Women.

“Scientists found women were more resilient and lived longer overall — even during good times. When life expectancy increased, women still outlived men by an average of between six months and four years.

The gap was most pronounced during hard times, however. When famine hit Ukraine in 1933, young females lived 50 percent longer than males.”

You can’t deny the strength of a woman. We are warriors.

This last weekend I spent time with some of the most resilient women I know. The pain they have had to endure would bring most to their knees. But yet, there they stand, ready to learn then leadership skills to take on more. In spite of it all.

So many times I’ve wanted to quit. So many times I’ve been ready to toss in the towel. But for one reason or another, I haven’t. But these ladies have even lost those things. The very things that kept me going.

I’ve seen hard times.

They’ve seen worse.

I’ve endured trauma.

Theirs far succeeds anything I had to endure.

I’m blown away.

Yet, I’m honored.

I’m honored to be in the same gender category.

We are queens.

We have strength like no ones business.

We get shit done.

We see a need and we so something! We don’t just sit there and wish for it to better. We find solutions! We learn new skills so we can become stronger!

If you are still not convinced of your power come hang out with this squad! You’ll be introduced real fast!

Imprisonment-denying us of our children-reinforcing trauma…it’s wrong. It’s a form of cruelty. We need to find a better way. This is not the solution.

Putting me in a cage, categorizing me as unfit, increasing my shame; won’t make me better. It makes me bitter.

Removing our kids from us doesn’t protect anyone. It continues the cycle. You take the kids, they grow up and lose their kids…until finally one says “enough” and that cycle breaks. Find that one and help her!

Science may of studied it…but I’ve witnessed it. Women kick ass!!! Let’s stop calling her shameful names and instead give her the tools to transform into the leader she truly is!

Second chances are often the first chance…

She’s going places…

person wearing beige sweater holding map inside vehicle
Photo by Studio 7042 on Pexels.com

So much excitement these days. While I’m doing what I can to eliminate extra activities and to stay mindful of what really matters, it seems as if my desire to peruse support for women in transition is taking off.

Still doing what I can to stay grounded, but I’m so inspired and encouraged by all the possibilities.

Being a woman, a previously incarcerated woman brings so many challenges. Shame, guilt, insecurities; those are just a few.

Having support and someone walking alongside you is crucial. Even if the person can’t fully relate, knowing you have someone who simply “gets you”– gives you the feeling they “got you!”

I remember the day so well…and the days that led to it. I couldn’t do it anymore. Transitioning from X31857 back to Michelle, a wife and mother had had its toll on me. I didn’t think I would ever recover. But then, out of nowhere, someone said, “me too” and EVERYTHING changed. Just knowing I wasn’t alone, hearing I wasn’t so weird after all, empowered me. Before I knew it I was feeling like I did have a future after all. That I would make it back!

It’s been 7 years. And where I am today I would have NEVER imagined being possible. Sure, there are tough days. There are tough days for everyone. Even those who haven’t been to prison. But those days turn into nights and those nights turn into new days. Days of hope. 2nd chances.

I want to be there for other ladies. I want to build a community so large and loud that every single woman knows from the gate, that she isn’t alone.

I can’t relate to losing my kids as so many incarcerated mothers have. But I can still hold her hand. And I can lead her to someone who has!

I’ve never been without a home. But I can open my heart to someone who is and bring them a meal.

So many opportunities. So many dreams.

But for today, I’ll be a voice. I’ll share my stories, my struggles, and my victories. I’ll welcome her home with open arms, and a backpack full of hygienes! Perfume and makeup too! Yes, those things are important. When we look good, we feel good. And when we feel good, we go places!

Here’s to Women In Transition and Women Supporting Women!

Look out world! Here she comes!

Just to see you smile💞

These last couple of days have been spent inside California Institute for Women. Aka CIW. CI/Wonderful for the old timers.

I went in with my job, Defy Ventures. It’s a 6 month entrepreneur course that “transforms hustles” for the largest group of underdogs.

Yesterday we had 34 women graduate, many wearing a cap and gown for the very first time.

These events begin with a Business Pitch Competition, much like Shark Tank, and end with them walking the stage, dressed in their beautiful caps and gowns, tassels dangling, sporting huge smiles, receiving their hard earned certificates from our CEO, Andrew Glazier, and the Chief Deputy Warden, Mr Jones, (who personally shakes every girls hand.) All this while their families and volunteers cheer so loudly that you can hear the excitement through the entire prison yard. (I know this to be true because there’s a bunch of lookie loos peeping in to see what going on!)

