Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, And Body In The Healing Of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. by Ruth Utnage

I've heard about this book my entire prison sentence. I don't know why I have avoided it, well, I guess I have an idea. I never really thought it applied to me. As I'm going through two different treatments right now I see it not only can apply to me, it does so directly. Funny it should land in my hands one more time but this time at the request of someone I believe in wholeheartedly.

The book troubles me. As I read it my chest constricts, my stomach knots and my jaw clenches. These things that I hold onto to keep me "safe" and to make me feel secure are the very symptoms of trauma, or better known as PTSD. That actually makes me feel ashamed, not better. I keep reading the book not in excitement that healing and help can come from it but more out of morbid curiosity. What else is wrong with me?

Alas, I'm not one to back away from the challenge of self-discovery. Thus far my rehabilitation has not been neatly wrapped and bow tied. It's been messy and inconvenient. It kind of feels like I aged 35 years in just a few years, like my maturity finally caught up to my body. I don't know what to expect from here on out reading this. I'm reading 4 books simultaneously and all of them are super intense and wonderful reads (Captive Gender: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith Decarcerating Disability: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition by Liat Ben-Moshe My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem and The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, And Body In The Healing Of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.) that speak to some level of trauma healing. I don't really believe in coincidences.

My problem is I view my trauma as a neat freak views a mess, something to be rid of. Like an infestation to call an exterminator for. A flaw that people judge me for, even if they don't, which causes me to shut people out. I couldn't bear the idea that someone knows I'm "broken" because in my mind, and part of my childhood trauma, that "brokenness" equals bad person that no one likes.

Obviously I'm talking about it now so it's no secret, but it's something I'm actively working on.

So far this book makes me self-conscious because so many of the symptoms of trauma are reflected in my day-to-day life that it is alarming to me. It is making me think "Jesus, am I that bad?". But with all challenging topics for me come new opportunities to conquer yet another element of me and build myself more resilient and tenacious. Though it is an internally challenging read, I'm glad I started it so far (even if sometimes I want to chuck it across the cell).

Any thoughts?

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Catching Stones by Ruth Utnage

Can you think of a time when a stone was thrown at you and it hurt?

There is a story in the bible of an "adulteress" who is about to be stoned and Jesus intervenes by asking who among the stone throwers is without sin. I like that story because I identify with the adulteress. Stones don't have to be made of stone you know. They can be words that hurt like stones, labels that crush like boulders or looks that sting like rocks being thrown.

I'll ask again, can you think of a time when a stone was thrown at you and it hurt? I bet you can without much effort it's kind of what makes us human.

But I also identify with the stone throwers. I've called people names and worse than that, I've slung mud and boulders and pebbles and stones.

Being trans in prison having committed a sex offense makes you feel like your about to walk out of prison into the center of town square and brace yourself for stoning. It kind of makes you wonder why you ever wanted to leave prison before you ever actually leave prison. The level of decent human interaction us girls get is limited. Staff can be so vicious and sometimes they don't have to say a word. Silence can be worse than any stone.

Cis-women (not all, of course) have no problem reminding us we are not "real" women. Men too. Stone thrown. We are not women, we're "trans-women" or "transgender", but not women, boulder applied. We are forced to walk into a men's bathroom and wait for a urine covered toilet seat in a crowd of men who either salivate to get you cornered and act out some twisted fantasy because we're nothing more than objects (stone) or they shake their head and laugh because we're just some dude who sits to pee (stone). Staff gets a kick out of the jokes that are said while were in there, especially after we asked to use a different restroom because its inappropriate for a women to use a men's restroom with a bunch of men in it and we are told no. Even though there is another option 20 feet away. Stone. It's the whistles when we walk to the gym, and the snide remarks. It's being called a prison tranny fag, daily.

The hope is that we can get out and be done with this, be free from stones being hurled at us from the agency called our state. Washington is supposedly "liberal" and accepting but from what us girls understand the state imposes more acts of violence than any convicted felon ever has or ever will. I've had to catch more stones from state employees than from anyone incarcerated, by far, and I've had to eat some pretty big stones from my fellow incarcerated folk.

Something I've realized is that I have gotten better at catching stones. I care about people and even though I hurt others, as have we all, I know that it feels awful to get hit with a stone while others watch. It's a shame that makes you feel worthless. So I try to catch as many of them things as possible because I hate watching it happen as much as I hate feeling it.

Maybe you could be a stone catcher too? Whad'ya say?

