Bothersome Dreams

Last night I had an awful dream! I woke up with a start and couldn’t stop crying. Even when I got up and walked to the kitchen to get a drink of water to shake the sleep, I started crying again when my son asked me what the dream was about.

My husband and I were in the truck in the front yard like we had just gotten home from somewhere. Suddenly several cars came up the driveway and stopped in front of the house, people started getting out, rushing to the house looking around. When we got out of the truck, a woman turned to me and asked who I was. I answered and she gave a look. It was a bounty hunter, like you see on tv shows, with the police. She wanted to ask me a few questions and I asked them all in so the boys wouldn’t be worried about what was happening and come out of the house.

I sat across our dinner table answering questions. My husband and our sons were in the living room with the police. I was worried that they were scared. I knew my husband would be very anxious. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I wanted to not answer any of their questions. I knew I shouldn’t. I knew I should ask if they were detaining me, if I was under arrest, but I was terrified to my bones of going to jail and I kept thinking I could possibly clear this up by talking to them.

They asked me if I knew what this (an old video tape cassette) was, what my favorite food was, and where I had just come from. Every time I answered she would look at the others as if to say, “See! This is totally the person we are looking for!” I knew I should stop talking and let them arrest me if they wanted to. It was obviously what they were there for. But I couldn’t figure out how to say it without looking more guilty. That’s when I woke up crying sobbing.

I can’t believe this still bothers me so much. Writing my story is what is bringing it to the front of my mind. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing it. Why not just leave it buried and forgotten? But then I think about how many people this could happen to, how many people it has happened to, and how many people are sitting in jail right now for crimes they did not commit but didn’t have the lawyer I had to get out of the box they put me in. And I think of all the people that believe they are innocent of any wrong doing, so it can’t happen to them. The blade of “justice” hangs over all of us, whether we know it or not. Maybe if more of us knew what could happen, we’d be more careful about giving up our rights. That’s what my dream was about. I know my rights. I know what I should do. But will I have the strength to exercise them, to do what I should do, if the time ever comes again? Will my children? My husband?

And then I think there are probably so few people that will believe me, or take me seriously. I doubt that most of my family and friends, those who know me best, even take my warning experience to heart. What is the point of reliving this in my mind and sharing it?

Knock at the Door

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

A knock on the door? How long have I been asleep? I look at the clock. It’s nearly 7 am. The dog is barking like crazy. She hates it when people are on the front porch, even if it’s just us; a knock on the door and she goes bonkers. She’s a small dog, only about two feet tall at her shoulders. She looks like a miniature German Shepherd. The knocking gets louder and more insistent. I put my pillow over my head. Irritating people. I hear my husband’s heavy, deliberate step toward the door and the lock unbolting.

Male voices. I can’t hear exactly what they are saying but they are serious. “Hold the dog, sir.” My husband, “Ok. I’ve got her. She doesn’t bite.” Seconds of talking and big, hurried footsteps on the stairs. Now I’m curious. I sit up in bed to watch two men with guns drawn walk into my room. The guns are pointed at me. “Don’t move.” I don’t see uniforms, only yellow writing on black bullet proof vests. I can see the velcro straps sticking out. There is enough light to see clearly by, but the room is still shadowed by the big avocado tree outside. I hear “Don’t move.” again. “Ok.”

I’m sitting up in bed confused but not scared. The first man to enter the room holds his gun on me, while the second walks past him. He swiftly walks through my room and into the small dormer room at the front of the house, my step-daughter’s bedroom, gun drawn. A second passes. “Clear.” He comes out. There is a third man on the landing. “Single female. Second story clear.” I hear the radio cackle, two or three other voices say “clear”, and then one minute later an “all clear.” The man looks at me. “Maam. Come with me.” “Can I put some pants on first?”, I soberly ask. He speaks down the stairs. “We need a female officer up here.” Two seconds later, she arrives and the men head back down the stairs.

The female officer says nothing but “Go ahead and get dressed.” I quietly grab my sweatpants from the floor and put them on. “Come with me, please.” She follows me down the stairs and has me sit on the bottom step. “Wait here.” I hear my boys talking quietly with their Dad in the next room.

