Tag Archives: inmate wife

Holidays 2017

It always seems strange to me that I`m able to properly mourn any holiday without my husband because we haven’t really celebrated many holidays together, much less in the proper sense of traditional family gatherings. It really stuns me sometimes. I have never been in the presence of my husband, who I`ve been married to for over 8 years now, outside of prison walls. We have never gone shopping for gifts together, he has never seen me after one too many glasses of wine, we have never kissed under a stupid mistletoe. We have built an entire world together, over the last 15 + years, that has consisted of so much “making it work” and accepting the fact that we are two of the closest people, who just so happen to be separated by prison walls and a life sentence. It stuns me and it also renders me fragile when I think too much about it.

Displaying weakness is not strength of mine. Is that an oxymoron of a sentence or what? Speaking the hurt is not easy for me to do with those I`m closest to. I`m getting better at it, but sometimes it’s hard for me to put words to feelings that are tough. It’s hard to say “Hey I`m hurting. This marriage is awesome and I want to be happy, but I am very sad right now.” I think the holidays make loving someone in prison extra hard. You look around at all the holiday spirit and you want some of it, but there are big pieces missing. Pieces that are so big, so integral, that it seems almost impossible to really feel any type of genuine joy. I know that I find myself digging deep for holiday spirit and failing miserably at times.

That last paragraph was so  honest that now I feel uncomfortable, exposed, as if that were any more possible on this blog where I’ve laid myself bare. Like I said, it’s hard to talk about hurt at its core, about imagining what life would be like if Jeremy and I were able to be together and also imagining a life where we never knew each other or even a life where we parted ways. Speaking hurt, speaking the hard stuff doesn’t feel in the spirit of the season, but it is a truth that exists in my life and one that I am unable to sweep under the rug for another day, especially not at a time when our hearts as humans are enveloped in moments of….being together.

I have a relatively new friend who found me through social media and reads my blog (Hi!) and is also involved with someone in prison. We talk about the ridiculous prison stuff that makes us laugh, but we also talk about the stuff that hurts, the stuff that people shy away from and I am grateful for her conversation. She reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. We are very similar and although I`m not much older than her, I feel like she is a younger sister, a younger me and I want to shield her from maybe writing any of the tough blog entries I’ve written over the years. I also want to hug her and I want to thank her because her fresh friendship has made me feel hopeful again. It has made me feel young love vicariously and reminds me of when Jeremy and I first met.

I literally almost cried as I wrote that last sentence. The holidays will mess you up just as much as love will and together…they are the downfall of my emotional stability. So, the tough stuff. Sometimes you have to write it, speak it, embrace it, face it, and make peace with it. Hi my name is Desiree and I`m married to someone who lives in a prison and holidays are difficult and I am sad and this sucks and I want cookies.

I got an ad in my email box from eHarmony this morning and it made me laugh for some reason. “Don`t you want to spend the holidays with someone special?” Yes, eHarmony, I do.  I would also like eHarmony to fuck off.

I told Jeremy about the email and he asked me if I thought that if we both did the questionnaire if we would be matched together. He said he thought we would be. I`m sure, but who knows. ​I don`t know why life happens the way it does or why we gravitate towards the people we do, but I do know that putting words to the shitty feelings and the sadness allows a greater appreciation for the good stuff, even if it is muddled by the pain. Holiday lights still sparkle even when they are dim right?

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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

 


The stories we tell

There are events in life which will never be easy to talk about, go through, relive, and ultimately there will be events in life, in everyone’s life, that you will never truly be able to “get over”. I believe our pains and our stories are on us, like birthmarks, some more visible to other people, some more zoomed in on for the world to see, to judge, to hate, to fear, and maybe to embrace.

People who don’t know me personally could assume that I am a horrible person just for being married to Jeremy. They could paint me, in their minds, as a sick person, a crazy person, an unbalanced person. How fucking dare I be married to Jeremy? People who don’t know Jeremy personally could state with absolute conviction, based on what they’ve read in the newspapers, that he is a terrible human being, the most terrible ever, until the next terrible human being comes along. In fact, to some people, he isn’t even human. How fucking dare he live? The outrage is indeed real. They could say that he is vile, unfeeling, remorseless, and all around a person that deserves to die in prison. They could say that and they have said that.

