I didn’t know what it would be like to come home after spending 4 and a half years in prison. I knew it would be overwhelming, and it was. And I knew I would miss my friends, and I do. But I didn’t know I would feel insecure and confused about my place in the world. It might sound strange, but in prison I knew exactly who I was. We didn’t put on airs in prison; we lived together, worked together, and ate together. I guess you could say we knew each other at our best and our worst. Life was basic, simple and real, and sometimes I miss those things. Right now I am living at home on home confinement until December 21st when I will be done with the BOP (Bureau of Prisons). I am able to go to work, and church, and can put in requests to spend time in the community. I’m getting reconnected to my family, and feel a little bit better every day. Chad’s been a lifeline for me. The women in prison called him “Good Guy Chad” He was somewhat of a legend there:)

My world in prison was small. I had 4 Tee-shirts, 2 pair of sweats, 2 pair of shorts and one pair of shoes. I lived out of a locker, and had room to spare. I ate apples, almonds and tuna fish most of the time, and drank a lot of water. I walked a lot, and didn’t care much about material things. The relationships I built were important to me, people were important to me! I learned how to listen without trying to solve problems. Most people just needed someone who cared to listen. I had nothing, and I had everything! The world is beautiful out here. The mountains are beautiful, and everywhere I look there are beautiful things; but it’s also filled with distractions. It’s easy to get distracted from what matters most: the beauty inside of each of us. When I look around sometimes everyone seems so separate, and I feel a little bit lost.

In January of this year I was sent to a prison camp in California after being behind a fence for almost 4 years. I boarded a commercial airplane in Minnesota and sat next to 2 people who didn’t look up from their phones for almost 3 hours. It seemed strange to me that they didn’t want to meet me, I wanted to meet them? I wanted to say, “Hello, how are you? My name is Portia Louder, it’s nice to meet you.” But I couldn’t even make eye contact. One of the things I loved about the prison camp in California was going outside at night and watching the sun go down. The beauty in the desert made my heart sing! Sometimes the women would come outside and sing songs and dance. I remember sitting on a park bench with one of my friends and thinking we were lucky to be having that experience. I probably told her that, and she laughed:)

I know I will find my place in this world, but I never want to forget the beauty of another world that I was apart of. I asked my daughter CJ a while ago what it was like for her to have me gone, and she told me: “Mom, I didn’t think I was going to make it at first, but then I realized I needed to accept that you weren’t coming back for a long time, and after I accepted it things got better for me. Then I started looking for the things I was grateful for, and life got good again.” My family is strong and beautiful, and oh how they’ve grown through this experience! We appreciate your love and support, and we’re grateful that you’re still following along:)