For the women doing time alongside their inmates... This is our reality as well as theirs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


It's been some time since I blogged last. I haven't had much to say. I'd settled into the life as a inmate's woman and watched the time slide by. Things didn't change- there were the visits every few months, the thrill of seeing him, of kissing him, the frustration of limitations and rules, the horrid pain when I walk out those front gates without him, and the endless patience waiting for phone calls and letters. These are part of the endless sacrifice and compromise we women who wait for our men to come home make every day. It's become normal for me. So why write about it?

But as it has become more and more normal to me, I've found myself sliding into depression because I was unable to express the very real pain that goes along with this life. Mainstream society thinks that the inmate is the only one who pays for his crimes. No, we who love him or her pay too. And yes I know it's my choice, and yes the joy and love he brings to my life is still worth the choice I made. But that doesn't make the pain of living my life largely without him, unreal or excused.

But I am not writing today's blog to complain about my difficulties. Today, I'm writing because of hope.

I've been really down lately. It's hard to get up in the morning. All I want to do is sleep. I've had a ton of physical issues and illnesses that I know are brought on by my low spirits. It just seems so long until he'll be home with me and I get a little lost sometimes, thinking of the time span. But this afternoon when I woke up from a very long nap, I suddenly had hope. Why? Sitting in front of me was the shoe box full of his letters that I'd collected over the last two years. I've never thrown away one- I cannot bear to part with a word of what he's written to me. I'd pulled it out trying to clean up my bedside table and left it there. Now, as I woke from a sleep I hadn't meant to really take, I saw that handwriting and was suddenly inspired to re-read every letter.

So I did. And as I did, my head slowly became right again. The time stopped seeming so long until I'd be with him again. I realized with every word I read how incredibly lucky I was to find love at all in such a messed up world. How lucky, despite the challenges and obstacles, to find a man that understood me and adored me and protected me. Because that's what he does- every day- even from so far away.

Some people think that love is supposed to be this fairy tale where everything is perfect and all is happy, and as soon as the least challenge comes up, it's time to move on. That's where our society of instant gratification has gone. I know better. Love is when the chips are down and everything is against you, still being able to look at that other person and say "I love you no matter what. I'll always be here. We're in this together forever." It's being able to recognize that intangible, elusive emotion that drives humanity in all things, and that is the cornerstone of being an inmate's woman every day.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Motion for Post Conviction Relief Denied

Well, our motion was denied by the judge and he sided with the State. 

We have a thirty day window to appeal his decision and a very slim loophole that might swing things around in our favor, but it's unlikely. I'm trying to reconcile myself to the fact that this very well may not work and that he'll have to do the fifteen years. 

I was actually quite calm about it last night when I found out. And I'm calm about it today. I'm waiting until I am absolutely sure we have no hope before I give in and break down. It hurts- trust me it does. But I'm also beginning to think proactively about what our lives are going to consist of if we lose this risk we took. 

I know I love him and vice versa, and I'll stick by him. But I realize the last year I've lived exclusively for him in the hope he'd come home, buried myself in my apartment, neglected my friends, and made this whole legal battle the center of my existence. I know if we do lose, I'm going to have to shift things around a bit. I will need to develop and maintain my own life out here without him, and balance the life I have with him differently so it's not all consuming. Nobody can keep that up for fifteen years and I know he'll want me to live my life, not just sit and wait for him, so when he does come home it's to a happy woman with a home and a life she can share with him. 

I don't want to be an incomplete broken piece waiting for him to come home and complete me. I want to be whole and solid and strong on my own so we can compliment each other. 

What's funny is I told a friend of mine about my thoughts and she immediately thought that meant I was going to date other people. She even offered to fix me up with someone. Hello!!! Of course not. He and I are monogamous and committed and my life is with him. I'm just saying it's time to get out with my friends again, remember my hobbies, make plans for the future etc. with things as they are instead of what I hoped, which was he would be home this year. I'm going to wait to launch into all this stuff until we're sure there's no hope- I haven't given up. 

I guess I'm just trying to be ready should the worst happen. I want to make sure I don't completely fall apart and plunge into depression. I want to make sure I can stay strong and on the right path for both our sakes- he's going to need my support and I'll need to keep chugging out here. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Christmas!!! Yay!

I'm coming up fast on a visit for Christmas. I have not seen him in almost two months and I can't wait.  I've got my outfits all picked out; shoes, clothing, accessories, even my underwear. Which is not as easy as it sounds. Prison regulations for what a visitor can wear are nearly Puritanical. Nothing snug fitting, no underwire bras, nothing low cut, must have at least short sleeves, must be to at least the knee be it a skirt or pants, nothing sheer. When it's written down it doesn't look so bad, but I challenge you women to go out and find something sexy/cute that fits all of those criteria without ending up looking as if you are a sixty year old math teacher. Or even worse, you're forced to wear baggy jeans or sweat pants. 

Luckily where my man is, they are relatively (and I do mean relatively) lax, and I've been able to wear some really cute outfits to see him that would not get through at other prisons.

