Twitter Interview #1 – Jess T.

I’ve finally been using my Twitter account instead of ignoring it and I made an awesome new friend on it this week. It feels pretty awesome to know that there are people in the same situation that want to help others who are still struggling with their recovery in life. She’s decided to share a little of her story about her conviction and her progress with her recovery from those darker days.

Are you ready to read her interview? I know it touched my heart and reminded me of how amazing each and every one of us is. Here we go:

Aza -When were you convicted and what were you convicted for?

Jess – Let’s see. The last time I was arrested was July 2007 for possession of methamphetamine. I was already on first offender felony probation, so I ended up staying in the county jail for a little over 5 months.

Aza – What helped you push through the obstacles that your convictions put in place?

Jess- I found out about two weeks in that I was pregnant. It was one of the scariest 5 months of my life. I called my mom to bail me out like I always did… only, this time she called my existing probation office to make sure they put a probation violation hold on me so that I couldn’t get out. Of course, at the time she had no idea how long I would be stuck in there; she just wanted me to get clean. For so long, she didn’t even know if I was still alive; so, knowing I was somewhere safe was a relief. As far as pushing through the obstacles that stem from my convictions, of course, my faith and my family were a huge driving source. I honestly believe that God saved me. That putting my life in His hands is the only reason I still have one. And, I couldn’t have made it through the drug court program and rehab program and the stress of being a single mom and recovering addict without my parents. But, also, there was no choice but to push through. I remember being paraded through doctors offices (because a pregnant inmate still has rights to prenatal care) in cuffs and leg shackles, people pulling their kids closer to them as if I was going to attack, and thinking, “I’m not this person. I never hurt anyone other than myself.” The shame was unbearable. I remember standing in front of the judge for the last time, facing 10 years in prison, and feeling completely hopeless. And, I remember the world around me stopping as I heard her say she saw something in me that she can’t explain, and that she was going to give me another chance on the condition that she never sees me in her courtroom again. And, at that moment, I knew I had no choice. I wanted to be better, for myself and for my baby. I was going to prove to everyone that I was better than what they saw.

Aza – What advice would you give to other struggling felons and recovering addicts across the globe?

Jess – For advice, I would say this: You are not your mistakes. BUT don’t disown your past. Own every single part of who you are. One thing that always bothers me is when people say, “well, that’s your past. That’s not who you are.” Wrong. My past is every bit a part of who I am. And, I wear it with pride. I have been through the pits of hell and I have come out, no matter how battered or bruised, on the other side. I encourage you to not let anyone make you feel ashamed of your past. You’re a survivora fighter… and the world has so much in store for you!


Thank you, Jess, for sharing your story of struggle and how you pushed through the obstacles that life throws at us.

 

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Pushing Boundaries and Developing Skills

Hey Readers! Hope all is well for you!

 

It’s been an interesting month for me, as there have been some suggestions in the works for offering speeches.

Now, not only am I a shy and somewhat anxious person, I’ve also been trained by society in some ways to feel that my opinions are not worthy and that I’m more likely to fail than other people. Simply because I made a mistake and earned a record – over a decade ago.

It is amazing to have that sort of suggestion thrown my way, because of those reasons. And it’s rather validating in a way, even if I still have that nagging voice in the back of my head saying…”Hahahaha – you’re gonna do WHAT? That’s hilarious!!!”.

Now, do I have any idea how to create a speech from scratch? …Not really…

Do I have any experience talking in big groups? …. (falls over laughing)

Do I have any experience with videos, editing, or uploading? …. absolutely not…

Am I gonna dig in, do some research, and create the best experience for my audience as possible?? …. We have a winner!

You know why I’m saying yes? I’m saying yes, because opportunity is knocking at my door. I’m saying yes, because I believe in every felon that wants their life to be better – deserves the right to find a path to that. I’m saying yes, because growth might be painful sometimes, but it’s one of the most beautiful things in life.

It won’t be easy, and I won’t like all of it, but I know I’ll learn some new skills, some new ideas, meet new people, and have more chances to make a positive impact on how felons are viewed in society.

You and me? We’re both worth more than we realize, and we need to remember that. Start looking for opportunities to create positive interactions, and be a part of the change, not only in yourself and your life, but the life of every other struggling felon out there.

Love and Peace,
Aza

 

Little Laughs of a Freelancer

Hey Readers!

I finally got around to ordering business cards for my little one woman start up here, and I had a strange little moment as I was fighting with the design, title, and whatnot.

I hadn’t really thought of it much, but as a freelancer of things that seem to not have been done before, I get to pick the title for the work I do.
Seems simple enough…. right?

Ha.

Nope.

I’ve ran through a few different titles, and all seem to be unsatisfactory. …. even the one I ended up putting on the cards and ‘officially ordered’.
Some examples of these are:

Freelance Felony Support Specialist

Relief Researcher

and the one I settled upon for now….(drum roll please….)

