Blog

DAY 3 of $30,000 in 10 Days: Hear Cara’s Truth


Cara
Program graduate
Incarcerated 2.5 years
Free since February 2009

Describe your life today.

Since my release in 2009, I have always worked 40-plus hours a week. Even after I had my daughter Landry in 2012, I went back to work 10 weeks later. I never slowed down. But this past May, the company I worked for shut down, so here I am — a stay-at-home mom to my 3-month-old boy, a 7-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Well, I lie. I always wanted to be one, but I didn’t think I was good enough to do so.

Managing a household and children is nowhere near as easy as managing a million-dollar store or recruiting and dispatching truck drivers. I have this underlying fear of messing up my kids or losing my identity, of not doing right by them or not living up to the stay-at-home mother I want to be.

But let me tell you what I have noticed in the past three months of being home.

My teenager talks to me more. She is the busiest person I know. Drill team, marching band, piano and starting high school next week. She is blossoming and needs me more than ever right now. I am present.

My 7-year-old is the most loving, caring big sister ever to her baby brother. She is becoming a beautiful young lady from the inside out. We are closer than ever. I am present.

My 3-month-old son is fun! Yeah, I have to work in a shower when I can, but he is thriving. He has doubled his birth weight in only three months. I am present.

The dishes are mostly done; the laundry clean — mostly in baskets at the moment, but clean, nonetheless. The kids are fed and happy.

I have noticed that the fear of not working full time was keeping me away from giving them my presence. Life has slowed way down, and I think I love it. I am present.

What are you most proud of since you’ve been free?

Wow! This is a tough one to answer! I am proud of so much! I think what I am most proud of is who I am today and who I continue to become every day. Something that Truth Be Told taught me was that my past doesn’t make me who I am. I carry it with me as a reminder of where I have been, but I am not that person. I love me.
I am proud of the work ethic I have acquired.
I am proud of the woman I have become.
I am proud of the wife I am.
I am proud of the choices I make.
I am proud of the mother I am today.
Before I knew who I really was (before Truth Be Told), I made terrible choices. My decision maker was faulty.

I guess you could say, I am most proud of my decision-making and choices every day. I choose to say yes — yes to good choices, yes to my family, yes to life!

How does your past incarceration still affect your life today — negatively and/or positively?

I have been able to find amazing jobs and get past my felony label with charm and honesty in interviews. I am who I am now. I am not my past.

Unfortunately, my felony affects my kids’ school life at this point. I cannot be a room mom; I cannot chaperone field trips. This stings pretty hard. I am ashamed to even try to do some things at school, as I do not want my past to affect the way people (teachers, etc.) view or treat my children.

I am not ashamed of who I am or how I got here, but I am also realistic and see the change in people’s eyes when they find out that I am a felon — usually a very surprised face comes first, then it turns to pity, fear or anxiety. It differs from person to person, depending on the situation and how I know said individual.

I refuse to let my past negatively affect my children any more than it has to. I use my past to positively impact my kids’ lives.

What Truth Be Told program did you experience while incarcerated, and what did you gain from that experience?

I graduated from Talk to Me Movement and Discovery, as well as several Exploring Creativity workshops. I gained the 4 Cs of Caring for self, Communication, Community and Creativity.

I learned I have a wise woman in me, one who is always speaking to me. Reminding me of the next right choice. Teaching me to look at things from a different perspective. Reminding me to journal all my crazy thoughts. Get them out. Look at the words I write.

Sometimes I “dump write.” Then I turn on some meditation music, dance and dump write some more. When I read my writings, I find that I have a much clearer view of my emotions; I feel 100 times better than I did when I began. I learned to do this in Talk to Me Movement. This is a quick 10-20 minutes that makes a world of difference in my day.

Sometimes I take a hot bath, meditate and take a little time for me. Caring for self is important.

I learned that reaching out to a friend for support is important. Usually my husband plays the role of my community. He is a great listener and knows me better than I do. He can see before I speak that I am feeling a little wonky. Sometimes it is him reaching out to me. I remove “the mask” with him and let it all out. It was in Talk to Me that I first learned about the masks we wear — and why we create them in the first place.

