Journey of Faith

December 2014

So according to my discovery packet, the police claim that they based their investigation to starting in December 2014. That this was where things started to go sideways. I have to disagree, as well as many others who know us personally and some casually. Moving into our new home, my husband decided that he wanted to fill our basement with all the things that most men want to fill their basement with. Our basement was the entire width and length of our house, including the garage, which is usual. The first item he decided to purchase was a pool table. I remember this day like it was yesterday. He found the table on craigslist, talked to the person on the phone, and looked at several photos. The pool table was used, but it was in great condition. The folks selling it were moving and needed it gone. I can’t recall the exact price we paid, but we also then hired a pool table mover to go get it. We never saw the table in person but relied on the professional mover we hired to give us his honest opinion. He arrived and said that the table was in great shape, and he would be able to move it with no problems. We sent the owners of the table and the mover payment via Pay Pal. I never knew what went into moving a table like this, but the task was tedious. It was a slate top table that had to be disassembled, carefully packed and then was moved from Maryland to our home in Pennsylvania. The mover told my husband that it would be several hours for him to break the table down, pack it and then drive to our house and have it reassembled. He wasn’t kidding. This process took from early one afternoon and he never completed setting it up in our home until 4am the next day. I think my husband ended up calling off work because he wasn’t expecting it to take that long. Once it was set up and completed, it sat in the middle of our basement for everyone to admire like the leg lamp in The Christmas Story movie. The kids were given instructions on the felt top and the slate under it. It was “FRAGILE”. We didn’t want to put in the expense yet of carpet and drywall in the basement yet because when we bought the home there was some dampness issues that cost us a pretty penny to fix. We had to have a French drain put in, extra sump pump and have the grading around the house redone. Once that was completed, we were assured that the dampness and water issues were resolved. (Which we found to be true). Rather than risk it though, we decided to paint the floor and put those paint chip flecks down. We painted the cinder block walls and put an area rug down to make it cozy. We had no plans to proceed any further than that because there was no egress out of the basement. So, any additional construction was tabled. We would use it “as is” and enjoy it for what it was. We decided to allow this to be a space where my sons could go and hang out with their friends rather than hanging out in their bedrooms. The house we had was a rancher, and the only good place for them to gather was in the basement. It just wasn’t a great idea for them to have friends in their rooms because the rooms weren’t super big and also to me, they were “private” spaces. There is an age difference of just about 5 years between our oldest and youngest. They had a shared bathroom, and it just didn’t seem far for one or other to have to put up with someone else’s friends encroaching on their private space. My kids both were already huge Xbox fans, so my husband then decided to buy a big tv to keep in the basement to not only watch movies, but to play their games on. We didn’t run cable down there, but it was available for streaming movies and at that time we were still using DVD players. Streaming was just starting to get big and Netflix coming into play. This area was going to be a place where all of us could potentially enjoy just hanging out and relaxing. I have a big family and was hoping to be able to have my family over for gatherings where we could all sit comfortably in one room. Unfortunately, that never happened. We also, decided to set up a stereo system down there, a workout area. My son was working out on a regular basis because of football, as well as some of his football buddies. We had good intentions of also starting to work out, but the only exercise we got was buying the equipment and having it set up. Like most equipment, it sat in the basement and just “looked good”. During these winter months, it was cold, it was starting to snow, and the roads were getting icy at night. The slightest bit of moisture during the day, then turned into black ice once the sun went down. I can’t recall if I mentioned this before, but the area that we lived in was rural. Most of the friends that our son had lived on back roads and even to drive from their house to the school on a good day could take 20-30 mins. This was depending on how far down into the far reaches of the school district that you lived. I never realized how far some of the houses were in the district until we started dropping off and picking up our kids and their friends to their respective houses. We lived in a district that tended to offer 1–2-hour delays regularly because of the back road conditions and the fact that many would drift closed if the wind blew the right way after a storm. There were a few times when they guys would stop over to see our older son and it would start to snow. I recall one of the first times this happened, I was NOT comfortable with them trying to drive home. These were all kids that I considered to be decent drivers but had not yet driven in the ice or snow. I remember asking them to call their parents to see if it was ok if they stayed and headed out the following morning when it wasn’t icy. We had plenty of room for them to all sleep in the basement. We had sofas, and the floor. There was plenty to do, and I knew they wouldn’t be driving in the dark on icy roads. Some of the friends weren’t able to stay because it was wrestling season. There were if I recall, at least 2 friends that wrestled on a regular basis. They were wrestling with the Senior High now and therefore traveling to schools’ way outside our district to matches. For some of the matches, they would even go further outside the area to wrestle kids throughout the state depending on how far the school made it. I remember asking my son at one point about certain friends because I hadn’t seen them around lately. He had told me that (I’m going to use initials) DG and CS were wresting and unable to come over to hang out. When I say hangout, that didn’t mean spending the night always either. These friends would stop in to say hi to our son, they would stop in to see if he’d want to go with them to other places. So, by asking about them it was just because I hadn’t seen them at all and wanted to know if they were ok. You know how kids get mad at someone and