Saturday, September 17, 2011

More Questions Than Answers!

In my last blog I was telling you about my one week in Santa Fe Women's Detention Center, prior to being released on bail, as a result of the Grand Jury indictment in Dallas.  You may be wondering why it took a week, as we hear about it just taking hours or a day when we read the newspaper or watch television.  I can tell you, I was arrested on April 7, 2004 which was a Wednesday just prior to Easter weekend.  The amount of the bond was not an issue as I was considered a low flight risk, it was set at $20,000 which translates to $2,000 plus I was allowed to remain living in New Mexico.  But, I had at least a couple things creating delays.  One was not having any experience in such matters whatsoever, my family and I didn't know how the system worked or I should say, how to work the system.  The other of course was being Easter weekend and Good Friday, the system just wasn't working, everyone was taking off and coordinating efforts between Dallas, TX and Santa Fe, New Mexico was next to impossible.  Judges in and out, attorneys here and there, families to be with, Easter egg hunts to administer....

As I previously mentioned, my first 32 hours were spent in a holding cell.  Following the arraignment I was given a khaki-colored uniform and taken to the "back" where those staying were housed.  The general population "pod" where I was assigned held 24 inmates with 2 to a cell, the individual cells sharing a day room and showers.  There were tables and a television in the day room.  This was a bit better than the holding cell but certainly not the comforts of home.

My first roommate was a young woman in her early twenties, also a mom.  Evangeline was helpful, explaining how things worked in the system, as well as how to get along within the group of women.  There are many unwritten rules for surviving.

The next day following the transfer was Good Friday.  We had a visit from the Archbishop out of Santa Fe.  He came into our pod and gave a very touching prayer asking for redemption of our lost souls.  I had tears in my eyes and just held on tight. I wanted to be with my two sons.  I didn't even get to say goodbye to them or assure them I love them and would be home soon.  When they took me away from my home the morning of the 7th, Nate was still sleeping and Brandon had spent the night with a friend since it was spring break.  Prior to the Archbishop's visit I kept pushing my boys out of my mind because the pain of possibly losing them was more than I could endure.  With the Archbishop there and God's presence feeling closer than ever I could no longer avoid those thoughts and feelings.

The grief felt unbearable as though it was pressing in on my heart and I could barely breathe.  How could those men who falsely accused me be so cruel?  How could their lies have the power to rip me away from my dear family?  How could people be nothing more than objects to discard when you are finished with them?  Was it just cold-hearted business or was there more?  Was there something else that I had in my possession or was in my memory that they were afraid of my telling?  What was their motivation to destroy another human beings life on this earth?  If I couldn't think like them, then how could I ever figure this out?  In His time, and His way, would God give me the answers and with this, the understanding, grace and protection to move forward?  This was my prayer.

As time passed, I talked and shared with more of the women.  I went to every Bible study and became more hopeful.  A couple women were interested in the Dialogue process that we used at The NOAH Project.  We used this process with the parents of the children and our staff to explore beliefs we held about our special children, discard beliefs that did not help us or our children and decide on new beliefs to replace those that no longer served us.  On an individual basis I worked with each of these women.  One woman explored her self destructive choices with drugs and the other woman decided to explore her tendency toward engaging in abusive relationships.

After the dialogue, each woman commented on how refreshing it was to just be asked questions to help explore and to not be judged.  They were used to everybody giving them advice but this was the first experience they had where the person (me) trusted them to have their own answers and to know they were their own best expert.  I smiled as I knew they were building their own skills to help themselves and this was just a beginning if they so chose.  I suggested a couple books of Barry Neil Kaufman's if they wanted to go further with this learning.  I was inspired by their personal strength and their wanting to heal and grow their lives.

I was bonded on Monday at 4:00 p.m. but it actually took two more days for Santa Fe to release me.  The Judge in Santa Fe had set a "no bond", and had given Texas 10 days to come for me....which they did not took an additional amount of time to get that cleared, bringing my stay to exactly 7 long days (and long nights) which at the time seemed like an eternity.  Even then I'm sure God knew I would have to endure much MUCH more before this nightmare was over.  I remind myself often (then and now) God does not give us more than we can handle and He is always with us, we are not alone. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Transformation Within the Jail/Prison Culture

I want to write often, as many things come to my mind, but so much relates to the details of my case and as you know that part has been shut down for the time.  In staying with the purpose of my blog I have somewhat limited my scope.  In thinking over this dilema I have returned to my book draft and the very earliest experiences of my case, I believe there are things I can speak to as they have nothing to do with my defense, the prosecution, pretrial hearings or the trial itself. 

