Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: memoir

“Out of the Blue” Chapter 2 – Go to Sleep

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it.

Subscribe with your email if you’d like to be notified when the next part is posted!

To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.


Sometimes looking back through old calendars and journals, I get sad. I’m doing it because I’m trying to better remember the week before I was arrested so that I can write about our life up to that point. Memories are fuzzy, but journals…well, they leave the cold details of the dark place I was entering at the time right out there for anyone to find. I want to burn them so no one can see. But I also want this story to get out there, all of it, so I trudge through and then try to write it out so that it looks happier than it does on paper. So much drama in my heart and on my mind. I’m not sure I want to remember and share it.

I was in the thick of the toddler years of defiance. My boys were becoming their own persons and making sure that I knew it at every step. On top of that, they had totally different personalities.

My older son was 3½ years old, strong willed and full of questions, testing everything he could find around him, curious about the world around him. He was inquisitive, happy, talkative, and always wanting to try things.

My younger son had just turned two. Although he had few words, he knew what he wanted and always seemed to be thinking about something. What everyone around him was doing was of no interest usually, unless it was his Dad. He always wanted to know what Dad was doing.

My journals are filled with what we did each day and grumblings about them not listening to me, or that they wouldn’t go to sleep, worries about Nikki, and my family. I had been taking anti-anxiety medication for about a year and wanted to come off it. It dulled all my senses, made me sleepy and added even more pounds than my birth control pills. I still wasn’t happy while taking them but at least I wasn’t angry anymore. There was this nagging feeling that I really didn’t need them. I just needed to catch up on sleep and then I’d be able to control my emotions again. I had tried coming off them, fell into an angry depression, and then reluctantly started taking them again hoping I hadn’t done too much damage to the relationships with my husband and children. There was much more work to do before I could come off those drugs. I needed help. I didn’t feel therapy was working. Feeling like I belonged at church helped more, and it was free.

I didn’t like the person I was. I felt like I was just getting along. I had friends and activities but no goals, no vision of the future. In hindsight, I wish I had realized at the time what was going on. I was right where I should have been, focused on raising my children. I kept going backwards in my mind, wondering what I was doing and where I was going. I was being a Mom of small children. I fully enjoyed being just Mom, why couldn’t I see that and relax into it? My children seemed to be happy…unless they were going to bed, which was when I had the most time to write in my journal. I did it to distract myself from the antics going on around me. I refused to let them cry themselves to sleep and they refused to go to sleep without me. So there I sat with my journal, my bible, and my book, trying not to let myself get angry at the two little ones unwillingly ending their day.

Evenings went something like this. After dinner, we’d begin our “routine”. We’d say goodnight to Dad, sister, and grandma. We’d enthusiastically climb up the stairs to pick out books to read. One for each boy. And one for me, usually a longer book that I wanted to share with the boys. We’d brush our teeth and get into our PJ’s, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and snuggle down on the bottom bunk together. There was usually one boy on each side of me, kind of picaresque like. We’d read “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Curious George” for the hundredth time, mimicking the characters and acting out scenes. Jake would “read” the book himself, turning pages and telling us what each person said in his tiny baby words. Once those books were read, the boys would get into bed, one at each end of the bottom bunk. Neither one wanted to sleep on the top. It was too scary! We’d dismantle the bunk beds soon and never put them up again. They only used it as a jungle gym and it was just a matter of time before one of them got seriously hurt anyway. I’d sit in my rocking chair (the one my Grandma had and gave to me when I got my first apartment on my own), open the book I’d chosen and start to read. They loved any book I’d read out loud, mostly because it let them stay awake that much longer. We read things like “Little House on the Prairie”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Pinocchio”. Sometimes I’d have to stop reading to fix a blanket or separate little feet from kicking. I’d read a chapter, close the book, and then the antics began.

I could feel my temper start to rise every night. One wanted the window open, one wanted it closed. One wanted to talk and wiggle himself to sleep and the other needed complete silence to settle down. We tried going to bed one at a time and it failed miserably. They didn’t like to be separated either. I wish I’d had more patience back then. I wish I had just taken a deep breath and let it go, but as I sat there writing a bit in my journal and trying to read the bible passage in my devotional, I wondered if they’d ever go to sleep. Many nights I just gave up and laid down on the floor next to them or in bed with them and went to sleep, only to wake up a while later and crawl into bed with my husband. I desperately wanted a whole night’s sleep in one bed. I really didn’t get that until years later. Looking back, I’m glad we slept this way. It was crazy, but it became a routine that worked out well for all of us. I laugh thinking about sitting there in my rocking chair. My memory tells me that I was frustrated from time to time but generally peaceful about it. My journals show a different picture!

Zombie or Treasure

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My Brother and Cousin 1980

The story goes that my Grandpa Roy, my Dad’s Dad, gave me this bear. The oldest picture I have of him is from 1980, but I think I got him before that, probably around 1978 because I remember being around five or six years old when I got him for Christmas.

He was under the tree at my Grandpa’s house in Anaheim, the house with the huge Magnolia tree in the front yard that always seemed to have one flower at the very top. When we came into the house on Christmas Day, I saw him under the tree and secretly hoped he was for me instead of my little brother.

We ate cookies and played with the dogs for what seemed like an eternity. Why do adults make children wait to open presents on holidays? Is it to torture them or teach them patience? All I know is that it’s a practice I gave up the moment I became a parent. In fact, I did it before that. Any time I had the chance to get a gift for a kid, I’d always find some way to let them open it as soon as they saw it much to the dismay of the parents I knew. I just never could see the point of delaying the inevitable and besides, I never couldn’t wait to see their joy when they opened them.

