Tag Archives: justice system

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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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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Shaking bras and vending machines

Life seems incredibly shaken out of place for me some days and mostly when I have to face down the prison and all of its ridiculousness, I go into auto pilot mode. I know what needs to be done to see my husband and I do it. What bothered me initially, while still annoying, has become some version of normal.

Some version of normal that includes a female guard asking me to “shake out your bra”(reach under your shirt and lift it to the band of your bra, pull the band away from your skin, and shake what your mama gave you. Or didn’t give you, in my case). Then you stand there with your tits out of place or you quite casually reach into your shirt and scoop each breast up, on by one, and adjust them in front of the guard. “Sorry. I’m all out of place now”. Only I’m not sorry but I say it anyway.  I`m not fucking sorry at all. I`m fucking angry that I had to shake my bra out again and I`m pissed off that she is asking me to shake my hair that I ‘ve just done. You won’t understand unless you have unruly hair that is hard to tame but easy to love.

This version of normal, my version of normal,  also includes buying $4 cheeseburgers made of soy fillers from a machine that often tries to take your $4 without dispensing the fucking soy filler filled cheeseburger, causing you to shake the shit out of that machine until the prize drops. Have you ever shaken a vending machine for any reason at all? Have you shaken one in a room full of prisoners and their visitors? Yeah. I’m determined, so I shake that machine that is 10 times my size and I get that cheeseburger. VICTORY! Then I walk quickly, with my long legs, to the microwave clear across the room, before anyone else can get to it first because ain’t nobody got time to wait 5 minutes for someone else’s burrito or hot pocket or soy filler filled cheeseburger to cook and the other microwave is “out of order”, of course. This whole alternate prison reality is out of order.

I take my alternate reality lessons with me, though, and I have been known to adjust my breasts in my car, at stop lights, if they feel out of place and I’ve, on more than one occasion, helped people on the outside retrieve a stuck vending machine item. You’re fucking welcome.

Skills are skills, yo.

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A wasted life…?

Definitely with a question mark at the end.
How we spend our time and who and what we devote our time, energy, and love to is solely up to us. Only we knew who pulls our heart strings and why. Only WE, ourselves, truly know the depth in which we swim in our own sacrifice and the reasons we do. The point is: we get to choose and I’ve chosen Jeremy. I haven’t chosen the prison or the, at times, stifling reality, but I’ve chosen another person and that’s MY choice. Even in moments of absolute despair, I can say that I chose and this is my life.
It’s actually quite rare that I get “hate” letters(I hesitate to put the word hate here, but maybe confusion? Ignorance?) and it’s almost never from random strangers on the Internet but instead it’s been people I know, who are breaking away because they don’t understand my life and don’t want to or it’s people who don’t know me and think they do. These people think because we’ve interacted a few times, that they now have an up close, front row seat to my life and should definitely let me know what they think about me and my commitment to my husband.  So, they must know best, right? Yeah. Right.
I received a message last week in my Facebook “others” box that was less than friendly and it made me laugh and shake my head before finally deleting it but….it stained me underneath the surface. It did, and I didn’t even read it all. I zeroed in on the part about Jeremy being a monster and not a man and then on the part where this person called me an idiot, pathetic, and let me me know that I’m wasting my life, my time, and my energy. I’m sure the rest of this very long rant was more of the same, but I got the gist of it from the few lines I read.

I could say that any person I know, or don`t know, is wasting their life on their priorities. I could say that what others choose to spend time on is meaningless, hopeless, silly, and idiotic, but I don`t because it isn`t my choice. If loving someone is a waste of time, then I guess that is exactly what I`m doing on my journey. I`m wasting all of the time, but the time will pass anyways, so waste or not, I get to choose.

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Lessons learned

If being a prisoner’s wife has taught me anything, it has taught me to be humble and to have some seriously amazing patience. It has taught me the art of keeping peaceful on the surface while I rage underneath. It has taught me to choose my battles and be graceful in the process. Without those lessons learned in this situation, you are bound to cause more trouble for yourself than it is worth. There is a quiet and calculated way to go about things in dealing with the prison, and that way is not to spit in someone’s face no matter how much you may want to at any given time. You stay calm, you think, and you execute.

There are times when I`ve gotten almost too comfortable with the prison, with visiting, with the way I thought things were. Prison will always take what you believe, shake it out of place, and leave you dumbfounded. You adapt, you adjust, you play your cards right, and just maybe you keep things from going from bad to worse. Maybe not.

