Horticulture Update – April 18, 2016

Hey everyone!  I haven’t written in a while so I thought I would give you some updates.  I am absolutely loving Horticulture Class.  Over the last 2 weeks, we have transplanted over 2,000 flowers.  They all look great.  We boosted them today with bloom booster.  Our flower sale is May 10th and 11th.  The petunias I planted are beautiful.  They look great, especially the hanging baskets.  We had 50 but we donated 2 to the volunteer banquet for the raffle.  There are 3 petunia plants in each basket.  The baskets were a huge hit at the banquet.  I have also been doing some cuttings of sage, clerodendran and begonias.  In a couple of weeks when the mist bench isn’t filled with flowers, I am going to do an aloe vera project.  We have a lot of aloa vera plants.  Some of them look terrible, some of them look great.  I am going to throw away the bad and take cuttings of the good and hopefully have a bunch of good looking plants.  I am excited for that project.

Also about 7 weeks ago, I had an orange in the chow hall.  Well, I took 2 seeds/pits and decided I would try planting them.  I didn’t think they would sprout.  But after much research and proper care, I was successful. So I have 2 orange trees growing.  Haha!

Unfortunately, I don’t think they will get big enough to produce fruit, but it is still cool.  That is about all that is going on in class. I have found another passion.  🙂

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2nd Christmas in Prison – Dec 26, 2015

Last year I was “fresh” on my lengthy sentence of 16 years, and Christmas was only 23 days into my approximate 5,840 days.  I couldn’t call anyone.  All I could do was send letters and cards.  I listened to Christmas music every day for the whole month of December.  I thought about the Christmases of past, smiled and cried.  This year was different.  Let me explain my Christmas this year.

The week before Christmas, the prison system got us a huge bag of lots of goodies and on the same day, a KFC Chicken Finger plate / dinner.  Then, that night an excellent Christmas program by the Exodus Church Choir from Hickory, NC.  Then, Christmas week came at the TV schedule was filled with Christmas movies and we had off three days for Christmas break.  Me and 4 other guys made a huge table full of nachos on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning, I drank Hot Chocolate and watched the movie, “A Christmas Story.”  Went outside at 1:00 p.m. and played Ultimate Frisbee in the mud.  Got wet and muddy and had loads of fun.  Came inside, played cards, called my family (highlight of Christmas), then smashed some Oreos, chocolate chip cookies and milk on Christmas night.

However, something was different about this Christmas than last.  I believe it was the people watching and realizations and the struggles that I observed around me.  This year, I was around people that I have been around for almost a year now.  This one simple factor changes everything.  See, when you live, work, eat, sleep, go outside with the same people 24/7, you learn things about them.

You see when they are happy, sad, angry, and so on.  Well, Christmas, which is normally a joyful day, is one of the worst days out of the year for most prisoners.  I am not going to go into depth on the theology of Christmas or the secular traditions; let’s just focus on how Christmas brings families together.  Most prisoners don’t like Christmas because they can’t be with their families.  I understand that and can sympathize with them.  It is hard. I am not going to lie.  There were times when I wanted to cry.  But I found myself opening up my “house” for guests; taking on and listening to others’ struggles, sadness, frustrations at this time of the year.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, “The Wounded Healer,” talks about how we need to, as Christian leaders, face our loneliness, sadness, past and let go of them to make space for others.  We are all Christian leaders by the way.  One of the guys that I shared my Oreos and Chocolate Chip Cookies with was having an absolutely terrible Christmas.

Our block got to use the phone on Christmas.  He told his Mom he was going to call Christmas morning.  When his time slot came, he called everyone in his phone book and no one answered.  You can imagine how having his expectations not met was hard for him.  He became very angry then calmed down a bit.

Then the night shift said that if there was enough time at the end, that he could try.  There was enough time, but then the officers backed out on their word and didn’t let him try, making things worse.  So like the chick in the chick flicks, I brought him a tub of ice cream (in this case a whole bunch of cookies) and we ate our (mainly his) sorrows away.  It was the moment of Christmas where I put “me” aside and focused on him.  Opened my house up for a guest.  It was the moment when I didn’t mention the wonderful phone call I had with my family.  Sometimes we need to… actually most of the time we need to, forget about “me” and focus on others.  Also, the best medicine is love and ears to listen.  You don’t have to give them advice, just listen and love.  It makes a huge difference!

I love you all!

