Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Relieved but not really

Well finally after 13 long days I received a letter from my husband. Here is how his 16 page letter to me began: "To the helper and protector of all children, the comfort of the solitary and those who are separated from those they love, I ask you to give them a good gift for the body and for the soul, and to unite everyone, present and absent in true faith and love."

He is in a transfer facility right now and has no idea why. As you know, he caught chain on August 17 at about 3:00am. He was given one chain bag and told whatever he could fit in the bag he could take with him but that everything else would follow him some 2 weeks later. So, what do you think my husband chose to take with him. Food? Essentials like toothbrush, toothpaste and soap? Nope. He took his writing supplies and the pictures of his family and some books to read. He said they made him choose and, if you knew him like I do, you would not be surprised by his choice. He would rather be hungry for a little while than leave what matters most behind.

The first thing he did when he got to this transfer unit? Write me a letter. So, while it was really good to finally hear from him, it also raises my worry level because of the details he shared about the condition of the unit that he is in. He went from being in a dorm setting and working in the officer's dining room with rec every night and on the weekend to now being confined to a 4x8 cell nearly 24 hours of the day for no apparent reason. With the heat in Texas hovering most days around 110 degrees and prison units being on heat precautions, you would think that allowing extra showers would be warranted and in most units they are. However, in this transfer unit they are allowed one shower a day for 3 minutes and at 8:00am. Maybe someone can explain to me how that helps anybody? The units claim to be on water restriction yet they water the grass!

One good thing at this unit my husband was able to buy a fan but that, in itself presents a potential problem at his next unit. Will it be considered contraband because not all units sell fans? You would think that all units in the same state, run by the same agency would sell the same things at commissary but I guess that would be way too easy.

As much as I worry about him when he transfers, I know he worries just as much about me. He has transferred 5 times in the last year and it stresses us both each time he does because I never know where he is going and when I might hear from him again and anything that stresses me worries him. The one comfort my husband will always have is knowing that I love him more than anything and that no matter where he goes, I will always find him.

Will the answers ever come?

Well it's Monday and still no word. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I'm just being impatient. Am I worrying too much? Is he fine? Is he not fine? When will the answers to my questions come? I've prayed. I've speculated. I've rationalized and I am still no closer to knowing anything. I miss him. I can't talk to him and I can't get a letter from him soon enough to ease my mind. I wanted that 5 minute call on August 22nd. I wanted it so desperately and I know that he did too. I just wanted to hear my husband's voice on the other end of the phone telling me he was alright and that he loved me. I wanted to tell him that I am doing everything that I can to get to him in Texas. I wanted to tell him that the kids are OK. Sure I can say all that in a letter but there is just something about hearing the voice of the person you love more than life telling you how much they love you and miss you. It's reassuring and it's real and it's raw and there is nothing better. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt for one second that my husband loves me more than anything and I know he doesn't doubt my love for him. It just would have been nice to be able to tell him instead of sending it in an email.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Still wondering

Well another week has gone by and still no word from my husband. Seems like all I do these days is sit and wait and hope and pray for mail. So, when I don't get mail, I re-read some of the letters that I have gotten and trust me there are over a thousand pages of letters to chose from. I've just recently started my 5th photo album of letters. Tonight I decided to read some of the letters that I have received just this month and one of them in particular had me sobbing like a baby. It was quite a simple letter really. My husband started his letter by saying that he had just received quite a bit of mail from me but that it was late and that he would write to me in the morning but that he just wanted to say goodnight to me. All he wanted to do was say goodnight and because he couldn't do it on the phone he wanted to write it down so I would know that on August 14 he said goodnight to me. I know it may sound funny but I do the same thing. Every night at 10:30 EST I kiss my husband's picture that sits on my nightstand by my bed. I tell him goodnight and that I love him. I've even told him in my letters to remember that every night at 10:30 I am thinking of him. Not that I don't think of him any other time of the day but at least at 10:30 he knows it and while I am thinking of him he's thinking of me and for that one brief moment in time we are in sync and there is nothing else on our minds but each other.

The Worry of One

Well it's Friday and I am still no further ahead in knowing why my husband was transferred. I know where he is. I just don't know why and I've been stressing about it for over a week now. Has his medical condition worsened? Did he have surgery? Is he alright? These are questions that would no doubt plague anyone's mind when information is not forthcoming about the person they love. The distance that we are from one another only exacerbates my worry. I can't just drive to the prison for a visit and see for myself. You see I am the type of person that needs to see it to believe it and until I see my husband for myself with my own eyes, I will never believe that he is alright despite his constant reassurances to the contrary. That's just the way I'm wired and it's one of the things that makes me, me.

A very dear American  friend of mine offered to call my husband's unit the other day to see if he could find out anything for me. He spoke to the warden's secretary and she advised him that my husband was definitely in transient status which, to those that don't know, means he's only there temporarily and will be moved out again to another more permanent unit. She also advised that he wasn't there for medical reasons and that his medical condition was the same - no better but certainly no worse so that was good. She also said that he wasn't there because of any disciplinary issues either which, of course, I already knew. One thing about my husband is that he has always been a patient man but since being in TDC he has become more patient than any 10 men. He will do what is expected of him and probably more because he is a very goal-oriented person and right now his primary goal is coming home to his wife and children.

