Friday, September 30, 2011

Fighting Irish!

Well here we are at the end of another week. Yesterday I finally received a letter from my husband. It's been well over 2 weeks since I've heard anything from him because as you all know, he's been on the Texas tour since August 17 and has only been able to write very sporadically which, of course, always leads me to sit and wonder how he is.

Quite honestly, I don't know how he does it.  Most days it's well over 110 degrees in Texas and to have to go on medical chain, or any other kind of chain for that matter, is more often than not unbearable. The heat, the close quarters, being chained to your seat mate and throw a whole lot of pain into the mix and you've got the makings of a potentially volatile situation. Yet my husband continues to handle himself with the strength, dignity and commitment of 10 men. He will not let TDC break him. Failure is not an option for him and that is only one of the many things I love about him.

Now how I handle it is a whole other story. While I will not be broken, I won't lie and say that I haven't come close but I have discovered, through this journey, that there is support for you if you look for it. What has now become my greatest support, is a group that I stumbled upon accidentally. I was asked to be a part of it and at first I figured "Well alright. What harm could there be?" Little did I know when I joined, that this group of women would become my family. They are my strongest supporters and my greatest allies and to all of them I thank them from the bottom of my Irish heart for without them, I may have just let TDC win!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Playin to win!

So, it's Tuesday and we are just about mid-week and I am about to write a post that my husband will not see. I have sent him every post I have made since I started blogging a little over a month ago. I have to say that the interest in my blog has been overwhelming, to say the least, so thank you all for continuing to read my story.

The reason that this post will not be sent to my husband will be clear in a few short sentences and I am hoping you all will understand why I can't send it to him. Without getting too much into it, I am on my way to have an ultrasound done and, for the wishful thinkers, unfortunately, I am not pregnant. I have known for about 3 weeks now that this test needs to be done and quite honestly it has me scared out of my mind. I cannot and will not tell my husband because of the worry that this will cause him and I will not now nor ever put him in a position of helplessness. Right now, he can do nothing. He can't call and tell me that everything will be alright and by the time he writes to me 10 days will have passed and what could be something, could be nothing.

In the year that my husband has been in prison, he has remained strong and focussed and determined and should he get wind of this, it will undoubtedly throw him off his game and all that he has accomplished to date, will be for not. I won't let that happen.

Now that I have had my test, I must wait 5 days for the results which, if I let it, can easily overwhelm me and throw me off my game and I can't let that happen. My children need me. My husband needs me and I can't let them down for anything in this world. So, while some who read this may say that I am a strong prison wife, really at the core of me I am just a wife and mother who must now play the hand she is dealt and guess what? I WILL WIN!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My husband's voice

Well it's just about 9:00pm on Sunday night and the kids are getting ready for bed. They've showered and picked out their clothes for school tomorrow. Both girls are quietly reading in their rooms which is really quite nice considering most times they fight like cats and dogs.

Today has been one of those days where I've been a bit overwhelmed with things. There is no one thing in particular that set the tone for the day. I guess it was just a combination of things. The groceries needed to be done, homework needed to be finished, bills to pay, work to do (did I mention that not only do I hold a full-time job from 8:30 to 4:00, I also work from home at night?) and of course, find a job in Texas. So, to say I am a little overworked is just about right. The one voice that can always put me at ease and reassure me that everything is going to be alright is the one voice I can't hear from and the one I miss the most.

A coworker of mine joked the other day saying "Damn girl! You've got broad shoulders" meaning that I seem to be able to take the hits and keep coming back for more.

When my husband was allowed to call me, all I would need to hear from him is "You and me, back to back, nothing else matters" and I instantly knew that everything would be alright. I haven't heard his voice in 4 months and I haven't seen his face in over a year and I miss it.

You know there is just something so reassuring about hearing the voice of the man you love tell you he loves you that makes everything OK and gives you exactly what you need to keep going and from what my husband tells me, the same can be said for him. He says that he could be having the worst day inside and a few words from me can make it all go away. He says that his body may be in the worst place it's ever been in his life but that his heart and soul are in the best place they've ever been. How's that for loving your wife?