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Gift... by Rory Andes

"Grind, and when you're too tired, too weak, too alone to grind another minute, remember this - This is where all the losers quit. Never Quit." -Ruth

I received this quote on a business card this week from one of the most influential women of my current life, my sister Ruth. You see, we used to be cellmates and I remember her digging into this quote back then and the words have POWER in them. In this space, in this place, and even in this life, it might seem easy to give up... on anything and everything. But what happens if I did? If I did, I will have effectively pissed away a life I've grinded into existence. The most meaningful shit isn't easy and when I walked into prison, I was a quitter. Maybe even a loser...

The power in this little quote has a new meaning, a new message, every time I look at it. I know I still have a lot of work ahead and some of it will push me past my limit, but I have the reminder by someone I love and who loves me, and I have the will and ability to push past healing and hope, to muscle all the way to greatness.

This little card now hangs on the wall, right next to a reminder given to me by the other "most influential" female in my current life - a cutout of a small hand with the words "You Are A Rock Star" written in each of the fingers by my daughter. I have a few wonderful reasons to be that rock star who grinds my way to the best life I've ever lived...

by Rory Andes

When it sucks to push forward, keep pushing forward...

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Sharpie'd Nails and Mayonnaise Hair Treatments by Ruth Utnage

Those of us locked up have to be inventive to handle our needs and wants, especially for health and beauty. Here's a few things I've encountered.

Mayonnaise hair treatment. A friend with very kinky, long, thick hair from South America heard from one of his loved ones that mayonnaise is good for hair, especially hair that gets out of control frizzy, so he tried it. Now, I can't attest to it controlling his frizz but I will say it smelled shockingly good. Weird right? He smelled wonderfully attractive and I cannot tell you why, but mayonnaise in his hair equals smell good.

Another one is Sharpie'd nails. Since there is no fingernail polish some girls will use sharpies and "paint" their nails. Now, I'm not a fan of this. Don't get me wrong, I've done it because it does help feminize me mentally, but it feels very trailer park bourgeoise. The point is we can paint our nails but I've learned alternate means to accomplish this with regular acrylic paint and clear coat. Simple.

I've heard of others too like soda bottle enemas, lemon juice highlights, flat ironing with a clothes iron. Ooh, perhaps most interesting was when I first fell, this person made an oil lamp out of 2 paperclips, a pencil eraser tin tube, a plastic lid, cloth and a little baby oil then proceeded to turn his desk into a griddle. The man made fresh cookies and hot sandwiches all the time, it was like walking past a food truck, "Get yer' fried bologne sandwich he're!"

Recently I've learned to cook in the microwave. I've evolved from burritos and a bowls of top ramen to Quiche's and homemade pot pies to calzones. My most recent love, cake. Not some flat dense mush that hardens after a day, but moist, fluffy, chocolate cake made from cheap chocolate creme cookies and seltzer water. Yeah. Next I'm working on making homemade Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

I guess part of me wants to encourage creativity. Prison can be this awful place where you learn very unhealthy things but it can also spark creative innovation in healthy ways, thinking about problems in the light of scarce resources. I'd bet lots of companies would like to have someone like me on their payroll to help think outside the box.

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Invasion... by Rory Andes

Now that we have the COVID-19 protocols in place in here, we know how to manage the infections and psychology that goes into controlling large groups of people. We'll need this, you know. The visitors need us to stay a certain space away and not crowd them. It'll keep us both healthy. I know they are just on the other side of the moon waiting for our world to get a little more unruly so that the aliens can help us put the world back together. But we have to be ready. Make sure you social distance and cover your mouth. Our germs are different and we're bad at instructions, so the prison is working hard and we'll be trained correctly, before they come back...

If you're perplexed at this idea, imagine how I felt when I had to hear this diatribe at lunch the other day with someone who has spent DECADES in prison. I would believe that, without any solid information from conventional sources, those that have been removed too long will simply invent information to feel informed. The man that said this doesn't come off as a typical lifelong mental case stuck in a prison, but as someone who has been broken BY prison. He truly believes that all of the COVID-19 pandemic talk is to pave the way for behaviors needed for alien visitors. Relax, this man isn't getting out anytime soon, but please feel compassion for his mental state and lack of information. Aliens won't be a problem. Not being included in the knowledge of the world is, though. That is destroying more inmates than you might realize...

by Rory Andes

I could talk about these conversations everyday. It's heartbreaking...

