Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Miscarriage of Justice

The justice system in the state of Louisiana is inherently flawed. I can say that without a doubt. Since 2002, 49 death sentences have been reversed and 5 people have been exonerated. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in Louisiana, 10 people total have been exonerated—10 people lucky enough to get someone to fight and help them prove their innocence. Most estimates suggest that at least 4% of the people on death row are innocent, so given there are 85 people currently on death row and 28 who have been executed, that leaves at least 4 people who are either innocent and fighting for life or have already been wrongly executed by a state that messes up pretty damn often considering how many exonerations and reversals have happened in the last 13 years.

Not only is the system there often erroneous, studies have also proven it to be extremely biased. 32% of Louisiana’s population is Black, but Blacks make up almost 66% of the death row population. Studies have found that if a minority defendant is accused of killing a white person, death is given almost twice as often as if the victim is black. If the victim is a white woman, the likelihood of death is 12 times greater. Even though more than 70% of murder victims in Louisiana are black, only 33% of the victims in death penalty cases are. Those differences are glaringly obvious to even the amateur statistician.

Of the 12 death sentences that have been handed out in the last 4 years in Louisiana, ¾ have come from 1 county, Caddo Parrish, and 2 prosecutors. One of those prosecutors, Dale Cox, has gone on record saying that more people *should* be killed by the state and that death row inmates spend far too long behind bars before being executed. Still, he spent almost a year waiting to sign forms to release a man when evidence exonerated him from the crime for which he was sentenced to die. Time is only important when it comes to killing inmates not when it’s about actually handing out justice. He also loudly denies the existence of racial disparities in the justice system proudly pushing forward to seek more death sentences despite the fact that in his county a white person has never been sentenced to death for killing a black person. Not one.

As I said to a new friend of mine recently, Louisiana fucks up a lot.

In the past couple of months, I have had the pleasure of getting to know one of those innocent men that reside in Angola at Louisiana State Penitentiary, a man sentenced in, of course, Caddo Parrish and whose case was prosecuted by none other than Dale Cox. I originally read an article about him published in the New Yorker and was compelled to reach out to see how I might help. And now, I would like to share with you some of his story and a little about the man himself.

Rodricus Crawford, Hot Rod to his friends, is a well-spoken, comical, and easy going guy that loves to make people laugh. He adores his daughter and lights up so much when he talks about her that you can hear it in his voice. You don’t hear him complain much about anything which is astounding given everything he has been through, but he puts his faith in God and has a huge family that continues to love and support him through the fight of his life, for his life.

About a week after Rodricus’ son Roderius turned a year old, Rodricus woke up to find the baby unresponsive. He called for his mom to help him out while his brother called 911. It took 20 minutes for an ambulance to finally show up to help the child despite the fact that the family frantically told 911 dispatchers that CPR was having no effect. In fact, the ambulance drivers dispatched to the house, when asked what was taking so long, responded without concern that one of the 100 people living in the house probably slept on the kid. When they finally did arrive at the house, the baby was taken to the back of the ambulance, the doors were closed, and the EMTs refused to provide Rodricus or even anyone else in the family with any respect or any answers.

From the start, race played a factor in this case.

When the police arrived, Rodricus was treated like a suspect from the start. He was almost immediately put into the back of a police car without any answers about how his child was doing. Instead of being taken to the hospital to check on their child, both Rodricus and his son’s mother were driven to the police department instead and questioned about bruises on the child’s lip and head. As both explained, the injuries occurred the day before when the baby being clumsy like babies are fell in the bathroom. He busted his lip but after a little ice and the some affection from his dad, the kiddo shook it off and, as his mom told the police, was happy and playing like always.

The police, though, had made up their mind anyway. It didn’t help that the forensic pathologist in this case decided after an autopsy of the child’s body that he had died by asphyxiation due to an acute episode of smothering. He also found bruises on the child’s bottom.

Rodricus was brought in for questioning again that day and again grilled about his treatment of the child. Again, he told the police that he had fallen in the bathroom. He also stressed that he would never spank or hit his child. When the police told him the cause of death was smothering, Rodricus was in total disbelief and shock. He had just woken up the day before to find his child unresponsive and not breathing. In the span of little over 24 hours, he not only lost his child but he was being accused of killing that child himself.

