Elle Stone Respect Life Testimonials

Visiting the Imprisoned – An Encounter With An Inmate

Visiting the Imprisoned

Disclaimer: This post is about my correspondence with Dahvie Holmes, with whom I run the blog Housewife // Savagelife (  This post for Catholic Sistas has been edited for a general audience, including only a brief description of violence. 

Because Housewife // Savagelife shares Dahvie’s unique voice and experience, the blog contains adult content, including violence, sexual content, drugs, and language.  Discretion is advised if you chose to access Housewife // Savagelife.



I have a friend who’s…different from my other friends. For one, we communicate via letter (basically a medieval undertaking). Second, on the return address where the name should be there’s a number: 20141008200.  Third, when I open this letter, it’s not uncommon to read something like this:

yoooo what’s up Elle? you crazy, man.  I be laughin like a MF whenever I think about this.  I always look at the “other side” (outside of jail) and wonder…how do they think.  How do they kick it?.

My friend’s name is Dahvie Holmes, and he’s an inmate at Cook County Jail.  Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him, attempting to understand his world, and starting a blog with him. Through encountering his experiences and thoughts, I’ve “visited the imprisoned”–which has radically changed my life.

I could get into how we met (a crazy story with a couple of miracles sprinkled in–if you’re curious, you can read it here:  But I want to give Dahvie the stage. 

“I love her to death”

Dahvie doesn’t play pleasantries.  He gives such a raw insight into his life.  He sent me a letter which started with this story:

So I call the house, first my mama was talking to some dcfs (Department of Children and Family Services) agent so she asked me to call back.  That blew me to hear who she was talking to because I already have 2 siblings in foster care.  Well they adopted now but it’s the same thing to me.  They not with they birth family.  I don’t even know them.  Never meet them either.  It’s a sad story.  

Now to hear she talking to the dcfs again while she in custody of my baby sister scares the eff out of me cuz that’s my heart.  I love her to death.  I would never forgive my mother if she loses her.  But the guilt really eats at me because I’m in jail and can’t do a darn thing to help.

It gives me chills to read that.  I can’t help but think about my family.  How heartbreaking would it be to call up your mom and hear that? That your mom was sending one of your siblings into foster care?  And you couldn’t do a thing about it?

A little backstory: Dahvie’s mom is addicted to crack.  She was probably using it while she was pregnant with Dahvie.  Maybe all her kids.  I couldn’t help but to think: wouldn’t foster care be good for his sister to get out of a bad situation?

His response:

My mom isn’t the best parent but at least she has support.  My sister needs to be around family.  Her family not no darn strangers.  SO I believe it isn’t best for her.  But if it was, of course I would want the best then yeah.

The thought of having a sister disappear while your away, into the hands of strangers.  It’s hard to even wrap my head around it. I had reduced Dahvie and his family to equations and statistics.  But in this, I experienced his pain. 

An inmate doesn’t just become a cold representation of his crime. They still encounter devastating heartbreak.  They still encounter brokenness.

“I’m actually numb to it.”

This next letter completely underscored the discrepancy between Dahvie and I.  We live in two completely different worlds. It’s eye-opening and devastating:

To see your homies on the news.  Mama cryin and stuff. It’s a effed up feeling.  I wake up to the deck screamin my name sayin my block on the news.  I jump up to see two brothers was gunned down at the restaurant. Face shots.  Them was my lil bro’s too. Even though we had some differences I still loved them.  It hurt me to found out like this. This war stuff real. 

Another huge emotional knockout.  Knowing those people, and seeing it on the news…I couldn’t imagine.  And I told that to Dahvie, I really could not imagine. I knew exactly zero people who had been shot at. Zero. Zilch.  Nada.

He responded:

It’s everyday life for me.  I’m actually numb to it. It’s weird to me hearin how y’all live.  I believe you know somebody who been shot they just ain’t tell you or embarrassed to admit it.  If you really don’t know someone (besides me) then my life, my cellie life, and everybody around me life really been messed up.  Darn SMH. Darn. That would be so hard to accept.

Dahvie couldn’t even imagine a world where people hadn’t been shot at, where this wasn’t a regular occurrence.  He couldn’t imagine my comfortable suburban life, my violence-free, gang-free existence.

This got me thinking. What if I grew up in a neighborhood where people had been shot at, all my friends had been shot at or were shooters?   How would my life be different? Pope Francis said:

Each one of us is capable of doing the same thing done by that man or woman in jail. All of us are capable of sinning and making the same mistake in life. They are not worse than you and I!

I have not committed a crime which could land me in jail. But I’ve been so guarded from making mistakes like that. Let’s say that I commit sin 30% of the time (I had a tough time coming up with a number so let’s go with that).  That means that three out of ten times I’m turning away from God. 