Sitting on the lower landing of our staircase, looking at the downstairs bathroom door, the light is on. My step-daughter must have been just about ready to leave for school. It’s 7 am. She’d be leaving about now. I hear her questioning voice with my mother-in-law’s in her living room on the other side of the bathroom. To my left is our front door. It’s open. There is a man on the front porch and one in the doorway to the living room with my husband and sons. Why are we all separate? I hear lots of people walking and talking, looking for things? Who are they looking for? “This neighborhood is getting ridiculous.”, I think. “I bet this is really about our next door neighbors.” Strange people moved in a year ago and they have different people in and out of the house all day. They are going to be so embarrassed when they realize they have the wrong house.

The officers continued to search the house while we sat there. Once the house was thoroughly searched for people, they began to interview the adults. They asked my mother-in-law to speak with them and I heard the door shut. I hear my sons asking their Dad if they can get up, they need a drink. Even in the serious air of the situation, little boys just aren’t able to sit quiet and still for very long. A few minutes later, she came out and they asked my husband back. Grandma came over and sat with the kids. I hear my step-daughter talking about getting to school. When my husband returns, I hear my mother-in-law ask if she can leave to take my step-daughter to school.

About twenty minutes passed when a man in a suit came to me at the stairs and asked me to come with him. He escorts me to the back of the house. We pass by my family. They look worried. I see my sons’ toy guns laid out on a cabinet near the officers in the room. The boys jump up. “Mommy!” Dad holds them close to him. “Stay with me. Mommy has to talk to the policeman.” “Are they looking for bad guys, Dad?”, I hear my older son say. “My gun.”, my youngest babbles, pointing to his toys. “My In Jone!” He’s two and believes he is Indiana Jones. He takes it very seriously.

I walk into the room and he asks me to sit on the couch. The officer sits down in the chair across from me. He’s pleasant and polite, not rushed, not angry or gruff. “Do you know why we are here, Mrs. Huelle?” Confused I answer, “No.” “Are you sure about that?”, he says. I’m actually in shock that this is happening at our house. I feel like we’re in a TV show. It’s all happening just like “Law & Order.” and I say so. He introduces himself as Detective Austin. He says he’s looking for a robbery suspect. They have a warrant to search the house. I just look at him. I honestly didn’t react at all. I just sat there staring. I’d never had cops in my house. He looks unfazed. “If you really have no idea why we’re here, I’m sure this is a bit shocking. I have some questions if you don’t mind. Maybe we can clear this up.” I shake my head, “I’m willing to answer anything. I hope I can help.”

The interview continued for several minutes. He told me the robbery happened at a mall in the next town. “I know that mall. I used to work there when I was in high school.” “Can you tell me where you were on this night?” He asks. “I’m not sure. I’d have to look at my calendar. I keep notes about our schedule there.” I explained that I sometimes worked different nights at Disneyland, I had a bible study on Wednesday nights, and that I usually stayed home in the evenings other than that. I’m a nervous out at night alone. It’s not the best of neighborhoods. And I’d rather be at home with my husband when he comes home from work. “After the robbery, the perpetrator went to a nearby restaurant. Have you been there?” “Yes. It’s right by the mall. We had my Grandfather’s birthday dinner there about three years ago.”

The interview continued for a few more minutes. He asked me about a safe in the house, whether I knew how to open it. It was my husbands. He’d had it before we met and I know he told me the combination was somebody’s birthday but I couldn’t remember who. He asked if I’d ever fired a gun. At first, I said no, but then remembered we went shooting a couple times with my step-dad when we were kids. He also asked weirder questions like where I kept my clothes. I’ve never been much into fashion. I had t-shirts and tennis shoes, jeans and sweatpants. It’d be hard to tell between my dresser drawer and my husbands other than underwear. I think I own a dress somewhere and a couple nice shirts for special occasions. It was such a strange interview. There was never a time when I felt uncomfortable or uneasy. He seemed honest and sympathetic. I answered all his questions honestly and completely, offering additional information as I thought of it. I wanted to help catch this person, too!

