Life In Prison

Zumba, New Roommate

I knew when Ann left we would get another roommate and I hoped for the best?  I prayed about it because 3 of us share a 7ft by 9ft cell and the spirit each person brings to the room is impactful.  We had a few women submitting requests to move to our room and finally decided rather than get involved with the politics, we would just go with the luck of the draw. Our new roommate’s name is Suzan Sue, aka, Sue Sue.  She is here on a white collar charge that I won’t write about because she is currently in the appeal process.  She is a very smart, articulate woman who speaks 3 languages.  She is a doctor and a chemical engineer and she was born in China but is currently a legal citizen.  Many of the other inmates and staff think sh’e crazy.  I’m holding my judgment at this point because I too have been accused of being crazy in my lifetime, I probably am just a little bit crazy:) It makes life interesting!

I have been so sick with bronchitis that won’t go away.  I’ve been to medical twice for help but with no results.  Yesterday Sue came in the room while I was having a tough time.  She noticed that I had been crying and she gave me a big hug and she said, “It’s no good to be sad Portia.   You need to come to Zumba with me.”  Zumba in jail consists of the workout gym  packed with women (mostly Spanish) shaking their behind to the music.  There’s an instructor at the front of the gym on a stage who really knows how to shake it. I never in a million years of my own accord would go to a Zumba class but somehow Sue got me to go yesterday and it was exactly what I needed.  First of all she looked so ridiculous trying to shake her behind that we both started laughing hysterically. Then I gave it a shot and she said, “Oh Portia, you really good shaker”  Then we really started laughing! I didn’t last long but it helped cheer me up.

Today after another horrible night coughing and a discouraging wait in medical, Sue came home from work and started cutting up an onion and laid it out around the cell.  I asked her what she was doing and she told me that raw onion absorbs virus and bacteria.  I started laughing and coughing and said, ” Why not, I have nothing to lose at this point.” When Karin got home she could smell our room before she even got to it.  I’m used to homeopathic remedies because my Mother used them all the time when I was young but Karin was not so amused.  She wanted the onion gone!  I told her we should at least leave it overnight to give it a try, so far we all get a long and compromise.

Prison life is full of ups and downs, there are times of loneliness and discouragement that seem almost impossible to bare. In the last week I have met a woman who lost her Mother and can’t attend her funeral.  A friend lost her brother and a student lost her nephew tragicly at the age of 4.  He was beat up by his mothers boyfriend.  Yesterday a friend from Utah was served divorce papers with only a month left of her sentence, I did my best to comfort her but what do you say?  I can’t imagine trying to get through this life without my faith.  It is such a precious gift!  Last night Raquel and I had our LDS 12 step meeting with just the two of us.  We went to a very small reading room and opened with prayer.  Both of us were so emotional that we couldn’t even get through the prayer.  We kept going with the workbook though and found comfort in the inspired words of our Prophets and leaders.  Afterword we shared our burdens with each other and each of us felt a little lighter.  Raquel closed with a sweet humble prayer and I felt a love for her that still sends chills through my body.  She is a kind humble woman of faith, she is my sister and I love her.  We come from completely different backgrounds but are united in our love of the gospel.

I wanted to take a minute and thank a few special people.  I was struggling again today so I decided to go for a walk alone on the track.  When I came to the unit I noticed my name on the mail list, every inmate looks forward to mail but today it completely changed my day.  I got two letters, one from a sweet sister in Highland and one from a sweet sister from France:) Thank you Leslie for thinking of me, your card was so sweet. Sweet Gwennaelle, I hope you don’t mind if I close with an excerpt from your letter?  It really touched me that Lora shared my story with you and you sent me a letter all the way from France.

Dear Portia,
My name is Gweennaelle and I came across your story because Lora Draper shared it on FB when you were sentenced.  She is in my FB contacts because her husband taught my mother when he was a missionary in France.  I read your blog when I have time and I find it very inspiring. See, I am looking for my way back to the positive attitude that I had when I was younger and it feels like reading your blog helps me in this way.  I am 39 and have a tiny family which includes my daughter (Anne) and her father (Pascal).  When I read what you write about Chad I totally understand what you write as Pascal is amazing too.

I won’t share the entire letter, I just wanted to share how touched I was to get a letter from a busy mom in France.  It was such a blessing to get mail today:) I also want to thank others who have been so supportive, I won’t name you all.  I just want you all to know that some days are harder than others and you really have made a significant difference in my life and are part of my story.

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