Week 10 – Taft C.I.

“A day in the live of…”

I awake to my alarm at 4:45am. Still have asleep, I rush to the bathroom before the 5am count.

“Count clear”, the CO shouts. Everyone is accounted for. I bounce up, make my bed, go brush my teeth with the rest of the herd of early risers. Head back to my cell, grab my water bottle, my bag and then go wait at the door for the 6am morning movement to be called.

The atmosphere in the mornings is quiet and peaceful. There are a handful of people heading to the yard to workout, couple people going to work and then you have the odd new guy who is still adjusting, aimlessly roaming around. More than likely, contemplating were it all went so wrong that he landed up here.

Everyone is anxiously waiting for the CO to call-” Yard movement”.
It reminds me of horses in a starting gate. The CO shouts – ” Yard “. The doors fly open and everyone rushes out.

All the units are let out at the same time for the morning, “Yard call”, so the race is on to get to the REC and claim your spot on one of the cardio machines.

My preferred morning workout consists of 45 minutes on the cardio machines coupled together with 45 minutes of Push-ups, burps and abs.

Then its time to walk the track for 20 minutes, meditation on everything that I am thankful for. That list has grown exponentially.

My preference is to skip breakfast except on Fridays and weekends. Mornings are so peaceful, I just don’t see the value in substituting my morning serenity for the chaos of the Chow Hall.

I prefer to head back before the compound is locked down, grab a shower, eat some oatmeal with peanut butter and enjoy my morning coffee.

My job is weekends only, Friday through Sunday, which gives me a lot of time to dedicate to my self-studies.

My mornings are spent studying Spanish as well as a variety of books on specific skill sets that I want to learn or to further fine-tune my existing skills.

It is my desire not to allow this time to be wasted. Therefore I ensure that my days are structured around productive activities.

Everyone chooses to do their time differently. Some people try desperately to sleep their time away, some people are workout fanatics, they are constantly working out when in the yard, in their cells basically where ever the opportunity allows them too.
Other people choose to live in the library, consuming themselves in books.
Then there are those people that spend every minute working on their legal case. Researching tirelessly, studying recent cases that is similar to theirs and their outcomes. Writing motions and petitioning for a reduction in their sentence.
Other people find solitude in the chapel.

During the day there is controlled movements. You are only allowed to move every hour when they call “Rack Move.”
When they announce that “Rack Move” is over, the compound is locked down again.

Lunch is a formal affair. Everyone has to dress up for lunch, T-shirt and khaki pants or full khaki’s if that’s your style.

As we head down to lunch, we like to play a game, guess what’s for lunch.
My Lebanese friend always jokes that today they serving lamb chops with rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes. That always gets my imagination cranked up. I start visualizing a 12oz Rib-eye with garlic mash potatoes.

I am suddenly catapulted back to reality as the first scoop of food is slapped onto my tray.
With lunch behind me, its time for a stroll around the compound before heading off to music class in the chapel.

Class is done, time to head back to the housing units for count and then dinner.

Back in the unit, I catch up with my mates, maybe a quick game of chess. I don’t play spades but that and dominos are the preferred games of choice.
Other people are catching up on some TV time or just relaxing before dinner.

The atmosphere in the units in the evenings is totally different. The place has come alive. Its like a hive of activity.

It reminds me of one of those markets you find when traveling. It has its own heart beat and filled with energy.
Everyone is hustling around, showering, doing laundry, cooking food, playing cards or some other activity.

The CO calls, “CHOW”. The gates open and away they go. Everyone rushes out the doors heading for the Chow Hall.

I am not a fan of the CHOW HALL experience, so I try avoid going as much as possible.
Normally towards the end of the month when I have blown through my store-spending limit, my options are limited so the Chow Hall becomes a necessity.

Thankfully, tonight is not one of those nights. A group of us in the unit have gotten together, pooled our resources, given them to Richard ,who is the master chef.
Armed with a microwave and some plastic utensils, he whips together one of my favorite meals. Shredded carnitas, with jalapenos, green peppers, roasted tomatoes, onions and cucumbers over a bed of brown rice with garlic and his secret spice blend.
Delicious!!!!!

Most of the guys head to the TV room after dinner, Richard and I head to the chapel for bible study.
Before you know it,9pm is here and its count time and lights out!

Another day down and one day closer to FREEDOM!!!!

 

Week 9-Taft C.I.

