Tag Archives: prison wife

Visiting vicissitudes

Having the ability to put on a mask when things are bothering you is a gift. Or is it a curse? Or is it both? All I know is that my gift of sublimation has somehow melted into a puddle of retreat and inability to cope externally. The pause on life is definitely on right now.

Prison will do that to you, and me, and many people. Sometimes you just stop caring and sublimating and having your proverbial shit together and you just ..hide. Only it isn’t really hiding so much as it is self preservation and recharging and just being. Also, eating chips and reading, but those activities are a given when you decide to hermit. If they aren’t for you, you’re  hermiting wrong.
That’s where I have been, inside my head and inside the comfort of my little domicile, where it’s ok to not want to see or talk to anyone, where it’s ok to breathe in the biggest, deepest, most exhausting breath and let out a blood curdling scream into a pillow. My cat doesn’t care. She is used to my moments of insanity dubbed as an “awakening”. So, me in my little bubble of avoiding the outside world and the heat and any plans, but then comes visiting. I want to go and I don’t want to go. I go. I always go. I’m always happy I go but also not so secretly despise my time at the prison.
While waiting to enter the prison for visiting last week, I think my layered exterior, that I spent nearly 15 years building, started to crumble a bit, or peel. It was peeling, like old wall paint and what lies beneath is starting to come to the surface, visible to the naked eye. Or ….was it less crumble and peel and more I don’t give a damn anymore about being contained? You can decide.
Being out in the morning Summer Las Vegas heat while waiting in a line full of people to get into another line to be physically searched to get into a prison visiting room will do things to a person. 1. The first part will make you sweat. It is God awful hot in the Summer here and I loathe it with all that I am. I have always hated the heat, just ask my mom. 2. You will be irate, or at least I will be because sometimes the excitement of visiting is no match for the utter pain it is to get into visit sometimes. I grit my teeth, literally, and sometimes go into a meditative trance to separate my mind from my body.
Sometimes while waiting in line, I see these young girls, full of hope about seeing their man and I think about how if they stay, that feeling won’t last forever. Not that they will stop loving their inmate or that they will stop being excited to some degree, but this shit sucks and it’s hard and to do it for years and years wears you down. It’s nice to see the beginning, though, the naivete that maybe I had once when I first started to visit Jeremy shortly after my 18th birthday. I watch these girls with curiosity and misplaced jealousy because I want to be excited too. I want to exist in a place of hope, but the honeymoon of anything new does not last forever and I want to take these girls by the shoulders and shake them. I want to shake them and hug them and tell them to run. It’s human to feel conflicting emotions and to want to act in conflicting ways and prison shines a light on those human pushes and pulls.
Anyway, it must have been the heat and the unsuspecting future struggle I was seeing all around me, but I found myself talking to some of the regular women I usually pass the time chatting with and I just blurted out “I’m sick of this shit!”. My ridiculous outburst was met with laughter and head nods rooted in understanding and the dreaded question, “How long does he have left?”. I respond with “I don’t know” because I am too tired and surprised by my own blatant proclamation to craft a good answer. But it’s true, I don’t know. For some reason I add that I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 years, the visiting thing, and I feel heads whip around and eyes are on me. One lady looks at me like I’m some sort of freak(and maybe I am) or maybe she is surprised because I look relatively young still(this is me trying to make myself feel better). One lady just says “Wow” and another “What!”, not really a question but an exclamation of disbelief.
It dies down quickly as we move ahead in the line, but internally I’m reeling from what just happened and I start to panic(this is what happens when you have anxiety). The rest of my visit feels weird and off. I’m agitated and luckily I’m married to someone who knows when to press me for answers, but not too hard. Jeremy knows this situation is tough and we strategize to navigate the choppy waters together. I tell him about my outburst and he laughs because while he is sympathetic to my discomfort and suffering, he knows that laughing makes my heavy heart light again and his laugh invariably makes me smile. I am grateful for this and that he lets me spin out in my head while I stare off into space and he eats a bag of Doritos. During the spacing out and chip eating mini marathon, we keep one hand free to hold onto the other, an anchor of a sort in a situation that can sweep you under and away at any given moment. Sometimes land is too fucking far away and you need to learn how to swim in the waters you are in. Holding hands means we are together, we are swimming with one another.
I was doing a health assessment for my insurance recently and it is divided into sections about your history, diet, exercise, preventative health, and emotional health. I scored not so well on my emotional health section(because I was honest when checking those stupid little bubbles) and at the end it said next to my emotional health section, “needs work” with a sad face and a cloud over it. I literally burst out laughing at this ridiculous “measure” and scoring system. How do you measure the emotional health of someone whose spouse lives in a prison and all the work and baggage and madness that comes with that? I want to write to the evaluation people and ask them to include a section that will not paint my emotional health as “needs work”, but rather “Hey, kid, you’re doing the best you can. Hang on and hang in there”.

