My family came to see me last weekend. Chad and the 3 younger kids flew to Minneapolis, then drove an hour and a half each way to get back and forth to the prison on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Coming to prison to visit your mom probably isn’t on most kids bucket list but my kids handled it like the champions they are, and the visit brought me a lot of strength, and peace. During our visit I asked each of the kids how they felt about the recent news regarding my case. Sadie told me, “It’s just so hard to understand. Why would the judge give you 7 years in prison for real estate? So many people get less time for a lot worse things!” Little CJ said: “Sadie, mom shouldn’t have signed the papers, that’s why the judge did that!”:) she’s pretty cute! Sadie responded, “It just feels like it will take forever for you to come home, and the government will just get away with what they did to you.” I told Sadie that the truth will always be the truth no matter what a judge says. I will do everything I can to minimize this time, but we also need to do everything we can spiritually to keep our hearts connected. After our visit I spoke with one of my co-workers and told her how bad I felt about the pain my children are going through. She said, “Portia, please don’t let the guilt get in the way of the time you have left visiting with your family. I don’t know anyone who fights as hard as you do! You fought your case until you were traumatized in a county jail then you fought the trauma issues, and I watch you fight in here to do the right things every day. You are a fighter, and you’re doing the best you can with what you have!” I was grateful for her kind words, and made a decision to make my last visit with my family as special as I could. When I talked with Sadie in our last visit I told her how sorry I was for the mistakes that I had made. She told me: “It’s okay mom, I know you didn’t do it on purpose. It’s not your fault!” After Chad and the kids left I laid in bed and thought about my visit, and realized our situation is probably confusing to my kids. What we are going though is my fault because I made some really risky decisions that hurt my family, and my community. I don’t believe that I broke the law, but I know I used poor judgment, and I took risks that set these events in motion and for this I am truly sorry for the pain this has caused my children.
I’ve had women reach out to me who are preparing to travel the road that I am now on. They want to know what to expect, and find it difficult to get relevant information on the internet to help them know how to prepare for prison. If you find yourself reading this facing jail time, I want you to know that this will be one of the hardest things you will ever do. You will miss your family, and community, and feel that you can’t go on. But if you’re diligent, and willing to pursue the right things, you will find that your circumstances don’t define you. In fact, you define your circumstances. Everything important is yours to decide. Those of us who have hit a bottom so low so hard can feel the resounding thud deep in our souls and have had an opportunity to find our true inner self. We have found humility, compassion, freedom, and the world has opened up for us. I promise you that the worst ordeal of your life contains within it, the potential to make you a better person. Sometimes falling down is actually lifting you into a higher part of yourself, and the part of you that was broken is actually revealing the real you underneath. You have the power to decide how this ends, and what this experience becomes for you. This can be your defining moment. You will have to walk through emotions, judgments, anger, and grief but If you are committed you will emerge an amazing person. A person you could not have become without these horrendous experiences. If you focus on the negative you will empower those negative things so choose wisely. In fact, all the important choices are yours to make. You will feel alone in a sea of women, and think that it’s not fair so many seem to be doing the wrong things and finding pleasure while you are suffering trying to do the right things. Find like minded people who will support you. We started a support group at this prison that has become a great strength to those of us who participate. If you are coming to Waseca please find me. I am in the CRC room at rec in the mornings and want to wrap my arms around you and help you through this process. More importantly, find your Father in Heaven; He is here. Prison is a hard place to be vulnerable, so you will need to find a safe place to share your feelings. If you are going to another prison pray, pray, pray! Pray for good room-mates; He can make your room a sanctuary, a protection from the storms of life. Be honest with your family, and community; people will love you in spite of your weaknesses, and the good in others will carry you through.
When I was sentenced my family was already devastated financially. I had been through severe trauma in a county jail, and was holding on to my sanity for dear life! My only hope was that I wouldn’t lose my family, that I would be allowed to serve a home confinement sentence, and be able to re-build my life. When I went to the courthouse the day that I was sentenced it was surreal. Walking into the courtroom I knew the judge was going to give me the maximum sentence, and for a moment the world slipped away. I just wanted to comfort my family through what was about to take place; everything else seemed unimportant; what people thought of me was irrelevant! In fact, local news stations were there that day, and it didn’t even faze me. After the sentenced was pronounced the judge asked the marshals to handcuff me and shackle me in front of my children, and It was only by the Grace of God that we were allowed the 8 weeks anyone in my position would be entitled to have to say good bye. My whole world changed! The experience was so shattering. The fall so long and deep, that everything solid about my life seemed torn away. I lost myself in my suffering, and the climb out seemed impossible. I longed for life as it once was, but realized that I could never return to that place. I also realized I couldn’t remain like I was. The magnitude of my feelings are hard to describe. I felt like I had failed at life, and life had failed me. It was a turning point, a defining moment and I had to make a choice, probably one of the most important choices that I would ever make. How would I respond to what was happening to me? I made a decision to trust God, and my life has never been the same. I pray that those of you who are walking through your own struggles will find comfort in my promise that something amazing lies on the other side of your greatest suffering. In fact, the seeds of greatness are waiting to bloom. To those of you who have shared this journey with me I thank you. I appreciate your love and support, and enjoy reading your comments. May God bless all of us on this journey to find out who we really are and how great we can become!