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Personal Journaling Project on the Book "My Grandmother's Hands" by Resmaa Menakem by Ruth Utnage

Throughout the book there are these "Body Practices" that ask you to perform some sort of task that is designed to ground you in the here and now. The author describes "...feel their way back into their bodies, and then to remember and reclaim them." This particular sentence struck me especially important once I completed the first Body Practice.

I won't tell you what the instructions are, I suggest doing this project as a whole 'thing', but I can tell you that for the first time in my life I apologized to my body. I took a stock of myself, my insides, where hot and cold was, where tension lay, where I was relaxed and I have to admit, I learned about myself. I learned that I have been neglecting my body and leaving it to its own devices and even working against it. For instance, I noticed that I have tension in my brow and forehead, my core is hot and my legs cold.

Now, at this point I'm not thinking about racialized anything. I'm thinking I've been neglecting my body and I need to talk to my therapist about self-care and body scanning. But hey, I'm done with the first chapter of this book and I already feel like I have learned something about myself. At this point, I'm fully invested. I felt a little on the hoaky side at first, but after about 20 seconds I realized that this author is onto something.

I look forward to more, I need more of this!

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469 



Friday, October 16, 2020

A Change Can Come Through Personal Connections by Rory Andes and Whitney Mitchell

Why It Matters

Coming to prison is a massive detriment to the social fabric and still it happens for a reason. Good or bad, society needs to be guarded from people who pose a danger. But through the carceral process and the introduction of rehabilitation, the social fabric needs to be woven again to include those incarcerated. But how? One sure method is through pen pal services and direct connections between the outside world and prisoners. Communication leads to humbling acceptance. Isolation and neglect are a devastating effect on the very idea of desistance. If one doesn't matter, why try? Or so it may be perceived by the incarcerated who may feel they've lost it all by their actions in a critical moment of life mismanagement. Pen pals and free-world friendships are a gift of belonging, a gift of that craved acceptance, and a motivator towards living with betterment and social commitment in mind. Many people in prison simply need to know that they are missed and still matter. Telling them that may change the very nature of how they do their time and how they focus their energies towards the good. Direct communications are coveted lifelines to humanity, a humanity that is beneficial regardless of a person's past.

My Reasons

After roughly seven years of incarceration, I had already lost a lot and my sense of my humanity was following. While I was making great gains to better myself in very profound ways, I still felt a deep loss by the vast ocean that stood between me and the world I longed to get back to. After experiencing what inmates call the "five year fall off", where community support dwindles and ties to family and friends strain or dry up completely, I found myself facing the very elements that brought me to prison in the first place. I am a combat veteran and after my service time and a dysfunctional marriage, isolation lead to the worst of my self imaging and behaviors. Coming to prison was a gift, but it only provided so much. I had to matter to my community again, too. In a moment that can only be described as a mental health crisis, I sought help inside and with it, I reached out to an inmate pen pal site in hopes for a voice from outside. I was in a very dark place and while I outwardly acted indifferent by this disconnect from the free world, inside I was being ripped apart. I wanted to belong, but I could only reach one way and I had to have faith that someone would reach back.

Her Reasons, In Her Words

When I discovered that writing inmates for friendship was possible, I was a bit hesitant. Like most people, I had my own personal biases about people who were found guilty and then incarcerated. As I thought more about it, I realized that many of these people would be freed back into society, and should be given the opportunity to connect to a world they'd one day enter. If true rehabilitation were to take place, it would have to eventually include guiding people back into the free world. I also thought that those who won't be able to rejoin the free world should still be able to vicariously see and experience all it has to offer. People in prison may not physically be in the general public, but that doesn't mean they don't have things to offer it. Although I don't lead an adventurous life, I thought that still offering a glimpse of my world would be valued. I teetered back and forth on whether I could truly open myself to people who were incarcerated, but then I thought to myself that being incarcerated doesn't automatically turn someone into a monster. In some cases, as I've seen with many of my friends, they seem to be more mentally adjusted as they have had time to reflect on their actions and appreciate the true meaning of compassion and friendship. There is an openness and desire to be better that is not often seen in those who haven't faced judgement for their actions. Overall, I feel grateful for my friends and I wouldn't trade them for anyone!