I did find out that he could be moving to either a trustee or pre-release unit. One thing I've learned from having a husband in TDC and that is to take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Unless I hear it directly from my husband, it's nothing more than speculation and speculation will drive you crazy. While the woman in the warden's office was very nice and tried to be as reassuring as possible, I cannot and will not take her at her word as to where my husband might be going and why he might be going there. I will only breathe a sigh of relief when my husband himself tells me what's what. He is the love of my life and it is only his words that can calm me and only his words that keep me right where I belong - back to back and swinging at any and all comers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

On the move

Where do I begin? It's been 6 days since my husband transferred from his unit on what I thought was medical chain. Now I'm not so sure. He was due to have his MRI at the beginning of September and all of a sudden on August 17 at 3:00am he's told to roll out and he, no doubt, had no idea why. So, now I sit here and wait and wonder where he is and how he is and I will tell you this, it's the most excruciating wait of my life. When he was deported from Canada, I wasn't even told where he was going and I didn't know where he was for 3 days. When he was taken back to Texas, I didn't know where he was for 6 days. He was then transferred to 2 different counties and then to the unit that he just left and each and every time they transfer him, my heart breaks because I know it's going to be a long while before I will hear from him and know that he is alright. This time is especially hard for me because I don't know if he is having surgery or if he's just gone for his MRI or if he's on his way to another unit. I have no way of finding out anything. I just sit here and wait and wonder and worry. Yes, my husband promised me that he would always be alright and I truely believe him as long as he is in control but if he's having surgery, he's not in control and that scares the life out of me because I, as his wife, should be where he is. I should be with him so that when he's being put to sleep the last words he hears are that I love him and the first face he sees when he wakes up is mine. I feel like I've let him down by not being there for him. He would argue that I am with him every minute of every day and that he is not alone and that he has never felt so loved in all of his life. Is the connection we have enough to get him through what lies ahead? I have to believe in my heart that it is because right now there is no other option.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another week down!

So, another week down. For some reason, this week has felt really long to me. I haven't been sleeping very well at all. Every night I wake up at least 4 times and look at the clock and the picture of my husband sitting on my nightstand. Funny thing is, I wake up for no reason. There is no noise. It's not too hot or too cold. I just wake up. I guess I shouldn't say it's for no reason because I firmly believe and know in my heart that my husband is up at the same time. We have a connection that can't be described. I remember when he used to call me and I would tell him that I woke up at a certain time and he would say that he was up at the same time. At first we both thought it was coincidence. I mean we are 3,000 miles away afterall. Now we don't even question it. I know he's up and he's thinking of me and missing me just as am I thinking of him and missing him.

I am finding it tough to get through this weekend because I don't know where he is or how he is doing. The only thing I do know is that he is not where he should be and that's home with me. I cannot describe to you the emptiness I feel not being able to talk to or see my husband. I have tried to keep busy. I have tried to focus on other things but my heart really is 3,000 miles away with the best man I have ever known.

If you've read my previous posts, then you know that my husband caught chain Wednesday night so right now I have no idea where he is. The thought of him getting on a prison bus chained to the man next to him, dressed in prison whites and having no idea where he is going and worrying about not being able to get a message to me, is almost more than I can stand. I know that he is strong and that he will do what he needs to do to come home safely. I just wish he didn't have to do it.

Today I took our daugther to see Harry Potter and we had a good time. After the movie, we played a few arcade games and for a brief moment, when we were playing air hockey, I was just in that moment and then I thought about how fun it would be if we were all together as a family eating popcorn, laughing and playing air hockey. I think nowadays, families take each other for granted. Everyone does their own thing. Families don't even eat a meal together anymore. Someone's watching TV. Someone else is in the home office working and someone else is in their room on their laptop or not at home at all. Families are becoming disconnected and we take each other for granted because we assume that our family will always be there for us. For those that are lucky enough to have a family that will support them and stand by them no matter what, count yourselves so very lucky. Family is what you make it and while I may be physically 3,000 miles away from my husband, we couldn't be closer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catching Chain

Well it finally happened. My husband caught chain this morning. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "catching chain" simply means he was transferred. My husband's cellmate's mother emailed me to let me know that he had caught chain at 3:00am this morning. What I don't know is whether he is on medical chain, for his neck, or whether he has been transferred to a trustee camp. If he has been transferred to a trustee camp, that means that I will have to wait another 90 days to receive a phone call from him. You see in order to be allowed the one 5 minute every 90 days call, an inmate needs to be on his unit of assignment for 90 days and case free and all that. Well this week would have been his second 90 days at his unit of assignment and he was due to call me in the next few days - a call I was so looking forward to but now, in all likelihood, I will have to wait another 3 months to get that 5 minute call. I don't know whether to be happy if it's medical chain because that at least means TDC hasn't forgotten about him or heartbroken that I may have to wait another 90 days before I can hear from him again. Ask any husband or wife of an inmate and they will tell you that all they really want to know is if their spouse is OK and all they really want to hear is I love you. For those of you lucky enough to have regular contact with your spouse or partner, please be thankful for every moment you have. Cherish the visits and phone calls even if the calls are only 15 minutes long. Tell your spouse you love them one more time and really and truly mean it. Let them see in your eyes and hear from your heart how much they mean to you because there are people, like me, who would give absolutely anything for that 15 minute call. I am sure there are some who would say 3 more months isn't so bad but, in all honesty, for me, it feels like a lifetime.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Will he or won't he?

Well happy Sunday everyone! Tomorrow will officially be 6 months since my husband has been at TDC. Since that time, I have heard from him once and that was on May 24th at 5:00am for 5 minutes. On the 22nd of this month, I will hopefully receive another 5 minute phone call from him. Fingers crossed that the warden is in a generous mood and will allow the call. I guess you just never know how things are going to go and I certainly have no way of knowing ahead of time if my husband's I-60 will even be approved. The last time he was allowed to call, he didn't know ahead of time either. He was called to the G-line at 4:30am and told by the Sergeant that his I-60 request to make a collect call had been approved. He was asked, at that time, whether he wanted to wait until later in the day to call me but he wasn't sure that I would be home so he asked if he could call right then and there so my phone call came in at 5:00am. I had had a feeling all night that maybe he would call so I was walking around the house wearing the phone like a necklace. When I went to bed, I put the phone by my bed and when it rang long distance so early in the morning, I knew it was him. I quickly answered and heard in that slow southern drawl of his "hey baby." I can't tell you how good it was to hear his voice. I can still here it now. After crying for the first few seconds, I got myself together. He said "baby we only have 5 minutes so we have to make em count." I asked him how he was and how his neck was and he said fine. He asked how the kids and I were and I said "we are fine but we miss you" and he said he missed us as well. I can't tell you what else we talked about because I was trying so hard to memorize his voice that I didn't really pay attention to the words just the sound of his voice. After what seemed like only a minute, he said "well baby, we only have a minute left so if there is anything you want to tell me, you need to do it now." I started crying a bit because I had no idea when I might hear from him again. I told him that I loved him and he laughed a little and said "I love you too" and "are you alright?" I said I was fine and he said "Well, I love ya and I'll call ya again in 3 months" and those were the last words my husband said to me. So, now I sit here waiting and hoping that the warden will let him call me again because we deserve at least that. My husband, just like so many other husbands and wives in TDC, deserves to hear his wife tell him that she loves him. So, for those that are of the view that prison isn't supposed to be fun and it is supposed to be hard, and inmates get what they deserve, ask yourself this - if it were your husband or your wife, would your opinion change? I'd be willing to bet it would...in a heartbeat.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What are you made of?

So, another weekend is upon us and that means another week down for my husband and another week closer to coming home. You know I have always told my husband that everything happens for a reason and some days that reason is plain as the nose on my face and other days I struggle to see what that reason might be. When my husband first went to prison, I struggled with the why's of it all; trying to understand why God would bring such a wonderful man into my life and then just as quickly take him away from me. Why would God allow me to fall in love with this man and then say "well that's enough for you." After countless hours of crying and praying and bargaining and doubt, I came to realize that everything DOES happen for a reason. Every choice that I have made, right or wrong, every choice that my husband has made, right or wrong, have led us to this moment in time, to this life and truth be told I wouldn't change a moment of it or we would still be "he" and "me" and not the "we" that we have become. I realize now that God is saying "Let's see what you two are made of." To be just as in love with a man 3,000 miles away as I was when he was sitting in my living room and to know that God picked him for me and me only IS the why of it all. You know my mom always used to tell me that I was made of pretty good stuff and you know what? She was right.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Don't like your job? You're welcome to find a new one!

Good morning everyone. Well today I was going to tell you all about the mail I received from my husband but then I made the mistake of checking out a post on the prison talk website that so infuriated me, I had to blog about that instead. The discussion revolves around what cells in Texas prisons looks like and posters are venting about the horrible conditions that their husbands, along with thousands of other husbands and wives, are living in. Well it didn't take long for someone to come along and post: "I work at lychner and this is how it is. We have tanks with 4 dorms and each dorms hold 56-58 bunks and the toilets and stuff was the same as u described it. And I don't see how it's inhumane living. Ask me, I'll tell you they got it made compared to other prisons but at the same time I'm not trying to accommodate a person who's a menace against society."

Well kids, this really got under my skin soooo, here is my retort: 

You see it's that mentality right there that chaps my ass. Not every inmate in prison is a menace to society and how dare you paint them all with the same brush! And it is that same jaded and misguided attitude that could potentially hold down all inmates from possible success both inside and outside of prison.

You don't see how it's inhumane living because you don't want to. At the end of the day, you go home to your family, where you can come and go as you please, do what you want when you want, remove yourself, at will, from uncomfortable surroundings so please don't sit in judgement of any inmate least of all ones that you have never nor will ever come in contact with.

It is clear that your view of inmates is distorted, biased and extremely judgemental just like most of the population who do not have loved ones incarcerated. Nearly every person on this site has an immediate family member incarcerated and the last thing that they need is to listen to the ramblings of a bitter individual who clearly hates his/her job and those that he is charged with overseeing. TDCJ's mission statement is to promote positive change in offender behavior. You would do well to remember that. Perhaps reviewing the Correction Officer’s Creed might remind you of your obligations both to yourself and those you guard.