Then of course there are the other preparations. Double check reservations, get my eyelashes tinted, manicure and pedicure, pack my bag, arrange for my cat to be cared for, get a haircut, make sure all my toiletries are packed, self tanner the day before I travel... the list goes on and on. I like to be perfectly manicured for him when I see him. He deserves it. Every single time when I see him smile walking towards me, it's worth all the effort.

But visits have their bitter side as well. It being Christmas, I miss him being home especially now. I go to Christmas parties and see other couples together, and wish with all my might he was there with me, where he should be. I bake cookies, decorate the tree and wrap presents alone. It's a lonely time of year. And the worst part is when the visits are over and it's time to go home. My holiday is done, and I have to leave him there behind barbed wire to go back to my little life hundreds of miles away from him, alone. That last goodbye kiss is always a heartwrencher.

Still, I try to just look forward to being in his arms again and hearing him laugh for those two precious days. It refills me- regenerates me- keeps me going. He is my rock as much as I am his, possibly even more so. He comforts me, encourages me, pushes me to excel in all possible ways, listens to my worries, hopes, and fears, and somehow always manages to make everything right by the end of our conversation be it in person or on the phone. In return I calm him when he's angry, make him laugh when I know he's frustrated or down, and touch his big ferocious heart with my tenderness and vulnerability. I'm convinced inmates need that kind of  connection with someone outside and I pity those who do not have it. I think the ones without it become little more than hardened animals for lack of any softness or emotion in their lives. No wonder there are so many reoffenders. 

But that's a whole other tangent I am not prepared to dive into. For now, what is important is it's Christmas. And I am just  seven days from seeing my love. I'm so excited I can barely stand it. Merry Christmas, and I hope your holiday is just as love-drenched as mine is!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What Does Love Look Like?

Recently someone commented on my blog and asked me what love looks like in my eyes.

Honestly that's a tough question. Love is unique to each person- we all define it in slightly different ways. I don't think a woman who loves an inmate has a hugely different view on love than the rest of humanity. I think we're just better able to maintain that love despite huge obstacles that most people would walk away from. We are extremely loyal and determined to uphold our relationships through their bids, however long they be.

However we are not just "waiting". If you just put your life on hold and wait, that's not going to work long term. What we do is find a way to co-exist with our partners despite the distance. We adjust to the circumstances. I don't think I'm just sitting around until the day he comes home, I am living my life with him. He's as much a part of my life as if he was right beside me every moment. We make decisions together. We share our thoughts, hopes, and fears. We plan for the future. We support each other emotionally and mentally.  So when people tell me "you're wasting your life waiting for him, why don't you find someone who can give you a real relationship and a real home?" I get mad. I have a real relationship. And I have a real home. That I created. So what if I was the one who provided it instead of him?

And that brings me to another point. An inmate's woman walks a very, very fine line. In many ways the old ingrained dynamic of the man wearing the pants in the family has been turned on it's head by his incarceration. Now I am the breadwinner. I go to work every day and bust my ass because I know I have to bring home a paycheck to take care of us both. And I know it's a blow to his pride. When he's already enduring so many humiliations behind bars, with every move monitored and controlled, the last thing he needs is to feel like less of a man because he's unable to support me financially. So I'm very careful to make sure he knows he's still the Boss in our relationship.  I go to him for guidance in all things. I lean on his strength and I accept his final decision on every issue.  He, in turn, takes very good care of me.

One more point. Most people think an inmate's woman has no boundaries or limits, and that she will accept any behavior or abuse from her man. This is untrue. I do have boundaries and limits. If I succeed in getting his butt out of there and he goes back to his old ways, he's on his own. And he knows it. I cannot control him and I have no wish to. But I am involved with him and am putting everything I have and everything I am on the line for him because I believe in our future together. If he goes back to a life of crime, that future will be compromised and I will walk away. I will love him forever and nothing will change that. But I do not want to be around to watch him destroy himself and possibly take me with him. Everyone has their line of self preservation that they will not cross, and that is mine.

So, that is what love looks like to me. Not so very strange, is it?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I woke up in a wonderful mood, full of the holiday spirit. I drank my coffee, enjoyed the beautiful weather on my porch, and hung out with my cat before heading downtown to volunteer in a soup kitchen for the day. It was an eye opening experience. My man had suggested I do it a few weeks earlier when I was pondering what to do with my day off. I'd never volunteered for anything before, let alone on a holiday. But I like to follow his suggestions as it makes me feel closer to him, and so I went.  

I spent four hours helping the church set up and then serving the homeless Thanksgiving dinner. The food was not anything fancy, but it was hot and nourishing, and those I served were mighty glad to receive it. It gave me a warm feeling inside to see their faces light up as I smiled at them, and handed them a full plate. It made me realize just how lucky I am to live the life that I do, with my solid job, my small cozy apartment, and the ability to feed myself (and my man!) I was ashamed to think of those times in the last few months where I've broken down and felt so sorry for myself. I may not be rich, and I may not have my love home with me, but I am blessed in so many ways.