stop talking so I was curious to see if something like that had occurred. Eventually, he told me that they stopped hanging out with CS. I said, “why?” He told me that he and the guys found out that CS was using pot and wanted nothing to do with him. They didn’t want their names being associated with him because of football. They had strict rules about codes of conduct, etc. and so by CS smoking, or whatever else he was doing with weed they didn’t want any parts of it. This made us very proud as his parents that they made this decision. I noticed that this kid no longer really played on the team, and I guess decided to strictly stick to wrestling. I’m not sure, because once he stopped coming around, he was no longer on my radar. I also had asked about another friends SH, and why I didn’t see too much of him. My son explained it to me this way, “SH has seasonal friends. When he plays baseball, he has baseball friends. When he wrestles, he has wrestling friends. When he plays football, he has football friends. I guess he doesn’t want to hang out with us when those other sports are going on”. I figured, if he was ok with it what could I say about it. I personally don’t care for rainy day friends. There did seem to be a core group of friends that he hung out with. They were SH, NM, NA, CH and DG. Anyone else, I couldn’t tell you who they were and if they stopped by it was once and not memorable. You know how you see maybe a friend of your kids once and then might never see them again. I figured maybe my kid decided they weren’t the kind of person they wanted to be friends with, maybe they were ok to hang out with in school and that was it. I didn’t ask. You can’t possibly know every person that your kid associates with. I can see if they are coming over to your house or if your kid was asking to spend the night there. If that wasn’t happening, then how would I know anything about them. Also, them spending one time at the house didn’t put them on our radar to ask why they never returned. I hope that doesn’t sound callus but once you don’t just think about. The kid I asked about was coming often, I had met his parents at football banquets and noticed when I didn’t see him again. We weren’t friends with that kids’ parents, and the extend of our conversations were if they ever dropped him off or if we would see them at games. Most of us were Facebook friends, to be able to share football posts and that sort of thing. Before CS stopped coming around though, we did decide to take the boys all to the cabin. I can’t recall the exact time when we took all of them, but I know that there was a time when you couldn’t even reach the cabin because the mud and muck was so bad that the road was impassable. We thought if we could convince our older son to come back to the cabin again that he’d change his mind and want to start coming with us again. We wanted him to see that we installed the internet now, there was a phone. We installed a TV antenna and was getting almost 30 channels not including the Roku to stream. We were still having the handymen up there doing some work for us. We were in the process of looking into replacing the roof to a metal one so it would no longer rot. One of the other silly but necessary tasks that these guys would do for us was they would refill our water tanks. There was no running water at the cabin. They had built these water holding tanks for us. One was to use at the shower, and one was to use at the sink in the kitchen. They would pump water into a tank they had on their trucks and then empty it by repumping it into our tank to fill them. The cost for this service? A case of beer or bottom shelf vodka. (I’m not joking). My husband and I weren’t (and still aren’t) big drinkers. We kept a small supply of wine cooler type drinks, a few beers and that was about it on hand in the fridge. There was even a time when my husband said to me about stopping this because it seemed to him that friends that we were having come stay were drinking it more than we were. He didn’t mean that to be ignorant, but it wasn’t benefiting us to buy it and keep it there. The beer that was there we ended up telling our handymen to take with them the next time they let themselves in to do work. Eventually there was some remaining cans that I gave to our one friend who went up to do some clean out after the crap hit the fan. We weren’t allowed to have any alcohol once we ended up on probation. My one friend and her husband went up because they lived relatively close to get that and some food we had up there. Back to having the guys to the cabin, I remember the day that we left and were packing up the vehicles for the trip up there. We loaded my car, which ended up not having a ton of room. We had our 2 dogs, my husbands, my youngest sons and my clothing, bedding, food, and dog food. We had bought my older son a truck because he was in the process of getting his license. He couldn’t drive but we allowed his friend DG to drive the truck that weekend. It was DG, our son, CH, CS and I think that was it. SH, NM, and NA couldn’t go because they had other plans with family, etc. CS going along, I’m pretty sure was before we knew about him playing Cheech and Chong. They guys loaded the bed of the truck up with their stuff. I told them to put the stuff in trash bags or totes in case it rained since the truck didn’t have a cap on it. I didn’t go through their stuff and inventory it before it was loaded. If you’re a parent or say that you would have, I call BS. That’s not something normal people do. What reason did I have to inventory their belongings? When we got to the cabin that Friday night, it was customary for us to go to a local pizza joint. To this day, we love this place. The food is delicious, and the prices are reasonable. We all went and ate at the restaurant. Before we left, I told my husband that we needed to pick up a case of beer for the handymen because they filled the water tanks for us. I preferred to get the beer because the closest liquor store wasn’t close at all. I also, didn’t want to be driving from our house there with booze. Here’s the first area where I messed up! We were leaving the restaurant and my husband was using the restroom before we left. (We owned an outhouse, so he wanted to go before we got back). I have bad knees and problems with my hip. I’ve mentioned this a few times in my posts. When I was walking out, I made the mistake of not only asking my older son to carry the case of beer but then we decided to take a quick picture of everyone outside the restaurant. It was one of those, “hurry up and get over here, I winna take a pic of all of you”. Well, they were belly aching about hurrying up and by this time my husband comes out and jumps in the back of the pic. My son was still holding the case of beer. Who would have thought that this would come back to haunt me?