At the end of the interview, the detective told me that I had been picked out of a line-up by two different people as the person that had robbed a woman in a parking lot, attempted to steal a car at gun point, and then used a stolen credit card to buy dinner and drinks, tipping extravagantly. “You’re under arrest. We’ll go out the back door to a car. We won’t handcuff you in front of your children.” I just sat there in complete shock. I felt nothing. No tears, no anxiety, nothing. He asked me to walk out back with a couple of police officers. I numbly complied and said nothing as they put handcuffs on me, read me my rights (now that they were arresting me), and put me in an unmarked car.

I wasn’t exactly worried. Shocked, confused how this could happen, strangely intrigued by the event, that’s the best I can describe it. I’ll admit my high dose anti-anxiety medication probably helped a lot. I just kept thinking it was interesting and that it would all be cleared up as soon as they figured out who I was, that I couldn’t possibly be the person they were looking for. This was not how I thought my day would go at all.

Morning

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

I could hear the boys stirring in their room and my step-daughter’s alarm ringing. I pretended I could sleep a while longer, lying in bed, snuggled down in my blankets. My husband was already up making coffee and getting ready for work. I could hear him downstairs in the kitchen. It was an old house and every move anyone made anywhere echoed quiet creaks through the wood slats and plaster. My boys came running in to crawl in bed with me as per their usual routine. It was 5:30 am and still dark. Sometimes I could get them to settle down with me and go back to sleep but not today. The giggling and poking each other had already begun and my older son wanted his “coffee” which he would not accept from his Dad. Kids. I swung my legs out of bed in an exaggerated manner and threw on some sweat pants to follow them down the stairs. They ran ahead chattering back and forth with each other, my older son with his mouse tucked under his chin and my younger with the corner of his blankie in his mouth. I warned them to be careful as they headed to the top of the stairs. My step-daughter passed us with a grumbly morning “Hi” as she headed for the bathroom, the first step toward getting ready for school.

In the kitchen I found my husband getting some coffee and offering me a cup. I took it and smiled. One spoon of sugar already in the cup and a spoon to cool it. He loves me. My older son clamored to the fridge and lugged out the gallon of milk. I took it from his small hands and poured them both a cup of milk over chocolate syrup, twisted the sippy lid on, and shook it vigorously. Little hands reached up for their favorite morning ritual.

Walking back to the living room I heard my mother-in-law’s TV in the next room. She was up early. Maybe she was planning on doing the school run today instead of Dad? He usually dropped her off at school and then drove to work but sometimes she would do it for him if he had an early meeting. One of the perks of having an extra adult in the house. Getting our younger two up and out the door to the car just to drive their sister 40 minutes to school and head home wasn’t fun. It could be done, but no one wanted to if it could be avoided.

I was tired and not feeling well. I hadn’t slept well due to a sore throat and itchy ears, a good spring cold in the making. I told my husband and asked how his daughter was getting to school. He was planning on taking her. I opened the door to Mom’s living room and asked if she could look after the boys so I could go back to bed for a bit. She cheerfully agreed. The boys were tucked onto the couch, chocolate “coffee” in hand, watching cartoons. I kissed them both and headed back upstairs to my bed, passing dear daughter on her way down to the living room for breakfast. I climbed back in my bed, sweatpants and all, and went right back to sleep.

To read the next chapter, click HERE.

 

Go To Sleep!

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

Sometimes looking back through old calendars and journals, I get sad. I’m doing it because I’m trying to better remember the week before I was arrested so that I can write about our life up to that point. Memories are fuzzy, but journals…well, they leave the cold details of the dark place I was entering at the time right out there for anyone to find. I want to burn them so no one can see. But I also want this story to get out there, all of it, so I trudge through and then try to write it out so that it looks happier than it does on paper. So much drama in my heart and on my mind. I’m not sure I want to remember and share it.

I was in the thick of the toddler years of defiance. My boys were becoming their own persons and making sure that I knew it at every step. On top of that, they had totally different personalities.

My older son was 3½ years old, strong willed and full of questions, testing everything he could find around him, curious about the world around him. He was inquisitive, happy, talkative, and always wanting to try things.

My younger son had just turned two. Although he had few words, he knew what he wanted and always seemed to be thinking about something. What everyone around him was doing was of no interest usually, unless it was his Dad. He always wanted to know what Dad was doing.