One man who shuffled in late, when the food was almost gone, was shaking like a leaf when I gave him his plate. I was almost positive he was a late term alcoholic. He was so thin that I was convinced only the shape of his clothing made him visible at all, and I recognized the tale tell signs of alcohol abuse from the way his reddened eyes peered out of his flushed face. Before he turned away to go eat, he nodded to me and said, "Bless you, child." 

There but for the grace of God, go I. Or my man. 

So yeah... things might not be perfect. Being so far away from my love is extremely hard, and we each have our own struggles in our everyday existence. But there are far worse things that could have happened to both of us. We have a roof over our heads, we have food to eat, friends and family who love us, hope for the future, and each other.

Case in point. Last night as I sat staring out at the stars, missing him so much that it hurt, the phone rang. It was him. I wasn't even supposed to be home- I had plans to go out to dinner with friends to celebrate the holiday but they were cancelled last minute. How did he know I would be there?

"I could feel it." He told me, laughing. And hearing that deep ferocious voice, I felt so incredibly thankful for everything in my life... especially him.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Simple Pleasures of Mail

So last night, I got a treat. I arrived home to find a Thanksgiving card in the mailbox for me, from my Man.  It was, of course, the type of card he would never send were he free- it was your typical mushy religious type card that your grandmother would send you at the holidays filled with sentimental well wishes. That's so not my big savage wolf. However it's the best he can do, given the circumstances, and I'm always touched that he sends them at all.  But what really made me laugh and cry all at once was what it contained inside.

He'd turned the card sideways, outlined his hand, and then made it into a turkey. The last time I'd seen that (or done that) I think I was five years old. To see it now on the inside of his card, and to see the sheer size of his big paw, was poignant. It showed a certain letting down of his guard, showed me his tender playful side, and showed me that he knew how much such gestures meant to me. When that's the only medium you have of showing intimacy and affection, you find creative ways to make yourself present in your partner's life. Of course I immediately put my hand up inside the outline of his- his hands are so big!  I smiled to see it even as tears escaped the corners of my eyes. 

So often that happens in the world of prison relationships. Smiling through tears. This lifestyle is overcrowded with bittersweet emotion.

My perfume plays a huge role in the connection we share. When I first started writing to him, my man begged me to spray the letters with perfume. There is no smell in there; its a sterile gray scale environment.  Moved by the request, I complied, and sent that first perfume laden page to him. He wrote me back telling me that my perfume was beautiful, and somehow magical, and he slept with one next to his head so he could turn over and smell that fragrance in his dreams. Now he receives one every day and opens several at a time to scent his whole cell. Inmates and guards alike comment on the sweetness of the perfume. I think it makes him proud to say "That's from my woman." I know it makes me proud to be his woman. 

I spend a lot of money on perfume ;)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Every Day Hum Drum

It's Monday. I hate mondays. Not just because it's back to work, but because it's back to two or three days without hearing his voice. Calls are expensive, ranging about $2.50 for fifteen minutes- which may not seem like a lot, but trust me, it adds up. And that's just the beginning. The cost of stamps is astronomical when you write every day, and send multiple sheets of paper with research, news articles, and comics along with your letter. My man has a voracious mind for knowledge of all kinds, and there is no internet connection where he is. So I'm the go to girl to keep his brain entertained and active. I also make sure he gets his newspaper every day, and the science magazine he loves once a month.

Then of course, there's money for canteen. Those conservatives that insist inmates are fed three square meals a day should go live there for a few days and see exactly what inmates eat. They are given the bare minimum nutritionally, and often the food itself is rancid, making it impossible to eat. So if the inmates are lucky, they have a family member or significant other who can afford to give them money to buy supplemental food at canteen.

And then visits. I live eight hours from my man's prison, which adds up quite a bit in gas and wear and tear on my car. Not to mention the hotel, meals, and the money for the vending machines in the visiting room. There's nothing more satisfying than watching him tear into vending machine food, proclaiming how good it is. Mind you it's really not very good. I don't ever eat there. But it's such a step up from what he's used to being served inside that it must taste like gourmet fare to him, and that's all that matters.

So, in short, having a man in prison is rather expensive in a myriad of ways. Many of us prison wives and girlfriends work second jobs to be able to afford to care for our men and still pay our own bills. But my point was, calls were expensive when grouped with the rest of the costs, and therefore, I don't hear from him every day. He calls me two or three times a week, and twice on Sundays.  Sundays are his day and I don't leave the house all day for fear of missing those precious two calls. There's a certain sense of serenity waking up Sunday morning and knowing soon I'll be hearing that phone ring. The ring tone on my home phone has become sexy to me because I associate it with his deep rumbling voice. It's a very Pavlovian response when it rings- my heart pounds and I leap to my feet to run for the handset like a little girl on her first date. I'm spending the day with him, in a way, as close as I can without driving the six hundred miles to get to him.

And then Monday comes. And that comforting feeling of being so close I feel I could reach out and touch him, is gone. It's back to the grind. Back to a grueling, stressful job week. Back to coming home to an empty house and sleeping in a lonely bed. Back to stalking the mailman for a letter. Back to constantly handling the stresses and the isolation and the hope that he'll be home soon.

Sigh. Yeah... I hate Mondays.

It will be better tomorrow.