Archives for posts with tag: gratitude

imagesCAUFKWM11359165214-protest-at-holloway-prison-supports-women-prisoners-rights_1750354The Uncaged Voice
4th QTR, 2013
Available free upon request at: elayneclift@gmail.com

Dear Family and Friends:
So much has happened this year, the fourth quarter is already here! We have been grateful for every blessing, and each of you is counted twice. Thank you for joining us on this journey of hope, faith, change, and personal growth.
In this issue, we asked a few inmates to write about their personal journey, with emphasis on the positive. We are very grateful for their willingness to be honest and forthcoming, using this forum as a stage to share from. One woman in particular requested that her identity be confidential, and as always, I will honor that.
I understand that many have questions about how my parole hearing with the BPH went on September 11th so I wrote a summary report that I hope makes the realities of that experience absolutely clear. It would not be clear without a little history that led to the decision; therefore, I included that, as not all readers have been privy to the facts.
As always, we hope this edition finds you doing well, safe from harm, and embracing each day as the gift that it is. We are grateful for your support, and ask that you continue to share this publication in any way available to you, even on Facebook, blogs, etc. Knowledge is to be shared. Each writer is a living testimony, as they too celebrate their uncaged voice.
Namaste,
TC & Mama P
SB-260 Update
When California Senator Loni Hancock introduced the Senate bill, SB-260, in March 2013, she knew it would be a battle. The bill recognized that juvenile offenders differ from adult offenders, mainly due to the lack of brain maturation. Hancock pushed this bill because she believed in experts like Lawrence Steinberg and advocates such as Human Rights Watch, who were speaking out about the barbarism in sentencing youth under the age of 18 to lengthy life sentences in adult prisons. I’ll refer to them as JOSAA.
SB-260 passed on May 20, 2013 by a vote of 27:11, and again on July 2, 2013 in the Public Safety Committee by a 4:2 vote. Whew! The big vote on September 6, 2013 by Assembly members was 51:21 in favor of passage. We’re happy to report that Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on September 16, 2013.
This does not mean that all juvenile offenders will automatically be released. It simply means that there will be an opportunity to be found suitable sooner than they would have using the adult matrix set term protocol. The matrix is determined by case factors. So far this is what we know:
• Any JOSAA with 15 years or more will be eligible for parole after 15 years, but only by a special BPH panel.
• Those serving life sentences will be eligible after having served the base term of their actual crime; this means minus the enhancements that got stacked on top.
• Adults don’t begin life term until they enter state prison, which means county time does not really count at first until after found suitable. JOSAAs will begin their life sentence or determinate term from the day of initial arrest and incarceration. All time credit counts.
o Example: A 16 year old, sentenced to 25 years-to-life for homicide, plus an additional 10 years for a gun enhancement, is received in prison in 1998. Her time begins at arrest in 1996, with the 20 year base of the life term, minus the enhancement. In other words, she is eligible for parole in 2016 instead of 2028.
For more information on SB-260 go to http://www.hrw.org or call Elizabeth Calvin: 310-477-5540. Thank you so much for all of your support in passage of this vital bill. Everyone who helped made the difference. Thank you!
Not Everything About Prison is Negative, by Cora Murry
My story begins on August 3, 2003 when I arrived at prison a very angry person. When I was sentenced to 24 years, I thought it was the end of the world. It seemed like a lifetime away. I had only one thought and that was to make a name for myself behind these walls. Fighting was an outlet for my anger until my dear friend, Shawn, reprimanded me. She bluntly got my attention with “Cora, you’re not going to succeed like that! What about our plans?” At that moment, the light came on. It was clear that if I was going to make it in here I wouldn’t get very far by fighting. From that day forward I managed more control over my emotions and began planning for my future.
About eight months later I obtained a job on the yard crew. I performed my duties so well that I was recommended for a seamstress job at my facility yard clothing room. All I knew about sewing was what little I had gained from watching my mother years earlier. However, I accepted the job offer to stay on course with reaching my ultimate goal of working at Joint Venture. In order to achieve that goal I needed to build a strong resume. I was hired as the clothing room seamstress.
After doing well in that job for six months I applied for a position at PIA Fabric, a warehouse setting very similar to the 1920s sweatshops. I was quickly hired but the position required that I move from B-yard to C-yard, leaving the very peers who had mentored me to that point. It was scary relocating like that, but I adapted to new people, roommates, and the yard change in general. If nothing else, prison forces adaptation and you can either resist or go with it, and in this case, it was a new path toward my goal. I left the seamstress job at $36/month for the PIA job at $75/month. My goal at that time was to receive my five cent an hour raises every three months in order to raise my earnings to upwards of $100/month. Given all of the overtime and Saturdays that I worked I was well on my way.
I added being a WAC member to my responsibilities. WAC stands for Women’s Advisory Council. I became a voice for the women who couldn’t, or simply did not know how, to speak up for their prison rights. I spent one year doing this, keeping myself busy with as many positive activities as possible. Life was good by prison standards – until May 5, 2004.
I had done well for myself and was reaching goal after goal. Then I received the call that every prisoner fears, which is to report to your counselor’s office for a personal phone call. That was the day that my family informed me that my beloved mother, Alma Murry, had passed away. My flame began to flicker as I felt the oxygen leave my body. I had never been more crushed. I cried for three straight days in my solitude of bereavement, and then I knew that I had to make a decision. I could pick myself up and move forward or rebel in my pain, losing my job while other inmates waited to fill my position. I did exactly what my mother would have wanted me to do: I pushed forward, refocusing on my goal anew. I didn’t quit.
Exactly one year later, on the anniversary of my mother’s death, I was hired at my prison dream job: Allwire Electric Company, operated under the prison title of Joint Venture. I had made it! I went from one goal to the next until I reached my then ultimate goal. I started at the legal minimum wage as opposed to pennies on the dollar and did well for three years until 2008, when 15 others and I were laid off due to reduced work production. Still, I’m grateful for all that I learned.
My next goal is to be hired at PIA Dental. I earned my GED on August 5, 2013 and now intend to pursue my AA degree. It hasn’t been easy but I’m living proof that hard work and dedication does hold priceless rewards. In sharing my story, I hope my message is loud and clear: a lot of positive things can be achieved in life, even in a place like prison. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved thus far, but I’m still a work-in-progress. You can do anything you set your mind to, and like me, you too can be your own success story.
What Happened?!?
There are a good many of our friends scratching their heads, trying to wrap their brains around what happened at my parole suitability hearing on September 11, 2013. Given my positive prison record and impressive C-file, many cannot grasp the idea that not only was I denied parole for three more years, but that I asked the panel to permit me to stipulate to such a decision. I will do my best to explain how that sort of thing happens.
First, we need to time travel backwards to the year 2005 when my first suitability hearing was held. Prior to any hearing, all lifers must submit to a psychological evaluation that not only digs into their past but assesses their risk for recidivism likelihood. The BPH relies on these reports, providing them with the professional opinion of a licensed psychologist, which carries a lot of weight in that room. I had 602’d the report for its inaccurate assumptions and biased declarations that I have since proven false, but my 2005 hearing was held with that 2005 analysis used heavily against me. I learned something that year: I learned to fight lies with real evidence. But, what lies?
My interview with Dr. Hartung had lasted all of 45 minutes, with three phone call interruptions, one of which was so private he had me step out of the room for about seven minutes. I had answered questions about my childhood including the ugly truth of abuse. I explained how when I was five years old I was a chronic bed-wetter and my parents had me see a doctor to fix the problem. I told him, “They scheduled me for surgery. A surgery that was not necessary, because I didn’t have a bladder problem; I was wetting the bed on purpose to keep my stepfather out of it. The smell of urine appalled him, so even at five years old I had figured out a way to protect myself.”
In his report, however, Dr. Hartung had said that I had completely fabricated the story about the surgery. He wrote that not only is such a surgery for chronic bed-wetting unheard of at such a young age, but that I was narcissistic to think that I could manipulate him into believing the story of a conspiracy against me by my parents and the doctor for this unnecessary surgery. I never said it was unnecessary in the cruel sense of a conspiracy. I said it was unnecessary because I was wetting the bed on purpose to keep my stepfather out of it.
Oh, it gets better.
During our interview, on at least three occasions, he asked me if I had ever set fires or tortured animals. I was annoyed when he asked the third time. I’m in prison for killing my stepfather, yes, but I’m not a serial killer, for Pete’s sake! However, in the printed report, the good doctor based part of his claim that I lied about the sexual abuse on the fact that I had denied being an arsonist or sadist. I was raised to respect other people’s property and everyone knows I love animals. I don’t know what textbook he got his theory from, but not all incest and rape survivors resort to arson and sadistic acts of animal torture.