I will tell you this, that kind of love just doesn't come along every day but when it does, it's enough to soften the hardest heart and pull you up by your bootstraps so that you are ready to take on any and all comers. So, am I ready? You bet your ass!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My husband's day

Well, it's Sunday morning and another week is over. That means that my husband is one week closer to coming home. Sunday is, by far, the hardest day for me because this is my husband's day. It was always his day to do whatever he wanted that made him happy and what used to make him happy today was football. You know it may not seem like that big of a deal to some but to me Sundays are huge. I won't lie and tell you that it doesn't usually take a lot to break me. Hell! I've been doing time right alongside my husband for over a year now and, while I've come close, I haven't broken. However, Sunday is a day that will break me...if I let it. The reason that Sunday is hard for me is because my husband always looked forward to this day when he could think about nothing, worry about nothing and just be. Not much was on his mind then except watching a good couple of games and having a few drinks. Now when I think of Sundays and football, I picture him sitting in a day room with hundreds of other men jockeying for the tv just so he can have one moment in the week that can take him from the hell that he is in to a place that he truly enjoys, even if it's only for a few hours. When he was home, he never asked for much so when he wanted this one day just for him, you bet your ass he got it. When he comes home to me and to our family, he will have his day because after everything he has been through and the strength, courage and determination he has shown while inside, he deserves at least that.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Ties that Bind

Today was one of those days where I was really hoping to get mail from my husband and I was not disappointed. As a matter of fact, I got a card that my husband had somebody make for me. It may have cost him a couple of soups but knowing him like I do it was more than worth it. It was absolutely stunning. At first, I thought it was a drawing for a tattoo that he might want but when I saw that it was in colour I knew that wasn't the case because my husband does not do colour. Then I thought maybe it was a tattoo that he had drawn up for me. Nope. That couldn't be it because no way would I have a skull tattooed on me. There is just no way. Well I opened up one flap of the perfectly folded paper and inside were 3 words - "I miss you" and I just fell to pieces because now I knew what the purpose of this card was and that was to let me know that he was thinking about me.  I opened the next flap of the card and there was the most beautiful note from my husband inside. I know that I usually share some of the things that he says to me but I think for just this one time, I will keep this one all to myself. Just know that it made me cry because it was just so filled with his love for me just like everything he has ever written to me.

You know one of my friends said to me a little while back "I don't know how you do it. I would go bonkers if I didn't get phone calls." I guess when you are used to getting calls, you take them for granted a little bit. It's not that you don't appreciate them. You just know the calls will always come and so staying connected to your spouse is a little easier because you can communicate in real time. But when the chips always seemed to be stacked against you and you don't get calls or visits and your only communication is by letter, you quickly realize that you either need to square up and fight for each other or turn turtle and run. Sure it requires a little more effort but that's how we do it and while our conversations are never in real time and could lead to a lot of misinterpretations, in the year that he has been gone, there has not been one time where we have miscommunicated and that is because being together and making it work is the only thing that matters. There is nothing more important to me, in this life, than my husband and my children and I know that the same is true for him. He told me once that when he thinks I am upset with him it's impossible for him to do time so I have never given him a reason to think that I am.

The prisons in the State of Texas may very well be the most ass backwards facilities in the USA and they try their best to keep him down but one thing I know for sure and that is that we cannot and will not ever be torn apart. We are committed and connected. We have a love for one another that is indescribable and together we are unstoppable and those are the ties that bind.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How much can one woman take?

Well it happened again! My husband was transferred for the fifth time in 10 days and, again, I have no idea why. Because we can't talk on the phone and it is too far to visit, the fear of the unknown and the speculative process that you go through when you can't hear, from the mouth of your spouse, how they really are is enough to break you if you let it. At times like this, you have to ask yourself one question and there is only one answer that matters. Is this person you love with all of your heart and would do anything for worth it? Ask any prison wife and she will undoubtedly answer "you bet your ass" without even batting an eye. It is that commitment that all prison wives have for their husbands - unwavering, relentless and solid.

Being a prison wife is not for the weak or the weak minded. There is something about the strength of a prison wife - the ability to, against all odds and perhaps someone else's better judgement, stand by her husband, support him and love him, raise her family, work her job, rally the troops when needed, and continue to put one foot in front of the other that is truly inspiring and sometimes downright exhausting but we do it, for the love of our children, for the love of our husbands and most importantly, for the love of ourselves.

So, to all the prison wives, I dedicate this post to all of you. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Stay strong. Stay committed. Stay you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What do you say?

What do you say to the man you love more than your own life when he declares his love for you in such a way that brings you to tears? There really aren't any words that can sum up the love I have for my husband and the lengths I would go to for him.

Today, I received a 12 page letter from him and that just made my day. Letters are our only form of communication and his words are absolutely priceless to me. I have amassed over 1,000 pages of letters from my husband in the year that he's been gone. Of course he always tells me how much he loves me but today, right when I needed to hear it the most, he said "never ever doubt my love for you cause it will always be there. You have my heart. No doubt."

