and gifted me a huge goofy grin and a wave. Upon my departure, he wished me a safe drive. I wish I would have paid attention to that moment a little better now.

I hate endings and I hate not knowing if I’ll ever see someone again. Knowing that he is relocating to come to terms with giving up on life on the outside pains me in a way that I cannot describe, but Jeremy explained to me that Mike wanted to be happy and he knew that he could be happy somewhere else, that as a habitual criminal in the past who has caught a serious sentence, that he knew he would probably never get out and didn`t want to pursue freedom to the outside world further.

Freedom is available in shades, in levels that are so personal to a person and a circumstance. Although I am sad about Mike, I have to think of his choice as liberation for him, one that he is choosing. How can I argue with that? I cannot. I can only wish him well and focus my attention on grasping my hope for my husband’s shade of freedom that involves a life beyond the prison gate.

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Sex and Sunshine

I used to talk to this woman at Lovelock Correctional Center who stood by her man for 20 years. Anytime I saw her at visiting I had a feeling of friendship and calm wash over me because she was very easy to talk to and sort of took me under her wing when I first started to visit Jeremy regularly at that prison. I saw her not too long before her man was released, which was also just before I married Jeremy. I remember when I told her that I was going to marry Jeremy,  she just enveloped me in her arms for the biggest hug ever. If there is ever a time when I needed comfort, it was before I made that life leap. Our ships passed briefly in the proverbial night, but I liked her a great deal. I always asked myself if that was going to be me someday, a thought that both interests me and terrifies me. She was dedicated to her husband for 20 years of incarceration and I used to wonder how she did it, what her private life was like, if she thought a lot about sex and walking in the sunshine with her husband.

It has been almost 8 years since I hugged this woman goodbye, a stranger goodbye, a sad and happy goodbye, a “farewell, I will never see you again but thank you for your time in my life” goodbye. More than likely, when you part from someone to meet you prison, you know you’ll never seen them again. It’s part of the landscape of prison relationships.

All these memories and repressed excitement that makes my heart beat, came to the surface after listening to the latest episode of Ear Hustle, a podcast from inside San Quentin state prison in California, that I’ve started to listen to and enjoy. I find myself laughing and nodding my head while I listen and I realize just how familiar prison feels to me, how much I know, and how common the themes are, no matter where your person is incarcerated. This particular episode was about couples, sex, family visits, connecting on an intimate level, and the general struggle of being in a romantic relationship, or shall I say maintaining a romantic relationship, while one member happens to be behind the barbed wire. It ain’t easy, that’s for sure, and you can quote me on that.

When I think about my marriage to Jeremy, how we met after he was already in prison, how there are no “family visits”(also referred to as conjugal visits) in the state of Nevada, and how we have never even held hands in the sun….well, I start to think about just how different my marriage really is. Sometimes Jeremy and I literally look at each other, fully aware of the bizarre life we have built, and we laugh. Yet it all seems so “normal” because if you do anything for an extended length of time, it inevitably seems commonplace, no matter how unconventional it might be. Been married almost 8 years and never had sex with each other or been outside together? Totally normal.

Only a very small number of states allow conjugal visits and usually if you have a life without parole sentence, those visits are even less likely. So, the chances of me getting alone time with my husband is pretty much nonexistent. I never had to really come to terms with that fact, it just is. It does “help” that we never were together in the “free” world, but I’ve just accepted that prison infringes on anything private. Even though I am free citizen, I am also a prisoner right along with Jeremy when it comes to our time together. I have little control over my own skin to skin contact with my life partner. I have made adjustments to my life plans when it comes to intimacy, have had to redefine the term and my expectations. I have officially ruled out having children as something that I would want for myself at this point, and have settled with the idea, that for now, I can be outside and Jeremy can be outside, but we cannot be outside together. “You have to see my new hair color in the sun” I tell him, but I know that isn’t possible.