My journals are filled with what we did each day and grumblings about them not listening to me, or that they wouldn’t go to sleep, worries about Nikki, and my family. I had been taking anti-anxiety medication for about a year and wanted to come off of it. It dulled all my senses, made me sleepy and added even more pounds than my birth control pills. I still wasn’t really happy while taking them but at least I wasn’t angry anymore. There was this nagging feeling that I really didn’t need them. I just needed to catch up on sleep and then I’d be able to control my emotions again. I had tried coming off of them, fell into an angry depression, and then reluctantly started taking them again hoping I hadn’t done too much damage to the relationships with my husband and children. There was much more work to do before I could come off those drugs. I needed help. I didn’t feel therapy was working. Feeling like I belonged at church helped more, and it was free.

I didn’t like the person I was. I felt like I was just getting along. I had friends and activities but no goals, not vision of the future. In hindsight, I wish I had realized at the time that I was and should have been focused on raising my children. I kept going backwards in my mind, wondering what I was doing and where I was going. I was being a Mom of small children. I fully enjoyed being just Mom, why couldn’t I see that and relax into it? My children seemed to be happy…unless they were going to bed, which was when I had the most time to write in my journal. I did it to distract myself from the antics going on around me. I refused to let them cry themselves to sleep and they refused to go to sleep without me. So there I sat with my journal and my bible, trying not to let myself get angry at the two little ones unwillingly ending their day.

Evenings went something like this. After dinner, we’d begin our “routine”. We’d say goodnight to Dad, sister, and Grandma. We’d enthusiastically climb up the stairs to pick out books to read. One for each boy. And one for me, usually a longer book that I wanted to share with the boys. We’d brush our teeth and get into our PJ’s, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and snuggle down on the bottom bunk together. There was usually one boy on each side of me, kind of picaresque like. We’d read “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Curious George” for the hundredth time, mimicking the characters and acting out scenes. Jake would “read” the book himself, turning pages and telling us what each person said in his tiny baby words. Once those books were read, the boys would get into bed, one at each end of the bottom bunk. Neither one wanted to sleep on the top. It was too scary! We’d dismantle the bunk beds soon and never put them up again. They only used it as a jungle gym and it was just a matter of time before one of them got seriously hurt anyway. I’d sit in my rocking chair (the one my Grandma had and gave to me when I got my first apartment on my own), open the book I’d chosen and start to read. They loved any book I’d read out loud, mostly because it let them stay awake that much longer. We read things like “Little House on the Prairie”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Pinocchio”. Sometimes I’d have to stop reading to fix a blanket or separate little feet from kicking. I’d read a chapter, close the book, and then the antics began.

I could feel my temper start to rise every night. One wanted the window open, one wanted it closed. One wanted to talk and wiggle himself to sleep and the other needed complete silence to settle down. We tried going to bed one at a time and it failed miserably. They didn’t like to be separated either. I wish I’d had more patience back then. I wish I had just taken a deep breath and let it go, but as I sat there writing a bit in my journal and trying to read the bible passage in my devotional, I wondered if they’d ever go to sleep. Many nights I just gave up and laid down on the floor next to them or in bed with them and went to sleep, only to wake up a while later and crawl into bed with my husband. I desperately wanted a whole nights sleep in one bed. I really didn’t get that until years later. Looking back, I’m glad we slept this way. It was crazy, but it became a routine that worked out well for all of us. I laugh thinking about sitting there in my rocking chair. My memory tells me that I was frustrated from time to time but generally peaceful about it. My journals show a different picture!

To read the next chapter, click HERE.

Mother’s Day Dedication

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.

I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.

I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off of school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.

So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be pretty exciting. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands out stretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.

As the weeks went on I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for. When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!

I typically attend Sunday services alone. My husband always picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and weren’t able to sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.

My step-daughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old now and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.

It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.

We had joined families with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.

This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see some kind of Christian Ceremony in the family again. It still warms my heart to think of her proud face that day.

My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was a feat in itself. They were three and two years old and definitely had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?

The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents at the front door and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.

Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.

The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play close up, with his hears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down and the service began. As the pastor began to speak I noticed all the other mother’s in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my step-daughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.

The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt down to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.

The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.

We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.

