Tag Archives: story

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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How long is forever?

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

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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When you were young

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The prisoner vs. the person

Saturday night blogging/September 14th, 2013

My blog is titled wine. work. prison but I rarely talk about work or wine so let me sum it up before I proceed with this entry. I like wine. A lot. I didn`t really drink wine until I moved to Nevada and married Jeremy. It was a new adventure for me and a far departure from the Jack and Cokes I was used to drinking at the bar. Wine has gotten me through some hard times, but has also been a source of connection, fun, and learning. I should write more about that sometime. Work is a pain in the ass as I`m sure it is for a lot of people. I hate my job. I`m sure that is pretty normal. Wine helps me deal with work which in turn helps me deal with prison. There is the connection 🙂

My husband is almost off of disciplinary segregation and I got to talk to him today for 15 minutes. When I talk to him, I watch my phone, and I am aware of every single minute, trying to make them last as long as possible but the time still passes harshly and quickly. The 15 minutes is over before I know it and I`m left staring at my phone, trying to replay his last words, trying to somehow transport myself back 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes. That isn`t a lot to ask for, is it?

I`m drinking my tried and true mood booster, wine, and I`m watching Lockup: Raw on MSNBC tonight. I watch this show a lot. It allows me to feel closer to my husband in some sick and strange way and I actually enjoy it. Before Jeremy and I were serious I wanted to be a parole officer. I wanted to work with inmates. I wanted to be the change I wished to see in the world. Now that all that is gone and passed and everything has been turned upside down, I like to watch Lockup 🙂

In between drinking wine, and watching Lockup I was thinking about how I know Jeremy, how I see him as this wonderful person while the rest of the world views him as this horrible inmate, this monster, this drain on tax dollars.I`ve only ever known Jeremy the person. I may know his back number, I may go to a prison to visit him, but I don`t classify him as an inmate. I see Jeremy as my husband, this man who has my heart, this person who is away from home right now.

For a long time at the beginning of our friendship, I had no knowledge of Jeremy’s crime. I didn`t know what the newspapers said he had done, what he had said he had done, what I thought he had done. I didn`t want to know at first. It didn`t cross my mind. I was getting to know this person, this soul, this human being. Sometime later when I found out about his case, I didn`t flinch. I had a sadness deep inside myself, but it didn`t change my feelings. When you get to know someone, thinking they have a clean slate, your perception is different, your thoughts are different, your devotion  is different, even in the face of new information.

Jeremy had never been some weirdo trying to get me to send him money or dirty photos. He asked nothing of me, yet he gave me the world with his words and with his love.

I search his name online frequently, just to see what new article has popped up about him, seeing what past pen pal is now trying to sell his letters and it both frustrates me and makes me laugh. These people do not know a person, they know a name. They know only what their own mind allows them to think. To those people: I am sorry you do not have the pleasure of knowing someone so wonderful, so caring, and so unbelievably different than what has been printed about them in the media.

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My Beginning

I just finished up some yoga. Yoga(Jillian Michael’s style, mind you) was the perfect way to tell the stress to get lost. Exercise pretty much keeps my emotions in check these days. All those endorphins are actually doing their job. I find it hard to have emotional breakdowns about the lack of Jeremy in my life because I keep myself moving, productive, and awake to life as opposed to staying in bed eating pizza and crying(which deep down somewhere I think I really want to do sometimes).

During yoga, in between sweating and cursing at Jillian, I was thinking about the beginning that I`m going to have to go back to soon. My beginning was the place where Jeremy and I physically came together back in 2003. If you want to argue what my actual beginning was, you could say it was my birth, or my childhood, or my first kiss, but I like to say that my beginning was Jeremy. Though I remember snippets of my life before him, I have an almost photographic like memory of him, our conversations, his face, us. So what is this beginning? More important, where is this beginning?

My beginning is Ely State Prison in Ely, Nevada. I haven’t been there in over 5 years but I`m about to make my journey there once again to be with Jeremy because he has been transferred. Why has he been transferred? Read the back story in earlier blog entries. I find myself about 350 miles away from my husband and anxious about going back to Ely, but it is necessary. People who don`t know about prisons don`t understand the vast difference between maximum and medium security facilities. It’s going to be an adjustment from what I have gotten comfortable with.

Jeremy and I had written for years before I could actually visit. One month after my 18th birthday I found myself in the waiting room of this maximum security prison in a part of Nevada I had never even heard of. There were so many thoughts rushing through my head before that first visit, where I was about to meet a man I had only ever written to and had a few 15 minute phone conversations with. I remember admitting to the gatehouse guard that I was nervous and I felt really dumb for saying that. At that time, I had no experience with prisons or law enforcement. At that time, I thought law enforcement was there to help, to save, and to be just. What a far, far, departure from the truth.

Anyway, back to my beginning. My beginning is a place as you now know. This is the place where my life was turned upside down and was changed in a way that it would never be the same again. Meeting Jeremy has been the greatest joy of my life and I wouldn`t trade my impulsive nature for anything because it led me to my perfect match. On the flip-side, this beginning has been the greatest struggle of my life, but a struggle is a challenge and I have always been up for this particular challenge.

So, years later, I find myself on the precipice of my beginning again, another journey to be had. I feel a strange sense of positive about returning to my beginning, and I feel that this return will enable greater and more amazing experiences to happen in my life with Jeremy.
The roots of my love were planted in a maximum security prison visiting room.

I have the geographical coordinates to my beginning with me at all times.

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