A Funny Thing Happened to Me on Saturday

I still have a coupled post to transcribe from Rarasaur, but I thought I’d post this since it’s a little time sensitive.

As I’m preparing to put out my new book this month, I do as I always do, and head to Panera to focus and caffeinate.  But before hand I swung by my mailbox and picked up a letter from Rarasaur.  So after ordering coffee, I sat down to read.

Every quarter prisoners are allowed to receive one large package of good (sent through a special service).  You can buy for them all manner of things.  There are basic supplies that you might assume prisoners are provided; shampoo, toothpaste, etc.  And there are things you would never thing of; nice shoes, earrings and tablets (yes, as in little computer).  Well, she sent me a list of things she needs and things she wants (I’m stewing over the fact that she needs to buy Iron supplements because the doctor there refuses to accept her Hindu diet, and give them to her).  Rarasaur estimates that the box could run over $250 dollars, and it need to GET to her before the end of December.

I finish reading the letter and start thinking about my letter back.  Then I look up, and sitting across the room from me are my Aunt and Uncle.  They haven’t noticed me yet, and I stare thinking maybe I’ve mistaken them for someone else.  But eventually they see me.  It had been over four years since I’d seen them.  We talked a little.  They were only nearby for a niece’s concert, so they had to go.

Well, I sat back down, wrote the copy for the back of my book and check PayPal.  I had just received a donation that put us well on track to get Rarasaur her box.

If you’d like to help us get all they way there, drop a little in the donation; we’re really close.  But as always, stamps and envelopes sent to her is good too.  Apparently they also have an insane resale value on the inside.

- G

Gusts of Inspiration

Originally Written 8/27/14

It’s easy to think of inspiration as invisible—like the wind—you never truly see it.  You only see whatever or whoever is caught up in it.  Some are tornadoes in size (like the pause after the profundity of MLK Jr’s dream was spoken).  Others are small.  The wobble of first steps.  The pride in last steps.  I favor the little commonplace gusts.  I find them everywhere, and store them away in invisible balloons tied to my wrist.  I collect even the ones no one else notices.

These inspirations carry me over the rockiest terrain, and brighten my skies.

Dream Catching at 11,000

Originally written 08/25/14

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 amongst 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.  You 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 blesses 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.


Originally written 08/05/14

On days like this, I miss the moon.  She’s been my personal guide for as long as I can remember.

In my youth, my small hands would pretend to hold her.  I’d sit by the windows—palms bowled together—and whisper my secrets into her light.  As a teenager, I’d hunch in the backseat of cars, silently sharing all my thoughts with the bright orb as she followed me down long highways and gravel roads.  She has always had a way of magnifying my gratitudes and shining perspective on my strife.  “It is what it is,” she would smile to me, until her light becomes mine, and my fears become triumphs.

They took away my moon, and today, I miss her more than ever.

I am disappointed because change didn’t come when I called for it.  I planned, and waited, but change didn’t show up.  Now I feel stuck—tarred by the moment, feathered by the idiocy of the idea that I had any control of fortuna’s wheel.  I feel more trapped by circumstance than when they put me in a cell, and more paused than when they took away time itself.  I can see the next part of my journey, but the road from here to there is gated, and until that gate opens, I can do nothing but wait.  Plans are meaningless to change, as is disappointment.  Change moves as, and when it wants and does not care.

"Rara and the Moon" - byTJ Lubrano  (http://www.tjlubrano.com)

“Rara and the Moon” – byTJ Lubrano (http://www.tjlubrano.com)

My moon would care, though.  If I could see her, and whisper the secret of my heart to her, she would soothe it.  She would light my journey with her warm glow, and it would remind me of the sanctity of this present moment.  She would remind me that planning for change is a skill, waiting patiently for it is a virtue, but embracing the moment is a joy.  My moon would urge me to see joy.  She would show me that joy was scattered at my feet while I clutched at disappointment—like a little girl crying over a chunk of coal while sitting in a pool of diamonds.  In time, that coal will sparkle as brightly, but there is no sense in lamenting over what it is today.  It simply is what it is.

In my mind, I know all this—but the seed of rational thought only seem to survive the tangles of hurt and fear in my head when they are allowed to bask in moonlight.  I feel the comfort struggling to make itself known as I lay on my bunk, staring at the cold cement walls.

Then, one of the girls in my room disrupts my thoughts.  She is as trapped as I am, and so we are sisters of fate.  She asks someone if they want to learn to say something in Spanish, and when the other girl agrees, I smile because I know what’s coming.

“Spell socks,” she says.

Anticipating a practical joke, the would-be Spanish speaker hesitantly says, “S.O.C.K.S?”  And we all laugh.  It sounds like, Eso si que es.  In Spanish, she has said, “It is what it is.”

And there, in the warmth of laughter, the sparkle of wit and the light of sisterhood—I see my moon.  Even in here, where I am locked away from the most celestial of sights, she has found a way to lend me her insights.  Tomorrow, I might find myself sobbing over coal, but tonight—tonight I will laugh at the wonder of its mere existence, and give gratitude to the diamonds who laugh and sparkle in the bunks around me.  Tonight, I will sleep peacefully because, though I have no control of fate, I am not alone.

I am surrounded by sisters, and my moon is still following me—healing my hurt—shining her light through them, into me.

Dedicated to: Silvia Velez and Alissa Sandoval.

Dear Best Beloveds

Originally written 07/15/14

How are you?  Fabulous, I hope!  I hear that many of you are enjoying summer— taking a break from the nitty-gritty normalities of life.  I’m glad.  I hope the rest of the year is restorative and full of cheer.  J

There’s been plenty of updates on my front.  The biggest is that I signed my plea deal.  I took a three-year prison sentence, which (after factoring in overcrowding policy and time served) will amount to 15 months of actual time.  If I successfully am admitted into a work release program, I will serve 9 months.  I will be hoping for that, obviously.  :)  Or even better, an early parole exception.  I will most likely leave from here on July 28th or august 4th.  Since I have already signed, all I have left to do is reaffirm my plea bargain in front of the court and judge.  That’ll happen July 25th.  Wish me luck, or better yet… wish me strength.

Signing was emotional, for a wide variety of reasons.  I am grateful for the honest, grounded presence of my lawyer.  I could sense her faith in me.  After, I went back to my housing and was grateful for my recent move, for the first time since moving.

That was another update!  I was moved from my two-gal cell (called ‘IRC’) to a dorm with 39 other women.  It’s called ‘The Main’ or ‘The Tank.’  IT has been a major adjustment!  Even now, I am holding my notepad at an angle in my left hand, leaning it against a pole.  It’s not easy having limited to no desk access.  We’ve also had to change our ‘programming’, which is jail-speak for the routines and systems we live by.

I don’t have much positive to say about my new living situation, except perhaps that I am proud of myself for continuing to find ways to improve it  Just right now, I learned how to make a pencil extender and writing with a full-sized pencil fills me with joy!  Seriously.  It’s the little things.  :)  Our particular tank is filled with a few girls I know as well, so that’s nice too.  I’ve been here so long though that it’s rare to be somewhere (even court) where I don’t know someone.  Every time I run into someone in an odd place, I shake my head and say, ‘I’ve been here too long.’  In fact, I’ve been here SO long that 2 of the 40 girls in my tank are ones I said goodbye to already.  Many say the door to jail is a revolving one, but I certainly hope that isn’t the case for me.

Some of the downsides of the tank are:

  • Super raunchy girls who share my space. If I had a nickel for every girl who pulled a stripper move on the poles of my bunk bed, or wash their panties in my sink, I could make bail.
  • Group punishment.
  • “Tossings”—which is jail-speak for when the deputies come in and throw our stuff everywhere. We’ve been tossed 5 times in the two weeks we’ve been here.
  • Loop deputies. The deputies who I’ve had no contact with since my first two days here are around.  It’s stressful.  The IRC deputies were very human.  The deputies here can be.  Others are out of line, but for now I can do nothing but make careful note of the details.
  • It’s almost impossible to get into the groove of one other woman, let alone 39.

Originally, all of my friends from IRC moved to the same tank with me.  It was an unusual thing to do so we should’ve been less shocked when they decided to move us around again, rather than another tossing or extra-duty situation.  Still, I was in shock.  I was prepared to say goodbye, but not in the middle of the night, in the dark, with my stuff strewn all over my bed, at the last second, over the sound of yelling on the intercom.

But, as far as punishments go, it was mild.  We’re really not supposed to make friends in here, though it’s necessary if you want to keep your wits about you… And I’ve always been obsessed with keeping my wits. :)

People keep asking how I am feeling about prison and the truth is—I feel fine.  It’s not the stressful feeling of waiting for a probably-negative medical report, or the frenzied excitement of a first day.  It’s the flickering readiness of a Monday morning meeting that you are absolutely prepared for, even though it’s true that you at your most prepared is only 20% prepared.  In other words, I feel fine.  Ready or not, prison, here I come.

Because I won’t be here for too much longer, I feel a sort of zen that calms my need to stay busy and involved.  For the last 73 days, I’ve been skating between two worlds, but now, I am where I am.  So if you have been carrying the burden of worry for me—let it go.  I will be okay.  Thank you for carrying my troubles as far as this.  I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the day when I can carry yours—or when the troubles I dump on you are minor thinks like writer’s block.  :)

I wrote a goodbye letter, but I here I might be able to stay better in touch in prison.  There’s too much unknown to check out mentally so I won’t disappear quite yet.  Still, just in case…

Thank you again, for everything.  I hope the remainder of 2014 brings your most fabulous dreams to life, and that 2015 is twice as spectacular as the best you’re able to imagine.

As to 2016, well…

Hopefully, we’ll be celebrating that year together.

You are loved.  Always.



The Care and Feeding of Rarasaur

Originally written 08/07/14

Not to brag, but I think I’d make a pretty fabulous pet.

It’s something I’ve had cause to think about a lot lately.  I’ve considered my merits and flaws, and compared myself to how I imagine others would fare—and, all in all, I think I’d be ‘Best in Show” quality.

You’re probably wondering what criteria I’ve used to judge my pet-possibilities, so let’s delve deeper:

  1. I’m easy to clean and beautify.  I’m a domestic short-hair, or would be if I were a cat.  I bite my own nails and keep myself tidy without anyone’s help.  Admittedly, I am better groomed when someone helps.
  2. I am a simple eater and do not require any specialty servings.  My disinclination to eat sugar makes it even easier to prepare pet-appropriate meals.  Just fill up a bowl with cheese!
  3. I keep busy with the tiniest of entertainment.  I don’t whimper for outdoor time, and a piece of paper occupies me as much as the fanciest toys.
  4. I become easily accustomed to anyone and I love most everyone.  If I don’t like someone, I’m not aggressive, but simply retreat to my corner and hide.

Most people, I think, would topside one category or another and be considered a pet with ‘real character’, but I’d be more like a harmless (but somewhat strange) fish.  I’d just swim along minding my own business, smiling at you as I wander by.

Any pet-keeper would adore me, and tell strangers of how marvelous I am…

Except for that




What about you?  Would you make a great pet, or a terrifying one?