In a nutshell, he called me a sociopathic, narcissistic, antisocial liar without empathy or remorse. He called me a freakin’ liar! I was so outraged to have my voice shoved to a dark corner like that I decided to put that anger to good use. Instead of acting out, I responded with a mission to prove that Dr. Hartung’s report wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. I had to find the evidence, so I wrote every hospital in the Bay area until I obtained my medical records, and I had the proof staring me in the face. I not only had records of what led up to the surgery and the surgery itself, but other medical records that, had my trial attorney done this research before the 1992 trial, the jury would have had an entirely different perspective. Armed with those documents, I was actually grateful that Dr. Hartung set my anger on fire because it sent me into action. No survivor likes to be called a liar. As a matter of fact, it is that very fear that prevents most victims from speaking out. It takes guts and raw courage to speak up and it is almost condemning to not be believed when you do. Thank God I was already ten years into my recovery when that happened; otherwise I may have just shut down. However, I had found my voice. I didn’t shut down. And I didn’t shut up.
In 2008 I had a roommate named Echo who advised me that I could put a free ad in the Craig’s List website to draw attention to our case. We certainly couldn’t afford legal counsel so I thought, why not place an ad? I asked Steve and Carolyn to place the ad for me and they did, using their email address for responses. There were several hits which eventually led to my mother and I both gaining pro bono legal representation.
In 2009 I was scheduled for my subsequent parole suitability hearing, therefore [sent] to see a psychologist to perform a new assessment analysis report. I explained that I had legal representation that was putting together a Writ of Habeas Corpus and that I had already waived my 2009 BPH hearing because of this. He agreed that holding the lengthy interview would be irrelevant if I was not holding my hearing and also seeking to go back to court. He excused me from the interview, then once I left he proceeded to evaluate me without my being present. He used the 2005 report as his test subject instead of using me for that purpose. If that is not illegal, it should, at the very least, be deemed unethical. In essence, the 2005 report was still haunting me.
Fast forward now to 2013. I had to tell you all of that in order for what I’m about to tell you to make sense. When changes were made to BPH policy after passage of Marsy’s Law, it was determined that all psychological evaluations of lifers up for parole would carry a shelf-life of five years. The 2009 report is still valid until about 3rd quarter, 2014.
Due to the unethical nature of the 2009 report, my state-appointed legal counsel, Michele Garfinkel, requested of the panel that I be allowed to postpone my hearing so that I can be re-evaluated for a fair and impartial hearing. The panel denied that request. Michele then asked to speak to me privately to review my options, which we did.
Okay, I could go forward with this hearing using that foul report full of false accusations and risk what could have amounted to about a five year denial of parole. Michele, however, patiently explained the benefits of option #2 which was clearly in my best interest. I chose to stipulate to the minimum denial of parole which was three years. By doing so, I could wait out the shelf-life of the 2009 report and then take my medical records and evidence of abuse into an entirely new interview process for a new evaluation. That should help nip presumed assumptions of sociopathic lying. Well, I’m hoping that seeing the proof will make a difference. After a year I can file a 1045A formal request to have my next hearing held prior to the three year wait. Yes, in other words, I still obtained a postponement to obtain a new evaluation, but we’re calling it a three year stipulation of denial of parole. It’s just part of the political process. Had I faced the panel with the warped 2004 report it certainly would have been freedom suicide. This is not a matter of manipulating the system. I see it as a matter of using their written policy as a means to pursue my path to freedom, even if it requires that I file extra paperwork in order to do so.
I’m very satisfied with my decision and definitely grateful to Michele for her careful explanation of the law and my legal options. She says she does BPH law because she believes in the process. Her demeanor and professionalism was evident that those were not just words. Any lifers interested in a competent and caring BPH attorney, contact Michele Garfinkel, 1611 S Street, Suite 202, Sacramento, CA 95811.
There’s Nothing Funny About It
While it is true that the California state prison system has become a warehousing debt maker to hold inmates bulging at the seams, it has also warehoused the mentally ill. With the closures of many of the psychiatric hospitals, those patients need to be placed somewhere to obtain the help they need. They are being housed in prison, where they may not necessarily receive the medical attention that they need. Budget cuts have decreased the available staff and options for the mentally ill are limited.
Inmates who hear voices walk the grounds here, arguing and socializing with those voices. Those of us who cannot hear their voices are clueless as to what they are going through. There is nothing funny about an individual who is struggling on the brink of sanity and insanity. However, there are those who point, laugh, and even mimic the women devoured by inner demons in a fight for control. It is sad. It is preventable. It is inappropriately on display to be ridiculed by those who are fortunate not to be one of the mentally ill, lost in a wasteland of voices and finger-pointing. It is a lot of things, but funny it is not.
I learned that prison has a pill-popping policy that is their answer to everything. Now mind you, I can grasp that in some cases people need a pill for this or that. In 1995 I was having trouble sleeping. I was battling my own demons of the past. The staff here in white jackets wanted to give me Elavil, a psychotropic medication. A mood changer. I didn’t need a pill, I needed to talk. However, being overworked and understaffed, they would rather give you a pill and send you on your way. Since I refused pills to numb my pain they removed me from the list to be seen. By the way, the guy who did that was eventually walked off the job for inappropriate sexual behavior with a patient. Need I say more?
There are a good many individuals who are doing well with the use of medications but what about the ones on the walkway who argue loudly with the voices in their heads? The ones who officers walk right past? The ones who are getting the short end of the stick? They don’t belong in prison. They belong somewhere where they can receive help. Real help.
CCWF has a policy in place called EOP – Enhanced Outpatient Program. There is a unit in the receiving yard that houses those not ready for assimilation into the general population of inmates. There are rooms in each of the general population units that have “step-up” rooms. They are called that as a means of stepping up [or transitioning] from EOP. If the women can’t make it there they are returned to EOP. What is sad is that there are many who really aren’t making it as opposed to barely hanging in there. Since these step-up rooms are in G.P., we are all mingled together. If the EOP/Step Up inmate attacks one of us, they get a pass. No repercussions because they are deemed mentally ill. If we defend ourselves we can get a write-up. So not only are they vulnerable in this situation, but we are as well.
There are a lot of things broken in the penal system, but especially at the level of incarceration. There are people who do belong here, most certainly, but there are way too many who should be in a different environment. Definitely not criminal isolation. So when you are saying your prayers, add one for the mentally ill prison population. Someone needs to care about them, and if it’s not the system, it needs to be us.
When You Complain, You Remain by Niki Martinez
Who among us just gets frustrated and walks around saying, “I hate this place!” or “I’m sick of being here!”? We all have those days. And it puts you in a crappy mood. But I need to remind you: when you complain, you remain! It tends to set the tone for your day, your attitude and your perspective. It is so easy to get caught up in the mentality of “I hate it here.” But what we need to realize is that it could always be worse. When we change our perspective, we change our attitude, and when we change our attitude, it affects our lives! Why walk around feeling crappy, making life worse than it has to be, because we choose to? We have to know what thoughts to ignore, and respectfully, what people to ignore.
Too many people are negative and discouraged because they don’t like where they are. It’s just not where they want to be. They missed the unlock, their roommate locked them out, they’re stuck at the gate, they want in, they want out, they can’t wait for the door to open to go program, they get to work and they’re still irritated. They want to shop, they come back and they’re mad about being locked out and not getting this or that! They are always fighting against something. They are always trying to be somewhere else. We really need to begin to understand that change begins in us, not in our circumstances. The wrong attitude will keep us right where we are! So often, we find ourselves fighting our way to happiness, thinking it’s some sort of destination. We’re always trying to reach somewhere else and then we will be happy. “Once I shop, I’ll be happy.” “If I could just move then I’d be happy.” “If I had that other job, if I could move off this yard…” Or the bigger one that all of us are so convinced of: “If I could just get out of this prison, then I’d be happy.”
When we think of it like that, it only holds us back from our own happiness. A better approach is “This is where God has me right now and until He moves me, I’ll be happy right now, right here.” It is our choice. Our happiness doesn’t involve our circumstances or our place of residence, it involves our perspective and our attitude. We have to be determined to enjoy our lives no matter where we are living them. And when we understand that God has us exactly where He wants us, and when we learn to be happy where we are, He will take us where we want to be.
If we want to see God open new doors, the key is to bloom right where we are planted. We cannot wait until everything becomes better before we decide to have a good attitude. We have to be the best we can be right where we are.
When we change our approach, slow down, and just enjoy the journey, or take in all the journey has to offer, we will arrive where we’re supposed to be, but our lives will be much more fulfilled. And then we will be blessed with the perspective that it was all worth it. Instead of looking at what w don’t have, be grateful for what we do have. Somebody in this world would gladly trade places with us. Somebody would love to able to breathe like us, or be able to walk like us or see like us. Somebody would love to living where we are living.
Complaining only delays better days.

Choices by Christina Francis
Life is about choices- good and bad, positive and negative – and the consequences of actions taken because of the choices we make. My own choices led to my being a juvenile offender sentences as an adult. I entered State prison only three months after turning 17 years old. At that time I was the youngest person housed at CCWF, not exactly the claim to fame one strives to reach. I was instantly defined as a lost cause and led to believe that this was true. My truth. Not knowing any better, I embraced that [stigmata]; that is how I began serving my life sentence.
Through many trials and tribulations, today I now know that this is not true. That it need not be my legacy. I’ve learned in my own way to turn that around and to re-evaluate my views and values. Incarceration really is the biggest time out ever. It has brought me face to face with the here and now. Although I am separated from the outside world, prison has offered me the grand opportunity to stop and think about the natural flow of life, and to reflect on my place in it.
It has not been easy to grow up in a women’s prison. To be raised in such a volatile and angry environment. My vision, hope and faith were distorted by the daily madness; I simply let it envelop me and became a part of it. I somehow settled it in my mind that not only would this be where I will die, but that I was okay with such a desolate reality.
Over the years, however, that 17 year old kid has grown up, and in that development process I forced myself to look deeper into my core issues. I did not do this alone, but with the help and support of good friends who had pure motives and who hoped to see me reach my true potential. It took time but I found that it really is possible to overcome challenges. It took all the super-human dedication and effort that I could muster, but I grew tall enough mentally to see over the mountains of what I perceived as impossible. I’m content with the struggles that I’ve encountered. In life, every struggle, every circumstance of pain and chaos is in itself a lesson in progress. I have gained wisdom and personal strength through this philosophy and it allows me to perceive and respond to things as they are.
Growth requires limitless courage and through the experiences that taught me that I now believe that anything is possible. Before I could ever take control and rebuild my life I needed a firm desire to make my wishes sincere and real in every way. The more progress I made, the closer I drew toward becoming a useful person with a purpose in life. I learned that making excuses for not growing and feeling sorry for myself and my predicament was wasted energy. The negative sources of stagnation that I surrounded myself with only delayed my growth process – time I can never get back. When I hear someone say that I never had half a chance, I hear a voice of knowing that says, “You create your own chances, or lack thereof.” And I know this is true. At least for me it is.
I am a true believer that an inner drive for growth will push you forward; I’m living witness to how you can conquer many obstacles by demanding such commitment to personal growth. Being incarcerated, I have little control over many aspects of institutional life, but I have control over myself, how I see things, and most certainly, how I react to all of it. We can choose to advance or sit in our self-pity and rot. The choice is ours. As for myself, I keep putting one foot in front of the other and progressing forward. Doing so has made all the difference. A difference I now embrace.

I Saw God Today by Patti Garrison
I saw God today,
In the sunrise;
Beautiful hues of pink and purple,
Brush strokes in the clouds;
Painted by a master painter.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is beautiful.

I saw God today,
In the forest;
Awed by the majestic trees,
Which have stood against
Winds and storms, yet stand proud.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is strong.

I saw God today,
In the eyes of a man;
He rises early to feed the hungry,
And help the needy,
His only reason being that help is needed.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is kind.

I saw God today,
In the actions of a woman;
She stopped to help a homeless man.
She extended her hand and he was hesitant,
Until he saw her smile.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is compassionate.