He tells me I am his rock but I wonder if he knows how much strength I draw from him. It is because of him that I get up every day and do what needs to be done for him and for our family and it is because of him that I haven't fallen to pieces when others might. I've been told how strong a wife and mother I am but I have to believe that anyone else in my situation, with the love I have for my husband, would do the very same thing. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is easier to fold like a house of cards than it is to square up and do what needs doing. Maybe there will come a day when I take the easy way out is not that day.

I am a prison wife and there are none stronger. No doubt.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Thousand Moments

Today started out just like every other day has since July 31, 2010 - without my husband. I woke up and he wasn't there. I ate breakfast and had coffee and he wasn't there. I did groceries and played frisbee with my daughter and he wasn't there and I will go to bed tonite and he won't be there. There have been thousands of moments just like these that have passed since my husband left that he can't get back. I try my very best to share every moment with him through letters and pictures but it just isn't the same and it won't be the same until the day he walks out of prison and returns to his life with me. I pray that day comes soon. As a matter of fact, I pray every night for my husband. I pray he stays strong. I pray that he stays healthy and I pray, above all else, that he remembers how much I love him and miss him. So, tonight just like many more nights to come, I will go to bed by myself, pray for my husband and wait for the day when I don't have to wait anymore.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

For the love of my husband

Well it's been a while since I've posted so I thought now would be a good time. For the last week or so I haven't really known where my husband has been on any given day. He has been transferred 3 times in the last 4 days. He is taking what they call "The Texas Tour" - bouncing around from prison to prison and the only ones that really know why are TDCJ. They don't tell my husband, or any other inmate for that matter, where they are going. They are simply told "roll out" and at 3:00am they are handcuffed and shackled and loaded up onto a bus headed to god knows where.

While he is moving around from unit to unit, he isn't allowed to make any phone calls so the one comfort I had in knowing that he could always call his best friend who would relay a message to me has been taken away. I cannot fully describe the stress, the desperation, the anxiety that I feel not knowing where my husband might be and why.

The image of my husband in prison whites shackled to another human being is almost too much to take. All I have right now are questions and the answers that I struggle to find will only come in 6-10 days when today's letters from my husband are delivered. You would think that after doing this for a year I'd be used to not knowing things and that I could just deal with whatever comes but I have to wonder if you ever get used to not knowing where your spouse is and how they are doing. I think that if you stop wondering and worrying you become less than you are.

I sometimes find the hardest part of all of this is going to work every day and pretending that everything is fine. I can't let it show just how distressed I really am. There are days when I am so overwhelmed with missing my husband that the mere thought of him brings tears to my eyes. I can't very well sit in my little cubby and cry so I get up and go to the ladies room and break down in a stall for a few minutes, pull myself together and get back to work. And then there times when I miss my husband so much that it takes every ounce of Irish strength I have to put one foot in front of the other and face another day without him.

Some may say, well this is the life you chose. You chose to love an inmate and so you get what you get. If you ask any prison wife if they want sympathy they will undoubtedly say "hell no" but do we want compassion and kindness and maybe a little understanding? "Hell yes". Yes, I chose this life. Yes, I chose to love my husband for better or for worse and for the love of my husband I will get through this. There is no one more perfect for me than him. We are connected. We are committed. We are "we" and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

What a difference a border makes

Article Featured in Family Life Behind Bars

My name is Kim and I live in Ontario, Canada and my husband is incarcerated in Texas. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, for whatever reason, allows inmates with family living outside of the U.S. just one five-minute call every 90 days. But even for that, you need special permission.

Those inmates with family living in the United States are allowed 240 minutes per month which may soon increase to 480 minutes a month. I have to do with five minutes.

Just how much can you cram into a five-minute conversation with a loved one you haven’t heard from in months? If it is the only time you get, you take what you’re given.

I received a call in May at five in the morning. It was a caller I was not expecting to hear—my husband.

“Hey Baby,” he said.

When I heard his voice, I just started to cry. I hadn’t heard his voice in so long that I actually had to ask if it was him.

Those five minutes felt like a few seconds that flew by so fast.

Our conversation amounted to just simple things: How are the girls? How are you? I love you…but after four minutes, I was reminded of the ticking clock.

“Well, we only have one minute left so if there is anything you want to tell me you had better tell me now,” he said.

“I love you,” is all I could say through my tears and crackly voice.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yes, I just miss you.”

“I miss you too and I love you and I’ll call you again in 3 months,” he said.

Unfortunately those were the last words I heard my husband say to me.

Extradited across the border

I met Cody, my 38-year-old husband, two years ago when he came to Canada on vacation. Cody, an American citizen, was a friend of my brother’s who asked to stay at my house for a few days.

We fell in love, but unfortunately trouble was not far off. Because Cody did not report to his probation officer in Texas, the authorities came looking for him and he ended up in a Canadian jail.