Rights Recovery Mentor (…….and of course, ..now I’m thinking I should have stuck with the Specialist bit… /facepalm)

And there we have it. My little laugh today.
Hope you enjoyed it as much I did, and that it helps you remember, nothing can really hold you back other than yourself.

Sometimes you just gotta toss your hat over the fence and commit yourself to an idea, even when you’re a little unsure. You never know where it might lead you 🙂

Love and Peace,

Aza

Updates!

Hey Readers! Happy Labor Day!

As always, things are crazy busy for me! Just started an additional side job tending bar and waitressing at a local bar & grill (gotta save up for the holidays ya know!), and just got my first publishing contract (with Microcosm Publishing).

Microcosm has offered a non-exclusive publishing agreement, which will allow me to continue to publish Finding Freedom on any platform I choose. I encourage everyone to check their site out here, and to see what all they offer.

On another front, we have a couple interviews coming up for our Successful Felon Stories. We may define success differently, either as different people, or because we had to adapt to our post conviction lives, but I can’t wait to share these stories with you to help show that a happy life in society is possible and to help inspire to you find your own success!

Finally, we are slowly building up our nationwide network of after felony specialists, I hope to share some really great news with everyone on this aspect soon! We’re building towards free classes and programs that will help give our fellow felons a steady footing in society and improve our rate of success.

Enjoy your day, be safe, and above all…. RISE ABOVE!

Aza

 

 

Easy Employment Certifications

Hey Readers! Thank you for stopping by again! As always, I have a lot in store for you!

I have a really neat interview with Lisa Forbes coming up, where she will talk about the factors that played into her conviction, and how she has turned her life around, and how she defines her success as a reformed recruiter.  I am quite excited to hear her story and learn from her experiences, how about you?

Now, while we wait for the interview, I wanted to let you guys know that there are affordable certifications that will help you improve your employability (apparently I’ve made a new word – according to Google spellcheck anyway) after a conviction.

I am all too familiar with the fact that life gets turned upside down now and again (sometimes it feels like it’s upside down every day… I get that too), and having these little additions to rely on can mean keeping your rental versus ending up homeless (or homeless again – goodness knows I’ve been there myself).

These little employment certificates are the Basset license (basically a responsible bartender) and the Food Handler license.

I completed the Basset training in about 4 hours just yesterday evening by watching video after video on the certification website, answering the practice questions, and then completing the final exam. I paid around 14 bucks for it, and now I can be hired at any bar in my state. Of course, not all states have a full requirement of a licensed server, but even if they don’t require it, it may be a good idea to invest in it, because it will show that you will go above and beyond the basic expectations and that you’ll be a responsible seller. The tips are pretty awesome too, especially on busy nights.

The Food Handler license will help you gain cooking and waitressing jobs too, and I’ll be taking this course soon as well – I’ll make an update when I have more information on the cost and the type of course that is offered online. (Update: I paid only $7 for mine, it’s the lowest level one – it’s all I needed as I was serving and not helping cook – although food manager’s licenses seem to run up to $500 around here – if you’re looking to get into cooking be prepared for an investment)

Neither course has mentioned performing any sort of background check, and I haven’t found a bar yet that runs a check for hiring purposes (maybe my area is a bit BFE though – let me know if your locale is different), so if you’re a people person and know how to defuse the situations that can come up in a bar, you might consider becoming a bartender.

The cash tips are often pretty decent – especially if you’re lucky and get the ever coveted weekend evening hours, and that’s money you can typically take home each night on top of the weekly paycheck for your hours. Tip based jobs are sort of awesome in that way, even if they are ‘lower income’.

That’s all, for now, guys, come back soon and find some inspiration in Lisa’s interview, and keep rising above!

Aza

 

P.S. – If you’re looking for a certificate to help you overcome your background – you can find it in my books! I did a ton of research on every state and put it all together in a nifty little manual for you! Print version HERE, and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords – see the sidebar for links. Thank you so much!

Finding Freedom (Full Release)

Hey Readers!

It feels like it has been a long time since I uploaded my work into Smashwords, but the book is finally fully released! (Original cover art featured above – Courtesy Paulann Egelhoff- see links below)

 (Smashwords Link)

It contains helpful tips and hints that I found useful over my own years of struggle, as well as a state by state breakdown of what we can do to get our records off of our backs. I’m not saying getting through it is gonna be easy, but I know from experience that it’s worth it.

Also, if you love the original cover art shown above, please go here to see more of the artists work. She’s a wonderful photographer and digital artist, as well as a close friend of mine. (See, positive networking helps out everyone involved!)

