Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Taylor Made

I sit here in prison and look back over my life.  The wild and crazy ride my life has been.  I have stated before that my daughter is by far the greatest accomplishment I have ever taken part in.  When I see her take her journey through life it's like watching a smaller, younger version of me.  I take pride knowing my blood pumps through her veins.  No one can take that away from me.

My little girl graduated this month.  I didn't do that.  My mother wasn't able to see me walk because I was expelled my senior year.  I'm now in prison and wasn't able to see my daughter graduate, but my mom did.  Mom say and saw her granddaughter walk in her cap and gown. This is one of those times that is indeed priceless.  Whether she knows it or not, my little girl just gave my mom and special memory.  I asked my mom to be my eyes and ears and to take pictures and bring me as close to the action as she could.

I have a great relationship with my daughter.  She knows I love her and that I'm proud of her.  The thing that scares me most is that I have two and half years here.  I told her the other day on the phone that I worry some boy will come along and steal her time away from me.  She laughed.

I have this dream she will still want to spend time with me when I get home.  That I can somehow take back all the lost years.  Perhaps I can give her back all those years I wasn't there in her life.  One thing is certain.... I'll spend the rest of my life cheering her on and being her biggest fan.

Being your daddy is the greatest gift God ever gave to me, Taylor.  You move me to be the best man I can be.  To never do wrong and to never have to leave again.  I love you from the bottom of my heart and always will.  Congratulations little lady!  You make me proud.

Your biggest fan,
Your dad

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Eighteen years ago I gave my daughter up for adoption.  At the time I was eighteen.  About six years ago, while here in prison, her mother contacted me.  She reached out and asked if I would come back into my daughter's life.  But, she under one circumstance.....if I stepped back into my little girls life, I had to never leave her again.  She said if I could come back and stay in her life, then I had her blessing. I don't know about other adoptions, but to me this was the gift of my life.  A second chance to be in my child's life.

I can't tell you how many times I look back over my life and see such a waste.  That is until I got my daughter back.  She is the best think I have every accomplished in 37 years of life.  Thank you Tami.

From this prison I have watched my sisters become mothers and my brothers become fathers.  They place pictures of me around their homes and point out to their kids who Uncle Mike (me) is.  They keep me alive because of their love for me. No matter my faults I am still big brother.  Thank you Abigail, Ester and Grace.

And my brothers, Aaron and Phillip, never forget what a privilege it is to be a dad.  I love you both.  And remember to appreciate and respect the woman who made your children with you.

To the woman who made me 37 years ago...I thank you for overlooking my faults and loving me unconditionally.  You have seen me become a moan.  You have watched me become a father to my daughter.  You are about to see me be set free.  I love you mom.

Since coming to prison, my most frequent visitor is my dad.  Driving nearly six hours one way to see me, then driving back at the end of visitation.  He comes here and I spend all his money on junk food while we laugh and enjoy our time.  We came a long way since I was a kid.  Thank you dad for loving me.

Last, but not least, to my lady.  She helps me do my time, she works full-time and is a mom.  But she has to do it all alone.  She will argue and say that I am in her heart and closer to her than most relationships.  My lady has been with me for several years and my head has never hit her pillow.  When this is said and done we will have been together nearly eight years.  About that time many people are getting divorced.  I will be putting a ring on her finger.  Thank you for choosing me.  I will make sure you never regret what you have sacrificed to wait for my return.  I love you more.

Please take some time to look at your own life.  Find the things your thankful for.  Let the people in your life know how much they mean.  Then send them a nice text to let them know how you're feeling.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy life, your children, your better half or maybe your lesser half.  Thank you for sharing a few minutes of your time with me and my thoughts.  May you and your family have a blessed holiday season.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Old School

There’s an old dude that sings a song about “keeping on rocking in the free world.” His name is Neil Young and he was some sort of a freedom-fighter in his day. I keep on tilling my own garden and blazing my own trail…… that doesn’t make a hero but rather, an individual. I prefer the term “independent”. 

While the other boys were playing football in the yard or piled on the couch with Nintendo, I enjoyed digging up bullets in the police shooting range. I rode my bicycle with a fishing pole strapped across my handle-bars. 

