And It’s Not Just The Ordinary Things

You better be damn sure whatever project you are working on that you are in it for the long haul or you will fail, or you will give up.

Prison was the long haul for Jamie.

Writing a good first book and learning how to do it was mine.

I dream about finding someone in “the business” who recognizes this and has the clout and connections to do something about it. There! I said it out loud! I put it into the universe. Positive or negative, we create our own personal universe we live in. I have to trust myself.

It has been a couple weeks since I last posted, hasn’t it? I’m a little behind because life has gone into mental high gear. It is my nature to bite off more than I can chew, and then have look to chew very quickly.

And it is not only the ordinary things that have to be done. We all have a life to live. For me it is medical issues that try to get in the way. Through it I have made tremendous progress in the writing of, “Inside the Forbidden Outside.” The music and the music videos I began making a year ago and starting a YouTube Channel, Sonni Quick Piano Improv, cultivating subscribers, added greatly to the busy hours of my day.

Hours spent promoting and marketing the chapters and the music every day pushed my workday (unpaid at this point) to 16 hours a day, usually 7 days a week. This is no exaggeration. Writing slowed down and blog post writing also decreased. But the project as a whole was coming together and moving forward. The response has been overwelming. It’s exciting. Every chapter done, every music recording finished and every video completed by my inexperienced hands has been a source of joy.  And it came with inspiring comments with the connections to people increasing everyday.

I reach people through my music, to touch them emotionally about Jamie’s story. The music is the emotion of the story. It reaches out through my fingers. It is my passion. It is that passion for grasping life in your hands ant not letting go that separates the winners from the losers.

When you truly love to do something you spend every hour of every day working on it in some capacity. No excuses are good enough if you don’t see it through. I think the idea of writing a book with music was a good idea. I have not heard of any other book who combined the story and music together. If you only had one or the other you would have only half of the story.

This story I’m writing, if you haven’t read any of the chapters I’ve posted at this blog is not just someone’s experience living with the brutality of the American prison system – the Prison Industrial Corporation. It is about love and hope – failure and determination above all else, to take back his life. He was going to be a father to the son he has rarely seen. He wanted to go to school and learn things. He was a good man who was never given a chance from the moment he was born,

because. . . . he was black.. . . he was poor.. . . and he came from a southern state known for racism – and he had epilepsy.

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While you are reading I want to link you to a page I wrote 3-4 years ago (also found up top where the pages are in white.  https://mynameisjamie.net/i-want-to-encourage-you-to-take-the-time-to-read-this-please/  As I was beginning this blog these are the reasons why. It might help you understand why this is important  

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The odds were against him. He was part of a family with four children, a mother and no father, so they raised themselves with little adult supervision. Mom worked hard to provide for her family, so how could she be there to raise them? I know that dilemma well.

Will this book help people to better understand what being in prison is truly about, and will they understand the psychological damage from grief, caused by loss? Will they understand the constant struggle inside the mind, trying to keep itself together, when what it really wants is to kick the walls and scream?

Will readers understand that? Because I know from talking to people ‘out here’ that many people don’t. The sheer number of people who end up locked in a cell that shouldn’t be is absurdly high – and then there are those who still think only the guilty go to prison.

Not every human being should be characterized and judged for the rest of his life because she/he went to prison. It is not the sum total of that person. When Jamie gets out of prison his identity should not be tattooed across his face – EX FELON. That is what happens to so many, making it so hard to survive. Even the ones who have been exonerated after decades in prison because the were falsely imprisoned have to live with that tattoo just because they were in there.

This book is the story of a great many men and a rising number of women. They are considered to be expendable people in this country which deems White Christian Americans to be a cut above all others as if skin color alone is the key to being a better person, except.  . . a better person knows how false that is and laughs at the notion that skin is the number one prerequisite for being a quality human being. Skin color isn’t even on that list.

What could the criminal justice system do to arrest and incarcerate even more people? There is no separation between good and evil. Money decides your freedom. Lock up people for any reason, true or false, and when they can’t make bail, lock them up anyway, for years! This is what lies in store for low income, minority people in this country whose guilt lies in having the bad luck of not being born in a good white neighborhood.

I am writing this book because all of this pissed me off. Royally. What a choice of words. So much inhumanity was happening to Jamie and I couldn’t do ANYTHING about it! I had all of this emotion running through me. I had to channel it into something positive.

