unlocked: 11,000

Originally written 08/25/14 from Central California’s Women’s Facility, and posted here exactly one year ago. I’m reposting it for safe-keeping and for those who missed it. A-Yard was a big part of the journey, and I still like this explanation of it best.



In two days—August 27th, 2014—I will turn the big three-oh in the “Big House”—California’s largest state correctional facility for women.  I arrived just a week ago and am sitting pretty in receiving, what we colloquially call “A-Yard.”

A-Yard is a resting and distribution center, like a train station—filled with women waiting to go somewhere else, smiling uncertainly at each other because the future holds such extreme possibilities in regards to the relationships here.

We all know it’s possible that you will never see the woman next to you again.
It’s equally possible that you will share—in close proximity and neon orange Technicolor—one of the most memorable experiences of your life with her.

Like a train station, it is constantly bustling here.  It is saturated with hellos, goodbyes, and the commotion of people trying to live life in a limited amount of time and space.  We have tickets, but we call them ducats.  We have porters and bright flashing lights that tell the more-observant among us if everything is running on schedule.

Though, of course,
it’s not.

Like trains, prisons are charmingly—woefully—stuck in the past.  The slow-churning relics answer to no one and make no apologies for their pace.  There’s no reason they should.  After all, it is their very nature.

Today, I understand true natures in a way that my 10-year-old self or 20-year-old self never could.  This is the sort of insight that grownups brag about when they shake a finger at you and say you’ll understand when you’re old.  It’s a frustrating thing to be told– all the way to the day you understand it.

Suddenly, you realize the seed of frustration and curiosity and desire for black-n-white answers grew into a tree of ambiguity and uncertainty.  And one day, you are brave enough (or crazy enough, or simply old enough) to pick a fruit from that tree and chew it to the core.

At the core is acceptance, and life– as seen through it– is a steady cycle full of humor and irony.  There is a little surprise, but much peace can be found in that knowledge.  It is the sort of complex emotion that explains the silly behaviors of old folk.  Like how they laugh and shrug when you want to teach your cat to fetch, but can’t pry her feline body from the sun-kissed grass where she lounges.

Youth claim this as a betrayal of friendship, but old age knows this is a simple clash of true natures.
Youth worries when nighttime falls, but old age knows the sun will rise again, it’s a matter of true nature.

All this explains why grownups say you can’t understand yet–
because you can’t.

None of this makes any sense if you don’t already know it and besides, you are entitled to the innocent ignorance of youth.  It is yours to be savored, and I’ve heard it told that youth has the most delicious true nature anyone could ever taste.

Though I have some time to go before I know that last part for sure.  I’m only just almost 30…  10,950-ish days old… and falling quickly into my 11,000’s.

I’m not upset about celebrating in the company of people who have known me less than 10 days.  No one is a stranger for long in this world and, as usual, I am blessed by the presence of brilliantly kind women.

To some, they are arsonists, drug dealers, escape artists, and car thieves-— but to me, they are my newest sisters.  Their strength is plentiful and refuels my light when I run low.  I would trust my transition into my third decade to these women, but (luckily for them) I have already celebrated.

My husband made me art.  My mama sent me a card with an appropriately—hassled—looking cat on it.  The girls at county jail—with their unerringly natural sense of mindful love—made me a cake.  It was made of beans and Top Ramen because I don’t eat sugar, and they understand the importance of holding onto that restraint in my life.  It was made of almost all they had, and it was magical.  They sang for me and drew me a card and the beauty of our band-aide sisterhood humbled me to tears.  Everyone gave a little—- but the sum of the parts became greater than the whole.  The celebration became a metaphor for my entire life.  It was my celebration—– it is my life—- but every bit of it can be sourced back to the love and gifts of others.  In that moment of pure gratitude and recognition, I became 30.

A soup-bean cake was my rite of passage.

Now, I’m just waiting at this A-Yard depot.  I traded my jailhouse blues for prison oranges.  My roommates seem to come and go as fast as the days, but we make the most of our time—keeping busy and finding value in shared insight.

In this 8-woman cell, I was taught the secret of dream catchers, crafted from scraps of strings and used lids.  They are wondrous.