To speak sparingly…to act, not to argue…to be in authority through personal presence…to correct without nagging…to speak with the calm voice of certainty…to see everything, know what is significant and what not to notice…to be neither insensitive to distress nor so distracted by pity as to miss what must elsewhere be seen…To do neither that which is unkind nor self-indulgent in its misplaced charity…never to obey the impulse to tongue lash that silent insolence which in times past could receive the lash…to be both firm and fair…to know I cannot be fair simply be being firm, nor firm simply by being fair… To support the reputations of associates and confront them without anger, should they stand short of professional conduct…to reach for knowledge of the continuing mysteries of human motivation…to think; always to think…to be dependable…to be dependable first to my charges and associates, and thereafter to my duty as employee and citizen…to keep fit…to keep forever alert…to listen to what is meant as well as what is said with words and with silences… To expect respect from my charges and my superiors yet never to abuse the one for abuses from the other...for eight hours each working day to be an example of the person I could be at all times...to acquiesce in no dishonest act...to cultivate patience under boredom and calm during confusion...to understand the why of every order I take or give... To hold freedom among the highest values though I deny it to those I guard…to deny it with dignity that in my example they find no reason to lose their dignity…to be prompt…to be honest with all who practice deceit that they not find in me excuse for themselves…to privately face down my fear that I not signal it…to privately cool my anger that I not displace it on others…to hold in confidence what I see and hear, which by the telling could harm or humiliate to no good purpose…to keep my outside problems outside…to leave inside that which should stay inside…to do my duty. Bob Barrington, Correctional Officers' Creed, The Keepers’ Voice, 19(2), 1998: 8"

I cannot now, nor will I ever, sit idly by and listen to sheer and utter hate and nonsense and say nothing. It's just not in me to do so. My husband has always said that he loves my fiery Irish mouth and the fact that I will always stand up and fight for what I believe in and for what is right. And I will tell you this, this is right!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Best Man I Know

Well yesterday was a great day. I received 4 letters from my husband. Wow! It took me over an hour to read the pages he had written. God love him. Here he is in chronic pain with a herniated disc in his neck and limited use of his right arm and hand and he still writes to me every day. Yup! We've have it like that. He talked a lot about how things are going and what he's been doing and yes, how hot it truly is in a Texas prison. For those that may not know, it gets to be about 125 degrees inside prison most days. No air conditioning. No windows that open and barely enough water to keep a small house plant alive. Still he soldiers on and does everything that is expected of him and most times more. He is, no doubt, in the worst place he has ever been in his life and living under conditions that would make even the strongest man break yet still he remains positive and connected to his family. His family is his life and he will tell you that even though he is living in hell right now, he would do it all over again if it meant he would be with his wife and children. Some go into prison hard and come out harder. Some go into prison hard and come out better. My husband went into prison hard and he will come out as exactly who he has always been...the best man I know.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Please read the attached guest blog by our friends at Improve Texas

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Crime of Vast and Undocumented Proportion

Imagine a serial murderer that over a lifetime has perhaps hundreds of murder victims; one that every year causes the extreme suffering of thousands of victims…

Imagine a society that doesn’t care…

You’d probably think what 3rd world country could that possibly be in, right?

You’d probably think what government would allow that to go unchecked?

You’d probably think surely the media would call attention to such a monstrous thing?

The answers would be the United States of America, Texas, and no the media is not calling attention to this…

Most of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison systems have no air conditioning for prisoners, and now in the famous Texas summer heat especially with global warming and the verified increase in the frequency of deadly heat waves the increased information sharing ability the Internet has brought us brings to light this massive crime going on in Texas.

It’s impossible to say the full extent of this problem, but this year (2011) alone it could be estimated more than 10 people have died from easily preventable heat related causes. There could be as many as 100+ dead people this year. With outside temperatures peaking at 110 degrees give or take 10 degrees, inside prisons often with no ventilation or open windows frequently climb another 20+ degrees. Temps of 132-145 degrees have been reported. At one unit it is reported paramedics told the prison officials to open the windows and a Fire Marshall said it is too hot for humans, but still they didn’t open the windows…

One could go on and on to describe the agony of over 100,000 human beings each year living in 100+ degree environments with one or two if they are lucky 8oz glasses of water per day. Please educate yourself and call attention to this hidden travesty. One that is unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral. A crime that if it were done to dogs would be immediately dealt with severely yet every year over one hundred thousand humans experience it right here in the USA, far outstripping any abuses at Guantanamo Bay.

Imagine a member of your family, perhaps even the black sheep of the family, or a loved spouse or your very own child dying, how would you feel? The Supreme Court has ruled; it is not in question, the State must provide prisoners with humane living conditions that the prisoners cannot provide for themselves because their freedom has been restricted. Torture and death are not what Judges sentenced them to, and we ask that you don’t sentence them to this either…

Imagine hundreds and hundreds of human beings laying on concrete seeking relief in wet clothes in pure agony barely able to breathe. Imagine your 70 and 80 year old grandparents doing this. Imagine your father and mother going through this; imagine your own children going through this.. Even outside the walls imagine the daily worry of family, even the little children who each year wonder if this year will be the year they will become an orphan. Imagine the weak and infirm, the countless with medical problems suffering without break. Imagine all this and you'd still have only a fraction of the reality...