We had finally gathered around my Grandpa’s Christmas tree to exchange and open gifts and I made a bee line to that bear with the big red ribbon around his neck. My Grandpa, that great big man with jet black hair, soft smile, and giant hands, took me in his arms and told me quietly that teddy bears were invented to guard children from nightmares. He explained that this one was a “pot-bellied bear” and was especially good at it. He was trained to sleep all day long so that he could stay up all night and make sure nightmares never came near his friends. I remember taking it very seriously and I named him Edward. He hasn’t spent a night away from me since that day.

As a child, I always had very vivid nightmares. They ranged from vague feelings of abandonment to horribly detailed graphic dreams of death and fear. Dreams have a way of being so terrifying when you’re wrapped in the darkness of a quiet bedroom but seem rather silly when described out loud in the daylight, but I’ll do my best to describe the one recurring nightmare that has always terrified me. It even comes around today from time to time.

I wasn’t sure what triggered it, but I could always tell I’d have this nightmare before I went to sleep. I’d get ready for bed with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Once I was snuggled into my bed, my Mom would come and tuck me in with a kiss and turn off my light and that’s where it would start to snowball into night terrors.

I’d do everything a kid could do to stay awake, talk to my animals, sing to myself, get up for water and a trip to the bathroom. Sometimes I’d even spur myself to walk out into the livingroom and to talk to my mom. I’d ask for a snack or maybe another kiss goodnight.

I never could understand why my parents were so angry and frustrated about my nocturnal wanderings. I swore to myself that when I became a parent, I’d always be understanding about why a kid wouldn’t want to go to sleep. But then once I was a parent myself, I found out it wasn’t that easy. I could easily understand my children’s nighttime fears, but I was so tired myself that it was hard to consistently respond in sympathy. These are the things we learn as we experience life!

After numerous attempts to get out of going to sleep, including sleeping in my little brother’s bed, I’d reluctantly climb back into my single bed, pull my Raggedy Ann and Andy sheets up to my neck, put my back against the wall an attempt to keep my eyes open until sunrise.

It was always in vain. Eventually, that nervous feeling would grow and fill my throat and ears. My room walls would fade and my bedroom furniture would push away from the center of the room. I’d find myself walking a circle around the middle of my bedroom floor with my dresser and writing desk growing beside me “Wonderland” style. The stark fear I felt was maddening.

I can’t say what I was afraid of. There was nothing overtly frightening in this dream, just a feeling of dread that overwhelmed me. I’d begin to take a few more steps around my room when the floor in the middle would drop out into darkness and I’d fall into it in slow motion. That’s when the terror would hit me and I’d wake up in my bed shaking. That was the end of it. You’d think I’d sit up the rest of night or call out for my parents, but I never did. After I woke, the fear would be gone. I’d roll over in my bed and go right to sleep wondering what in the world was so wrong.

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Me and My Brother 1985

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Camping 1986

My Grandpa must have been told about these nightmares and had thought to give me the bear in the hope of helping. It worked most nights. Most nights, I’d get into my bed and face the wall, Edward the Bear would face the room, and I’d fall asleep easily. Some nights, though, the nightmares would come back, and I’d wake up and scold him for sleeping on the job. He always looked so remorseful that I forgave him. I’m sure he had perfectly reasonable excuses, though he never tried to explain them to me.

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College Dorm Room 1992

That bear has never left my side. I remember my mother asking me if I’d keep him even when I grew up and got married. I proudly told her I’d never marry anyone that didn’t love Edward as much as me. He’s even went on camping trips with me when I was kid, including “Outdoor Education” camp when I was a sixth grader.

Michelle and Snicker napping 1994

My own apartment 1994

I’m in my forties now and these days I rarely have nightmares like I used to, but sometimes they come back. I’ve learned what triggers them though, anxiety. When events and worries overwhelm me, the nightmares return. I’ve even had that same falling down dream a few times in recent years, but Edward has always been there. I’m a side sleeper and I’ve grown accustomed to having him under my arm for support.

His name was changed from Edward the Bear to Edward T. Bear in my twenties but years later, when my young sons asked what the “T” stood for, I quickly renamed him Tiberius after Captain Kirk. They approved heartily. There was a time when I thought I would share that bear with my boys, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He’s a part of me.

Thomas in Bed Serious 04-05-01

Sharing With My Baby Boy 2001

The past few years, he’s really started to show his wear. He has no mouth at all any more. His neck is wobbly from all the stuffing he’s lost from holes I sewed up with needle and thread. His ears no longer stand up and his eyes are scratched and dull. I considered putting him up on a shelf instead of sleeping with him under my arm to protect him, but I can’t. Ever since the Toy Story movies, I can’t bear to put him up no matter how threadbare he becomes. I tired to think of a way to reinforce his skin a bit and came up with patches. Every time he gets a hole, I put on a new patch. Each patch is sewn over the side of another patch, since he original fabric is so thin. It’s working. He’s beginning to look like a patchwork quilt.

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Today!

I love that stinky bear. We’ve been through a lot. Growing up. Boyfriends. Break-ups. New jobs. Marriage. Babies. And now my babies growing up. He’s been covered in my tears, listens attentively, and never judges or gives bad advice. It’s crazy, I know, but that bear goes with me when I die. I can’t leave him behind.

 

“Out of the Blue” Chapter 1

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.

Subscribe with your email if you’d like to be notified when the next part is posted!

To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.


Mother’s Day Dedication

I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.

I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me, but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.