We were told to go outside and play and when it was dinner time Dad would step outside and whistle for us. He did that two fingers in the mouth “loud-whistle” that they use at concerts and when your favorite team scores a touchdown. When you heard Dad whistle, you knew it was time to get on home. I guess parents just text the kids now or send them a message on Facebook. Since the chances are their kids are somewhere in the house, holding some electronic device. 

Yard darts and pogo-sticks have been replaced by toys less likely to poke your eye out. 

I learned most of the stuff I know by watching my Dad or the neighbor man. Parents had to set some sort of example since their kids were watching them. Now their kids are too busy learning the rules from Google and YouTube. Times have changed since I was young. 

I hear about cars that will drive themselves and robots that will clean your home. It’s these kids who are google babies that love those ideas. More time for them to “surf the web” or whatever they do. No thanks! 

I want my own hand on the wheel, top-down, cruising the road with the radio on. Oh Yeah…I can plug up on Mp3 to the car and listen to my own playlist. No more commercials. OK, so technology does have some perks. 

It scares me to hand over more and more of my “hand on the wheel” for something else handling my business. I’m just not a fan of that. 

My lady tells me the other day she walked 7 miles before noon. I asked her how she knew? She replied that her IPhone tracks her movement and lets her know how far she’s traveled. If your phone tracks you, then so can anyone else who can get into your phone’s data….You can call ME on my old school Nokia. 

Don’t track me nowhere with a GPS. You can find me at the end of a dirt road. Track me to the lake…sitting at the end of the dock with my baby watching a sunset. Follow my fishing line from the bobber to the boat….where I’ll be chilling. 

And when you text me -- expect a real live call back. If you don’t have time for me, then I won’t have time for you. 

Three years and I’ll be home Momma. Keep the light on. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This Little Light of Mine

I carry a belief that there is a God.  I also believe that when I live according to a certain standard he will walk with me.  Before I chase you off, just chill....

There's on small problem and it's that I fly much faster than my guardian angel most days and I manage to lost that freedom.  The reality of life behind bars is the life here is savage.  I'm calling home and telling my lady we're on lock down because some dude had half his face cut off.  That's my reality.  Another part of that reality is there is no feeling other than...."better him than me."

This is where I struggle to walk that fine line of good and evil and heaven and hell.  My daily prayer consists of "Dear God, continue to bring your peace to my life."  And he does.  And I don't attend a Sunday service and tithe 10% or any of that.  God meets me much more than half way.  There was a time I really thought I was a badass.  I didn't have a clue.  I'll do my entire 30's in here.  Many of my friends have much longer sentences than I and I feel bad even mentioning that I am three and a half years to freedom.  However, in my last nearly seven years incarcerated I have experienced situations that have molded the man I am today.  Prison didn't rehabilitate me as much as I did myself.

In the same way, my attitude is "better him than me".  That completely changes when it comes to my family.  I know my lady, my sisters and my mom can hear a no bullshit (and at sometimes very harsh edge) to me that may seem scary, but they also see my heart.

I once tattooed a phrase on a man that stated, "If I know you, I fuck with you.  If I don't know you, then fuck ya!"  This was put on a nearly 300 pound black man.  That's just how he felt about shit.

Funny though....this life will give you that attitude. I don't necessarily feel like if I don't "know you"  than fuck you.  I feel more like you stay in your yard and I'll stay in mine.  We say back here to "stay in your own lane".  I like that.  Perhaps that's more my motto.

But then I think about my 17 year old daughter deciding she wants to come visit me here.  It's merely a dream that I play over and over and over again....  I make it through the door and into the visiting area.  She stands.  I see her.  That little girl all grown up.  She looks a little like me.  A lot like her momma.  I find that my breath is gone.  I exhale.  Standing before me is the best thing I've ever done with my life.

This will happen.  I've dreamed it over and over and I cry each time.  Was I saying I've become a badass?  What I became is a dad.  Only three and a half left huh?.....BRING IT!!  I can do this thing.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas From the Other Side of the Fence

I believe the holiday is perhaps the hardest time of the year for people doing time.  Our families all have someone missing at their table.  My mother is missing her oldest son.  Others are missing a brother and a child is missing a dad.

My loved ones do my time right alongside me.  They feel the weight of my sentence each day just as I do.  A very special wish to each of the people who love me enough to help pull me through this time in my life.

