Jun 3rd

Time for some Tough Love

By Jo_Reed

Hey, gals!!! OK, here it is. The blog post from me that Ro promised was coming as the "counterpart" to her Periscope video yesterday. Deep breath. Ready?!?

Oh, my darlin's. I have been SO blessed with the opportunity to be part of this  amazing community of women for the past few years. I have learned and grown so much. I have discovered so many things about myself, my relationship and my connections and calling in the world because of this experience. I love y'all to BITS. And I've become fairly well-known as "Mama Jo" for my sarcastic and honest approach to all things prison wife related. I love to see STRONG and HEALTHY women learning to build and sustain themselves, their relationships and one another through this chapter in all our lives. We do our BEST to encourage and support each other every day in a fun and friendly way and that's VITALLY important.

What's ALSO important, every once in a while, for ALL of us, is a little perspective and a reality check. Y'all know darn well if anybody ELSE messes with you, I'll take their heads off at the neck. However, when it comes to letting y'all slide on "less than" behavior? I ain't the one. So hear my HEART for y'all right now, please, as I join with Ro and once again deliver what we like to call a "Sisterly Smackdown" with some REAL talk for those who need it. (See her latest Periscope video; this is my half she mentioned in that video. If you don't have the app, get it! It's free. You're missing good stuff every day!) There will also be another video ALL members can watch coming soon, with both of us together, but for now we're giving you our "separate but equal" advice this way. So let's get to it.

We have seen a trend lately that is, as we say down South, "stickin' in our craw" a little bit. (I don't know what they call it in Jersey; you'll need to ask her). It's bothering us to see so many otherwise sane and savvy women falling into the trap of feeling SORRY for themselves as they deal with becoming part of this little (huge?!) crew of ours. Now, we're not talking about the NORMAL AND NATURAL AND TOTALLY OK grieving process everybody goes through at various stages. Nope. This one is directed at those of you who seem to need a reminder that "denial" is not a river in Egypt. Some of y'all have yourselves UTTERLY convinced that everything about this whole mess is just not RIGHT or (forgive me while I try to figure out how to type a snort and eyeroll) "fair".
So here comes my half of the input to get you back on track or PUT you there, since apparently it's not yet been done for some of you. Brace for impact. 

There's a difference between negativity and truth. If you are engaged in thinking or behavior that is harmful to yourself or others, people who speak up aren't being "mean". They're being LOVING. Real friendship and support mean that  calling you out on bullshit is occasionally necessary, because they'd rather do that than watch you walk blindly into future heartbreak. You KNOW the people in your life and should know what their motivations are. If somebody who normally loves, values and respects you is being harsh with you, or telling you something's not healthy, pay attention. They're trying to help.

Innocent people go to prison every day. We all know this. However, in the VAST majority of cases, neither you nor your partner is a victim of any kind. The "system" didn't take your loved one away from you. THEY took THEMSELVES away from you with their poor choices. Stop moaning and being mad about the CONSEQUENCES for their bad behavior. It's totally OK to be pissed off, but don't misdirect that anger by making excuses for all the reasons they don't "deserve" their sentence. You aren't doing anything but making yourself look stupid or morally bankrupt, one of the two. THEY decided to break the law. YOU decided to forgive and stand by them. Awesome. Own that and don't feel like you need to explain or apologize for it. But understand, it also means you don't get to whine about a conscious decision you made to live this life.

Understand what you don't understand. Know this. You don't know everything. Be humble. Be willing to ask questions and take advice from people who have been doing this longer than you have, and then LISTEN to what they're telling you. If the people and their partners who are actually DOING this every day are telling you things that don't jive with whatever you've heard from your partner or lawyers or friends on the outside, WHO do you think is probably correct? If you're not going to bother taking into account what people tell you, then don't act shocked when you get an answer you don't like, choose to disregard it, and then don't get any sympathy when shit goes sideways. If you hear, "Ok, boo. Do you. Good luck...", that should be a pretty good indication you need to reconsider your next move. You will soon be on your own because you don't want to listen to wise counsel. Even the most patient people have better things to do than constantly helping you out of holes you keep digging yourself. Sorry, not sorry.
 
You get what you pay for. If your loved one is failing to treat you with basic respect, taking you for granted or engaging in "gangsta" behavior and you are ALLOWING that? Then quit bitching about it. No one else is required to treat you as a Queen when you refuse to treat yourself that way. If you're supporting a game your man is running on the inside, letting him get away with breaking the rules, helping him beat the system (or even just condoning that through your lack of action) and telling yourself it's "just" because of prison, you are not allowed to whine and cry when he comes home and keeps acting a fool or is a constant inconvenience to you while he's still in there. You set YOURSELF up for failure. Character is not determined by location. You're NOT any more or less likely to run into issues simply because of time, distance or the extra stress of dealing with the system. Relationships on the "streets" fail or succeed every day for the exact same reasons prison relationships do. Prison is a "factor" but not an influence or excuse. If they're gonna do it in there, they're gonna do it out here. And vice versa. You're not gonna fall apart just because he's locked up. But you're not gonna succeed either, if he can't get his shit together WHILE he's locked up and you let him have a PASS. Know your worth and act like it. 
 
ABOVE ALL ELSE, be KIND and CLASSY. Don't you DARE lord it over anybody else you THINK you're better than. You are absolutely no different than any other woman in here because of your MAN'S situation. You deserve the same amount of respect, love and support as all the rest of us. Your loved one's past history, current charges, length of sentence and other factors don't entitle you to either judgment OR special treatment of any kind. Y'all aren't always gonna like one another, agree or get along. Have you really never BEEN in a group of WOMEN before? Really?! But it's NOT a good look to go back to junior high and insult, tear down or be hateful towards somebody you differ from. If you don't have anything nice or constructive to say, keep movin' without comment. Everybody in here has a different story and is at a different place. Be patient, helpful and nice or be quiet. As for the classy bit, I don't suggest you be someone who celebrates the pretend "status" you think this life awards you. You are not "hard" because your MAN is. There's nothing great about being a prison wife, even though there are lots of impressive things about women who HAPPEN to be prison wives. NOBODY in here with half a brain is impressed with the "trap queen hustle" because we all know what that gets you in the long run - problems, drama and trouble for you and your man, everywhere y'all go. Who in their right mind wants THAT?! YOU and your beauty and wits and strength and healthy relationships are worth honoring. But let's none of us act like anybody should move outta the way for us if we're not acting in ways that honor ourselves. 
 