I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.

So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be life changing. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands out-stretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.

As the weeks went on I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for. When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it which terrified me. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!

I typically attended Sunday services alone. My husband usually picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and couldn’t sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option, but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of early parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.

My step-daughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.

It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.

We had joined households with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.

This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see some kind of Christian Ceremony in the family again. It still makes me smile to think of her proud face that day.

My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was a feat in itself. They were three and two years old and definitely had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?
The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents in the parking lot and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.

Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.

The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play up close, with his ears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down and the service began. As the pastor began to speak, I noticed all the other mothers in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my step-daughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first, he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.

The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt next to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.
The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.

We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.

Looking back now, years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I believe I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support. A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened and we worked through it together.

Read the next chapter HERE.

“Out of the Blue” Prologue Part 2

Ok…so I got a little side tracked. It’s been weeks since I posted Part 1 and it is NOT Friday, but I do the best I can with what God gave me.


Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.

Subscribe with your email if you’d like to be notified when the next part is posted!

To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.


The day to call on my summons came and went. When I woke up the next day at 4 am, I stumbled to my coffee pot and picked up my book. I sat reading and waking up until 5 am when I went to make a note about something I read. That’s when I remembered I was supposed to call about jury duty! I sat down and called that minute and found out I had to be there at noon. And that is when I started to feel sick.

There was no getting out of it. I had to show up. Maybe they’d just let us sit there all day and then send us home. That’s happened to me before. I had to call the women’s center that I volunteer for and tell them I wouldn’t be there. They’d have to find someone to replace me for the day. I got ready to go and headed out the door feeling very queasy. All the memories started coming back one at a time.

The courthouse here is much smaller than the one in the city. It was pleasant, obvious where I needed to be, and air conditioned! I brought my knitting. I figured we’d be sitting around doing nothing for a while and I really can’t read when I can hear people talking. We were shown a video about how great being on a jury is and how it is our duty to perform this task as a citizen. Everyone seemed gloomy about being there. Some people knew each other. Some had been there before. It’s a small town, so you’re bound to see someone you know. I didn’t, but I knitted away. I expected to be there for a few hours and not be called. About an hour later we were all moved to the courtroom. I hadn’t been in a courtroom in ten years and this one was so much smaller than the last one. The judge talked and talked. The woman next to me said the judge said this every time. They went over a bunch of questions and then we took a break. When we got back, several people were excused and I was called to replace one. We all answered questions about ourselves, out loud, in front of everyone. I was terrified. I’ve never been much of a public speaker and this was ridiculous.

Then it got worse. They asked if I’d ever been accused of a crime and would that influence how I performed my duty. I had to tell them I had been accused in the past and that the case had been dropped. I tried to form coherent sentences about why I believed I was capable of being fair on a jury because of my experience, not despite it. After all, I knew that both sides of an argument can be wrong, even the accusing authority. The prosecution was required to prove that someone was in the wrong, not the defense. I thought it came out well. I wish I could have recorded it and heard myself. I have a feeling I think like I’m a lot clearer and steady that I actually am. My own experience as a defendant years ago brought that to my attention. The judge moved on to other prospective jurors.

A few minutes later, another question made my stomach lurch and compelled me to raise my hand and speak. I don’t know if you had positive experiences with speaking up in a classroom when you were a child, but I did not. I’ve always been a bit shy and nervous which has always attracted the henpecking that children do in school. I was sick in class once when we were required to read our essay out loud. I never lived that down. All the acting classes and performances I did through high school never cured me of my fear of the classroom situation. That has stuck with me until this day. I’m not afraid of public speaking, I’m happy to stand up in front of a group and answer questions or perform, but put me in a situation that looks like a classroom, no matter how compelling an argument I think I have, no matter how much I desire to speak up and tell people what I think about the topic, if I have to raise my hand and speak, forget it. I shake from fear and feel sick. Deep down I desperately believe I have something important to add but just cannot bring myself to put myself back in that classroom situation. And here I was, in a courtroom, as a prospective juror, with a lawyer asking the whole group a question and I felt passionate about my answer, sure that my answer needed to be heard.

“Does anyone here feel that if they disagree with the law in this case that they couldn’t give a verdict of guilty?”

I shook as I began to raise my hand and realize that no one else was volunteering to answer. I would be asked to speak my mind. It all happened in slow motion. At the same time as I was raising my hand, I was trying to formulate my words so I would be clearly understood. I’d already heard the sentiment, “Well, I may not agree with the law, but it is the law and if I’m judging someone whether they broke it or not, I’d have to say he did.” The question had been asked in a few different ways. I was a little confused at times. It didn’t seem to be presented clearly. I felt led to answer in a certain way, like he was fishing for that answer. The last way he said it I felt was clear enough for me and I had to answer.

“I’m not speaking of this case specifically, but in general. If I don’t believe a law is just or right, I cannot convict someone of breaking it. After all, it used to be against the law to let black people eat in a white restaurant.” The lawyer just nodded and moved on to the next question. I knew at that moment I would not be on that jury. As I sat there another hour, I heard over and over again from almost all the other jurors, they may not think the law is right, but it must be there for a reason. I couldn’t believe it.

At the end of the day, several people had been dismissed from jury duty but I remained. We were all asked to come back the next day to continue picking a jury for this trial. As I drove home that afternoon, I was proud of myself. I had stood up and said what I believed was right and I wasn’t summarily dismissed. Maybe, just maybe, the system wasn’t as corrupt as I imagined.

