365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time


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Day 36/365: Why, Hello There, You’re Not Locked In

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Remember I told you about the reason for Monday’s modified program?  We had another modified program today.  This time, somebody dropped a kite* saying that a certain correctional officer, along with my buddy the lieutenant, were going to be targeted for an assault.  So the yard was recalled and no inmates were allowed outside except for the ones who had medical and mental health appointments.  In the meantime, custody had to initiate an investigation, interview possible suspects, and determine the seriousness of the situation.

This sort of thing is not an unusual occurrence.  With a modified program, I’m still able to see my line for the day, because the inmates are allowed to come out for their priority ducats.  With a hard lockdown, though, none of them are able to leave the cell.  When that happens, you either A) reschedule their appointments, thus doubling the number of patients you’ve got to see the next day, or B) go pay a house call.  We call it doing a cellside.  That means going into a living unit that houses 300 potentially dangerous convicted felons, walking down a long corridor in which a hundred pair of eyes are watching you through their wickets as you pass, and knocking on the door of your patient to conduct a brief mental health interview in the most discreet way possible.

The last time I did cellsides was in September, when a race riot on the yard resulted in lockdown for a week.  Usually, I don’t mind conducting cellsides, because the inmates are all locked in and I’m pretty safe.  This time, though, I got a bit of a surprise.  I’d gotten the okay from the tier officer, made my way down the corridor, knocked on my patient’s door, and heard him climb off his bunk. I listened to him put on some clothes and shuffle his way over. He said, “Hang on, Doc.” I heard more noises, some fumbling around, a clicking sound– and then I realized, he’d been unlocking his cell door from the inside, and now he was sliding it open to greet me.

I would end the story here, but I know some people reading this would be more than a little disturbed by that, so I’ll tell you also that the facility where I work is probably the only one in the state where the inmates have keys to let themselves in and out of their cells**, and sure, this guy was doing a life sentence for murder, but really, he’d already served over thirty years in prison and I felt pretty certain that he wasn’t going to kill me.

* kite:  prison lingo for a note or letter; a form of written communication

** There is a master switch that keeps them all locked in at certain times; it just happened that this time was not one of them.

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Day 35/365: Keeping It Real

I knew I didn’t have any photos for today’s post, so when I got home from work this evening, I grabbed my sweater-in-progress and went out to the deck to take some pictures.  The sky was overcast, and the sun wasn’t cooperating to provide any good natural light.  My digital camera kept insisting on using the flash.  After a few attempts to get some decent shots, I gave up and went back inside.

I uploaded the digital camera shots onto my computer and looked at the photos of my sweater.  The first thing I noticed was–Ack!–the rusty nails and the peeling paint of our deck.  The second thing I noticed was the yarn:  clearly one hundred percent cheap acrylic.  I thought, I have hundreds and hundreds of dollars’ worth of yarn in the stash–natural fibers like wool, cotton, linen, even cashmere–and I pick acrylic.

The other day, I was doing a Google search for a secret craft project that I’m planning, and I came across one of those hipster craftster websites where Everything Is Just Perfect.  In the carefully staged and professionally captured photos, the people and items looked like they belonged in a catalog or in a print ad for a magazine.  I found myself scrolling through that website and feeling bad about my little blog, thinking it was so basic and amateurish.

I thought about that website again when I was looking at my own photos this evening and feeling like I couldn’t use any of them for tonight’s post.  It occurred to me:  Sure, those professional quality photos on that website told a nice story, but what story was it telling?

What story was I buying into?

As you may have already figured out from my previous posts, I’m usually not one for bullshit, particularly in my line of work and the population I deal with.  I don’t like small talk or smokescreens.  I like honesty and authenticity and, as I say to my patients, keeping it real.

So what if my photos weren’t taken on a fancy expensive camera, and so what if my sweater is acrylic and not an expensive cashmere-linen-soy-and-bamboo-cotton blend?  Who am I trying to impress?  Why should I give a shit?  Because when it comes down to it, the most important person whose opinion matters about me is me.

It’s something I’m still working on.  Just like this sweater.

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Click to enlarge and see everything in all imperfect glory.

 


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Day 34/365: Shanks and Shivers

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Still working on this sweater.

Yesterday our yard was put on a modified program (i.e. lockdown), but I missed it because Monday is my day off.  I heard about it today from one of my patients.  He didn’t know why the yard was recalled, but he was telling me about the lockdown to illustrate his point that you can’t count on a regular routine every day; the program is always changing.