Looking back now, twelve years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support. A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened and we worked through it.

To read the next chapter, click HERE.

Chapter 2?

What’s going on?! Where’s the next chapter?! I know that’s what you’re thinking, so I thought I’d hop on and write a quick note about the process.

Last week I was prompted to start a project I have long thought of attempting. I was “triggered”, as they say, to speak out. Through my anxiety I pushed through, I wrote my thoughts and posted them. I even went so far as to make them a tad more public, by placing a Facebook ad to get a few more followers. My plan was (and still is) to begin writing one portion of the story each week and post it each Saturday until I am completely through.

As the hours started to roll by I found myself checking the internet every few minutes to see if I had any additional likes. I found some wonderful support from some amazing friends that gave me the confidence to keep writing. I felt that I was not alone in this. But soon I started to get more and more nervous. I’m not sure what I was feeling but it wasn’t manifesting itself well in my personal life. Yes, in twelve hours I was already starting to feel more and more anxious. Fear began to fill my heart, so I pulled the ad and deleted my shared post. I turned off my computer and went to bed.

The story is still here on the blog and I will continue to write it, but I’m amazed after thirteen years these feelings are still so strong. I’m not sure I can put it into words how I feel. Scared, disappointed, lost, disillusioned, they just don’t do my emotions justice. I lost faith in a system. I lost faith in people. And I lost faith in my church. All because one woman committed a crime against another. I still cannot believe I almost lost my life over it. There is just so much to dig into that it feels overwhelming.

I spent Monday reading my journals, looking over my calendars, and going through the file from my lawyer. I had dug them out of storage and had them all over the kitchen table. As I read I became angry all over again. I guess I had the distant hope that I would read it and come to the conclusion that it wasn’t that big of a deal, that I had imagined most of it. But there it was, in black and white. So much had gone terribly wrong. How could they do this? Through the case, I found out that it is not a rare occurrence, that people are accused and convicted on less, and that it happens every day. The thought continues to haunt me. Reading it, thinking of it, and attempting to convey the event and my feelings about it to strangers has had a negative effect on me. When I talk to people about it, I feel differently. I don’t hide what happened. I’m very eager to tell my story out loud to others I meet. When I can stand in front of them and discuss it, I can see their eyes. I know in my heart that they are as shocked as I am about it. They sympathize and understand. But are they? Really? Or are they just being polite? After what happened, I just don’t know. How will people react to reading it? Not knowing me from Adam, will they believe me at all or brush it aside as an exaggeration of the truth or a criminal just trying to clear her name or conscience?

As I sit here and write this I realize how much that event changed me. I need to write this out for my own sanity. I want it to be a closure for my heart. It happened. It continues to happen to others, and some aren’t so lucky as I was. What can my story do? I’m just one person. But then I think, with God all things are possible. I may not have the words or the strength to stand up, but my God does, His Son is my advocate, and I carry the Holy Spirit in my heart. I will keep writing. It will be told. I just don’t know how long it will take. If you could, please pray for my heart and my strength. If it is God’s will for me to tell this story, I know He’ll make it happen.

Triggered

This is the beginning of my story…or the end? To see all the chapters in order, click HERE.

How does a stay-at-home, church going, girl scout leader Mom end up standing before a court accused of armed robbery and attempted car-jacking? And can anyone else learn from the experience, other than those who are closest to her? How can this same person use the gifts God gave her to share the experience, glorify God’s miracles, and hopefully inspire others at the same time?


A jury duty summons came in the mail. It was just an average, everyday jury duty summons, nothing to get worked up over. I’ve gotten them every year since we moved out to the desert nine years ago. Every year I open the envelope, write down what day I’m supposed to call and find out if I will be going to the courthouse the next day. And every year the recording says I’m not needed.

For me, a jury duty summons is really irritating. I get aggravated and vocal about how inconvenient it is. Why do they tell me a month in advance that I MIGHT need to come to the courthouse and then make me call the night before just to find out if I won the lottery of a day sitting in a crowded room with some of my weird neighbors? Why not just tell me I will be going for sure right then? I can plan on it. What if I had a job and needed to get the day off? It’s really not any trouble for me to go in. I am actually bothered that other people might be put out by it. But that’s not really what is making me irritable. It’s fear and old memories being dredged up.