He was arrested for murder, first degree murder, and Dale Cox, of course, immediately decided to seek the death penalty for what he believed to be a most grievous transgression.

There are a lot of problems with the above information, however, considering that there is no physical or scientific way the child could have died in an episode of acute smothering.

The forensic pathologist in this case, for one, knew that little Roderius had pneumonia at the time of his death, but this was a fact that he completely disregarded as having anything to do with the cause of death in this case. Nevermind, he must have thought, that pneumonia is the leading cause of death by infectious disease worldwide for children under the age of 5. The pathologist found cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) and concluded this was caused by smothering.

Several experts have since taken a look at the forensic reports in this case, experts hired by a law firm that has taken on Rodricus’ case pro bono to try and help him prove his innocence. I want to include some key statements from several reports below.

Dr. Janice J. Ophoven M.D., a forensic pathologist with 30 years of special training and experience in the evaluation, investigation, and interpretation of injuries in childhood:

  • · “onset of brain swelling takes time and typically peaks at 48-72 hours after hypoxic injury. Presence of brain swelling indicates that the boy’s brain damage did not result from an acute episode of smothering inflicted at the time of cardiac arrest. Complete occlusion of the airway will result in loss of consciousness in 1 ½ to 2 minutes with irreversible damage and death in 4 to 5 minutes. Brain swelling will not develop within the short time period in such an occurrence.

  • · “the boy was suffering from a condition [pneumonia] that led to brain swelling over a period of hours”
  • · “My review of the autopsy photographs shows a small bruise on the inner aspect of the right lower lip and linear discoloration of the margin of the left aspect of the upper lip. The discolorations have the appearance of superficial bruises. These bruises are not specific for the inflicted injury”
  • · “The significant evidence/basis for the diagnosis of smothering came from the finding superficial bruises to the face and lips. In my opinion, the explanation for these bruises was from the fall the preceding day with these injuries verified by the baby’s mother the day before his death. Simple falls are exceedingly common in children in this age.”
  • · “Because this injury was considered to be a critical finding in the determination of cause of death, microscopic sampling of the injured tissue to determine the presences of inflammation in the tissue would be a critical aspect of the autopsy”
  • · “None of these areas of bruising showed a pattern indicative of abuse and did not contribute to the baby’s death.”
  • · About the one tissue injury which was microscopically examined: “this could not have occurred at the time of his death”
  • · What was described [in the forensic pathologist’s reports] as early bronchopneumonia in fact shows multifocal areas of acute, purulent pneumonia with an area of abscess formation…that most certainly could serve as a source of bacterial sepsis or spread of bacteria into the bloodstream. 

Daniel J. Spitz, M.D., forensic pathologist and toxicologist, Chief Medical Examiner for both Macomb County and St. Clair County in Michigan

  • · “It is my determination that Roderius died secondary to septic complications associated with bilateral pneumonia and pulmonary abscess”
  • · “Bacterial pneumonia is a very serious condition which often develops in the background of a viral illness. The symptoms associated with such an illness are often quite subtle and non-specific, however, the infection can be rapidly progressive to the point of causing a child to become gravely ill or die over a period of hours”
  • · “The pneumonia that affected [the child] was a very serious condition which resulted in sepsis as indicated by a positive blood culture”
  • · In relation to the bruising: “the injuries are of relative minor severity and not what would be associated with causing death”
  • · “The small bruises involving the lips are also non-specific injuries and thus to conclude that these injuries represent asphyxia is without scientific basis”
  • · “The idea that this child just happened to be suffering from bilateral pneumonia and pulmonary abscess with a positive blood culture at the same time that someone purposely caused his death by suffocation is simply implausible. Furthermore, the facts of this case simply do not support such a conclusion”

It should also be noted that Mr. Spitz was retained during Rodricus’ original trial but did not provide attorneys with information about cerebral edema in his original report. Both attorneys provided affidavits claiming they did not know cerebral edema was not associated with acute smothering and would have brought this information to light at trial if they had known. Dr. Spitz later stated in a second affidavit that, “it is my opinion that cerebral edema is not consistent with death due to homicidal suffocation. Cerebral edema may develop over the course of hours and/or days in response to hypoxia where the patient survives the hypoxic event, but does not develop when an individual dies during or immediately following the hypoxic or anoxic event.”