On my way to the bathroom this afternoon, I passed by the sergeant’s office and heard him call out something to the lieutenant about the weapons that were found yesterday.  Naturally I took a detour and headed straight into the lieutenant’s office, which is right next to the sergeant’s.

“What weapons that were found yesterday?” I asked.  Because I’m actually friends with this particular lieutenant, I am completely comfortable with going into his office and asking nosy questions like this one.

“Here, I’ll show you,” he said.  He pulled up the photos on his computer.

I looked at the evidence photos and got the shivers.  These were inmate manufactured weapons that weren’t fucking around.  The handles were made out of wood, and the blade portions were fashioned out of metal that had been sharpened and twisted and designed to have uneven, serrated edges.

“Do you have any leads on who made them?” I asked.

“They’re checking for fingerprints.”

“Shit,” I said.  “That’s some scary stuff.”

“It’s a good reminder to always be careful,” the sergeant said.  He’d come into the lieutenant’s office to drop off some paperwork.  “Don’t forget that these inmates are in here for a reason.”

 


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Day 33/365: Third Completed Pair of Socks for 2015 (Orange and Black Striped Socks)

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I was expecting a small package in the mail, and it still hadn’t arrived.  So I checked my email this afternoon, found the tracking number, and went online to look up the status of my package.

According to the tracking number, the status was Delivered, In/At Mailbox on 1/24/15 at 12:54 PM in Morro Bay, CA.

I went outside and opened our mailbox.  It was empty.  I closed the mailbox and opened it again, peering all the way to the back, but of course it was still empty.

You know how, when you’re looking for something and you can’t find it, you start getting so desperate that you do things like look in places where you know the thing couldn’t possibly be, but you figure you’ll check there anyway?  Like under the bed and inside cookie jars and behind the front door and in the back of the closet.  I was starting to feel that desperation.  My neighbors’ mailboxes were lined up next to ours, and I opened each little metal hinged door to peek inside and see if my package might have been delivered to the wrong address.  Nothing.

In the past, I’ve received mail addressed to a woman who lives on the next street over.  She has the same house number as ours.  I thought maybe my package was accidentally delivered to her mailbox.  So I walked down to her house and knocked on the door.

She was very friendly and we chatted for a little bit, but no, she hadn’t seen my package.  I said goodbye and walked back up the street to my house, just as my next-door neighbors were turning into their driveway.

They were sympathetic to my plight of the missing package, but they hadn’t seen it either.  I thanked them and went back inside the house.  I was trying to manage my anxiety, but the panic was mounting.  Where had the package gone?  Who had it now?  Did somebody open it?  Why hadn’t it been returned to me?  Would the company be understanding and send me a replacement item, or was I just shit out of luck?

I went back to my Outlook and found the email with the tracking number again.  I clicked on the link and was redirected to the package’s tracking details online.  According to the website, my package was In Transit.  The estimated delivery date was Thursday the 5th.

I couldn’t understand it.  I looked at the email again.  And then I realized what I’d done earlier:  I’d looked at the wrong email and followed a different tracking number for another item– one that had already been delivered on 1/24/15 at 12:54 PM in Morro Bay, CA.

Doh.

2.2B

 


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Day 31/365: Top-Down Sweater and Heated Leather Seats

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Top-down knitted sweater with increases for raglan sleeves.  I swear, I’ve been knitting around, and around, and around, and it still looks like it did on Wednesday.

Sean and I got into his new car to head out for breakfast.  The car is actually a 2012 Prius that he purchased from the original owner back in September.  Compared to Sean’s previous 12-year-old Nissan truck and my now-11-year-old Honda Civic with the manual transmission, manual door locks, and manual crank-that-handle-to-open-and-close windows, the Prius is a luxury car.  It’s so equipped with new-and-different-to-us features (cruise control! power doors and windows! automatic locks!) that I’ve dubbed it The Rental.

Sean turned on the power.  It was still early in the morning that the windows were covered in dew.  “I can’t see out the back because look what’s blocking it,” he said.

I twisted around, expecting to see some large object in the backseat obstructing his view.  The backseat was empty.  Nothing there, just a thin layer of morning dew covering the back pane of glass.  And then a windshield wiper popped up and started swiping the dew away.

Sean gave a big grin.  “Don’t be jealous because my car’s got a back windshield wiper.”

He put the car in reverse, and the little computer screen built into the dashboard lit up to show the back of our driveway.  “Don’t be jealous because my car has a camera so I can see if any neighborhood cats are in the way.”