Saturdays – Oct 11, 2015

I have been locked up for 10 months now, and I have never written about Saturday visits.  I have written about my personal visits, but never took the time to describe the emotional impact they have on inmates.  Saturdays can either be a happy or sad day for an inmate.  See, we as a society take time with family very lightly. Now I wouldn’t say that all people are like this.

There are some very tight knit families.  They get together a lot and cherish the time they have together.  In prison, this is different.  We don’t know when we will see our family members, and some of us will never see our families again.  Some inmates’ families disown them, write them off, forget about them; All this for various reasons.  Some times, a lot of times, inmates family members don’t want anything to do with them, because they messed up and are in prison.  Some treat their families poorly so they don’t want to see them.  Those of us that have family support love visits, but they are never long enough….2 hours.

When we have a visit, we are happy, jumping for joy and sad all at one time.  Happy to see them, hug them, but sad to see them go, but still happy.  We cherish every minute we have with our family.  I guess what I’m saying is… Don’t take your family for granted.  Enjoy, cherish every moment you have with them.  Most importantly, don’t hold grudges.  Remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone!

I love you all!

Created to be loved – August 29, 2015

“Jesus looked at him and loved him…”   — Mark 10:21

Last night I was at choir practice and before we practice, we have a Bible study.  The Chaplain was talking about self-consumption and how as humans we all tend to be completely consumed with ourselves.  No one can deny that that is sometimes true.  We all have moments sometimes periods of time, when we are so consumed with ourselves that no one else or nothing else matters to us.  I lived 29 years being completely 100% self consumed.  Now I have bouts of self-consumption, but it doesn’t completely 100% consume me.

Well, in Mark 10:17-31, it talks about the rich man who wants eternal life.  Of course he comes to Jesus with the attitude, “What can you give to me? What can I get from you?”  He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus proceeds to tell him that he must follow all the commandments.  The man replies “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  And in verse 21 it starts out with “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  Now did Jesus look at him and love him because he followed all the commandments?  I don’t think so.  Because Jesus then says “one thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then, come, follow me.”

Now I put emphasis on the part of the verse 21 that says “Jesus looked at him and loved him” because Jesus loves everyone; even if they don’t quite believe or submit themselves completely to God.  Jesus meets everyone on the road they travel.  It is up to that person to give up everything and to follow him.

I am not saying sell everything you have and live homeless. I am saying, let God consume all your thoughts and your heart.  Be submissive to God and live in His presence daily.  This is a hard thing to accomplish!  We may never fully get this until we see him face to face, but it is something to strive for.  God loves you, no matter what.

“Jesus looked at him and LOVED HIM.”

Visit with PA Family – August 16, 2015

Yesterday, my Mom, Mark, Sam and Colin came to visit me from Pennsylvania!  I had a visit in the morning and one in the afternoon!  It was awesome to see them!  It was great to hug them and talk to them in person.

We talked about a lot of things and even got to put a face to the name for my friend, Jason.  Jason, I asked for everyone to pray for him a couple months back.  Well please continue praying for him.  He has really gotten depressed and hardly talks to anyone, sometimes doesn’t show up for chow and doesn’t do any religious activities any more.  So please pray for him.

During the visit, my Mom only cried a couple of times.  2nd visit she was a lot better.  I will have to say that one of the best parts of the visit was talking about the closeness, the deeper, stronger relationships that have come out of this situation.  I never realized how distant I was to my family all over.  From my family in Missouri to my Dad, Step-Mom and sister in Greenville, SC and to my family in Pennsylvania.  We talked about this near the end of the visit.  We have grown closer and stronger over the past year and a half and it is awesome!

I have seen and communicated more with my family in the last year and a half than I did in the 11 years before then.  I realized that I missed out on so much of their lives.  Time I can’t get back.  Memories that were never created.  Now, letting go of all my failures, shortcomings of the past, I must… WE must push on toward the future.

If you have a grudge or feel distant from family, I challenge you to take a step to mend those broken relationships.  Don’t let it go too far, because you may lose relationships forever.  It is hard to mend the wounds, but with God’s help you can.  Trust in Him and He will guide you through the most difficult tines.  Thank you to everyone who has shown love and support to me through this period of my life.

I love you all!

Read Philippians 3: 13-14

First 4th of July in Prison – July 5, 2015

Most prisoners would say “Just another day in prison.”  But I am not every prisoner.  Yes, I am in prison, away from my family, away from the freedom of being able to go wherever I want to go and whenever I want to go.  Yesterday made me realize how nice we have it in America.  We have the opportunity to make choices.  There are some countries where you can’t make choices.  The United States is a very rich country.  Yes, we have poverty, homelessness and starving people, but there are a lot of resources for those people that they can choose to take advantage of.