My brother and sisters, you are the best.  Brooke, you amaze me, thank you for your love.  Mom, I'm getting better all the time.  And to my daughter Taylor, remember the apple and quit being late to first period!!
Love, Michael

Well, it's that time of year again where...thanks to a very special group of people who care (friends) I get to send my lady a shout out and let her know how much I appreciate her and all she does for me.

Jennifer, I love you and thank you for the gift of love, respect, support and strength that you continue to give me.  Words cannot describe what you have come to mean to me...a toast!!!  To our future, Merry Christmas Love.

Mom...what love and patience you have with me.  you will always be my #1 gal!!  My gift for you is yet to come...I ask that you have just a little more patience with me.  Lots of love, hugs and kisses until then will have to do...remember I love you and am always thinking of you.  Merry Christmas mom.

P.S. Boruch Hashem Larry!!!  Have a blessed CHANUKAH!!  Always your brother.
Love, Michael

Another year over with.  That much closer to home.  Finally, my last Christmas in prison.  I want to wish you all a very special holiday season and know that you are all in my prayers.  This time next year we can all sit down, eat, drink and be merry!!  To my awesome family -- Merry Christmas!
Love, Benny

I want to first thank the Lord for the gentleman and his loved one for making this all possible -- thank you so much.  Everyone on this site is very grateful.  There are angels in prison.  My heart goes out to all of my loved ones who have endured this trial.  We've all been through so much together.  This Christmas I am so thankful for all the letters, pictures and support I've received.  Thank you, dad, for being my roc in here.  Thank you, grandma, for being my prayer.  I love you so much.  Thank you, Camille, for being the best sister every.  I'm going to take you gator hunting when I get home.  Sorry I didn't do all the outdoor things with you like I should have.  Nina and Dom, wow how you've both grown!  I can't wait to see you both.  Kimberly, what a true friend.  I love you.  Awesome pictures -- Melina is so big.  Merry Christmas, Shannon!  Thank you for being there for my grandma.  To Graclyn and your family, I pray that you and your family receive an overflow of rewards and love from heaven. Merry Christmas, Graclyn, your a"Amen".  I'm so blessed this Christmas.  I have a beautiful family with so much kindness -- thank you all!
Love, Jason

Dad & Terry,
Merry Christmas!  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.  You all have done the greatest thing for me since I've been in prison -- you all never, never left my side through the bad and good times.  You help me get through my problems I never thought I could get through.  I can't express all the love you've given me and always will.  I will see you all soon.  Thank you for being there.
Your son, James P.

Dear Family & Friends,
Mom and Bill, you are my rock!  Don't know where or who I would be in this life without you guys.  Remember always always.  To those who are apart of my life from sending pictures of food and kicking my butt in Uno to those you pray for me.  Thank you for ALL of you support over these long years.  Those who have come and gone through my life, I hope I helped you as much as you helped me in going through this plan God has for me.  Those of you who struggle with addictions, depression or bad relationships, this is not the end.  Stand tall and take control of your life.  If you need a friend, I'm here.  Thank you Mike and Brooke for doing this awesome project.  God Bless.  Have a wonderful time with your loved ones celebrating the coming of Christ.
Merry Christmas, Phillip

This is the third year running now that I'm giving this shout-out.  To all of you....and hopefully the last.  Things are looking good and with any luck I will be home for the holidays next year to  celebrate as a free man.  I love you all and Merry Christmas!
Love, Chris

Dear Naida,
I want to take the time to let you know how much I appreciate you in every way.  I want you to know that I love and miss ya'll so much.  And that you and my baby girl mean the world to me.  I hope you can understand that ya'll are who I think about day and night.  And that ya'll are the best thing that every happened to m.  I wish ya'll a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Love Forever & Always, Marquis

Dear Mom,
Thank you for all your hard work.  I could not do this time without your support.  I just wanna say you're the best and that I am sorry I am not there.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Love, Your Son, Derek

To my family, my friends and my love,
I hope that you are all having the times of your life.  Enjoy this Christmas and have a Happy New Year!  I love and miss all ya'll and I'm always thinking of you.  Sarah, I love you so much and hope that you can make the best of this.  Thank you for all of your support and helping me wake up every day.  I miss and love you with all my heart.
Love, Mike

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What would you do?

