Prison is filled with challenges but being separated from my family is so painful at times that I feel like I can’t breath. But I made a decision to make the best of this situation, so when things get hard I look for a solution. This week I started to have discouraging thoughts, first with my photography class. I only have one camera and a wide angle lens to teach with. I can’t print any of the pictures making it hard to explain F-stops and depth of field when your lens only goes down to F 5.6. (You photographers out there will know what I’m talking about). Next my legal situation began wearing on me.   I’m approaching a deadline to file a motion with the court to have my plea withdrawn. The motion goes back before judge Shelby, and the same prosecutors will be responding to the motion and to say that I don’t have faith in the judge or prosecutors would be an understatement! I called Chad and he was discouraged too, besides the $11 million dollar lien the government placed on us, we recently received some tax paperwork from 2008.  Chad can’t solve the problem because he doesn’t know  any details of the real estate transactions in question and record keeping isn’t my strength.  I guess my point is, life is hard sometimes.

I knew that I couldn’t let the feelings of discouragement spiral out of control because peace is too valuable in prison. The first thing I did was call my baby girl.  Little CJ has the sweetest pure spirit of anyone I know. I needed to get a clearer perspective, so I talked to her and she reminded me what is most important. Then I offered a prayer of gratitude.  I thanked my Father in Heaven for all the good in my life. I am so grateful for my roommates! The day that I was feeling the most discouraged, Alondra walked by my on her way to breakfast and said, “Portia they are giving us cinnamon rolls today, yummy yummy, isn’t this a wonderful day!” She is the sweetest thing ever.  A little later in the day, a young girl that took another one of my classes came up to me and said, “Portia, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said in our class. Using our words carefully is important and I’ve been working on it.” She said, “When I went before the judge, I told her that with all due respect your honor, you might be angry that I cut my ankle monitor off right when I got out of the parking lot of the jail, but you guys were going to give me 20 years and I had to bolt.” I laughed and asked her how that worked out for her. She said, “The judge gave me 5 years.”  I said that’s great, you used the right words then and she said, “Ya I guess so, I told the judge I was hoping for 2 years and everyone in the courtroom started laughing.”  I told my friend under the circumstances it sounds like 5 years was a gift:)

Recognizing what you are grateful for in prison is one of the fastest ways that I have found to dispel discouragement.  I am grateful to be a teacher and to have so much love for the women I teach.  A new bus full of women arrived this week and many of them came to my door asking when I would be teaching classes. Word got out that my classes are really good and they all wanted to sign up. Some of the women that have already taken all the classes that I teach approached me to ask if I could teach other classes.   One of them said, “I just want to be in the room when you teach, I don’t care what the class is.”  I was a bit discouraged when I started my Photography class Saturday morning. I wanted to show the students how to use black and white photography but the pictures we took wouldn’t burn properly on the CD so I couldn’t show them the photos. When I stood in front of the class I said, “I had a great lesson plan for you guys but It didn’t work out.  Prison  seems to be doing the best we can with what we have.  It’s not about having the best it’s about being the best. I realized this morning what will make you amazing photographers isn’t the perfect lens or camera. I want you to see who you really are.  I want each one of you to know that you have something special, something you do better than anyone else. You each have a unique perspective and purpose and I want you to do something extraordinary with your lives! Maybe it will be as a photographer, maybe not?” I told the women that I want them to find the good in any situation and prison is a great place to do that. We went outside and took pictures and ended up having a great class.

It can be hard at times to be vulnerable and willing to move through pain, but that’s what courage is. Courage is being willing to walk through the hard stuff and keep a tender heart. Being grateful for what we have will change our perspective faster than anything else I have been able to find. When things get hard I look for something good and it pulls me back to what’s important. That’s what I did this week with my little CJ girl, I found the connection to my Father in Heaven that I needed. There will be times in our lives when the storms around us rage, but our Father in Heaven can speak peace to our soul and calm our hearts. I believe in miracles! Sometimes our situation seems overwhelming but I know there is a plan and have a decided that I will not give up, I am determined to find the best in this situation. Thanks for reading a long good friends, I feel your love and support and it makes a difference in my life in prison