Woohoo! I sent the last of my Christmas letters today. I have had them all done for the past week but a few had to wait for confirmation that people’s addresses hadn’t changed. So far I’ve received emails or letters in response and it seems like people have enjoyed the Christmas origami. *smile*

To quote Clarence from the end of It’s A Wonderful Life: “No man is a failure who has friends.” By that measure I consider myself a VERY lucky success. *big smile*

Mom and dad visited this morning. McKarious couldn’t come for a second week in a row. He was sick last week and I’m grateful he didn’t risk bringing the flu into the institution and this week he had to work so I won’t hold that against him but I do miss getting to see his smile. He hadn’t been over to my parents’ home in a couple of weeks either and mom said she was missing him. I love that my parents are so supportive of my relationship with McK and that they genuinely like him so much. I think he’s a keeper… if he’ll keep me. *chuckle*

I hope he’ll come with my parents next weekend as a Christmas gift to me. I suggested to my parents that they come on Saturday evening rather than Sunday morning because Sunday is Christmas eve and will probably be really busy. I’d rather have it less crowded and quieter so dad can hear me rather than have a visit specifically on Christmas eve. NDCS even allows for an extra visit on holidays so there is visiting on Mon. Christmas Day. I don’t need a visit on Christmas though so I suggested to my mom that if she weren’t planning anything they should volunteer at the city mission. She had already been thinking about it (great minds think alike *grin*). Since McK doesn’t like to celebrate holidays, when I talked to him on the phone I suggested that he might volunteer too and he seemed to be open to the idea but he didn’t have a way to get there. So I told mom that if she and dad were going they should ask McK to go with them. Maybe it’s a start of a new family Christmas tradition. I know that if McK and I have a kid I would want to make sure she understood the need to give back to and help the community at large so volunteering at the mission on holidays would be a great family tradition to have. *smile*

Today mom and dad picked up the last of the Christmas origami that all of us in F gallery made for the mission residents. She should drop them off sometime this week with a letter explaining they are a gift from us. I hope they enjoy them. *smile* I think I’ll make this a regular thing each year. It’s something we can do from in here to try to help the community out there. Unfortunately, the TSCI admin. didn’t want to promote us doing it as they wouldn’t let me post a sign about the origami for the mission on our bulletin board. *sigh*

At least there’s some administrative good news; they have been increasing the availability of programs here in PC at TSCI. They added the VRP (violence reduction program) earlier this year and starting next year they’ll be offering oHelp (the outpatient sex offender program) here too. That’s all fine and good but the backlog of people awaiting a screening to determine what programming they must complete before they can be paroled is still increasing, at least for sex offenders it is. That will be the subject of my next letter to the state senators, et al.

I haven’t heard back from the housing unit admin about my willingness to be F gallery’s inmate council representative. I would find it very interesting to get a closer look at how the admin here interacts with inmates expressing concerns and making requests. It’s a natural fit for someone who wants to be an activist from within though the Inspector General’s report makes it sound like TSCI’s admin is particularly dismissive of the inmate council. I’d be very happy to add my rhetorical skills to our cause. *grin*

I still haven’t heard back on my grievance over the admin’s use of collective punishment. Nor have I heard anything about my restarted grievance over not being screened in time. I think they are just expecting them to be dropped if they don’t respond. Well, I keep a calendar of when I submit such things so I know when their response window is up and I can move on to the next level with the grievance. I don’t expect anything to come of the screening grievance but it is necessary to exhaust all administrative remedies before going to court. Black and McKenzy in A/B gallery have already finished the whole process and their grievances were both dismissed merely because they raised multiple supporting arguments for why they should have already been screened. It’s clear that NDCS is avoiding the issue rather than answering it.

As for the collective punishment grievance, I think they will dismiss it claiming that the issue I raised was resolved with the return of the microwave. Unfortunately (for them), that wasn’t the issue I raised, it was merely the most recent example of their (mis)use of collective punishment. It’s a matter of institutional culture and will be particularly hard to get them to acknowledge as being wrong because of that but I believe that institutional culture is also part of the cause of the violence problem here at TSCI. Perhaps it should be the topic of a later letter to the legislature, after the screening issue. As the Ombudsman agrees with my concern over the increased risk of violence due to collective punishment but he was unable to offer any solution, I guess the natural next step is the legislature. Hmmm, too many letters might make them see me as some kind of crack-pot and cause them to disregard my concerns though. Don’t rush; take the long view. I can always document issue over years and raise them over time. Incarceration is a great teacher of patience. LOL!

I have put in another hobby order for art supplies. I ordered more origami paper of course but I also ordered some beading supplies. I realized that origami was a great art form for me to practice because it is linear and meticulous. It requires spacial skills but not visualization skills like drawing or painting, at least not until you start designing your own origami projects. Even then I think it is more spacial and geometric than visual. Beading is similar in that it is linear and meticulous though it will require more visual creativity if I ever start using a loom to make beaded designs. For now I’ll start with simple jewelry though. something pretty as a Valentine’s Day gift for McK to wear. *smile* (I wonder if he’ll read this and I just spoiled the surprise. LOL!) I’ve also realized that the origami “wreath,” which collapses into a star, looks really nice in rainbow colors so I think I’ll make a bunch of them to send to gay friends for Pride this summer. I’ve got to plan these hobby/crafts/arts projects way ahead of time in order to get the supplies and make them in time for when I want them. See? I’m learning long-range planning skills. Haha!

Oh, my mustache and beard are getting longer and longer. Mom seems to think they are getting too wild but I want to see if I can train the mustache to not lie in my mouth (especially while eating *yuk*) and I want to see what shape my beard takes on. My mustache is just about long enough that I can start twisting it to train it to lie to the sides though I end up feeling like some villain in an old silent film when I do it. *muahahaha* I’m going to have a newer pic taken next weekend to be able to compare and see any change. It’s funny that I’m growing mine out at the same time that Black, my friend in A/B, has trimmed his. He had quite a lengthy beard since D&E but trimmed it to make a holiday video for his son that NDCS allows. He didn’t want to scare his kid. *chuckle*

This past Thursday we had our Toastmasters’ meeting after missing the last one in November. Black was the grammarian for this meeting and I was looking forward to it because he was an editor and teacher on the outside. I figured he would be as thorough as I had been. We were a bit rushed at the end of our meeting so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he gave everyone a pass and made only 1 correction. That one correction was of himself. He had said “lay” when he meant “lie” and I had been the one to correct him. I enjoyed the irony of it all but unfortunately it cemented my reputation as a grammar-nazi and now I’m the only one. *sigh* I think he did that on purpose. Ha!

At the next TM meeting, the Thursday after Christmas, I will be giving my 3rd speech. According to TM guidelines this speech is supposed to focus on a clear and specific purpose. My speech’s title will be How to Escape Prison…and the purpose will be to get people to practice gratitude to improve their outlook. *smile* They can only imprison your body, not your mind. Your mental state is under your control and depends on what you choose to focus on. After I explain the benefits of gratitude and give some things I’m grateful for I plan on having everyone list 3 things they are grateful for with specific examples and then calling on a few guys to share theirs. Cheesy, I know, but given the upbeat atmosphere at most of our meetings I think it will go over well. *cross my fingers*