J.J. enjoys listening to Snap Judgement.  Recently, he laid in his bunk and listened to this heart breaking story. 

The Ultimate Sacrifice: NPR

Listen to the story.

When Joe and Yvonne Jackson found out their youngest son, Cole, was on the brink of life or death, they never imagined what they'd have to give up in order to save his life.
Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

Now for our first story, SNAP JUDGEMENT's Nancy Lopez is going to kick things off in the Republic of Texas.

NANCY LOPEZ, BYLINE: When Yvonne Jackson gave birth to her youngest son, Cole, everything seemed to be normal.

YVONNE JACKSON: A friend of mine had came over to see the new baby. We noticed that Cole had some little red dots all over him - it kind of almost looked like heat rash. I said, I think I should probably call the pediatrician. For some reason something's telling me I need to get him in there.

LOPEZ: Yvonne took Cole to the hospital where they ran a few blood tests. She was told to return in a couple of hours, so she dropped off her two older kids and her mother-in-law's.

Y. JACKSON: And as I pulled back into the parking lot, I saw Laura, the nurse practitioner, standing at the door. And I thought it was to unlock it and as soon as I walked up, Dr. Horner said - I mean, it was like, simultaneously - she said, Yvonne, I'm going to take you to the office, and Dr. Horner grabbed Cole and just ran down this long hallway. I was little in shock because at that time, I just thought - I mean, I thought it was a heat rash - you know, I just thought it was going to be something simple. There was never a thought in my head that Cole had this horrible disease.

LOPEZ: Yvonne's husband Joe was a truck driver. She says Joe was out on the road, and she didn't want to give him the bad news over the phone. So she waited a couple of weeks until he got back.

Y. JACKSON: I had Cole with me. I said, the baby's sick. He said, well, what do we have to do to get him fixed?

LOPEZ: It took six months before the doctors were able to give the Jacksons an answer. Turns out, Cole was born with the rare immunodeficiency disease known as Wiskott Aldrich syndrome.

Y. JACKSON: I was honestly relieved at that point thinking hey, we know what this is, we're going to get this fixed and that's that.

LOPEZ: But the disease is life-threatening. The immune system is defenseless and even a cold can be fatal. The doctors told Yvonne and Joe that Cole needed a bone marrow transplant and he needed one fast. They told him...

Y. JACKSON: That he would never see his third birthday, which would've been July. They said that's the only thing that could save him. That without that, that Cole would die.

LOPEZ: The problem now was money. The entire procedure cost $250,000, and the Jacksons needed half of that just to get the baby into the hospital. There other problem - they lost Cole's health insurance when a monthly fee didn't clear their bank account. They had no idea how they were going to come up with all that money. The doctors told them there was another option - they could send hospice in until the baby passed away.

Y. JACKSON: You don't tell a parent that you're going to keep their child as comfortable as possible just because they don't have the money. So you're saying that if I've got tons of money, my child can live, but if I don't have any money, my child needs to die? That shouldn't have been - that shouldn't have even been the question.

LOPEZ: They sold everything but their house. They sold Joe's second truck, some trailers and tools. They organized fundraisers, they had bake sales and car washes and rodeos.

Y. JACKSON: We called our Senators. We called everyone. I mean, we seriously called everyone that we knew at that time that we thought might be able to help us.

LOPEZ: But by the two-year deadline the doctors had given Yvonne and Joe to get Cole in the hospital, they had only raised $52,000. Then their prayers were answered. When word spread about their cause, an organization stepped up and matched it. Now with $100,000 the hospital agreed to go ahead with Cole's operation. But they still felt way too short. The hospital told them they still had to pay out the other $150,000.

Y. JACKSON: I would probably say I panicked a little more than Joe because I was worried that you know, what would happen if we didn't get the money. And I remember one night he just said, I'm going to give in, I'm not going to let him die. And he said, so don't worry. Your worry is to get Cole to the doctor, make sure the kids are good and safe and take care of them, and I'll make sure we get the money to get him well. He said this is your worry and I'll take care of the rest, because it's my job to take care of you all.

