IMG_3883 (1)Being in prison at Christmas time is hard for many of the inmates. I have noticed more fighting and tension on the compound. The women are hurting and don’t know how to deal with their feelings. I was moved again last week and I may hold the record in Dublin for being the inmate moved most often. I live in the biggest unit on the compound and it gets loud and crazy.  Additionally I was moved to the side of the unit that doesn’t have an officer station which has brought a new set of challenges!  It’s called the ghetto, and that’s a pretty good description. Some of my friends from the other side of the unit won’t set foot on E side because it has a pretty rough atmosphere. I liked my former roommates a lot, but a counselor decided to make a change that has made my life in prison so much more peaceful. My new cell is only two doors down from my old cell but has a completely different spirit.  It’s very clean and well kept and I adore my new roommates! Both are from parts of Mexico that are infested by drug cartels.  Both have experienced a great deal of tragedy and pain in their young lives. One of my roommates, Alondra, is the sweet girl that I helped get a job in education a few months ago and my other roommate is Patti.  Both girls are are humble and kind. We like a lot of the same music, so last night we fell asleep listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing Christmas music. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket at Christmas time. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass, I am at peace!

Alondra is 27 years old and probably the most positive person I have ever met. Her story is incredible, so I hope I will get to share it with you. Despite the pain and devastation she has experienced in life, she is always happy!  Yesterday the prison gave us all a gift bag for Christmas.  Some of the inmates commented how sad it was that we were standing in a line like hobos getting a bag of treats for Christmas. Alondra came running into our room and grabbed my arm like an excited little girl and said, “Oh my goodness Ms. Louder they are giving us a present! I am so excited, hurry let’s go! What a wonderful day it is!” It wouldn’t have mattered what the gift was, Alondra is grateful for everything she has. Today as I talked with her about some of my feelings, I asked her how she stays so positive. She told me, “Happiness is a choice. We only have one life, we neIMG_3884 (1)ed to see the good in it and be happy.” She is a sweet ray of sunshine in my life right now and I am learning that so much of our life is determined by our perspective. Having these sweet young girls as roommates is the best Christmas present I could receive because It’s the closest thing I have felt to having my children close to me since I came to prison.

My family came to see me last week, it was incredible to hold them and be in their presence. Chad and Shelby drove 12 hours with the younger three kids in our cramped car to get here. It was a long trip for them and I so appreciate their willingness to come see me. We had a special children’s visiting day for Christmas and having them here with me was perfect. They came on Saturday and we got to spend 5 hours together laughing and talking and playing games together. Then on Sunday I got to spend some time alone with each one of them.  I tried to let them know how important each of them are to me. When you have a limited amount of time with your loved ones it changes you. All the little things that I thought I needed to talk to Chad about slipped away, I just wanted them all to feel how much I love them. I held them close and let them know how proud I am to be their Mother. When our time was up a bell rang and all the inmates went to one side of the room and our loved ones went to the other side.  Little CJ started crying for me I thought my heart might break. I went to comfort her and I saw that Chad’s eyes were a bit moist as well, sometimes being in prison is too hard. It wasn’t until later that night that I laid in bed and cried for the loss that I felt having to let them go.  Alondra helped with children’s day so she got to meet my family. When she came into the room and saw me crying and said, “They love you so much Portia! Oh my goodness your husband loves you so much. God must really love you to give you a family like that.  You are a special person.”  Then she started folding laundry and humming a sweet song, I said a silent prayer of gratitude that she is my new friend and roommate.

Today was Chad’s birthday and I so wish I could have been home with him. I ache to drive anywhere with him, hold his hand and just to be near him. I miss everything about my husband.  He is calm, kind, and one of the best people I know. We have had so many tender moments through this experience.  His love pulled me back from certain insanity!  Zasha was at children’s day with her daughIMG_3882 (1)ter and commented how strong Chad is. She said, “Your husband is a rock! He is so good with your children and solid.” I responded, “You are right, and he has the sexiest blue eyes you’ve ever seen too?.” She laughed, and agreed. So many Men would have given up a long time ago, he is a true hero, I know that I am blessed to be Mrs. Chad Louder. As hard as it is to be separated from my family through this holiday season, I have felt the tender love of our savior in a very special way. I feel humbled by our circumstances, and grateful for the much good in our life.

I love you all so much, and value your support a great deal. I pray you will feel the tender love our Savior has to offer this holiday season. I look forward to the coming year, and pray I will be able to continue to share my experiences from Federal Prison until our Father in Heaven decides it’s time for me to go home:) May God bless us all, and help us see the best in each other this holiday season is my hope and my prayer. Merry Christmas