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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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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An unwanted spotlight

I really hate having attention drawn to me. I REALLY do. I’ve always been that way. I`m uncomfortable being the center of attention and you never need to worry about me stealing the spotlight because it has never been my desire in life. I prefer privacy, quiet, low key. I even get ridiculously embarrassed if I laugh too loud sometimes in public. So, it’s a bit comical that I should end up with someone who is infamous, with someone I have to talk about my life with in order to change perspective from what the media portrayed at one time. I have to talk about what real life is like with this person, being with this person, loving this person, and ultimately painting a brighter picture of who this person is.

In school, I was the kid who hated giving presentations, hated talking in front of a large group (and still do), and hated divulging facts about myself. I`m a listener in most instances and I’d rather not talk at length about my life. It makes me uncomfortable, vulnerable, and open to criticism. The truth is that people are going to criticize you no matter what. You could be doing the best job you possibly can in life, helping people, obeying all the laws like a good citizen, and you will still be criticized. That is just the way humans are.  Instead of hiding in the shadows and letting people talk about how mysteriously absent I am in talking about my husband, I choose to talk about my life and all of the ups and downs, how a person sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole can be an amazing person if you just look beyond the headlines of his case, how everything is not as it seems, because it isn’t.

Starting this blog was a leap. It is incredibly difficult for me to talk about certain aspects of my life with Jeremy, but I do it for the sake of planting seeds that will grow into something more worthy of watering than some sensationalized news story from almost 20 years ago. There is part of me that believes that it is my duty as Jeremy’s wife to do this public presentation because if I let people look up my name behind my back and never bother to talk about what a wonderful relationship I have with a really genuinely good natured person, they will only walk in the direction of “she is married to an evil murderer” and never know the actual story behind it all.

People will always, talk, though, and there will always be an unwanted spotlight on me. At the prison, I have officers and other visitors alike, surprised that I`ve spent the last 14 years visiting Jeremy at prisons and they try to wrap their heads around why Jeremy’s back number is 5 digits and everyone else has a 7 digit number, or why his visiting file dates back to 1998. I feel like sometimes people look at me funny when they hear my last name called out, but it could just be my paranoia because no one has ever said anything to me. There have also been times when I have gotten  private messages on Facebook or at work, from people who are curious about my involvement with Jeremy and at this point I just say “Yes he is in prison and yes we are married and no I`m not crazy”.  When journalists approach me, I act with caution, but I still believe in truth and telling the untold story. So while I absolutely cringe talking about my personal life on this blog some days, it is something that comes with the territory.

If we do not speak our truth, no one gets to hear it.

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Existential crisis: prison wife edition

I laid on the bathtub floor for a long time last night. I let the water go from hot to cold over the course of 45 minutes. I never take showers that are quite so long, but I needed this shower. I laid on the floor, listening to music, letting the water wash away the day of a shitty job and  prison phone calls. I imagined I would step out of that shower and life would be full of hope. I lifted my feet to the stream of water and closed my eyes. I let the water tickle my soles and then I sat up and let water fill my mouth before playfully spitting it into the air like one of those fancy naked women fountains people love…or hate.
Lately I’ve thought more and more about how I want to blog about more than prison, but that this blog is essentially about my life as Jeremy’s wife, my relationship with an inmate, my trials as a woman who spends more time without her husband than with him, the fuckton amount of hope and gut wrenching belief it takes to be in this space. It has tones of prison blues and a dislike for injustice, and all this is my truth certainly,  but I wonder if I’ll get to the place in my life where I can step out of the shower in all my nude glory and blog about my life without prison, my loves and dislikes about the world, how I grew up, how I came to be. I wonder if anyone would find those truths as interesting as the prison me, the wife who is metaphorically handcuffed to another beautiful soul and the state of Nevada right now.
I wonder if I’ll ever blog about how movies and music change my life by the second, what growing up multicultural has been like for me, how depression has been a second skin for me and how much of a struggle it is. I wonder if I’ll talk about how I have been in love with both men and women, how I cry more than I let on, what insomnia is like after the 5th night. Will I be able to discuss my dreams and my ridiculous dissection of them and how I reject organized religion and embrace a world where everyone is equal. About how carnations are my favorite flowers and sometimes I cut myself to feel alive. I wonder if I’ll ever get to be a voice for someone other than another prisoner’s wife or something other than the target of some bad joke for people who think I don`t deserve support.
Will I get to go in depth and share how scared I am of life and death and how I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from end to end and about my mother’s cancer and how I believe that healing sometimes hurts more than the original damage? Body image, singing badly in the shower, armpit hair, how holding hands is more of a connection than good wifi. So many subjects to talk about, to commiserate over, to embrace others about.
I hate prison and I feel so small and stupid and fumbling when I talk about it, but here I am. Am I seen or is it just another story?
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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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