I heard God today,
In the laughter of a child;
So pure and sweet,
Filling the air,
With happiness and innocence.
Yes, I saw god today,
And I can tell you, He is joyous!

I thanked God today,
For allowing me to see and hear Him,
In the simple, yet beautiful everyday things,
Which surround us all,
If only we take the time to notice.
Yes, I thanked God today,
And I can tell you, I am blessed.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving by Strictly Anonymous
I, like anyone else, have a story to tell. I believe we are all the walking proof of our pasts. While my story may not be pretty, the truth is that for prisoners it never really is.
In high school I never really had very many friends. The jocks all thought they were gods, the cheerleaders were total snobs, and the in-crowd could see that I was more out than in. I felt like an outsider looking in to a world that didn’t care if I even existed. I felt alone in the world.
And then I met him. He made me feel like I mattered. He actually wanted my time, my attention, to hear my own thoughts; he even asked about my dreams. His name was Jeff. I was 16 years old and in the 11th grade. Jeff, however, was 21; he worked as a forklift operator at a large warehouse. He made money that he readily spent on me. I had never felt so special in all my life. For the first time, I felt loved.
Because of our ages we had to keep our relationship a secret. Even from my sister, who almost always knew what I was up to due to her snooping nature.
We had been dating for over a year when Jeff hit me for the first time. I never saw it coming. He kept it invisible to the peering world by leaving marks only where clothing hid the bruises. Somehow he had convinced me that it was my fault. That I made him so mad at me I had it coming. I actually believed that.
In a relationship like that things never get better. Ours got worse and when he realized he had gotten me pregnant, he expected me to get an abortion. Hiding the relationship was one thing, but hiding an abortion from my devout Catholic parents was a whole other idea. Jeff and I argued over this. I was 17 years old by then and he kept telling me how he could get in trouble if I didn’t get the abortion. The final straw was when he began to threaten that he’d kill the baby himself. I imagined his kicking me in the stomach. I agreed to the abortion to escape that sense of a beating. The next day I disappeared from his life.
Jeff couldn’t contact me at school and he couldn’t contact my family for fear of statutory rape charges. What he didn’t know was that I’d told my parents the truth. It was all I could think of to do. First I told my mother, then with my mother’s support, my father too. I went to live with my aunt in southern California and spent my son’s first two years under her roof. She was my saving grace. I was able to get a job and my GED with her help and daily encouragement. I made a life for myself in southern California and life was good. Jeff was only a memory.
When I was 24 years old, my son Dalton was six and in school. I was working at an office building that had a front desk with security personnel. One day I was called to come down from my office to see a visitor at the front desk. I was told his name: Jeff had found me. I felt my breath get trapped in my lungs. The walls were closing in. I couldn’t even speak for the first few seconds. Reluctantly, I agreed to meet him at the front desk, but I warned Perry, the security officer, on the phone, “This may not end well. Please stay nearby.” Perry assured me and I reported to the desk.
Well, this story actually did end well. Jeff asked me to sit on a couch in the lobby with him and he proceeded to tell me how he had found me. It wasn’t very hard; I had never changed my name. He assured me that he had grown up, changed his ways, and was a better man than the immature person I had left behind. He apologized and then he asked, “How is life? Tell me about the baby.” I told him he had a son. I gave him ten minutes, and then had to return to work, but agreed to meet him in a very public place – a restaurant. I showed him photos and literally let him see his son grow up in pictures. Our son. My intuition was that Jeff really had changed.
Although Jeff and I never got back together again, we were able to maintain a personal relationship of respect and I introduced him to Dalton. After about three months, Jeff relocated to southern California to be closer to his son. They have formed a beautiful bond and I am grateful for that. Had I held on to my anger, hatred and mistrust of Jeff, I would have robbed my son of the privilege of knowing his father. I chose to accept Jeff’s apology, and I truly forgave him. Once I did, I was freed from the past.
A few years ago, I took the law into my own hands against a coach, to protect Dalton. The law didn’t like my idea of a mother’s love and I was sentenced to 16 years in State prison. However, Jeff brings my son to see me twice a month and on holidays. My one act of forgiveness has come back to me over and over again.
When I began telling my story, you may not have expected this ending, but what it amounts to is this: Life is beautiful, even in prison.

Hey, Sports Fans!
Joe had tickets for the Super Bowl with a seat on the 50-yard line. As he sat down he noticed that the seat next to his was vacant. He asked the man on the other side if anyone was sitting there.
“No,” the man replied. “That seat is empty.”
“This is incredible!” Joe said. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Super bowl and not use it?”
The man looked up and said, “Well, it actually belongs to my wife but she passed away. This will be the first Super Bowl we haven’t been together since we married 23 years ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” said Joe. “Couldn’t you find a friend or relative or even a neighbor to take the seat?”
The man simply shrugged, saying, “No. They’re all at the funeral!”

From the Heart
I remember my first trip to Yosemite National Park in 1982 with a few of my co-worker friends. We drove late at night so didn’t see much scenery going through Mariposa. We couldn’t see much more than darkness around us beyond the bit of road in the headlights. It wasn’t until daybreak that we really saw the beauty of the valley floor. It was nearly intoxicating.
After checking in and locating our canvas tent cabins the four of us set about exploring the park. We headed straight for the tourist spot of the magical and fantastic Yosemite Falls. The way the mist kissed your face you knew you were somewhere special. I wasn’t the most religious person in the world and even I felt as if I’d been misted by God.
Garfield, Lynn and Lori were good company as we hiked up the fall, the slippery wet rocks beneath my boots. We could feel the change in altitude taking effect, the higher we went. I think it was my legs that felt the burn equal to what Garfield’s lungs did. That’ll teach her to smoke! Lori and I wanted to go up higher but Garfield couldn’t make it, and well, abandoning her wasn’t an option. We did make it to a high pool where we could sit on some boulders and just take it all in for a moment. It was absolutely magnificent. Here was clearly a landscape that paintings could not do justice to, for it was a creation not of man, but of a power greater than that.
In those few minutes before we trekked back down the falls I took it all in. I breathed it in. I soaked it up like a sponge and I have kept it all these years. It was one of those experiences that photos cannot convey but can only capture frozen in time. In those few minutes, I truly appreciated that I had the opportunity that not everyone does. I’ve met many women here that never had that chance. And every time that I do, I feel blessed all over again.
So I say from the heart to you: Don’t ever take anything for granted. Not your knowledge, mobility, senses, or next meal. Don’t take it for granted that you can breathe or talk or have clothing and clean water to drink. It is said that the best things in life aren’t things, but everything. I agree. When you struggle, it is part of your life’s blueprint, and even the butterfly must struggle out of the cocoon before it can fly. A woman goes through pain when her child is being born but she is grateful for the priceless gift. Stop and think about the people you haven’t spoken to or seen in awhile. Then tell them that you’re thinking of them. You just may make their day. Better yet, they are given the opportunity to make yours. Works for me. May you all have a safe, healthy, happy holiday season.
Love and Peace,
TC and Mama P
T.C. Paulinkonis Barbara Paulinkonis
W45118 (514-16-04U) W45120 (514-15-02L)
P.O. Box 1508 P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508 Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508

(In typing this newsletter, some minor edits were made for clarity. Words in brackets indicate that the handwritten version was unclear.)