This life is not FOR everyone. I hope y'all truly realize how much regard I have for those of you doing it well and how much passion and heart I have for those TRYING to get the hang of it. We are WARRIORS in our own quiet and solid way, ladies. This is hard and holy stuff. Let's show each other and the world the BEST possible versions of ourselves as mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, aunties and friends. We have the potential to be POWERFUL in our homes, families, communities and nation. But first sometimes we have to start FRESH and small, by sitting up, pulling our heads out of the sand and getting ourselves situated before we get up and get started working daily miracles, yeah? Let's show everybody how it's REALLY done, by doing it RIGHT. 
 
MUCH love,
Jo
Oct 14th

Definitions

By Jo_Reed

"Selfless".

Self. Less. 

I got a really good lesson in that this week,  when Ben and I had a conflict and both spent some time "digging in" to our opposing camps. We went an entire 24 hours without communication (unheard of!) because we were both being stubborn. And while I knew I was "right" and perfectly "entitled" to my feelings, I also knew my MOTIVE in maintaining radio silence was wrong. I was going to "show" him. I was going to "win". 

So I sat, arms crossed and stewing, holding on to my justification. Until I couldn't ignore God poking me in the ribs anymore and whispering, "LOVE." And I pictured, so clearly, a dining room table with us on either side. I knew he might see it as a "victory" if I was the first one to reach across the divide and take his hand. I didn't want that! I wanted an apology! I wanted him to fold up and come MY way. But, reluctantly swallowing my pride and keeping the REAL goal in mind - the good of the RELATIONSHIP - I owned my part in things, apologized and told him I was ready to talk. 

The phone didn't ring instantly. There was a return message instead. He was still a little salty. I kept my cool and bit my tongue and it paid off. I could almost HEAR the sigh of frustration as he typed, "Ok. I'll call soon." And he did. 

And for an hour and a half, we talked.  And argued. And I cried. And he growled. But we got there. 

We had a MAJOR breakthrough last night with an issue we've been kicking back and forth for a while now without resolution, and it's finally been put to bed for good. We both realized different, really important things about ourselves and one another during the conversation. And  we're solid again, and stronger and more connected than ever. And I'm mostly just so grateful today,  to have a man who fights as hard as I do to make things really RIGHT with us and make sure we're truly good, rather than just throwing his hands up and saying, "Eh, this is just an issue we have" and ignoring it or trying to smooth it over. He won't let things go until they're HANDLED. And as hard and ugly as that can be to GET to, it's not something I've ever had before. I've always, in relationships, been the "attempted fixer" while the other person didn't want to do the work. He works WITH me. He's a true partner. 

But it never would have happened if I'd let my EGO get in the way of my desired end result. I had to put "my'SELF'" aside. Self.Less. Less self, more UNself-ishness.  Less Self. More LOVE. 

Just something I wanted to share today. If you're in a tough place with someone else and you want to make your way to a good place, Check your SELF. 

 

Much love,

Jo

Sep 28th

It's all about ME.

By Jo_Reed

Hey, gals. I just wanted to kind of share something that I've been dealing with lately, in the hopes that it might encourage some of the rest of you too.

I have a few different folks - friends and family members - in my "orbit" who annoy the hell out of me because even though I love them, when it comes to some things, they are COMPLETE hypocrites.
A mother who preaches God's love and forgiveness to everyone she encounters but it holding on to a grudge towards me for divorcing my ex and isn't willing to accept my current huband because of that.
A friend who spouted all kinds of worry and negativity about my relationship but now that she finds HERSELF in a situation where people have doubts about hers, wants my support.
Another buddy who has "suddenly" decided to get on board and asked me what my husband might like for Christmas - the first time she's even been willing to mention his NAME since last year when she promised to write him a letter and then didn't.
And so on and so forth.

Now, generally, I tend to be a pretty straight shooter who isn't afraid to "call bullshit" when I see it, even when it costs me. But I've also been learning a lot about GRACE over this past year, and being willing to let people take their OWN journeys toward acceptance. I love and respect all of these folks too, even though their behavior pisses me off (grin), so there are times I have to remind myself to put the RELATIONSHIP before my own EGO, even though it can be really hard for me to bite my tongue. Because, in my HEAD, I want MY sense of "justice" to be served. I want to point OUT to them the ways in which they are failing me or have hurt me. I want to point out the "unfairness" of their treatment so I can get my APOLOGY and then I can graciously "forgive" and we can all move on.

That sounds justifiable, right? I mean, we even teach our kids "Hey, when you hurt somebody, whether you meant to or not, you still need to say SORRY." Except, here's the deal. Sometimes, you have to forgive them even when they're NOT sorry (yet). And all of the time, it's not something you're doing for THEM. It's something you're doing for YOU.

Because while I absolutely DO have that "itch" to scratch and want to stand up and say, "HEY! NO FAIR!" what I'm learning is that while a need for justice may exist within me, the need for GRACE outweighs it and is more important for MY health in the long run. When I'm tempted to show someone how "wrong" they are, what I'm really trying to do is CONTROL the situation and DO THEIR WORK FOR THEM. I'm only responsible for my own motives and actions, and it's just more important to "stay on my own mat" and do my own work on ME. This can LOOK like apathy towards other people's feelings - especially when they're UPSET with us because we're not doing what they think we should - but in reality it's deep regard. We love and respect them enough to WANT them to be able to take their own journey in peace and arrive there at their own pace. It's hard work! Sometimes you have to accept the apology you never got for mistreatment, and just live YOUR life from a place of love and forgiveness. Because, in the end, it's not THEIR life. It's YOURS. And it should be a happy one! :)

Much love,
Jo

Apr 11th

Bad Company...more than just an 80's hair band

By Jo_Reed

"Those who lie down with dogs will rise up with fleas." Maybe that's just a "Southern thing", as my beloved partner likes to tease me about, but the message is there no matter where you're from. Mind who you ASSOCIATE with, especially in this lifestyle. Mind how you ACT and SPEAK, because (fair or not) you have STEREOTYPES to disprove. Fair? No. Fact? YES.

This can be an incredibly ISOLATING way of life for us, can't it? We so often feel judged, looked down on or like "less than" because of the way others view our loved ones and our decision to stick by them. And when we meet somebody who we think "gets it" because they're in a similar situation? The temptation to immediately glom onto them and assign them "bestie" status - especially if they seem pretty cool and not that "crazy" can be overwhelming. Whether it's finding a pal online or meeting a fellow wife in the visiting room at a facility or just running into somebody on Facebook, you almost want to throw your arms around them and go, "Oh, thank GOD! ANOTHER PRISON WIFE!"

We MUST be careful, though. But wait...why? What's the harm? Well, quite a BIT, actually, if you're not wise when it comes to the "support system" you surround yourself with. Now, do we necessarily need to background check everybody? Or quiz them until we're sure that everything they believe about life lines up perfectly with our worldview? Of course not! Life would be pretty darn boring if we only hung out with those who were JUST like us in every way, now wouldn't it? And the truth is, that when we're not busy looking down our noses at others who we might assume at first glance aren't "our" type, we can form some really awesome friendships and learn quite a bit from one another. But man alive, you set yourself up for (at best) needless drama and (at worst) REAL trouble for yourself and your partner if you're not a little bit cautious.