Photo by Muffin Creatives:

#Teenagers, #ParentingMistakes #Parenting #HighSchoolSports #HighSchoolFootball #TeenKids

Journey of Faith

Am I ready to tell my story?

Am I ready to tell me story? I’m not sure. I have seen a few things that keep popping up that say, “It’s time to tell your story”. I’m not sure if that’s from the Lord, if it’s Satan trying to steer me the wrong way. I want to do this in the Lord’s timing and not mine. So, I am going to start with some background to put all of this into context later. Growing up, my husband’s parents were super strict. My parents, on the other hand were strict but not overly strict. My mom will tell you that they didn’t have to be because my sister’s and I really didn’t cause them a lot of problems. Were we saints? Absolutely not! When, my husband and I finally had kids, we wanted them to be able to have friends over, go to friends’ homes, and have some fun without us being helicopter parents. From the time that our boys were little, I told them, “I trust you until you give me a reason to not trust you.”. We felt that was a pretty fair statement. I also told them that just because we don’t see you doing something, doesn’t mean I can’t see you. (Meaning that other people will see you and tell us). My older son found this out one day when he asked in advance if he could walk to a corner store after school with friends. I told him that he could because the store wasn’t that far. Later that day, his one elementary school teacher messaged me asking if Stephen was walking on a certain road earlier in the day. She asked because she thought it was him and couldn’t believe how tall he’d gotten. I told her yes; it was probably him that he asked if he could walk to this store after school. I told him later that day and said, “see, if you wouldn’t have told me what would have happened!”. So again, I never to this point had any reason to think that he was doing things he shouldn’t have been. I wasn’t naive either to think that he wouldn’t. I just had to trust in the process “trust until you give me a reason not to”. When we lived in our first house, the kids seemed to like to congregate near our yard. I later found out that it was because the electrical box was home base for many games. Steve and I weren’t sure we liked them all coming around so much, but my mother-in-law (the strict one) told my husband that maybe this wasn’t so bad. This way we could keep an eye on things and know what they were up to. We knew the parents of these kids because they were our neighbors. Many times, we’d stop outside and chat with them. Some, we are still friends with to this day. Eventually, we moved away from this home and into our first official bigger home, bigger yard. There weren’t really any kids in this new development. The ones that were there, were younger than my oldest and my youngest son was able to play with one boy next door. Also, by this time my older son was finishing up 5th grade and starting to go into middle school. I already explained how quickly he seemed to move up in football. During this time, both boys were playing football. As parents, we were running to games and practices almost every day. We knew most of the parents on the youth teams and the middle school teams. We also knew most of the coaching staff. Everyone that got to know us, knew that our world revolved around our kids. Many things in our careers were changing by this time as well. Both of us were at the peak of our careers, making probably the most we ever had. We were living in the house to go with it, and our social circles were changing. We were able to afford nicer things, we were going on nice vacations, and the kids didn’t want for much. One of the things that my husband and I talked about wanting was a cabin. It was just something that we both always wanted and now seemed like the time to do it. We weren’t sure where we wanted it, or exactly what it was we were looking for. We knew we’d know when we saw it. I liked this area that was about 45 minutes outside of Gettysburg. It was close enough to our home, so we could leave after work and be there rather quickly. It was far enough away, that we felt like we were actually going somewhere. The area is surrounded by beautiful apple orchards, mountains, plenty of fresh air, and there were 2 lakes with beaches close by to relax and just enjoy the day. After some time, my husband ended up finding a cabin on craigslist. Him and I went alone that day to go see it. The lady I believe was asking $13,000 for it. The land was leased, so we wouldn’t own the land. The cabin would be ours and we could do whatever we wanted with it. When we pulled up, the place was so overgrown, the weeds were about waist deep. You could see the potential, but you had to squint to see it lol. The cabin itself wasn’t small. It was about 1300 square feet, with a loft. She was leaving everything. That was good and bad because that meant that we had to then figure out a way to toss what we didn’t want to keep. (That ended up being a lot). The cabin needed a lot of TLC from sitting and not being properly maintained. The gutters fell off, causing a leak in the back of the cabin to then rot through part of the roof and wall. It needed painted, gutted, the back room where the wall/roof was falling apart needed totally renovated. It was a project, and we aren’t handy people. My husband took a leap of faith and offered the lady on the spot $8,000. He told her, this needs a LOT of work. We have no idea to what extent, other than what we can see. He explained to her that he was going to have to get some help, buy materials. Shockingly, she accepted. I think she knew that it was bad, and that she wasn’t going to get many other offers. We spent the next several months (by this time my oldest son was close to 16) going back and forth, meeting friends, family to just empty the place out. We met some local guys that lived up there who was kind enough to mow and landscape the yard back to its original glory. They were the kind of guys that didn’t charge you much, wouldn’t take more if you tried to offer it and on occasions asked us to pick up a case of beer or bottom shelf vodka. Sounds strange, but that’s what they wanted. After some time, they became our primary handymen. It worked for us because they did great work, were cheap and they lived close by and could work when we weren’t around. This then gave us time to come up almost every weekend to check on the progress. We were able to start staying at the cabin after a few months, and to our disappointment our oldest son hated it. He hated it because there was no internet, because there was no tv, nothing to do, whine, whine, whine. He ended up getting a part-time job with one of the football parents who owned a bounce house business. He worked almost every weekend. This required us to sometimes get up and drive him to their warehouse before 5am to meet another worker who would then drive them to the job. This started to then infringe on us being able to go to the cabin and check on the progress of work we were paying to have done. A few times we would drive up after dropping him off, then turn around and come back the same day. His friends were starting to drive, and as I explained before, many of his teammates were older than he was. I wasn’t crazy about another teen driving him, but I had seen a few of them drive and felt that they were safe. He had started to ask one or two of his buddies if they could pick him up so that we didn’t have to come back so early. I told him, “I didn’t want anyone in the house when we were gone”. I told him that I wanted them to go to that person’s house, he could be dropped off and they leave but I didn’t want people in the house when we weren’t home. He would normally call or text us to let us know what his plans would be. Most of the time, he would tell me that he was going to his one friends grandpa’s house to spend the night. That sounded fine with us and trusted that was what was taking place. I also was friends with a few of our neighbors. I had asked if some of them would keep an eye on our house because we were away. If, our older son was supposed to be at a friend’s house, I let them know this and asked that if they saw any unusual cars around to please let me know. At first, we didn’t have internet or phone at our cabin. Eventually, we figured out that this was a requirement since our son wasn’t going to want to come along. A few times my one neighbor had texted me about a car she saw in the driveway. Those times, I knew that we had given permission for one friend to stay with him. ONE friend. The parents knew we weren’t there, and they knew that if they had any problems to call this boy’s parents. The parents had our numbers, the cabin number, and our son knew they could always ask the neighbors for help if they needed it. We were fairly close to most of the neighbors by this point. We had been to most of their homes for cookouts, get together, and knew what kind of people we were. Our one neighbor was a police officer. So, we also felt that our son was smart enough to know that he could see anything going on. (That wasn’t his responsibility. I had asked as a friend if they would keep an eye on the house, etc. when I knew we would be away). We felt that we were doing everything necessary to prevent something from happening. The rules were in place that no one was allowed there if we weren’t home, if someone was there, it was one person and this kids parents knew we weren’t there. I contacted the neighbors, asking for their help if anything looked suspicious, and my in-laws didn’t live far away if they needed them until we could get home. We also had many other friends at this point who grew to be more like family that our son knew he could call if he needed to. Let us not forget that by this time we were buying into the “FAMILY” mantra through football. Later, I would realize that allowing him to stay home, thinking we were doing the right things, would be one of the biggest mistakes that we made.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio:

