My new normal started in the fall of 2007. That visit when I broke down in front of God and mom and prison guards alike, was the first of my many visits over four years and three federal prisons in three different states. It started my “official” journey with the U.S. justice system. The government had been hunting and tormenting and lying about my family for close to three years at that point, including during a two-week trial in a beautiful building in downtown St. Louis. But it never registered that the slow-moving train wreck I had been watching was actually the nightmare of my real life. Our life. My mom, my dad, my new husband and all the people who cared about us.
For the next 2 ½ years I lived a double life with most of my friends and nearly all of my professional colleagues. I had a career, I was living in a different town than the one I grew up in, and while I knew my mother was innocent and that we were fighting every day to free her, I simply could not talk about it to so many.
Then, at a networking event in the winter of 2010, a woman I look up to very much asked me how long my mom had stayed with me after the birth of my daughter. Ava Grace had been born that fall, my first and only child, and I was finally back in the saddle at work. I looked at this woman and lied. I said:
“Oh, about a month.”
I almost threw up after I said it. This woman cared about me and I adored her. I came home that night and was ashamed. And I was ashamed that I was ashamed of our circumstances. And I was done with it. Something had to change.
With Gratitude and Hope for the Future,
Founder, Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Mom – CEO – Justice Warrior