Now, I can hear you out there. Yes, I can. "But, Jo, we're SUPPOSED to stick together and all try to help each other and look out for one another and it's a sisterhood!" And I can hear the OTHER group, too. "Man, I aint got time to be messing with nobody else. I'm just worried about me and my man. I'm not here in this prison trying to make friends." So...which one of the groups is right? BOTH. Let me explain.

If you've done this for more than a day or so, you're well aware of the unspoken prison wife code: Don't make trouble for yourself. Don't make trouble for your man. Don't make trouble for anybody ELSE, either. Like it or not, the things we do and say have far-reaching consequences that don't always fall on US. If you're giving staff a hard time or making life hard for the other visitors who are there waiting to see their "people"? You're wrong. It's going to bite YOU in the ass, it's going to make sure the staff are in a bad mood when they deal with your man and it's going to eventually make trouble for your man too, when word gets around that the reason the "shot caller's" wife couldn't get in to see her husband was because YOU opened your big mouth and got everybody else "hung up". Corrections staff should always be polite, but they're not there to be your friends, and you're not going to win any brownie points. Go in, smile, make a little small talk, mind your MANNERS and then sit down, shut up and wait your turn to go through the metal detector. Once you're in? Don't WORRY about what anybody else is doing. If you want to go to work for the DOC? Fill out an application. Otherwise, your man is likely to have to explain to staff that his black eye was because he "fell in the shower" and you may find yourself having to do some quick talking in the parking lot after your visit, surrounded by pissed off family members. I've seen it happen. (And yes, I kept walking!) If people refuse to make eye contact with you and start ignoring your greetings? There's probably a reason for that. They're trying to disassociate themselves from you because you're a TROUBLEMAKER. Yes, it sucks when things aren't "fair" and people "get away with" stuff that we ourselves do not. But you know what? The consequences for them when they do get caught - and they will eventually - need to land nowhere but their OWN doorstep. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

So the second approach there? Leaving well enough alone? NOT without merit! But what about the first - what if you just feel like you really need a friend? We've all been there! After all for most of us, visits are only a couple of hours and then you have to find something to fill up the rest of your day. It's always fun to have somebody to eat lunch with, shop with or maybe even "room" with to split visit expenses. How do you go about finding a "good" buddy? Here's what you DON'T do...

Don't hang out with those women who are perfectly OK (and they ARE out there) with the lifestyle their man is leading that got them locked up in the first place. Because those are the ones who get talked into bringing drugs in during a visit or helping their guy run "game" out on the streets or hanging out with a cast of shady characters that (should you get mixed up with 'em) will at some point get YOU in trouble too. I've known women who got their visits suspended and had to defend themselves against pending criminal charges just because the person they RODE to the prison with did some knuckleheaded thing and they fell under suspicion as well. Personally, if one of the FIRST things you say to me is that you're PROUD of your man for being a gangster? We're not going to be besties. MY man is trying every way he knows how to make sure he doesn't come BACK to prison. Surround yourself with those who are on the same path as you.
Don't act as though you're "better" than anybody else. No matter what their man's charges are, no matter whether they've known them for years or were "MWI", no matter whether they wear thrift store sweats while you're rocking your Louis Vuittons, you are in the EXACT SAME BOAT once your name has hit that sign-in log. You are a prison wife, plain and simple, honey. No more, no less. You walking around with some kind of "holier-than-thou" attitude, convinced you are somehow a special little snowflake? Is going to cost you some amazing folks who might be a WEALTH of support, information, help and friendship. Don't turn your nose up at anybody. Why would you? You're sitting there in the same hard plastic chair they are, now aren't you?
Get over it, babe. Learn to see PEOPLE as people and guess what? They'll return the favor. You hate being judged, so why would you do it to somebody else?

It can feel really tricky, can't it? And it does sometimes seem like a lot of work - to look at somebody else you meet and think, "OK. Let me kind of check you out and get a feel for you and your attitude, and we'll go from there." But man, it will not only bring you some of the very best "sisters" you will ever find but it can also potentially save you a lot of heartache down the line if you can avoid picking the wrong ones. Most of us are here for a while. It's a GOOD thing to learn how to settle in, learn the ropes, enjoy the relationships that are great ones and make the best of the time WE are "doing" right along with our men. It's also a very necessary thing to learn how to walk away (FAST!) when we meet somebody who just doesn't play well with others.

Be smart. Be supportive. Be STRONG.
Much love,
Jo



Jan 29th

The Truth Shall Set You Free...but first, it may require a lot of patience!

By Jo_Reed

Morning, loves! Just a thought I had today that I wanted to share with y'all. Take it or leave it. It's just on my mind.

When I started my relationship with Ben, (after finally getting out of my OWN way) I encountered a lot of resistance from others in my life. ALL of it - every single bit - came from a place of care and concern for me. I understood that. And, little by little, as I patiently answered people's questions and time passed, a lot of the "naysayers" were silenced. Not necessarily because they had been convinced, but because they loved me enough to WANT to see me happy, and respected me enough that - even if they didn't agree - they realized it was MY choice to make. Gradually, the closer we have gotten to taking this next step of getting married (2 more months! Yay!), MOST of the folks in my life have actually expressed to me that they SUPPORT this decision. Even if they haven't taken the opportunity to get to know him personally, they can SEE that this is a great relationship and I am very well taken care of and quite content. I haven't "pushed" this on them. I haven't gone out of my way to try to "convince" them. I've simply just done ME and let the results speak for themselves.

Now let's talk about the "hold-outs". The ones who are STILL convinced (with absolutely no proof, mind you) that I'm making a HUGE mistake. The ones who still feel the need to tell me how "worried" they are. Or that they "don't agree but love me anyway" (Gee. Thanks for the charity...Lol!) The ones who just can't let it go. Know what I realized about these folks?

They love me. But they're hypocrites. Because despite being offered the opportunity to get all their questions answered and concerns alleviated directly, they haven't taken it. Not once. So they're speaking from a place of IGNORANCE and PREJUDICE, not educated and valid "concern". They're also JEALOUS. To a man, EVERY SINGLE PERSON who falls into this category in my life is either unhappy in their own relationship or doesn't even HAVE one and they're unhappy about THAT. This isn't about me and my issues. It's about them and theirs. Period.