#Parenting #Teens #Teenagers #MakingGoodChoices #ParentingInstructions

Journey of Faith

An Open Heart

Can a person be too nice? Hmm. When you enter into the prison system, one of the first things that takes place is you need to take a bunch of evaluations. They schedule a day when you and a whole group of other newbies go to a classroom with the staff Phycologist to work on these packets. They include different questions, containing different scenarios, some have photos containing 2 or 4 in a group. You need to choose the one that doesn’t fit. Those kids of tests. It’s funny as I sit here, one of the photos comes to mind. It’s a baby changing a tire. They were illustrations, not actual photos. Included in this group of packets was the 300+ question one that the crazy roommate stated she was not completing because she didn’t have time to study. Several weeks after completing these evaluations, we’re then called down to the phycologists office to found out what they found out. Well, I was told that I am too nice. I’m a people pleaser. I didn’t know how to take that information. I mean, aren’t we taught to be nice, be kind, care about others? One of the things that my husband said to me when I found out I was going to prison, was that he prayed it wouldn’t harden me. So now armed with this new information, what am I supposed to do? Ms. Gates was nice. That was her name. She went on to explain to me that people may “try” to take advantage of me when I get out into general population. She also explained that because of my age (MY AGE! I’m not old), that people most likely will leave me alone. I’m just sitting there staring at her, taking this all in. Up until this point, all of us were new inmates. Some had been incarcerated before either on the county level or some had been “upstate” in the past. I realized that I was being prepared to go out into the general population. Up until this point, we were sheltered. We lived in our own separate pod, behind out own separate gate, with our own separate yard. We didn’t leave for meals, we only left for appointments throughout the campus or commissary. All appointments had to be walked to. It didn’t matter if it was rain, shine, freezing or hotter than you know what. We walked and you had 5 minutes to get there. It was called “move time”. You were only allowed to “move” during the announced move times, unless you had a pass. There were times when there was “cease movement”. That meant, it didn’t matter if you had a pass or not, your butt didn’t move. These occurred during shift changes, count, emergencies or if there was some other event going on in the campus that they didn’t want us getting in the way. Anyhow, back to being too nice. I had learned somewhat in county how to negotiate the lending, borrowing and barter system. Upstate, it the methods are pretty much the same but at a higher risk. People there have no craps to give in some of their situations. If you know what I mean. I learned quickly that the only people I would lend, barter or share with were my roommates or people that I actually considered friends. Anyone outside of that group, I would evaluate them as best of possible to see what their angle was. In prison, everyone has an angle. Someone comes to the door, asks if you or anyone in your room has such and such they can “come up off of”. I learned that I had to lie sometimes and say, “no, I didn’t”. Then, I later realized that I wasn’t lying. I didn’t have it to give or lend because I needed it. So, by giving it away or “selling” it, then I would be out. So, I was learning how to negotiate this “being too nice” thing after all. There’s actually rules that you are NOT allowed to lend and borrow. I explained this before, however it’s a very necessary process of being in prison. Our facility was 2 weeks behind when we would order commissary. The other facilities that I was in (Muncy and Phoenix), you would order one week and get your stuff the following week. Cambridge, you would order and wouldn’t get that order for 2 weeks later. This is one of those things that was decided by the lady that ran the commissary department. It’s just one of the many small things that didn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t this be consistent across all facilities? You would think something small like this shouldn’t matter, but it does. Waiting 2 weeks for cough medicine you need now doesn’t help when you need it NOW. Therefore, you sometimes need to go out and start asking around your unit to see if someone is able to sell you a bottle, give you a teaspoon or whatever. If someone came to me asked me for 2 Tylenol and I knew they weren’t someone that asks EVER, I might be inclined to just give them 2. If I see you around the unit asking for stuff constantly, well then you might be outta luck. This is how things worked. You gained a reputation in prison and even if you moved from one unit to another, people knew your reputation. When moves took place, you can best believe that people were up at the officer’s desk asking who was moving where. Who was going in what rooms and if it was someone that you knew was a thief-All hell would ensue. Many officers wouldn’t disclose the move sheet until the morning of for this reason. During an emergency move off out unit, I saw a lady get refused 2 times from being allowed to enter a room because of her reputation of stealing. The other inmates in the room would guard the doorway and YOU WILL NOT enter. You would think that staff wouldn’t allow this, but they would keep reassigning her to a room until there was no fuss. Your reputation can go the other way too. I ended up being forced to move because someone in a different room was stealing. They wanted to switch me to get this thief out of that room. Now my current roommates weren’t happy because that meant I was leaving for a now accused person that steals. Well, before I even knew what was happening, I heard my friend Bernadett at the offer’s desk demanding that she wanted to know, “where they were putting me”. The officer on duty that day was an ass. He was cocky and loved to just agitate people. He was nice, but he was just a pain in the ass that liked to cause problems then get pissed when inmates would push back. Anyhow, she was wanted to know where they were moving me. He asked her what business of hers was it. She said to him, “because she’s my friend and you aren’t sticking her just anywhere that’s why!”. I love Bernadett. Her and Tiffany were two ladies that I meet in C unit when I first got to Cambridge. Tiffany told me on day one I was going home. This was how my time was while I was incarcerated. People knew my reputation, they knew I was respectful, minded my own business and I wasn’t afraid to speak up for myself. I came across as quiet but poke the bear and I will growl back. The easiest thing though is that when someone is barking in your face, I would just walk away. When they would say something about you walking away, I would just tell them that I didn’t have time for their crap. People would purposely try to annoy someone else I think out of boredom. Also, living with all women meant someone was always on their period. Yeah, bet you didn’t think of that! So, while I was labeled as “being too nice” it was the beginning of learning how I ended up here in the first place. A lesson that I wish I’d have learned before it was too late.