Where Our Friendship And My Rehabilitation Collide

After a few months of listing on a pen pal service, I received a letter and with it, the experiences and motivations to continue to grow with my community in mind. I wasn't isolated anymore even though I am in prison and how I've thought about community reflected in deep and meaningful exchanges. The regular communication with free society gave me a great sense of self worth and the beauty of friendship. The communication has ensured another element of my rehabilitation and continued desistance - what I do matters because I'm not alone. I was able to bear the ugliest parts of my life and my new friend gave radical acceptance, something I had struggled to do for myself. She showed me it was possible. She showed me that what I do and who I am matters. In turn, I work diligently at providing her with genuine compassion and friendship because she also matters. She, through reaching into prison, cultivated a healthy contribution to community for us both. We both have skin in this extremely important game. As a therapeutic piece of my own reentry planning, my community involvement is paramount to life after prison, a value driven life, and seeing my best self come alive. I have friendship and connection, and I have someone in the free world to share it with. Today, because of this direct personal involvement, we drive other incarcerated people to find that same hope.

By Rory Andes and Whitney Mitchell

About the contributor - Whitney is a 25 year old nursing student from North Carolina who started doing inmate outreach in 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic in the US. She contributes to her local community through charitable services and values a better society. She enjoys creative miniature modeling and animal rescue efforts.



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Okay Ladies, Let's Talk About Bellies by Ruth Utnage

Since I've started my hormones to feminize, my body has been FREEZING! Your girl's been super cold, fingers and toes is always icy. With such constant temperature woes my thoughts go to warmth, warm body, cuddling and who would produce warmth.

So naturally, a little body fat on someone to cuddle with sounds PERFECT! I find myself looking for that right amount of girth on their bellies that is not too much but enough to let me know that at night time they turn into a personal space heater.

Is that wrong?

I might need me a partner who has some meat on their bones. LOL.

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

** Updated ** PrisonMathProject.com by Rory Andes

Do you know a mathematician? Maybe you know one who likes social justice, too? A mathemagician! If you're interested in something amazing, just check out the work of our own math wonder, Christopher H. and see the brilliance he's bringing to open the minds of the incarcerated. After you take a peek, feel free to talk amongst your own circles and inspire them to get involved... with math, of course.

by Rory Andes

If you see something, share something...

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Rory Andes 367649
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https://globalnews.ca/news/6948285/prisoner-math-genius/




Monday, October 12, 2020

Reading-Writing Project: "My Grandmother's Hands" by Resmaa Menakem by Ruth Utnage

My Grandmother's Hands was sent to me by a mentor of mine from Post-Prison Education. It is about understanding racialized trauma. In fact, it's sub header is "Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies".

I am actively reading this book and have decided I am going to confront myself and my inner racial tensions via writing as I wrestle with difficult subjects while I read My Grandmother's Hands. I am going to be vulnerable and honest. In this spirit I don't know how much I'm going to write about it, how often or what's going to come out, but as it does, I'm going to write it down and publish, just as it is. Maybe we'll learn nothing together, maybe we'll learn a great deal, I don't know.

So far, I'm nearing the end of Chapter One which is laying the foundation for the rest of the book. I'm a data girl and need to understand what concepts I'm about to work with so I appreciate this chapter as it describes the idea that trauma is in the body, as in the body responds, not just the mind. Trauma is unique and unfortunately I can see myself in the descriptions of trauma that the author describes as dirty pain, a response to trauma that leads to not dealing with it.

I am excited to embark on this journey because I was raised in a highly racialized Midwest and still have to tamp down feelings that I know are bias and sometimes downright racist. I know I am subject to micro-aggressions and as much as I want to not do or experience those things, I can see room for improvement.

This subject gets further fueled by my own experiences as a transgendered woman. I experience bias, gender tensions, micro-aggression and sometimes blatant hostility and not just from white people. A black man I loved was calling the trans community "fags in make-up" as well as other taunts weeks before he left prison. I think that this book will help me understand how to free up my resources for other things. I'm excited about that.

I hope I experience your compassion along this journey. To read my updates on this, look for the title "A Personal Journaling Project on the Book "My Grandmother's Hands" by Resmaa Menakem".

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



Sunday, October 11, 2020

Being Human... by Rory Andes

Tucker Carlson recently said that the incarcerated, "criminals" as he labels us, deserves to die alone in prison. For clarity, he said "Elderly people shouldn't die alone, locked away. That's for criminals," and it was in context to COVID-19 responses. There is some truth to that. The horrors and heartache of senior center occupants being sequestered from their love ones is brutally painful. My heart goes out to every senior citizen, especially those without family to wish them well (I can't tell you how bad I would love to pen pal with them and let them know that they aren't alone). But, he let me know that if I die, I don't deserve to be supported the way other, non incarcerated humans do because I'm in prison. Well Mr. Carlson, screw your opinion.