So let that be the litmus test in your lives as well, my loves. If you KNOW that you are being loved, respected and valued - and if you are not, you need to be honest with yourself about that too - then RELAX. When people approach you with questions, answer them. Patiently and kindly, give them the opportunity to ALLEVIATE their worries. If they don't take you up on it? You don't need to worry about it any further. Because, quite simply, they don't know what they're talking about. Really CONSIDER people's input but also consider their MOTIVATION. Do they disapprove because they really think you're selling yourself short or are they only dealing with YOUR stuff so they don't have to look at THEIRS? It is a very LIBERATING realization, and it may make a world of difference to the weight you carry. Rock on with your bad selves, my sisters. Life's too short to be anything but happy. Don't let anybody stand in the way of that. If they really love you, it's the last thing they'll do.

Much love,
Jo

Oct 29th

Food for Thought: Giving People a New Perspective

By Jo_Reed

This afternoon, I had the following conversation with a guy who is dating a friend of mine. Note, that he didn't ask his question in a confrontational or rude way, just more out of curiosity, which is why I didn't just walk away:

Him: "I just don't get it. Why are you with a guy in PRISON?"
Me: "Why are you with a junkie?"
Him: "That's not nice!"
Me: "You're right. It's not. It's a label that doesn't apply anymore. She did use, though, didn't she? Hurt people. Made bad choices because of her addiction. Fucked up her life. But that's not who she is anymore, is it? She's changed. Cleaned up her act. Works hard every day. Does her best to re-write her story. And you love her because of who she is now, not who she used to be. Mine's just not done paying for his mistakes quite yet." 
Him: (pause) "Point taken. I'm sorry." 
Me: "Don't be. It isn't the first time I've had to defend this relationship. Won't be the last. It's good practice." (grinning)
Him: Man, I see why she likes you. You're a FIGHTER. (laughing)

Never be afraid to help people (gently, PATIENTLY, and kindly) see things a different way, darlings. And never, EVER be ashamed of or apologize for the good things in your lives. heart emoticon 

Much love, 
Jo 

Sep 10th

Jo's Poetry Slam

By Jo_Reed

"Ohhh, you the Bonnie to his Clyde, huh? Got yourself a 'bad boy'? G'wan, little Mama. Ride or die, huh?"

Um, NO, you ignorant fool. I'm not my man's "partner in crime". I'm his partner in LIFE. A REAL, productive and stable family and future we're building TOGETHER for ourselves and our kids. I don't have a "bad boy". I have a MAN who has made many mistakes but works hard to rewrite his story EVERY day because I'm more important to him than the streets EVER were and he knows to be WORTHY of my love, respect, trust and support he needs to leave all that mess behind and WORK for those things. I know what I'm worth. I don't give DISCOUNTS. You don't want to cross him but he ain't about that life anymore because the one he has with me is so much better.
I'm not his "homie", his "ride or die" or his "down bitch". I'm his WIFE. I hold him and myself to a STANDARD. I want great things for us so I help him build those things. I don't enable him to behave in a way that's "less than" because HE is worth more than that. I don't celebrate or tolerate a lifestyle that won't get us to OUR goals. I give him my loyalty because he gives me more love than to ever LET me put myself in a foolish position or to feel like my hard work is being disrespected. Make no mistake. I stand beside him but he's human and it's my job to be his "helpmate". That means when he's wrong I help him get it right.
I conduct myself as a lady and he makes sure the whole world knows whose lady I AM. I brook no bullshit but you'll still see a smile on my face; class and grace in my voice and step. I don't walk around loud, crude or confrontational because I'm a Queen. But apparently I have to put you in YOUR place and school you a little, so I can do that TOO, without ever raising my voice.
I don't need to. My head is already up. And if you're stepping to me? Best reach around to shake my husband's hand because he ALWAYS has my back. He knows a thing of value when he sees it - knows what REAL loyalty and love look like now - and won't EVER let that go.
Bonnie and Clyde.
Fuck that noise.
They FAILED.
We're too damn good for that.

- Journey (Jo) Hurst

Sep 8th

Same Stuff, Different Life

By Jo_Reed

Hey, gals! I was editing my personal blog today and found this gem from back in the day. I re-read it and thought, "Oh, my gosh! So many similarities between THAT life and THIS one! The gals might like this!" So I decided to share it here. My previous life as a "military wife" taught me a LOT of things and I figured y'all might appreciate this tongue-in-cheek take on how to cope as a prison wife as well! :) I've added my CURRENT points in bold. Enjoy! 
Much love, 
Jo 

Some friends and I were discussing the book pictured above "The Army Wife Handbook" (oh yes, it's real) and its "rules" for military wives. Some of the advice is valid. Some of it made us howl with laughter and roll our eyes all the way into the back of our heads. Someone stated that they'd like to see some "real life rules" for wives. Ask and ye shall receive, my darlings. Here (delivered in my usual insouciant style) are some things I've learned in the last five years since I hung up my SGT stripes and became "just" a spouse (RELAX. That was a JOKE). The advice isn't. Here we go...

1. Pick your friends VERY carefully.
This will influence your experience more than anything else during your spouse's entire military career. (This is the same thing I'd say for prison wives as well!) There are LOTS of great women in the military community who will welcome you with food, open arms, invitations to hang out, important phone numbers and a bottle of wine. They will have your back in a way that is supremely unmatched in almost any other community out there. They will preserve your sanity, become your trusted confidantes and your "go-to" lifesavers for craziness both small and super-large. They are to be treasured above all else.
There are also a LOT of other women out there and sometimes, it will truly feel like they outnumber the good ones. They gossip about everybody (often under the guise of "concern"), they FEED on drama both real and imagined, they look for ways to get insulted and their list of complaints about everything military-related (prison or "street"-related drama anyone?!) is as long as their arms. Rule of thumb: When you meet someone for the first time, no matter how sweet they seem, if the little "alarm bell" that you've had in your head since junior high goes off? LISTEN TO IT. RUN, don't walk, the other way. Especially if you're one of their "only" friends, there's PROBABLY a valid reason for that. 
It's important to take everybody you meet at face value. I've heard some horrible things about how "bitchy" certain women were, only to find out when I met them myself that they were either pathologically shy, cautious after being previously burnt or simply didn't often engage with other wives in some of their activities. I've also met people (here's a concept) completely ignorant of what their husband's job or rank was, to be shocked later that a "stuck up" officer's wife was awesome and friendly or a "lowly" PFC's wife was one of the most knowledgeable and well-informed resources for information and help. (Don't assume you know anything about a fellow prison wife because of what her MAN'S charges are, either - most women don't have anything to do with their husband's crime; a few are complicit in it and totally OK with the "gangster" lifestyle and will expect that you are too - or people will THINK you are because you associate with them. Be careful who you surrounds yourself with and make sure they're GOOD for you)  Never automatically turn your back on anybody because of the grapevine but don't be too quick to assume the "family" isn't also sometimes full of sisters who are batshit crazy, mean, juvenile and trashy. Choose wisely.