The next morning, I got up and got ready for the day. I was now sure I’d be on this jury. It’d be my first one and I was looking forward to it. I readied myself for a long day in court. One hour later, I was driving home angry and disappointed. I had been the first to be dismissed that day. Once again, I had rearranged my schedule and worked in time to “do my civic duty” and the court disrespected my time and effort, called me in so that they could dismiss me immediately. It was ridiculous.

Driving home, I grumbled and complained to myself. All those people in that courtroom would really uphold and convict a fellow citizen on a law they believed to be unjust? Really? If any of them thought for one minute about what they said, they’d see what they were doing. These same people would think it was a shameful response of the Nazi soldiers to say, “I was only doing my duty, as I was ordered to do.” They’d hold those people responsible. How far will they go? If a lawmaker in our country made it illegal for a segment of people in this country to hold a job and be paid, would you go to court and convict him of trying to support his family? Where would this “I’m just following the law.” thinking g o? I’m seriously shaking just thinking it through again and tapping it out on the screen.

When I got home, I did what all good Americans do these days, I posted on Facebook. I know. It’s not monumental but it’s all I could think to do. I did get some positive response from it. Some of my friends understood what I was trying to say, but the percentage was pretty low and I wonder if I made public poll how many people would agree with me. I’m thinking it would be even lower.

And that’s why I’m here typing this story out. Once again, I began to wonder why I should even bother making that statement, answering the way I did. I’d never be put on a jury if I did. But what if one person in that room heard me and thought about what I said? What if one person read my post afterward and reconsidered their position about “following the law”? What if more people do the same thing by standing up for our constitutional rights and being the biggest check and balance in our justice system? To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, “Why it may even start a movement! And most of you are too young to know what a movement is!”

This story is just the beginning. I’ve always felt that someday I’d write my experience out for the world to see. It was painful and life changing for me and, until now, it hurt too much to rub those wounds and remember, to reflect on what happened and what could have happened. But this last experience with the justice system has finally encouraged me to take off that bandage and look at the old scar. The wound has healed. There is a scar to remind me of what happened and I refuse to cover it up and hide it any longer.

Next – “Out of the Blue” Chapter 1

Morning Me

morning me

In my spot on the couch in the morning. Every morning, I stumble out of my room and grab my book, a pencil, and my glasses as I pass through my study on my way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. My husband is already up so the coffee is ready for me. I move to the livingroom, speak the lights on with “computer lights on”, and set myself down in my favorite spot on the couch to read for several hours. It’s my favorite spot because it’s close to the light, has a steady place for my coffee cup, and my warm blanket is there waiting to snuggle with me.

I’m wearing my long, heavy bathrobe. I got it last year on Amazon, not from a local store, because apparently, I’m one of the few people that want an all-cotton warm robe, not one made of acrylic fleece that gathers pet hair as I move through the house and causes static to build up and snap my fingers when I touch anything. It has a hood too, for those super cold mornings when I need to double down on warm clothes. And it’s plaid, my favorite pattern!

I’m in my happy place, surrounded by things and people I love. When I was a kid I dreamed of having my own library. In my picture behind me you can see a corner of my dream come true. Every room in my house has at least one large bookcase filled to the brim. This room has four. There are also family games we’ve been playing, my Dad’s W.C. Field’s lamp that he made when I was a baby and I inherited when he moved to smaller place recently, my son’s turntable he got when he found a bunch of old records in our storage room, and my other son’s telescope that he frequently takes out into the yard to watch the stars.

You can’t tell from the picture, but it’s early morning, just after the sun has peeked over the horizon. It’s my favorite time of day in any season, but in the winter, when this picture was taken, it’s special because the sun comes up farther southeast than ever and is hidden behind the one section of wall without windows. At this time of year, I’m not blinded by it as it rises above our patio. The side light it casts on the desert, its plants and rocks, is magical. Birds are starting to stir. Owls are going to bed. Coyotes run through the yard on their way back to their dens. A roadrunner sits on the fence flicking its tail, looking for a meal.

I took this random selfie because an old friend on the other side of the country, in another time zone, had messaged me that I was still pretty sexy for an old mom. Being the comedian that I am, I immediately snapped this picture and sent it. “Even like this?” Morning photos are always so sexy right? Ratty robe, messy hair, reading glasses, and a cup of coffee. Who wouldn’t want that?

My husband laughed as I took the picture and sent it. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Proving what a hot catch I am.” I said and forwarded him the picture. He smiled. “That’s my babe.”

Healing Hate

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“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.”
From Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

There are all kinds of hate and all of them cover up some kind of past pain, some hidden fear. It’s a primal instinct to push away and demonize that which may cause us pain, that which scares us. A friend asked how we can help people deal with it and I had to think about it. My first instinct is to think that you can’t help, but maybe you can.

When I sense that someone hates someone or something, I don’t insist that they not. I try to respect where they are and know in the back of my mind that they have some fear or pain they are working though. I let people have their opinions, let them speak them and feel them, hold space for them, even if I don’t agree with them.

There is a difference between hateful feelings and hateful actions, though. Making a law to ban certain people from places or activities, physically or verbally harassing someone because they are hated, etc., cannot be tolerated by anyone. But a person saying they hate certain people and don’t want to interact with them can be left alone. They are hurting no one but themselves.

If we allow people to have their hate, if we love them anyway, and respect their opinions, give them space to feel what they feel, we have the chance to open a dialog about where that hatred comes from. Hate is a natural, instinctive feeling, and it takes time to work through. When someone makes a statement about something they hate, I ask questions about it. I ask why and respect their answers, maybe give an opinion of my own. This gives people a chance to reflect on their feelings and possibly change them.

