One Foot After The Other (and Don’t Look Back)

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The only legacy of real value you leave behind when you leave this earth is the effect you had on other people. It is powerful because you can change lives – for the better or for the worse. Affecting someone’s life means they will affect others. Lift them up or drag them down. In that way you live on through others long after you are gone.

What you do, say and think always has a consequence. We see that work in a negative way when parents, teachers and preachers teach children to be prejudiced and judgemental toward others in many ways. They grow up to be racist adults, or teens who bully classmates they think are inferior. They were taught to think like that.

Instead, think about how you want to affect the world around you. Take responsibility for all you do and don’t blame others for your life. This is what I have taught Jamie. He is responsible for his life as we all are. I have tried to show him through example. I’ve tried to teach him what he had no chance learn going through his youth. I’m sure his mother loved him. That love is unconditional, but we can only teach what we know.

The more you give the more you get. You reap what you sow – what goes around comes around, no matter what faith you practice. I practice Nichiren Buddhism. It has taught me more about myself than any other teaching. It taught me compassion for all people, not just people you decide is worthy based on your chosen faith. It taught me how to live and I’m still alive – so I can finish what I’ve started.

Life has been upside down the past few months. I didn’t have time to put out a newsletter  because there are only so many hours in a day. Many people have followed the blog at My Name is Jamie. Life in Prison and read blog posts about the reality of prison and how it affected his Jamie’s state of mind. I hope to think that being there for him and  knowing someone cared, helped him get through days when he felt like giving up. He couldn’t understand why his family wasn’t there to help him go through the extreme loneliness of a prison cell.

When I tried to encourage letters and explained to his family how lost Jamie felt I was told, “Just because he got hisself in trouble doesn’t mean my life stopped.”

I was then told, ” I’m not going to answer this because you’re really starting to piss me off.”

“My telling you the truth pisses you off?” I replied. “If I am wrong about any of this, please tell me where.”

“Really, it’s not your concern,” I was told. “Jamie lies a lot.”
That’s a good one. It’s hard to keep a lie going for ten years, especially when there is no reason.

“It is my concern,” I replied. “Tell me what the lie is.”

Silence

I couldn’t understand that attitude. This came from a blog post I wrote 3 1/2 years ago, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother” These excerpts were taken from that post. It still brings me to tears. I was helping his brother and for that I got slapped down. How dare I care. He’s the father of my grandson but his welfare was not my concern. 

I do not write about this in the book. I don’t say how I feel. The book isn’t about them. The most I say is how lonely he is not understanding why no one writes to him and I don’t mention any names.

Trying to finish the book and making the money to pay an editor has been a challenge. Opening an online store to make money has been fun – but more expensive than I thought. I didn’t know what I was doing. I paid marketing companies for guidance. I worked it and now I think I have a nice looking store with good products and I work on getting it in front of people every day. Slowly sales are picking up. Now I’m building a new website around the store that will have more to offer than just items to buy to give it value. I’ve learned, though, that making money the first year in business is difficult. Just staying afloat with enough sales to cover overhead eats up the most of the hours in my day and all of the profit. Most business apps have monthly fees. There are fees on top of fees.

My health is declining. I’ve been fighting for more life for 20 years when Hep C was diagnosed. Everything that could go wrong, has. I was stupid in my early 20’s and through a boyfriend I did IV drugs. It didn’t last long, but it was too late. But everything happens for a reason. What has it taught me about myself? So much. Symptoms started in my mid 30’s. I have fought hard to stay alive and today cancer is showing its head – again –

Radiation on my head after ear removal

The ugly scar you can see part of near the bottom of the photo toward the left is a botched skin graft that was supposed to heal into a thin line that eventually would fade. It is 6 months old and painful to touch because it cut into nerves. It’s more than 3″ long and still inflamed. The Dr wants to shoot a bunch of needles off cortisone into it. That will be painful. The red ball on top of my ear that looks like a wad of gum is where my ear was cut off. The skin graft was supposed be fashioned into a place my glasses arm could rest. A kinda sorta ear . There is nowhere now to put an arm from glasses. The bandaid is the biopsy site where the lump is. But hey! My hair color is real!