I write this blog to challenge the public opinion of a boy, then 18 years old, who in 1997 was caught up in a very real, very heartbreaking situation. Throughout the weekend, I drove around town with the windows down, my car flooded with hot desert air, listening to music loudly and I found involuntary emotional distress pooling in my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. Not just because the story is a sad one, not just because I love my husband fiercely and want to protect his character, but because I know that this event resulted in the loss of life of another human being. Not just the loss of life to prison, but the literal loss of life. It’s intense and my heart races now, even as I write this. I know that this is not my cross to bear, but being married to Jeremy means that I seek to lessen the weight that my life partner carries, even if just a little bit.

I came to know Jeremy initially through letters over 15 years ago, having no previous knowledge of what he was convicted of. I was a person reaching out to another person, who just happened to be living at a prison. My friendship and eventual relationship with Jeremy didn`t move fast. In fact, our communication was patchy, at best, during the beginning. When I finally read the articles about him online, through various news outlets, I was taken aback. This is not the person I had come to call my friend. I know, I know, people will say that EVERYONE says that about their inmate. For me, the person I was communicating with and the media coverage about him just did not add up. I’ve always found him to be very thoughtful, with a true passion for helping people, even in instances where I personally would not have. His even keeled temper and knack for being there for others was what made me want to know more, to get to know this person who was demonized by the media and the masses who wanted to point a finger and “hang ’em high”, no questions asked.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, some pains are just that, pains, that even if aren’t directly yours, crush the very fabric of your being, while simultaneously liberating, when they are shared. It’s a tough weight to carry, this human business, made more difficult by the ebb and flow of tragedy, growth, hatred, and forgiveness. My heart, as Jeremy’s wife, is in a constant sick flutter over the love we have built, but also knowing that the most amazing bond with another person that has happened in my life, came after the destruction of multiple lives in the crossfire of an awful event.

With all that being said, although I didn`t want to talk about this, I feel it bears mentioning because it is part of the journey. It’s the mucky part, the deep end, the rope burn. It’s part of life, the painful part. It’s the part you cannot look away from and it does not look away from you.

An article came out in a local newspaper this past weekend about the 20 year anniversary of the tragedy that landed my husband behind bars, without the possibility of parole, at the age of 18. Although it is a city specific paper, it is a media outlet that some people read and one of the journalists at the paper was assigned to do a piece on the case for the 20 year anniversary. I`m not used to any degree of infamy, so I get tense when I receive an email or a call from someone that mentions the Jeremy Strohmeyer from 20 years ago. My initial reaction is to hide, but after I’ve hidden, I start to realize that my hiding does nothing for anyone.

I’ve been contacted by the media before, once for a small documentary project about the prison in the town of Ely, NV, where Jeremy has been housed on and off during his incarceration. The other was for a show that airs on CNN, with award winning journalist Lisa Ling. Although I have been contacted twice before, I find the spotlight to be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable and even just talking to someone who may seek to focus on the negative, makes me uneasy. Speaking with the producer of the CNN show got me a little more familiar with how to navigate the waters of curious outsiders and although I ultimately turned down the offer to be included on the show, I have nothing but respect for the real life situations that they address and more importantly, how they address them.

My opinion on the piece by the Las Vegas Review Journal is a bit different from that of my opinion of the CNN show.  I get it, though. There can be nothing in this world without its opposition. There can be nothing good in this world without all the bad. There can be no left without the right. There can be no well, thoughtful telling of a horrible tragedy without the flip side of a story that is told in a sensationalized and biased fashion, where the main person in the story is a detective whose salvation in life is that someone will die in prison(as quoted at the end of the article).

To be fair, they did give my husband a small platform in the article, in which he was able to express himself in a manner that I have come to know over the last 15 + years. They allowed the antagonist in this story a small section to speak his peace, all while including his current, jovial inmate photo in the paper, which readers can react to with curiosity or disgust. They also included a snippet of one of my blog entries that I wrote last year, which again, people can react to in different ways. The detective’s interview (along with photos and video of him) made up the bulk of the article, though. The story was front page of the Sunday printed paper and on the home page of the Las Vegas Review Journal’s website. There were multiple posts on their Facebook page featuring the article and sideline article (about Dave Cash and the Good Samaritan Law), with attention grabbing sentences to get people to click and light their torches(bonfire time, y’all!)

The best I can do is to be cautiously helpful where I can be and to speak the truth about how I view the man I am married to today. The regurgitation of articles past has no effect on how I live my life and where I place my love in this world. I believe in the honoring of a memory and in allowing wounds to heal, though a healed wound doesn’t mean that it is free from pain. Every person has different scars. Every person hurts differently. Every person has a story. What is important is how we tell the world that story and how it is perceived.

