Sunday, April 25, 2010

#157 How do I get started (retro)

How do I get started?

This is a question that I think a whole lot of you ask yourselves as you read my blogs. I always try to encourage readers to email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com, because it is my desire to help you if I can. But many of you may still be apprehensive about it, and just read, hoping to get an answer.

Well, this blog today is about what you can do to start on the road to finding hope and coping with a loved one in prison. We’ll talk more in a sec.

I want to continue to thank those of you who have supported my blogs, and go out of your way to either email me, or purchase my prison books, cards and other items, or simply by sending me a gift. I will never be able to say enough how much I thank you, because it is a strong support in what I am trying to do.

Now, let me talk to those of you who have never emailed me before, and those of you new to my blogs. This blog is directed at you, to try to help you find hope, and how to do it.

And it is timely to write this now, because the most stressful times for a loved one with someone in prison is either at the very beginning of the sentence (incarceration) or during family-oriented holidays like Christmas. So right now, there are thousands and thousands of people right now going through some very tough times.

How many of you have a son in prison right now?

How many of you have a boyfriend in prison right now?

How many of you have a husband in prison right now?

How many of you have a brother in prison right now?

How many of you have SOMEONE you love in prison right now?

I can imagine how some of you feel, and especially now, when other “normal” families are enjoying the Christmas season, you don’t feel so “celebratory”. To some, this is a magical time of year, but to you, it’s a hell. It just isn’t the same with your loved one in prison, and you are worried sick.

Well, I know the pattern of many folks. They cry and cry and cry, then they pray and cry, and cry, and pray, and cry, and worry. Then they’ll mix it up a bit, like a Christmas FruitCake; they’ll worry and cry and pray and cry and worry and cry and pray and worry….

And then they will try to find some help. This is when many of you go online and start “googling” info about prison. But ask yourself, why are you doing that? Why are you looking online for answers? Simple. Because you have questions. You have questions about what prison might be like, because there is so little intel about prison, except what you see on television, and that scares you.

So you are looking for help, you are looking for answers, and you find a few sites, and among them, you come across some idiot named “Nolaw97” and some prison blog…

Why would somebody name themselves “no law”? It sounds stupid. Somebody like that probably glorifies prison, or believes in anarchy.

But you find my blog, and maybe you read one post…maybe two. At the same time, some of you probably found some prison support sites, and ran across some posts written by either Nolaw97 or masonik4 (who, incidentally are the same). Some of you may have looked for this person’s blog, and came here.

To the Prison Cell.

But now that you are here, there must be a goal in mind that you have for reading my blogs. If 100 people are reading this blog at this very second, only about 1% would be reading it for “entertainment value”…the other 99% read because they are looking for answers, and hoping that I can give that to them.

But because the prison genre is so vast, I cannot possibly answer a question if the question was never asked. How can I know that you need me to explain the grievance procedure, or how canteen works, or what kind of prison jobs there are if you don’t ask?

This is the first step folks, of trying to find hope… you ASK questions. Now, I am relating this to my blog, and to first-time or new readers, or to those who have questions but never ask. Until you make that first step, you may continue to be just as scared and worried about your loved one in prison as the day he first went in.

This is critical because asking is a form of taking direction, and taking a stand against a problem. I don’t want to have you ignorant of what prison life is about, because if you are ignorant to it, you are also in bondage to it. So many parents, or wives or girlfriends are so afraid of what may happen to a loved one that it can cripple their lives. People get sick and go the hospital worried about an inmate. I have gotten emails from very, VERY worried mothers that just were scared for the life of their son. I have gotten emails from girlfriends and wives that were very concerned about their loved ones. Many of them are near panic because they just don’t know what prison is about, and how it will affect their loved one.

If you are reading this blog, then these words apply directly to you…ASK. I never promise to know it all, but I am more than willing to blog out my experiences if it will help you understand what prison is about. My hope is to put you at ease, so you can begin to find some faith in a very troubled time.

So how do you go about it? Simple. You start by thinking about what you want me to talk about. I mean, think for a sec. What do you worry about with your loved one in prison? What has he mentioned that you don’t quite understand? What have you read on other sites that you didn’t understand? If it bothers you, then it is a concern. If it is a concern, then why bother giving place to an issue that you could have solved.