What if for those mess ups, instead of being in my safe little apartment, I was in a neighborhood like Dahvie’s?  Personal choice is a big part of it, but I personally choose to do all kinds of evils. I haven’t had the same opportunities for evil as Dahvie.

Pope Francis says:

They haven’t had the opportunities that I have had of not doing something stupid and ending up in prison…This makes me cry inside. It is deeply moving.

“I had failed to love that child…”

From the start, Dahvie was vulnerable with me, but I put up walls.  I’m very guarded. It took me months to open up to him, to share with him about my life.  Finally I sent him this:

My period is late.  I think I might be pregnant.  Which, to be honest, I don’t know how I feel about it.  I had a miscarriage a couple of months ago, and that process was tough.  Like, the whole thing from start to finish. 

The pregnancy was a total surprise, and I really struggled to be happy about it.  It just was so not my plan, so much not what I wanted my life to be. I wanted my independence for a little longer.  Which I was ashamed about because I knew that I was being called to love that innocent little life. 

And then, when I had the miscarriage, I was heartbroken, because I had failed to love that child as much as I should have.  I wanted to learn how to love the child (my husband named her “Poppy”), and I lost that shot. Seems like I might have that shot again.

I was in a really broken spot.  I had failed, I was wounded. I needed true rehabilitation in my heart.  Pope Francis underscores the need for rehabilitation, saying some people:

…do this in their own homes and in their own professions. Others, like you, do this in a prison. But all of us, all of us — anyone who says they do not need to go through a process of rehabilitation is a liar.

I needed something that Dahvie knew well.  A process of rehabilitation. A time of focus and change.  I could do this hidden in my home, but he does this behind bars, every day.  Perhaps this is why his response was moving, filled with understanding and care:

I’m confused at your reaction.  I thought you was ready for a football team of kids? Haha you thought you was.  But you was really scared. That’s how it be for everybody who think they ready for a responsibility whole time when the situation present itself we freeze up.  Get nervous. Don’t worry that’s normal. Love always grows so don’t think different. I’m sorry y’all had a miscarriage. God knows best and your chance will come again.

Dahvie gave me something that I had almost given up on.  In my self-loathing and self-pity, I had given up on the chance of change, the chance of things getting better.

Pope Francis says that those in prison: 

…are serving a penalty, a penalty for a mistake committed…But let us not forget that, for punishment to be fruitful, it must have a horizon of hope, otherwise it is enclosed within itself and is only an instrument of torture, it is not fruitful.

God never encloses us in our sin and brokenness.  He always gives us a horizon of hope, a chance at forgiveness and true change.  In the face of Dahvie’s broken world and mistakes, in the face of my miscarriage, Pope Francis says it best:

…the horizon is bigger than the problems, hope goes beyond all the problems…

Quotes from Pope Francis come from: and\

A Faithful Woman Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Motherhood Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series Vocations

Ode to Feminine Genius: What is This Homemaker Stuff, Anyway?

This is the second installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman.

Today’s topic will cover a Faithful Woman.

St. Monica is the patron saint for A Faithful Woman

When we first started hammering out details for this series, I got really excited – then, I saw the word homemaker – used repeatedly. Not really knowing much about the word, I looked up the definition and found




1. a person who manages the household of his or her own family, especially as a principal occupation.
2. a person employed to manage a household and do household chores for others, as for the sick orelderly.
Origin:  1885–90; home + maker
Can be confused: homemaker, housewife (see usage note at housewife).
Usage note 1.  See housewife.


[hous-wahyf or, usually, huhz-if for 2]

noun, plural house·wives [hous-wahyvz]

1. Sometimes Offensive . a married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principal occupation.
2. British . a sewing box; a small case or box for needles, thread, etc.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), house·wifed, house·wif·ing.

3. Archaic. to manage with efficiency and economy, as a household.
Origin:  1175–1225; Middle English hus ( e ) wif.  See housewife
Back the truck up.
1. Sometimes Offensive . a married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principal occupation.

My inner feminist nearly flipped her lid. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I never much liked the imagery of being married to my house and I certainly did NOT sign up to be the principal keeper of the house.


Recently, and more appropriately, FINALLY, at the young age of {insert garbled words}, I have managed to come to grips with my role in the house and its place within my primary vocation as wife and mother. For many years, though, there was a gap of epic proportions to describe the disconnect between myself and the house. It was always something I dreaded, resented…even hated.

Laundry, meals, grocery shopping, meal planning, repairs, cleaning, more laundry, more groceries, home decorating, maintenance, gardening {seriously???}, and overall pride of home.

Yuck. I’d rather just piddle around on the interwebz.

That’s way more fun…plus, I know how to do that.

And do it well.