I’ve had several issues with cancer. Liver cancer and skin cancer – common with liver transplant patients. Which was in 2012. In Oct 2018  I had skin cancer and a pie wedge was cut out of one ear. It didn’t stop in January I ended up the top half of that ear cut off. “I am confident I got it all,” the Dr said. But he didn’t. I had radiation and it burnt off the hair on the side of the head. It didn’t stop it. Now it is spreading  internally and I have a lump on my neck. On July 15th I am having surgery – a neck dissection – to cut out all of the lymph nodes on the side and back of my neck and more radiation. If it spread further then it’s chemo time. My body can’t fight it because I’m on anti- rejection meds to suppress my immune system to keep the liver. I have lived so far for a reason.

My transplant doctor told me they lose more transplant patients because of squamous cell carcinoma than anything else. The fight is on.

I say this only because. . . I don’t know why I’m saying it other than it has complicated my life further and I’m trying to figure out where to put it in my head. I spent 12 years writing to him and 3.5 years writing this book and recording the music and videos to promote it. It’s given me a reason to keep going. I have to finish it.

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I wanted to write this book for the many people who have been through prison and understand the psychological effects of long term isolation. I want the profit from the sale of the book to help Jamie start his life again and be a father to his son, my grandson. Certain people have tried to turn this into something ugly. People enjoy negative gossip. They have no idea what this book is about. They have never read it or asked about it, but they’ve known I’ve been writing it.

Now Jamie is out, and the book isn’t complete yet. I need money and I’m stressing over the lack of it. I need to pay professional editors to work with me. This is why I started the store. Thank goodness he didn’t have to do the entire sentence and was paroled four years early. Now he can see his son, his only child.

I had just finished radiation from the last surgery and I couldn’t be there when he got out. No one was there. For thirteen years he was “Inside The Forbidden Outside. ” It was his first time being on the outside and he had to take a bus to his brother’s house. He had no way to call me even if he could. I was on a train headed back home because I found a lump on my neck.

A friend of 40 years, another musician, also a Nichiren Buddhist (and my 2nd ex-husband) suggested I start a gofundme campaign. It is really hard to ask for money. He told me there would be people who understood. I was amazed because I already have had a couple contributions. If you read the campaign you’ll see I will be sending them a free copy of the book and music when it’s published.

I estimate I have about 6 chapters to rewrite. This is the 2nd draft. With a story editor to guide me I’m sure there will be revisions. I can’t put out a book that is less than professional. There is also sequel planned, because this book only goes in time from 2006 to 2016. The sequel picks up there and goes through getting out and re-entry. Cancer isn’t going to stop me from finishing. But maybe, because of what is happening I should extend the chapters beyond 2016.

A BIT OF JAMIE’S EARLY LIFE, BEFORE PRISON.

To understand Jamie’s story a little more if you haven’t been to the blog and read the pages at the top ot any early affiliates

Jamie  spent so much of his life removed from society, never learning how life works. Four years in juvenile detention starting late in his 16th year, to keep his little brother from being sentenced after hitting a cop with a broom when he forced his way into their home. The cop knocked down their mother and broke her wrist. They wanted to send a little boy to juvenile detention for defending his mother because someone needed to be responsible and it just wasn’t going to be the cop. There have been many articles in the media showing cops doing the exact same thing to other families, but back then in the late ’90s the internet wasn’t what it is today.