The last time I actually got called into court was ten years ago in the city. That courthouse was huge and there are so many people. It’s pretty anonymous going in there. I sat in the big comfortable jury waiting room with free water, wi-fi, TV, and vending machines, and read my book. It was kind of nice really. I had three children at home at the time. My step-daughter was starting Junior High School and my two boys were six and five years old. We were homeschooling the boys, so they were home with me and my Mother-In-Law all day. Going to jury duty at that time was kind of like a vacation from regular life. I didn’t mind going in but there was something bothering me.

Two years earlier I had been falsely accused by the District Attorney and had to defend myself. The charges were dropped after a year and nearly $30,000 in fees, but the time was traumatic for me and I still held some bitterness toward the system for bringing the case against me and for pursuing it so ferociously. The look on the D.A.’s face as he walked out of the courtroom after dropping the case for lack of evidence still stuck with me. Laughing a bit, he looked at me and told me maybe they’d get me next time. I was terrified. They’d watched my house before they arrested me for weeks. I had no idea they were there. Would they be watching me now? How could I know? I hadn’t done anything wrong, but everything they presented was true and led them to believe I was the one that robbed a woman at gunpoint and tried to steal her car. How could I know they wouldn’t pick up more pieces of my life and arrange them in a picture that looked different than the one they took them from?

Two years had gone by and I was still upset by the whole situation. We were still in debt thanks to the police departments job. They had taken a gun handed down from my husband’s father as evidence. We never got it back, not that we ever used it. It had sentimental value. Here I was sitting in a courthouse, waiting for them to call my name. I’d been there about an hour when my group was called to a courtroom. We sat listening to the case overview and they passed out a thick questionnaire for us to fill out. We were told to answer all the questions honestly and completely and then return them. We could leave after we were done and were to return in the morning to the same courtroom. I’d have to get my Mother-In-Law to watch the boys again and take my step-daughter to school as well.

I started reading the questions. Most of them were easy and straight forward, things like your background, work, family relationships, etc. Then came ones I never considered. How do you feel about the justice system? Do you think it’s fair? Would you convict someone on the basis of what the law is and not how you feel about the law? How could I answer these questions truthfully? I knew the minute I gave my honest answer I’d be asked to leave. If I always answered that way, I’d never be on a jury. And what about that defendant? Shouldn’t he have someone like me on the jury, that might actually look at the case more fairly? Should I lie and then hold up the deliberation if I got that far?

I couldn’t lie. I knew that. I answered the questions honestly. I don’t believe the system is just. I think most people believe that if you were truly innocent, you wouldn’t be able to incriminate yourself and I learned first hand that that’s not true at all. I think the general population thinks as I used to; that the Miranda Rights are to help the criminals, not protect the innocent. They get in the way of cops getting the bad guys. And I think the police arrest anyone they can get their hands on for a crime just so that it looks good on paper. If you arrest people and have a high conviction rate in court, you’re keeping the people safe. Right? It looks good in the annual report. It justifies the money they spend. But crime isn’t being deterred. It’s only being punished and it doesn’t matter who is punished. Don’t get me started on how I used to feel about Defense Attorneys. We all knew they were the scum that help criminals get out of trouble. I also know from my experience that those that have enough money and a connection to someone that can help are more likely to get out of the trouble, innocent or guilty. All of this, in my opinion, made me a better juror than I was before the incident. I used to think like most everyone else. It is how the system conditions us. If you’ve been accused, you probably did something, and you’ll have to prove to me you didn’t. The law is actually the other way around and now I know why. I wrote all of this down, handed it to the bailiff, and walked out to my car.

When I returned to court the next day, all the potential jurors were standing out in the hall. Before they opened the door and let us in to sit down, they read a list of all the jurors that could go home right now. I was on that list. My heart sunk. They’d never let me on a jury. I was too honest and principled, I thought. And then I was angry. They knew last night when they were reading those papers who they were going to send home. Why didn’t they call us? It would have saved us all a lot of time. I went home and I wasn’t sent a summons until a few years later when we had moved out to the desert.