Please speak out publicly as well as make your opinions on this known to your legislators and media representatives. Please observe a moment if not a day of memorial every August 10 for one of the greatest crimes in American history...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

4th and goal

Good morning,

Well today is Sunday and while that may not seem like such a big deal to many, to my husband it was his favourite day on the outside. It was a day that was his to do whatever he wanted and what he wanted was football. My husband is a huge NFL fan so every Sunday around 11:00am he would make his way to the local pub and sit and watch football all day. He much preferred going to places that weren't so mainstream because all he wanted to do was watch the game. He didn't want the music. He didn't want the crowd. Just football. His perfect Sunday would have been to go to the pub, sit at the bar with a cold Budweiser and watch game after game and talk football. Better be careful talking football with my husband though. He knows his stuff and I haven't seen anybody yet that can go toe to toe with him on stats. That's his thing. He can tell you where a player went to university, what round he was drafted, who he used to play for and any and all records that player might hold. Oh and it's not just the NFL that gets him. He loves university ball as well and can rip off stats like most say the alphabet. How does he remember all this? I am not really sure but if I were a betting woman, and I am, I would say it's for the love of the game.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Government of the people, by the people, for the people

It's Saturday afternoon and I am just sitting here wondering what my husband is doing and how much he is suffering in the Texas heat. Temperatures have been well over 100 degrees for the past 2 months with no end in sight. Add 20 degrees to that and that is the temperature inside a Texas prison. Imagine being trapped in a concrete or metal box with no windows and no way out and being subjected to 100+ heat everyday and imagine knowing that even the simplest things that you try to do to stay cool like lying on a concrete floor or taking your shirt off, could get you written up. Imagine knowing that that second glass of warm water that you just drank is all you are allowed. Imagine knowing that because of the heat tempers are running high and simply winning a game of dominoes might be enough to incite a riot. Imagine knowing that your loved ones know exactly what you are going through and there is no way for you to contact them and let them know you are alright. And imagine knowing that your government whose very foundation is based on being a "government of the people, by the people, for the people" knows all of this and turns a blind eye simply because it can.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Radio blues

It's 11:00pm and I am just listening to the Prison Show KPFT 90.1 Houston. While I am so very happy for all of the people that are able to give shout outs to their loved ones, I am also saddened because the unit that my husband is at doesn't get the Prison Show so it's just one more way that I cannot communicate with him. Hearing everyone tell their sons, husbands, fathers and brothers that they love them simply breaks my heart because my husband can't hear me tell him that. All I can do is trust in our connection and know in my heart that my husband knows I love him and that at the end of the day nothing else matters.

Best of Intentions

A little while back, when my husband first went to prison in Texas, I came across this video by Travis Tritt. It's the story of a man wrongly convicted of a crime and how his wife believes in his innocence and stands by him. I must have watched this video at least 2 dozen times and every single time I do I am reminded of my husband. You see, for me, this isn't just a video. This is my life. Every word in that song are my husband's words to me and every tear shed by that woman are mine. When she tells him she believes in him, that's me. It's as if someone has taken my life, my words, my husband's words and put them on screen. I will tell you that the visits behind glass are absolute killers. To see my husband dressed in prison whites or oranges and not to be able to touch him and know that our visit has a deadline, in my case it was 20 minutes, simply tears the heart out of you especially when you know time is up and you have to leave him behind. I visited my husband every Sunday for 2 months when he was here. I got up at 6:00 am and was out at the prison for 7:00am even though visits didn't start until 9:00am. I was always the first one there because it was a first come first served kinda thing and there was no way in hell I was missing a visit. I remember one day, my husband telling me that one of his cellies asked him how come he always got a visit from me on Sunday? He asked how come I never got turned away and my husband answered "she's here every Sunday at 7:00am and there ain't no way she's missing a vist."

When my husband was sent back to the U.S. I visited every Sunday for the time that he was there. I remember the guards having a fit when I would show up. They would call my husband and say "Wow! You got a visitor from Canada!" and he would just laugh and say "Yup. I got it like that. That's how she rolls". Contact visits are the ones that every spouse hopes and prays they will get. At this prison, contact visits were an hour long and you could hug and kiss each other at the beginning and end of your visit. The rest of the time you were separated by a small glass partition not by a full walll of glass but you didn't have to talk on a phone. I remember the last time I saw my husband before he went back to Texas like it was yesterday. Our hour long visit was over and it was time to say goodbye not knowing when the next time would be that we would see each other. He stood up first just like he always did and reached for me. I tried my damdest not to fall apart but the minute he put his arms around me I could feel the tears welling up inside of me. I told him that I loved him and he whispered 2 things to me that I will never forget. He said I love you and we'll be alright. And that was the last time I saw my husband. October 26, 2010.