I used to get frustrated when people would casually ask “So WHEN do you get to have sex with Jeremy?” Over the years, I’ve learned that people on the outside just don’t really understand how the prison system works, the restrictions that are imposed, and just how difficult the rules make it to even see each other sometimes, let alone maintain any type of “sex life” beyond creative writing and an exchange of words over a monitored and recorded call.  You have to throw a bit of your inhibition away and if you have anxiety like me, you have to throw all of your inhibition away and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So, as a 32 year old woman, I have to dig deep and modify where I can because at this point I’m not interested in extracurricular activities (my silly reference to extramarital affairs). In this life, there just comes a point, one that I’ve been at for a while, that you stare down the prison bullshit and then turn to your partner and say “Okay! I love you and I’m in it for the long haul and this sucks but let’s make this shit work”. The application for “friends with benefits” has long been torn up and thrown into the air like correctional confetti.

Side boyfriends and accepting ones fate aside… I have seen and heard a lot of funny stories about women visiting their men and trying to “release”. Well, it’s hard to release when you are constantly being watched like some freak show, the guard’s personal prison porn.  The thought of a voyeuristic intrusion doesn’t seem to faze some people, though, and I have on more than one occasion tried to ignore quick face sucking, momentary grinding, and the end of a kinky sex fantasy in the visiting room. My ears pick up every other word and I find myself trying to block out and listen at the same time. You gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. No judgement.

Note: If you ever do end up in the visiting room at Ely State Prison, choose your chair wisely and stay away from any weird stains. No, I`m not joking.

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Post media reflection

There have definitely been moments lately, where I`ve paused and thought to myself “Where is my place in this mess?” These thoughts have flooded my head daily, especially after the articles in the Las Vegas Review Journal came out. I’ve spent my time, half maintaining a “normal” schedule, and the other half lost in thought over what is going to happen next, sometimes holding my breath without meaning to.

After the articles came out, I avoided the loose lipped comment section of Facebook for self-preservation. Some of my friends looked at the comments after the newspaper repeatedly posted the story with catchy, sensationalized headlines, hoping to appeal to folks with pitchforks in hand. My friends let me know to avoid the comment section if I could and I did.  I did however happen to see a comment on the actual newspaper’s website, where one reader asked “What SANE woman would marry a murderer?” or something to that effect. I reflected on my own state of mind, my life, what brought me here, my marriage, where I was when all of this happened with Jeremy, my moral radar, and my own personal truth.

I`m not sure that insane psychopaths really take the time out to their days to reflect on life and morality, so I don`t know that I am insane at all, but maybe just a person who believes in the power of the human spirit, second chances, and a person who believes that not everything as is it seems? Question mark intended because I pose the question to myself and anyone really.

I received no “hate mail” after the articles came out. Jeremy has received one piece of direct hate mail (which you can read about on his blog) and oddly enough, his mother received a nasty message on Facebook. I`m not sure what  the purpose of lashing out at one’s mother is, but I guess this person felt it necessary to feel like he or she did their duty by lashing out at someone related to Jeremy. We all want someone, anyone to blame and point the finger at. It’s easy to blame someone and think to ourselves “I’ve spoken my ‘peace’ and did my part”. Oftentimes our “peace” speaking and lashing out is misdirected, but outrage, pain and a need to do something have a way of making people blind to the misdirection of their actions.

I have actually received way more positive encouragement after the articles than I expected. Jeremy and I both wrote blog posts about our thoughts on the articles and I noticed a flood of activity on our blogs and have received messages from friends and strangers alike. Anytime I open a Facebook message from someone I don`t know, I hesitate for a moment and brace myself for what it is going to say but…it has turned out being like waiting for a bomb to go off and nothing happening. While I had received some awful blog comments in the past, the aftermath of the newspaper articles and follow-up blog posts on our end about it, has been surprisingly favorable.

My friends have been incredibly encouraging, taking the time to read mine and Jeremy’s blog posts and provide feedback or open a platform to discuss the posts from an open minded and understanding place. I’ve even had a couple of them ask if they could visit with Jeremy in the future.  So, thank you friends. On the unexpected front, I have had people I do not know reading my blog and some of those people have reached out to me personally on Facebook with their own stories of tragedy and ties to the prison system, their own understanding, and their own thoughts on life and redemption. I am grateful for these people who think before they speak, who make space for a story other than what is portrayed in the media, and who are genuinely people who recognize pain and loss but who also have an open heart.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve found myself questioning my place in this situation, questioning my place as Jeremy’s wife and sometimes worldly representative to those who do not know him. Sometimes I even think to myself, “What right do I have to be here, to talk about Jeremy and prison and the case?” I entered stage right later in Jeremy’s story, when he was already in prison. I used to think it was by chance, but more and more I`m starting to believe that it was just meant to be part of my journey and that we are two people who came together to build something worthwhile after a terrible event. Even though we have known each other for almost 17 years, I still question my sense of belonging and my right to belong in this story.