Anywho, thank you so much for stopping by, I hope you’ve found something helpful here, and if you’d like to connect, find my Facebook page The Friendly Felon

If you want the exclusive print edition – find it HERE, and show Microcosm Publishing some love – they’re amazing!

Or if you’re into eBooks – just look to the right of your screen for links to popular retailers or search The Guide to Life After a Felony at your favorite ebook retailer.

Stay strong fellow felons, we got this!

Staying in a Positive Mindset

Hey Reader! In light of recent conversations, I thought it would be a good idea to bring up how important it is to maintain a positive mindset.

Sure, we’re in some tight spots because of our pasts, and we’re all facing different and very difficult situations, but we are – in fact – surviving, if not thriving.

One of the biggest parts of realizing that feeling or that sense of ‘Hey, things aren’t actually half bad!’, is your mindset.

You can be living in your car on food stamps or the food pantry and still be living on those noodles that you ‘cook’ in a cleaned out peanut butter jar and some hot water from the tea area of the closest gas station. I’ve been there too. Guess what, you still have some sort of shelter and some sort of food. It isn’t optimal, but it’s available.

Now, I know that sounds sort of rough (it definitely survive mode), but I grew up in a home where my mother was disabled with a neurological disease from the time she was 18, and she always reminded herself (and me) that things could always be worse. While she was learning to deal with her cane, she reminded herself that she could be using a walker. Once she eventually progressed to needing the walker, she reminded herself that she could be in a wheelchair. Now, her situation is one of those that only really get worse over time (she’s still going strong, in case you’re wondering – she’ll be 69 this fall and is still in her own home). In our cases, at least in the felony sense of them, things can only really get better. You know what I mean?

Over time, more options will become available to us when it comes to jobs and housing, especially when we finally recognize that we don’t want to keep adding charges to our records. You have to learn to be patient and resourceful, and using a positive mindset is one of the best ways to do that.

This is especially important during the extremely stressful time we often have during probation and parole periods. I know my own time with intense supervision wasn’t pleasant but after ten years, I realize that it was actually helpful.

I know it’s rough when you basically lose control over your life and have to change so much about yourself in a short period of time. I know it made me crazy angry to have to bend to another’s will – it’s sort of a natural response to intense control over your life, but we have to remember that the very fact that we are dealing with that supervision – is a giant clue shouting at us that we need to change our lifestyle in order to get anywhere in our life.

The people that we have (or have had) as our probation and parole officers are often there to help us, even if they might be on a power trip of some sort (I’ve met some that were like this, but it seems that the majority are actually nice people who are intent on guiding us to some sort of successful life after we’ve screwed up enough to end up in their office). And it’s important to remember that they have bad days too (you think customer service is a pain – try living a day in a PO’s life).

The important thing to remember is that we’re all human. Try to be understanding of the protocols they and you need to follow, those guidelines and requirements are typically there for a good reason, you simply need to focus on using this time (and their constant prodding) to improve yourself and learn about the resources they can provide you with to get you back on track.

That’s all for now guys, I’m so glad to have you and I hope it’s been helpful so far. Til next time, and take care to stay positive and rise above the rest!

-Aza

First blog post!

Hey there reader! If you’ve found my blog I’m going to assume that you entered the dreaded words “felon friendly” into your search bar of choice and clicked this link out of curiosity for what advice I might have that has to do with those words.

Believe me, I’m familiar with the feeling. I’ve entered those words myself into the search bar, hoping for some new information about jobs that will accept felons. Trying to get an advantage on the playing field of society is not easy without a record, and is about ten times as difficult when you do have a record of some sort.

Despair not, as over time here, I will regale you with my own experiences, and some pro-tips (which may or may not work in your state or area, the legal beagles like to keep us on our toes which does require some investigation on your own) for how to get by in a world that is not felon friendly.

Some background that you might find interesting:

I’m a felon. Just over ten years ago, I made a crappy choice in who I hung out with and generally in the majority of my behavior (yay for teenage hormones, not) and I’m still suffering the stigma of my record all this time later. To be honest, it’s a Class 2 Theft conviction that I’m dealing with personally, and it’s my only one, but theft seems to take out a large portion of career choices even though it isn’t/wasn’t violent. Thankfully, I’m stubborn and determined to thrive regardless of my payroll versus freelance status.

I’m a mom! Within a year of my conviction I found out I had a little one on the way, and while I was super nervous about it, we’ve made it this far and it’s been pretty outstanding considering everything. He’s nearing double digits himself already and is already jumping on the computer software programming bandwagon!

I’m a psychology major. I’m just a few classes away from finishing my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I’m working towards becoming a rehabilitation specialist and creating a more positive response to ex-cons and felons and those with issues that they’d like to leave behind them so they can build a better future. This blog is my first small step into the waters.

So, all in all, I hope you enjoy as I venture into the world of blogging and helping fellow friendly felons regain their lives and futures!