The Dresser Project

After acquiring some clothing for Sean to wear at Family Visiting, I needed a place to store them. I also felt like I wanted to have a dresser for him when he comes home, with the clothes that he already knows inside it. But I didn’t want to go out and pay for a brand new good quality dresser and they are quite hard to find second hand around here. So I decided to leave it up to fate.

Then one day in January I was walking our dog the same route I normally go, not paying any attention, he pulled me clear across the street to bring me to a discarded old dresser on the sidewalk. It looked OK, kind of beat up and forlorn looking. It was, however, quite sturdy; build of solid wood. So it had good bones and I thought maybe with a little love it could serve it’s purpose again. I managed to fit it into my car and brought it home.

A few days later I stared at it seemingly waiting for me outside. It needed some work and I wondered if perhaps I had bitten off more than I can chew. Luckily my neighbor friend gave me some pointers and let me borrow some tools. So I set to work putting a lot of care and time into making it special for Sean.

Step 1. Peel off the contact paper The drawers were lined with outdated contact paper. Some parts were difficult to get up and some parts came up in huge satisfying strips. Underneath the wood was nice.

Step 2. Sanding I had never sanded anything this large before. It was a fair amount of work. I took it in stages, working on it in pieces. Sometimes I sanded it at night after work with my earbuds to drown out the noise. I only did this part of the project to get rid of most of the layers of old varnish and paint, not to strip it down completely.

Step 3. Wash it down with soap and water Luckily the dry winter air dried out the wood again quickly.

Step 4. Paint! I put this stage of the project off for several months, by this time it was late summer, but luckily we had perfect weather for painting. I started with 2 coats of white primer for the base using a cheap roller and 2″ brush, followed by 2 coats of Behr dark gray paint. I enjoy painting so this part of the project was fun to do.

Step 5. Sand to create a distressed look The dresser was already distressed to begin with, it has lots of little nicks and bumps that are perfect for this style. All I had to do was sand off some of the black paint before it cured to allow the white layer to show through. Ta-da! The thing I love about this look is it’s not difficult to achieve with a reasonable budget and simple know-how, even for someone inexperienced like me.

Step 6. Hardware A good friend brought over a drill and showed me how to use it to make the holes needed for the knobs. I drilled almost all the holes myself and installed the knobs I had picked out.

Step 7. Liner Paper I found some really cool black and white newsprint paper I wanted to use to give the insides a really uniform look. I thought it was a nice touch and tied the whole piece together.






I ended up with something I am really proud of. It’s a piece I know we will enjoy for years to come, all for a fraction of the cost of a new dresser and much more unique. I learned about fixing up old furniture along the way, its really fun.  The dresser is a meaningful gift for Sean and one he knows I put a lot of love into making just for him.

Thank you to our friends who helped make this dresser project possible with borrowed tools, knowledge and advice! Much love

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Family Visit 7: One Year Wedding Anniversary

 Drawing by Emelia, colored by Sean

August 11, 2018 was beginning of our most recent Family Visit at Corcoran State Prison. The following day was our one year wedding anniversary. Sean and I felt incredibly lucky to get to celebrate our special day together, it was purely chance that we even got that date because we have no control over that. It was incredibly special to get to spend the entire day together on our anniversary and not have to say goodbye the entire time. From the moment we awoke until the time we fell asleep it was just us. And then of course we were awakened by the count time calls, but if that’s just what we have to do in order to get quality time together.

Our special day was spent doing what we love best at Family Visit. We did a lot of cooking because that’s something we enjoy doing together. He absolutely loves the meat & cheese sandwiches I grill for him and I love the scrambled eggs he makes.  We baked our cookies and this time used vanilla ice cream from the vending machines to make ice cream sandwiches!  The radio is always on while we cook and eat, we like singing or dancing when a good song comes on. We enjoy helping each other with typical daily tasks that for us are usually spent alone, simple things that you wouldn’t really think about like brushing your teeth or cleaning up. We watched 2 DVDs including our current favorite: Wall-E. We didn’t spend much time outside because of the poor air quality from the big fires but we had a great time indoors, lots of happy memories to hold onto.

Then came our tearful goodbye. I can honestly say that having to leave Sean after Family Visit is the hardest thing I ever have to do.  It feels like I am leaving a part of my body behind, because I am not whole without him. When I got into my car with no choice but to drive away  it felt like a slow suffocation. When I see the pain and sadness in his eyes as our fingers reach each others through the chain link fence and we kiss one last time, I feel like I am literally leaving a piece of my heart behind.

We are so grateful for the life we have; despite the pain and fear that comes from his wrongful conviction, being kept apart, and an uncertain future. Our love is the greatest blessing, we tell each other honestly every day how happy we are to be married. I am proud to be his wife and he tells me all the time that being my husband is his greatest honor. Our Family Visits are so special and we are grateful for the time we get together. It was only a year ago that this was given to us and it has completely changed our lives.

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 COR 5:7

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Anniversary Drawing Gift

For our one year wedding anniversary Sean drew a picture of me. He rarely draws people and this is the first time he’s drawn me. I love it. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such a talented loving husband.

