challenges

Jail Time Revisited

Recently I had the opportunity to experience a county jail with an added twist. I’ve written about visiting the jail before as a contractor recounting an inside view. I visited the exterior as part of a jail run a few years back that included running the officer obstacle training course (so much fun) and the campus which bordered the barbed wire fences and guard towers. Both experiences were memorable and offered different views of the same place.

Over the past week I had yet another view. An unexpected view. I needed to try to visit an inmate. What started out as a simple endeavor ended up extremely complex. So many things I didn’t know, didn’t expect or just couldn’t wrap my arms around.
the first big blow is no in-person visitors which is the exact opposite of the county website which states visitation Mon-Fri and Sat/Sun for under 18. I guess they are still under Covid protocols even though most other places are not. This was funny in itself as you don’t need a mask to enter the jail but you can’t visit. The next option is a fee- based video visit, but figuring this option out almost requires an IT degree and a lot of patience.

That’s right. Get the app. Download the app. Set up a user ID. Add funds. Upload identification documents to prove who you are. Now wait. Wait until somebody in an office somewhere approves you. This took three days in my case. Once you have access, you can schedule a call. I almost forgot you need to deposit more money for the call and pay more service fees. Just when you think you are at the finish line you have to be patient again. It seems the schedule is not the same day. That means you wait longer and the person inside has no idea how hard you are trying to make contact. Big sigh.

What’s the other option? Send a letter. I was told happy mail is very uplifting. Okay, what’s the address. Well the address you mail to is far away. It has to be sorted to make sure there is no contraband. Well over the holiday, mail delays, etc. would lead me to believe this would be another dead end.

How about a phone call. Can the person make a call? Only if they have money they tell me. How do they get money? Glad you asked. There is a jail ATM. Never seen one of those before. You have to upload your picture, your social security number, address and so much more. Then you can pay money and exorbitant fees. Again, it’s not instant. It takes a day to process and the funds need to be deposited by 8am. That means if you put money in the ATM on Sunday at 4pm the inmate won’t see it until Tuesday after 8am. Delays galore.

Four days it takes to get any form of contact. This provides so much insight into what folks deal with when they are immersed in the jail system. I can’t even imagine if my parent was in jail, how a young adult could handle all the chaos associated with saying hi to somebody who probably needs some extra support during their incarceration.
This experience has taught me I for sure don’t ever want to spend time in jail. I also don’t want to have to visit anyone I know in jail. I like my freedom too much. I like to choose what I do and when I do it. I thought visiting somebody in an assisted living facility was hard in the heart of the pandemic, however I would definitely say visiting a jail is 1000x harder current day. 

With mental health issues challenging society today, it is bothersome to me that inmates lose not only their freedom but their ability to get compassionate care. I define compassion to include communication with willing visitors vs starving them of hope and friendly faces.

In summary, I’d always tell somebody think carefully about actions or inactions that can land one in jail. It’s not a place i’d recommend at all.

awareness, mental health

Universe Whispers

There are days when I feel the universe is whispering to me. Subtle little hints that I’m in the right place, at the right time with people who are meant to be in my path.

The path could be a connection at the grocery store. A person I meet through work. An interaction with a stranger. The person next to me on a plane ride. An attendee at an event I am hosting. The list goes on.

I spoke to a woman recently about an encounter with her child. A chance encounter at that. In my path for no other reason than chance. I knew neither mom nor daughter before this date. No common denominators. The paths crossed unexpectedly. The timing was right. Crisis averted.

Our chance meeting led to outcomes. Outcomes led to more interactions. Actions, smiles, cheerleading of sorts. The relationship may not blossom past this point but that is okay. The universe wanted a chance encounter at that moment. The rest will fall into place as it should be. Below is a message I received weeks later to confirm my universe whisper:

The impact made shows the importance of my timing. My active listening to know there was a need at the moment to be present for somebody aside from me. The importance is I was there when needed. A universe whisper of sorts. There are many examples I can think of yet this one rings true today. In the now. Everyone needs a pick me up from time to time and kindness matters. How you treat others will come back to you in time. Some call it karma. I call it fate.

I hope my post makes you think about how you treat others and how a chance meeting may be olive branch of life or even hope to get through tomorrow.

perspective

If There’s Anything I Can Do…

There are so many overused sayings right now. Phrases that are just float in one ear and out the other…a year like no other. Unprecedented. Look a little different. Blah blah blah. We hear them so much they lose their meaning.

And then there are the ones that are not only overused but undermeant. One biggie: thoughts and prayers. And the subject of this little rant-ish post: “if there’s anything I can do…”

It’s natural for many of us to want to offer help. Really, it is. I am in this camp and readily offer to give aid when people are in a pinch, a tough spot, or in a full-blown crisis. It’s in my nature (and my enneagram.)

But in recent weeks I’ve wondered… do we really mean it? Or is it just empty comments to make us feel better about the powerlessness we might feel in times of turmoil? What might helping mean?