There are countries where they have millions of starving, homeless people and they don’t have help.  I also realize that even though I am in prison, I have it better than millions of people in this world. I am not saying prison is awesome and full of luxury, because if I said that, I would be lying.  It is prison.  However, we have it made, compared to the starving family that struggles for food even though the parents do work.  Or how about the millions of people all over the world, starving and stricken with disease?  A lot of times we say, “Well, they choose not to work.  They get what they deserve.”  But surely, if one day you lose your job, can’t find another job, get sick and can’t work, and then end up in their shoes, you would wish someone would help you.

I get 3 meals a day, clean water, a shower every day, hygiene products.  I get to work.  I have a bed, blankets and sheets.  I have clean clothes all the time and 99.8% of the time, I don’t feel unsafe.  There are people in this world that can’t say any of that.  There are millions of people in this world that don’t have a choice to be safe.  Their countries are run by some militant terrorist group, and they could be killed at any time.

I know that I am stepping on some toes by saying what I am saying, but I tell you this.  It is time that we, as Christians, and Americans step up and help these people.  Also it is time to be thankful for what we have; thankful for everything.  We have to stop taking things for granted.

As I ate my hot dog and hamburger, loaded with chili, cole slaw, ketchup, mustard, and mayo with a side of baked beans, green beans and a chocolate cookie for dessert, I thanked God for the food and realized that I need to be more of a blessing to those starving.  I can’t help but think of the starving when I eat anymore.  Yes, I got to watch fireworks on TV, but is the 4th of July about fireworks?…. Is Christmas about Santa Claus?  Is Easter about the Easter Bunny?  So ask yourself this question.  What is the 4th of July really about?”

Mother’s Day – May 10, 2015

Today is the day we honor our mothers.  I was in church today and heard one of the most powerful sermons about mothers.  The Chaplain pointed out how mothers do so much, sacrifice so much and we often don’t show our appreciation.  A lot of times we don’t tell them “I love you” enough.  The Chaplain also said that no one is guaranteed tomorrow.  So always tell people you love them, especially your parents.  Mothers are often there through thick and thin and it takes a lot for a mother to disappear from your life.

My Mom has told me many times that there were times when she didn’t like me, she was scared of me, disappointed in me, and the list goes on.  For 30 years, I was not the greatest son.  I cussed her out, argued with her, told her I hated her, talked bad about her to others and much more.

Even though my Mom didn’t like me, she always loved me. She still showed up to important events, she was supportive and showed me an immense amount of love.  Even though at times, I didn’t deserve it.  Even though I treated her poorly, she still bragged and told people about my accomplishments and was proud.  She has always told me she was proud of me and loved me.  She worried about me and tried to help me even though I never listened.

At this current moment, I am serving a 16 year sentence in prison for some bad choices I made.  This hurt a lot of people, including my mother.  She was disappointed, shocked, scared, worried and angry.  Now my Mom worries about my safety a lot, and I caused this pain.

Even though she experienced these emotions, she still supports me and loves me.  She still shows up to visit me, answers the phone, and writes me many letters.

Over the past 30 years, my Mom tried to teach me valuable lessons, but I didn’t listen.  It wasn’t until I was hit with a tragedy that I started to learn, listen and change.

I turned my life over to God.  My Mom and I have a great relationship now.  Better than it has ever been.  I know now that just like I honor God, I need to genuinely honor my Mother.

If you’ve never had a strong mother figure, most likely you had a surrogate mother.  Like a Step-mother, grandmother, aunt, family friend or cousin.  I am blessed with an awesome step-mother who loved me as her own.  She still shows up, supports me and loves me.  I have also been blessed with many loving grandmothers, aunts, church Moms and cousins.  They have all still been there for me.  Even though I messed up bad, they still show up, support me and love me.

So I say this in closing… You can never say “I love you” too much.  Tell your Mothers “I love you!” and thank them for everything they have done for you.

To my mother and surrogate mothers,   “Thank you for everything you have done for me.  Thank you for showing up, and I love you!”

Love,

Eddie

Note from Eddie’s Mom:  I typed this verbatim.  Reading it hurt.  But every single thing Eddie wrote is true. If it’s one thing I can say about my son.  He’s honest and he’s true to himself.  And he’s not the person he was before this tragedy.  I love this new Eddie with everything I have in me.  And I have never, ever been more proud of him.