“I’ll write a blog,” I said. I asked Jamie if it was okay.     “Sure,” he said, “but who would want to read about my life?” But I knew it was an important story because so many people had the same story. I realized before long I needed to write a book. Only I had never written a book (or a blog for that matter). I knew I could do it if I honestly tried.

I worked on it for 2 1/2 years. I learned a lot. I didn’t know enough about how to write a book. Writing a blog and writing a book are two different ways of writing. I took some online classes. I read and read about writing. I started over. I wrote and rewrote and continued learning. I think I am now about 60% done with the rewrite have many good tracks of music.

It is a good thing I did not try to publish the first draft because it gave me more time to be better prepared. You can find all the chapters on this blog, even the first draft chapters if you do a search on the blog using the title of the book. You can see the progress if you are interested in reading it. The first draft has too much information and not enough story. This draft is more about the story and info to support it.

That is it for now, but there is another blog post almost ready to be published – about Jamie ‘s story. A little catch up from the past and why is where he is now.

Until then…

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Prologue for Inside The Forbidden Outside

 

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I’m doing some editing. I have found that as I learn about writing and later go back to things I’ve written. So many mistakes glare out at me. It might be grammar but it is usually sentence structure or I had written something totally unnecessary and twisted it in a way that didn’t fully explain what I was trying to say.

I was naïve in the beginning thinking I could write something and publish it when I was finished. After all, I was writing blog posts, right? Wrong. It would be like learning the lines and spaces on a music staff and thinking I would be able to write music. It has taken me a lifetime to learn what I know and I’m still a long way to what I think is my potential.

Even though I’m doing a second draft, I have gone back a number of times and re-edited something I thought needed shaking up.  When I’m done with this draft and someone professional looks at it, I’m sure there will be much more to do. I’ve read the beginnings of too many lousy, self-edited and self-published books that I’m sure the author thought was good enough, or perhaps they were too broke to pay someone. Maybe they had their best friend read it, and didn’t care enough not to throw the time it took to get this far down the drain, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Many people have read bits and pieces of chapters I have posted but really don’t know how it all got started, so I decided to publish the prologue. Why now? Because I just edited it – again – and made a lot of changes that I hope will make parts of the book fall into place better.  If you want to comment and tell me what you think I’d like that.  I need feedback from people who read what I write. If something doesn’t read right – tell me. When you are done, subscribe to the newsletter so I can keep you up to date and let you know when it is – FINALLY – published.

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PROLOGUE

Dear mom how are you?

Fine I hope as for me I’m okay. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know how sorry I am about the phone calls and the hours I was calling. Once again I’m sorry it’s just being in here is hurting me do to the fact that I don’t know if I’m going to be there for my family. I love Morgan with all my heart and being here while she is in pain is putting me through pain also. I love her not only because are having a child together but because she is a loving, caring and bright young woman. I love her with all my heart. I would do anything for her even if that meant giving up my life. I love her so much mom. I sit in hear and think about her all day every day and that is why I called so much. Worrying myself about how she’s doing wondering if she’s okay. It hurts me to go so many days without hearing her beautiful voice. If you could please tell your husband that I’m really sorry about the phone calls too. I’m really sorry for being disrespectful to the both of you I just worry about her every day. Well I have to go now but before I do I want to say I sorry again. Love you Mom