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Baseball, voices of male announcers speak of spots, and of the Dodgers and Braves – playing in Atlanta. The stage is set, and ennui of memory washes over me, my twelve-year old, wide red sash waisted, self in a red dress with white stars as a skirt, and white with red stars for the top, and a Prince Valiant haircut gone amuck.

I am in that flat land where baseball which brings joy and solace to Bill, my aging pal of a husband, and I am tolerant of his current absorption in the world of sports. On the other hand, this landscape, this flatland, exacerbates my struggle to breathe, to garner energy, to see light on a horizon, and to see beyond dust in the house. It’s not that bad, but I don’t have the physical strength I used to, that is when I didn’t have immune system illness. It seems to me I’ve felt 80 years old more times in my life than I’d like to count, which fact will fill me with laughter later as I remember thinking, where is that post-menopausal zest Margaret Mead talks about?

I teeter on the edge of 75. A twin gone at 68. I’m the last of the – whatevers. I am a woman of intense vibrancy, who sees magenta when others see drab red, who gets high on crusty French rolls slathered with butter, who looks into the eyes of a Pug dog and sees God as Humorist, and finally I am an older woman who has survived a great deal, as we all have.

Eight days of bronchitis find me acknowledging ever so readily that I am inside, under a roof safe, and that the breeze is gentle, but somehow, I feel as if I’ve placed myself on automatic life review, like an old Studebaker repeatedly returning to the carwash to get scrubbed up by those thick foamy brushes again.

Life is not for the faint hearted. My Faith is not for the faint hearted. Repeated rendezvous with brushes in Life’s Car Wash doesn’t strike me as an appropriate ending for any day, any life. But, Reader, at 75 and feeling like edges of dog meat gone bad, I think of endings.

What happens to all those childhood patterns, phobias and fears that one conquers? The bursting out of old patterns, like someone hurtling through the paper star in the circus, which burns small orange flames around its edges if you want to know, and that someone’s an old girl, and that old girl’s been shot out of a canon, yeah that one.

Somehow as I get older I am more aware of the gravel, the small stones in my life, and my too much obsession with minutia of picking them up and wondering, should I have unturned this earlier? At all? Fear of Abandonment.

OMG, seventies phrases guaranteed to enter kachunkas in a Therapist’s cash register, and appear in my Robitussin DM filled brain, competing with titles like keep those Run With Wolves, Cavorts with Angels, but Does the Laundry on Monday, even with a Virus Cold, titles which no longer enchant.

It’s the unknown. There I go again, worrying into the future, nettling, rearranging its furniture in the storehouse of my mind. Will I have a bed, a place to live, and some lentils to suck on? I am not a sole voice, lonely giving wolf calls into the hills. My voice is legion.

Should I write to AARP, and say “Hey what does an old gal do?” None of us want our kids to be burdened with our care, and yet again, I don’t want to end up on a broken-springed bed in a dark corner of a Convalescent Home, breathing through my mouth because of the You Know What smells and smiling at someone, while trembling within – will they be kind?

Vulnerability; I feel skin-inside-out vulnerable. And I also feel an abstract level of myself rising up from a rock, shedding identity after identity: the spunky one, the I’m building my career at 74 one, the sure I can drive you there, the be there for 700 cronies around the world type of thing, the blogger whose too pooped to platform, and who wouldn’t dare try on platform shoes in fear of falling.

You catch my drift dear reader. This is a glimpse of an old gal who normally wants to throw her head back and laugh, who believes in our essential oneness, and who is acutely aware of the swords of greed on this training ground of a planet, our training ground, my training ground.

So I’ll end with that’s it. Close the Word Barn for the day. It helps to be able to voice vulnerability. Thought I didn’t have to do that anymore, but this here aging is going to take courage, and I’m going for it. Shoot the Moon type of thing.

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The T.C. and Mama P Newsletter
1st QTR, 2013, Available free at annaing@centrum.is

Dear Family of Friends,
With a new year upon us, we look forward to what we hope is a good year of changes for the better, and new insights as we face each day as it comes.
The 4th quarter of 2012 was especially stressful on Mama P and myself and we prepared her for her parole hearing. She went into that hearing room hopeful, given the good fate of many lifers before her who received parole grants. Have you ever been at the beach and had a big wave crash down upon you and literally knock you off of your feet? You think to yourself, „what in the hell just happened?“ as you try to regain your composure? Yeah, well it was like that. That is the best way to describe it. It sort of takes the breath out of you.
On top of the parole hearing, which got put off until it was held in October, we had other prison politic‘s taking place as well. If it wasn‘t the transfers of women from VSP coming over in droves, it was the stress level of those around us. The air was thick with it. We had a lot going on in our minds. A lot of „what now?“ questions. Yes, we were so self-absorbed in our own world here behind razor-wire fences, considering our own futures, that for a little while, we forgot what it meant to relax.
And then it happened. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When something that horrific takes place, it puts things in perspective for you really fast. You‘re grateful it wasn‘t your child. You‘re glad you have someone to hug, your loved ones to talk to. Why is it that people wait for tragedies like this before they wake up and realize they‘ve taken others for granted? I challenge you to live each day like tomorrow may not come. I you care about someone, tell them. Don‘t assume that they already know and don‘t need to hear it. People need to hear it. A little effort on your part can go a long ways. For every day that you wake, be thankful. For every breath that your lungs automatically take in, be thankful, for there are countless others who cannot on their own.
Folks, for every day that you can rise out of bed, be it in the free world or prison, be grateful that you can. There are six school staffers and twenty innocent children who cannot. There are 26 families who can no longer say, „I love you“ to listening ears. We have that chance every single day. Don‘t take it for granted. Please, for the love of God, don‘t assume they don‘t need to hear it. You never know what kind of day they are having. A few kind words from you could make all of the difference.
I challenge you to love …. and love well.
Happy New Year,
T.C. and Mama P

About Mom‘s Parole Verdict
We understand that many of our loyal supporters have questions about what happened during Mom‘s parole hearing. We‘ve been asked what was asked, what was said, how it all went. Please understand that we‘ve reported what we thought was sufficient to help y‘all understand why mom was denied parole. Her legal team wants to keep any such statements to a minimum. We need to respect that. They are acting in her best interests and will continue to do so. Calling their office to voice your opinions isn‘t going to help matters.
According to the law as it is written, mom can file a special form called a 1045A Petition, to request a hearing sooner than five years. If she has her ducks all lined up like the BPH recommended she do, she could possibly be reheard in three years. It‘s all a matter of more time.

You Be the Judge
Let me introduce you to Steven C. Martinez.
While serving his 157 years to life sentence at Centinela State Prison, he was attacked by two inmates and stabbed in the neck. The laceration of his spinal cord caused instant quadriplegia. Martinez requires 24 hour around the clock care, and will so for the rest of his life. He can barely turn his head, yet has zero motor skills in his arms and legs, nor control over bowel and bladder functions. He is not expected to ever regain any, let alone all of these bodily functions again.
Would you say he qualifies For Medical Parole under legislature act 3550 for medically incapacitated inmates? The parole Board denied his petition For Medical Parole due to his heinous crime and his aggrivated potential towards violence against women. Oh, you need more facts, don‘t you? Well in that case, read on.
In 1998, Martinez deliberately drove his car into two young women, pinning one beneath the vehicle. He then grabbed the incapacitated woman by the throat, broke her nose by punching her, and threw her into the backseat before driving her to a secluded location. That‘s where the worst part of his crime was committed upon his bloody and battered victim. I‘ll spare you the graphic details evident in his convition list of charges! Forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, rape with a foreign object, assault with a deadly weapon, battery causing serious injury, hit and run causing injury, and finally, kidnapping.
While in custody, he‘s threatened custody staff and nurses with great bodily injury, even provoking responses about knowing where they live. He was constantly verbally abusive using both vulgar and derogatory name calling to berate the nurses who tried to help him. Being that he was completely reliant on medical staff due to his paralysis, you‘d think he‘d be more respectful. That is not the case. He threaterned them on a regular basis, so is denial of Medical Parole, Poetic Justice?
So, you be the judge. Although paralyzed with no hope of normal motor skills ever again, does he pose a threat to public safety? The BPH thought so. And so, he appealed their decision, to which the 4th Dist. Appelate Courd ruled in his favor. They ordered the release of Steven Marinez, subject to whatever conditions The Board deems appropriate.
Before you say yes or no on this sensitive issue of Medical Parole, let us not for get that there was a young lady who was savagely raped over and over again by this guy. There‘s a part of her that‘s paralyzed as well for the rest of her life. Why should she be robbed of justice just because Martinez picked the wrong fight with the wrong inmate? Yes, he‘s paralyzed, but his mentality is that he‘d do it all over again if he could. Lifers are not allowed to be paroled until we change our way of thinking. The Board is very adamant about this criteria for parole. Does paralysis change that?
So, if you were in the position to decide the fate of inmate Steven Martinez, would you agree with the BPH, or with the Appellate Court? And more importantly, no matter what you decide, could you sleep at night with that decision?

Change – Submitted by Snoop, Aka Raphael
Long ago someone taught me that people enter our lives, some for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. Expect nothing to remain the same. For it is in the order of change that some thins must grow. It is also in the order of change, that some things must go.
Expect a change to come. Change will come whether you welcome it or not. It must first be recognized before it can ever be utilized. Change implements new ways and ideas in doing things. It is the order of change that brings about prosperity. You must seek to prosper in everything you set out to do, but the ideas must be done with the order of change.
Ideas begin as a thought, which are seeds that have been planted in the fertile ground of your mind. If you want change to manifest in your life, you must change the way you think. In order to do this, you must change your heart. Your mouth will speak whatever is in your heart. So, if you are speaking ignorantly, idly, or just plain old hating, that‘s what‘s in your heart and what you see in your life is the very manifestation of it. You must change your heart so that your speech can change. You are actually creating your future with the words you are speaking today. Change what you‘re speaking to words that bring life, words that will build you and the next person up.
Seek not to destroy others with angry words of malice. Remove envy and jealousy from your heart. These are the very things that will surely tear your hopes and dreams apart. Indeed you are committing suicide. You are killing whatever good that may have began to grow in yoru life before you could ever see it blossom. That‘s why some people think that speaking words of faith don‘t work. While waiting for the very thing they were hoping for, they killed the manifestation of it by speaking unencouraging words into the atmosphere against the thing they were hoping for, or against someone else. You reap what you sow. You planted a seed of death into your own garden. Now you may never see the manifestation of it simply because you trampled on someone else‘s garden.
Change your heart, so out of it will flow rivers of living water that will empover you to speak words of life, building and edifying yourself and others. From these seeds that you plant will return unto you a harvest of the very thing you were hoping for. Your garden will surely grow and bring forth nothing but good.
Dare to do different that the rest. Don‘t be persuaded to fall back just because no one else is taking this courageous stand. Be committed. Greatness requires everything that you have to give and more. Greatness will never go on sale, nor does it come cheaply. You must pay the price to obtain greatness. Don‘t allow anyone or any circumstance to detour you from your commitment to achieve greatness.
You must know that change can be a desperate thing. In the order of change, it can make on quite uncomfortable. It is the very thing needed to take you into your destiny. It will cause you to enter different choices and decisions in life in an effort to transform your into the new and improved you, preparing you for your future. I‘ve experienced a temendous amount of change in my personal life this past year. To be honest, it was quite disturbing at first. Nevertheless, I had to embrace the change in an effort to grow. When God closes one door on you, He will always open another door for you, allowing you to begin again.
In order to become an innovator of change, one must simply set out to gain knowledge, get understanding of that knowledge then, utilize wisdom and discretion based upon what you‘ve learned. Without knowledge people perish, so don‘t be ashamed, cry out for it.
Whatever you want outta life you simply have to get acqainted with what it will take to acquire it. If it is just to survive in life, then find out what it will take to achieve it, meditate on it constantly, then set out to accomplish it. If you set your sights higher and you want ot have a career and be successful at it, then research your field of choice and if at that time you still decide that is what you want to do, then go get it with all that you have to give. Don‘t shortchange yourself by taking shortcuts, because the time will come when your knowledge will be tested. If you are in school, do your own homework, ya dig? Save yourself the embarrassment of your conversations not measuring up to your degree.
Some people remain in their current position in life due to their lack of knowledge. They don‘t acutally know what it will take in life to go from their current status to one of elevation. The knowledge is out there, but some feel as if society owes them something and want society to come look for them and drop it in their lap. These people become stagnated and never grow up.