I gave him a dirty look.  It was early, I was hungry, and my sense of humor was still asleep.  “Oooh, I’m Sean.  Look at me.  I have a fancy new car with fancy back windshield wipers.  I have a fancy rear-view camera…  You Prius-driving, vegetable-eating, energy-saving—“

He cut me off and his big old grin got bigger.  He leaned over to activate one more special feature, my favorite thing about the car.  “Here.  Let me turn on that heated leather seat for you.”

The guy knows just the right buttons to push.

 

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An old married couple who’ve been together for nearly twenty-one years.

 

 


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Day 28/365: A Good Time to Call Someone an Asshole

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Top-down sweater joined in the round with continued increases for raglan sleeve shaping

My caseload is comprised of men who were convicted of criminal offenses and then sentenced to prison. Off the top of my head, here is a list of some of those crimes: first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon with force to inflict great bodily injury, mayhem, rape, forced oral copulation, lewd and lascivious with child under 14, robbery, burglary, DUI, possession of a controlled substance, transportation and sales of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, pandering, evading, aiding and abetting, receiving stolen property, grand theft auto, petty theft, and terrorist threats. These are just the ones that first come to mind; I know I’m forgetting others. Oh, and a lot of these guys are either active or ex-gang members.

I think you have to have certain qualities in order to effectively interact with this particular population. I grew up in a household with four brothers and no sisters, and I tend to have a bit of the criminal mindset myself. I cuss like a sailor, and sometimes I just got no time for your bullshit.

Back in 2011, I had to complete an initial intake interview with a new arrival who was clearly having a bad day. He was rude and snarky in his responses, and even though I was trying very hard to maintain professionalism, I really wasn’t in the mood to put up with him. So I said, “You know what? Clearly this is not a good time for you. I’m going to end this interview, and you can come back another time. I’ll reschedule you.”

I watched the surprise take over his face, and then he was contrite.  He said, “I’m sorry. I’m being a jerk. No, let’s start over. It’s just been a really hard week for me. I got some bad news the other day.”

Sometimes I don’t filter the words that come out of my mouth, and this was one of those times.  I said exactly what was on my mind.  “Okay.  So you’re not usually an asshole.”

***

I bring up that story because that same guy had an appointment with me this afternoon.  Now, we have a really good rapport.  During our session today, he brought up the first time he came to my office and asked me if I remembered that incident.

“I’m going to tell you something, Doc,” he said. “I’ve had so much more respect for you ever since then. You called me out on my shit.”

I was glad to hear that.  Because sometimes it is a pretty risky intervention to call a convicted felon an asshole.

P.S. Don’t worry.  It was only that one time.

That I can remember.


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Day 27/365: A Christmas Story

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The beginning of a top-down sweater with increases for raglan sleeve shaping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Happy New Year!” I greeted Mr. Y, a patient who I hadn’t seen since around Thanksgiving.  “How was your Christmas?”

“It was fine, it was good,” he said.  He gave me an update on his recent activities and we talked for a little bit.  He was in the 12-Step Program and participated in a bible study group.  While the 12-Step Program was facilitated by one of the psychologists in our mental health program, the bible study group was coordinated among the inmates.

“We took up a collection for Christmas,” he said.

“A collection?” I asked.  “What do you mean?”

Then he explained that last month, he and the rest of the bible study group pooled their resources including their work pay (15 to 90 cents an hour, depending on their job assignment) for a total of a few hundred dollars.  Then they went to canteen and purchased canned soups, ramen noodles, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and other basic necessities.  They identified indigent inmates who didn’t have jobs or family support, and on Christmas day, the bible study group went out on the yard and started handing out packages to their selected recipients.

“Wow,” I said, impressed.  “That was very thoughtful of you guys.  What a kind and generous thing to do.”

“Guess what happened next,” Mr. Y said.

“The whole yard got wind of it, and everyone came looking for a handout,” I guessed.

“Yep.  We started getting all these guys—‘We heard there was free stuff.  Can I get some soup?’  And we talking guys with jobs and money on the books.”  Mr. Y shook his head.  “And then the police come over and tell us we gotta break it up, ‘cause we got too big a crowd.”

“That’s a shame,” I said, shaking my head too.  “But I guess that’s how it is.  You’re in a prison, so you’re gonna get those kinds of guys, looking to take advantage.”

“What’s that expression?”  Mr. Y took a moment to search his memory.  “That’s right.  ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ ”