365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time

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Day 345/365: A Rainbow in Prison

It rained all morning, and then the sky cleared up around noon.  I usually take a break from my office in the middle of the day and walk out to the parking lot, where I sit in my car for a few minutes.  This afternoon when I left our yard and cut across the plaza, I heard an inmate saying to one of the correctional officers, “Wow.  I’m glad I stopped to take a look.”  I glanced over my shoulder to see what they were looking at.  It was an amazingly bright and full rainbow that stretched across the sky over the prison.

I wished I could take a photo right then and there, but of course cell phones aren’t allowed inside the facility.  I hurried through the corridor, stopped and waited for two sallyports, showed my ID at the gatehouse, and made my way out to the parking lot.  By the time I reached my car, the rainbow already appeared to be fading.  I popped the trunk, got my phone out of my purse, and surreptitiously tried to take a photo before anyone saw me.

I managed to get this shot, which doesn’t do the rainbow any justice, but I think it gives you enough of an idea of just how impressive a sight that must have been for someone standing underneath it.


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Day 344/365: The Things We Don’t Say


These are my favorite patent leather flats.  I wore them to work today, and then it rained all day.  I would have been better off with rain boots.

My Lifers Group was scheduled this afternoon, and I had to leave our building to get to the group room.  I didn’t have an umbrella, and I had to carefully step around puddles to keep from getting my feet soaked.  The lifers were waiting outside the door, watching as I approached.

One of them commented, “All of them days you come to group wearing Converse or closed shoes, and today when it’s raining, you got on those open shoes.”

To some people, that may have sounded like a criticism.  What I heard underneath that gruff, convicted murderer/formerly active gang member’s comment, though, was, “It’s raining, and I’m concerned that your feet will get wet and you could catch a cold.”  He may not have articulated those words, but I knew the sentiment was there.

“Yeah,” I said.  “When I put these on this morning, I didn’t think it was going to rain.”

What I meant and didn’t say was, “Thanks.  I know you care about my welfare.”


Day 337/365: There Still Are Superheroes

I was feeling really disillusioned with the world yesterday.  I had to remind myself that there still are good people out there and that happy, positive things happen, too.  But it was tough.  Today was a lot better.  It was fairly uneventful at work, anyway.  Or at least on our yard.  There was about an hour this morning when the entire facility was recalled because of two separate staff assaults that happened within a matter of minutes from each other, in two different locations.  I heard that one of the assaults involved an inmate biting a correctional officer.  Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

Anyway, so as I was saying…  I wanted to have a more positive outlook today.  I wanted to think less about the awful things that happen every day and remember good moments in my life.  I looked through the photo gallery stored in my phone over the past year and found a few that made me smile.

Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.


My superhero.  And my husband.



Day 336/365: A Bad Day


One of the occupational hazards of working in a prison is that you will inevitably encounter an individual so criminal and disordered in his thinking, so entitled, confrontational and combative, that you will have to terminate the interview and order him to get out of your office before you activate your alarm to summon custody.  Depending on your nature and character, you will experience any number of emotions as a result of this interaction, and then you will have to deal with it.  For me, there was mainly the feeling of being straight up pissed off.

I took a break and went out to the parking lot, where I sat in my car and scrolled through my phone and checked Facebook.  And that is where I first saw the news about the San Bernardino shootings at the Inland Regional Center.  The Inland Regional Center, in case you don’t know, is a state agency that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

There are a handful of Regional Centers throughout the state of California, and I know people who have either provided or received services at these facilities.  I also know people who are capable of murder and people who have committed murder.  I don’t know all of them.  We don’t know all of them.  There are those who are locked up now, and others who are still out there.  These days, when I learn about a new shooting incident, I can’t help thinking that there will inevitably be another one.  It’s only a matter of time.

I sat in my car for a few more minutes and tried not to let things bother me, but eventually I had to get out and start walking back to the prison.

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Day 321/365: Back to Work

Ever since the change in Daylight Saving Time, I’ve tried to be mindful of leaving my office by 5 PM in order to avoid being inside the prison at dusk.  Unfortunately, today was a really busy day and I had a lot of paperwork to complete, so I didn’t officially walk outside of the facility until the sun had almost set behind the mountains.

That’s okay, though.  I didn’t make a whole lot more progress on the mitered squares blanket, so instead I’ll share with you a blurry photo of our parking lot as I was leaving work.


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Day 308/365: In Which I Learn I’m Old


“That’s a nice watch,” Mr. A said to me today during his routine follow-up appointment.

“Thanks,” I said. “It’s a Swatch. You know, like the kind that was popular in the 80s?”

“Nah,” he said, slowly shaking his head to indicate that he didn’t know. “I’m not that old.”

Riiiiiggght. Because this was a kid who was born in 1994. The year I graduated from U of R.

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Day 302/365: Another Day in the Joint


This is how my morning began:

I had a new arrival scheduled for his initial intake. We were about fifteen minutes into the interview when the sergeant came by my office and knocked on the door. I waved for him to come in and asked the new arrival to step outside. The sergeant came into my office and said, “Hey, Doc, we got Inmate XYZ in the holding cell. He’s saying he’s suicidal.”

We both knew the drill. “Thanks, Sarge,” I said. “I’ll talk to him after I finish up this appointment.”

“Great,” the sergeant said. He turned to leave the room and just as he was walking away, my phone rang.

“Dr. V,” the person on the other end said when I answered. It was one of the mental health administrative office technicians. “We received a call from the clinic regarding one of your patients. He’s not saying that he’s suicidal, but they have some concerns. They need you to go over there as soon as possible and talk to him.”

I said, “I just spoke to the sergeant, and he told me that they’ve got one of my patients in the holding cell right now, saying he’s suicidal.”

“This is a different inmate,” the office tech said.

“Give me a few minutes,” I said.

I got off the phone and turned to the new arrival who’d returned to his seat across my desk. He was casually looking at the posters on the wall and acting like he hadn’t heard anything that had been said in the last three minutes.

I looked at the day’s schedule of appointments and silently said goodbye to any remaining bit of free time I may have had left.

“Listen,” I said. “Can you come back this afternoon? I’ve got a couple of emergencies to take care of.”