Q & A With T.C.
Q) How is Mama P doing after parole denial?
A) One day at a time. The blow of „No“ hurt, but she still gets up and faces each day. Depression is normal in such a situation, but she‘s coming back into her usual self. She has me right here beside her. If need be, I‘ll hold her up.
Q) How has the VSP to CCWF transition gone?
A) More smoothly for room #/6 than for some others. This cell has been blessed by the hand of God since I‘ve been in it beginning in July 1995. Mom and I are the only CCWF originals, the other six are all VSP, but let me tell you, they are a good crew. Some real keepers for sure.
Q) Is it true about the 85% going to 65% time credit?
A) That rumor hasn‘t been true since it began circulating over a decade ago. I have more of a chance of seeing Big Foot out my back window wrestling the Locness Monster.
Q) What‘s up with Marsy‘s Law and how it affects old lifers?
A) Old lifers, meaning those sentenced prior to the voter approved Victims‘ Bill of Rights, ADA Marsy‘s Law, are still being denied parole at terms consistent with the 2008 approved law. An inmate named Michael Vicks, not the pitbull fighting ring football player, but some other guy, filed an appeal on this matter. As a lifer sentenced prior to 2008, Vicks appealed the BPH denial of parole that they kept in accordance with Marsy‘s Law. The California Supreme Court granted review, however no decision as to the legality of the BPH decision has been determined yet. It should be noted that whatever the court rules in the Vicks case, will affect all lifers convicted before the effective date of the amendments applied in 2008.
Q) What does Prop 36 mean for Third Strikers now?
A) Okay, there‘s a lot involved here. First of all, not every third striker qualifies for resentencing. If one has a serious or violent felony as their current offense, they are not edigible. That long list includes the intent to cause great bodily harm. In order to get resentenced, any Third Striker that qualifies, needs to file a petition for recall of sentence under the newly created Penal Code 1170.126 to get a hearing. It must be filed within two years, so any Third Strikers reading this, need to march their butts to the Law Library.
Q) Whatever happened to Richard Masbruch?
A) After he met his march at CCWF, he got transferred to VSP and placed in a sort of protective custody medical ward. A friend at CIW reported that he was transferred there in October, again in PC. Word is that he‘ll remain on that status until his previous victims all transfer or parole from CIW. At such time, word is that he‘ll be released into the General Population. Nothing like setting a prihana loose into a pool of little fish, and acting like nobody will get hurt. I guess CDCR hasn‘t accepted yet that Richard is a threat to all woomen and that will never change, because he won‘t change.
Q) Do you have access to vitamins and other supplements?
A) Yes. They sell a multivitamin on canteen here, plus our quarterly box vendors all offer a list of the approved options. They offer Omega-3 fish oil and Glucosamine chondroitin, as well as your alphabet variety.
Q) Will CDCR house inmates in the dayrooms soon?
A) We hope not, but once we‘re at capacity, they‘ll need to house them somewhere. They can‘t just start taking us out back and shooting us. The odds are that they‘d house in our dayrooms before they ever did the gym. So much for the Supreme Court‘s ruling to reduce over crowding, huh?

December 14, 2012
I see in my mind‘s eye
Children playing in the street
They hold no fear now
Of whom they may meet

They‘ve never been safer
Than they are at this time
Where there is no sickness
No evil ….. no crime

Children playing with each other
Adults they‘ll never be
But as childen in heaven
Twenty angels with wings

On streets of gold they play
In fields they pet a lion
While here on earth families mourn
Day after day cryi‘n‘

And the teachers that died beside them
Making the ultimate sacrifice
Continue to watch over them
Until their parents arrive

They are safer now
Than they could ever be
These twenty innocent children
Angels with wings

Take Nothing for Granted
Whenever I stare at the walls in my cell, i am reminded that I can see. My mother has failing vision, and there are several who lost their vision today before the noon hour. I thank my God in heaven, I am not one of them.
When I awake each morning to the cold reality that I am in prison, i am thankful that I awake at all. I thank God that I have a bed to sleep in – it may be a cracker thin pad on a metal cookie sheet, but it‘s a bed all the same. I have blankets, a pillow, and a roof over my head. I pray for those who aren‘t so fortunate. I‘m reminded that although we lost our home in the aftermath of our arrests, we are not homeless. We are not at the mercy of the elements on the street.
When I‘m released to morning chow to race around the track for a meal I have no intention of eating, I thank my God for the mobility to do so. I‘m thankful for the option to eat when so manu don‘t know where their next meal will come from. I‘m grateful to be given the opportunity to be a blessing to my mother and a friend, who don‘t let that food go to waste.
When the dayroom is so loud that I can‘t hear myself think, I am thankful that I can hear at all. Somewhere in Afghanistan, an American soldier will lose his hearing to an explosion. He may lose more. I‘m not only thankful to his service, I‘m grateful it is not me. I‘m not that brave.
Every morning when I hear my mom in pain as she struggles to get out of bed, I stop whatever I am doing to help her. I am grateful that we‘ve been blessed to be together these last 23 years, even if not always in the same cell. I‘m grateful that every day is Mother‘s Day. I‘m thankful she‘s still alive and that my stepfather didn‘t kill her. I thank God for letting me see her each day. There are so many without that daily blessing.
What are you grateful for? When is the last time you voiced it? And what are you waiting for?

From The Heart
Let me take you an another journey down my Memory Lane.
The year was 1981 and I was 16 or 17 years old. My best friend since the fourth grade was Nancy Caruso, and in our Junior year of high school, her parents went on vacation. A long week of teenage fun, no parents, and the house all to ourselves. Gee, where is this going?
Nancy‘s sister, Cathy, had recently gotten married, and there was more than a case of beer left over in the garage. So, with her parents gone, her brother (over 21), agreed to say if asked, that he took a 12-pack. We had ourselves a little gathering of no more than five girls in the house. Because we couldn‘t take too much of the beer, we decided in our adolescent minds that drinking two bears each with a straw, would be equivelent to say four beers. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.
I had already had two beers, but Tracy was going to go be with her boyfriend two doors down, and gave me her open beer. Insert straw, will drink. That is right around when I did my Angus Young impersonation to „Whole Lotta Rosie“. We had the AC-DC tape in, and it was during „Let There Be Rock“ that the aire accumulated witin me from using the straw, made a most distubing announcement to my senses. I ran for the bathroom. It served me right, too! I puked my guts up. I‘ve always been a lightweight, I‘m not much of a drinker, and this is partly why.
I spent a good amount of time hugging that toilet like a long awaited lover. The intimacy with a toilet is so unbecoming, but there I was in all my glory ….. RALPH!
At some point, someone needed to use the toilet, so they helped me to the couch with an empty paint bucket, just in case, and not to paint. I remember Tracy was there, having come back. Next thing I knew, I was out.
The next morning I went to check on the bathroom, to clean it. Nancy had done it the night before and told me that I owed her one. I didn‘t really have a hangover, but remembering how I felt the night before never left me.
Cut forward to the day after Nancy‘s parents came home. Nancy and I had returned from Winchell‘s Donuts, and her mom asked if we wanted to play Spades. She hand been laying solitaire, and quickly shuffled the cards waiting for us to sit at the table. We were into our third or fourth hand when out of nowhere Mrs. C asked, „So, who got sick in the bathroom?“
You could‘ve heard a fly fart.
We were both looking down at our cards, and jolted our heads up looking at each other. Busted. Cold busted. Neither of us was open to being the first to respond. We both wondered if her brother, Rick, had already given us up. Our silence was met with information.
„Look, I‘m not mad, I just want to know what I missed. When I returned home, the blue rug was ont the bathroom floor. I changed the rugs before I left, so for it to be back oon the floor, tells me that Nancy cleaned the bathroom and changed the rugs. And Nancy never changes the rugs. Never! So that tells me that someone got sick. So, I looked in the garage and I fould empty beer bottles in the opened case. So, who got sick?“
Busted. Bold busted. Rick didn‘t tell on us. Our own immature ways told on us, but Nancy didn‘t A true friend till the end, she let me tell on myself. Her mother held my secret, never telling my mom, who would‘ve blown a gasket … and a few blood vessels too probably, ranting, „I raised you better than that!“ Yeah, well truth be told, I cherish the memory.
I learned a few things that weekend. First of all, don‘t , I repeat, don‘t drink beer through a straw! That‘s a big No-No. Secondly, if you do, it is strongly advised that impersonating Angus Young‘s wild guitar antics is a really bad idea. But, more importantly, it‘s vital to know who your friends are. I once heard a joke that a good friend will bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting right there beside you iin that hole and say, „whew that was fun!“ Nancy was that friend. She let her mother answer her own question more or less, and then allowed me to tell on myself.
Over the years, I‘ve had many friends in and out of my life since Nancy and I parted ways prior to my arrest. She had her life with Bob, I had my life as a workaholic. In prison, I‘ve had people flow in and out of my life like water through a sieve. One however, has been there through thick and thin … through witnessing my heartache after betrayal, and even in those moments of shared silence, our hearts spoke volumes to one another.
I met Dee Dee Sala in 1999 while we were both enrolled in a Vocational Info-Tech class. We hit it off immediately. In the over 13 years that Dee Dee has been my Best Friend, we have not had a single argument. Not one disagreement. We listen while the other speaks, and we also hear what they are not saying. We have shared secrets and dreams and hopes. While my mom will always know me best, Dee Dee will always know me better than anyone else. They key to this friendship is an open line of communication. But also neither of us takes the other for granted or has that „what‘s in it for me?“ mentality. So often, I‘ve been hurt by those that have impure motives or a lack of appreciation for what I bring to the table of friendship. An open line of communication is the key to any healthy relationship and especially my friendship with Dee Dee.
And so I say from the heart … learn from this past year what hurt your feelings, and see what lessons you gained in those connections. If a friend made you feel jilted, is it a matter of perspective, or a matter of ethics? If you wish that your friends would be more open with you, are you willing to be equally open with them? Can you tell your friends anything and know it won‘t go anywhere? Why or why not? Friendships are like gardens … you need to cultivate them, tend to them when you can see that they need attention, and not wait to see something dying before you do.
I‘m not one to make New Year‘s Resolutions. I never believed in that sort of thing, but if I did, I‘d say that I would cultivate my garden of friendships, continuously. If tomorrow weren‘t to come, at least today, my friends know that I love them and that my heart beats stronger because of them. I wish you could all have a friend like Dee Dee, but that‘s not to say that you can‘t be a Friend like her. Hever, ever assume that they know how you feel. Tell them. In notes, cards, the smallest of gestures … everyone likes to feel special. If you‘re reading this, you are!
Namasté, TC

T.C. Paulinkonis Pauline “Barbara” Paulinkonis
W45118 514-16-4U W45120 514-16-41
PO Box 1509 PO Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610

Judge James Nelson

A Humble Tribute
(Written to CHPercolator Writing Group)
Esther Bradley-DeTally

Well, I might as well spit it out, and I think the best people to spit it out to is the CHPerc community, because you know what? Are you with me? You guys, and me too, include me, yep, are solid. We have something here, more than exchange of little, Times New Roman 12, words going across the ocean, and up into Wyoming, Nebraska, England, India, Pakistan, and even down in Temple City, California. We are a mix, we guys, and sometimes we rendezvous at restaurants near Disneyland, in Anaheim, (eat your heart out), or sometimes we just smile when a Haiku from Cochabamba trots up to our eyeball level. We are a tender, loving community, and we surf our waves, up, down, across and under.

I first thought about our circle of writers and their compassion for one another. We are Muslim, Christian, Bahá’í, Agnostic, you catch my drift. We are old, young, funny, serious, and all becoming people who sling words around either like the best fried hash in town, or bonbons wrapped in chocolate to kill for. I particularly noticed this underlying theme of caring a few years ago when one of us died, and Mike, Mike the wonderful Army man, often times in the Middle East, had a week off and somehow managed to be in the States, and managed to go to the funeral.

Something happened the other night at 8 p.m. which I’ll get to. Be patient reader. You know it’s all grist for the mill, but you know me. I have to go down and out and twist and turn within the rabbit warrens of my mind, before I spit it out. Yeah, spit it out.

A wonderful man, married for over 60 years to an equally wonderful wife, sat in a quiet family celebration, Bahá’í days of gift-giving and service. He just had dinner, and was sitting in his favorite chair, when all of a sudden, silence, and his huge, huge spirit left the physical world. Yep, this world we all know and love called the blue marble, the planet of names, this Purpose of Physical Reality, this soul workshop. He soared on to the other worlds of God.

This man was the cause of my finding my beloved Faith, a Faith often referred to as the “Spirit of the New Age.” This Faith has carved me out, taken barnacles off my soul. Now, I look at a lot, a lot, a lot, of people and see the Face of God in them. It’s not about lines, or borders, because the human heart doesn’t measure souls that way.

He was like a spiritual father to me and countless others. I will add my relationship to my birth father, although try as he may, was hard for both of us. We seemed to be two peas in the wrong pod. I often felt I never sang for my father, which is the title of a play and a play on words, which means I never was enough. But fortunately, I know deep in my bone marrow, most of us do our best, and if there was sand in my Becoming-A-Pearl-In-My-Shell, this sand grit buffed me up, polished me, for the here and now of today, and as I write these words I think, yeah, I’m an old Poil of a Goil.

So this man Jim, in whose Bahá’í community I live, sat and encouraged every fledgling speaker trying to reflect oneness in the world, shape their words. He also performed the marriage ceremony of my son Nicholas and his wife Laura. He’s visibly gone now. When I first heard the news, I felt a gasp within me and then my thoughts rushed to, “Dorothy, Dorothy,” his wife. They are like overlapping Venn diagrams, circles within, over, around, under each other. We in the local Bahá’í community know our treasures, and passionately love them. We never have taken them for granted. Every minute of their lives they welcomed, hugged, encouraged, and shed love and wisdom unto all of us waiting souls.

I know I’m overwriting. I’m trying to keep this simple. That’s why for you writers out there I’m doing a little bit of “write like you talk” with a “straight talk” phrase thrown in. If I really went into the majesty of this couple, my writing would become so multisyllabic and operatic that my prose would jump off the page.

So instead, I imagine this man who was magnanimous and majestic and prodigious in thought (had to get that word in) in his physical and spiritual presence, now seems to me like a 500 pound canary in spirit. You might say, “His cage door opened, and he went.”

May my life be worthy of all those who serve in this century of change.

Thanks for letting me share, and now, prayers and solace to his incredible wife—I will carry her around in the inner folds of my heart for a long time.

I think in the end, we all end up pulsating with love for one another.