Margarita Silio, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Infections Disease, Tulane University Health Sciences Center. Affiliated with Tulane Clinic for Children, Medical Center of Louisiana, and the Ruth Fertel Community Clinic.

  • · “Based on the autopsy report there was evidence of bilateral bronchopneumonia with focal microabscess in all lung fields with an area of necrosis in one lung field”
  • · “It is my opinion that there is sufficient evidence of infection to support a conclusion that the child died of overwhelming sepsis”
Robert C. Bux, M.D., board certified forensic pathologist, elected Coroner and Chief Medical Examiner for El Paso County, Colorado. 29 years experience.

  • · In regards to the fall both Rodricus and Roderius’ mother stated occurred on the day before Roderius’ death: “ Given the known history of the reported fall in the bathroom with subsequent ‘busted’ lip, microscopic sections of these injuries must be taken in order to substantiate or refute whether the histological inflammatory changes that can be observed microscopically and develop in a systematic way over time are compatible with the history offered as to how these injuries occurred”
  • · “Biopsies of tissue samples taken from these injuries to the inside of the lip would have revealed whether they occurred on the prior day…” The indication here is that if these injuries were the major evidence of smothering as indicated by the original pathologist, dating should have been done on the injured tissue in order to substantiate or refute the claims that the child fell in the bathroom. 
  • · “There was no fresh blood found on the bedding which supports the conclusion that the injuries were older injuries”
  • · “Older infants, toddlers, including a one-year old, and children will struggle against the effort to prevent them from breathing, and in doing so I would expect to see areas of abrasion on the exposed areas of the body such as the shoulders, buttocks, and iliac crest areas. In my experience the forensic pathologist would expect to see more evident trauma in the older infant or toddler such as bruised on the arms, chest, and legs where the child is pinned down”
  • · “Only two microscopic sections of the brain were taken. This is an inadequate number of areas sampled and thus potentially valuable evidence was lost”
  • · Brain swelling does not occur in smothering as the individual dies very rapidly. Brain swelling is due to brain hypoxia/anoxia and can occur from prolonged hypoxia such as in cases of bronchopneumonia with sepsis. 

These findings shared above are only from *some* of the experts who have reviewed this case in an attempt to help free Rodricus. Not a single one of the pathologists and doctors consulted in this case believe there is any indication at all that the child died from an acute trauma like smothering and report that the evidence shows without question that the illness, bronchopneumonia, is the cause of death. It takes hours for a brain to show signs of swelling and any pathologist *should* know this and should not use cerebral edema as proof of death due to acute smothering. The pathologist also did not date tissue samples. Given how much the case rested on these bruises as proof of smothering, these injuries *should* have been tested. At no time was this case treated rationally or scientifically. In fact, from the 911 call forward, Rodricus was pigeon-holed and stereotyped.

An innocent man is giving up the best years of his life to a very racist system, sent to his death by a prosecutor that wants to execute as many people as possible, by a forensic pathologist who is completely incompetent and biased, and by a jury who was mislead entirely by “evidence” that actually should have shown that no crime was even committed.

At the bottom of this, I am going to include links to a petition and the original New Yorker article as well as some links where I gathered the information about Louisiana’s system. But before I leave you with those, I want to ask for your help in spreading that petition and the article. Show your friends. Tweet it to every media outlet you can. An innocent man shouldn’t have to die in a county that prides itself on carrying out legal lynchings… With that, I want to leave you with Hot Rod’s own words:

“There has been a major miscarriage of justice and now is the time to right this wrong. We need your help. Please read the attached information provided by some of the top medical experts in the nation.

We are not asking you to take our word. We aren’t asking you to believe what we are telling you. We want you to read these reports and reach your own conclusions.