“I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
-Mark 11:23-

Faith is a powerful spiritual law that is foundational to the life of a Christian believer.
We know that without faith, you can never please God.

As I sit in our quiet room, writing this whilst one of my amigos completes an artistic masterpiece on cloth, using only a pen, the Lord reminds me of my experiences in South Africa.

I had made the decision to voluntarily return to the United States of American.
It had been over 18 months since I had abruptly left the USA for South Africa.

Those eighteen months represent the darkest period of my life.
I was consumed by ever-dark emotion imaginable. I had convinced myself that everyone would be better off if I was no longer around.
The devil had me exactly were he wanted me .I was filled with hatred, anger and hopelessness. I was drowning in my own self-pity completely paralyzed by fear.

It was only the LOVE that I had for my daughter, Dior that pulled me through this dark period in my life.
I know now that the Lord was with me all the time, even at the darkest moments when I was mentally in the pit of hell, He would gently plant a seed in my mind that Dior loved me and that she needed her daddy.

The images and feelings attached to this took hold and rooted themselves in my mind. Slowly it grew until the only thing I thought of, was how could I get back to my little girl…Whom I loved more than anything else in the world. Day in and day out, all I thought of was how much she needed me.

I could never let her down or allow her to go through this life without me, regardless of what it would take or the consequences.

Step by step my faith grew stronger and stronger. The Lord would send people into my life, good and bad, to help my faith grow and to teach me that all things will be used for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.
Sometimes, through our free will, we make decisions and do things that cause self inflected pain and suffering. These things are not necessarily from the Lord but He will turn them around for your good, if you have faith.

FAST FORWARD.
By the grace of God and the tiresome work of my two spiritual brothers who were also my legal counsel in South African, together with their unshakeable faith and believe, we achieved what everyone said was impossible. My USA legal counsel had stated bluntly that this was a hopelessly cause not worth persuading.

The USA government had graciously agreed to allow me to return voluntarily to the USA, to face the charges against me. The Lord had made a way were there was no way.
My faith and the faith of those around me grew exponentially as we witnessed miracle after miracle throughout the process.

The Lord counted Abraham righteous because he had faith. It is through our faith in Jesus and His finished work at Calvary, that we are made: blameless, righteous and holy in Gods sight. Nothing we did or can do in our strength, can earn us our salvation and gift of eternal life.

No matter were you find yourself today, no matter how dark it seems, regardless of what your mind is telling you, know this, He is WILLING and ABLE to turn it all around.

Even If you think its impossible or everyone around you is polluting your mind, saying its a lost cause and reality is that everything is stacked against you and all you can see are dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon…..
JUST BELIEVE AND HAVE FAITH.

Jesus said: “All things are possible to them that believe…”
-Mark 9:23-

 

Week 8 – Taft C.I

“There is no passion to be found in living small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
-Nelson Mandela-

Sitting silently in my cell, starring out the window at the mountains in the distance, my subconscious mind starts asking me questions.

You were a talented and successful motocross racer, right?
I think, I could confidently say YES.
You won many championships, right?
I won many championships throughout my career.

Well than what stopped you from reaching the top echelon of motocross and becoming as successful as Ricky Carmichael or one of the other greats, my mind asks me.

I had no answer to this so I began reading books with a vivacious desire to find an answer to this question that would satisfy my mind.

The problem was that my mind believed that the awesomely great, apparently superhuman performers came into this world with a God given gift for doing exactly what they ended up being great for.

I came to realized that this explanation was incorrect.
After studying the transcendent greatness of some of histories most magical, most enduring performers, it became apparent that there are many common traits shared by these Titians.

One particular concept was evident in every great achiever, this concept was:

THE CONCEPT OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE

We can learn a lot about what makes people excel in their chosen fields by banishing preconceptions and opening our minds to what deliberate practice means.

We can characterize deliberate practice as follows: its an activity designed specifically to improve performance, it can be repeated in volume, the results can be evaluated, its highly demanding mentally, regardless if the activity is intellectual or heavy physically and lastly its generally not much fun.

When we examine the lives of these great achievers, we see that all of them had designed practice routines that focused on special elements of their performance that they need to improve. They then worked ferociously on them. The difference is that these practice activities are those that can be repeated, repetitively at high volume. These sessions are focused and require extreme concentration; continually working on the weakest area’s trying you’re hardest to improve them.