Since then, I think I’ve been called about six times. I get the paper, I call the number, I’m excused. I feel like I’m forced to participate in some ugly lottery. I haven’t been to the courthouse out here until now. When I got the summons this time, I wrote the date on my calendar. As always happens when I get that summons, I started thinking about my case. One of my sons asked me recently why I write so much down. I keep a journal and a calendar and write details I want to remember about each day. Plans we’ve made, dinners, where we’re going are all on the calendar. And I tend to go back and write what happened if we do something unexpected. I keep track of the weather, what birds I see, what got cleaned, or what I planted in the yard. It’s a little obsessive and I’ve gotten more detailed over the years. I jokingly tell the boys that some day, all the electronic records will be lost and they will only have my journals and calendars to recreate what it was like to live in the early 2000’s! I also keep receipts filed and easy to recall. Sometimes I start to think it’s a little unhealthy and stop writing. A few days at most can get by before I run back and fill in what has happened on my calendar. Thinking back, I realize what I’m doing. When the detective was at my home on the day I was arrested, he asked me what I was doing “on the day in question.” I swear! It was just like a “Columbo” re-run or “Law & Order” episode! I showed him my calendar. I usually write down everywhere we go, I told him. I have girl scouts on Fridays and Bible Study on Wednesdays, etc. There was nothing on those days. Nothing at all. Later, my lawyer asked me about that calendar. The DA was using it for evidence. He asked if I had anything else that might point to where I was on that day. I searched my journals. Those days were also empty. They only thing I had was an instant message conversation on the computer between a friend and I. I printed the record of it. It haunted me that I had no alibi for that day. But why would I? I’m a stay-at-home Mom! I was at home making dinner, doing laundry, and chasing kids! How could this be happening?! Writing things down is a symptom of my recurring thoughts, a kind of PTSD thing. It helps me feel safe.

The day to call on my summons came and went. When I woke up the next day at 4 am, I stumbled to my coffee pot and picked up my book. I sat reading and waking up until 5 am when I went to make a note about something I read. That’s when I remembered I was supposed to call about jury duty! I sat down and called that minute and found out I had to be there at noon. And that is when I started to feel sick.

There was no getting out of it. I had to show up. Maybe they’d just let us sit there all day and then send us home. That’s happened to me before. I had to call the women’s center that I volunteer for and tell them I wouldn’t be there. They’d have to find someone to replace me for the day. I got ready to go and headed out the door feeling very queasy. All the memories coming back one at at time.

The courthouse here is much smaller than the one in the city. It was pleasant, obvious where I needed to be, and air conditioned! I brought my knitting. I figured we’d be sitting around doing nothing for awhile and I really can’t read when I can hear people talking. We were shown a video about how great being on a jury is and how it is our duty to perform this task as a citizen. Everyone seemed pretty down about being there. Some people knew each other. Some had been there before. It’s a small town, so you’re bound to see someone you know. I didn’t, but I knitted away. I expected to be there for a few hours and not be called. About an hour later we were all moved to the courtroom. I hadn’t been in a courtroom in ten years and this one was so much smaller than the last one. The judge talked and talked. The woman next to me said the judge said this every time. They went over a bunch of questions and then we took a break. When we got back, several people were excused and I was called to replace one. We all answered questions about ourselves, out loud, in front of everyone. I was terrified. I’ve never been much of a public speaker and this was ridiculous.

Then it got worse. They asked if I’d ever been accused of a crime and would that have an effect on how I performed my duty. I had to tell them I was accused and the case had been dropped. I tried to form coherent sentences about why I believed I was capable of being fair on a jury because of my experience, not in spite of it. After all, I knew that both sides of an argument can be wrong, even the accusing authority. The prosecution was required to prove that someone was in the wrong, not the defense. I thought it came out well. I wish I could have recorded it and heard myself. I have a feeling I think like I’m a lot clearer and steady that I actually am. My own experience as a defendant years ago brought that to my attention. The judge moved on to other prospective jurors.