Female hands giving red heart
Journey of Faith

Fed up!

When I became incarcerated, I vowed that I would bring to light misconceptions about the criminal justice system as well as incarceration. Once, I came home I joined different groups and follow different people on social media to become even more aware. It’s obvious that as I watch and listen, that many are FED UP! People are starting to realize that regardless of whatever crime you committed that you’re still a human being. You can be punished for a crime and still be treated humanely. One of my guilty pleasures is watching Tik Tok. I came across a vlogger recently @djwhatchusaid360. What caught my attention was that he was employed at the Beaver County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania. He was a Corrections Officer who while employed there, tried numerous times to report abuse, neglect, corruption by staff to no avail. The result of his persistence let to his dismissal from his job because he was unwilling to “play by their rules”. The way he explained it was that staff fit into categories. You cared but didn’t want to bring attention to yourself because you had a family and needed the job, or you were just holding on until retirement so you could cash in on your pension. You could also be one of the ones that neither cared one way or another and got off on being given the “authority” to do whatever you wanted to inmates because there would be no consequences for doing it. Who was going to tell? Admittingly, the cameras didn’t record. The only “eyes in the sky” was another officer who sat in the control booth, who could look away when necessary. Regardless of how someone might feel about an individual for a crime they committed doesn’t give us permission as society to allow the mistreatment of them at will. We can’t be in shock in awe on one side, but then consider it to be ok on this end. How doesn’t that even make sense? Have we lost all of our compassion or care for life in general? One of the things that was also shocking to me when I became incarcerated was the amount of people with mental disabilities being housed there. Many mental hospitals were closed many years ago because the abuse, neglect and illegal testing done on the patients. This left those needing special housing to go into group homes, back to family or if they were criminally insane-they’d be locked up in a prison. I can tell you that a prison facility has no care or ability to correctly care for these patients. Most of the time they can’t live with others because of safety concerns. Certain medications cannot be prescribed because of the risk of the meds leaking out into the prison population. Staff is not properly trained to handle these inmates. Many times, these inmates end up in the hole because of acting out or not being compliant. Even, those who aren’t a danger and can live with general population struggle. Their needs are different than other inmates. Unfortunately, they end up getting stuck there because they are viewed as a problem inmate. They aren’t so much as a “problem” as they aren’t able to cope or understand so they act out. They aren’t medicated properly, nor receiving the right care. Ironically, the men’s facilities in PA have specific prisons for those with mental disabilities. The women’s facilities have specific “units” for those needing different housing. While this might look good on the surface, I again assure you that it’s just for show. I applaud this gentleman for speaking his truth. There are many good corrections officer’s out there who realize that they can make a difference. They realize that part of their job is to be a mentor and to encourage those incarcerated to do better. They can either help or be part of the problem. Like I mentioned in my last post, what’s done in the dark does come to the light. People are fed up and speaking out, I pray the right people listen.

Photo by Anna Shvets:

Journey of Faith

Trust and Obey

Growing up I remember a song that we used to sing in Sunday school. It was called “Trust and Obey”. The lyrics went something like, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey”. When life hits you sideways like it did for me, that was the only choice that I saw. I needed to completely trust in my Lord and Savior, as well as obey what he was instructing me to do. Romans 4:20 tell us “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” When the Lord repeatedly showed me and told me that I was coming home, I had to be obedient in believing that what I was hearing was from the Lord. He does deserve all of the glory for everything good in my life. I sometimes look in the mirror, hard to believe that I’m actually home. Living in MY HOME. In the book of Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment, discipline seems painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I believe that to be true, at least in my case. The Lord has put a calling on my life. I definitely wasn’t meant to “fit in”. If everything that I have been through in my life has been for his glory, well I’m ok with that. If every day that I get up, I can be an example to everyone that I encounter, then I’m ok with that too. I can only hope that others will then be their own examples to others, knowing that you never know who might be watching. Ask the Lord today, what his purpose is for your life and how he can use you to advance his Kingdom.

