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Valentine’s Day

What a weekend. It’s interesting how different our perspectives on certain holidays can be when we are taken completely out of the lifestyle we have become accustomed to living. Take for instance my present location (okay prison let’s just say that) and an all woman’s prison that, agree or disagree, has a large degree of gay people and let’s face it, we are woman so by nature we love Valentines Day. Hearts, flowers & love abound. It was and always is on every holiday fun for me to sit back and watch what goes on in the making, planning and executing gifts, decorations or just simply displays of affection by making food, planning a special meal etc. A great deal of these woman are truly gifted in what they can pull off with next to nothing! It was really fun to watch, until the morning of Valentines Day that is when the compound officers started taking and throwing into the trash anything that even looked like it had anything to do with Valentines Day. Then they proceeded to spread the word to all the units early in the morning that they better not see anyone walking across the compound with anything that looked like it either. (Well good morning to you as well) Why you ask? Who knows. I am sure if you ask them they have some BOP explanation that they are going to use to justify why they would take something that someone spent hours using their creative minds to make and simply trash it. If you ask the woman here…well they have a completely different theory that ranges from, “they are just jealous that no one got them anything for Valentines Day ” to “their just complete jerks” to well the rest, I probably shouldn’t repeat here. But alas, we are woman and the game then became how to get around the officers that were behaving badly!

The other thing that I discovered this weekend is that all these geese that fly in here every fall, and there are a ton of them, have such an amazing mating story. When they mate they mate for life!!!! Isn’t that awesome? They mate on water, then come back to the same place they were born every single year. However, what is still up in the air is which place do they go? Where the male was born or the female?

My other Valentines Day weekend story is one that melts my heart. My sweet husband was speaking to someone that is fairly prominent in Bend’s social circles the other day and after all the perfunctory topics and questions were out of the way the man asked him how I was and if we were still married. Kevin responded, “they can take everything I own in my life, but they will never take my wife away from me.” Melted my heart. I have always known that God blessed me the day I met that man but he just keeps reminding me every single day just how blessed I am. And by the way husband, I feel the exact same way, my Valentine for life!

Last, while I was sitting in visiting finishing up a morning visit with a great friend, I looked up and who was walking through the door completely unannounced is one of my beautiful daughters! On her way from LA to Portland her plane landed in San Francisco, broke down and she had a 8 hour lay over until she could get on her flight so she rented a car, bought some shoes that they would let her in with, and here she was! So awesome!

Okay that’s my new take on Valentines Day. My last thought is that in watching TV the morning of Valentines Day it seems like everything was geared to what if you forgot Valentines Day and needed to pull something together really quick? Shouldn’t Valentines Day be every day if your in love? I don’t know maybe I have to much time on my hands:) Or maybe I am madly in love:)

This is such an exciting week!

Kevin is coming home and no one is more excited than I am except maybe our cute grandboy London……who wrote me my very first EVER letter and told me that Papa was coming home to the big red house and he himself gets to spend 2 days with him. The cutest letter I have ever ever gotten in my whole entire life (sorry husband:). That being said I thought I would offer a few words of advice to help all of our friends and family members in the adjustment period Kevin will likely go through upon his arrival. Hopefully, this will provide some insight while giving you information that will make this transition a smooth one.

Try to avoid large crowds and long lines in particular. Kevin will get into any line and stand complacently for hours. DO NOT under any circumstances, allow him to go shopping without a shopping list where he will, in all liklihood, have everything neatly written down in order or departments in the store with a small box checked next to it. Arrange for Safeway or Albertsons to assign him a number and have him wait outside until they have his order filled and in a cart. He can then bag everything himself and he will probably want to walk home with it all slung over his shoulder.

Occasionally walk through our house when he is home with a huge bunch of keys that are on the end of a chain and keep shaking them so he knows someone with some authority is close by. If you could just yell some ethnic phraises and/or some jibberish (preferably in Spanish) while your shaking your keys that would be really helpful.