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Family Visit 6: Simple

Sean picked a flower for me at Family Visit, June 24 2018.

Family Visiting is hardly a luxury vacation. We jokingly refer to it as Motel 4, as in worse than Motel 6, if you can imagine that. We always face some level of hardship but this time we also overcame some unique challenges. The Family Visiting unit we were in didn’t have a radio, the TV was not functioning properly, some of the food we had ordered didn’t arrive in our package,  there was hardly any hot water to shower, the water tasted disgusting, and the terrible mattress left us both with sore backs in the morning. But we have learned on this journey together how to shine even when it’s raining.  Our family visit was so special because we are simply grateful for the time together. We are happy and smiling because no matter what we have the love God gave us, and that’s all we really need.

It’s like one, two, three
Just as easy as can be
Just the way you look at me
You make me smile
Ain’t no need to complicate it, we both know that’s overrated
We’ve been there, it’s safe to say it ain’t our style
We’re just simple like a six string
The way this world was meant to be
Like laughin’ love, make a lot out of a little

SIMPLE by Florida Georgia Line

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Education for Anti Recidivism

I just finished my English Literature class provided through Bakersfield College. Yes, college in prison. Bakersfield College runs a program that provides classes with professors coming into the prison to give in-person instruction. It is an incredible educational opportunity for the men here.

The number one factor in lowering recidivism rates is a college education, which is why the Anti-Recidivism Coalition helped establish this program. Being able to see the men participate in these classes as they grow and change is a clear example of the rehabilitation that is possible within these walls. The greatest example I have seen of this was the day we all shared our poetry project in class.

Our professor asked each of us to stand in front of the class and recite the poems we had written. We were asked to stand in front of our peers, fellow “convicts”, and leave ourselves vulnerable to their criticism and ridicule.

Many of these men were once enemies. Whether they were enemies by choice, circumstance, gang affiliation,or race; it would be nothing for them to meet each other on the prison yard with violence. Now here in this classroom, a safe place, they expose a deeper side of their personal self. As these men opened up and shared, the only criticism that came was constructive. There was no ridicule. No shame. Each poem recitation ended in praise and genuine applause.   Everyone had a good time sharing their poetry.

Some of the poems were deep and profound, some touching on subjects once unimaginable to discuss in such a diverse group. While others expressed humor and optimism of a better future for all. Watching all these men open themselves up in such a way was a truly moving experience. To see everyone enjoy themselves so freely was a rare and special gift. In a safe environment these men are capable of letting go of their old ways. They can become men society would embrace when they return to their communities and homes. These are thinking men. They are feeling men. They are compassionate men. They are grateful men; grateful for being given a safe environment to educate themselves and to become men they can be proud to be.

Written by Sean 5/26/2018

Sean’s original writing:

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Birthday Sunrise

Sunrise on Sean’s Birthday 2018

Since the beginning of this year, I have been traveling to visit Sean in a slightly different way in order to save money, time, and be more efficient. My new method is to wake up at 3:30 am, get on the road around 4 am, and arrive at the prison just before 8 am in time to visit for about 5 1/2 hours then drive home the same day. This eliminates the need for all the preparations I was making before. The only things I need to bring are extra clothes to be able to adhere to the ever-changing strict dress code, some water and snacks for the road, as well as plenty of podcasts to listen to as I drive. Rather than stay overnight in a hotel, I get to sleep in my own bed which means better quality sleep, more energy, and I still have half my weekend free to get things done. This has made visiting easier, cheaper, and it means I can do it more often. Along with Family Visit it allows us to see each other more often which has been really good for our relationship. This also allows for more spontaneity which is good because life isn’t always based on the calendar. Sunrise visits, as we refer to them, have quickly become our favorite way to do normal visits.

I have never been a morning person. According to chronobiologists, there are 3 types of people; morning larks, humming birds, and night owls. Larks typically function their best and are most alert early in the morning, they wake up before their alarm with a spring in their step.  Owls don’t enjoy waking before 10 am and are most productive in the dark hours past 9 pm. The rest of us who fall somewhere in between are humming birds.  I am somewhere between a humming bird and a night owl. I wouldn’t naturally wake up at 3:30 am on a typical day, but there is something sort of magical about setting out in the dark quiet before most people are even awake.

On these trips the highway is free from traffic and everything feels quiet. There are less distractions in the dark, it’s colder and calmer. The air seems different at 4 am than it does during the day. I  drive for at least an hour or two before the sun rises depending on the season. I get to see the entire sunrise which is honestly something I have never seen before and it’s surprisingly beautiful. It was especially meaningful on Sean’s birthday. As I drove the sun rose by 5 am, officially marking our day of celebration.

It was a special day for us. I sang him Happy Birthday before we ate the individually packaged slices of cheesecake from vending machines, he blew out the imaginary candle and I clapped. How many more birthdays will be celebrated in the prison visiting room? We don’t know, but we don’t let that bother us. For now these moments mean everything.

*edited: decorations not real

Also edited: cake & balloons not real

If you enjoy night time and listening to podcasts check out Nocturne, a podcast about peering into the dusty corners of the night and exploring often undisclosed and overlooked slices of life. It’s worth a listen.

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