If we are ever going to heal our communities and ourselves, acknowledging the very basics of humanity is required. I am a person. More over, I am a social creature and regardless of how you perceive justice, my wellbeing (and my want for yours) becomes far more alive with the engagement of others. We, as a society, have survived millennia on the principals of not "being alone". At the core of humanity is the human. People. People who have a whole variety of needs, but most people need interdependence with others. I'm in prison as a matter of facing justice. Dying alone because I "deserve to" is a matter of cruelty. Fear not, currently my life isn't at risk through disease, but I will surely spend the rest of it undoing the continued damages to society that opinions like Tucker Carlson's intend on doing. It's those kind of philosophies that have made the most liberated country on the planet also the most carceral. Justice involves a right to be human...

by Rory Andes

No one deserves to die alone. Get involved wherever isolation exists...

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Dear Christian Mothers by Ruth Utnage

The worst pain my people feel are from the tongues of their Christian mothers. Christianity, in all its hypocrisy, is this perverted force that tells a mother it's okay to separate from her child. All in the name of what's "right" while ignoring the trauma being caused.

Lesbian daughters, gay sons, gender benders, trans folk and queers everywhere know exactly what I'm talking about.

I guess I should say thank you to Christian mothers because without their traumatic "love" there would be no need for trans-moms, of which I am one of many. Having trans daughters and sons has been one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever been blessed with. How anyone could shut out someone so wonderful as my trans children is beyond my understanding.

So many nights I have helped a traumatized queer body compose a letter to their Christian mother attempting to heal from being cast away in the name of Jesus. Begging their Christian mother to reconsider or sometimes to say "I forgive you for this and when you're ready to love me, I'll be here to say it back, and mean it". Those moments are so full of hope and healing but they are a double-edged sword because no one should ever have to compose such a letter. No one.

My Christian mother loves me as long as I'm straight, normal, and hate the same people they do in the name of Christian love. They can keep that love, I want no part of it because I've experienced real love, unwavering love from a Mother who chose me, and is Christian as well.

They can keep their "I'm praying for you" and "I'm doing this because I love you" and "My hands are tied". They can keep their excuses and their high and mighty versus they repeat to brainwash themselves that traumatizing another human being is okay to do. Believe me, I know all about that. I've had to face a version of myself that I happily laid to rest.

In the end when all is said and done and some lovely queer body must reconcile judgment from their own natural family and head out into the great unknown to find a chosen family who loves them, us trans-moms will be here with open arms. Having healed from our own trauma. Having owned the trauma we have caused. Having learned and felt what it means to love in reality and understand the joy of accepting someone as they are, even if that someone is a Christian mother who chose to hate instead of love.

That's the thing about us queer bodies, we forgive, and not the fake kind of forgiveness Christianity teaches, but the real kind. The kind that says, I'm here still and your past is not a factor, let's move on together.

We still love you. The inbox is always open...

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



Friday, October 9, 2020

Today's Personal Bests... by Rory Andes

Today marks a personal best.

Today marks a few of them, actually.
Today, I have been alive longer than I ever have before.
Today, I've taken more consecutive breaths.
Today, I've logged the most consecutive heartbeats.
Today, I've had more cumulative steps, blinks, and thoughts than I have at any point up until today.
Today, I've smiled the most times in my life.
Today, I'm a champion at a lot of things!
Tomorrow, I'll be even better...

by Rory Andes

Be your very best everyday, in some way...

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Insecurity Kisses by Ruth Utnage

I was confiding in my brother, James, about my newest trans daughter, Aryn's insecurities. James always has incredibly deep insights that always make me feel smarter and more loved. He said something that will always be a guidepost for anyone I ever consider marrying for the rest of my life.

He said this about his wife, Renee (my sister), "Renee was always feeling insecure about things like facial hair and her body and that shit is nonsense, she's such a badass chick. You know what I would do whenever she would tell me an insecurity Ruth? I'd kiss it. Wherever her insecurity was, I'd kiss it because I love every part of her perfect self, every part is kissable."

Those words exude love, you know. Insecurity kisses. I want someone to kiss my insecurities, I want insecurity kisses.