LOPEZ: Joe was on the road 24/7 hauling produce from Colorado back to Texas. Than hauling cattle to California and back again. And miraculously enough, he was covering all of the family's expenses, Cole's ever-increasing medical bills plus their mortgage.

Y. JACKSON: I think deep down maybe I knew that there was some - too much money coming in, but I also knew that it was getting the bills paid and we were able to stay at the hospital with Cole.

LOPEZ: Cole's transplant failed. As the doctors came up with the different treatment, the medical bills kept racking up - almost $5,000 a month. Joe kept assuring Yvonne that he was taking care of it. And somehow he was still getting everything paid. With time, Cole's health got more stable. He lived to see his third birthday and then his fourth. Life seemed to be finally getting a bit easier for the Jacksons. That is, until one morning.

Y. JACKSON: I was trying to get breakfast - get lunches packing and get the two kids ready for school and someone came over a loudspeaker and said, we need everyone in the house to come out with their hands up. I looked out the door and I said, what the heck is this? It went through my head that maybe they were at the wrong house. And so I told April - I said, April get John and Cole and go get on my bed and don't get off until I come back in the house because you know, they get a little gun happy or something - I don't want none of you all to get hurt. So stay in this house no matter what happens. Just stay in this house. I walked out the door with my arms up like they said.
First they have like, all these little red dot lasers on you. So I'm holding my hands up and then this guy just comes running by me - like, grabs me up like a sack of potatoes and runs me over to the other side of our - the driveway. He sat me down and this guy said, are you Yvonne Jackson and I went, yeah. Who's in the house? And I said, my kids are in the house. So April, Jackson, Cole and John - he said their whole names - are the only ones in the house? I said, yes sir. I said how did you know? And I'm like how did you know us? What's going on here? They really wasn't talking. They were just, you know, like, everybody was tons of people everywhere - the ATF coming to find out and the DA and all that were there. And he said, we're looking for your husband. We've got a warrant for his arrest. I said, for what? And then he starts telling me, well, he's been, you know, hauling drugs. What? I said, have you lost your mind? And so I told the guy, listen I'm going in to get my kids. And he said, no. You go in there and, you know, we'll shoot you. And I said, well, I guess you're going to have to shoot me because I'm going to go get the kids. They're scared, I've got to go get my kids right now. I just took off for the house.

LOPEZ: They didn't shoot. Yvonne rushed to gather up her kids and try to figure out what to do next. She was told not to return to the house for the rest of the day.

Y. JACKSON: I'm just, like, so confused at this point and scared and don't know what's going on. And so I actually dropped off my oldest son. I don't know why. I look back now and think I wish I hadn't done that. But I did drop him at school. And then my daughter says, I'm not going Mom. I'm staying with you because I'm scared. I said, me too. I don't know what's going on. Let's go to Nanny's.

LOPEZ: Yvonne spent the day just waiting for night to fall. That's usually when Joe called.

Y. JACKSON: He called me that night and I said, these people came into the house that he was like, what? So I told him what happened. He said, don't worry; I'll take care of it. It's OK. Don't worry about nothing. It's OK. It's OK. You know, I knew what had happened, what was going on at that point. He ended up hauling some drugs and they paid him to do that. And he did it to come up with the money for Cole.

LOPEZ: For two years, Joe was transporting methamphetamine. He would get a grand for every pound of meth he carried from California to Texas. A typical load was up to $11,000 worth of meth. Enough to pay for Cole's medical expenses. Joe turned himself in. The federal court in Fort Worth found him guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. At trial, the defense presented letters and evidence to show that the reason Joe did what he did was because it was his last resort. It was the only way to pay for his son's transplant. But the judge, notorious for his harsh sentences, didn't bat an eye. He sentenced Joe to life.

Y. JACKSON: Hi, Joe.

JOE JACKSON: How are you doing?

Y. JACKSON: I'm good how are you?

J. JACKSON: I'm doing all right.

LOPEZ: Joe has been locked up now for nearly 19 years. He's been moved around a lot and currently finds himself in a low security federal prison in Arkansas. He gets to talk on the phone five hours a month - but only in 15 minute increments.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Fifteen minutes, right?

