Notes From There

7.24.09

The Rose Garden at Julia Davis Park in Boise, Idaho. (Egads! They’ve dyed the water blue now!)

“Joy is not in things, it’s in us.”  Richard Wagner (German Composer)

I saved up for months for a big encyclopedia once and remember how anxious I was waiting for it to arrive.  It was as if I’d refused to be satisfied until it came–I was so obsessed.  Well, when the order was cancelled because of being a few cents shy on the money order I was pretty bummed out.  Chow even tasted extra lousy.  Fortunately, though, I happened to see a special on TV asking for fifty dollar donations to give wheelchairs to the legless folks in Africa.  I couldn’t bear my misery any longer.  I ended up sending them my fifty dollars and I skipped the book.  The heavens parted and, believe it or not, my pouting was replace with the joy of doing a good deed.  Which, by the way, I’ve milked ever since inside of myself.

7.27.09

“Never insult an alligator until you’ve crossed the river.”  Cordell Hull (father of the United Nations)

Many times here in prison I’ve held back from telling someone what I thought of them.  And this is especially when doing so could cost me a lot of trouble here.  One example when I failed to hold back, though, was when I got sassy with the parole board at a hearing.  That’s easily the dumbest thing I’ve ever done next to my crime.  It was truly about as dumb as splashing at an alligator while crossing the river.

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Notes From There

7.20.09

A beautiful Memorial Day at Ann Morrison Park, Boise, Idaho.

“People are just about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”  Abraham Lincoln

I knew this one taciturn grumpy type who, at least to me, seemed to almost enjoy being unfriendly.  But then once we got to know each other–and I earned his trust–he let his guard down.  After that he’d let me know when and why he was bummed out by walking the track with me.  Those were the times he’d want someone around who preferred to choose to be happy–rather than someone he could so easily bum out and run off.

7.15.09

“Knowledge is power.”  Sir Francis Bacon

“I think, therefore, I am” is a quote Rene Descartes also said.  And, therefore, it follows that when you think, you gain knowledge and the power to exist.  The other day I was “pulled up” in front of the guys by a TC member who I felt had been looking forward to embarrassing me.  And, at that moment, I must admit I suddenly felt I no longer existed–at least in the others’ eyes.  But when I noticed the smirk on his face and realized he just wanted to get under my skin, I knew if I calmly thanked him it’d really piss him off.  And it did.

7.13.09

“it is not good enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”  Rene Descartes

Before I committed my crime I considered myself a pretty smart and aware guy. Well, we all know where that got me.  Now I cling to the hope that if I can help others realize they’re not as smart and aware as they might think they are then I may finally have used my mind well.

Notes From There

6.25.09

Awesomely cute drawing by my niece, Lisa Jones.

“As far as your self control goes, as far goes your freedom.”  Marie Von Edner-Eschenbach

Mac Bledsoe in Parenting With Dignity says that rules give you freedom.  I agree.  Rules provide a structure whereby you can practice your freedoms and appreciate them. They give responsibility and self-control which allows the trust needed to do bigger and better things.  In prison this is how I get beyond its walls.  More privileges are afforded me; I have more personal space; and, most of all, I’m able to appreciate and enjoy the freedom I do have–instead of being out there always complaining about it.

7.8.09

“When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we don’t see the one which has opened for us.”  Alexander Graham Bell

When the door closed on my life outside with my family all I could do was to stare through that keyhole for the longest time.  But then a door beside that door opened–slapping me up against my backside.  It was the door to the rest of my life.  And there, behind it, was my family waiting for me.

7.9.09

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”. H. Jackson Brown

I try to have good habits because I know they’re the best way to be prepared.   Yesterday I did my very best to get to sleep early–in spite of all the racket all around me.  Then low and behold, I woke up today refreshed and ready to roll–at 3:30 in the morning.

Notes From There

6.22.09

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”  Richard Bach

I remember I used to drive so close to empty my gas gage would sit at the bottom even when there was lots of gas left.  One time I was hurrying to get my daughter to an important appointment when the truck sputtered and died.  As we got out to walk to the nearest bus stop she changed her ten year old mind and refused to leave the truck.  Well, I got back in to try to coax her out, and then finally–exasperated from arguing–tried the starter just to demonstrate that the truck would not go!  And, of course, it started right up.  There was plenty of gas and the motor had just stalled.  And I can still see the big grin that would appear on her face whenever I tried to argue after that.

6.23.09

“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”  Robert Shuler

Aside from trying flying to the moon, or inventing ways to make myself invisible whenever I want–or putting a stop to all the poverty in the world–I think I’d just like to try to help my family have a good life when I leave here.

6.24.09

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.  The last of our freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude.”  Victor Frankel

One of the things that used to irk me about my TC program was that you had to act “as is” to keep your attitude up.  They’d say the only two things we really have any control over is our attitude and effort–and, of course, that a bad attitude just infects others.  Well, I know now that I still have the freedom to have a lousy attitude and respond to everyone lousily–and to enjoy it–or I can make some effort, put on a half way polite face, and try not to bum people out with my lousy mood.  And I prefer the latter.  I think trying to treat others with respect (no matter how I truly feel at the time) is what allows me the ability and freedom to choose my attitude and not let it choose me–by respecting myself for respecting others.

Notes From There

4.19.09

“We are creatures of habit.”

I am a creature of habit.  Due to my bunk spot being in the noisiest area of the unit I usually make up my lack of sleep at night with an afternoon nap.  Today our no-napping rule is being implemented and my body has conveniently retaliated with a chest cold and aches and pains–of course to justify an argument for a nap.  Just amazing how powerful the habit of a nap can be!  When I think of worse habits even more addictive…well, I just want to lie down and take a nap!

4.21.09

“Education is something they can’t take from you.”  A. Bermensolo

A good education is a lucky thing.  After I was laid off at the rail yard, I was able to go to college on a JTPA retraining grant–whereupon I got my degree.  It’s unfortunate that I became incarcerated shortly thereafter, but my education has served me and others well, nevertheless.  Not only am I able to obtain work as a tutor and be a help to the guys, but I’m also treated with a level of respect here, too.  Education has given me safety in a dangerous place, plus it’s made prison a place of study rather than a place of punishment for me.  It’s been like luck they couldn’t take from me.

4.22.09

“You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

I’m not usually a procrastinator, but I do have my weak moments.  Last week our unit received a new rule forbidding any napping during the day.  Naturally my eyeballs continued to evade their responsibility of following this particular rule.  And, try as the rest of me did to catch them at it, the responsibility to obey all the rules continues to hunt my eyeballs down every afternoon–only to be told they’ll try harder tomorrow.