That's my advice to my trans daughter as well. Give yourself insecurity kisses and never settle for anyone in your life that won't do the same.

This is what makes chosen families so powerful in our lives, little moments of profound impact where we understand that we would be incomplete having not heard that such a thing as insecurity kisses exist. How wonderful a brother I have. Who would have thought that one of the most tender expressions of raw, unfiltered, unbridled love would have come from inside a prison?

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)


Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Emergent Strategy and Reentry Ideation by Rory Andes

Recently, I read Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown and most of what she presents in this book, I viewed through the prism of reentry planning and ideation. Many of the concepts she offered, when taken philosophically, can be applied to how someone can reshape themselves and begin anew into society after prison. Below are some of my thoughts on how I see Emergent Strategy applying by sections presented in the book. Keep in mind, there is so much powerful content in this book, that to give it its full embodied credit would require an entire academic presentation. For this particular writing, I'm a simple man with a simple opinion.

Fractals
Inmates can spend years becoming something different. Years. The truly anomalous are sometimes unrecognizable compared to their pre-prison selves. I feel that when we change so wholly and completely within ourselves, we resonate that and people take notice. Before long, we are sought out based on the benefit we represent to the world around us. This applies to reentry because through that internal resonance, we can influence our communities to look outwardly the way we look inwardly. If we become our best selves, we add to our best community. Who we are small, we are large. This can continue to grow exponentially starting with one simple move toward a better change in ourselves. Ms. Brown quotes, "what we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system." We all have at least one thing to beautifully contribute.

Intentional Adaptation
How do we want to change? How do we move forward toward a better community? I think first, knowing that we need to adapt to change is the key. As quoted, "change happens....We will adapt to that change or we will become irrelevant." When it comes to reentry ideation, not changing one's ways has led to criminal behavior and being ostracized from society. We can reenter successfully, but we have to be fluid and intentional about moving towards success. Embrace the change and be more different than you ever thought possible. Feeling good and doing good aren't always the same. Adapt through discomfort.

Interdependence and Decentralization
A person releasing back to the free society never has to be alone. There are hundreds of support and community based outreach organizations to assist in a successful reintegration. To evolve into a releasable citizen requires other people. If we were born engineers, we wouldn't need prisons and would have already been bridge builders to functional communities. But we aren't, so we need those community assets to help build them. Adrienne Brown gives a brilliant image of how oak trees survive hurricanes by entangling their roots. It takes a village, as it were, and we need to be able to know where our limits are and when to delegate. One healthy thing to do is lean on those releasing before us and be accountable to the interdependency of the community we are reentering. We all play a part.

Nonlinear and Iterative
In efforts to become better citizens upon release, it feel it's important to know the path to become our most successful individually. Some of those released may be steeped in academia as a passion and move their change that way. Some may be steeped in their faith and change that way. Some may have suffered loss of family and culture, ending in wanted change. Some may simply be tired of being tired with prison. However it works to get someone to see their place in society is all relevant and all acceptable. People grow and shape at their own pace and as long as moving backwards isn't an option, all else is fair game. A quote that calls to me, "...we can do, be, and create whatever we want to see, knowing ours is one effort in the midst of many, and the multitude is where our power lies."

Resilience re-entry In terms of , if someone made it through a sentence, they've arrived. We will be battered and bruised and reshaped and healed and at the end of the process, we will be the thing we've always needed to be. Better. Transformation of everything takes EVERYTHING and by doing so, we can take the best steps possible into a community that can use our previously unused or undiscovered talents. We learn from our pain and what we put our attention on grows. For reentry, I like to put my attention on my future and my place in it, so that it may grow. As quoted, "No one is disposable."

Creating More Possibilities
What we do with the gift of our place in our communities after prison is not a singular thing. We are better, we are broader, we are beyond what we were, so we should live like it. By being different than what we were, we have the opportunity to birth new changes all around us. How we see ourselves, our communities, everything, it can all be ours to shape. We are all connected and we can collaborate and stimulate growth. We can see where we've been and can see a vision of progress. Mostly, we are now responsible to create more opportunities within our communities, regardless of the scale in which we can impact.

In summary, this brilliant book provided food for deep thought of how to apply the contents to a life after prison. We aren't defined by our worst actions, but we can be better than we've ever expected by embracing new relationships around us. If you haven't yet, please get a copy of this book and have your imagination and a highlighter ready. You'll need them to catch the remarkable content that jumps from the pages.