J. JACKSON: Yes ma'am.


J. JACKSON: But, you know, if you need more time, we'll have to wait 30 minutes and I'll call you back.

LOPEZ: Joe's days are pretty much on repeat. He talks with Yvonne and the kids on the phone every week. He works at the prison grocery store, making 75 cents an hour. He gets off at five and that's when he calls me one Tuesday. Joe tells me that even after all this time, he clearly remembers what he told the judge when he sentenced him to life.

J. JACKSON: I said, you know, when that boy right there was dying and we tried every way in the world asking all of you people for help, every federal agency there was, you wouldn't help us. And I don't figure you're going to help me now. And that's exactly what I told the judge in my statement at sentencing. I done knew what I was fixing to get and it was over. My only regret was that he couldn't give me a death sentence. At least if I would've died or they would've put me to death my family could've got over it and got on with their lives. I hate it that my wife has sat out there by herself all these years. She works all day long and comes home to an empty house, you know.

LOPEZ: Joe has missed out on a lot - birthdays and graduations, watching his daughter get married, his grandchildren being born.
Joe, when you get look back is it something you would do again if faced with the same circumstance?

J. JACKSON: Well, you're asking me if I'd do anything different? I didn't like what I had to do then and I wouldn't like it if I had to do it now. I'm telling you what. I'm glad that I had that avenue to get big money fast other than say, walking in a bank with the gun because I would've done whatever I had to do. Do you have kids miss Lopez?

LOPEZ: I don't. I don't.

J. JACKSON: You'll understand when you have them. Believe me. It's still a blessing to me to have my kids healthy.

LOPEZ: Doctors never thought Cole would live past five and now he's 24. He has high blood pressure and takes a bunch of pills to boost his immune system. But overall he's pretty healthy. I talked to Cole and he says that growing up it took him a while to understand why his dad did what he did. Now that he's an adult he gets it. And actually, he can't help but live with some guilt about it.

J. JACKSON: I know it weighs on him. But I don't want Cole to feel guilty about it. It's not Cole's fault I'm here. I'll tell you, if I'm going to bring a child into this world then it's my duty to make sure he's got the best chance there is. And if he's sick like mine was I'm a sorry son-of-a-bitch if I wouldn't give my life to save his.

WASHINGTON: Thank you, Joe and Yvonne, for sharing your story. I keep thinking that if my kids were in trouble I might have a cell right next to Joe. If you're wondering, Joe may be a candidate for a special presidential pardon given to nonviolent drug offenders with clean prison records. We wish you the best, Joe. To learn more about Joe and his family's story check out reporter Malcolm Garcia's article at geurnicamag.com, we'll have a link as well at snapjudgment.org. That story was produced by Nancy Lopez with sound design by Renzo Gorrio.

Now when SNAP JUDGMENT returns, you don't need shoes to crash a plane. And sometimes nature is not your friend. When SNAP JUDGMENT'S Desperate Measures Episode continues. Stay Tuned.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014


Dad used to tell this story about my mom.  They went to get ice cream and mom tried to pass some sort of slushie through the window.  When it wouldn't fit, mom simply turned it sideways at which time the lid came off and the content spilled down the inside of the door. 

The story always made people laugh, at my moms expense.  Yet any time the story was told, my mother laughs hysterically, right along with everyone.  And that's the woman I call mom.  Seldom offended and quick to laugh, even if at herself. 

I was currently locked in the box for 45 days.  When I come to confinement I have my loved ones send me paper, envelopes and some crossword puzzles.  I don't ask for Sudoku because I don't get how to do them.

After being in the box that first week my packet showed up.  I smiled, then opened it.  Enclosed were the envelopes and stamps I needed, along with a pile of Sudoku puzzles.  Well, I used that paper and envelopes to write home to my lady and remind her it was CROSSWORDS I love to do.....

A few more days pass waiting on the pony express and the next packet arrives. I eagerly open it to find even more Sudokus.  Somewhat frustrated I none-the-less sit down and decide "screw it"....I will figure these things out.  The directions state:

1.  Each horizontal row shown in pink contains each digit exactly once.
2.  Each vertical column shown in yellow contains each digit exactly once.
3.  Each sub-grid or region shown in green contains each digit exactly once. 