2. Get a life.
You're going to be alone a LOT. If your entire existence hinges on having your husband as your primary source of entertainment, you are going to be either insane or depressed QUITE quickly. I'm not advocating pawning off your kids and hanging out with the girls at the nearest dive bar six nights a week but having SOME form of social life, school work, career or just a BUNCO group will be very good for you. Military wives sell EVERYTHING and are awesome at hosting regular playgroups, Bible studies, coffee get-togethers, workout groups...you name it, there's a group for it somewhere on/near your military post. Find it. Google, Facebook, MeetUp or even the corkboard at the commissary with post-it notes...it's out there. Do it. Get invited to something? GO. It may not be your bag but at least you'll know - and you'll probably meet some pretty cool folks in the process. (This advice still stands - find something productive to entertain yourself with. Try a new hobby. GET OUT THERE. Use this time ALONE with yourself to get to KNOW yourself). 
It's also important to realize (SIT UP HERE, and PAY ATTENTION) that while your other friends and family might be impressed by your husband's career, your military friends really aren't. Their husbands do the same (or similar) jobs yours does. For every "rank" he makes, YOU don't possess any. I promise you that am I ever to personally encounter you while you are lording it over some other spouse or service member with a "Do you know who I AM?!?!" you will NOT like my answer. There will ALWAYS be people above and below you in the food chain. Get used to that. Back to my original point - nobody (I don't care HOW nice they are) wants to hear all about what your MAN does for a living all the time. They want to get to know YOU. Give them something GOOD to talk about by having hobbies, interests and something that you do for yourself. It's important to SUPPORT your military member in his career but realize that it's just that - HIS, not yours. Establish your OWN identity. (While we don't always feel we can "brag" on our men the same way some women can, we can damn sure be PROUD of them for the things they do DESPITE being incarcerated. However, don't play the "comparison" game. Nobody needs to hear about how much harder YOU have it than THEY do. Really. It's annoying and not "supportive". Remember that everybody's story is different but we are all on the same roller coaster - whether it's 2 months or 200 years. And remember that while your man definitely needs to be part of your life, yours shouldn't REVOLVE around being a "prison wife". There's just SO much more to ALL of us than that.) 

3. Get used to wearing your big girl panties.
Educate yourself. If you don't know your soldier's first line leader, first sergeant (aka "Top") and/or company commander's contact information, it's time for you to not only GET that information but have a "come to Jesus" talk with your service member for keeping you in the dark. God and the Army BOTH help those who help themselves. Sometimes, military members neglect to give spouses important information because they're douchebags. More often, it's because they're tired and trying to keep track of their own millionth task OR they wrongly assume somebody will magically do it for them. Even should you choose not to participate in an FRG (Family Readiness Group), at LEAST make sure you're on the email list/call roster for major events or to have a point of contact outside your husband's chain of command. (This is vitally important as a prison wife as well. TAKE THE INITIATIVE to learn about your man's facility, the rules and regulations, the contact numbers, making sure HIS information is kept somewhere you can access it in an emergency - blood type, food and medication allergies and any health conditions/previous medical problems and surgeries, metal anywhere in the body, etc...those are all things that are important to be able to pass on to a healthcare team - local, state and federal legislation...do your homework. WE ARE THEIR BEST ADVOCATE. You can't do that if you know absolutely nothing about how things are supposed to be other than what "they" tell you.) There's a flipside to this one and it's BIG. Hear me now - the Army's job is to take care of the MISSION by taking care of your soldier, NOT HIS FAMILY. If you have legitimate concerns (ie: your man has moved in with a stripper and left you high and dry with no money for diapers and formula because he's an idiot) work that chain!!! START with your FRSA (I'll wait while you look it up) and move on up, politely, until your situation is handled. If your safety is ever in jeopardy, call the MPs or the civilian police IMMEDIATELY and let them handle it. If your grass isn't getting mowed, your husband is working late, you're jealous of his female sergeant or the moron spent your rent check on a motorcycle and a singing hamster, IT'S NOT THE COMMAND'S PROBLEM. Know what IS and IS NOT normal and acceptable within the scope of military life and leave the people in charge ALONE so they can do their jobs. You really CAN figure out how to handle MOST "emergencies" and fights with your husband and neighbors on your own. I promise. (And boy, are you going to have to handle most of it as a prison wife. The cold, hard truth is that most of the time, the prison COULDN'T CARE LESS how anything they do affects your life - lockdowns, living conditions, transfers, information passing, etc. - so you will need to get used to NOT calling the warden every 10 minutes any time you think something is "unfair". It's prison. They don't care. But again, never be afraid to POLITELY and FIRMLY stand up for yourself if an injustice is being committed and not addressed. There are ways to go about getting your needs met and concerns heard without repercussions for your loved one. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that BOTH of you in "prison orange" would be a bad deal. Other times, you have to suck it up and realize it's just part of the really sucky territory. It's important to pick your battles and save your anger for stuff that matters.) 

4. BE PREPARED.
You'll hear wives who have been "in the life" a while use terms like "Murphy's Law" (If it CAN go wrong, it will) and "the deployment fairy" (It will inevitably go wrong about two seconds after he walks out the door for a year). They EXIST and they ARE out to get you. Don't let them. BEFORE HE LEAVES, you will need, at a MINIMUM, the numbers of the following people/places:
FRSA or FRG leader
Plumber with "emergency" hours
Handyman service for anything not plumbing-related
Heating/cooling/lawncare services (for yearly maintenance checks/service of your water heater, air conditioning system, furnace and sprinkler system)
Emergency vet for pets
24-hour nursing hotline/poison control/ER for children
Non-emergency numbers for police and fire departments
A friend who can be counted on for middle of the night babysitting
Another friend whom you trust with an extra vehicle/house key
A third friend who will bring a bottle of wine within 15 minutes of any of the above "events"
(Most of these are also really good things for prison wives to have - especially the friend with wine). 