For the last 6 months I`ve been visiting at a prison I hadn’t been to in a long time and it took some adjustment, and I`m still not fully used to it. I spent 4 years visiting, regularly, at a prison about an hour from me and I got used to the process, used to the guards(who actually favored me a great deal and did me little favors like letting me in before all the other visitors and letting some clothing “violations” fly), and I got used to my surroundings. Maybe I was becoming too at home, maybe the universe decided I needed this change, that my entire life needed to be made just a little more challenging. Life has a funny way of showing you what you need in order to grow and the prison experience isn`t afraid to put that plan in motion.

Be humble. Be smart. Don`t give up. There are plans greater than yourself.

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Do Not Disturb

While I was at work today, I started to think about how my marriage has absolutely no privacy at this point in time. That fact sort of trips me out to think about. Sure, I fell in love with Jeremy through a series of letters which were always scanned by the mail room, but we had transitioned into our weekly visits at Lovelock where we actually could talk privately in person. Not that we have anything to talk about that would be considered suspicious or anything of that nature, but it was nice to have a small slice of normalcy where we could actually have a conversation that was between Jeremy and Desiree, and not Jeremy, Desiree, and whomever was monitoring our calls or reading our letters. 

Now that our contact visits have been ripped away from us for really no reason at all, besides there being some lying correctional officers with sticks up their asses, we are back where we started. Mail is scanned, and maybe even read all the way through, phone calls are monitored, but really how much can we say in 15 minutes, once a month, anyway? I use our ONE phone call a month for 15 minutes for getting Jeremy important, time sensitive information or letting him know what is going on. I`ve mastered the art of talking fast and maximizing our limited real time contact. Then we have our letters, which are our lifeline at this point.

Mail can take 2-3 days each way, so by the time he gets a letter from me, I`m already onto a whole new set of ideas and thoughts and it is lonely not getting an instant response to something that has made me happy or sad. I`m challenging myself to write at least 5 days a week because Jeremy really does write nearly every single day that we are separated like this. This constant writing allows me to feel connected to my husband when the rest of our life has been disconnected in a really huge way. I feel really lucky to have someone who writes letters, and not just letters, but conversations. He writes the conversations that we are missing. He responds to every little trivial remark in my letters, my questions, he provides support through his words, and he really does reinvigorate me with pen and paper. I feel like I owe him that same commitment, especially considering the circumstances right now, so every day I come home and I pull up a word document and type the day’s events, respond to his words, or just tell him that I love him a million and one times.

 That was a tangent. Originally I was writing about the lack of privacy. So, we have established that all mail and phone calls are monitored so there is little to no privacy there, and this last visit with Jeremy at the maximum prison, we were put in a room with no standard prison telephone, but a speaker box(that was broken, mind you) so we had to talk loudly to be able to hear each other through the glass, often times having to repeat ourselves. I was definitely frustrated not being able to talk about things that were on my mind because of the lack of privacy. I could hear people outside of our visiting booth and I knew they could probably hear me. I don`t mind the fact that people could hear me talking, but it is another thing altogether to want to tell your husband something you don`t want the rest of the visitors to hear. So I found  myself biting my tongue, or otherwise not mentioning what I really wanted to talk about because of the way visiting was set up. His parents visited with me and were nice enough to give Jeremy and I a couple of hours to visit alone but the broken speaker, glass between us, and the constant distraction of other visitors outside of our booth made it difficult to enjoy.

Right now I feel like the only privacy I have with my husband is inside my head and I keep reminding myself that nothing is forever, and this will pass, but in the meantime I have so many built up thoughts and feelings I wish I could express right now. Not in a letter that is read, not in a phone call that is recorded, but in person like a regular couple would be able to do. I hope to get back my privacy with my husband at some point, but until then, there is wine, friends, and writing this blog. While this is all VERY frustrating, I feel like coming back to the start allows us to really evaluate our life together and most definitely makes me realize just how good we had it. We have been here before and survived, and we can do it again.

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The Prisoner’s guide to getting a wife

Yesterday’s blog entry was heavy and informative. It was necessary as far as bringing attention to the current issues my husband and I are facing, but definitely not my favorite type of entry to write. I`m going to try to make this blog a fair mix of serious issues and my life(Which includes serious issues. Not really sure where I`m going with this…). Creating balance is what I`m all about. Stay with me here. I want to write something lighter today because 1. It is Friday and I want to relax. Work is done for the week and that is awesome.2. I want to distract myself from the chaos. And 3. I have wine in the fridge and have finally received the letters from my husband, that the prison was holding for over a week, so I`m happy. I`m also eating honey-balsamic glazed roasted carrots. Life is okay, though I am still missing my husband an insane amount.

Here we go.