Well, I think.  It's color coded so this shouldn't be that hard to figure out.  Some nice, easy, simple directions.  The only problem is that my sweet lady printed them off in black and white.  For some reason I suddenly pictured a slushie sliding down the inside of a window.  What we have here is a classic in the making.

And, it is the little things like this that keep me sane.  At the end of the day, even better than a Sudoku puzzle is real laughter.  Thank you so my lady and my mom for the best gift of all!  :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Visit with J.J. from The MOM

Visiting a prison is an experience; count yourself blessed if you have never done so.  For…if you have…it is likely because someone very dear to you is there. That makes it difficult, to say the least.  I try to visit my son twice a year, but sometimes it is longer than that between visits.  I was fortunate to be able to see him recently for a weekend and wanted to share what it was like.

Visiting hours at his prison are from 9 AM to 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday.  I arrived the day before and secured lodging.  Visitors are taken on a first come first served basis.  The people start lining up just off prison property before 6 AM.  I got there at 6:30 AM and was the 11th car in line.  Cars continued to arrive and a long caravan was formed.  At 7:30 AM the cars began to enter the complex and find parking. 

There is a covered area with benches on each side with seating for about 40 people.  Within fifteen minutes all the seats were taken and there were at least an additional 40 people standing around.

Let me backtrack for a moment and mention all the rules involved in entering a prison.  There is a dress code that you can read online.  The purpose is to not dress in any manner that would cause the inmates to “struggle”.  That means the rules primarily apply to women.  When I dressed that day I put great thought into my attire so that I would not be refused entry.  Now, I’m an elderly woman so modesty is natural for me; I was dressed extremely modest.  However, I wanted my son to know that I consider it a privilege to visit with him so I was dressed nicely.  Kind of “business professional”.

At 8:30 AM an officer comes to the gate and yells, “first five”.  The first five people in line go inside.  You have to go through a metal detector, empty your pockets, take off jewelry, kind of like security at the airport.  It takes 10 to 20 minutes for each group of five to go through the initial security.  You have to show ID and punch in a number that you were given the first time you visited and then press your hand print into a machine.  This generates a computer print out with a photo of you and the inmate you have been approved to visit.

I was in the second group of five.  As soon as I entered the first room to go through initial security the guard said I could not come in wearing what I had on.  The objection was to the shirt and sweater I was wearing.  The sweater was extremely light weight and you could see my arms through it.  Now, understand, you can wear very short sleeved stuff, as long as there is a cap sleeve it is approved.  But apparently seeing an arm through a loosely crocheted sweater is too sexy!  The officer told me there was a Dollar General some miles away where I could purchase something appropriate.

I left the entrance and returned to the area where the other visitors were waiting on the benches.  I was crushed.  I rarely get to visit my son and now I will lose at least an hour while driving to buy something else to wear.  When I got outside people asked me what happened.  I was almost in tears and explained my blouse and sweater were not approved.  Now my car was parked some distance away and the thought came to me….I just asked to the group, “Does anyone have a shirt I could borrow?”

One lady jumped up from the bench and said she had something in her car that would probably work.  We both ran out to the parking lot and she pulled out a long sleeved white t-shirt.  I was worried because white is almost always rejected as the prison feels that you can see a bra strap or something through white so I continued to be anxious.  I put it on (sitting in the car in the parking lot).  I was worried they would not approve this so I took my crocheted sweater and put it on top of the long sleeved shirt. 

The others waiting were kind enough to allow me in with the next five people.  The officer looked at me and said, “I told you that you cannot wear that sweater because you can see through it.”  I was stunned….what you could see were the sleeves of the shirt!  I asked him if the shirt was alright and he said yes but the sweater had to go.  I stepped outside and the group waiting groaned in unison.  I explained that I couldn’t wear the sweater.  One woman reached for it; I took it off and tossed it to her.  (I would have lost ten minutes more taking it to my car.)  I hurried back inside again as I did not have to go out the gate this time.  The officer said, “What did you do with it?”  I said I gave it to a person waiting.  He said, “You have to get rid of it, it is contraband.”

By this time I am ready to collapse with anxiety.  All I want to do is have this day with my son.  I am not a rule breaker and try very hard to do what is right.  I exited the building again.  I took the sweater from the woman and threw it in the garbage outside the building.  When I entered the building again the officer asked me what I did with it and I told him I threw it away.  Now he is really upset!  He said, “I told you that is contraband”.  “You left it where an inmate could get it when he empties the garbage!”  “Take it to your car.”

Now I am crying.  I left yet again and opened the garbage (which is outside the prison by the way), took my sweater to my car and returned.  Again the group waiting were kind enough to let me go in with the next group.  My heart was pounding and it was all I could do not to cry.  All I could think about was having driven over 1300 miles to visit with my son and every minute of this foolishness is subtracted from my time with him.

I made it through initial security.  Then you meet with another officer who writes down what jewelry you are wearing and glasses you have with you.  Then you go to a private room to be “frisked” by a female guard.  There were 3 other woman in this room with me.  Of course they had all seen what I had gone through.  One lovely woman looked at me and began to pray that Jesus would give me peace and that I would have an amazing visit with my son. 

And I did have an amazing visit!  To hug him and be hugged back!  To plan for the future and give thanks for today!  Michael went to the lady who gave me the shirt and thanked her.  Later he went to the woman who prayed with me and thanked her.

The visiting park began to fill up.  At about 11:30 AM the guards began to call off the names of the first visitors who arrived and they had to leave to make room for others who were waiting outside!  Over 15 visitors had to leave before noon that day.  If I had gotten in with the first 3 groups I would have been ordered to leave early as well.  Someone was watching out over me that day!  God knew how much that visit meant to both me and my son and He allowed us to have that day and the next together.

I don’t know the two ladies who assisted me or if they will ever read this.  But I do pray blessings on them and their loved ones.  The world, even the prison world, is full of remarkable people.

The MOM 

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Shits crazy.  Dude asked me the other day how long I've been making art.  I told him only a couple of years.  He asked me what I did before that. 

Before that I was leveling dirt piles with a front-end loader and smoking crack.  The only art I drew were lines across a mirror, then I snorted them.  I still draw lines, just a very different type.  Sure, there's the art, but I draw many lines.  I draw line between me and people I don't like.  There's a nice thick line between me and drugs and the lines just as thick between me and my ex-wife. 

I live in a place full of worthless people.  I'm in the bottom of a septic tank of stink.  It would probably blow my mind had I not been surrounded by much the same even before prison.  Watching people melt dope in a spoon, then pull it into a needle.  Find a vein and plunge themselves into bliss.  If that's what you call it.  A world where your children and the people who truly love you no longer exist.  I sit in a life behind bars and somehow manage to make myself better.  I feel for those who are still chasing an escape from a life they feel has betrayed them.  Mr. T use to say "I pity the fool."  I was once that fool.

Today, I live, eat and sleep around people who spend every cent their hard-working families send to them on drugs.   The prison system is full of that K-2 synthetic marijuana stuff.  It's a chemical mixed up in sprayers and then sprayed over a mixture of herbs or parsley.  Once dried, it's then rolled up and smoked like weed.  Except it's far from a natural high.  You're inhaling a chemical that smells like burning tires.  This is a newly designed drug that fucks people up and nobody know the long-term effects of yet.  Like the idiots they are, these guys line up and smoke it up.  Addicts on the street come to prison and live the same way here.  Their families have no idea their loved one spends all their money on dope.  They think their loved one is treating himself to a hot sandwich or a cold ice cream.  Instead, that 50 bucks Johnny gets is paid to the dope man.  When that money runs out, old Johnny then begins to rob others to support this habit. 

So a guy doing time has to watch his back for guys like Johnny.  He's either trying to take your shit, or he's high and unpredictable.  He may just punch you in your shit.  That's the life I navigate each day.

Today, I draw a lot of lines.  Some are drawn on papers and let me express myself in the form of art.  Other lines have been drawn separating me from people in my past who held me back.  I make decisions and walk a line between good and bad.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Still, I don't want to act like the guys I live with, so there are lines to draw here. 

When I'm released from prison, I will have given them 10 years of my life.   A lot of shit happens in 10 years.  I grew up here.  I got free from drugs here.  My daughter came back into my life here.  I reconnected with my childhood friend here, who now helps me do this project and my time.  I picked up a talent here and it's my art that will support my family when I come home. 

Life is what you choose to make of it.  This place don't own me, I run this shit.