3,000 miles away and still connected

Well here we are and it's Friday. I am sitting in my office and just thinking about how long it's been since I have seen my husband's face or heard his voice. He has this really easy smile that can melt your heart. His voice is strong and calm and oh so very southern. We used to talk for hours in the kitchen. I'd be doing the dishes and he would just stand there having a beer and talk. He was never more himself or at ease when we were talking in the kitchen. I knew from the first day we met that his heart was heavy and that there was something missing in his life. Little did I know, but that something was me. If he could, he would tell you how connected he felt to me from the start. He says that I never judged him and that I never asked anything of him and I just let him be him. Sometimes, he would stop talking and just stare at me and say "Can I ask you a question?" My husband's "can I ask you a question" questions were never simple. It was always something that made you think and feel and it was most times something like "Why are you so good to me?" or "Why do you love me?" He says that's the best part of us - the fact that we can just talk about nothing and love every minute of it. Some may ask why I am willing to leave my life in Canada behind, uproot my children and move 3,000 miles away. My answer is simple - because that's where my husband is.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What are you going to do?

Today, whether I wanted it to come or not, is the one-year anniversary of my husband being in prison. I find it hard to believe he's been gone that long as some days it feels like he just left and other days it feels like he's been gone a lifetime. I didn't get any mail from him today either which makes it an especially hard day for me. This day was by the far the worst day of my life and while some may want to bury that memory, I want to remember every minute of it. Seeing my husband in handcuffs broke my heart. I'll never forget the look on his face - the sadness in his eyes when he asked me "what are you going to do when they take me back to Texas?" and I said "move to Texas". I meant it then and I mean it now. My life wouldn't be my life without my husband in it and so when my husband comes home I will be having his release day and the day he left our family permanently etched on my skin so that I never forget. I want to be reminded every day of the worst day of my life and the best day of my life and to never take one free moment with my husband for granted. Is he really that important to me? Hell ya!

Just when you think all hope is lost - it isn't!

Good morning. Well I must say that I had a hard time falling asleep last night for sure. I had received an email from a radio station in Houston that had posted my petition on their website and their facebook page and the Producer shot me an email supporting my efforts. He even volunteered to deliver the petition personally to State Senators John Whitmire and Jerry Madden. Wow! So, needless to say this little girl from Canada had a hard time falling asleep knowing that there were others out there that cared about, what not only my husband was going through, not speaking to his family, but what possibly thousands of others were going through as well. It all starts with one voice. Will this be the start of something big? Only time and a willingness to do what's right will tell.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

One small voice can change the world!

So, here I am sitting at the computer really minding my own business when a little birdie tells me that my petition in support of allowing inmates at TDC to make calls to family outside of the US has been "noticed" by a radio station in Houston. Not only was it noticed, it was put on their home page and their Facebook page. Well after I went and checked it out here and here I decided I would write the Prison Show and thank them for the posts. Here is what I said to them:

My name is Kim and my husband is currently an inmate in TDC. I live in Canada and I am the woman who started the petition about allowing inmates of TDC to make international calls to their family outside of the USA. My husband is from Texas but the only family that he has is here in Canada. He is only allowed to call once every 3 months for 5 minutes and that is only if the warden approves.

I just wanted to take a minute to thank the Prison Show for posting the link to my petition on your Facebook page and on your Prison Show home page. I don't claim to know how many husbands and wives outside of the U.S. have spouses in TDCJ but I am sure I am not the only one so thank you for helping to draw attention to the plight of so many. My children and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Thinking that would be the end of it, I closed up my email and carried on with my evening. Not 15 minutes later I received a response from the show's producer and host and here is what he said to me:

"Hi Kim!
The Prison Show, then under Ray Hill, fought hard to get the phone system into Texas prisons. It was one of the few states without this privelege. In the documentary on "Ray Hill's Texas Prison Show" entitled Citizen Provacateur there is even a segment regarding the battle to get the phones allowed as show volunteers testified before the State Legislature and played the voices of the children that called into the showw to talk to their Daddies, but their Daddies couldn't answer them. It was said by several of the legislators that that was key in their decisions to allow the phones.

Behind the scenes, we have toyed since the inception with a way for family and friends outside of the US to be able to connect. Unfortunately, the system can determine when a call has been forwarded, though not every time, it does happen, and then all calling priveleges are suspended.

We amazingly have listeners in some 25 countries, and foriegn calls into the show are not uncommon.

We think it is only fair that an inmate should be able to talk to their loved ones wherever they may live. As we took the call letters and sort of changed the meaning long ago, KPFT, in our opinion, stands for Keep Prison Families Together. The outside support is vital for someone to come through the prison experience and re-establish themselves on solid ground when it's over, or, for those with longer sentences, to maintain their sanity as they navigate the system. In our opinion, phone calls only help to improve unit security and control, and benefit any possibilities of recovery for those incarcerated.

Thank you for your petition. Keep it going. I will be glad to hand deliver it to Whitmire and Madden and lobby for it in the next legislative session if that's what it takes!

Best Wishes!