If we shut people down when they express hate, we cut off that dialog and let that feeling ferment in the darkness. In that quiet feedback of the mind, that hatred grows and turns into action.

Hate isn’t going anywhere. You can’t get rid of it, but we can minimize it and give it a shorter lifespan.

Laundry Magic

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

“Clothes don’t clean themselves, you know!” I heard my mother’s exasperated voice make that statement more than once growing up. She was always so despondent about it and I could never understand why. I mean, seriously, what is so difficult about gathering laundry, throwing it in the washing machine, and then getting it out again? Then I had children.

Laundry is best done daily. That is a plain and simple fact. In a family of six people, if you let a day or two go between loads, you’ll never get on top of it again. Imagine a lumberjack walking a log in a river and you’ll get the picture. One wrong step and the log rolls out from under you. Splash!

It starts with gathering the clothes. You’d think that would be the easy part, but children seem to love a good game of “Hide the Socks” or “Stuff the Favorite Sweatshirt in a Corner.” And the good Lord help you if she manages to put her best jeans in the laundry and they aren’t out of the dryer before her date.

Every morning, I pull my trusty pop-up laundry basket from under my bed, push out the bottom so that it’s fully extended and make my rounds gathering the load of the day. I start in the kitchen with the damp towels, cloth napkins, and wash cloths from the day before. Nothing smells worse than damp towels in a laundry hamper, so I have kept them out on purpose. I make a quick glance around the livingroom as I pass by just in case a pair of wet socks or soaked jacket was left by the fireplace to dry.

The kids’ bedrooms are next on the agenda. A pair of jeans, a piece of a work uniform, or sweaty gym shorts may be hiding from me in there. I grab them up and throw them into my basket. Sheets and bath towels will be gathered another day.

There is a laundry hamper in their bathroom. Thankfully most of their clothes are in there. They all share a bathroom and usually throw their clothes in the hamper after they shower. I reach in and pull out the items I’m going to wash that day. Dark cottons, white socks and shirts, blue jeans, or uniforms, get tossed into my basket depending on the day.

Last on my list is our hamper. My husband and I have our own bathroom and it has plenty of room for a nice big hamper with partitions for sorting laundry as we change our clothes, that is if my husband thinks of it as he gets ready for bed. I frequently find a white sock in the dark cotton bin and wet towels from a garage project stuffed in with the jeans. Ahh…the life.

With my rounds done, my basket full, I make my way out the laundry room. The laundry room for our house seems to have been added on to the back of the detached garage as an afterthought. City water and power didn’t come to our rural area until the 80’s. This house was built as a small cabin in the 60’s. It has been added on to over the years and I can just see the previous owner and his wife’s conversation.

“Wilma, the county is going to run a water line to our property next year. What do you say about adding a bathroom and a kitchen to that house and living there full time?”

“Sounds wonderful Fred, but I’m not going unless there is a washer and dryer indoors like our house in the city!”

A year later, he leads his lovely wife into the upgraded house. The kitchen is small but lovely. The bathrooms are functional and stylish for the era. She searches the house for the laundry room he promised and can’t find it.

“Fred, what did you do?”

“Right back here, dear! You said indoors!”

She follows him as he excitedly leads her out the back porch door, across the driveway, and around to the back of the garage, pushes the door open in front of her and says, “Surprise!”

It’s a bit of a walk but this is the desert and rarely is there ever any bad weather. I doubt that’s what she meant when she said “indoor laundry room” but he’s so proud. How can she be anything but excited?

I make that trek across the driveway and around the garage myself several times a day. I start my daily load of laundry early in the morning after my shower. I open the sliding glass door with my laundry basket on my hip and head out. Cottontail bunnies that have found the tufts of grass growing around my drain scatter as I walk by.

The laundry room runs across the entire back of my two-car garage. It’s an impressive laundry room. It doubles as a storage room. When you walk in you see the wall to the left of the door covered with built in storage cabinets filled with my holiday decorations, old files, and boxes of unwanted toys that my kids just can bear to part with. Fishing poles and tackle boxes, extra chairs, and an old dresser filled with wrapping paper line the wall to my right. And at the end stand my lovely bright aqua colored front-loading washer and dryer.

That set is a story in and of itself. When we moved here the house didn’t come with a washer and dryer, so we drove down into town to the big box hardware store to see what they had. There were boring white and silver sets, but the aqua one was so beautiful. I had to have it. My husband loves me very much, even if I do get a tad over excited about colorful appliances.

I drop my loaded basket to the floor in front of the washer and start throwing in the clothes, double checking for any forgotten change, papers, and pens left behind in pockets. I slam the door shut and open the soap drawer at the top. I have my liquid laundry soap container conveniently located on top of the washer right above the soap drawer. All I need to do is open the drawer and push the button to fill the cup the suggested “serving” of soap line inside the drawer. I slide the drawer shut, set the washer dial to “Perm. Press” and the water temperature to “cold” and press the start button.

Before I leave, I wait just a minute to be sure I hear the door lock and the water start to run before I head back into the house. My washer takes about one hour to run through its wash cycle, so I have some time to get a few things done before it’s time to come back out. I plant myself down on the couch with my book and a cup of coffee. It’s still early and there are no children up yet to beg for a tasty breakfast or ask me to help them construct a wild project in the back yard.

An hour later, the alarm on my phone starts to ring and I shut my book and head back out to the laundry room. The bunnies haven’t come back but a roadrunner flicks his tail and flies up into a Joshua Tree as I pass by.

