Things have been going fairly well, with the program work humming along, life in the dorm tolerable, and as I get used to this new normal, life inside corrections passes fairly quickly and easily. It is difficult to explain that last idea, as being in here is not my number one thing to do, but it is showing me so many things I need to work on, namely myself and making the time pass. It used to seem to drag until I got into the ISOP.

The work continually humbles me, showing me what a prideful man I am and was when I committed my IO. No hiding that fact. I was thinking only about me and my well being, not looking at the big picture of my life and family, least of all my Maker. Here, I have not only the time to do that looking, but help in doing so by way of the counselors. The homework assigned as well as that we cover in class points us to answers for a better me. All I need to do is continue to train in such a way as to put others before me. After all, that is just what Jesus lived and taught and wants us to do as well, hence the acronym JOY – Jesus, Others, Yourself. Oh that others in here might do the same, but then that is their problem, though it affects me with their shenanigans.

Fortunately I was moved not too long ago to a four man room down the end of the hallway. It is great as no one just walks down here (usually) because there is no exit past our room, so they have to have a reason to venture down here making our room a bit safer, and hence, us. My roomies are pretty low key guys, no drama, with one going home next month. I enjoy conversations with a couple of them, though it is usually surface type discussions, nothing too deep. I’ve tried to bring up my beliefs and feelings about finding hope in Jesus as a guiding light in my life, but they seem to echo many others in telling me they are happy it works for me, but it isn’t for them. I later think I need to tell them I didn’t work with an ‘it’ but rather a who, Jesus, and maybe that would help them if they tried that instead of an it. But they wave me off before I can get any traction, so for now I let it slide. At least they know where I stand and aren’t sneaking up on me at night or causing any problems by day.

The league basketball is over for me right now, and we are actually getting ready for a ISOP tournament where dorms play other ISOP dorms for the ‘delight’ of all program guys. It is a mandatory event, something that is supposed to foster team building and camaraderie amongst all, hence all must participate in some way, on the court or in the stands. My league play kept me in great shape for this, as most of the other guys are a bit lacking in physical endurance. Fortunately we have numbers on our side, many guys. We have had practice a little during evening rec, but some chose not to do so as they would rather go to the yard where they can smoke than give that up to practice. I don’t hold much hope unless the other dorms face the same dilemma. Time will tell as we have till the middle of next week to form a cohesive unit. Unfortunately I am the tallest, so that makes me their center.

I do not mind playing that position, but that usually means you play with your back to the basket. I spent a great deal of time in high school, college and after perfecting facing the basket moves, but after a little practice it comes back. I had to do both on my league team, as the center we had often was in foul trouble. That team had played together at least two years and had never made the playoffs before I showed up, so all of us were pleased to make it to the semi-finals. I was surprised, by that time in the schedule, to find so many who were still out of shape. Of course the most common suspect was smoking. I have always prided myself on endurance and was rewarded with usually playing the whole 40 minutes, often because no one else was willing to go hard, or couldn’t, for the entire game. Regardless, we all seemed to part friends despite our religious differences.

So now I use my evening time for recreational basketball, working out, or attending my Bible studies. My days are filled with program work, my evenings are filled with those activities, so time seems to fly by quickly, with Friday coming too quickly. I say that because it seems to drag on the weekend, mainly because of no schedule. That is why I dislike weekends, quite the opposite of being on the outside I must say.

Unless I know I will have a visit, I have nothing to look forward to and often spend Saturday afternoon in the yard walking the dirt track mindlessly thinking of things to mentally escape. A couple of times on either weekend day I have been called to the yard CO shack to be notified I have a visit. Those are the surprise ones, friends I didn’t know were going to bless me, as I usually know when my wife or brother are coming and hang around in the dorm. Sundays after church is also a drag, even more so as most do not like to go out Sunday evening, probably because they want to rest up for Monday. With over 1200 guys here you’d think someone would want to do something besides watch television or smoke in the yard. Guess the latter is why I can stock up on good food and treats from the mess hall.

I still trade rollies for food, usually the rare fruit – apples, oranges or bananas, heck even prunes though most guys give me all of those I want for free – and even the ¼ chicken we get on occasion, usually twice a month. I also try to trade with guys getting packages, as when their own smokes run out I am a good source for their addiction and they are more than willing to trade away even a coffee cake or chocolate dixie cup of ice cream to satisfy their needs. After all, I am still trying to gain back some of the 25 pounds I  lost since first arriving.

I must say also, my spiritual work has helped my mental state a great deal. I now have that hope in Christ that offers eternal life in Him, far more than the freedom on earth provides. Sometimes, when in repose, I think about my new beliefs and scriptures will pop in my head, usually relaxing me and helping me know He is with me, such a wonderful feeling I must say. To think I am on the right path makes it all the more rewarding, and also helps the time go by as I work toward that payday of parole release next year. It is also quite humbling,something I need, to know the Maker of heaven and earth not only thinks of me, but forgives me even when I cannot.

While my wife is non-committal on everything right now, I think it is partly because we do not know what will really happen next spring and can only hope. I know what I would like to happen and know it will take a good deal of work on both our parts to put our marriage back together again. Rebuilding that broken trust will take time, the same time that is flying by now, and a continued effort to remain on His straight and narrow path. As the Scriptures say in Matthew 7 v 13-14, …”..for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” My goal is clear, to stay on His path.

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