David Babb, Producer/Host
The Prison Show
KPFT 90.1 FM - Houston"

Well, I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. As I told David, when I started this petition a little over a week ago, I really didn't think much would come of it and now I have someone willing to hand deliver my petition to Legislators in Texas. My husband and I have always said "leave no stone unturned" and after this I can honestly say I haven't.

"Hi there,

The Mail is Here!!

Well I finally got mail from my husband. Of course, it was from 2 weeks ago but I'll take it. Getting mail from him is definitely the highlight of my day. I won't lie and say that all of his mail is rainbows and sunshine because it isn't. I am sure he keeps a lot of things about prison life from me and that's OK. I don't think I could bear to know right now what really goes on inside prison and I am not sure that I will ever want to know. We have always said that there are no secrets and no surprises so if he is keeping certain things from me about prison life I don't consider it him keeping a secret. I see it more of an I am protecting my wife kind of thing. I do the same thing for him. I will protect him at all costs and there are things that I don't tell him because right now his head needs to be in the game, so to speak, and he needs to focus on nothing more than doing his time and coming home to his wife and children. My husband doesn't make promises lightly and when he does he will do whatever is necessary to ensure he keeps it so when he first went to TDC and promised me that he would always be safe and sound I took him at his word. As of this day, he has kept that promise and I don't worry for one second that he isn't safe and sound. However, his medical condition is something totally different. As I have posted before, it would seem that he has a herniated disc around C6 or C7 which is causing him to lose the use of his right arm and hand. He has been dropping I-60's for 6 months now and is now further ahead getting the treatment that is needed to alleviate the pain he is in 24/7. MRI's are need. EMG's are needed and they are nowhere in sight and so my husband suffers and struggles everyday to do the simplest tasks like tying his shoes or shaving and he is only 38! What's in store for him? I think only TDC knows for sure.

He was here wasn't he?

So here we are. Another day. I'm just sitting here now drinking a coffee and it reminds me of the last time my husband was here drinking coffee. I know it may sound silly but every morning he used to take his coffee and the paper up to the bathroom, read a little and then shower. I remember the day after he left going into the bathroom and noticing a coffee ring on the floor where he had put his mug while he read. I burst into tears because I knew that was one of the last things he did before he left. A few days later I was washing the floors in the bathroom and I came upon the ring on the floor. I couldn't bring myself to wash it off because to me that was a reminder that he had been there and I wanted every reminder I had of him to stay in tact right as he left it. I have since washed that floor several dozen times but even after a year that coffee stain stays as it lays.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hello? Sandman? It's Kim calling.

It's 10:30 here and I was just going up to get ready for bed. Every night around now I read through some of my husband's letters. Somehow it makes me feel a little bit closer to him even though we are physically so far apart. Well tonight I was thumbing through one book of 4 that I have containing over 1,000 pages of letters that I have received in the year since he's been gone and I came across a letter that brought me to tears. It was the day after we got our first 5 minute call. We hadn't heard each other's voice in months so, while it was good to hear from him, it was also very bittersweet because I knew the call would end in just 5 short minutes. My husband's letter to me dated May 25 said "For some reason, I'm really hurting today but that's OK because I got to talk to you today. I wish we could have talked more but that's all I could get until another 90 days go by. They (the guards) even told me what I could and couldn't say. There was a lot I wanted to say to you but I said all that I needed to. No matter. I got to tell you I love you." You know most days I am squared up and ready to take on the world for my husband and my children and then there are days where I want to stay in bed under the covers and hope that the world will just go away. Today is not one of those days!

Doing what he does best

Well it's a bit after 8:00pm now and I have just finished dinner and I'm settling in to write to my husband. I thought that I might get mail from him today but sadly I didn't. I stress about it every day and when I do get mail I stress about what's inside. Did he have a good day? How is his neck? (He's got a herniated disc in his neck that has gone untreated for nearly 6 months). Is he still holding it down? How was work? He has one of the highest jobs you can have in prison. Short of working for the warden, he's "top dog" as far as jobs go. He says that inmates know him and he finds that weird. How can they know someone they have never met? They know him because of the job he holds and the kindness and respect he shows other inmates. While I always make sure that he has money on his books, there are some that have none and this bothers my husband. It bothers him a lot. A few times when he has gone to commissary he has bought extra icecream and handed it out to the guys that have none. To some, that may seem odd that an inmate would willingly give some of his commissary to another but to me THAT is my husband. Helping others is what gives him great joy. Does he do it to to be noticed? Does he do it get thanked? Does he expect anything in return? Nope. He does it for no other reason other than that's who he is and that's what he does and that is the man that I fell in love with nearly 2 years ago. I tell him all the time how proud I am of him but I wonder...will he ever know just how much.

From 8-4 to 5-10

It's 4:30pm and I am just getting home from work. I am on the bus these days because my car has broken down and I can't afford to have it fixed right now. I've got 2 children (15 and 11) to support, rent to pay, food to buy, a husband in prison and a parole lawyer to pay for so fixing the car right now just isn't going to happen anytime soon. As I walk through the door of my home, I step on the cat who's been basking in the sun like a lizard under a heat lamp and that sends him running down the hall and over the dog who in turn jumps up and steps into her water dish. Great! Water everywhere. One more mess to clean up and I haven't even taken my shoes off yet. Welcome to my world!