Finally we identify the painful, difficult activities that will make us better and do those activities over and over.
After each session, we evaluate what still is not right so that we can repeat the most painful and difficult parts of what we have just done. Then we continue that process till we are mentally exhausted.

It is this concept that I never fully grasped and put into practice throughout my career. Reflecting back now, I realized that I was of the opinion that – Practice makes perfect. I practiced daily for hours and hours but the difference was that my practice routine was designed around fun and doing the activities I was good at rather then spending my time on the activities I needed to improve through hard work, repetition and mental focus.

The good news is that a path exists from were we currently are in our activities to that of the greats.
The path is extremely long and demanding and only a few will follow it all the way to its end. The difference between expert performers and the average is reflected by a life long period of deliberate effort to improve their performance in their chosen field.

Regardless of whether your desire to achieve greater results, lies in sporting, music/arts or the business arenas, the concept of deliberate practice is key.

You first need to ask yourself two important questions:
– What do you really want?
– What do you really believe?

Becoming a great performer requires the largest personal investment you will ever make!!!

 

Week 7- Taft C.I

Attitude of Gratitude

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty with plenty or little”
-Philippians 4:12-

More and more each day, I am seeing just how much I took for granted. I am not talking about the big things in life but rather the little things that go unnoticed.

When last did you have an attitude of thankfulness for the hot shower you take daily?
How about the soothing feeling of the hot water massaging your body and leaving you with that clean, refreshing, tingling just showered feeling that you love.

How about that quiet solitude when you wake up in the morning and go use the bathroom without the pressure of a line of people, anxiously waiting, so they too can use the bathroom.

I vividly remember waking up to that early morning serenity. Birds chirping and the sound of nature waking you up with a beautiful symphony of sounds.

All these and many more small things went completely unappreciated. Always busy reading emails, checking the market indicators obsessively; reading the news, texting and everything else we do on our smartphones daily.

Activity obsessed. Every minute needed to be filled with activity or immediately you start feeling that you are slacking or not being productive.

Its been two months now, enough time to become acclimated to my living environment as well as to become aware of just how much the little things in life matter.

Sleeping on a metal bed, the width of your body, with a yoga mat as your mattress, is a far cry from your California king bed at home. Sleeping fully clothed with your beanie and jacket on because it is so cold in your housing unit, is worlds apart from your centrally heated home in Orange County.

Showering is a daily adventure. You just never know what you are going to get, scolding hot or artic cold.

The last two months have humbled me. There have been many great life lessons that are still just beginning to play out in my life. The one that has had a powerful impact on my attitude and the way I am dealing with this situation is GRATITUDE!

I wake up early in the morning and I make a conscious decision to be thankful, firstly for the fact that I woke up because everyday is a gift and then I carry that attitude of thankfulness throughout the rest of my day.

I am training myself to be thankful on the days were everything is good as well as the days when things are challenging and life just becomes overwhelming.

Being thankful for the little things in life regardless of your current situation is what cultivates joy and peace in your life.

Focusing on what you have rather than what you don’t have, will harvest a life filled with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness and self-control.

Make a deliberate conscious decision daily to live with an attitude of thankfulness and watch how it transforms your life regardless of your current challenges.

 

Week 6 – Taft I.C.

“False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead…. In those days…the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light…But of the day and the hour no one knows…You do not know when the time will come…whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at the cockcrow, or in the morning”
-Mark 13:22-35-

The worlds financial system has become uncomfortably unstable and vulnerable to a systemic collapse.

What I find most concerning is that a global financial crisis seems imminent and only a handful of informed people outside of the government elite and private elites can see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon.

No one knows the exact timing of when asset bubbles will eventually pop under their own weight or when this enormous debt crisis will eventual implode and bring down the entire financial system.

What is apparent, when looking back at history, is that the globally elite have an endgame, which they have been working towards for centuries.

The financial elites have, for the first time in history, the tools available to them, to put in motion events that will bring about this endgame.

I have studied this topic over the past 15 years and never have I felt more certain that we are about to enter a period were the entire financial system, as we know it, is about to be brought to its knees. One simple fact that makes this clear to me is that total debt is compounding faster than total growth and this is not sustainable.

We have reached or are about to reach the tipping point!

James Richards believes the most likely path is the one that no one is seeing: A systemic crisis could erupt at anytime. Monetary elites will move quickly to lock down all financial institutions that they consider to be “to big to fail.” This will stop any run on the banks or institutions that could lead to a liquidity crisis.