At first, I would wake up every Sunday at 6:00 am to drive to the detention centre where he was being held. I waited in line for 2 hours for the 9:00 am visits.

Those visits—separated by glass—lasted about 20 minutes.

Then he was deported from Canada and moved to a New York state prison. At first I had no idea where he was. I finally got a call from him and we talked every day for 15 minutes.

I also drove about 90 minutes to visit him every other weekend. These visits were an hour long and we were allowed to be physically next to each other–no glass separated us. Just the type of visit any spouse hopes for.

But once again, trouble was heading our way. He was extradited to Texas and that is when I found out that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice does not allow calls outside the U.S.

Now he’s 3,000 miles away and I can’t talk to him and I can’t visit because of the distance and the expense.

I promised him that I would not only write every single day but that I would move to Texas. I haven’t missed one day of writing (neither has he) in nearly a year, but it’s a struggle finding a good job so I can move my family to Texas.

Cody has to put in a request to the Warden asking to make a single five-minute call every 90 days. He must have a clean record inside and have made no trouble. He does exactly what is expected of him and more. During his time in TDCJ, he hasn’t even been written up for a minor case. He was recently promoted to trustee level.

Waiting for the next call

I have yet to hear from him after the last call when he told me he’d talk to me again in three months. It turns out that he was moved to a medical unit from where calls are not allowed at all.

Cody has a herniated disc in his neck and he has lost the use of this right arm and hand yet he still manages to write every day. He will, no doubt, need surgery and I can’t even talk to him about it. That makes things all the more difficult for me.

Once he is transferred to a new unit, in all likelihood, we will have to wait another 90 days to see if that unit’s warden will let him call home. There are no guarantees.

Five minutes may seem like nothing to most people, but I would give anything to get a precious five minute call every 3 months just to hear my husband tell me that he loves me and that he’s okay.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Prison Wife

Have you seen her?

She is everywhere. She is the woman at your office who sits alone in the lunch room and the woman in line at the grocery store or the woman sitting next to you on the bus. She is the woman who races home everyday at lunch just to see if his letter came. She is elated when it does and broken-hearted when it doesn't. She knows that he writes her every day. It just takes 6 days to get here and to her that's a lifetime. She is the woman who lays alone night after night trying desperately to remember what it feels like to fall asleep in his arms. She is the woman who cries in the bathroom at work because he is 3,000 miles away and can't call her and she can't visit. If you knew why she was crying would you care? No one can ever understand the lonlieness she feels.

She is the woman who struggles to make ends meet just so he doesn’t do without the small comforts she can provide him but she will never tell him how she struggles. She loves HIM that much. She is the woman that no one feels sorry for because this is her life; the one she chose. She is the woman who has noone to comfort her when someone she loves dies because the family she thought she knew has abandoned her. She is the woman who must always be strong because he needs her and there is no other choice.

She is the woman that loves him more than her own life; the woman whose heart breaks when he tells her what a loser he is because she deserves so much better than him. She is the woman that reminds him constantly that he is the best man she has ever known. She is the woman that would give anything to make him understand that everything happens for a reason and while he can't see that reason he trusts that she is right. She is the woman who knows that every choice he has made, good or bad, has brought him to this moment in time - to this life with her. She is the woman he protects at all costs from the details of life on the inside. He loves HER that much. She is the woman always wondering if he thinks of her as much as she thinks of him. She is the woman that is just as imprisoned as he is. While his chains bind his arms and legs, hers bind her heart.

She is the woman that drives for hours just to see his face and hear his voice knowing that in a few short hours her heart will break when she must leave him behind. She is the woman that hurts knowing that any privacy he had was gone the moment he walked through the gates. The thought of her husband being shackled with chains is almost too much for her to bear but bear it she must. She is the woman that does not see him as an inmate but as the love of her life. She is the woman they call stupid or naive simply because she believes in him more than he believes in himself.

She is the woman that still gets butterflies when he says "can I ask you a question?". She is the only person in his world that matters and he will do whatever it takes to be with her. She is the woman counting down the days until he is free and they can finally be together the way they were always meant to be. She is his rock and he is hers. She is the reason he is alive. She is the woman that he prays for, the woman that he dreams of and the woman that he fights for. She is the woman that he knows is being faithful even when they all say she isn't. He believes in her. He trusts her like he has never trusted anyone before - with his life. She is his everything. Her words, to him, are priceless and he values her letters above all else.

He is on her mind every minute of every hour of every day. They are connected. They always have been and always will be. He loves her more than words can say. She loves him like no other. He calls her his angel. Together they are unstoppable. Back to back. Their love is undeniable. Nothing else matters.