As a business woman, mom and rule follower, not at all acquainted with our justice system, I found I was in for an enormous culture shock.  Part of the preparation I had to handle this was in the 70's at the University of New Mexico.  I had taken a few sociology and psychology classes and from one of those had a reading assignment that made a tremendous impact on my thinking.  Alvin Toffler's book "Future Shock" was the beginning of my training grounds.  His definition of "future shock" was "too much change in too short a period of time".  Ah, yes that certainly did happen to me.  While Toffler was talking about the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving us disconnected and with a feeling of "shattering stress and disorientation", I could apply that feeling to the culture I found in the bowels of our justice system, that being the county jail in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In addition, my many years of attending courses at The Option Institute in Sheffield, MA, coupled with my Christian beliefs brought me through the experience.

I was first contacted by a Dallas PD detective December 9, 2003.  I was then indicted by a Grand Jury in March 2004.  I was officially notified of that indictment by a call from the DPD detective on the morning of April 5, 2004.  Following that call I spoke to several attorneys both in New Mexico and Texas.  I was arrested 48 hours later on April 7, as I was on the phone arranging payment and transfer of information to a Dallas attorney.  I was taken to the county jail in Santa Fe.  It was an entire week before I was released on bail.  That week is what I want to share with you over the next couple blog posts.  Following is an excerpt from my book draft:

     Being in jail was like walking into a whole different country with a completely new language.  My first 32 hours were spent in the holding cell.  There were 8 to 10 of us women at any time, dressed in red pants and shirts, sitting on benches that surround the inner wall, with a metal toilet sitting at one end of the room.  At the other end was the door which was bolted, latched and electronically controlled, with a long thin window.  The walls were made of cinder block and painted a dreary white, the floors were cement, which I understand is quite vogue these days.  This was a stark contrast from the last time I stayed overnight in Santa Fe at the beautiful La Fonda Inn on the square with my two young sons.

     There was absolutely nothing to do, so we all just talked like we'd known each other for years.  Now some had heard of each other or knew of family members or distant relatives and a couple had an old boyfriend in common.  This appeared to be a very small world that seemed to reacquaint itself from generation to generation inside these barricaded walls.  Some were buying their supplies of crack from another's mother, while others were looking for a new source.  This holding cell was a true place for "power" networking, depending on how one defines power.

     Every sentence spoken had the "F-word" at least once and one time I was able to count up to four "F-words" in one sentence.  I had to ask the woman how she did that, I was amazed at how she structured the sentence, and would have written it down if I'd only had a paper and pencil.  The "F-word" can be used as an adjective, verb, noun, pronoun, adverb, even a dangling participle.  To think, Webster's doesn't even seem to know this.

     It took about three hours before anyone asked me why I was there; I hadn't offered and was content to listen to everybody else's stories.  But, even there, the rules of being a group member apply.  Once I started to explain, it seemed they were mesmerized because my story was so different from the others and we spent the next two hours on the subject of autism, belief systems and changing attitudes that create new beliefs.

     What seemed to take place in those two hours was a group of women with very little hope transforming to a place of hope.  After all, if there can be hope for these special needs kids who have been written off by society, couldn't there also be hope for them?  This is a transformation they were able to generalize for themselves, it was not a thought I had directed.  As humans, when we hear something, we naturally put it in perspective by seeing how it relates to self.  After just three hours in jail, I had become an avid student of my fellow inmates, learning and adapting to this new culture.  And, within four hours I found myself informally teaching (albeit to a captured audience) belief systems and how they mold our experiences.

     "No place to go, nothing to do."  Those were the words in a recent relaxation exercise in which I had participated.  These words were meant to clear the clutter and chatter we carry in our heads.  In jail, there were hours where time ticked away slower than I could barely stand, and to think I had actually worked at finding this place in my mind just a few weeks earlier.  Everything I had come to know in the healing of my life was being tested.  I found it difficult to sit still, especially since I didn't know how long I would be there and if they would ship me to Texas, regardless of my fear for my life.  I knew the key to my sanity was to move out of these thoughts and stay completely in the present moment.  I remembered one of the quotes from Barry Neil Kaufman's books "Unhappiness exists either as a regret about the past or a worry about the future.  The cure: be present."  I had the answer, now it was up to me to find that place of peacefulness and calm inside of me, only focusing on the moment.