Really. I'm SOOOOO not kidding about that one...The POINT is, you need to imagine any and EVERY possible scenario in which you might need information for healthcare, childcare, household stuff and TRY to cover your bases BEFORE all hell breaks loose. FYI: Your soldier is NOT allowed to deploy without having a will drawn up, a power-of-attorney so you (or someone they trust to do it for you) can access the money and pay the bills and a "NOK" (next of kin) notification card filled out ENSURING you will be contacted in case the worst happens. Don't let them blow smoke up your ass and DON'T let them leave you helpless. Don't leave yourself helpless either. We all understand that EVERYBODY needs help and "shit happens" but nobody likes a victim who constantly has to have somebody holding their hand. Hope for the best, PREPARE for the worst. We all have our own issues too. We'll support you, but don't expect us to CARRY you. It doesn't work that way - at least not for long. (TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE to fall apart every once in a while. TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE AND NECESSARY TO "VENT" occasionally. ABSOLUTELY OK to dig your heels in and DEMAND answers when you need them, but understand this. YOU NEED TO HANDLE YOUR BUSINESS. It's not anybody else's "job" to make sure you always have rides to visit or the grocery store, extra money if you run short, or anything else - try to limit your "emergency" situations to REAL crisis moments; realize everybody ELSE around here is in the same boat you are.) 

5. Don't be a "dependapotamous".
Oh yes, I went there. We all know it's not always fair, but we also all know (if we're being honest) that sometimes stereotypes are DEAD on the money: (Dependapotamous definition: A woman who does not take care of herself, her children or her home and simply sits around letting her husband pay the bills while she plays on Facebook and her kids terrorize the neighborhood, wearing baggy sweatpants, acting "entitled" to everything because she's a military spouse and bitching constantly about how rough the military life is) 
Keep your legs closed when your man is gone. HINT: Perception is KEY. Even if you're NOT doing anything wrong, if you leave it open for interpretation, it's GOING to be and trust me, it WILL get back to your other half. If you think the spouse network is something, try the SOLDIER one on for size. Don't spend all your time or his entire paycheck at either the mall or the bar and you should be fine. (This applies JUST as much to prison wives - we ALL know some "scandalous hos" out there giving us all a bad name. Don't THINK men don't know it and sit in there and talk JUST as much as we do about it. Lots of the time, their worries about us cheating on them are JUST insecurity. SOMETIMES, it's because women play MIND games that CONTRIBUTE to that insecurity and/or hang out with people who have less than stellar reputations. Again. MIND WHO YOU ASSOCIATE WITH. Quick pro-tip. Put the shoe on the other foot. If you wouldn't want HIM doing it, you shouldn't be either.) 
Quit obsessing over what your man is doing when he's deployed. HINT: He's in a war zone. Even if he's not actively in danger, he's working 20 hour days and you should count yourself lucky he calls/emails/Skypes at all instead of riding his ass about the times he doesn't. He's not DEAD if he misses his usual Tuesday call. Breathe. They will act very quickly if they need to get in touch with you (between the hours of 6am-10pm). Oh, and take this from a former female soldier, those boys are our brothers. We don't want "your" men. We have our own and (OMG) we're busy doing OUR jobs too. Are there a few sluts here and there? Sure thing. If YOUR man isn't a dog while he's home though, he aint one away from home either. Give HIM a little credit even if you're not going to give US any. Thanks. (We've ALL freaked out over unexpected "quiet times". It happens. But try to remember that they have ZERO control over their day when they are in prison. If the facility (or even their particular cell block) decides to do a lockdown or shakedown, they're not ignoring you on purpose and it doesn't mean they're dead. If they get sent to "the hole", unless they have writing utensils and envelopes ON them, it may be a while before you hear from them. Shit HAPPENS. You can absolutely call the prison to see what's up, but don't be surprised if you get neither a straight answer OR a pleasant attitude. Especially if it's something that affects the entire facility, the CO's aren't being assholes. They're incredibly BUSY and don't have time to keep track of YOUR inmate as well as several hundred others they're responsible for. Take a deep breath, rest assured they WILL let you know if it's anything "dire" (ie. life/death) and remember that they are JUST as antsy as you are. WRITE. LOTS. And pray. And...remember that wine?! Just saying...) 
Keep your yard, your house, your kids and yourself in SOME kind of shape. Don't be white trash. Respect your neighbors. Don't let your children run wild throughout the neighborhood. Respect your "rear-detachment" soldiers and their spouses. Don't go everywhere in three-day old pajamas. Respect the fact that whether it's fair or not, people ARE looking at you and judging ALL the rest of us by YOUR behavior. HINT: If you can't think of any "problem children" this applies to, bad news. It may be YOU. (SOOOOO many negative stereotypes about prison wives. Fat. Lazy. Uneducated. Stupid. Naive. Desperate. Criminals themselves. Bad attitudes. Confrontational. You name it, they THINK it about us. Let's NOT reinforce those, pretty please?!?! BREAK THE STIGMA!) 

6. Pass it on.
We all started somewhere. Even with my 14 years in the military as a soldier, I was WOEFULLY unprepared for the "switch" to being the spouse and had a LOT to learn, very quickly. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people (in person and on good 'ol Facebook) who were QUICK to take me under their wing, give me advice, provide me with answers and not laugh (too loudly) at me for some of my more confused questions like, "Wait. Why does everybody say it's a bad idea to go to the commissary on the Monday after payday?!" (Go ahead. Let it out. I ACTUALLY asked that.) Remember that no matter HOW long you've been doing this, there's always somebody who's figured out how to do it better, smarter or faster than you have and there's ALWAYS a "rookie" in need of mentoring. (You can learn from EVERYBODY around you in this lifestyle. Even if it's what NOT to do *wink* and you learn something new EVERY DAY. Just when you think you know it "all", life has an AMAZING way of knocking you down a peg or hundred. BE HUMBLE. HELP EACH OTHER. Be patient with people who are "new". Be patient with people who are "veterans" of this life. JUST BE PATIENT. AND KIND. ALWAYS kind.) DON'T get me twisted - SOME want mentoring. SOME just want to complain, whine and bitch. Rule of thumb - if they take your advice and act on it, keep advising. If they refuse your advice and are still whining about the same thing to a different audience weeks later, CUT 'EM LOOSE. You'll save yourself at LEAST one migraine and maybe a bleeding ulcer. Don't discount knowledge from ANYWHERE. Remember what I said about "lowly" junior enlisted soldiers and their spouses? Guess what? Most of them have careers and graduate degrees despite their lesser RANK. And because they don't get paid as much, they're REALLY good at making magic with a budget and being REALLY creative at thinking "outside the box". Use good stuff WHEREVER you find it and be just as quick to LET GO of the bad stuff when you stumble across it. HELP each other. At some point, you'll be on the receiving end, no matter how "together" you think you are. Don't get cocky.