Make sure he is in bed by 11:00pm, and around midnight if someone could go over to the house and shine a really bright flashlight through the bedroom window directly in his eyes and make sure you have a squawking walkie talkie turned up as loud as it can go while your doing this that would be great. He probably won’t really be able to settle down to some peaceful sleep until all of that happens. Then if you could just go back over and do that again at 2:00am and 4:00am that would be really great! Make sure that if you do this and can’t see skin that you bang on the window as loud as you can to make sure he is in fact in bed and that he is alive. This whole process may sound strange but trust me the Federal Government is the one that devised it so it must be something that is super great and serves some purpose in life.

If you get to have a meal with him, which I am sure you will, try to ignore him if you see him quietly pull any old plastic bag out of his pocket silently and starts to fill it with sugar or tries to wrap all of his food in a napkin and puts it in his pocket all the while continuing to eat as if nothing happened or is going on. This can be so embarrasing in restaurants particularly.

After work you may notice that he flies into the house and grabs a folding chair or any chair and places it directly in front of the tv with his shirt or coat thrown over it to reserve his spot for a later tv program he may want to watch, or you may notice that around 4:00pm he may drop whatever he is doing and run to the bedroom where you will find him standing quietly by his bed. If this occurs just yell as loud as you can “count clear” and he will snap out of it and come rejoin you in whatever he was doing before.

You may notice that he will go through a period of time where he may be perplexed when receiving mail and attempting to open it. You may need to take it from him, open the envelope be slitting the top of it, tear whatever is inside of it in two and then put it back in the envelope and staple the crap out of it so he can then properly open it.

If he is outside the best way to get him to come in is to yell out the door “RECALL FOR COUNT” or if you simply want him to come for dinner just yell “MAINLINE”. If he wanders through the house at night, tell him that a “BED BOOK COUNT” could occur at any moment and to get back to his room, and if he really gets out of line, tell him your going to call a “HACK” to give him a “SHOT” and then take him to the “SHU” and you’ll be amazed at how fast he gets with the program because if he goes to the “SHU” he could lose “GOOD TIME”.

Last he may prefer to store all of his food and clothing, and even toiletries is one single small box or locker, probably under his bed, and do his laundry by throwing ALL of his dirty clothes in a mesh bag, which he in turn will throw in the washing machine, put it on a light wash that won’t take more than 1/2 an hour to wash and then place that same bag with the clothes still in it in the drier to dry. That being said I would advise you NEVER to ask Kevin to do your laundry.

Last, friends…you know who you are, do not let him have more than 1/2 small glass of wine when he first gets home because……..well just because……I am not sure what will happen:) Other than that he will hopefully have a super smooth transition back into life as he once knew it. And your all there to help so I am super happy about that!

Bunkmates Birthday

So it was my bunkmates birthday on Thursday, and it is now Sunday and I am starting to figure some more prison things out.

She has been in prison for 14 years and all of her friends that have been with her in one prison or another have taken it upon themselves to cook all weekend and oh how they can cook. I have eaten more in the last 4 days than I think I have in the last month. Here’s the other really fun part of this story. They are all black and I am the only white person in the group. Sitting for 4 days at a table with a bunch of black woman who are all over the age of 40 (except 1) is hysterical. I cannot keep up. They talk, and they talk, and they talk, usually all at the same time because one or two of them start answering way before the person talking is done saying whatever they are saying, but that person doesn’t stop saying whatever they are saying the entire time the other 2 or 3 are answering. Finally, after the second day, and me having sat there saying nothing but “wait, who, wait what, wait I don’t understand” my bunky leaned over and said, “ole bird, it’s not polite to keep asking those questions, just wait and keep listening you will figure it out or just remember to ask me later and I will tell you.” I agreed, until later when I can’t remember one thing I was going to ask!!!!

The other funny part of this story is the new “prison” name they gave me. You may recall that everyone here has a prison name…mine has been Kardashian, or my bunky calls me ole bird, (not OLD bird, but ole bird). However after this weekend they now say I have another new nickname and it’s Taneequa. That’s because they think I am becoming just as loud as they are so I have to have a name that fits when I am with them:) Funnnnny. I told them I only get loud because it’s the only darn way they are ever going to hear a word I have to say over all of them talking all at once.