The attorney convinced Jamie to do his brother’s nine month sentence, except they had no intention of letting him leave until he was 21. By then he was so depressed he was kept in a different facility far from home for incarcerated youth with mental issues. Epileptic seizures and having no family near was wrong.  He lost the rest of his youth and high school years. When was he supposed to develope the wisdom and social skills he needed to understand to get through life. Who were the right people to be friends with? So he picked the wrong people to be friends with. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong friends put him in prison before his son was born. I took care of my daughter until my grandson was a year old when she left to go back to Texas.

I helped Jamie through his prison sentence because everyone in his life who should have been there for him – wasn’t. No one helped him after the first year.  Letters and visits were as rare as snowstorms are in Texas. Money for things he needed, such as stamps and hygiene products or paying his medical fees were paid by me as well as books to read, extra food, ( he’s a big man) and even candy to bribe the guards.

Our letters are a journey through what went on his head. The emotional toll. He suffered through the heat with no air conditioning – summers when he passed out from the heat, and when guards cuffed his wrists and legs during a seizure, or when 5 guards picked him up and rammed his head into a wall or wouldn’t let him see a dentist when his impacted wisdom teeth got infected.

I will be there for him to lean on until his knowledge and experiencecatches up with his 36 years and he is a confident, strong man with a life of purpose.

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How to Do Six things at The Same Time (and stay sane)

This is a new video made to advertise my store slowly it comes together.

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Is it possible to do that? Six things at one time? I don’t think I have ever been so busy in my life with more to do than is human possible without something (or a few things) falling through the cracks. For three months I have nearly seen up from down. I had no idea that opening an e-commerce business was going to consume my entire life. I had no idea how much I would have to learn to make it happen.

The reason for starting the business was realizing I was barely surviving after paying the bills with only a disability check ( and my husband’s meager social security). There were things I needed and I couldn’t pay for them. (new glasses since I’m missing a left ear to hang them on most it was cut off because of cancer, and medications ruined my teeth and I need dentures) so how was I going to pay an editor to help get the book ready?

Okay, “STOP” I told myself. Reorganize. What do I need to do the most to keep it going in a forward motion. I needed to make money. For three years I have been writing and rewriting the chapters of the book, Inside The Forbidden Outside and recorded the music for it. I’ve seen ads, “Write a book in 90 days”. They must be nuts. You can’t write a good book that fast.

It took hours of every day to promote everything I’m doing – everywhere. Social media consumed time like a high powered vacuum cleaner sucking up every second. I had to promote the music. Those websites also demand time to develop a following. Comments are left that need to be answered. Thousands of people know who he is and know at least part of his story. I have to finish the book.

It has been a wonderful journey. Caring about someone else’s life gave meaning to my own life. When I got the idea to write a book about him, after we had already been writing for years, I had no idea what it would take. I only knew I needed to do it. I love to write – but writing a book takes more knowledge and dedication than writing a blog post. Thank goodness we had so many letters between us. At least 800. They are a journal and a way into his mind to understand the trauma. Piecing our letters together as we answered each other’s letters has taken time to present it out clearly.

After the first draft I realized it was missing something – a sense of following time – One chapter leading to the next. I started writing again, and rewrote again and sometimes again as I studied the art of writing. During these years Jamie was inside I went through more than one medical issues which left me with the time to work non stop on not only the book, but the blog and music even if I had to do it from bed.

I knew I had a good book that many could relate to. So many millions of people could relate to it because the United States has locked up so many people in prison for extraordinary lengths of time whether they deserved it or not. Prison corporations and investors were literally making a killing from imprisoning as many people as they could. Even though all races were vulnerable, the bulk of the inmates came from black people because they were unable to fight back by hiring attorneys. They relied on offering plea deals, forcing everyone to admit to guilt or their sentence would take up the rest of their life. What would you do.

I kept on writing and promoting. I wake in the (late) morning and work on different aspects – just as I am doing now because I’ve had less time to write blog posts and keep up my newsletter – until I quit falling out of my chair when it starts to get light.