The washer isn’t quite done with its spin cycle, so I take a seat on a folding chair next to the window and watch the desert as a quiet meditation as I wait. My washer’s sweet musical notes startle me when the cycle ends. I must have been deep in thought, but most likely I just dozed off for a moment.

I open the washer door and transfer the wet clothes into the waiting dryer that stands open and waiting. Damn. I missed an ID card that was in my son’s pocket. Luckily it’s hard plastic and unharmed by the washer. I slip into my back pocket and finish putting the load in the dryer.

I slam the dryer door shut and spin the selector at the top to a timed dryer cycle, “60 minutes” and “low.” The dryer has so many different settings for every kind of clothing you might have. It looks like the cockpit of an airplane with all its dials, settings, and buttons. They’ve never been used by me. I’m a simple girl!

Once I press “go,” I’ve got another hour before these clothes need my attention. I head into the house as I set the timer on my phone again. I always set the timer. If I don’t the laundry will never get done. I’m notorious for losing track of time. My children are constantly on me about how long things take when I’m in control. They’ve heard “It’ll only take a minute. Come on!” and “I’ll be home in an hour.” a thousand times. They know how I operate and usually add on another hour to however long I say it will take.

I take the long way around the garage and through the front yard to the front door this time and enter the house through the kitchen. While the laundry is drying, I’ll wash the dishes and listen to a podcast, and then make everyone breakfast. Pancakes sound perfect for a day like this!

The alarm goes off on my phone and my youngest follows me out the laundry room to help. We move the basket to the front of the dryer and he pulls all the socks and underwear out into the basket while I pull out the shirts and lay them neatly across the top of dryer so they don’t get wrinkled. Once the dryer is empty, my son pulls out the lint trap and taps the piled up lint into the trash can waiting beside the dryer. He has trouble putting it back in but gets after a bit of work. I lay the shirts across the top of the basket and lift it up to my hip. My son gets the door and we walk back to the house to fold and put away our clean stuff.

My sons love to sort out the socks when I bring in a clean load of laundry. I get the shirts off the top of the basket, lay them out on the bed, and get some hangers from the closet. While I hang them up, they dump out the rest of the basket and grab up their own socks, match them up, and take them to their rooms along with the underwear.

An empty basket sits on my bed, so I flip it over and collapse it upon itself, drop it to the floor and slide it under my bed. Another morning load of laundry in the books. Let’s get a cookie!

When Kids Misquote the Joke

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My brother and I grew up in apartment complexes in Southern California in the ‘70’s. Most them look the same. Four long, two-story buildings set in a square, a parking lot outside the square at one end. In the center of that square was usually a courtyard with a big swimming pool. The first one I can remember was very much like that except that it was more rectangular than square and had a fenced concrete pool at one end and walkways with grass and trees on each side at the other end. There were brown pebble embedded concrete stairs up the second floor apartments. When we were short enough to stretch out across a whole step, we would lay out and warm ourselves in the sun, one kid to a step, waiting for the inevitable adult to come by and scatter us.

Kids ran around that courtyard all day when school was out. You could hear mothers admonishing kids to “stay in the courtyard” and out of the parking lot. If you were bored, you could go outside and probably find other kids to chase. If not, they’d soon see you and come out. It was before the age where you were discerning about who you hung out with, every kid was your friend and just about everyone you met was invited to your birthday party.

I don’t remember much about those kids but I remember one very clearly. I don’t remember what he looked like. Probably the usual lanky kid with brown hair, brown corduroy pants and a striped gold and white polo shirt of the late ‘70’s. Wherever he went he sang “Lucy in the sky with diamonds!” at the top of his voice, not the whole song, just that one line over and over again.

One afternoon my mother told me to keep an eye on my little brother out in the courtyard and to “stay out of the parking lot.” He was two years younger than me. In my imagination, he was the instigator back then, always roughhousing with other boys and making me chase him all over the apartment complex to keep him out of trouble. It seems like I wasn’t in school yet, so that would make him three or four. Thinking about it, I’m imagining a five and three-year-old playing in the courtyard of an apartment complex without an adult in sight today. Someone would have called the police!

The singer, as we called him, came storming up to my brother and I as we played beneath a large tree. We were “catching rabbits,” a game where we laid very still beneath the tree and near the bushes and watched for any imaginary rabbits that may come out since they wouldn’t know we were there. The singer came running up and my brother and I were angry that he had scared the rabbits away. That boy got right in our face and said, “You want to hear a joke?!” He was so loud! He straightened up real tall and showed us a piece of paper in his hand. “I’m a policeman. Never never!” and then he threw the piece of paper over his shoulder and ran off laughing manically.

We stood there staring after him in wonder. My brother looked at me and quickly picked up the piece of paper and repeated what the singer had done and laughed. Of course, I followed suit and repeated the “joke” again. I remember hearing the singer loudly repeating the joke to someone else he found in the courtyard and giggling to myself as we went back to the “catching rabbits” game.

Later that evening, when our mother called us in for dinner, I remember my brother repeating the joke to her. She just stared at us as we laughed in childish hysterics. How could she not find that funny? Old people! She just shook her head and told us to wash up and get ready for dinner.

It was around 1978 and “Keep America Beautiful” was at its height that year. Iron Eyes Cody made us all feel so bad about how we trashed our neighborhoods. There were school programs now to clean up the neighborhoods and constant reminders to “never litter.” It took me years to realize that our neighborhood friend probably misspoke a joke he heard on TV or from his parents, maybe an older brother. He was only six years old too! Now I can see it, someone thought they’d be hilariously ironic and pretend to be a police officer that litters and tell you not to. Our young friend heard the joke, loved the laughter, and tried to recreate it for the kids in the courtyard. I wonder if he wondered why the joke didn’t go over as well as when he first heard it.