By Rory Andes



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

First Dreams of Releasing From Prison by Ruth Utnage

My potential release date isn't for another 13 months (November of 2021) but for the first time I dreamt of releasing from prison. I was scared. I hate to admit that, but I was.

In the dream, I had to put on my release clothes which consisted of an outfit that was all feminine, complete with heels. My heart was racing the whole time as I understood what was waiting for me on the other side of the door.

I can't wait to go home.

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



Monday, October 5, 2020

Reflections On The Mountain... by Rory Andes

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. We took a drive up Alger Mountain to watch the dogs run and enjoy the space of the trees, the quiet, and the peace. My memory was filmed through a lens peppered with snowflakes and the rebellion of being on the fire trail was exciting. The slow crunching of the truck wheels on fresh snow, the pace of relaxation being led by your two Huskies who were eager to run the trail. The warmth of the cab, the closeness of connection, and the safety for use in your space with your family. The trip took about an hour in total, but it lasted a lifetime...


What I never talked about was the need for such safety among you. The level of damages and chaos that consumed my life, the requirement for me to be responsible when I had no business trying to be so, the person that was failing life right in front of you... stoically... failing. Broken and failing and finding relief only in desperate grasps. My sense of peace became better placed in your grace than in my home. But regardless of how I felt about myself at that moment, how I did or didn't show it, how I wasn't coping, or the fact that time and space with your safety wasn't just a want, but a need, the kindness, and beauty you knew how to produce are what you gave.

I can still see the faces of all of us and the wagging tails of those dogs. We came off the mountain that day to dry clothes and cocoa. I came away from that day (and many like it) knowing that beautiful people do exist, even in times I wasn't convinced I was worth knowing them. It's been over a decade and who I was in that moment has gone through deep evolutions of amazing revelations. Who you were, who you are, make me humbly grateful to have experienced you, your kindness, your humanity... that grace. I do hope the dogs get to run that trail from time to time and I hope I'm not the only one from that truck with a memory of that day. Over the years I've found continued peace from my reflections on the mountain...

by Rory Andes

When I remember you, I remember the way I felt and I smile...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

Or by Mail:
Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272



Sunday, October 4, 2020

Strong Enough For Monday by Ruth Utnage

My emotions just won't flow. It's like I'm stuck inside my own walls. At one time they felt like protections but now they feel like cages. They used to be to keep people out but now it's only to keep me in. When I feel helpless like I don't have any control in my destiny I used to go into that place willingly but now my body reacts on its own, like a prison and I don't like it.

I feel every emotion like everyone else but I just can't seem to express it. My face is still as stone and my body stays tense. My chest constricts and my stomach knots into a wad of tension until whatever danger my body felt is gone and then my emotions come like a flood and I'm left to ride the wave of insecurity that goes along with feeling like others don't have this problem.

I hear buzz words like trauma and childhood and it rings deep inside of me like a distant church bell from a neighboring town. I try to walk towards the sound and give myself over to the journey and just as my eyes begin to swell with emotion it dissipates into tension I'm left to swallow it like poison and pray like hell I'm strong enough for all this.

Prison is an odd place. I was told to come here and "figure out what's wrong with me" and then fix it. That's the idea anyway. I've done so much internal work I feel like my emotional rigidness, or iciness, is my last real battlefront and I am fighting like hell right now. The problem is the very people who are supposed to be helping me "figure it out" sometimes scare me to the point where I am afraid to talk to them at all.

Most times this place is manageable enough for me. Go to my cell, read a book, make a plan, get on my high horse, and ride off into the great unknown I have come to see as success. I laugh, am energetic, likable, and ready to continue making something of myself. But then I feel threatened by something and my body reacts in a way that I am left to "deal" with. Modern science says it's a result of buzzwords like childhood and trauma like I said. Most days I don't feel traumatized but then again most days I don't think about my childhood. I kind of get through by telling myself that everyone had a childhood like mine and that I have no right to talk about mine.

Here I stand in my cell on the verge of unclogging involuntary emotional restraint and all I can think about is what comes on Monday and how many more of them do I have until this little ride called prison is over for me. When will I be free? When will I get to run the seaside and leave my set of footprints in the sand?

When will Mondays no longer haunt me on Saturday mornings?

Note to self: I've come so far, now is not the time to give up, and isn't there a saying that points out its always darkest before the dawn? Perhaps this feels so heavy because it is "so heavy" and maybe, just maybe, I'm strong enough to handle it.

Ruth