Read this information and try to imagine that it was your son, your brother, your father, your firend, your nephew, your loved one sitting in a cell 23 hours each day. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

What are you going to do?

I thank you in advance for any assistance you may provide. I believe in the goodness of human kind.

Sincerely yours,

Rodricus Crawford.


I often use Sunday Confessions to talk about subjects I feel passionately about. This case and the well-being and freedom of Rodricus, someone I now consider a friend, is one of those things. The prompt was Share and I felt there was no better time to share this story than now. Thank you for reading. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Closing Arguments

“Morality isn’t an absolute, you see. For me, having premarital sex at any age is immoral, but I realize not everyone sees it that way…”

Jenna watches the rotund attorney pacing before the jury while his hands gesture wildly in the air. She knows without a doubt that she is watching a performance piece. This man with his baritone voice drilling into the minds of the mostly white, mostly male jury was an actor delivering his final monologue in an incredibly dark play about what happens when women say no.

She has yet to figure out if she, the victim, is the hero in this for having the bravery to prosecute this thing, to take it all the way, or if the man sitting at the defendant’s table, a friend of a friend she met at a frat party, would come out the lovable antihero. It seems that if the bigmouthed dick of an attorney has his way, it will be the latter.

“Was it moral for Ms. Banks to flirt like a dog in heat with my client the night the two of them met as witnesses here today have testified to?”

Did he really just fucking say that? Surely she is in some nightmare universe? Did she time travel back to the 50s unawares?

“Was it moral for her to send him gratuitous pictures of her person via Facebook which we have in evidence if you recall?”

She feels a confusing mix of rage and hate rising up in her chest like black, tarry poison. The adrenaline rushes her system like a sumo wrestler threatening to bounce her out of her seat screaming unintelligible obscenities that juxtapose her smart gray pinstriped suit and sleek, conservative blonde bun.

“Did Ms. Banks show any shred of morality when my client took her out to dinner, and she, as she testified here today herself, had sex with him in the restaurant bathroom?!”

Rage gives way to absolute disbelief. The last few days have been stressful, anxious but still so busy she hadn’t had time to listen to everyone and everthing. It had been like a pin pong match with so many back and forths and this and that and arguing, but now this man, this wretched, portly demon with fangs dripping acid, was all she could hear. This. She hangs her head at the realization that this is what she has fought so hard for—to be on trial herself for her own assault.

“Was it morality that drove Ms. Banks to meet up with my client in his room, HIS ROOM, to Neflix and chill as the kids say? Or was it her insatiable sex drive, that unrepentant lack of morality, that same void that led her into that grimy restaurant bathroom to commit an act that should only happen between husband and wife?”

Tears roll down her cheeks, a product of anger and shame, but the verbal onslaught continues even as her ears darken to a deeper shade of red. Several members of the jury look her way, women shaking their heads and men with a smugness that makes her skin crawl.

“I think we can all agree that it wasn’t morality that drove my client to have sexual intercourse with Ms. Banks in that restaurant bathroom. Morality wasn’t what drove my client to invite her back to his residence even after that bathroom incident. In fact, I think you’ll agree that Ms. Banks’ lack of morality spoke to that lascivious part of my client forcing him to abandon any morality he might have had himself.”

Numb. That’s how she feels. Numb, void, nothing. Everyone told her to just forget it. That it wasn’t worth this. 2 of her friends had been assaulted themselves and never did anything about it, and she had thought they were just too weak, too soft to handle it, but now she knows… Now she knows they were just avoiding the obliteration of any faith in humanity they had left.

“But does abandoning morality to be with an equally moral person make my client a rapist? It seems to me, and I hope you will agree, that at no time did Ms. Banks every refuse any of his advances and, in fact, as testimony has shown, she was quite forward from the start. What I need you all to ask yourselves today is why on Earth would my client have to take anything from Ms. Banks when she had so readily and eagerly offered it to him previously?”

With that, he closed and marched his considerable girth back to his corner of the metaphorical ring. With that, the weight of his words hammered down on her heart one more final time, and she weeped unable to even face the jury again knowing justice would very likely never be hers, not this way.