So this is a basic guide you should use, should you ever find yourself in prison, and needing/wanting a wife 🙂 These are things my husband has done throughout our relationship to get me interested in him, to get me to come back to him, to get me to stay, and ultimately to get me to marry him in a little room inside the prison visiting area.

1. Make sure you write lots of letters.

* I`m not talking about one letter a week with boring contents such as “Hi. How are you? Please write back”. Write a real letter! Write real letters. Preferably 5-6 times a week, that are sometimes in excess of 20 pages. None of that big print nonsense. Don`t cheat. One of the letters I got from my husband today was 30 pages. 30 pages of finely crafted words that made me laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time.

2. Call her back if she hangs up on you, and she will.

* Way back when I was younger and much more dramatic than I am now, I would pick fights with my husband(which means I mostly just fought with myself while he stood back and refereed between my multiple personalities) and I would hang up on him. He always called back. ALWAYS. If I didn`t pick up, he would call again, and again, and again, because he knew eventually I would give in. In retrospect, I can imagine how frustrated he must have been by my actions but he never let on. He greeted each phone call with a smile that I could feel across the space between us.

3. Use all your resources to help her out with life.

* What if I don`t have any resources? I`m in prison. What do you expect? My advice to you is: Get some resources. Early on in my relationship with my husband  my cat, India,  got sick and needed surgery. I didn`t have a lot of money at the time(Don`t get me wrong; I still don`t have a lot of money) so it was either gather the $$$$ for surgery to fix her or put her down(way cheaper; Only one $). My husband allowed me to pull money out of an account he has, with no questions asked, to save my kitty(who is still with me today). Any man that is willing to help you save your cat, who swallowed a shoelace and a dime that resulted in intestinal blockage, is a man worth keeping. Besides the generous financial contribution, he was there for me emotionally and he truly understood how near to my heart my cat was and how devastated I would have been if I had to let her go. Which brings me to number 4.

4. Be understanding

* Being a prisoner’s wife, or even a prisoner’s girlfriend, is tough. It takes focus, emotional strength, the ability to deal with a precarious situation, and dedication. Hardcore dedication. My husband has never made me feel like I was overreacting, stupid, too emotional, or otherwise wrong for my feelings. We realize that this is the life we have chosen together and we deal with it by supporting each other.  This man knows what I`m thinking, can tell what is going on by the tone of my voice, is helpful, and truly protects my emotions and heart with everything that he is.

5. Scheme with their mother or another family member to get her back if she leaves.

* I admit it, I`ve “left” my husband a number of times in our relationship(before we got married) because I wasn’t sure this was the type of life I wanted for myself. What does “leaving” mean in a prison relationship? How do you “leave”?  Leaving, to me, meant that I stopped writing, stopped taking his calls, stopped opening his mail(I told him I stopped opening his mail. I always opened it), stopped visiting, and generally tried to distance myself from him. When my husband was tired of me “leaving”, he started writing to my mom secretly(very sneaky), getting her to feed me information about what was going on with him, and to keep an eye on me without my knowledge. He knew I loved him and wanted to be with him. I knew this too, but I needed a little push. So one day my mom told me that my now husband had planned on marrying someone else, and I immediately wrote him, told him it was a bad idea, and here we are today. He really did a good job of getting me back in the end.

6. Make her feel special.

* Show interest in things she likes, have pictures drawn for her, send her gifts from the inside, plot surprises for her with your family. Now, I`m not really a material person but the little things my husband has sent me from prison over the years have meant the world to me. The drawings he has had commissioned for me, the toilet paper roses(*snort*), the handmade necklaces, and all the other little prison crafts have made me a happy girl. I am also the proud owner of several pairs of his boxers that he knew I would like for pajamas. In addition to striving to surprise me himself, he works with his family to ensure that they make me feel special in his absence, and I feel truly blessed to have a man who works his ass off to show me how much he cares about me, thinks about me, and loves me.

6. Don`t give up.

* Be persistent. Unless she really doesn`t like you  and researches how to get a restraining order on a prisoner(this I have not done). It takes a lot more work and time to make a prisoner/outsider relationship work than a “normal” outside relationship. If you want a wife, you have to give it all you’ve got. My husband has really given me his all and continues to do so each and every day. We are not together on a daily basis right now, but I have felt more drive for this relationship from my husband than I ever did with any other person on the outside. He doesn’t treat me like he has me and simply has to maintain a standard to keep me, he treats me like he is still trying to win my heart long after I have given it to him.

Okay, so mostly that entire entry was to gush about how ridiculously amazing my husband is. I hope I have inspired a search for true love in your life, or have made you entirely sick 🙂 In closing, while I enjoy referring to my man as “my husband”, I really like to call him Jeremy.

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