Civilians will revolt. Citizens are not going to accept $300 per day withdraws limits together with promises to reopen exchanges and unfreeze accounts once everything settles down. We forget, this exact scenario played out recently in Cyprus and Greece.

People will riot in the streets and civilian unrest will escalate. This chaotic situation will usher in government crackdowns in the form of martial law, mass arrests and the total control of the media by the government.

This is the endgame and we are dangerously close. All it takes is one of the many unfolding crisis to erupt for this dire situation to become a reality.

The time is now to get prepared and informed. History always repeats itself.
 

Week 5- Taft C.I.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and hope.”
-Jeremiah 29:11-January 2010- I remember sitting down in my office getting ready to write my goals for the coming year. I recall thinking to myself, Chad you are on top of the world.

The moment is so vivid and real in my mind that I can even now smell the aroma permeating from the French bakery below.

In my mind, I was successful. I had done it! Achieved what I thought was the American Dream. I had come to America young and filled with passion. A vivacious desire to be successful. I worked hard, married a beautiful American girl and we had a healthy lovely daughter.

I was making more money than I had ever dreamed possible yet I constantly desired more and more.

My arrogance had reached a tipping point.
Seven years later, I find myself at TAFT C.I reflecting on how it all went wrong.
Sometimes the plans we put in place are of our own strength and not in line with our true purpose.

Sometimes the things that seem so overwhelming and bad in our lives, like spending 12 months in captivity away from everything and everyone you love, truly are our biggest blessings.

We just don’t know it yet.
We all experience disappointments, setbacks or hurts at some point. But we need to ensure that we don’t allow negativity, bitterness and resentment to infect our hearts.

Sometimes God just needs to get our attention. He can’t do it while we so wrapped up in our busy, noisy and activity driven lives.
Is it possible that God has us exactly were he wants us so that we can hear Him and He can reveal to us the wonderful plan that He has for our lives?

God promises that He will bring us out of our captivity, just like He brought the Jewish people out of their Babylonian captivity.

We need to stand strong in our faith, keep believing, then He will take what seems to be the messes of our lives and turn them into our greatest successes and testimonies.

Week 4 – Taft C.I.

As wise old Ben Franklin used to say:

“If you argue, rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes, but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will”

It was early morning. The sun was just peaking over the mountains, which created the most breath-taking sunrise.

A small group of guys and I were standing in the TV room. There is a structure of command when it comes to the TV and what channel will be watched. The person who has been here the longest is considered the captain of the TV remote and they choose the channel to watch if they are present.

Mornings are normally devoted to Fox News so I like to catch a quick snapshot of what is going on in the world.
This particular morning, I happened to walk into a heated discussion on the topic of ” President Trump, his nominee’s and how he was handling important issues.”

I had learnt one thing early in my life that was to avoid political and religious arguments as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.

As the intensity of the conversation grew, both sides became more firmly convinced than ever that they were absolutely right. Both groups became more stubborn the longer they argued.

Suddenly the CO walked in and announced: “Chow time” meaning it was time to head to breakfast. Perfect timing.

Everyone dispersed, feeling that they were victorious in asserting their intellectual viewpoint and by so doing, shot the other groups argument full of holes.

On the contrary, everyone left feeling more convinced that they were correct in their opinion of the situation.

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”

Comes to show, the way to get the best out of an argument is to avoid the argument completely. Even when you will loose….

” Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of the ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all.”
– Romans 12:16 –

When we live in harmony with people around us, it does not mean we have to be exactly like everyone else. It means we find a way to work with them so that our lives can be pleasing to God.

 

Week 3- Taft C.I.

“A deep, driving desires to learn, a vicarious determination to increase your ability to deal with people”

The challenge of communicating with people that speak a language you have no mastery over. This was the situation that I was currently in.

Initially it was overwhelming, but I started scanning my memory banks, trying to recall information on dealing with people and technics to use to help bridge the lack of verbal communication.

Suddenly it came to me:

“Become genuinely interested in the people around you.”

Work on getting to know people more extensively. Study what makes them smile, what angers them and what are their mannerisms.

What is the code of conduct within the housing unit? How are everyday activities handled? What are your duties and responsibilities?

Once you understand this framework, it becomes easy to operate within the guidelines and people will recognize that you respect them and the code of conduct of the living environment.