In February of this year I realized I needed another avenue of money. I saw an ad about starting an ecommerce store and thought it was something I could do. But wanting to do a business and have it fully functioning with paying customers was a HUGE commitment of time to not only learn what to do, but applying that knowledge to make it work. I had no idea what I was doing. I can see today how far I’ve come but it has a long way to go.

I started out doing eBay. It has become much more sophisticated and professional in recent years.  This was my third time in 17 years). ebay.com/str/watchandwhirlshop That in itself is a full time job. Creating listings, and learning what to do to get noticed along the powers is mindblowing. I lost thousands of feedback numbers because I could no longer get into my old email address.

Of course you have to monitor everything, re-list and try new ideas if it doesn’t sell, communicate with people and ship things, or order from a dropshipper. At the same time I opened a store at watchandwhirl.ecwid.com which is the shipping cart, the hub for any other stores I open in different locations. I also connected it to a new Facebook store. It took days to get the business connected. On top of that I had to learn Facebook marketing. So in all I have three stores with the same storefront.

watchandwhirlShop

Everything online has a fee. Every app has a monthly fee. I have an ebay store fee, with a seller fee and a PayPal fee. There ecwid fee where all the products are, an app that integrates the product and sends it to every store location – it has a fee. Every single thing you need to operate a business has a fee. Then you need a resale license, and another service to do your expenses and taxes and that has a fee. OMG!! I’m the only one who doesn’t collect a fee from myself!

Most recently I am learning how to put a website together that is more than just an online store. A place people will want to come back to for more than just to buy something. I have a vision of what it will be, I just have to learn how to do it. It is like learning how to speak a language when you don’t know what it sounds like. You can see what I’ve done so far at watchandwhirlshop.com

I have to do all of this by myself. My husband is clueless about the things I do, but he does other things. Clean the kitchen, the shopping ( he spends less) takes packages to the post office, drives me to doctor appts, and keeps my ancient laptop running. He’ll do anything I ask as long as it doesn’t involve sex! Oh well, it is what it is.

I’m not making real profit yet, but most businesses in their first year don’t make money. They just try to stay in the game. But in the meantime, I have a book to finish, and still have no money to do that.

Now that jamie has been paroled, (my next post will catch up with what is going on with his life) – it is more important than ever to finish and get it published. I am printing out the manuscript, as it stands today, for him to read. He has read some of it, but not all. Inmates were setting fires at the prison. He had to give them all of his letters, anything paper and I’m sure that included the manuscript. My letters, too. But I have copies of mine archived at jpay.com, the email system for prisons.

Gofundme Campaign

I recently started a fundraising campaign at gofundme. A friend told me I should. He said there are people that would understand what I’m trying to do. I know a lot of people can’t, but if you could share that keeps it circulating the universe. This week I have been putting it everywhere I can, but still thinking, why would someone send me money? I wasn’t catestrophically ill (although I am fighting cancer – again. I was at the hospital three days ago for a biopsy and CT scan for a swollen lymph node on my neck. I find out in 3 days). Nothing bad happened. But still I was trying. Two people this week sent their hard earned money to me. $70. It’s Amazing how many people are barely surviving. All the hype about making America great again isn’t meant for those struggling. Oh well, enough about that today 😢

It takes a lot of time to do this, too, letting people now. I’m fortunate to have places like this I can put this on. I was humbled that these people sent money.  I can’t let them down. They will both be getting free books when it is done. It is a way I can pay them back for believing in me.

So I will continue to fight to finish this book. I believe it is the most important think I’ve done that would not have been possible without everything I have learned in my 65 years of living. There is a reason for everything. Who we are is no accident. We are the product of every decision we ever made. Good decisions and bad decisions all count. We can fight or we can give up. We can take responsibility or we can blame others. Those are our choices.

Thanks for reading.

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The company that made this video for the store, and other print ads and had one of their associates guide me along way is Business Ventures Online. I recommend using them if you have a business you’d like to get off the ground. Just tell them Sonni sent you !

