In November of 2010, I was living in a quiet town in Orange County with my husband, Dave, and our two cats. We owned a shop, where we showed off the work of local artists. In December of 2010, I was accused of a crime at my job and, in the process of dealing with all of that, lost our shop and our home and all of our things. We lived where we could– hotels, spare bedrooms, cars. In January of 2011, miracle of miracles, I started a new job and it was a beautiful and safe one. The year was filled with court meetings and lawyers, illness, and going without– but good people started to flood into our life as quickly as material things left. In August of 2012, as we were in a slightly better place, Dave started a blog for me. I had no idea what blogs were, but it was a hobby I could afford with the only things we had left– borrowed wi-fi and old laptops. In November of 2012, that blog was Freshly Pressed (which was, at the time, WordPress.com’s method of featuring a post on their main page). The audience grew, my writing improved, and most importantly of all– I met a lot more really good people. My husband and I were so entrenched in this community that we decided to host a blogging meet up, which we did in March of 2014. It was delightful and we were already planning quite a few more, but then instead, in May of 2014, a warrant was filed for my arrest and I turned myself in to Orange County jail. I spent two months in a two-person cell while I worked out the details of the plea bargain I would eventually sign. In the middle of that process, I was moved to one big 40-woman cell that we called The Tank. Later, in August of the same year, I was transferred to the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla– over 300 miles from home. There, I started a job as a porter, switched cells twice, and had over two dozen different cellmates, though never more than 7 at a time. Late November moved me closer to home, to the California Institute for Women (CIW), where I was enlisted into the Fire Camp training program. There, I met friends, helped in the kitchen, cleaned the halls, tutored mathematics, pulled my hip out of socket, got slapped on the yard, almost paid a woman with postage stamps to stab me in the leg, failed the wildfire training program, had 10 different cellmates one at a time, became a structure firefighter for the prison itself, and moved cells four times. None of that seemed important enough for the timeline because in May of 2015, Dave died.
Take a deep breath here. That’s what I did.
Then I went to his funeral, escorted by an officer, dressed in prison blues. Then I fought a fire which allowed me to parole early. I paroled in July 2015, and walked out the gates to my mother who had flown across the country to be here when I was free. We had very specific guidelines we had to meet for parole, so I ended up living in a city and county of which I was completely unfamiliar. Long Beach. I lived in a house with a family I had never met before. They were kind. The pattern seemed to hold. Material stuff out, good people in. It took a few weeks to start blogging again. It took a few months for parole to decide I could stay in Long Beach and didn’t have to move back to Orange County by myself. Those were tense months. Even grocery shopping, I was in temporary violation. I could have been flashed, which is what happens to parolees in violation– 5 days thrown back in jail, without any court hearing. I didn’t sleep. Eventually, I started that miracle-job again. I still didn’t sleep.
Two hour daily commutes. A car accident. A car break down. My cats were returned to me but I had nowhere to go with them. Miracle of miracles, the HouseFamily took them in, too. I wrote a book. The PTSD got so bad that the day Mama moved my stuff without asking, I threw up till I passed out. My birthday happened. I met up with a dozen friends who I met through blogging. I went to the beach, to the aquarium, to the grocery store. My computer broke. I read books. I ate foods that Dave never liked or couldn’t eat. I told my stories. In November, we did NanoPoblano again. In December of 2015, I held Dave’s death certificate in my hand and finally learned how he died. He depression made him drink, his diabetes made that drink deadly. I was numb through the holidays, numb through my ten year anniversary, numb when armed officers barged into my house in the middle of the night for a parole inspection. I went to work that day. I loved my job. I loved this blog. The headaches turned out to be because I needed glasses. I got rid of the things I didn’t need to be keeping.