Journal Entry

My brain is a whirl of activity this morning. I have so many ideas that I THINK I want to write about thanks to a book my friend Sherry recommended, “Writing the Memoir.” It’s like a floodgate of ideas has been opened. I guess I just didn’t realize that “memoir” was such a big market and that people read these stories all the time. I always figured it was only famous people that wrote them, but then I think of all the times we’ve said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to hear the journals and thoughts of a regular person of that time? Why don’t TV shows ever focus on that?” Apparently, there are millions of books about it! Mine could be one of them.

Not only am I getting encouragement about publishing my arrest story, I’m getting ideas for other books as well. What if I wrote about my childhood, the people I knew, the places I went and lived, our vacations. And then my young adult life, Disney, college, Knott’s, etc. And my children, homeschooling. Hmm…there’s just so much there.

What I need to work on right now is focus. I need to make time to write and stop allowing myself to be distracted. Turn the phone off, don’t look at Facebook (it switches my focus), plan time to be at my computer every single day at a certain time. It can be done and I will do it.

Yesterday…was beautiful. Dan and I went on a date together. We took a picnic lunch out to Old Dale and spent a couple hours walking and sitting on top of our hill staring at the desert. It was raining when we left the house but not windy or overly cold. When we got to Dale it was cloudy, clouds so low they tripped over the hills to the south of us and spread out across the basin, dropping a fine mist of water as they went.

Dale was amazingly green for the desert in January. I imagined all the tiny green plants at my feet exploding into colorful flowers at the first sign of warm sunny days. I’m making plans to go back out as soon as that happens to catch them with my camera.

I took pictures of the water drops collecting on the leaves. The smell of the wet desert was delicious. I’m not sure what it is, the smell of small, wet leaves that usually see no rain for months at a time, sighing in the quenching drizzle.

This was the first time we have ever been to our family camping spot without the kids. We parked in the spot we usually camp, got our water and made our way up the hill where we placed a “monument” years ago. From that high place you can see the whole basin spread below. From the hills of Old Dale in the south to the ragged peaks above Wonder Valley to the North. Amboy road works its way up and over the pass in a straight line, at night you can watch the headlights of car after car coming down it. Where are those people coming from? We can see all the way west into Twentynine Palms and the road east into Arizona. It’s big and peaceful.

Up on the hill, we checked our box to see if we’d had any visitors since we visited last spring. Years ago, when the boys were little, we placed that box there as a monument for us to leave messages each time we came up. When I discovered “Letterboxing” we wrote detailed directions on how to find it and put them up on their website. It evolved into a Geocache a few years later. The notebook that is up there now is nearly ten years old and half full of notes left by people who have found it through the app or stumbled across it while exploring the area.

I love looking through that notebook and adding my own message. There are some weird ones, some poetry, some sad messages about how lonely they are, thanks for sharing the view, etc. This time someone wrote, “Made the trek up to Mt. Huelle again.” And now that is what I will call it.

We sat on the rocks at the top, side by side, holding hands and listening to the gentle rain. Amazing. I love this man so much. Amazing what we’ve been through, how much we’ve changed and how much we still enjoy each other’s company, each other’s touch.

This date was intentional. Earlier this week I was reminded of what we were missing, intention. We’d stopped going places and doing things unless it were necessary or something we intended on experiencing. We’d stopped going places just to spend time together. Our time as parents is quickly closing, soon it will just be us every day. What will we do on weekends when there are no races to go to, no events to attend? We’ve decided to start dating again. This was a perfect start.

We walked back to the truck the long way, stopping to look at interesting rocks and plants, to wonder what might be just beneath the surface. What if we brought the metal detector out here? The rain makes everything look so different. Rocks are darker, red, black, gray, and deep green.

We talked about future plans, things we’d like to do together. At the truck we spread the picnic blanket on the tailgate and had lunch while we talked more and watched the clouds move across the desert, the sun peaking through at one end.

It got cold when we weren’t walking. Shivering in our light, now damp, jackets, we packed up and headed back home. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget.

“Out of the Blue” Prologue Part 1

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.

Subscribe with your email if you’d like to be notified when the next part is posted!

And, without further ado…

A jury duty summons came in the mail. It was just your average, everyday jury duty summons, nothing to get worked up over. I’ve gotten them every year since we moved out to the desert years ago. Every year I open the envelope, write down what day I’m supposed to call and find out if I will be going to the courthouse the next day. Every year the recording says I’m not needed.

For me, a jury duty summons is irritating. I get aggravated and vocal about how inconvenient it is. Why do they tell me a month in advance that I MIGHT need to come to the courthouse and then make me call the night before just to find out if I won the lottery of a day sitting in a crowded room with some of my weird neighbors? Why not just tell me I will be going for sure right then? I can plan on it. What if I had a job and needed to get the day off? It’s not any trouble for me to go in, I’m a stay-at-home mom. I am bothered that other people might be put out by it. But that’s not what is making me irritable. It’s fear and old memories being dredged up.

The last time I got called into court for jury duty was when we lived in the city. That courthouse was huge and there are so many people. It feels anonymous going in there. I sat in the big comfortable jury waiting room with free water, wi-fi, TV, and vending machines, and read my book. It was kind of nice really. I had three children at home at the time. My step-daughter was starting Junior High School and my two boys were six and five years old. We were homeschooling the boys, so they were home with me and my Mother-In-Law all day. Going to jury duty at that time was kind of like a vacation from regular life. I didn’t mind going in. There was something else bothering me.