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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”.


I`m only one call away..

I like that song. You know that song, right? “I`m only one call away, I`ll be there to save the day”. Yeah, yeah. Cheesy, but goody. My song would be “I`m only one prepaid call away”, or “I`m only one collect call away”, or “I`m only one call, that has a 30 minute limit, away”.  Or….no call away because of a lock down because prisoners in GP cannot stop stabbing each other. “It’s how they show each other love” Jeremy says and then laughs.

“Do you know what I want to tell you every time we have to say goodbye?” I asked him.. . . .

“I want to tell you not to go. I want to tell you to please not leave me”.  That was difficult for me to say to him. It almost felt too raw and too hokey for me. I have difficulty with emotional exposure, believe it or not. Give me a blog and I will bleed my heart, but I feel even more center stage and nervous when I have to expose myself to my husband over the phone line. Funny how that works. It’s true, though, that the older you get, the more chances you take. Life chances, emotional chances. You say “Fuck it. I`m all in. I LOVE YOU and this hurts and I`m here”.  I`m here, across the telephone wires, and my voice is carries over the air to you and I hope you call me back even though it’s time to lockdown for the night. The feeling that comes to mind is helpless.

Anyway. Not leaving. Not hanging up. Staying with me. I know that isn`t a reality right now. I know that after we get that 1 minute warning, that it is only a matter of seconds counting down that we have to wrap the phone call up and I`m usually not ready, I have more to say, so many things, things left unsaid. So frustrating. Even if the phone call starts off normal enough, somehow we tumble through becoming infatuated with each other all over again and I want him to stay with me. *click. disconnect*

Sometimes he can call back, but when he can’t and I know he can’t, I stay on the line until it disconnects and I keep the phone up to my ear sometimes, waiting for his voice to return. It doesn’t return and it doesn’t matter how many years I’ve been doing this or how many phone calls have ended and started, my heart is still lost when we have to say goodbye. More silly hokey love stuff. You can vomit. Unless you’ve been in this situation and you have the guts to really lay it all out on the line, the vomiting doesn’t bother me. I hope, if anything, that my exposure is embraced and that someone doesn’t feel so alone or stupid or ridiculous because of me.

Anyway again. For a while there, we stopped saying goodbye, and instead said “Later” or “I`ll be right back”, but then we started to say goodbye again. It’s weird how cycles start and stop and start again. It’s weird how some prisons have 15 minute phone calls once a month and some have 30 minute phone calls that are limited only be tier time and how many people want to make calls.

The phone calls, though. They become my lifeline to my best friend. They become a stand in for every moment that we miss out on together. They become the light in the dark, my shoulder to cry on, my coffee with a friend when times are tough. I spend my days on the phone as part of my job and I absolutely hate it. I loathe talking on the phone usually to anyone. I have a weird phone phobia that I’ve had to overcome to communicate with Jeremy the way I do over those recorded calls, exposing myself completely, unapologetically.

He said he’s out on the tier tonight and he’s calling and I’ve already lined up all the things I want to tell him and ask him and I hope he can call back so we can talk for an entire hour because today is one of those days and an hour is so short, but I need every second of it to bridge that time between when we hang up and the next time he calls.

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Holiday Blog 2016

I’ve been trying to come up with a prison holiday themed blog entry for the last couple of weeks now and I have deleted more drafts than I ever have before. I gave my lack of a completed entry the title of “writer’s block”, but maybe sometimes  what you’re feeling doesn’t translate to the written word and you have to be okay with that. So, I’ll stick with this: yesterday I had one of the last visits with my husband this year and it felt bittersweet and comfortably uncomfortable. His mom, dad, and sister drove out to see him, so it was a nice family visit. The visiting room was packed with people, smells, microwaveable food, watchful eyes, kids excited to see their papas, crying spouses, holiday decorations at the front desk and us.

Prison sucks. Prison sucks big time around the holidays and sometimes my heart feels full and empty all at the same time and I wonder how that can be. I know that it feels that way because each holiday season I am left almost empty by what the year has taken from me but I am also replenished by the love I am given by a person I never thought I could find in this life and by a family that has taken such good care of me in Jeremy’s absence.
So, yes, prison is shitty and heartbreaking, but it’s also where I found my light and purpose in life after I sent a letter to a stranger 16 years ago. Each holiday, I dig deep for more strength to go on and continue to open my heart and seek freedom and love in a place that thrives on anything but.
PRISONERS