Jenna tucks her dirty blonde hair behind her ears as the judge explains to the jury what their next steps are. The sounds buzz incomprehensibly in her ears as she fights to get her tears under control. Once the courtroom is dismissed, she steps out the old brick courthouse downtown into a vibrant afternoon. She stares into the sky above her watching clouds change shapes and letting the heat warm her face. Part of her wants to run as fast as she can and never look back. She could move. She could hide from this torment and never have to face the resolution or lack thereof in this case.

But she won’t.

Because fuck running and fuck giving up.


This was hard to write as a victim myself. I never took my case to court for reasons out of my control, but so many women never prosecute. 68% of assault victims never report their attacks. This might be fictional, but it certainly explains a lot of things... 

Sunday confessions. The topic is Morality. Thanks for reading. 


Friday, September 11, 2015

She Dreams

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: dreams, fall, it all turned out, fun, next step, and worth the wait. You can find them in bold within the story :) They were submitted by:

Just fair warning... it's, well, rather bleak. 


In her dreams she doesn’t fall.

In her dreams, it all turned out…differently. Life turned out differently, better, fun, fulfilling.

Her dreamscape is a parallel universe where her hike up the mountain that day was just that—a hike, exercise, an escape from the cluttered world of adulthood, bills, errands, and a job she didn’t love. It was an entirely different reality where she watched her next step at the end of that hike, kept her footing, and didn’t crash a few dozen feet into a ravine snapping her spinal cord in the process. There were no nightmarish hours hoarsely pleading for help, no pain, no fear laying in the dark unable to move wondering if something with sharp teeth would find her before humans could. She finished her hike and went home to get a nice long bath before starting another week at work. In that universe, she isn’t a tragedy.

Where she lives when she sleeps, there is no wheelchair, no need for constant care. She has a family there—a husband, Steven, she met on a hike who takes her dancing whenever she asks and 2 children (a boy and a girl named Ethan and Eliza) who always have her up and moving, running, playing, living. They live together in a 2 story house in the country, and she has a writing studio in the attic where she spends time everyday working on her 3rd bestseller.

Even with her busy writing schedule and the work she does around the house, she still manages to keep her hair the *perfect* shade of auburn and at the very least put on some lipstick and mascara everyday even if the lipstick is gone with the first of several cups of coffee. She takes the time to comb through Pinterest and pick out at least 1 craft for herself and 1 thing to do with the kids each week. She helps with homework, tends a garden, cooks made-from-scratch biscuits on the weekend that are better even than her grandmother’s. She jogs every day with the dog that, if she is completely honest, she said was for the kids when it was really more for herself once they got old enough to be in school. She likes the company during the day. Molly, a golden retriever, is quite the listener.

She likes to take long bubblebaths when she has writer’s block and enjoys a glass or two of wine when she’s had a breakthrough day. She loves to tie Steven’s ties in the morning. He knows how, but it’s just one of those things. A tradition. Sometimes she packs his lunch; sometimes he has lunch meetings. But no matter what the day holds, she makes sure to hold him tightly before he walks out the door because you never really know how a moment can change everything you ever thought life would be.

The world she actually lives in, this universe without parallels and wonderment, is mostly the opposite. She did fall off that cliff into the ravine. She did spend hours begging for help hoping beyond hope through the pain that someone would hear her, someone and not someTHING. She does have a wheelchair and does require constant care since she is paralyzed from the neck down. She gave up her career, lost her home, lives with her parents and needs someone to help with even the most demeaning, menial tasks.

There are no hikes, no kids, no Pinterest endeavors. She does have a Molly, but they never get to go on jogs together. Molly depends on everyone else to take her for walks and brush her gorgeous golden locks. She has migraines constantly and panic attacks in the night and more self-loathing than she thought any human could be capable of which pretty much means she will never meet someone who actually loves her enough to take on all the responsibility. She can’t even love herself.