Another one of my friends has come back to this fine establishment. I have now had 9 of the people I got to know when I first got here just a mere year ago get out, and come back. All on parole violations which basically means they did something they were not supposed to in the half way house, or in this case most of them broke the conditions of their probation. Here is the interesting part…the majority of them were in here on drug charges of some sort….most got caught up on the phone or a conspiracy charge for selling drugs, all very minor, so the sentencing judge knows they are addicts, make their money selling, put’s them in here for a number of years, they get no help whatsoever, they get out, they can’t pass a urine test within months of getting out, so they send them back for a few more months, let them out again, they break parole again, and this time when they send them back they tell them the are going to add another 60 days to their stay here so they will be “off paper” meaning no more probation so that the government can quit sending them back. I am confused. At what point did they solve a problem? They still have a person addicted to drugs that they thought was so horrible that they wanted to catch them and throw them in prison. No rehab…but wait, that’s right, these prisons are called “correctional facilities” but there really is no correction, but they keep them for a number of years, feed them, cloth them, clean them off of all street drugs anyway, send them back out to try it again and then are shocked when they come back. Hmmmmmm….I am thinking someone needs to re-think the system. Apparently, it’s not working.

Oh well this is what I do all day long. It’s like a circus. Around and around we go. That’s all for today:)

Prison Jobs

As many of you know, the only place in America that slavery actually still exists, and is legal, is prison. Really. True story. If you don’t believe me read your constitution. Its there in black and white. However, in prison they pay you to be a slave. They don’t give you a choice but they do pay you. Of course most jobs pay .12 cents per hour so it’s not the type of job I would suggest anyone run right out and try to nab:)

That being said, my slave job was being a clerk of the recreation center here at Dublin. I can honestly say I learned more skills as far as computer work than I have learned in my entire career, just ask my husband, and he was duly impressed with some of the things I created that I sent to him. My job entailed, hiring of inmates for the various job positions, doing all their paperwork, where inmates swore they read and understood everything they were signing and how all the chemicals they cleaned with could be hazardous to their health. I did the payroll. I scheduled all the aerobic and hobby craft classes, did all the paperwork when the inmates completed the classes etc. etc. etc….Suffice it to say it ended up being a 7 day a week job.

I didn’t mind so much working 7 days a week for $27.00 a month but it was the work environment that I quickly started looking at. I found that for every 4 hours I spent at my prison “job” I actually got about 10 minutes worth of work done. Only in America, under the umbrella of the Federal Gov’t, would anyone require that someone sit around at their beck and call and do absolutely nothing but wait for them to get off their computers so one could be ready to do anything they may need. Or where else on earth does one have 10 employees show up to work and have them just stand around (or sit) and do nothing until they are ready to unlock a tool room? Who does that? Where else on the face of this planet does that happen? Where else does one have at their disposal people who in the real world would be worth anywhere from $15.00 to $50.00 per hour at their finger tips and it’s just not important to put those people to work to better a system because…who cares why? The people who work here are simply government employees as well and they don’t care anymore than the inmates do. And speaking frankly there is 100 more inmate employees where those came from. There will always be another inmate sitting around waiting at someone’s beck and call.

So I quit. I am now one of 2 photographers. At my photography job I know that every minute I spend at that job I am putting a smile on someone’s face and I am productive. I have learned a lot about myself over the course of a year. I have learned that I hate to sit around and be idle. Anyone who knows me knows that. I have always prided myself on being an amazing multi-tasker and I usually don’t drop any of the balls. As age is setting in that may change. Also, my mind is always going. The other thing I have learned is that I love to read. I didn’t used to like to read because I never had time, or so I thought. Now I would say I never made time. I was to busy keeping my balls going. So I quit my prison job mainly because, I wanted to do me. I wanted to work out for more than 5 minutes without someone yelling my name to come and sit…and wait…because they were sure there was something they needed me to do. I didn’t want to sit and wait…anymore. I wanted to do me.

Now I am doing me and back to working out, back to reading, and back to taking naps…and going to classes and using my time super productively.

 

 

Haters.

I told one of my daughters during a recent visit that I was going to do a blog about “haters”. I have come to realize that in life there are “haters”. Boy there are haters. We all have them. I believe even Mother Teresa had haters. My daughter replied to me that she did not like the word at all, or the connotation, and what it brings. I happen to agree with her but it still does not negate the fact that the world is full of the behavior. She said, “Mom, maybe you could just not call them haters.” I tried to look up a synonym of the word hate…but the behavior I was speaking on always comes right back to the word “hate.” It’s a strong word for sure and in fact if one hates, which is the definition in Webster, they should leave well enough alone, but they don’t.

Let me back up. The topic stemmed from a conversation that my bunkies and I were having a few days ago about the difference of the woman I have met in prison who are “haters” vs. the people I have experienced in the outside world that are “haters’. I was telling them that I actually have grown to appreciate and respect the people in here who hate for one reason or another. Why? Because they do it to your face. There is no wondering what people actually think about you, about what your doing, about what race you are, about the way you cook, dress, talk, anything in fact. They will tell you. Straight up. AND they will still come and visit, hang out, ask your opinion about something…and many have actually become not so much of a hater anymore. In the outside world not so much. In reflecting back I find that we generally try to mind our manners, pretend that we like someone, pretend that they don’t annoy us, and then here’s the one that really get’s me…..behind their backs we are so willing to talk trash about them, hide behind our computers, phones, and hate, and hate, and hate. They spew lies; send blogs, letters, hate mail, all of their one-sided beliefs and opinions.

So the continuation of those discussions has been a new path for me. I am working hard and saying things bluntly, yet respectfully, in the moment, and not carrying things around with me. My roommate does this beautifully. At first I spent a lot of time with hurt feelings until I realized that it really is possible to call someone out on behaviors that bother me, or on things that I notice and it has nothing to do with how I feel about that person. It’s amazing how much freedom there is in just speaking up and telling someone to their face how you feel or what you’re thinking. Its also amazing how much you will learn about the person and the opportunities it affords in self-growth.

So, daughter, if I had to re-title this blog I would change the word haters, to cowards. Because I have learned that I have lived a lot of my life being a big coward and it’s actually been fun to learn a different way of doing it. AND the best part…I haven’t gotten beaten up yet and if I was going to get beaten up for this new found freedom of speech I am learning I am sure I would have gotten it here much faster than in the real world:)

 

It’s been a long time since I have blogged.

My friends have been faithfully reminding me of this. There are all kinds of reasons why, but when my husband actually sends me an e-mail and asks why I have not been blogging…Well, that clearly means it’s time to blog again.

The absence of my words is not due to my being “down” or “depressed” as many friends are asking. I am actually on a quiet journey that many people in life don’t get to go on. I feel blessed. Recently a friend blogged about how in her writing about the beauty she finds in the battle they are in (her husband is in the progressive stages of ALS) that people feel somehow she is in denial, or uttering the “good Christian girl responses” to their plight, or using it as some sort of marketing ploy. It was in that moment of reading what they are going through that I realized that what my battle is and what I face daily, and the way I am dealing with it is precisely where I fell off the blog bandwagon. People don’t understand it, judge it, have opinions about how I am dealing with it; the list goes on and on. And then there are the haters. Oh boy they hate. Then there are the people here who read our e-mails that tell other inmates what is being said, and they hate. They feel that perhaps I am not taking this whole “jail” thing seriously. Perhaps I am not. But I sure am using every last minute of my time here to come out on the other side of the mountain and survive and thrive. No one can take that from me.

There will always be haters. I have learned that should you ever find yourself the victim of other peoples bitterness, smallness, or insecurities, remember things could be much worse…you could be them. It’s hard for most people to believe that sometimes people move far beyond both the life altering negative effects of a life trauma, whether emotional or physical, and the usual perceived post traumatic growth. Often we don’t just grow when we have been through something like this, we revolutionize our lives! We own the word vicissitude! Ourselves and others transform and transcend our own suffering even while enduring it. That’s what I feel like is going on right now in my life. It’s where I am. I am reaching to the farthest corners of my mind to take advantage of this time. To reflect back on things I had not had time to reflect on, to grow, to think, to ponder, to read, to re-new and re-connect with what I am passionate about. I truly believe and now understand how people who have survived any kind of trauma in their lives often transform the worst thing that can ever happen to them into the best! That’s what I am doing every single day.