     While public speaking and training others I had taught people we are in charge of our every life experience, I was struggling to hold that lesson for myself through the long, excruciating hours.  I had to keep taking charge of my wandering fearful and angry thoughts.  In the past I could move on by just consuming myself with doing something and quite often that took the form of allowing numbers to just wash through my existence.  Someone in the cell started counting the cinder blocks to make the time go by.  Those numbers did not comfort me; they only served to irritate me.  I could not use my left brain to hide this time; I had to pull from the depths of my soul to keep going.

     Another thing I had to learn was my every request would be ignored.  I supposed this was some form of behavior modification, perhaps trying to teach us this was not the place to be.  Or maybe this is where people worked who had a need to wield power over those who are helpless and did so under the guise of the penal system.  I suspect the answer is both behavior modification and bullying needs being met; another form of displaced anger which continues to be fueled.  I remember thinking, no wonder most inmates don't rehabilitate, there appears to be two responses to this treatment, one is anger and the other is to withdraw, each a matter of survival.  I thought of the children who had come to us at The NOAH Project (special school for children with autism) from a behavior modification discipline and how some came in very angry and violent while the others were completely exclusive (within their own world), there seemed no middle ground.

     Instead of the two extremes, I wanted that middle ground.  I was looking for a happy place inside of me so time would pass effortlessly and I could create the best experience for myself moment to moment with every person I met, rather that person was a jailer, inmate or visitor.  This became my focus and I found myself a much happier participant of what originally seemed to be an unfriendly, rigid system.  I wanted to move beyond the survival mode to a place of meaningful existence.

     There were times I could feel anger building and building inside of me, like a spiral down to darkness.  There was anger toward my false accusers and the Detective.  Sometimes the anger circled in my head as if it would explode and I would ask myself the questions, "How is this anger helping me?  Is it somehow serving me?" and the answer was always "No."  Then I'd remind myself, what we focus on becomes bigger.  Years earlier, while working with Nate (my special needs son) in our home based program, I had decided to commit myself to love, compassion and being present to live each moment fully.  By the end of the second day in jail I re-upped that commitment and repeated if often through those first four days.

     I found I had to consciously direct my focus on what I wanted.  When I did this, I was able to create much more positive actions which clearly served me.  Eventually my focus for what I wanted became constant and a calm came over me.  I came to believe no matter what happened I would be okay, letting go of the results and trusting, how often I had taught that to parents of children with autism.  I then grew that light by giving myself a mental exercise of listing in my head, all that I was grateful for and sending that list up to God, it helps to share.  I felt an intense sweet joy in those moments, a most unlikely attitude under these circumstances, but oh how it served me and my desire to have a meaningful existence.

I will continue with the story of that week when I make my next post.  Until then, think of all that you are grateful for and up the amps by 1,000.... Don't forget to share your gratitude as part of upping those amps!  WOW, what a difference that can make in your life!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Habeas Update

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 marks a deadline related to the filing of my habeas corpus application.  It is by this date in which the prosecution and the trial attorney for my case have to respond to my habeas application.  Based on their responses the Judge will decide if there is to be a hearing prior to forwarding my habeas application on to the Appellate Court.  I have felt confident and prayed a lot on this.  Although this weekend, coming up to the date, I allowed some fear to sneak in because of what happened previously in my trial, now 4 years ago (9/10/07). 

I have been doing daily devotionals with a dear friend of mine.  We are using Max Lucado's devotional book called "Grace For The Moment - Volume 1".  Each day I find that day's devotional speaks to me in some way.  Today the devotional could not have been louder!  God is such a wonder!  Here are the words from Max Lucado's book:  
 God Our Defender
Here is a big question.  What is God doing when you are in a bind?  When the lifeboat springs a leak?  When the rip cord snaps?  When the last penny is gone before the last bill is paid?...
I know what we are doing.  Nibbling our nails like corn on the cob.  Pacing floors.  Taking pills......
But what does God do?...
He fights for us.  He steps into the ring and points us to our corner and takes over.  "Remain calm; the Lord will fight for you." (Exodus 14:14).
His job is to fight.  Our job is to trust.
Just trust.  Not direct.  Or question....Our job is to pray and wait.
WOW!!  How powerful and true.  I have already proven that I couldn't win this case on my own.  There is only ONE whom is all powerful and has the strength to fight evil.  I needed this.  Have faith!  Pray and wait!  I can do that.  Nothing is gained by sitting in fear, in fact it diminishes my faith and trust.  Once again, the lesson here is SURRENDER, allow God in my life, to do what He promises.  I need to stop getting in His way.

I found another verse (one of many) that was so applicable and comforting:
1 Peter 3:12-14
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."
Source: Holy Bible, New International Version
My pray and wait.......