I need to fix the central vaccuum because it's lost it's suction and I tell you this I curse my husband every time I have to fix something. Am I angry with him because he is in prison? Hell no! But every time I have to take out the garbage or clean up after the dog or fix the sink or anything else in this house, I swear a little. He should be here and I should be able to say, "baby can you please fix the sink?" or "baby would you please take out the garbage" or "baby can you put the air conditioner in?" (that in and of itself should get me a freakin' best wife ever award because that sucker is heavy!) So, here I am and he is there and it's all on me.

Because we can't talk on the phone every night or even every other night, every decision is mine and believe me it's exhausting. He needed a parole lawyer OK I found one and for the record he's a damn good one. The children and I need to move to Texas OK I'll figure it out. Oh and did I mention petitions to draft because I can't go another second knowing what goes on at TDC and not do anything about it? There are papers to fill out, applications to be made, money to be saved, money to be spent, jobs to find, house to find and it's all on me. At least if TDC would let him call home more often than once every 3 months for 5 minutes, I might not feel so overwhelmed all the time and believe me I am overwhelmed most days. Some days it takes every ounce of strength and courage I have to get out of bed but I do and I do because my children need their mother and my husband needs his wife. Will I ever tell him how truly overwhelmed I am? Hell no!

Who's the man that gets all the Jpays?

Well I just got another quick note off to my husband so that was good. I send him so many letters in a day that the lady in the mailroom actually called him down to the window just so she could see the face of the man that gets all the Jpays. For those that don't know, Jpay is the email service provider for Texas prisons. The letters come into the mailroom and get printed off and distributed once a day. If you get your mail sent before 2:00pm inmates receive it the same day. If not, they get it next day so at least I know he gets mail every day and we do our best to stay connected that way. In the time that my husband has been away, and it will be one year on August 4, I have amassed over 1,000 pages of letters that he has sent to me. That is 4 photo albums full of letters. He writes to me every day and mails out about 3 times a week. Letters from Texas to Canada take anywhere from 6-10 days to arrive and cost on average 2 American stamps. Of course, that doesn't count all of the extras that he sends like the cards he sends for birthdays and Christmas or my personal favourites the "thinking of you or miss you" cards. You have to understand that my husband is not the hearts and flowers kinda guy. He's a cowboy from Texas for goodness sake! So, when he sends me a touchy feely kinda card it absolutely melts my heart and brings me to tears every time. Or there was the time that he sent our youngest daughter a cross for her birthday that he had another inmate make from towel thread. It was blue & white (her favourite colours) and she just loves it. No matter how hard they may try, TDC will not break the bond that my husband and I have. I am a stubborn Irish Canadian and my husband is a proud stubborn Texan. TDC doesn't stand a chance!

3,000 miles away and still connected

OK. I have just finished writting my 3rd letter to my husband at it's only 2:00pm. I am saddened that I have only one way to communicate with the man I love but it will have to do for now I guess. I guess the one good thing about Texas prison is that I can email my husband every day and know that he will at least get mail every night from me so there is some small comfort in that. I hate that I can only share things with him through email like how our oldest did in her soccer game or that our youngest received an award at school. I send him pictures every week and I can only hope that they bring him some happiness. Before he was transferred to TDC and while in the county jail, he always used to tell me that I made him stronger and that even though he was in a shitty place one phone call from me could change that for him. So now I sit and wonder most days if the words I write are enough to keep him strong. He constantly writes how much he misses my voice but I wonder if he knows how much I miss his too.

The Cowboy and the Canadian

So, I guess this has officially become a day in the life of a prisoner's wife. Alrighty! My husband and I met 2 years ago and quite honestly the first time I spoke to him on the phone I didn't think much of him. I actually thought he was an ass! He had that southern drawl that most women lap up like kittens to milk. Not me boy! I had his number or at least I thought I did. Little did I know then that my first impressions of the man that would claim my heart over the next 2 years would be so dead wrong. This is my story of love, loss and what will one day be triumph. Hold on to your seats because you're in for a very bumpy ride!

OK Blog! Here I come!

For those that don't know, my husband is currently an inmate in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Am I embarrassed to say that? Hell no! Why he is in doesn't matter. The fact is that he is there and I am here in Canada about 3,000 miles away. Up until about a week ago, I had never read a blog let alone wrote one. I thought it might be good (for me at least) to blog about the day-to-day events that occur and the stresses and pressures of single parenting while my husband is away. So, today will be day one of my personal blog even though my husband has been gone for a year now and a lot has happened since then. I will try and write as often as I can but who knows how that will work out with everything else that needs to get done in a day but I will make my best effort. Right now I'm up to my elbows in petitioning the Texas government and TDCJ to allow my husband as well as countless other inmates with family outside of the United States to be allowed to call their loved ones. Right now, TDCJ does not allow inmates to call family that are located outside of the U.S. An inmate can make an official request to the warden on their unit for a 5 minute phone call every 90 days but not all inmates are aware that this is a possibility so they go without talking to their families for what could be months or even years. Sound fair? Not even a little bit. Anywho, that's all I have for now. Oh and BTW I haven't eaten breakfast yet.