When you are in an environment such as this, criticizing and complaining causes resentment, which is a hurdle to your ability to fit in and will only isolate and make it more difficult to communicate and assimilate to your new environment.

The power of a smile breaks down so many barriers. I find that keeping a smile on my face brings down walls that the lack of verbal communication may create.

Smiling, showing a genuine interest in people and knowing their names, is how I am overcoming my 1st challenge of not speaking Spanish. With that said, I have began to learn basic Spanish so that I can have better and more enriching relationship, while living in this environment with my fellow inmates.

 

 

“This man had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hasassah, who was also called Esther.

When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.”

-Esther 2:7-

Esther had many obstacles to overcome. Poverty, being and orphan, in the natural world,

her future looked helpless and hopeless.

It is right here when things seem so hopeless and there is nothing you can do to change

the situation that God steps in and says, what’s helpless and hopeless to you, is what I will

use for your good and MY GLORY.

We need to dare to believe that we can do something great in our life’s regardless of the

current situation. Just Believe!

Week 2 – Taft C.I.

“No prison has received me, not even for a visit. Imagination makes the sight of one, even from the outside, unpleasant to me. I am so sick for freedom, that if anyone should forbid me access to some corner of the Indies, I should live distinctly less comfortable”
-Michel De Montaigne-

“Get up and grab one of the sacks, yelled the intake officer. I am getting you all out of here so that you make the last call for “CHOW” at 5:30pm. I am sure everyone is starving”

He was correct. It had been 5 1\2 hours since I had eaten my last civilian meal, I was famished.

“A1C is your housing unit. Give this form to the CO when you get there. He will allocate your bunk”

The door opened to the compound, we were let loose like a flock of Homing pigeons. As I walked onto the compound, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me and my heart started racing.

The moment seemed so surreal. I felt disorientated and completely alone. I began walking.

I stopped to look around and gain my composure. The intake officer shouted, ” GET MOVING, the compound is closed”

A hallucinatory strangeness struck me as I walked up to my housing unit, with my sack over my shoulder and my bible in hand.
I opened the door and was greeted with a loud raucous. The place was alive and a hive of activity. The unit CO, welcomed me, and then directed me to my new home.

Both my Cellies are Hispanic. I knew a handful of Spanish words so this was going to be interesting. My 1st challenge, how to communicate in an environment were 98% of the people spoke Spanish.

 

“When you her the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding, then our God will fight for us.”
-Nehemiah 4:20-

when I was studying this verse in the book of Nehemiah, I got the following revelation.

God wants to give us great things. He wants to bless us in all situations regardless of the environment but we need to fight for what we want so that God can see that we are serious about changing.

Whilst at Taft CI, there will be constant threats and opposition that comes against you, trying to steal your peace. Prepare yourself, dig in your heals, stay the course and take a giant step of faith, knowing that if God is for you, who would dare be against you….

 

 

Week 1 of the journey

Week 1 of the journey.

“When I Dance, I dance, when I sleep, I sleep”
Michael De Montaigne

My name is Chad Smanjak. I am writing this blog from Taft C.I whilst serving a 12 month and 1 day sentence.

This is the final stage of a journey that started back in March 2010.

The road to this point has being challenging for my family and I. Strangely, as I walked into Taft C.I on Friday morning, 6th January 2010 at 10:45am, a peculiar feeling of peace and freedom fell on me.

My life and the life of my family has been on hold since this all started back in 2010. Finally the day that had been causing so much anxiety, stress and fear, not only for me but for the entire family had arrived.

I had consciously taken the time to prepare myself mentally for this inevitable day. I soon came to realize that nothing can prepare you for that moment when the metal gate slams shut behind you and you officially say goodbye to the outside world for the next 12 months and a day.

Walking through the clinically cold and depressing corridors, I keep repeating one of the bible verses that I had committed to memory.

“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose”

Mentally I had already decided to embrace this season of my life and not allow this life lesson to go wasted. My goal was to remain present and in the moment at all times during this process. I was not going to keep my mind fixated on the outside but rather focus on what I could do to better myself and learn from this process.

These 12 months of confinement would be a time for introspection and self evaluation.
This was my reality for the next 12 months and I am going to make every minute count.

“So when I dance, I will dance and when I sleep, I will sleep”

This journey has began…

www.chadsmanjak.com