A friend has a relative in the hospital. They need someone to sit with them in the waiting room. They may need a disinterested friend to sit with them as they talk to the doctor. They need childcare. They need someone to clean their house, take care of their dog. They need grocery shopping. They need respite support.

A co-worker has car trouble. They need to get to work. They need someone to pick them up, take them home, take them out on errands. Take them to the repair shop.

An elderly neighbor is isolated at home. They need technical help with online billpay. They need someone to drive them to doctor’s appointments. They need companionship. They need someone to connect with. A ride to the senior center. A walk at the park. A help with household tasks and chores. They need stimulating talk and even the occasional adventure.

So many people have needs. It’s actually overwhelming to think of all the ways that others may need help. Some of these remain invisible. People don’t ask others for what they might need. We are afraid of inconveniencing others. Afraid to share our vulnerability. Afraid to need others.

I do get this because there are many times we ask for help and people bail out at the last minute. Why say “if there’s anything you need” if you don’t really mean it?

On the flip side, if you do ask someone for something, expect them to come through. It’s frustrating to sign up to give help then have that blown off at the last minute. If you actually ask for help, mean it.

Logistics can be a nightmare. Yes, there is often some measure of juggling, reprioritizing, shuffling needed. People are worth it. There is no merit badge for suffering in silence.

Whatever it is you say or do, mean it. Don’t drop in empty offers of help to make yourself feel better. Be sincere. Not someone who gives too much lip service and not enough actual service.

giving, health

Quarantined

Recently I had a chance to interact with somebody on quarantine. It was an unusual situation.

A child was quarantined from school. Old enough to stay home alone but not really alone for a long time or under stress. Unlike the Home Alone movie, home alone meant digital schooling, meals and staying on task. That’s a lot for young kid on any given day. Today though, this is the world of Corona and everyone adjusts as needed.

For me the need was sitting in the driveway in my car just in case an emergency arose. It was an important job. Mom was in hospital for separate reason. Dad was tending to mom’s emergency. Older sibling had to do finals and handle her life. This was just one day. One interaction. I could bring my laptop and work remote. Not ideal but doable. 

This made me think about how fortunate I have been during Corona. How many obstacles I have dodged. Today my time was for another. I was happy to do it. 

While sitting in the driveway i reminisced about a friend watching my kids over the years. I was thinking how hard it is to get that fill in now when your kid is quarantined aka having cooties where one is faced not only with isolation but fear of the unknown and all the other drama that follows. Now who can you ask to care for your cootie-ridden kid?

How hard it is to ask for help when an unplanned emergency happens? A crisis doesn’t have a timeline. Listen to others who may indirectly show signs of needing help. Don’t assume all is a okay. Ask what you can do to help. Be persistent. Don’t wait for them to ask. They may never have the courage to ask. Be doggedly persistent to show you can help. Kindness is free.
Your offer of goodwill can go a long way. Don’t hesitate to help others.

perspective

Be Still

There I was packed in the plane like a sardine in a can. 24 rows deep. 4 across each aisle. Racked and stacked you’d say. The plane is full.

No 6 feet distanced. Lots of people. Recycled air. Masks up. Here we go. Cheers to a great flight. Up up and away we go.

As I sit still I look over my shoulder and see the peaceful sky. There we are floating in the clouds with the border of the baby blue sky. I enjoyed the peacefulness of being still. The calm. The beauty. The colors.

This is such a variance from my crazy hectic days in the office. Escapes like these with picturesque scenery help me appreciate life and all the experiences one can have as long as their eyes are open.

In that moment it took away the tears of the girl by my side feeling anxious in the sky. The mask. The extra people. The sardine-like atmosphere. Watering eyes over the mask showed the pain. Shaking of the leg showed discomfort. Grasping jewelry around her neck for comfort. How were we so close yet I felt calm and she felt fear?

If I could take it away the pain and fear I would. As we move along the calmness peeks through her fear. The discomfort was temporary thank goodness. A movie is on. A snack in hand. A little water to wash away the woes.

The other neighbor is a technology guru. Clicking on the wifi. Surfing movies. Wait, I need to sneeze. Oh my not on a plane. Yup not once, twice. We giggle in the row a little. Good thing my mask was up! My neighbor didn’t flinch on her technology. Cropping and editing photos. Music in the ears. Not even phased. I’m even learning how to make cartoon images on an iPad from the neighboring seat. It’s so fun to see how others pass time.

Meanwhile, I just keep floating in the cloud. Glancing into the horizon. Thinking about tomorrow. Visualizing the fun and adventures ahead on my little trip. Time to wrap this post up.

That was a long 15 minutes if I do say so myself. This story is real. You may be the most fearless person and boom anxiety can hit. Without warning. Surround yourself with people who know you and can see your struggles so that you can be comforted when your world is closing in on you.

For now I will be still and enjoy my trip above the clouds. My special place where I am just floating in thought as I write some blogs on this very day.

Sending you a smile and wink from the sky above. Somewhere over Jackson, Mississippi. I giggled a little as I wrote that state. M-i-squiggly lines-I-squiggly lines-i-pp-i as I recall from my childhood school days.