Photo by Kevin Malik:

Journey of Faith

The great job search

I thought I had a game plan coming home. I was told that I could renew my insurance license, I figured I’d need to take some continuing education, and all would be well with the world. I also had a plan to re-start doing consulting work that I had begun right before going back to jail to finish my sentence. I spent time while incarcerated to start taking business classes. I was excited about it, but it turned out to be nothing more than lessons in how to use Microsoft office products. I took the course for a few months, then ended up leaving to go to SCI Phoenix. When I returned from that mess, the classes were all on hold and the teacher left for another position elsewhere. When you take classes, you get paid for those as well as your job or general population pay. When I originally started the classes there, I was working in the chapel library. My job was to keep the library clean, organized, check books in and out. I also worked the sound system on Sundays or during other events that needed the sound system to be operated. Once, Charlie Batch, retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers came to speak at SCI Cambridge Springs. I had met him before during a charity basketball game. I talked to him for a while, and he actually remembered the event. He’s a great guy and does a lot of charity work for the area he grew up in near Pittsburgh. When I came home, it became evident quickly that getting my insurance license back wasn’t going to be as easy as it was explained to me. They wanted me to pay to take a pre-licensing class that cost just under $400. Money I really didn’t have or want to spend at the time. It was suggested that since I have a record, that I complete the application to be pre-screened for approval. The way this is set up, it leads you to believe that if you complete this paperwork, give them everything they need in order to review your case that they will then let you know if they would approve your or not to obtain a license. I thought, this is great! I completed it and waited and waited. I finally decided to follow up with them. I was then advised that they were waiting on me to take this pre-licensing class. I said Well what is the purpose of taking the pre-screening part? I’m not paying that kind of money to only be denied. It’s a money racket, it really is! I then talked to the head of the agency that handles most of the continuing education for insurance. He suggested that I wait about a year and decide if I still wanted to try. I honestly, had pretty much moved on from this endeavor and started taking online courses to maximize the knowledge I already had relating to digital marketing. I knew that I was growing to love it, and it was a completely new chapter for me in my career. My husband was worried because insurance had been long time career for me. I was willing to take the chance. I was applying to jobs on average 5-10 times a day to several online employment websites. The days ticked by and I’d either get no response, a typical “thank you for applying, but..”, or I’d get a request for some off the wall interview. Scammers are now using these websites to try to prey on people trying to find honest work. Some were easy to pick out, others would want you to download weird messaging apps. As the time went out, it became very discouraging. I could only keep praying and telling the Lord that I believed in his plan. If you’ve been following my blog, I posted earlier about Katie Souza. How reading her books really spoke to me and changed how I looked at some things. I was applying for jobs the one night and there it was, Katie Souza Ministries was hiring for a position that was perfect for me. I applied immediately. I included in my cover letter that I had a record and how her ministry really helped me get through my ordeal. Several weeks went by and I was contacted by another firm that I had interviewed for previously. I really liked this position and enjoyed my interview that I had with them. Our move to our new home was coming up quickly. Our realtor did everything she could for us to make sure that I could be present during this one. The day she called us to tell us that she was not only able to move the location, but she was also able to move the date up ahead of schedule. That very same day, I receive a job offer from the company that I had met with and really liked. I started shortly after we moved into our new home. I needed time to be able to unpack and find my desk, organize my office and my house. A few days later, I opened my email to see that Katie Souza wanted to interview me. My heart jumped out of my chest. I was so excited that I didn’t know what to do. I prayed about it, I talked to my husband and mom about it. Something in my gut wasn’t right. This isn’t the job that the Lord provided to me. The job that I thought was my “dream job”. I could feel that it wasn’t right. The Lord kept reminding me of a sermon that I heard from Michael Todd. Michael Todd is the Pastor of Transformation Church and also appears on TBN. I loved watching his programs during my incarceration. I was glued to the tv listening to him and hanging on every word. The sermon that the Lord kept reminding me of was Michael Todd telling everyone how his dream was to produce music, to be famous and the eventually the Lord convicted his heart and said that was Mike’s dream but not the Lord’s. The Lord told him that he never consulted with him about what his plans were for Mike. We need to consult with the Lord in all of our plans. We can’t go ahead of him, not included him, then get mad at him when things don’t work out. We then expect him to clean up our mess we made or say, Lord where are you? I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so I really try to go to the Lord with everything. The hardest part a lot of times is waiting for his response.