I also learned about “my many selves” and how to meet them all with compassion. The mom in me, the daughter in me, the wife in me, the manager in me, the salesperson in me. I have to tend to all of my selves at various times, and each one needs something different. The mom in me is the bath-taker!

The daughter in me just needs her dad sometimes. He coined the term, “Send up red flags” when I first got home from prison. All I need to do is send a text that says “grrr” and he calls me. We talk about things, and he gives me the words of wisdom I need. He is always there for me.

The daughter in me sometimes needs her mom, which used to be super hard, but through the tools I have learned with Truth Be Told, I now have a growing relationship with my mom. We are learning to communicate with each other. Things are not perfect, but we are trying and that is exactly perfect.

In Truth Be Told, I learned how to acknowledge my feelings, recognize that they are fleeting and move through them.

“Let it come and let it flow.” (I learned that from Emily Harris, one of the moderators on Truth Be Told’s weekly conference calls for graduates who are no longer incarcerated.)

How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?

I know that at any time, day or night, I can reach out in various ways to my Truth Be Told community, and someone will be there. No matter what I need — an ear to listen, a story told to me, an experience shared or advice that I ask for — my community is there.

There’s a private Facebook group for Truth Be Told graduates who been released from prison. These women are part of my safe community. We are sisters and are present for each other. Having a safe space to “talk” about things with women who just hold the space for me is wonderful. Sometimes we don’t need fatherly advice or a husband’s ear — just a place where we can talk and know that someone is listening. Sometimes the response of “I see you” or “I support you” does all that is needed.

Truth Be Told’s Keep On Talking Empowerment calls for graduates on Tuesday evenings have always been my favorite. From the first-ever call, I was part of them, and they have helped me work through so many life events. These calls have saved me from myself on more than one occasion.

Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?

I have said this before: I believe that all people — I mean ALL — should have access to Truth Be Told and what this organization offers. Incarcerated lives are changed, and recidivism rates are lower in women with Truth Be Told experience. I believe that the world is better because of Truth Be Told.

I know that without these tools I learned through Truth Be Told, I would not be the successful person I am today. I don’t mean success as in business, I mean successful as a human being. What if the world was taught these tools? Teens would know how to express their emotions better, maybe their decision-making process would mature a little faster than mine did. Maybe less people would make incarcerating decisions.

Describe the women you met in prison.

At the end of the day, it was a variety of women from various cultures and lifestyles, all thrown into a very unsavory living environment. I met a lot of different women in prison, but they were not able to fully be who they truly honestly were. We were all locked in this tiny shoebox like a bunch of gerbils climbing all over each other. No one’s full potential was being seen or given the opportunity to be seen. We were all just a bunch of masks, characters trying to find a way to survive.

This is what is so great about what Told Be Told offers. In that classroom, I learned how to remove the mask I was wearing — to become the true me, not the character I was portraying. That said, some of the best women I have ever met came from my stay behind bars: strong, courageous, eloquent women, determined to become someone they were proud to be.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the correctional system, what would you change and why?

There are so many things that need to be addressed, but the most important, I believe, is to rehabilitate lives. That is what I found when I entered the Truth Be Told classroom.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but rehabilitation is exactly what happened when I applied the tools offered by Truth Be Told. My magic wand would be to implement Truth Be Told in every prison, juvenile hall and recovery center. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Favorite prison recipe?

I have been out for so long that I cannot imagine eating most of the things we put together! I would have to say that a “baked potato” was my favorite.

Ingredients:
1 bag of jalapeno-flavored Zapp’s potato chips, crushed
1 bag of Cheeto’s, crushed
squirt cheese from a can
hot water

Instructions:
In a bowl, add hot water to the crushed Zapp’s chips to make them mushy. Top with squirt cheese and crushed Cheeto’s. Bake in a hot pot for an hour or so. You have a cheesy baked potato.

Blech. I couldn’t do it today. But back then, yum!

***

Honor Cara by helping Truth Be Told raise $30,000 in 10 Days between September 16-25. All gifts made during this 10-day campaign will DOUBLE in size, thanks to a matching pledge of up to $30,000! Your gift will ensure that Truth Be Told continues to provide safe community and healing programs to nearly 1,000 justice-involved women every year! Click on $30,000 in 10 Days to make your gift today!

Click on photos to see full images.