Let me give you an example:

A mother in Texas has a son in prison, and he has been in for only 4 months. The mom is worried sick about her baby and has only heard only negative things about prison. She has nobody to talk to about it and goes online and manages to find my blog. After reading like 20 of my blogs, she finally gets the courage to email me and ask a question.

So the emails me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com, after understanding that I write it that way because it helps prevent spam crawlers from loading my email with crap. Once she does that, she asks a question:

“Are showers safe in prison”?

In her email to me, she introduces herself and talks to me a moment about my blogs and how much she read of them, and my open invitation to ask a question. I read her email and I will do one of three things: ONE I will email her back with an answer, TWO, I will write a blog about that subject, or THREE, I will do both.

But by answering that question, I could easily be answering several people’s question. No doubt that mom in Texas isn’t the only one worried about showers in prison. But once I get the email, I try to answer it as best I can, not as some do, in a simple paragraph or so, but more extensive, to give you every angle I can think of.

See, the more I can say, the more you may be put at ease. The more I can explain the situation, the more we can push out that fear you may have by not knowing. That is my hope for you, that the more I can explain things, the more confident you can be in believing that you son or loved one can be ok, and from THERE is where we can start building some hope and faith.

“But hope and faith is the same”

No it isn’t

Scriptures say that faith is the substance of things HOPED for, meaning these are indeed two different elements. Lots of people get it mixed up in that what you hope for is the same as having faith…no it is not.

So that mom in Texas will likely get an email and maybe a blog from me, because the moment someone asks me for help, I have to try my best to help… otherwise I would say on this blog, “don’t email me for anything”.

So your first step is to ask, and you do that simply by sending me an email. And I do not require any private info. What I mean by that is, you don’t have to tell me your name, your loved one’s name, the prison he is in, or anything like that. I don’t want to yank you out of the comfort zone that is the internet. But if you want me to talk about prison matters that bother you, tell me what you are thinking or how you feel.

It’s not important to know the name of the prison he is in, because come on folks, it’s not like I have been in every prison in the country. I have only been in like 6 different prisons, all in NC, so for example if a person has a loved one that is in Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, for example, I can talk from direct experience from that, since I have been there. But there are almost 100 prisons in NC alone, I am not familiar with all of them.

So, how many of you understand now that if you want to get through this, as far as reading my blogs, you’re likely gonna have to ask a few questions. You know what it’s like, it’s like school. How many of you sat in class while the teacher was teaching, and wanted to ask questions, but were afraid to do so? Sometimes the teacher can tell that the class wasn’t “getting it” and tried to encourage the students to ask by saying,

“If you don’t understand, let me know, because this will be on the test”

And nobody raises their hand, so the teacher keeps going. And on that test day, that very same question was on the test, and half the class missed it. The opportunity to learn was there all the time, but they refused it.

I implore you guys, don’t do that. The way you spend your life with a loved one in prison rides heavily on how YOU are able to make it. So ask me about some things, I say again, I cannot answer everything about prison, but I can talk about a lot of things.

Now, after you have asked, then you have to stay encouraged. This is very critical because every day you live with a loved one in prison is going to be a challenge. It is far, far easier to just give up and give in and write posts like “please help me, my son is in prison”, or “I can’t take it anymore” or desperate posts like that.

One you take that first step, we can work together to try to keep you in a positive light, in a hopeful road, so that you can get control of your life again, and believe that your loved one will be ok. I say this to you because I have been through that, and here I sit, typing about having faith with a loved one in prison. If I have never been in prison, then I may not be able to speak from direct experiences. If I have never doubted God, then I could not tell you what it is like to fall down on faith. If I have never had any troubles after prison, I could not tell you how difficult it can be to try to get your life back.

But I have been there.

I have fallen many times, sometimes right on my face, but managed to get back up. You’ve read my blogs and likely read some of the ones where I was losing faith. You also read ones where I got it back, thanks to support from readers who tell me how much these blogs have helped them.

So this blog is open to you, it is your move. How you get through this Christmas season, or through the next 2 Christmas seasons, is on you. If you have never emailed me before, why not now?

Maybe I can help.

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