P.S. Thanks for the positive advise
Love Always, Jamie

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The year was 2006. My life was busy. I had a store near Mallory Square in Key West where the cruiseships docked and I loved my life. I lived where people go for vacation, but I didn’t have to leave. I could stay. I was happy.
Sometimes events happen in life that create a turning point we can look back on. I call them ‘Sharp turns to the left’. In the midst of my happy life, a monkey wrench crashed through it on the night I received a phone call from my daughter Morgan, who had recently told me was pregnant. Oh my, my life was about to get hit with a one-two punch, but it wouldn’t be the first time. After she explained what her problem was, I brought her and the children, ages six and eight, to Key West from Texas on a Greyhound bus.
They arrived at my home and moved into a small dollhouse sized apartment I had in the back. There was a loft, which gave her a place for the children to sleep. The problem? Her boyfriend, Jamie, had been arrested and was sitting in a county jail unsure of what was going to happen to his life. The only sure thing, he wouldn’t be around for the birth of his child. He didn’t have an attorney and would be provided a public defender. I didn’t know then that having a public defender who works for the system was usually like having no attorney at all. It didn’t look good for him.
Even though it was a difficult time, I enjoyed having my daughter near me. The bonus was being able to spend time with my grandchildren. We had lived too far away from each other when they were younger, so even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, there were still things to be happy about.
It was the only option, them to the Keys. I had helped her through the first two pregnancies as well. In addition to the emotional stress caused by what was happening to them, we had to find her a baby doctor. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to find an OB-GYN on an island that was only a little larger than one mile by three miles in diameter. We called every doctor in town and was turned down by all of them.
Morgan was in the latter part of her second trimester and no doctor would take on the responsibility of a patient this late in her pregnancy, because she had problems with her second pregnancy. Neither of us realized getting her a new doctor was going to be so difficult.
We had to start looking on the mainland, in Miami. With only one more number left to call, finally a doctor said yes. It was such a relief. We were starting to get desperate. I didn’t know what we would do if we couldn’t find one. When the doctor’s office said they would take her on I could finally relax. Morgan and I looked at each other and let out a long slow breath. We did it. Hurdle number one.
I knew it was going to be a grueling eight hour round trip drive, which made each trip a hard day for Morgan. It became even more difficult as the pregnancy progressed. As she grew bigger she felt every bump on the one hundred and five mile, two-lane road that connected the top of the keys at Key Largo to the bottom at Key West. I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made, as I tried to learn and remember the rough patches.
The closer she got to her delivery date the more often we had to make that drive. The days were long but she had a date they were going to induce labor to make sure she would have her doctor delivery the baby, which was born at 4 AM. It was worth it. I was in the delivery room when she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. No joke. He was flawless. Even the nurses gathered around and stared at him. Not one baby wrinkle.
Jamie had a son. He was given his father’s name. He wouldn’t know yet that he would not be able to hold this child for a very long time. He would only see him through glass the few times he was brought in to visit. Having your child be so close yet never be able to touch him became a numbing grief that would be hard to bear. He couldn’t find a place in his brain to put it and it weighed him down constantly.
It was during one of the trips to Miami, before Jamie, Jr. was born, that the letter from Jamie arrived, addressed to me. It was waiting for me when we got back home. That was odd, I thought. Why would he write to me? I had briefly talked to him on the phone a few times and asked him how he was coping, but I never wanted to use up his minutes and would quickly get Morgan. Those fifteen minutes were precious to both of them and they went by fast.
I felt bad because their life fell apart so fast. For Morgan to have another baby, thinking the father would be there to help, and now you had another child to raise alone, was a hard life to face. But Morgan was a strong woman and a good mother. I knew she’d find a way to make it work. She had no choice.
I wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Jamie that night. Kids, no matter what their age, never told the whole truth to their parents when they thought the truth was too hard to explain without getting in trouble. How did I know this? I did the same thing. Morgan was her mother’s daughter. Her life had been one drama event after the other since she was twelve. She was a difficult teenager and those events happened a lot more often than I could deal with. She kept trying to grow up too fast, but the word consequence wasn’t a word she remembered until it was too late.
Jamie seemed to be good for Morgan. At 6’1”, a bit chubby, with a pleasant face and good manners, I liked him. He was nice. I met him the previous Thanksgiving when I went to Texas to visit Morgan and the kids who were living with my x-husband’s family. It didn’t matter to me that Jamie he was black. They seemed happy and that was the important thing.
He was arrested a couple months after we met. For a long time I had no idea what really happened that night. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people? Was he guilty? I didn’t know. Was he a bad person? Not by what I saw. I know good people can make bad decisions. I made plenty myself at that age that would come back to haunt me for the rest of my life. You’ll find out about that later. How much of his life would be taken away to teach him a lesson, and ‘pay his debt to society’? Are there any other ulterior motives going on that would affect how much time he’d be given?
The law of cause and effect is very strict and there is a reason why things happen to us. I had no idea back then what all this was going to mean to my life. We have no other way to deal with things except in the order they appear, and what we do then will bring more effects to deal with. Life is a constant learning process whether we wanted to learn anything or not.
The day after the arrest Morgan went to the police station to drop off his seizure medication for epilepsy. They wouldn’t let her see him. No one can have visitors until they have been processed and that can take weeks before they are allowed a visit.
After she handed over the medication they rushed her out of the building. She tried to press them for details, but they wouldn’t tell her anything. As she left the building and began to walk down the sidewalk, she stopped, turned around, and looked back at the jail. She glanced up, her eyes looking at the second floor. She could see him staring though the window at her. They didn’t signal each so no one would see and move him away from the window. They stood like that, looking at each other.
Jamie finally put his hand up on the grate that covered the window as if he wanted to reach through it to hold on to her one last time. He didn’t care if someone was watching. He looked so sad. At this point, Morgan still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew she had to make a decision for herself very soon. She had a baby growing inside her and that was her priority.
Morgan knew she quickly had to figure out a plan. She couldn’t go through this alone. She didn’t even have a car now. Jamie was driving it the night before. After the arrest it was impounded. She didn’t have the money to get it out and knew every day it stayed at the impound lot the fine would get higher and higher. She needed to call her mom who was going to be upset. A lecture would probably come with it, but she also knew her mom would never let anything bad happen to her if she could help. She could trust that thought.