She’s good at sleeping, though. That is one thing she has really been able to excel at in the last few years. Some days she never leaves the bed or, at least, never asks anyone to get her out of it. Even when sleep seems elusive on those nights when her head is throbbing, getting back to the life she thought she would live, the one that carries on day after day in perfect bliss inside her head, is well worth the wait.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts: Baking In A Tornado Spatulas on Parade The Momisodes The Bergham’s Life Chronicles Stacy Sews and Schools Sparkly Poetic Weirdo Southern Belle Charm The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Dinosaur Superhero Mommy The Angrivated Mom Confessions of a part time working mom Someone Else’s Genius Climaxed Evil Joy Speaks Never Ever Give Up Hope Eileen’s Perpetually Busy Searching for Sanity

Sunday, September 6, 2015



That’s her heart right now feeling like it might explode out of her chest. She’s sitting in the back of a dark SUV between two muscley guys in expensive-looking, hand-tailored suits and mirror shades. One of them has a blonde crew cut and a jagged scar crossing half his forehead and the other has a slicked back, black ponytail. She would call it a nub more than a tail really. These guys aren’t from around here, not this side of town. The two of them haven’t answered a single one of her questions since they grabbed her outside the run-down gas station on 1st and Pine. It was the only place on this side of town that had a cheap cup of coffee that didn’t taste like burned garbage. It was still garbage, but at least it wasn’t scorched. So she had been there bright and early to score her first fix for the day and get ready to hustle for more.

So there she was in her too-big pink hoodie and a pair of ratty ill-fitting jeans just crossing the parking lot in her own world when these two well-dressed goons grabbed her. In broad daylight she was being dragged into this vehicle despite her protests and no one even bats an eye. 3 people walked into the store as she was being manhandled and not a single one even stopped to give her a second glance.

Once the muscle had her safely tucked between them, she jokingly asked, “Don’t you fellas think I’m a bit underdressed for this party?”


“Am I in a Pretty Woman remake?”


“Isn’t Richard Gere a little old for a hooker?”


“Tough crowd in there tonight,” she had huffed then belying how nervous she was becoming.

The last 5 minutes have passed in silence while her heartrate steadily climbs and not from drugs for once. She has been considering feigning an OD or something but at this point, she might just have a heart attack all on her own. No pretending necessary.

She decides to try another tactic and lets her hand slide higher up the thigh of the “gentleman” to her right, Ponytail, and says in her most sultry tone, “what’s a girl gotta do to get some answers around here?” She feels him tense under her touch, but he firmly takes her hand and places it back in her own lap. When she moves to touch him again, he reaches out with lightening speed, grabs her wrist, and bends it back until she’s screaming in pain. Ponytail never utters a word, not so much as a grunt, and Blondie may as well have been a statue.

She sits in silence then nursing her throbbing wrist, breathing heavily, and unable to think clearly enough to formulate any real plan to get out of this fucking mess. Every second ticking by feels like a lifetime, and she wonders if this morning will be her last.

Did she miss her last sunrise? Had she wasted her last night fucking johns for $45 a pop, pun intended, to re-up her heroin stash? Had she not even gotten her last cup of morning coffee? Her last real orgasm? The tallying in her head nears obsession. She had never gotten even her GED, never went to college, never been much of anything but a stripper (and a damn good one) until that sunken-in, strung-out look got her fired. She’d never had never even had a dog. Her last boyfriend beat the shit out of her for 2 years straight which, she is pretty damn sure, isn’t love. Had she ever been in love? Been loved?

When was the last time she felt the grass between her toes? Gone swimming? Had a fresh glass of lemonade? A homecooked meal? Fuck’s sake, when was the last time she even had a Pop Tart? A Twizzler?

She tries to remember the last time she laughed, a real laugh not that fake shit she does when one of her clients tells one of their stupid jokes, and she can’t. That fact sinks in—that she can’t even remember the last time she didn’t have to force a laugh, when something was so spectacularly hilarious that she lost her breath, tears streaming from her face. The thought sucker punches her in the solar plexis catching her breath and hurting so much more than the wrist she still cradled against her chest.

She hasn’t really been alive in a long time.

The SUV begins to slow. She peers nervously through tear-blurred eyes out the windows as the driver turns left into driveway guarded by a wrought iron gate. He pauses, shows his face to a camera, and waits for the gates to open.