Surviving After-Inside the Forbidden Outside-GoFundMe

 

Click on the link below to go to the actual Gofundme campaign page. 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/surviving-after-quotinside-the-forbidden-outsidequot&rcid=r01-156113009536-8d936ff586f5470e&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_m

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I need help to help someone else. For twelve years I was the only one who cared enough to help this man. It has taken a lot for me to ask for it. But I can’t do what I need to do without it. Here is my story:

The video explains who Jamie Cummings is and the book I am writing, Inside the Forbidden Outside, along with recording a music soundtrack of original piano improvisations for each chapter as well as music videos you can find on Youtube. This music aids the journey just as music accompanies a movie. I may be naive but I can see this story as a Hulu or Netflix series as the chapters go through quite a few prisons he was sent to around Texas. The feedback I have gotten from many people who have experienced even part of what I have written has been overwelming. There have been hundreds of comments.

The book and music take the reader inside Jamie’s head to experience the emotional trauma living quite a number of the 13 years inside a solitary cell in adseg, administrative segregation, a fancy word for solitary where he spent most of the years. I am 2/3 through the second draft as I have finetuned the story. You can read chapters at mynameisjame.net .

The music soundtrack makes this book unique. You can stream it at sonniquick.net  The book cover is done and is at the beginning of of every post at the blog that is a chapter. I also opened an online store to make money, but it is new and it takes awhile to cultivate a customer base. It is only for the continental US so far.  You can see it at Watch and Whirl Shop

This story needs to be told. It isn’t unique. It is the story of many people locked up who couldn’t afford an attorney. I wanted this to be complete before he got out, but he was unexpectedly paroled 2 weeks ago and had to go stay with family who had done little for him through the years. The proceeds from the book will help him be able to start his life. 36 years old with the life experiences of a teenager.

It tells the story of what severe deprivation can do to a human being. It goes through medical crises in prison caused by inadequate medical care and having epilepsy. You can feel the depth of his depression at not being able to see his only child, born after he was incarcerated, and his loneliness waiting for someone to visit who rarely came.

No one would take his son to see him. He was afraid he would hate him because he was locked up. I went to Texas every couple years, but I couldn’t go enough. So we wrote many hundreds of letters, his diary of sorts. As I near completion I have no way to pay a professional editor to look it over.

I can’t let him down. I promised I’d be there – to help him get an education, help guide him, help him find a way to survive. To help write the sequel, have him help with the business end, get him a computer and teach him how to make money online, and learn how to help others. He is the father of my grandson. He is family more than most of my own family. We have been there for each others through letters and they would break your heart.

I am on disability and have been recently fighting cancer – again. The video you saw was made early this year before I started treatment again. I have been unable to get to Texas to see him since 10/17. I have been determined to finish the book, but I have read too many self-edited books to take a chance with its success because I couldn’t see something wrong.

A couple months ago I went online to the TDCJ website – Texas Department of Criminal Justice – and found out he was approved for parole. They hadn’t even told him. 2 weeks ago he walked out the doors, with an ankle monitor. There was no one there to meet him. I had known no one would be there for him. I wanted so much to be there but it happened so fast I couldn’t. He was parole to the outside without any preparation. He made his way by bus to his brother’s house who had only visited him once in ten years.

The money I want to raise isn’t for me. I have tried to do this on my own.  A friend recommended I try this site to raise the money.  I want to go to Texas to go over the manuscript with him. He needs a laptop to work with me as I write the last chapters before editing. I have 70,000 words. I estimate it will end at 95,000 words. Writing through the years I am at 2012. It ends at 2016. The sequel picks up from there and goes through re-entry and all of its issues.

Thank you for any help you can give. I make this promise. The names of every single person who helps will be listed in the book. With any donation of $15 I will send you a free ebook and music when it is published and with $25 or more I will send you a signed copy of the book and downloadable copy of the album. I will give anyone who asks, a record of how the money was spent.