So, where is my place? Do I belong here? I read this quote by one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, today and the timing was almost eerie as I write this blog post.

“No one belongs here more than you” – Brene Brown

 


Headphones for the heart

“If we can make it through another day
With you believing in my innocence
And we can make it through another year
‘Cause we both need it to forget this fear” – White Lie by The Lumineers

Listening to music through headphones changes the music. It changes how you feel about the music, the lyrics. It changes the story, the intensity. Mild fascination with words sung become a life line, a soundtrack to your deepest emotional crevices. The songs become your heartbeat. The music becomes you and you become the music. At least, that’s what happens to me. It must be said that I am absolutely a person who depends on music for survival.

I’ve recently become smitten with the Lumineers and although I heard their first popular song, “Ho Hey”, some time ago, I didn’t pay the band much attention. I actually heard “Ho Hey” initially on a road trip out to visit Jeremy, when visiting was an entire trip away. I remember thinking to myself how appropriate the line “I’ve been trying to do it right. I’ve been living a lonely life” was on my solo journey out into the desert to hold hands with a man I have never brushed skin with outside in the sunshine. Those lyrics stuck with me. The loneliness of that line stuck with me and I found myself singing it over and over again on that car ride.

I recently got hooked on The Lumineers and have even persuaded Jeremy to download some of their songs on his MP3 player. Yes, sometimes prisoners get MP3 players, though definitely not for free. I apply parts of each song I hear  to my life with Jeremy. I read an article about the band recently, where the lead singer referred to his brother(another band member), Jeremy, as “Jer” and it made me raise an eyebrow and laugh and sort of cry at the same time because we call my Jeremy, “Jer”. It’s funny how common things become magic when you allow them to.

I believe in unseen life connections. I often have trouble having faith in those connections because the patterns are woven in such a delicate manner that they are tough to see on especially dark nights. I get so frustrated with the kingdom of love that we have built because it is so unbelievably beautiful and vulnerable and it feels, fragile even though it’s strong.  On the surface we are two kids in love who happened to stumble upon each other, maybe by a happy accident, maybe by divine intervention. What do I know? I know that I love someone who lives in a prison in Nevada who came to know, and eventually marry, through a single letter I sent so long ago. I know that what we have is the truest life experience I have ever known. I know that I need to start fucking believing in this path I chose to walk on again. I am going to listen to life with my headphones on from here on out. The situation isn’t ideal, obviously, but I often feel like I’m taking “the music” for granted. I feel like I stopped looking at this adventure with Jer in an exciting light. I replaced “adventure” with “fear” and “hurt” and “the end”.

I’m going to dig deep, open my ears and my heart. I’m going into this next area of the path with the feeling that this is the beginning. This IS where the magic happens. It’s like when you’re listening to an especially long intro to a song. You’re waiting for the intro to “break”. You’re waiting, waiting, waiting, and when the lyrics begin and beat changes, you realize there can be no song without the intro.

“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference”- Stubborn Love by The Lumineers

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Sunday January 22nd, 2017

I’m not going to lie. I never imagined that being the wife of an inmate was going to be this hard. I used to watch shows about prison romances and I thought to myself “This is great! I get tons of time to myself and I get to be married to someone amazing who won’t steal the covers”. You see, before Jeremy I never wanted to marry. I didn’t. I told my mom I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t think it was in my cards to be with anyone for many reasons. Mostly because I thought I was too difficult, or too damaged, or too much. I needed someone who was everything I needed them to be without question and I knew I wasn’t going to find that, so I didn’t want anything.