Somehow it was 2016, and then somehow it was Dave’s birthday, February 22nd, and then I lost a friend to a long fight with cancer. Somehow I started dating. Badly. Then we lost Peggie. It was April and my friend was telling me that her husband, another friend, had committed suicide. April showers brought May memorials. I cried for Trevor. I cried for Dave. I couldn’t believe that only a year ago, he was alive. I went to the movies by myself for the first time. I started writing a book. I started therapy. In June, I announced the title — Sack Nasty. That month, I started reading my poetry out loud again for the first time since before prison. On Independence Day, I released the book. I had a book signing. I helped a friend publish his book. I got off parole, and was finally actually free. I met a dozen more blogger friends in August when I won a Voices of the Year award for a blog post about prison. I started a YouTube channel with a friend. I started a Patreon account. In October, we lost Paul. My computer and phone broke. In November, we did NanoPoblano again. There was a totaled car, somewhere in here. Rehab and MRIs. New bills, new symptoms of high anxiety and PTSD. There was being told to go home to my country. There was losing my comic book collection. There were moments of completely giving up, and then there was December and the world felt new again.
Take a deep breath here. I did.
I helped set up a Christmas tree. I walked the streets of Long Beach, smelling like pine, feeling like I was right at home, and that everything was going to be okay. On Christmas Eve, I got a letter saying I owed $452,000 to the state of California for restitution. I felt sick the next day, then the next, but that day was my 11th anniversary so maybe I would have felt sick anyway.
All of a sudden, it was 2017.
I started not sleeping. I started not eating right. I started feeling like everything awful in the world was about to happen. Everything made me sick. Everything is a jumble here. I disappointed my miracle boss. I quit my job with enough savings to give myself a breather. I moved out of the house. There was a lump on my breast but it wasn’t cancerous. The state emptied my bank accounts for the restitution. I had no more savings and no more time for a breather, so I started working again. The constant pain was exhausting and invisible. Something was not right with my body, with my mind. I started fixing it with prescriptions. Then fixing side effects with more prescriptions. There were panic attacks in here, hormone panels and MRIs and endless therapy appointments, both group and one-on-one. I found out I would likely never be able to have a child. There was a stalker and a restraining order. There was a talk with the state about prison policy. Oh, and there were sushi burritos and tater tots with cheese, and movie theaters, and very kind boys who took me on very nice dates. Boys became singular. There was travel, minimal, and the anniversaries of all things. I got used to Long Beach this year and I’ve met some blog friends I didn’t really expect to meet for a very long time.
Rarasaur blog turned 5. I visited my family back home, in a city I’d never been to before. Somehow in the chaos of my years, my little sister got married and had a baby. My baby brother got married and had two. My younger brother got married and had one. My best friend got married and had a baby, too. I had a birthday this year, and nothing bad happened. I found a tiny door on the side of my building and made it a gnome home.
It’s November 2017, and we’re doing NanoPoblano again.
And I am tired.
I’m sure everyone’s life looks like this, if listed out, but I am tired just thinking about it and I’m always looking for ways lately to make my life less stressful. I tell people, on a scale of 1 to 10, I don’t want to mess with anything above a three.
Less than three.
Less than three.
The first year of freedom, I was always looking for the right way to start rebuilding my life. This last year, I’ve been looking for any way to rebuild my life. Most days, I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I feel so ungrateful. I’ve seen so many miracles. The universe has given me so many kind people, so many second chances, so many safe places. I’ve been free since July 2015.
Why do I feel so stuck in the brokenness?
Will I ever heal?
Then I really look at this listing of events. I really look.
And I take a deep breath.
I figure I owe myself about a million more of those. It has been a long seven years.
I don’t mean that to say I am owed anything, or have achieved anything. I only mean that when I see it all written out, I think to myself, that I have done the best I could. That’s all I would have asked of one I love, and so that’s all I’m going to ask of me.
I have plans that I’ll share with you later. Tomorrow’s post will be a picture, so don’t worry about having to read another treatise. Today, I am just trying to live at less than three.
Less than 3.
< than 3.