Were 12 days with John Manard worth 10 years of your life?
When the reporter shouted that question at me outside a Tennessee courthouse, I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t get 10 years, but 27 months was a game changer.
The harshest prisons don’t have bars. You don’t have to be incarcerated to face serious adversity. A failed busines, splintered home or broken relationship has the power to drop the strongest woman to her knees.
It had been so easy to ignore it until John showed me the contrast. His shameless desire released me to see the world differently. Not every dog gets a chance to be unleashed, but when they do… some dogs, exhilarated to near intoxication, can’t help but bolt.
At 48, having spent my life tethered by duty, I escaped.
My fearsome and shameful story of redemption runs through ruin; but grit, love and grace are powerful antidotes.
Behind bars, I found freedom from expectations, obligation and deadlines. I discovered me. Gut-wrenching, soul-searching, wailing days were fruitful and the ashes for a new garden were rich. I discovered that relationships can be empathetic and forgiving. I also learned that not everyone will accept the new you. You have to move on anyway.
If you are a woman who has somehow fallen, I know the pain you feel. You are not alone. I know how difficult it is to come back from being down. But hear this, victory is sweetest when the challenge is greatest.
My story challenges you to confront your fears, boldly evaluate where you are and courageously change. I fought hard to heal. I wanted to quite, but there’s an old saying that the strength of a woman’s character is measured by the obstacle that stops her.
If you browse my story looking for a broken woman with a felony conviction, you’ll find me. If you search this site hoping for answers, you’ll find a woman living with conviction. With wisdom, you’ll find both.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to break a convicted murdered out of prison, but if you find yourself with the opportunity and the notion to do it… don’t forget to learn something from the experience.
“Was it worth it?” The answer to that question is still being written.
My name is Toby, better known as The Dog Lady of Lansing Prison.