Last night I was paging through this book I got on Palmistry(read: Palmistry. Not fortune telling, but an art that CAN tell about a person. Did I lose you? Am I nuts? I prefer open minded to life’s mysteries) and it explains that your non dominant hand(for me, my left) is the hand you look to see what was there at birth for you and your dominant hand is the hand of “now” and the path you’re on(there is a whole explanation of why, but you can read the book if you want to know). Anyway, my birth hand does not have a heart line. I compared my hands and just looked at them for a long time. No heart line. My “now” hand has a strong heart line and I believe wholeheartedly that it is because of Jeremy. We found each other by chance. By the chance of me being some strange teenage girl who wanted to write people in prison. By the chance that someone I talked to online told me Jeremy was a nice person and that I should write him. By the chance that I wrote that letter and I mailed it 17 years ago. By chance. Or by design?

Back to the present, though. The last few years have been difficult for me. I have felt more depressed, more lonely, and more lost than I ever have. Being in Nevada and away from my shore of home(I don’t know what home even is anymore. I guess it’s Jeremy but I still miss…somewhere)has taken a lot out of me. Sometimes it destroys my spirit to ashes and I am left with some form of myself that I don’t recognize. This all sounds dramatic, I know, but I’m a person who feels a lot, all the time, and I know my story and my relationship and the trials we go through are powerful beyond measure and I think it’s important to share that. Anyway. What rises from the ashes? The Phoenix. It sort of feels like that, all the time, and it is emotionally painful, and then I’m rising. Funny how that works. Life pushes us to the very brink and then backs off so we can repair. Or does it not back off and we just get so much stronger?

I keep thinking of this quote I read somewhere, “The greater the affliction, the greater the reward”. Now, that really sounds strange, doesn’t it? But…this quote. It gets me through sometimes because I have to believe in my cause and if I’m suffering, I have to believe that it is for a reason because I’m still here, still doing, still waking up and working my way to the end of the tunnel where the light is.

Which brings me to present life. I’m looking for a new place to live that has a bit more space and I went to see one yesterday and for some reason I just blurted out “I like this place. It feels safe and I want to feel safe because it’s just kitty and I. My husband is incarcerated”. I told the realtor that. This realtor I had only met once before, briefly, for about 5 minutes. I usually try to get a better read on people before I drop that bomb, but I dropped it right there in the kitchen of that rental.

There is always a moment, where I’m sure someone is going to verbally crucify me with their words or give me a look that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My mouth got super dry waiting for her to say something. I was so nervous. Her response? “I get it. It happens”. She proceeded to tell me a story about how someone she knows is in prison and that things happen sometimes and humans make mistakes and she is not judging me.

After the showing, on the walk out to the parking lot, she commended me for sticking by my husband and let me know how “cool, strong, and sweet” she thought I was. She offered a friendly ear if I ever wanted to talk and she said she had to hug me and she did.

While my life feels like an uphill climb somedays and I am absolutely battered emotionally by the missing parts of “us” right now, there always seems to be a little nudge, a little sign, a little voice that tells me “the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. Keep going, you’re almost there”.


How long is forever?

“Sometimes, just one second.” said the white rabbit.
Do you remember that part of Alice in Wonderland?
Seven years has felt like a lifetime and the blink of an eye all at once.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I was 24 when I said “I do” to my very best friend in a prison visiting room. Seven years ago tomorrow I was smiling and shaking and he had damp hair from a shower and he was handsome as all get-out. Seven years ago I could never have predicted the ups and downs we have gone through just to be together, to stay together, and I could not have predicted that I would love my life partner more after so much despair, so much separation, so much sadness and uncertainty. I could not have imagined being closer, more in love, more grateful, and more sure, even in the midst of the greatest mountain climb of our lives.
After we got married that day, all those years ago, I was able to stay and visit, laugh with the man I had just agreed to be with forever, fight over Cheetos, and sit in silence and stare at this beautiful human I had gotten to know over letters, phone calls, and a few visits here and there before that day. We were married among those laughs and Cheetos, in that prison visiting room, and nothing had felt more organic or true in my life before that moment.
This anniversary I am going on a trip with my sister in law to celebrate love and life and the pains and pleasures that come with real bonds. I am travelling a distance from my love on our day, but it’s funny how the closer two people are in life and in heart, the more distance doesn’t mean a damn thing.
Time can feel like it crawls by when you’re waiting for something and in the middle of your heart exploding joy, it can seem like it’s passing too quickly to hold onto. What do you do? You throw your head back and laugh so hard that you cry, you pray that the time in between kisses feels like just one second and that those kisses feel like they last forever. 22-mousepad_dali_sclock