A strange sensation, part light and part tingle, begins to well inside her, and she realizes for the first time in a long while, she has hope that she sees tomorrow.


Another Sunday Confessions prompt that made me terrified I would never be able to come up with something then boom the words fall into place. I would have had this posted by now but damn it I am ready for fall and I am forcing it into my life in the kitchen today making gingerbread cookies. Hope you enjoyed the tale and stop by for dessert and coffee :)

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Am Not a Superhero

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 16 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My secret subject is: Sept is Back to school time. What's one thing you've learned recently?

It was submitted by: 

I like to think that I learn something new about myself, the people I love, or humanity every day, so selecting just one thing was tough, but this particular lesson has been the hardest this past year and has come up more than once, so here it goes...


Everyone searches for a purpose in life. A lot of people find that purpose in religion, but that has never really been my thing. Spirituality? Maybe. But, organized religion? No. When asked what drives me to keep going if I don’t necessarily believe in an afterlife or a supernatural parental caretaker, I reply that I have found purpose in helping other people and to truly extend my humanity. After all, as far as my own beliefs go, I have to wake up and answer to myself everyday rather than a higher power, and what makes me proud to look in the mirror is that driving force I have to reach out to people that others, even the most devoutly religious, tend to judge and treat horribly or to help those in need or even to give an
just one box of many
animal in need a home and a good spoiling.

But, over the last year as I have extended my hand through writing inmates (i would say offenders but a couple I firmly believe are actually innocent)  more and more than ever before while I have the time, desire, and energy to do so, I have had to come to terms with some hard lessons about not getting burned out, not taking on too much, and, perhaps hardest of all, that not everyone is capable of receiving and benefiting from help and support.

That last one is a kicker because it really goes against my natural instincts, but it’s the absolute truth. That truth has been a bit difficult to swallow, but I have been learning how to let go and focus my energy on people that will truly benefit and appreciate my time rather than giving my efforts to those who are filled with hate and have an inability to change.

I don’t like to give up. It just isn’t in me to give up especially on a person that in my very core I know needs someone to grow with, to learn from, and to matter to… This year, though, has really put that part of me to the test, the part that ends up sticking with things too long and putting other people’s needs before my own. This year I had to learn how to decide whether it would be me or them, and I learned how to choose me without feeling incredibly guilty or feeling like a failure.

Writing people who are in prison, as I have said before, is always a gamble. Even with the best of research, you never know how things will turn out and what a person will really be like. I have had a few bad experiences under my belt over the years, but when it didn’t work, it was a mutual decision to cut things off. This year when I expanded the number of people I write to hoping to help as many as I can take on and pushing the boundaries of how much I can do (like always), I changed the ratios on the gambles I take. The number of people I put myself out there with grew as did the chances they could be the kind of people that are unable to connect with others, who use and abuse people, who prey on the people they think are weaker. Research is nothing compared with interaction. I took the risk a number of times this year. Sometimes those risks paid off, and I made great strides in making friendships with people I have really grown *with* and have been able to develop friendships with, to provide support to, and to enjoy as fellow human beings who need just that—to feel their own humanity. More often this year, though, the risks have turned out for the worst. I met people who were miserable, who hated themselves or specific groups of other people to the point that rational conversation wasn’t possible. I met people who refused to take responsibility for their words much less their actions and who really wanted nothing more than maybe a dirty letter or someone to feel sorry for them, someone to talk AT, or to use.

So, I had to let go. And, I had to teach myself that it’s okay to do so. Sometimes giving up is the *right* thing to do.

Learning that has made what I do a lot easier and taken some of the responsibility I tend to feel about saving the whole world off my shoulders. Not everyone can be saved; not everyone wants to be. I have to be okay with that and give my superhero complex a rest.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there: Baking In A Tornado The Momisodes The Bergham’s Life Chronicles Stacy Sews and Schools Dinosaur Superhero Mommy Spatulas on Parade Sparkly Poetic Weirdo Southern Belle Charm The Angrivated Mom Confessions of a part time working mom The Lieber Family Blog Cluttered Genius The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Someone Else’s Genius House of J Chronicles