7. Don't forget what you're worth.
I like to remind my old man that should he decide to "get rid" of me, he's going to have a hell of a time finding a housekeeper, nanny, personal assistant, dog walker and chef for $100K. (He just grins and tells me to re-enlist so he can do it for $450K. Smartass.) (Obviously, like I said, this was written when I was still married to "the military". Now he's my roommate/ex/co-parent and his dumb ass STILL tells me I should re-enlist for the extra dough! HA!!!) Seriously, though, while I fully understand that it's not "my" military career, this IS my military LIFESTYLE - and that of my kids, as well. When I take care of him, he's free to take care of HIMSELF and in doing so, make a better life for all of us (Aside - PLEASE stop bitching about the military benefits you are "owed". You're not. He may be, but it's a PERK for you. Act like it and be grateful). I TRULY hope that you are married to someone who makes you feels valued and appreciated for your contribution to the success of his career. Because honey, they DO NOT do a fabulous job of juggling everything by themselves and if you aint on your game, you can make their life a special kind of Hell. (THEY may be the ones locked up, but we "do time" too. However, this still applies. Fair or not, they NEED us to take care of business out here in order to make life easier on them in there. And they need us to THINK before we ACT so we don't make it HARDER on them in there as well. Aint it grand?!? Weaker sex, my white Irish ass...) Take CARE of yourself. Be PROUD of what you do, every day, simply by handling your business. Keep your mind, heart and body STRONG and know that you are a VERY important part of his success OR failure in this strange little world we all inhabit. Have a little faith. I know it's scary sometimes and there are new things every day. This life is has its rough spots, but it's not hard to figure OUT. It's really VERY simple. 
You're not special. You're not alone, either. Surround yourself with positive, vibrant, encouraging people (they DO exist) and be one OF them. Remember that this life, hard as it may sometimes be, is also a grand adventure if you CHOOSE to live it that way. Be your partner's BEST support system and your OWN best friend. You CAN do this - through all the hard, wonderful, ugly, fun, stressful, glorious "days of our lives". Say again: YOU can do this. I should know. If I can figure it out, ANYBODY can ;) (That hasn't changed ONE bit...if I can muddle my way through this with a modicum of grace, dignity and humor, there's hope for ANYBODY. Don't give up! Remember who you are, what you're worth and BE a STRONG, PROUD PRISON WIFE!) 

Sep 7th

REAL Long-Distance Love (Space AND Time)

By Jo_Reed

Today I'm sharing an email with you, as part of my ongoing efforts to be totally transparent in this "prison wife life" and hope that in sharing some of my own struggles and thoughts, some of you will also be encouraged or just feel like, "Oh my gosh, it's not just me!"

I've really been discovering things about my own personality and character through this relationship and they're not always pretty but I believe in being HONEST with ourselves and each other, because I don't really feel like REAL support for one another happens any other way. I've had to ask myself, "Are you ONLY into this relationship when you're getting your needs met? Are you really STRONG enough to get past your selfishness and your need for instant gratification and your desire to feel...entertained...in this relationship? Is this ONLY going to work for you if your desires are being fulfilled?" And to be honest, I'm still working through that thought process! But I figured sharing this with you might make you feel less alone if you're also struggling - and as always, I'd love your input, encouragement, advice, tough love and suggestions! Read on...
Much love,
Jo

Hey, babe. I'm just in a really weird mood today so I'm getting some stuff "sorted through" in my head; tell Jeff I'll email his person. (I'm the "unit secretary" for a few of the guys! HA HA!) I just didn't respond because I didn't want to use up mail credits.

I noticed last night that you did most of the talking. Guess I was just tired, I was paying attention of course (grin) but just didn't feel like I had much to say. Kind of one of those moments where I was like, "Well, I could tell you about my day but really, you kind of had to be there..." and so there wasn't any good way to explain it because you weren't. I have a lot of those, I guess. Times when you call and you're all, "So what's going on with you, babygirl?" and I'm like, "Eh...nothin'" because even though a thousand little things or moments DID happen that day, since you weren't next to me, for me to be able to point and be like, "OO! Look at that!" or just blurt out in the moment whatever thought I was having...it just doesn't really translate. I mean, telling you about a particular cave formation I thought was really cool or the way the sunset was at the rodeo or that I got all excited because I saw a beautiful monarch butterfly but then frustrated because he was so spastic I couldn't get a picture because he wouldn't hold still...ya know? You're sitting in there trying to be interested in tiny little moments you're not even part of. And it's the same for you, I'm sure, with me out here trying to act like the details of your workouts are the most fascinating thing ever. HA HA!

There are just times this whole thing feels so surreal. This relationship we have but at the same time, DON'T have? All these experiences I'm having without you but at the same time, we're "together"...I don't know. Not doing a great job of explaining it, I guess?! Does any of that make sense? Part of me is like, "Ok, so I know I want to marry this man because he's the one for me." Part of me is "Married? What the fuck FOR?" Like, I think until you're home, there are sure times it's just going to feel like a TITLE and not a REALITY, being "your wife". On one hand, we can't wait to be married and share that bond. On the other hand, it's not going to really affect our daily lives at all. It's just this really weird dichotomy (Grab your dictionary - I'll wait while you look that one up) *grinning and ducking away from your tickles*

This is not me getting cold feet or trying to push you away so stop frowning at me like that. (I've been honest about some of my struggles surrounding the idea of marriage, so he tends to sometimes "filter" everything I say that might sound like hesitation through the lens of me "changing my mind" about getting married) I'm just trying to express my thoughts. You're the one who said you wanted to know everything about what this life was like for ME, so I'm just kind of letting you in on some of the unique thought processes that happen on THIS side of the wall. Belonging to a partner you can't share anything with is just kind of tough sometimes. I know the pay-off will be worth it. I know this feeling of separation is just a "phase" and probably part of the natural ebb and flow of things we'll deal with over the next few years until you're home. It's just kind of the first time that I think I've been slapped in the face with the reality of, "Ok, I can try to talk to him about this all I want but it doesn't really matter and I'm kind of wasting my breath because he's not HERE so he won't GET IT."

I learn more about myself every day, doing this with you! That's for sure. Every time I think I have this whole prison wife thing figured out, there's a new little wrinkle and I think, "Huh. Well, what do you know? Something else to feel and deal with!" So I guess that was today's revelation - that sometimes, no matter how "close" we try to be, it's just not possible. But that it's OK because if I keep the faith, eventually it'll be worth it. That we just have to get through these "separation" moments and stay strong, to get to the good stuff :) I love you, baby. Thanks for listening!
Jo

 

Aug 14th

Keeping a sister SAFE!

By Jo_Reed

Ok, sisterfriends. Today I’m going to share some advice about personal safety. Unfortunately, EVERY woman on the planet has to be just a little more wary of certain things than our male counterparts do; sad but true. We don’t always think about the fact that, especially as prison wives, we are alone a lot and therefore, in ADDITION to being independent and “used to” being on our own, ALSO just a bit more vulnerable a lot of the time. So I’m throwing out some tips I’d like you to think about, and I’d love to have YOUR input as well. I am not an “expert” of any sort but I do have several years of military, law enforcement and emergency medical/response training and these are just some things I personally try to do and take into consideration when I’m “out and about”, given certain situations I’ve witnessed over that time. Do with it what you will!  