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After Morgan arrived I knew they needed to talk, but I had no idea what it cost to accept a collect call from a jail. It was shocking when I got my first phone bill – twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. What a racket. This is why he wrote that letter to me. I had to tell him he could only call a certain amount of times each week. He felt bad thinking I was mad at him. I assured him I wasn’t. I didn’t want to end up with a phone bill that would be hundreds of dollars. He was unaware of the cost, I’m sure. He just wanted me to know he was sorry.
The only thing I knew about prisons was what I learned in movies and TV shows. I have learned since that most of that was only the propaganda the government wanted you to believe. The truth wasn’t very important. I would end up learning more than I wanted to know, but still I kept digging to learn the truth. Once I knew about it, I couldn’t forget it. Once it got completely embedded in my mind I knew I needed to help people understand.
It didn’t happen right away. Morgan let me know occasionally how he was doing. She lived with me until the baby was a year old and then took the children back to Texas. It was heartbreaking to help them load their belongings into her car and watch them drive off. My life settled back into the old routine and life went on. I still had three years before my world fell apart and I had to leave Key West and go north. Another sharp turn was brewing. Jamie became a part of my life in a way I never would have thought.
But this story is not about what happened to me, even though my life got wrapped up in it. My life affected his. This is Jamie’s story, a sad story about entering the system, juvenile detention, for the first time at the young age of seventeen for something he didn’t do and having few chances to live a life as an adult on the outside.
He was growing into a man in his thirties, separated from everything he loved, and never having the necessary life experiences to learn from. That is how inmates get institutionalized. The routine of prison life becomes the norm. Functioning in society is sometimes too difficult and it becomes a form of PTSD, like when soldiers come back from a war zone.
As the years passed he feared I would I would stop writing, but I would never do that. He became my best friend and I could tell him anything that was going on in my life, but If I waited too long to answer a letter the fear would come back. He would be afraid again that I had gone away and was angry at him. Why shouldn’t he feel that way? Was else was answering his letters? Where was his lifeline, his support?
I knew there was a reason why this was happening in my life because things don’t happen by dropping on your head for no reason. I didn’t know then what was going to happen or the part he would play in my life.
Morgan would end up moving on with her life, even getting married again and having another boy a couple years later. Jamie couldn’t move on. The making of new memories had come to a dead stop. All he had were old memories and many of those were too painful to think about. In prison, growth and wisdom gained by life experiences stays exactly where it was the day you entered the system.
His life stopped. The world outside moved on. Depression set in. It became rare to get an answer to a letter. How was he to buy hygiene products or paper and stamps?
It didn’t matter to me what he did or if he was guilty, or even how guilty he was. The sum of anyone’s life isn’t determined by a stupid decision. Whatever it was, it was done.   People make mistakes. No one was hurt. I re-entered the picture about a year and a half after he went in. I asked Morgan for his address. I wanted to send him a card to let him know Ii was thinking of him. To me he was family because he was my grandson’s father. Our letter exchanges began.

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To begin the story, settle in. Relax. We have a good bit of time to cover. Hopefully you will see things a little different by the time we are done. Make a nice, hot cup of tea. Listen to some of the music I provided. You are entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that hopefully you will never get a real chance to see.

 

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