There is a woman here who I am very close too. Her son was shot in the back of the head on New Years Day last year (2013). It was her only child, killed needlessly by a random drive by shooting. He was 19 and had his whole life in front of him. When I tell you there is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING, that can ever happen to her that she will ever have to fear again and not think she will be able to live through it, it’s that. I have learned that only when you have lived through something that you think is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to you, and you survive, can one truly say…I am leaping Lord, I am not afraid because I know you are there to catch my fall, pick me up, wipe away the tears, and point me in the right direction and I will survive! And I will be better for it!

Now understand me when I say it’s still a struggle. For instance, about 2 months ago I was eating a delicious “heart healthy” veggie burger they serve here every Wednesday, harder than hard that burger was…when I realized that one of my teeth that sit right next to my front tooth that has a cap on it was jutting slightly forward. I then realized it was loose. When I tell you I freaked out…you would have roared laughing like my roommates did! I was up all night, in a cold sweat…immediately went to dental sick call the next day with the tooth still in my mouth where as I was laying in the chair the dentist said to me “okay let’s just pop this thing out and see what we have underneath.” I replied, “What do you mean?” She said, “well if there is decay or the tooth underneath is cracked we will have to just pull it, and that’s usually what happens when these crowns pop off like this.” I said, “well then what do we do about my tooth?” She said, “Well, you just won’t have one!” I said, “LIKE YOU MEAN I WILL BE TOOTHLESS?” She said, “yes, I’m afraid so. The BOP doesn’t allow us to do crowns!” I have never shot up out of a chair so fast in my life. I let her know that she wouldn’t be touching my tooth this day and out the door I went! Long story short I nursed that tooth along for 2 months until it finally fell out. I was sick about it. I had nightmares about being toothless. The night it finally fell out, I have never been so relieved in my entire life about anything! Half the women here have no teeth, and the stress of babying that tooth along was all consuming. The next Monday I walked into the dentist here, she looked at it, told me nothing was wrong with it except the stem on it was a bit short and promptly re-glued it back in! I have learned that I don’t ask enough questions. I make a lot of assumptions. I am still afraid of things that I really have no control over. And I am learning and growing and I am only going to get better as time goes on.

There husband and friends how do you like this?

Many more to come.

It’s amazing what one can learn by being in prison

For instance did you know that high speed car chases cause nearly 400 deaths per year in the US and cost the government more than a billion dollars a year in damages, lawsuits, and medical expenses? Well, there is a company called StarChase that has just come up with a solution that is being used by several police departments already that consists of a double barreled compressed air unit that is installed in the grille of a police car and is loaded with twin 4.5 inch GPS projectiles sticky “bullets” that stick onto a suspects car. It is launched using an in car console or remote key fob! The system uses laser acquisition to target the suspect’s fleeing or stationay car and then shoots one of the GPS cartridges like a spud out of a potato gun at its rear end so that once it’s tagged, the GPS module relays the car’s coordinates, heading, and speed every 3 to 5 seconds to police dispatch. One roadblock is the price apparently which is $5,000 per police car and each bullet costs about $250.00 a pop, pardon the pun………Technology at it’s best but wait there’s more………

New technology has arrived that can perform a drug test using finger prints in a matter or moments. Thanks to new. real-life technology from Paul Yates and his colleagues at Intelligent Fingerprinting, fingerprints can now be used because if you are on drugs, you sweat out evidence in your fingers. You won’t be sweating out the actual drugs, but rather unique, broken-down by-products. The exact amounts are minusclue, but with this technology, that information can be used to dtermine if the finger’s owner has been using or is currently under the influence of drugs like nicotine, cannabis, cocaine and even methadone! It works by coating the fingerprint residue with gold nanoparticles covered in antibodies. The antibodies will then stick to certain metabolites (byproducts of drugs, specifically) at which point a dye will highligh the metabolites the antibodies have singled out and bam, quick and easy drug testing.

This is what happens when you have lots of time to read magazines and books. I am just a wealth of information now that I never would have known before:)

Other than that the only thing going on is that spring is finally sprung here, the baby geese have all been born and I probably know more about geese than I ever ever ever ever wanted to know, and man are they cute when born but within days they start getting really ugly and by 2 weeks they are almost as big as the parents and super duper ugly. Doesn’t take long for these little guys to grow that’s for sure.

That’s it for now. A couple of good fights this week out in the middle of the yard but nothing else really going on to speak of.

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