Hello readers, and Happy Holidays! I was sitting in my kitchen tonight, making some holiday cookies for our work potluck ("Please do not eat raw cookie dough" the package said...Ha! Not only did I eat the raw cookie dough, I COVERED IT IN SPRINKLES. #WinningAtChristmas) and I realized I have never written a Christmas blog, which is something that is long overdue because the holidays are a time in prison where the creativity really comes out.
During December, most people are busy decorating their homes with lights, hanging stockings, and buying presents. In prison, there are still Christmas trees, although they are made with toilet paper cores and typically don't last much longer than the next count time because holiday decorations are contraband. One of my clerks was complaining that she had THREE of her Special Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Trees taken in shakedowns (by The Grinch, to hear her tell it haha) and all I could think was "HOW DID YOU GET THAT MUCH TOILET PAPER???" She also claimed that the staff were taking them to decorate their own homes because they were so awesome. In addition to that being against the rules, how cool could they really be? Although you do never know. I have seen some pretty amazing creations in prison, and not just the paper mache di--....Um...this is a Christmas blog so I am not going to go there right now lol.
Another really awesome thing we do in prison is decorate the library. One year during the Winter Reading Program the clerks made some intricate snowflakes using the patterns in this book and I loved them so much, I laminated all of them so we could hang them from the ceiling tiles year after year. (A few years after I started doing that, I read in the rules that absolutely nothing was supposed to be hung from the ceiling....oops...) We also put red paper Santa hats on EVERYTHING, and we put a really big one on the giant alien picture that one of our clerks drew that was supposed to hang on the wall during Supernatural Month but ended up being a year-round decoration. (It also has a shamrock hat for St. Patrick's Day, a heart hat for Valentine's Day, a pirate hat for Talk Like a Pirate Day...ok I made that last one up but you can bet it will have one in September if that clerk still works there then.)
Because so many of my patrons have kids at home, our reading program is REALLY popular at Christmas. It's good though, because the moms get to send their kids a present with their voice or face, and the kids get early childhood literacy, so it's a win-win! Another way parents in prison can get their kids presents is through the Angel Tree program. When I was little and used to go to church, my mom, sister and I would pick a child's name off the Angel Tree and buy them some presents and some warm clothes. It was a great way for my mom to instill the value of giving and not just receiving during the holidays, although maybe she did it too well because now I get so excited to give people presents I want them to open them NOW. ;-) I never realized until I started working in prison that those gifts were for children of incarcerated parents. It's a great program for the kids, but seeing it from the other side and the sense of entitlement that the women had when they were talking about signing all their kids up for Angel Tree...it just made me wish they were a little more humble about it and thankful that people would go out of their way to help their children have a good Christmas. Instead, it was more like they were owed this opportunity and people would FLIP OUT about how unfair it was if they missed the deadline to submit the info to the Case Managers. But, the kids can't help how the parents are, and they shouldn't suffer because of their parent's poor life choices, so, dear readers, if you see an Angel Tree anywhere and you can spare some extra money, please consider helping out.
And no matter what holiday you are celebrating (or not celebrating) this time of year, may you have many blessings and may this upcoming new year be your best one yet.
Until next time!