20 October 2022

An Era Ends…

I sent this a couple of weeks ago to everyone I work for/with at the pen, and also some friends, so I thought I would update my SleuthSayers family as well:

"Dear Friends,

"This is a difficult letter to write. Due to my increasing arthritis* and the physical therapy that requires, as well as Allan’s multiple health issues, I’ve decided that I can no longer perform my volunteer activities at the penitentiary. My last date with the Lifers’ Group will be Saturday, November 5th.

"Barring a miracle of recovery, I will no longer be doing AVP. Nor can I continue with the Lifers’ Group. Both of these have been fantastic, nurturing, vital experiences for me for 12 years, and I will miss them. I will continue to be on the AVP Board and, given better health come warm weather, would be interested in helping to expand AVP into the community."

*I'm having a major flare-up in my neck which is, of course, influencing the rest of my spine. Damn it.  But let's hear it for acupuncture, cortisone shots, physical therapy, and massage!

What I didn't mention in the email is that there have been a host of significant changes to what volunteers can and can't do at the prison, and more are coming. We can no longer visit inmates at an inmate's workplace, to either drop something off, or tell him something important. No more. Not allowed. It used to be fairly normal to stop by the cell hall, especially if an inmate had been sick or returned from hospital, and visit with them. No more. Not allowed. Not even for pastors. And that's just the surface.

Basically, all volunteers are questioning what the changes in policies and rules – which are by no means complete - will mean to their ability to actually do what they're volunteering to do. Or if they'll be able to come in at all.

So, now what?

Well, I had to retire from teaching 12 years ago because of a major arthritis flare-up. It was my first, truly hideous and painful, and I was in fear that I would be incapacitated for life. Since then, I've learned the hard way that physical therapy really does work if you actually do the exercises, along with patience, hope, perseverance, and a significant amount of pain-killers. (Still waiting on that medical marijuana that's legal in this state to actually get out to the masses…) So, with this new major arthritis flare-up, I'm getting on with my physical therapy and trying out all sorts of new ways to do things from sleep position to typing these words. I'm good at grim determination once I've been convinced that whatever I'm grimly determined about has a chance of working.

I've also learned, give yourself time to mourn. When something you loved with all your heart is gone, you're going to miss it. I missed teaching, and the students. Never missed the administration - especially the bean counters - for one minute. I already know it will be the same with the pen. I'll miss the inmates very much.

I've also learned to not go looking for the next project, job, whatever. Every time I've ever done that - and I did it a lot back in 2009-2010 - it didn't work. The real deal will find you, as long as you stay open to what comes. That's how I ended up at the pen in the first place. Allan and I were doing Quaker meditation once a week, and one of the leaders asked me if I'd like to do an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in prison one weekend. So I said "Sure," not having any idea that it would lead to 12 years of volunteering in prison.

The main thing is to always remember that what you're doing today may not be what you will be doing or be able to do tomorrow. The mind changes (hopefully), the body certainly changes, and God knows life changes. (Heads up, everyone who back in 2019 had a world-wide pandemic on their next year's probability card! Yeah, me neither.) 

Meanwhile, we could all do worse than loll like a seal for a while: 

Shamelessly stolen from Heather Cox Richardson's blogpost © 2022

And then get writing. I've got a lot of stories to tell. 

Also, BSP:

Happy to say my story, "The Closing of the Lodge" is in this issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine! Along with fellow SleuthSayers, Janice Law, O'Neil De Noux, Leigh Lundin,  and Mark Thielman, whose stories are in it, too. Can't wait to get my copy and read them all!


  1. I sincerely wish that the health situation for both you and your husband improve and that the next chapter in your life be as rewarding as the past eleven years have been.

  2. I am very sorry to hear about the arthritis. You will miss your volunteer work and the inmates will surely miss you.
    You mentioned medical marijuana. One of my cousins had very good results with hemp cream for arthritis. More drastic, but it worked for my husband, was giving up meat, which indeed causes inflammation. Best of luck with getting the latest flareup under control.

  3. I keep forgetting to click on the comment as- Janice

  4. I'm sorry you're going through this, Eve. I had arthritis before I had my hip replaced. It is no fun. And I'm sorry you've had to curtail the activities that you love. I hope something good comes along to fill this hole in your life. In the meanwhile, there are always books. More than you could ever possibly read. Books books books!

  5. Your absence will surely leave a hole in the AVP. Celebrate the time and effort you did put in. I'm sure the inmates appreciated it.

  6. Thank you, all of you. Yes, more stories and blog posts are coming. One of them will be coming out in Josh Pachter's "Paranoia Blues", which is set in prison...

  7. Great job Eve, as usual. The inmates love you and will certainly miss you. I totally understand the situation and I only volunteered at the pen for ten years. I enjoyed working with you as a facilitator. As you know I have arthritis in my lower back & spine. I can't take the hard chairs and the steep steps. I already miss the inmates as I also miss some of the students at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota. Perhaps we might even spend some more time together. I love you.

  8. The prisoners appeared to share a mutual affection, and it's probably not easy to find serious volunteers. They were fortunate to have had you. At the same time, I'm sorry about the health flareups.

    I have my copy of AHMM at my elbow, but since the hurricanes, I've been running behind. Off to read!


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