We never expected to be in prison!

Photo by Lynn Lane

You know that your life has gone down an interesting path when Gayle King references prison slang and you don't need the explanation. It happened the morning after Derek Chauvin's jury verdict was reached and she referenced how Chauvin had been placed in "ad seg" for his protection. And then in the next breath started to explain what it meant, but not before I thought to myself, "oh, administrative segregation, that makes sense."

So, why would a warm and fuzzy mom who lives in the middle of suburbia, and to any casual onlooker would look like the least likely person to know anything about prisons and prison terminology, have this kind of information? Well, it's all my sister's fault. She was the one who got us involved with criminal justice, first by having us present at a Prisoner's Family Conference and then with her "field trip" to a men's prison south of Houston.

And my attitude towards all of this? After all, aren't prisoner's criminals? You know, lock them up and throw away the key. Well, our involvement over many years led me to a greater understanding, which included that nothing's black and white, especially when it comes to the world of criminal justice – and incarceration. And I came to realize that just because someone made a bad decision doesn't make them a bad person.

Looking back, it's been a long but interesting journey that started when my husband got fired (I thought of it as a crisis, whereas Black saw it as a book that would be the basis of a sitcom) and has resulted in some very unexpected detours – how could a Neiman Marcus launch lead to our book being approved by the (Texas) State Board of Education as a textbook and then … drumroll, please … being used as the basis of a personal finance and Life 101 program embraced by the Chaplaincy Department of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (Trust me, you can't make this stuff up!)

So that explains some of my prison "education" (I've also learned that many people personally know men and women who either are or have been incarcerated, but they're often ashamed to admit it). Still, it doesn't explain why I specifically know about Ag Seg (or what many people call solitary confinement, although Black has told me it's now called restricted housing, but that doesn't change what it is). Well, our book was initially used for Faith-Based dorms and then General Population, but most recently has become an independent book study program used in, you guessed it, Ad Seg.

So, when Black mentions Redhead Appreciation Day, I know it’s related to Red & Black and not her being “nice” and giving me a day off (or telling me that she appreciates me). And when she asks, “What is it like to be a redhead, Red?” part of me wants to reply, “What’s it like not to be a redhead?” because, for my entire life, I’ve been “Red.” (There’s a story there, but I’ll get to it later.) The honest answer is, well, I never thought about it, until now …

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Photograph of Jackie Aguilera courtesy of Jackie Aguilera


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

I have a confession to make, which I’m sure will make you roll your eyes.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Interesting caveat and probably true.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Every time we meet with Jackie (Aguilera) from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy and hear what she’s doing in the world of adult education, I feel like I’m back in school and having to take copious notes.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

I am more than happy to send you “homework assignments” as I come across relevant articles and research.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to taking notes. But that does explain why you’re so knowledgeable about literacy.


Black assets.rebelmouse.io

But, reading information is very different from being at the forefront of literacy innovation. And, if we had never met Jackie, I never would have realized how literacy is more than the dictionary definition, and encompasses more than just reading and writing.
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Photo by Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash

As Black knows, going to the movies is my escape (and even sends me research about it), but she also knows that it’s all about the popcorn. So, it should come as no surprise that’s how I like to celebrate my birthday. And even though she’s not one to “celebrate” birthdays, she does indulge (or maybe the word is “tolerate”) people who do, and whenever my birthday falls on a workday, she gives me “permission” to escape to the movies.

Which is what I’m doing today on my milestone birthday, and although the “rerun” part of this post (below the line) was from last November, some things never change. Except … this year, as I’ll be waiting for the movie to start (and waiting to start eating my popcorn as I refuse to eat even a single kernel beforehand), I know I’ll be wondering, “How did I get to be 60 years old?!”

It's a running joke in my family that the only reason I go to the movies is for the popcorn. And while that isn't 100% true, it's probably close as I can't remember a time when popcorn wasn't an essential part of the experience. (I'll admit I couldn't believe it when I recently read that South Korea's banning movie popcorn in the theater!)

I can still remember seeing "Young Frankenstein" when it was first released (in 1974) at the Massapequa movie theater, which was literally at one end of an old strip shopping center. It bore no resemblance to the multiplex cinemas of today, and the concession stand offerings were very limited. It was dark and a bit dingy, and the seats were old and uncomfortable. But I didn't care because the popcorn made up for it. And while I sat through multiple showings of the movie (hey, it's still one of my favorites), I was grateful that my dad had given me enough money to get multiple popcorns as in those days, there was no such thing as the big bucket, let alone free refills.

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