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Journey of Faith

Entertaining Angels

I’ve heard many stories over the years about how people are either helped by someone and then can’t find them later or who help someone that seems to have been put in their path for a reason. Hebrews 13:2 tells us: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. I might have touched on this in the past, but I felt it necessary to bring it up again. After leaving prison, people don’t understand the challenges that we face upon leaving. You can prepare as much as possible, but there’s only so much help available. I thought I was prepared. I had a list of companies that hired ex-convicts. I also have a lot of experience in customer service and business. It’s also not easy leaving prison and not having any sort of money whatsoever. Everyone needs money to get around, eat, basically to accomplish anything needed to survive. You’re no longer getting your gracious donations to your commissary account from loved ones. Maybe there should be a jpay account when you come home that you can receive donations to help with food, transportation, etc. I was told upon coming home that I’d be eligible for emergency food stamps. That wasn’t true. Since I wasn’t able to return home to live with my husband, we were living separately. I explained all this to the Department of Health. I explained we were still married but forced to live separately until we could find a new home. I explained that I was living with my aunt and paying her rent. This was an added expense that my husband took on since I wasn’t working. The DHS wanted me to send them a letter stating that I was renting from my aunt and that basically she wasn’t helping to take care of me. I WAS NOT going to ask her to do this, nor would I expect her to sign such a letter. I paid my rent, and I contributed by buying food each week to contribute towards what I ate. I would help with buying ingredients for meals and cook them or help cook them. Not many how leave prison has this available to them. The additional money that I was spending now towards food there, was also coming from my husband. I think that some felt that I should have been working sooner than what it took me to find a job. You slowly start to drift in and out of a depression that no one else seems to understand. You almost start to feel like things were easier on the inside than the outside. Yet you NEVER want to go back there ever again. I must have applied for jobs on average 5-10 times a day. This was using various online employment websites. I even reached out to parole to ask for their assistance. Ironically the advice they gave me, I had already tried. I even contacted an employment agency, and they told me that, “it was their policy to not assist people with a record.” I was floored. They preached to us in reentry class that companies are eligible to get a tax break for hiring ex-convicts. ( Employers can also request ex-convicts to be bonded to protect themselves. We were told that no one has ever had to request an extension on the bonds because one of two things normally occur. The person is a great employee, and the bond is no longer needed, or they screw up during the probationary period and get fired. So why is it so difficult to find a job once you come home? I think because people want to make a lot of assumptions rather than talk to the person. If the person has the qualifications, what does it hurt to at least have a conversation about what happened. You might surprise yourself. Instead, everyone wants to immediately judge someone. We call ourselves Christian’s and yet most don’t realize that a majority of the Bible is based on being in captivity and people who were held in bondage. Captivity and bondage equal jail. The things they were arrested for back then were very serious charges. Christ has a special place in his heart for prisoners. The only time you should look down on someone is when you are reaching out your hand to help them back up. I’m also not talking about giving people handouts. How about giving each other a hand up. It’s like the saying goes, “teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime”. That person you are helping, well they just might be an angel sent from the Lord. Will you pass the test?

Journey of Faith

Release Day!

When the day finally comes that you are being released from prison, a lot of different feelings overtake you. Fear, excitement, hesitation. All of it seems to hit at one time. You also don’t want to be too overly excited because there are still a lot of folks who will never go home. There are a lot waiting a while for their day to come. I met many people though who shared my sentiments that everyone’s day will come. I truly believe that changes are being made to end mass incarceration. There has to be a better way. Other countries have seemed to crack the code. As the days progressed closing to my actual release date, the paperwork needing to be processed was done quickly. Prior to leaving you also have to do a drug urine sample. All of that was done. I mentioned before that when you leave, it’s customary to give your things to those staying behind. I had already decided that all of my commissary was going to my friend Heather. She was my rock during this time and my roommate. She helped me so many times to carry my tray. I walk with a cane sometimes and therefore it was difficult to carry my tray back from the chow hall to our room. She helped me so much and it was only right for me to bless her any way I could. I left my crochet items to my friend Becky. Everything else HAD to go with me to pack out. Yes, when you leave to go home you still have to go through the pack out process. The night before I was leaving, I had to take everything I owned down to property. All of the state clothing was returned to them. Any personal clothing or property that I bought had to either be trashed or taken home. I was leaving with my gray footlocker and my TV. The night prior to leaving was nerve wracking. I was so anxious and nervous to go home. Yet I wasn’t going “home”. I was giong to my Great Aunt’s home. This was just another temporary move that the Lord was having me complete. Each time that I had to move in prison and even the temporary situation of staying with my aunt and not going back to our house was an assignment. When Jesus sent out the 12 in Matthew Chapter 10:40, I often had to remember the words he gave them. These were Jesus’ directions to them as they were being sent out now on assignment to spread the gospel. (“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.“) I woke up that morning super excited and ready to go. There was 2 of us from my unit leaving. When you got down to the property/medical building you had to go to medical first. There, they gave you a month worth of refills for your prescriptions. You then signed your medical release forms. Next, we had to go to property. Even though we were leaving to go home, they still had to strip us out. Why not, one last squat and cough for the road. They gave us the clothing that our loved ones sent in for us, or you could wear out one of your personal items you purchased off of commissary. No thank you, I was not wearing anything brown outside the building! The final stop was to cash out. They returned all money to us on a Jpay debit card. That’s it, the time had come. Pretty much like you see on tv, I was allowed to open the front door and walk out. I was officially a free woman.

Photo by Daniel Reche:
Journey of Faith

Where am I going to live?