I build one and wonder if, perhaps, at my truest core, I am a dreamer.
If you must fall– and everyone must, at some point, it’s the true nature of life– then there’s no better direction than toward
the safety net
of a beautiful


  1. Oh, happy birthday to us. For the day you were born was a a gift: a gift of love and vision and wisdom. And for whatever and wherever this wild road called life carries you, I can’t help but be grateful for beautiful you, and for the way you share yourself with us through your gorgeous prose. Wishing I could send you a garbanzo bean cake made with carrots and honey (is honey allowed?) For now, just sending you best wishes and hope.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. A garbanzo bean cake with honey and carrots?! I’m intrigued. None of that would have been allowed, but it sounds amazing. Your wishes and hope came through, chica– thank you, very belatedly. ❤


  2. Happy belated birthday, birthday sister. You are, as I expected, making the wondrously best time possible of your circumstances. Life gave you lemons. You don’t just make lemonade, you make lemon sorbet and lemon tart with whipped cream.
    Love and hugs

    Liked by 3 people

  3. If only there were a power in this world that could and would look down at how positive you are Rara, how you improve everyone’s life around you, how honest and open and real and innocent you are regardless of circumstances. That could see and measure your failth and love and that could undersand clearly that the punishment you are enduring is unearned and unjust.

    I pray for you Rara.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hello to Rara. Belated happy birthday to her. My wish for her is, for sure, the same as those of most of us, if not all. Next year, we wish she’ll be back out celebrating her birthday with loved ones beside her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was an exercise of my writing ability, for sure, since all I had was a silly ballpoint pen and pad of paper. It was step up from county jail’s golf pencil… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this. Have been wondering how she is and where she is…..can she get mail again—anyone know? Anyone have an address? Thanks! Happy Belated birthday to our sweet Rara.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Belated Happy Birthday, Rara. August 25, the day you wrote this, is my birthday, and this post was a gift. Your ability to take events around you and make them into wonderful is a tribute to your spirit. What a rare person you are!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Noelle. The world is full of rare people, and I love most of them. I was lucky to run into such amazing girls… they took care of me, the whole way through. ❤


    1. I’m super late in my gratitude, Art, but thank you. 🙂 I’m sorry you ever spent anytime locked away, too… it’s not something I’d wish on anyone. ❤


      1. Well… I’m not saying I never deserved it… even though I only hurt myself and not other people… and there was one time when the arrest was totally unjustified… but that was thrown out… so… uh… thanks?


  7. You know, Rara, if we could bottle that inner light and distribute it around the world, we’d solve that silly global warming/climate change thing in no time.

    Happy belated to my favorite dino.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, if we could bottle people… well, we’d have bigger problems than global warming. I think there’s been scifi shows based around that concept. 😉 Thank you for your birthday wishes, I swear I heard them all the way through the gates of Chowchilla. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I witnessed the highest levels of giving natures while in jail. Can you imagine only owning 50 things? And then just handing 5 of them over to someone because they need it, or because it will make them happy? I saw that all the time. It fills all the cracks in my heart with joy. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Rara,
    Of course you are a dreamer. How could you achieve all the amazing things you have done without first dreaming about them or imagining them in the first place?
    Unlike some dreamers, you are a practical dreamer. You make your dreams your goal. You make them happen. And you encourage others to believe that they too can make their dreams real.
    Thank you for being a dreamer. Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us. Thank you for being you!
    Much love, and much prayers.
    Faith xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you. Thank YOU for being you. And for the prayers and kind wishes and wonderful thoughts. I love that we can make things real with our thoughts… that’s how I came home in one piece. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I don’t know. I’m writing, chica, but we’ll see. Thank you for your wishes, and for being here. I appreciate you, and I’m sorry to be so late in showing my gratitude. ❤


  9. Wow- We starting blogging about the same day and I remember when we both had seven followers-connections are made and lost in blogging all the time but I always come back to check in—I left it a little too long this time around; had no idea of your situation. So…happy belated Birthday and wish you safe passage through this time you have to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wayne, thank you for your kind wishes. I remember when we both had 7 followers, too, ha! 😀 Safe passage was had, and I am home– and I am grateful to have found this space was decorated with kind words and familiar faces in my absence. Thank you for being here. ❤


    1. Thank you, Hannah. I appreciate your words and readership so much, and coming back to your kind words is… just, well, wonderful. I’m sorry for the belatedness of my reply. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so welcome! I’m sorry that I don’t leave more comments…I’m usually reading you on my cell and its a pain to leave comments with it so often I read and don’t get a chance to say something. Any way…I appreciate your response. 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, 🙂 It seems like just yesterday when in reality I already turned 31. Life is such a funny thing… but it’s also a quite lovely thing. I’m grateful I was able to come back and comment on your wishes, even though it is dreadfully late… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. When it comes to you, I just can’t seem to find the right words to express how much you inspire me, how I’m in awe of you, how I am swept away by your words and your wisdom… I’m honored to call you my friend, xoxo



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