Notes From There

GLBT rally at the Idaho Statehouse, June 16th, 2012


“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Socrates

I know when I get in a funk I don’t want to look at anything but my own misery; I only look at my life through the lens darkly.  I guess that’s what friends are for.  When I finally do notice them, they remind me that it’s a good life when you’ve got friends.  They help me examine my life through different eyes.

Notes From There


“Ruin and recovery are both from within.”  Epictetus

I remember after my motorcycle accident, there I was, hanging by my leg from a stirrup above me in my hospital bed when I came to.  The doctor said it was broken in so many places amputation might be a better idea and, for the next few days I struggled in despair–just about to give in.  But when the thought of being maimed really hit me, I told the doctor I wanted to keep it for sentimental reasons, even if it wouldn’t work.  And plus I hinted I’d crawl out of that hospital if he tried to cut it off!  That was the same stubborness that enabled me to eventually recover the use of it, get back on my horse (i.e. my motorcycle) and to also learn my own value from within.

Notes From There


Photograph from the Library of Congress

“You have no idea how big the other’s troubles are.”  B. C. Forbes

I like to gripe about the rich and powerful because they’re a convenient target.  There’s always some human foible or excess they’re usually guilty of, and I know many are either jealous of their money or struggling economically.  But, since my own father was a banker, I also know there’s quite a bit more to that picture, too. He had a large family to care for, he had a whole community of farmers and homeowners whose debts he was ultimately responsible for–and whose economic fate he often held in his hands.  And, to top it all off, it seemed that everybody–including my young self–was always ready to criticize him or rejoice in his misery.  Now, when I think back on his eventual destruction, I’m reminded of just how closely connected and vulnerable we truly are.  We’re all in this together and we need to remember that.  Thank you so much, Dad.

Notes From There

The Rose Garden at Julia Davis Park, Boise, Idaho. (Actually the fake blue water looks okay…undrinkable…but kinda neat.)


“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I remember back when I quit my flunky sales job at the furniture store to work at my own furniture repair business full time.  It wasn’t an easy decision because there was a lot of security in having steady employment and I had a family to support.  But then after I took that single leap of faith–and a pretty bold move I thought–I never looked back.  Later, the magic was that my former boss not only subcontracted me to do his customer service work, I also got sales commission floor time whenever I minded the store for him.  He now treated me as an equal in the business and, I swear, it was just magical how simply going from employee to being self-employed changed everything.  All because he was now in competition for my time rather than the owner of it.

Notes From There

Photographed by Guy Mills (Natl. Geographic)


“One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”  Chinese Proverb

They say don’t ask dumb questions, don’t rock the boat, it’s all good.  Well, I think that attitude comes from getting so stuck in one’s own trip you forget that other’s have opinions. Whether it’s on the job or in the classroom, I’ve always found it’s bettter to force the question out–even at the risk of a little conflict.  Thus, avoiding the absolute embarassing moment that proves, once and for all time, not only to them but also to yourself, that you, indeed, prefer others sitting on your head!


“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.”  Anton Chekov (Russian playwright and master of the short story)

If I don’t use what I’ve learned, why should I bother to remember anything at all?  My mother would always stop us squabbling kids with, “Christ says to forgive and forget.” Boy howdy, how that last part did hurt!  Most of whatever I did to my brothers was based upon clear memory and pure retaliation.  That was my well of knowledge.  And now this Jesus Christ was kicking my butt with lessons.  Well, as I grew into “Christianity” I finally got the big picture.  I realized I could forget the anger I felt toward Roy and Vern, but that I’d still be able to kick their butts teaching them lessons!

Notes From There

Graffiti is so rare in Boise it successfully offers some artistic diversity here.


“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”  Sven Goran Eriksson

As a boy I remember crawling on my hands and knees to the edge of a very scary diving board.  Why I was even there was on a dare from some smirky brat who wouldn’t leave me alone.  Trembling with fear, I peered over the edge with my skinny arms now wrapped around the board.  Voices were hollering dully from below, but I barely heard them over my prayer to God.  That was the first time I ever dived off a diving board–or should say fell off it.  But then after I realized the landing wasn’t so bad after all, my falls turned to real dives, and my dives to flips and cannonballs.

Notes From There

Dancer With A Bouquet Bowing by Edgar Degas (1877)


“There is often less danger in the things we fear than in the things we desire.”  John Carlton Collins

I remember when I was a young boy walking to school I was constantly on guard for some large bullying dog way-laying me.  And so I was prudent to hide sticks and stones at strategic points along the way just for protection.  But, once at school, there loomed yet an even greater menace: there would always be that same pretty face creeping into my mind trying to waylay me from my studies, too.  To this day I’m not sure which was worse: the danger of getting bit by a big dog or being bit by love and hurt forever after by that doggone LeAnn Gifford!

Notes From There


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.


“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.

Notes From There


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.


“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.


“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


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.


“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.


“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.