I had a dream while I was in jail. My husband and I were driving down this twisting and windy road. We ended up going off the main road and drove into this construction site. We were driving over rocks and debris. It was definately not a place you should be driving. I kept telling him that this wasn’t the right way. We had no choice but to press on and “proceed to the route” as the gps would say. We, ended up back on a regular paved road. The car and us sustained no damage. I had no idea at the time what this all meant. I believe now that it was the Lord telling me, “The road is going to rough and bumpy for a while, but you will be ok and come out on the other side.” After receiving the upsetting news that I wasn’t allowed to return to my home county, everything had to shift to a different focus. We owned a home there, my youngest son still attended school there, but most of all we had friends and family there. Everyone was upset, going into panic mode. They wanted to do whatever they could to get me home as soon as possible. The prison was working quickly to get me out too. If that meant sending me to one of their centers, then that’s what would happen. Everyone who had been to a center, tried to reassure me they weren’t that bad. Obtaining an apartment quickly wasn’t easy either. Did they rent one for just me, would my older son rent it and I live with him? Where would we get this apartment, as there were several surrounding counties to consider. I had a possible job prospect upon leaving, but it wasn’t 100% set in stone. I shifted my focus on friends and family that I had. I didn’t really want to consider moving to Maryland with family/friends there because the process to do that is lengthy. Plus, it costs $125 with no guarantee. My mom suggested that we call my Great Aunt and my 2nd cousins. Bingo! I have always loved my mom’s side of the family. I’ve been close to them since I was little, after going to family reunions for years. These people were no strangers to me. My husband arranged everything with my one cousin after discussing things with his sister and their mom. I had a place to live. I turned in my revised paperwork and everything progressed from there. I was officially paroled and heading to my new temporary home. We had a lot to do in the next several weeks as I awaited my official release date. The road was going to be bumpy, but together we were going to make it.

Photo by Git Stephen Gitau from Pexels
Journey of Faith

You’ve been paroled

I looked down at the paperwork and there it was, the words I’ve been waiting for all this time. The Lord never fails and he told me I was going home. My excitement was clouded with confusion however. I now had to read my conditions of parole. I noticed the normal things like no drugs or alcohol, no contact with the victims or families. Then it hit me like a sucker punch, the one Last blow that could be handed to me. I was being told that I wasn’t allowed to live in, travel to or through the county that I grew up in. I had lived there 95% of my life. Our home was there, my family, my husband and kids. My parents and grandmother. This still doesn’t set well with friends and even businesses that had grown to know us. I can’t even return to my church. All of these people were looking forward to seeing me and spending time with me. Everyone who has and continues to support us. I however wasn’t in complete shock. I mentally prepared for this as much as possible. I had three home plan options going in to this meeting and this wasn’t part of the plan, however. I had to remind myself that God’s plans are not our own. I had to trust in him like I had been this entire time. I just looked at the parole agent and said, “But that’s where I live, I grew up there and I own a home there.” She the look on her face looked like I felt. I could tell that she truly didn’t want to share this news with me. Most of the staff had grown to know me and wanted to see me go home. When I was being transferred to Phoenix, the one officer stopped me and said, “I’m so happy for you that you are going there and getting out of here.” After years of seeing things that I’m sure they have seen, they know who needs to stay and who needs to go. The parole lady explained my options to me and told me to get back to her as soon as possible so that they could get me out of there. If I didn’t have any options, then I could always go to a center operated by the DOC. They are free and run by the state. It gives you a landing place to go to in situations where you don’t have a home plan. You could also go to a paid “halfway house”. I went back to my unit holding the best news an inmate could ever receive, and yet I had this cloud looming over my head. I walked in my room and told my roommates what happened. They were excited for me and tried to stay positive. They said, “Jodie, you know that God will figure this out for you. It’ll be ok!” I really loved my roommates. Heather and Pam where the best. We got each other through a lot over the time we were together. When we got moved to another unit unexpectedly, we asked the Unit Manager if we could be put back together when we returned. We knew that wasn’t going to be an issue because none of us caused any problems. We were all just grateful when we finally did move back to our unit after a month and a half of “living in exile”. That’s how it felt to all of us. The other unit wasn’t happy that we encroached on their space. The funny thing is, I landed in a great room,, and the girls in there didn’t want me to leave. I’m not trying to brag, but this happened a lot. Even in county, my one bunkie went around telling everying that “she had the best bunkie”. Another roommate wouldn’t tell anyone who I was and made people keep guessing because she didn’t want to share me lol. It was a joke and nothing serious to worry about. It was a compliment. When I was in this other unit, I ended up having to move to a different room. Someone in another room was caught stealing and the other roommates kicked her out. Yeah, it can happen. You can say that staff is in charge, but there is truth to the saying that “the inmates run the asylum”. When you aren’t liked, especially if you steal, you will not be wanted. When we moved, I literally saw one girl, get rejected at every room she was told to go to. She had a bad reputation for stealing and no one was going to put up with her. They blocked the doorway and would not let her in. Rules are fairly simple in prison, mind your own business, don’t steal, repay your debts if you borrow and don’t, I mean don’t try to steal or look at someone else’s girlfriend! I’m not gay so all of these rules were fine with me. I also don’t steal and I rarely had to borrow from somone. Borrowing could be expensive depending on what you needed. People loved to “sell” the e-cigarettes. The price for those was 2 for 1. So, when you borrowed 1, you had to pay them back with 2. I heard that Shug, that I mentioned in a previous post sold hers 3 for 1. People paid it too, and I bet they paid her back! I saw people get stopped on walks, I saw people get screamed at out windows at people that owed debts. I saw people grab commissary bags out of someone’s hand when they returned from shopping because they owed debts. Don’t mess with not repaying debt. People seem to forget who they are dealing with in there. There’s also a rule from the DOC that lending, and borrowing isn’t allowed. So it’s actually not allowed, but it does occur. Unfortunately, it’s a necessity sometimes. When you order commissary, you wait 2 weeks at Cambridge for your next order. That’s not h elpful when you need a Tums today. So having great roommates is extremely important. They are your temporary family. They are the usually the people who know you best while you’re there. I was lucky enough to always have great ones. I was especially glad to have Heather and Pam during this time. I know needed to get on the phone and call home. I needed to explain to my husband and Mom that I had good news and bad.

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