Time for Recess!


“Five more minutes,” I thought to myself. The countdown has begun. I eagerly await the excitement that will enthrall my body in just minutes. The clock can’t go fast enough. My feet are getting jittery and I can’t sit still. Only three more minutes to go now. My mind is starting to wander, and I can’t keep to the task I’m supposed to be doing. My eyes are glued to the clock. The second hand seems to putter along at an alarmingly slow rate.

Finally, there are less than 60 seconds remaining. All the other eyes around me are also glued to the clock. I look around and notice the grins on everyone’s faces. Only fifteen more seconds to go. In my head I silently give the countdown. 15…14……….10…9………5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The bell rings. All students jump out of our chairs and race for the door, squealing in delight. It’s recess time!

Remember those days? In my opinion, it was by far the best time during the school day, especially when it was nice out and the teachers extended recess for a few extra minutes. Kickballs would be flying, footballs tossed, soccer balls kicked, and baseballs hit. In Middle School, the ten or so boys we had in our small class would always find a new sport to play every few months. In 8th grade, the sports usually coincided with what professional sport was being played at the time. Football during the fall; basketball during the winter; homerun derby in the spring.

In elementary school an ample amount of kickball would be played. And every once in a while the class of boys right below us would challenge us to a soccer game or even a street hockey game. Unfortunately, the time would fly by. Those fifteen minutes were never long enough. The only thing that kept us inside during recess time was the rain. The cold temperatures hardly ever played a factor. We would just bundle up and continue where we left off the day before.

Recess never seemed to get old. It was just a great way to get out of the classroom and release some energy. Even when I was a teaching, especially when I was teaching, going outside after lunch to get some fresh air and to play football with the kids was a great relaxing feeling. To me, it helped finish out the day on a strong note.

In prison we have recess, too. It’s not actually called recess. It is called ten-minute moves. Every 50 minutes there are moves on the compound to get where you want to go before being locked in for the next hour. The other workers and I in the education department take full advantage of the moves to go outside and walk around before the move closes. I started saying, “It’s recess time” a while back, and everyone pretty much caught on to it. Unfortunately, there are no opportunities to throw a ball around or to re-enact what we used to do as kids. But it is a much needed time to get away from the mundane schedule and to step away from the other inmates, if only for ten minutes. It sometimes gives you that burst of energy to get you through the next hour. And then when the ten minutes are up, I say to everyone with a chuckle, “Recess is over. It’s time to go in.”

Just another look into what goes on behind the razor wire!


Reading Time

booksBefore entering prison, I wasn’t much of a reader. I seldom ever picked up a book to read. I basically read when I was forced to read for an assignment of some sort. Of course, I read articles on the internet, but actually holding a book in my hand was a different story.

The summer before my senior year in college, my family and I took a vacation to the Gulf Shores in Alabama. One day while we were all outside on the beach soaking in the sun, my three siblings and parents were all sitting in their beach chairs reading a book. I was just sitting there starting out into the ocean. It was quite comical to see and they still talk about me, the teacher, not reading!

Thankfully, my teaching job did not require me to read a lot. I guess that is why I majored in physical education. At the time, I would much rather be doing something active rather than reading.

When I got arrested in 2012 and was able to live at home with my parents for a year, my Mom would pass on spiritual and uplifting books to me. Before going to bed every night, I would read a quick devotional, read a few chapters from the Bible, and read a chapter or two in a book. Let’s just say my reading time has exploded from that moment on!

When I got incarcerated in March of 2013 and was in county jail for my first eleven months, basically all I did was read. That was pretty much all there was to do, unless you enjoyed watching reruns of Jerry Springer, television shows about jail, or soap operas, or loved to slam cards on the table while playing spades, talking trash, and screaming obscenities at your opponents. (now that’s a whole other story)

Most of the time I just lay on my bed and read. I can still remember the very first book I ever read while locked up……it was Stephanie Meyer’s second book of the Twilight Series. The first book of the series was nowhere to be found. But I eventually finished the entire series a few months later. I would say I finished a book every three to four days, and read nearly one hundred books while in county jail.

Since coming to federal prison my reading has slowed somewhat with all the other activities I participate in and do. But I still do read about a book a week, sometimes less. I’m really not too picky on the types of books I read, either……from non-fiction to mystery to classics to Christian, and every once in a while I’ll read a sci-fi/fantasy book. I feel that if someone takes the time to send me a book, I will always take the time to read it, no matter what kind it is. And yes, I have gutted through some tough books! By the way, if you mail a soft cover book to prison, it can come directly from you the sender. But if you want to send a hard back book, it must come from a publisher. No matter which kind it is, the package is always opened in the mail room and just the books are given to the inmate. Unless there is a note in the book or something written on the inside somewhere, I have no idea who sent me the book. That’s just the way things are done. It’s always good to write a letter or note and tell me what book you sent!

All in all, I’ve read around 400 books in over four years, well over the amount of books I’ve read my entire lifetime. After reading a book I usually pass on to someone else or donate to the library since my storage space is limited. Overall, I do enjoy reading. It just took me 33 years to figure that out. The best times for me to read is at 5:30 in the morning when hardly anyone is up and I’m doing my quiet time with God, and in the evening right before going to sleep and the unit is gradually starting to get quiet. Reading has definitely improved my vocabulary, comprehension, crossword puzzle skills, and most importantly my faith life. I can’t wait until one day I can finally sit next to a fire again when it is snowing outside and read a book in peace and quiet. That will be a perfect day. Once again, it took a prison experience for me to find something new I enjoy.

P.S. I just received two books: Enders Game by Scott Orson Card and Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett. Please let me know it was you so I can thank you!