A few minutes later, another question made my stomach lurch and compelled me to raise my hand and speak. I don’t know if you had positive experiences with speaking up in a classroom when you were a child, but I did not. I’ve always been a bit shy and nervous which has always attracted the henpecking that children do in school. I was actually sick in class once when we were required to read our essay out loud. I never lived that down. All the acting classes and performances I did through high school never cured me of my fear of the classroom situation. That has stuck with me until this day. I’m not afraid of public speaking, I’m happy to stand up in front of a group and answer questions or perform, but put me in a situation that looks like a classroom, no matter how compelling an argument I think I have, no matter how much I desire to speak up and tell people what I think about the topic, if I have to raise my hand and speak, forget it. I actually shake and feel sick. Deep down I desperately believe I have something important to add but just cannot bring myself to put myself back in that classroom situation. And here I was, in a courtroom, as a prospective juror, with a lawyer asking the whole group a question and I felt passionate about my answer, sure that my answer needed to be heard.

“Does anyone here feel that if they disagree with the law in this case that they couldn’t give a verdict of guilty?”

I shook as I began to raise my hand and realize that no one else was volunteering to answer. I would be asked to speak my mind. It all happened in slow motion. At the same time as I was raising my hand, I was trying to formulate my words so I would be clearly understood. I’d already heard the sentiment, “Well, I may not agree with the law, but it is the law and if I’m judging someone whether they broke it or not, I’d have to say he did.” The question had been asked in a few different ways. I was a little confused at times. It didn’t seem to be presented clearly. I felt led to answer in a certain way, like he was fishing for that answer. The last way he said it I felt was clear enough for me and I had to answer.

“I’m not speaking of this case specifically, but in general. If I don’t believe a law is just or right, I cannot convict someone of breaking it. After all, it used to be against the law to let black people eat in a white restaurant.” The lawyer just nodded and moved on to the next question. I knew at that moment I would not be on that jury. As I sat there another hour, I heard over and over again from almost all the other jurors, they may not think the law is right but it must be there for a reason. I couldn’t believe it.

At the end of the day, several people had been dismissed from jury duty but I remained. We were all asked to come back the next day to continue picking a jury for this trial. As I drove home that afternoon, I was actually excited. I had stood up and said what I believed was right and I wasn’t summarily dismissed. Maybe, just maybe, the system wasn’t as corrupt as I imagined.

The next morning, I got up and got ready for the day. I was now sure I’d be on this jury. It’d be my first one and I was pretty excited about it. I readied myself for a long day in court. One hour later, I was driving home angry and disappointed. I had been the first to be dismissed that day. Once again, I had rearranged my schedule and worked in time to “do my civic duty” and the court disrespected my time and effort, called me in so that they could dismiss me immediately. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Driving home, I grumbled and complained to myself. All those people in that courtroom would really uphold and convict a fellow citizen on a law they believed to be unjust? Really? If any of them thought for one minute about what they said, they’d see what they were doing. These same people would think it was a shameful response of the Nazi soldiers to say “I was only doing my duty, as I was ordered to do.” They’d hold those people responsible. How far will they go? If a lawmaker in our country made it illegal for a particular group of people in this country to hold a job and be paid, would you go to court and convict him of trying to support his family? Where would this “I’m just following the law.” thinking go? I’m seriously shaking just thinking it through again and tapping it out on the screen.

When I got home, I did what all good Americans do these days, I posted on Facebook. I know. It’s not monumental but it’s all I could think to do. I did get some positive response from it. Some of my friends understood what I was trying to say, but the percentage was pretty low and I wonder if I made public poll how many people would agree with me. I’m thinking it would be even lower.

And that’s why I’m here typing this story out. Once again, I began to wonder why I should even bother making that statement, answering the way I did. I’d never be put on a jury if I did. But what if one person in that room heard me and thought about what I said? What if one person read my post afterward and reconsidered their position about “following the law”? What if more people do the same thing by standing up for our constitutional rights and being the biggest check and balance in our justice system? To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, “Why it may even start a movement! And most of you are too young to know what a movement is!”

This story is just the beginning. I’ve always felt that someday I’d write my experience out for the world to see. It was painful and life changing for me and, until now, it hurt too much to rub those wounds and remember, to reflect on what happened and what could have happened. But this last experience with the justice system has finally encouraged me to take off that bandage and look at the old scar. The wound has healed. There is a scar to remind me of what happened and I refuse to cover it up and hide it any longer.

To read the next chapter, click HERE.