1. DON'T ADVERTISE.

This is a big one. We all want the world to know about our wonderful men. However, driving around town with a bumper sticker on your truck, wearing “Proud Prison Wife” clothing or even talking constantly on Facebook about your loved one and how much you miss them can, to the wrong person, be a huge neon sign advertising the fact that you’re ALONE, with no partner around to protect you. Think about the information that you’re displaying to complete strangers.

2. KEEP TRAVEL PLANS PRIVATE.
Give someone back home your itinerary and check in with them when you arrive “home” each evening. Unless you’ve got a trusted friend or family member checking in on things and holding down the fort at home, it’s best to talk about trips AFTER you’ve taken them. Just because YOUR loved ones can be trusted doesn’t mean THEIR friends or acquaintances can. It’s really VERY easy for somebody who knows what they’re doing to track you down using the smallest of details (email address, screen name, workplace, phone number) and you don’t need the whole world knowing your place is standing empty or where you’re currently located.

3. WATCH WHO YOU SHARE DETAILS WITH.
Just because somebody is a fellow “prison wife” doesn’t necessarily mean you need them knowing your business. Yes, YOUR partner is trustworthy. Is theirs? Any information you share about your personal life has the potential to be used against you OR your loved one if there’s drama on the inside. Chances are, if somebody wants “at” your partner, YOU and the rest of their loved ones are the weakest link – the people they’ll do anything to protect; even things they shouldn’t. Also remember that emails, calls and letters are monitored. Full names, birthdates, social security numbers, addresses of relatives…think before you speak or write about whether any of that information could be used against you.


4. USE A PERSONAL SECURITY "APP" OR ALARM.

Whether you're headed out to meet girlfriends or simply walking from your apartment to your car, downloading a personal security app is a smart move for any woman who lives alone. There are several personal security apps on the market, and a number of them are completely free. In addition to offering loud alarms you can quickly activate if you feel threatened, some apps also offer GPS tracking. Set the app to tracking mode and if you don't get to your predetermined destination, your emergency contacts are alerted immediately and notified of your location. Lock doors and keep windows up when you drive; most carjackings occur at intersections when predators take advantage of the “blind spot” and yank open the door to your vehicle. Know the number for your state’s “motorist assist” program (almost every state has one) or AAA/other breakdown help line. Carry a car charger for emergencies so you don’t need to exit your vehicle to call for help.

5. LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS.
If your gut is telling you somebody is TOO curious about your life or routines or being TOO helpful/friendly in a situation where you haven’t ASKED for any help, pay ATTENTION to that. They might just be a friendly person but they could be “fishing” for details or trying to get you to let your guard down. As women, we fear that telling people firmly, “No. I’ve got this. Leave me alone.” will be seen as “rude” or “bitchy”. And it might – but I’d rather be a bitch than a victim because I talked myself OUT of listening to my gut.

6. THINK ABOUT SECURITY – INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOME.
Keep your doors locked at all times and your curtains or shades drawn. Set lights on timers when you are out at night and consider a home security system. Make sure the locks on your doors and windows work properly. If you have a yard, trim shrubs and invest in outside lighting. Do not use your name on your mailbox and make sure your house number is clearly visible to police and other emergency workers. Consider getting a male friend or relative to leave the message on your answering machine. Never, EVER open your door unless you are CERTAIN who is on the other side and that they have a legitimate reason for being there.

7. CONSIDER TAKING A SELF-DEFENSE COURSE.
Pepper spray, tasers, legally registered and carried weapons – they’re all great until you’re in the middle of an attack, you’re panicked and you can’t get to them in time or they are taken away and used against you. Avoid martial arts studios unless you intend to study THAT particular martial art; look for a course where instructors wear pads and actual “attack scenarios” are carried out you need to defend yourself against. TRAIN how you intend to FIGHT and never be afraid to do so. Attackers look for “easy targets” – women who avoid eye contact, walk with their heads down or have their arms full, are distracted by cell phones, running/walking alone with earbuds in, etc. Keep your head UP, eyes focused on the details and people around you and be aware of who’s in your space. Never be hesitant to protect that “space bubble”. Always have an “exit strategy” for every place you walk into and vary your daily routine a bit to avoid becoming too predictable in your patterns.

8. HAVE A SAFETY "BUDDY".
Always let someone know where you’ll be and how to reach you if you’re going out or traveling. Have someone who “checks in” with you daily, even if it’s just a text message, and an “emergency contact” who knows how to get in touch with the important people in your life if something happens or can relay information to emergency personnel - your blood type, any drug or food allergies, medications you take for any health conditions – that might affect your immediate health care needs. Have a code word or phrase to let somebody know if you’re in a situation where you’re being held against your will so that they can notify the proper authorities. Keep a phone number for this person in your wallet with your driver’s license. If you are found unconscious, emergency responders will check your identification, see that number and be able to contact them.

9. WATCH YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
It’s great to post pictures of our kids, the insides/outsides of our homes, our favorite places to hang out…just be aware that if your settings are “Public”, all of that information is as well. LOCK IT DOWN. Do not “tag” yourself to check in at certain places until you’re leaving those places. Adjust your settings so that you have to “approve” photos and status updates other people tag you in as well. NEVER post your personal information online in public forums (and be careful about doing it in closed ones too, unless you’re very certain as to the integrity of everyone in that group). “Get in touch with me at ______” or “My address is ____” is simply ASKING for someone who is up to no good to be able to harass, stalk or attack you. If you are meeting someone to exchange/sell something, take a friend with you or arrange to meet in a public place during daylight hours.


10. KNOW YOUR AREA.
Meet your neighbors. Know which people and vehicles are “supposed” to be around during the day and which are odd. Study the details of your routes to work, school or the gym – which businesses are open late, where phones might be located, which streets are darker/deserted at night, etc…knowing WHERE to go in an emergency for help is important. Have a trusted female coworker or security personnel escort you to your vehicle if you’re working late. Park in well-lit areas and avoid using a parking garage if it’s after-hours. Make friends with your local merchants if possible; the guys at the gas station near my house all know me by name, notice if I don’t stop in for my daily cup of coffee and keep an eye on me at the pump when it’s dark.


You will ALWAYS be your OWN best “bodyguard”. It sometimes does suck that we, as women, DO have to almost be a little bit “paranoid” about protecting ourselves, but I prefer to think of it as being PREPARED, the same way I approach other things in life!  BE SMART, BE AWARE and NEVER be AFRAID – simply be CAREFUL. Part of being a “strong” prison wife is being strong enough to keep yourself SAFE!

Much love,
Jo