I have worked several of these events with many different roles, but this particular event is always a little more personal for me.

You see, this event is held in a prion I once resided in. Some of these girls are my friends, but all our my sisters. Because we are bonded. For life. So it effects me differently.

I always give my heart, I’m always committed to give my best, but this place…it takes my dedication to a whole new level. I feel like it’s expected of me. I made a promise when I left that place…a promise to never forget. To continue to support them, fight for them, and to never stop fighting for them. Thanks to Defy, I’m able to keep those promises as part of my job. Which I count as a HUGE blessing.

While planning this event I asked my boss if I could take the lead in one of the exercises. He agreed. But like a boss, he made a stipulation; I had to share with the crowd exactly why I wanted to do this. I acted like it was a sacrifice, but between us it was a joy. Any opportunity to bring attention to them or raise money for them to Program is a joy.

However, what happened earlier on the day was where the real joy transpired.

I was standing along the side lines preparing for the next event while the names of the finalist were being called. And as I watched each of their faces light up at this news I was moved like never before. Their confidence lit the room up! The smiles, confidence, and pride would make a dead heart beat again. I have never seen anything like it. (Yes, I cried)

So with that. I have added a new event to my agenda; “To see them smile.”

So as I lay here in bed, nursing my aching body from 2 long back to back days, I whisper a ”thank you” to God for allowing me this amazing opportunity. And to my boss too if he sees this.

Defying the odds. One life at a time. 🖤

Prison Blues.

Overwhelmed. Stressed. Hurt. Rejected. Angry. Sad. Discarded.

Hopeful.

Yes. In spite of it all all, I’m confident that this too shall pass.

I don’t want to be held.

I want to be heard.

I want to be seen.

I want to be acknowledged.

I feel so invisible.

Like my contribution means nothing.

That no one even sees me or my efforts.

Healthy me says what can you do to be noticed? What is it they need?

Unhealthy me says you’ll never matter.

They don’t want you, they don’t need you.

Meanwhile I’m drowning in the middle.

Self pity kicks in. Self doubt.

If only you wouldn’t of gone to prison.

Oh no. Here it is again. The ol’ prison blues.

But still I remain hopeful.

I haven’t given up just yet.

God has shown me over and over that this is simply a detour.

Does it remove the pain? No. But it gives me the strength to get up. To face another day. Determined.

That’s what I am.

Determined.

I Am Worthy!

Why is it when someone does something wrong to my kids, I am the first to call them out. Momma Bear style. But yet, when something is done wrong to me, I make excuses. It’s like I feel as if I don’t have any right because of all the wrong I’ve done.

Today I did something to change that. I dug deep and defended myself.

Calling someone out for doing something I have been guilty of myself is hard. It requires more than a backbone, but a self-confidence bone.

This “incident” happened last week, by someone with “power” over me. They made some comments that were unwelcomed and made me uncomfortable. I didn’t think much about it until it was all I could think about. Who gives anyone the right to talk to me like that. I am a woman, I am a wife and I am a mother. I am a human being. Regardless of my past. I am worthy!

I wrote the complaint over the weekend but did not submit it until today. After I clicked “send” I panicked. I was flooded with self-doubt and fear. But if I have learned anything it is to take that fear and dance with it. Don’t give it the power. Sure enough, after a few hours, (and a call to my powerful feminist daughter) I was back to feeling confident with my decision.

*Spoiler Alert* This is not referring to a harassment complaint against anyone I work with! Let’s just be clear!

I wish I could share details, but it’s really not important. What is important is that we learn as ex-somethings, that we do have rights to be treated fairly. Regardless of the other person position, we are humans and we need to be respected, regardless of how we dress, act, or of our past mistakes. No matter where I am in life, at the bottom or at the top, or somewhere in-between, I deserve the same treatment as the next person.

So, in closing, if someone says something or does something to make you feel less than as a person; say something. It doesn’t have to be a lawsuit; it could be a one on one conversation, or it could be more official. Just don’t let it continue. If we continue to brush off the small things, they will think it gives them permission to continue on to bigger things. You might just be saving someone else.

A new road​.

As previously mentioned, I recently sought the help and guidance of a therapist. I originally went with the desire to learn how to cope with a recent tragedy that occurred in our family.  I knew my backstory played a lot into the inability to properly process, but I also knew I wasn’t ready to pick that up yet. Starting out with my childhood was something I was not ready to do, nor really had the time to do since there were more pressing issues at hand.

Past trauma. I’ve had a lot, and it goes deep. As far back as I can remember there really has never been much calmness. My time in prison intensified past trauma as well as created more. The mere thought of discussing it sends shivers down my spine.

My first appointment was more about describing what got me there. Abandonment, childhood, divorce, prison, and then the recent bombshell in our home. You know, all the normal stuff, lol

I’m sure she was a little startled, but really I didn’t care at this point. (And to her credit, she kept full composure)

She asked me how I had been coping.

Hmmm, “survival mode,” I said.

Natural born survivor. That’s me.

But I want to transform that survival into a warrior. I no longer want to just make it through the storm. I know there’s a better way out there and I am ready to learn it.

Her first suggestion was to “act as if…”

Act as if you are a forgiven mom. Act as if you are already a warrior, act as if you have forgiven yourself.

Forgiven self…what does a forgiven self person even act like I wonder. I was not familiar with such behavior.

And so it began. I sought the skills I needed to obtain to be forgiven. The first one turned out to be the only one. Self-Compassion. 

Being kind TO ME. Being my own BFF. Talking to myself like I would talk to a friend. Embracing my pain, comforting my fears, and allowing myself to make mistakes.

I began listening to podcasts on the subject and I began practicing the skills that they suggested.

Reminding myself that it is human to feel the way I was feeling. Relaxing more. Acknowledging that it is hard and to feel compassion for myself. Asking myself what I could do to help myself through this hard time; all the things I would do for a friend. Even putting my hands over my heart when I was experiencing a time I would usually scold myself. (Most times just recognizing I was beating myself up was a huge accomplishment)

I have learned that shame is my enemy. And the antidote to this shame is self-compassion.

These skills and this sort of mindset is not easy for me. It takes a continues conscious effort. But the thing that makes it work is my commitment; my promise to myself. My deep desire to win this war within myself.

I also recognize that I am not any good to others if I don’t take care of me. And helping others is my passion. Going back in prisons, inspiring the left behind, and sharing hope gives me purpose. It feeds my soul. But I also know I need help. I can’t give away what I don’t have. I’ve been able to make a difference, and inspire others by sharing my own experiences. Now it’s time to take it to the next level, with an end result having even more to offer.

So my bags are packed and the gas tank is full, let’s take a ride down this new road!

 

Freedom Day.

Something about this day makes me stop in my tracks; makes my heart beat fast with excitement, and my knees bend in gratitude. Overwhelmed by emotions and memories. Somewhere in the middle of good, bad, happy, sad, remorse and gratitude, I sit here in awe.

Reflecting back I can’t believe I have survived. Looking back I can’t believe how f’ing strong I am! That goes to show the complexity of the emotions of this day.

Today I celebrate 7 years of freedom. Lucky 7! If you have known me for any amount of time, you know how much I love this day. It’s a National Holiday in this house! We all celebrate. Because it took all of us! I would have never made it out, and I definitely wouldn’t have made it this far without my family. Including the family who doesn’t live under our roof. My older kids have been just as inspirational as the younger ones. I’m sure the older ones have also helped the younger ones in ways I don’t know about.

Thanks to Facebook, I am reminded of the triumphs and trials of each year. Every year “on this day appears,” and every year I read them. Line for line and word for word. I relive the heartache, the trials, the victories, and the happiness. Because ultimately, regardless of the vicissitude, I am absorbed in joy.

Year 7 has definitely been one of the most challenging. Our family has endured hardship, setbacks, and more moments of despair than ever before. But! We have also come together like never before. We have proven to one another that regardless of how we act towards one another, we are family and we love one another.

For me personally, it has been a tough year. I have never felt such moments of guilt and shame. I have been confused, let down, angry,  and scared. I have been defeated, setback and seen more of my old ways then I’d like to admit. The struggle has been real as they say in prison!

But once again. I have taken the lemons and made lemonade. Even though most of the time I spiked the juice! lol

The hardship brought me to my knees and eventually to the couch of a therapist. I have learned through the loss of a dear friend that I have a new friend. Her name is Michelle. Yes, I am my new BFF. We are just beginning this journey, but I am confident this relationship will grow to be something powerful and meaningful. Right now we are just working on being kind to one another. Treating each other like we treat others. I talk to her as if I am talking to one of the ladies inside, tenderly and with kindness. I hold her when the road gets bumpy and we cheer to the small victories.

If there is one thing that this year has shown me it’s that freedom in itself is a gift. Freedom gave me the gift of holding my first grandchild, the gift of being able to hold the hand of my husband during one of the scariest moments of our life, and the joy of my daughters voice telling me she was getting married, and not having to read it in a letter or hear about it after everyone else. You see, being home as things happen is a joy after being gone for so long. Even though there was the hardship, I was just so grateful to be here for them instead of locked up trying to help through a phone call, or wondering how everyone is doing.

During this last year, I have been stretched too thin, and I have walked on new ground. Both have taken the breath out of me and both have exhausted me. I realize now, I have some serious soul searching ahead of me. But I have also learned that mistakes are part of life and not all mistakes hurt people.  I am so used to hurting people in my mistakes that I forgot there was such a thing as “learning mistakes,” and that these mistakes can actually help mold me into becoming the person I long to be.

So with that, I am once again reminded of the challenges from #lifeafter and encouraged by the fact that this too shall pass. Good or bad, all things pass. Life can change in a moment, for better or worse. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready! (more prison talk)

I will spend the day celebrating the victories, with the people I love! I will thank God for another year of Grace, and make a list of goals for year 8! I have many things I want to do, and bearers I want to break. Most of all I want to embrace my passion, enjoy this new gift of self-compassion, and remember to take it slow. I want to show love while I can, take time to heal, steps to grow, and embrace everything in between. After all, life can change in a New York minute!

 

 

 

This Girl’s On Fire💥

I thought it would only be appropriate to make my first blog about fire and a fire camp warrior since half our state is on fire and my entire purpose of this blog is about #lifeafter.

This girl.

She spent 5 1/2 years in prison…for something we are all probably guilty of one time or another.

She paroled in 2013 and has been on fire ever since.

She is now working on a fire crew in the real world. Getting paid, and making a living from it.

So many ladies have this desire, but unfortunately, our society doesn’t allow it to happen because of their past convictions.

But my friend here, she refused to give up. They would allow her to come on crew late. (Meaning half way through and they were desperate.) But she would take it, and she ran with it. She embraced the opportunity and proved herself. Probably worked harder than the rest, since she was not just fighting with the “felon” label, but as a woman too!

Meanwhile, in between seasons, she would still train herself. Her determination and commitment was 24/7.

fire orange emergency burning
Photo by Little Visuals on Pexels.com

She had to give up the lifestyle of her past, associated with only positive people and spent much of her time making calls, going to classes and living as if she was who she wanted to be.

This is now year 5 on crew. And one of the first returned calls season after season!

She’s out there this very moment, on line with Captains, Superintendents, Chiefs, and Foreman. Many who supervised her while in prison!

And this is what I mean by never giving up.

And what I mean when I say we do come out better people!

We need to not give up on ourselves, and society should recognize our changes too!

Just a couple months back, I sat in a city council meeting with members from my own neighborhood who looked straight at me and said, “this is not the place for your kind.”

Well, I beg to differ. This is the type of people you do want as your neighbors. Dedicated, hard-working, and a firefighter!

In closing, her message to us all is, “Don’t think you can’t, because you can!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you, my friend, for allowing me to share this, for your friendship, for being an example of #lifeafter and most of all, for risking your life to serve others!

You are a hero.💥

Coming out!

I have struggled with fear, self-confidence, and unworthiness for so long. But today I made the decision to push it all aside and go public with my blog.

If you are looking for the perfect story writing, this is not for you. If you are looking for real-life struggles and triumphs, well then this is the perfect place for you!

I’m just a girl with a dream. A believer in second chances, and a social justice warrior.

More importantly, I am a wife, a mother to four amazing and resilient children, and a fur mom to a Boston Terrier who saved my life.

I left prison almost 7 years ago after 5 years, 7 months and 27 days. I focused so hard on that release date that I didn’t even realize I wasn’t prepared for the life after.

This blog will be about those struggles. And the victories. As well as everything in between.

So again, thank you for joining me.