Two years earlier I had been falsely accused by the District Attorney and had to defend myself. The charges were dropped after a year and nearly $30,000 in fees, but the time was traumatic for me and I still held some bitterness toward the system for bringing the case against me and for pursuing it so ferociously. The look on the D.A.’s face as he walked out of the courtroom after dropping the case for lack of evidence still stuck with me. Laughing a bit, he looked at me and told me maybe they’d get me next time. I was terrified. They’d watched my house before they arrested me for weeks. I had no idea they were there. Would they be watching me now? How could I know? I hadn’t done anything wrong, but everything they presented was true and led them to believe I was the one that robbed a woman at gunpoint and tried to steal her car. How could I know they wouldn’t pick up more pieces of my life and arrange them in a picture that looked different than the one they took them from?

Two years had gone by and I was still upset by the whole situation. We were still in debt thanks to the police departments job. They had taken a gun handed down from my husband’s father as evidence. We never got it back, not that we ever used it. It had sentimental value.

And now here I was sitting in a courthouse, waiting for them to call my name. I’d been there about an hour when my group was called to a courtroom. We sat listening to the case overview and they passed out a thick questionnaire for us to fill out. We were told to answer all the questions honestly and completely and then return them. We could leave after we were done and were to return in the morning to the same courtroom. I’d have to get my Mother-In-Law to watch the boys again and take my step-daughter to school as well.

I started reading the questions. Most of them were easy and straight forward questions like what’s your background, work, family relationships, etc. Then came ones I never considered. How do you feel about the justice system? Do you think it’s fair? Would you convict someone on what the law is and not how you feel about the law? How could I answer these questions truthfully? I knew the minute I gave my honest answer I’d be asked to leave. If I always answered that way, I’d never be on a jury. And what about that defendant? Shouldn’t he have someone like me on the jury, that might look at the case more fairly? Should I lie and then hold up the deliberation if I got that far?

I couldn’t lie. I knew that. I answered the questions honestly. I don’t believe the system is just. I think most people believe that if you were truly innocent, you wouldn’t be able to incriminate yourself and I learned firsthand that that’s not true at all. I think the general population thinks as I used to; that the Miranda Rights are to help the criminals, not protect the innocent. They get in the way of cops getting the bad guys. After my experience, I think the police arrest anyone they can get their hands on for a crime just so that it looks good on paper. If you arrest people and have a high conviction rate in court, you’re keeping the people safe. Right? It looks good in the annual report. It justifies the money they spend. But crime isn’t being deterred. It’s only being punished, and it doesn’t matter who is punished. Don’t get me started on how I used to feel about Defense Attorneys. We all knew they were the scum that help criminals get out of trouble. I also know from my experience that those that have enough money and a connection to someone that can help are more likely to get out of the trouble, innocent or guilty. All of this, in my opinion, made me a better juror than I was before the incident. I used to think like most everyone else. It is how the system conditions us. If you’ve been accused, you probably did something, and you’ll have to prove to me that you didn’t. The law doesn’t really work that way and now I know why. I wrote all of this down, handed it to the bailiff, and walked out to my car.

When I returned to court the next day, all the potential jurors were standing out in the hall. Before they opened the door and let us in to sit down, they read a list of all the jurors that could go home right now. I was on that list. My heart sunk. They’d never let me on a jury. I was too honest and principled, I thought. And then I was angry. They knew last night when they were reading those papers who they were going to send home. Why didn’t they call us? It would have saved us all a lot of time. I went home and I wasn’t sent a summons until a few years later when we had moved out to the desert.

Since then, I think I’ve been called about six times. I get the paper, I call the number, I’m excused. I feel like I’m forced to participate in some ugly lottery. I haven’t been to the courthouse out here until now. When I got the summons this time, I wrote the date on my calendar. As always happens when I get that summons, I started thinking about my case.

One of my sons asked me recently why I write so much down. I keep a journal and a calendar and write details I want to remember about each day. Plans we’ve made, dinners, where we’re going are all on the calendar. And I tend to go back and write what happened if we do something unexpected. I keep track of the weather, what birds I see, what got cleaned, or what I planted in the yard. It’s a little obsessive and I’ve gotten more detailed over the years. I jokingly tell the boys that someday, all the electronic records will be lost and they will only have my journals and calendars to recreate what it was like to live in the early 2000’s! I also keep receipts filed and easy to recall. Sometimes I start to think it’s a little unhealthy and stop writing. A few days at most can get by before I run back and fill in what has happened on my calendar.

Thinking back, I realize what I’m doing. When the detective was at my home on the day I was arrested, he asked me what I was doing “on the day in question.” I swear! It was just like a “Columbo” re-run or “Law & Order” episode! I showed him my calendar. I usually write down everywhere we go, I told him. I have girl scouts on Fridays and Bible Study on Wednesdays, etc. There was nothing on those days. Nothing at all. Later, my lawyer asked me about that calendar. The DA was using it for evidence. He asked if I had anything else that might point to where I was on that day. I searched my journals. Those days were also empty. They only thing I had was an instant message conversation on the computer between a friend and me. I printed the record of it. It haunted me that I had no alibi for that day. But why would I? I’m a stay-at-home Mom! I was at home making dinner, doing laundry, and chasing kids! How could this be happening?! Writing things down is a symptom of my recurring thoughts, a kind of PTSD thing. It helps me feel safe.

Out of the Blue – Prologue Part 2

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