Most of us were never taught how to manage a home, or taught that it’s ok if you hate it or aren’t good at it. Many of us have been worn down with society’s idea that our self worth is attached to only the work we do outside of the home. And sometimes those images and thoughts come with an undercurrent of you’re not worth anything if you stay at home {or worse, care for the children}. 





For a number of years, I lived for my kids to be at school. I loved my ME time! They received a good education and I got what I thought was well-earned quiet time. I lived for naps because I still had littles at home who needed naps. I dreaded 2:45 p.m. because with it came the afternoon madness of homework, snacks, craziness, extracurriculars, living out of the vehicle, husband coming home to utter madness and no dinner made. SHEW.

My life was full of self-inflicted chaos.

And worse, I didn’t know it could be any different.

Conversations over the years with other women led me to believe I wasn’t alone in my distaste for taking care of the home. Over time, I found there was a common thread, but couldn’t quite place its origin until one gal and fellow Ink Slinger Misty hit the nail on the head. She said {paraphrased} that our culture doesn’t nurture or foster home management for girls. As women we are often left in the dark on home management or are supposed to automatically know how to run a home and take care of it, right down to the minutiae. We’re not only supposed to know how to do these things, there is also this impossible standard of both liking it AND doing it well and without complaint. PFT!

Imagine if we trained up our children in ways that helped them to understand how the home works, from researching and shopping better insurance rates, to knowing and learning tips to buying the best tires for your cars, how to delve into a life of frugality by being empowered – truly empowered – to make your own chicken broth, canning tomatoes, making your own laundry detergent, etc., to creating a schedule for cleaning in the home, meal planning, tips for staying productive throughout the day instead of sliding into a rut of the stereotypical watching your “stories” and mindlessly popping bon bons, knowing you will have good days and bad days and the WORST kind of days and that that is ok, we all have them!

But what if, instead of telling our children that the world is right, and that their worth is attached to college degrees, good-paying jobs, climbing the corporate ladder, getting that nice home in the designer jeans neighborhood and buying the latest cars and tech toys, we instead teach and consistently reinforce in them that their worth came attached to their soul the moment they were conceived and that God has indelibly marked us as His and that nothing in this world will ever fill the secular void like His love does?

Now, I’m not saying that having a college degree or any of the other things are bad – but, rather, what I’m saying is that we rework our perception of what fulfills us, so that even if we have achieved some/all of the above, we are still aligned correctly and rooted firmly in God’s love so that we can use the good from a good-paying job to build up the Kingdom.

All we have, all we work for, all we do is to build up the Kingdom. This is the root of why we should take care in doing everything so as to please the Lord.

Even the home.

The thing I dreaded taking care of because I detested it so much.

::sigh. Ok, Lord, you win. Show me how to do this with less complaining and more glorifying You::

A handful of tips that work for this gal

1. Pray. Before I get out of bed, I like to spend time in prayer, anything from reading the daily readings, to contemplative prayer, praise and thanksgiving. It helps set the day right when I’ve given God His due. 2. Make your bed. This is one of my top three things that must get done each day for me to feel some level of accomplishment. Yours may be different. Identify what you have to accomplish each day and stick to it.

Starting laundry first thing in the morning helps me get the day going in the right direction. Seen here is a small peak at Mt. Washmore.

3. Cleaning schedule. This helps my house run smoothly. About 10 years ago, I decided to give FlyLady a try and after a year or so, I modified her schedule to fit our family. The result is that we have a set laundry schedule {girls on Mondays, me on Tuesdays, boys on Wednesdays, husbie on Thursdays, towels/sheets on Fridays}, set days for certain cleaning tasks that are divided among family members, from bathrooms to bedrooms, vacuuming, mopping and sweeping. 4. Many hands make for light work. Kiddos as young as two can start helping with chores. In my house, I have learned that while yes, I did not marry the house, I am by default simply based on the time I am in the house, that logistically I am in charge of the majority of the home. Thems the breaks. So, it makes sense from a practical and logical standpoint that because I am home, the majority of what goes on in it is left in my charge. That doesn’t mean that I do all the chores, but that I do my part while managing who does what and overseeing, helping, and correcting the chores or projects. 5. Lowered expectations. Your home won’t look like something out of Real Simple unless you don’t do any real living in your home. If you accept that your home will look like people – gasp – live in it most of the time, it will greatly reduce your stress. In our first home I always felt like things needed to be pristine and perfect – something I failed at daily and exacerbated my frustration with the house, the family, myself. I leave you with a quote by a veteran momma that really hit the nail on the head for me.


::DISCLAIMER: Recognizing that each family, marriage, woman is different, this series is intended to give advice and information based on the writer’s personal experience. These are not intended to say that our way is best and that we know what’s best for your family, but rather the point is to share some things that have worked for us. We welcome your ideas in the comments and/or look forward to seeing your posts that highlight things that work in your home. We’re all in this together!::