Friday, March 31, 2006

Bitter words often go with terrible emotions. In the midst of them, you have to find ways to disagree without being disagreeable. To survive grief, it is another important skill.

There is an excellent essay on that, by Dr. Elgin, at Ozarque.

For a taste of what she is saying:

Rule 1 (The It-Should-Go-Without-Saying Rule)
Don't swear, don't use obscenities, don't use name-calling, don't use open insults, don't yell, don't get physical. Be civil.

Rule 2
Follow the language interaction traffic rules. That is: Listen with your full attention when the other person is talking; don't interrupt the other person; don't monopolize the conversation by delivering monologues instead of taking turns; don't have a tantrum.

Suggestion 1
If the other person does monologues at you, follow these steps.

Step 1. Match the rhythm of your body language to the other person's. Blink your eyes at the same rate; breathe at the same rate; nod your head at the same rate.

Step 2: Once your and the other person are synchronized for body language, start synchronizing with the words being spoken, saying something innocuous, speaking -- softly -- along with the other person and at the same speed. Use a phrase like "I hear you" or "Mmhmm" or "I see." Choose one phrase, and stick with it. You're not interrupting when you do this; you're supporting and helping. It's like pulling ahead of a car whose driver is obviously lost, getting the driver's attention, and leading the way to the next exit.

Step 3: Now that you and the monologuer are nicely matched, start slowing down your words and saying them more and more softly. Do this very gradually; let the other person follow you, very gradually, toward silence.

Suggestion 2
Do your best to put out of your mind the Disagreement Is Combat metaphor, where you blow the other person out of the water, tear their case apart, shoot down their arguments, and are obligated to WIN, no matter what it takes. Try Disagreement Is Carpentry instead, or some other non-competitive metaphor of your choice.
The essay has a number of good rules and suggestions and some interesting comments.

In addition, her book on the topic is still in print and available at or, in a special edition, at Barnes and Noble.

If you find yourself fighting or in the grips of continual disagreement following the death of a child, it helps to learn, once again, how to disagree without turning it into a cause for fighting.

Available by interlibrary loan almost anywhere.

BTW, as to one of her points, another sort of three part message

If you feel that you cannot avoid making a critical statement or a complaint or a request for a change in behavior, use a Three-Part Message for that purpose. [Posts on Three-Part Messages are at , , , and .]

I'll be blogging on that three step method and on how to tell people you love them (another three step method) in the future.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Divorce is almost certain with the death of a child. It does not have to be. You may not have chosen to go through the loss of a child, but there are things you can do to choose not to lose a spouse. This entry is about some of those things, and I'll blog more on this topic from time to time.

The first thing I would suggest is to be aware of, and careful with, three step patterns.

The most common three step pattern is the compliment, criticize, compliment pattern. That is, whenever you feel a need to criticize or correct your spouse, you should first say something positive about them, then make the suggestion, and then end on a positive affirming note.

Things to be aware of are:

1. Learn the pattern and learn to use it.

2. Learn the pattern and learn to not use it -- that is, learn to compliment and praise without following up with a criticism.

I've known people whose only exposure to a compliment or praise is as a part of this pattern. When I was first married, I would say something nice to my wife and often she would go "And?" There wasn't any "and." But, she was looking for the rest of the pattern, and there I was, stuck without any criticism to use to follow-up the positive note with.

I was just happy and sharing my happiness with her. She was waiting for the criticism. We've adjusted, and now she doesn't expect criticism to automatically follow any compliment.

You never want your spouse to react to any compliment by hearing only the incipient criticism to come. Be aware and be careful to say positive things without any agenda or purpose other than saying positive things.

3. Learn to complete the pattern. It is important to always end on a positive note.

It is easy, much to easy, to leave on a negative note. You don't want to do that, especially in the emotionally charged atmosphere of loss and pain that is already there when a child has died.

Reprising the words of the song:

I bruise you
You bruise me
We both bruise too easily
Too easily, to let it show
I love you and that's all I know.

All my plans
Are falling through
All my plans depend on you
Depend on you, to help them grow
I love you and that's all I know.


(most recently in Chicken Little)

I hope that if you are reading this, it helps you to find a positive note.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"I realized I did not know better." As I listened, it hit me, how many problems do we have that come from thinking that we know better? Better than our parents, our teachers, our God? As I watch my own children, especially my six year old, and listen to other people talk about how they really thought they knew better and now realize that they did not, I look at myself.

How many times have I thought I knew better, when in the end, I realized that the way I was following was not the better way?

It is really amazing just how many problems people get in because of one of two reasons:
  1. The did not know better.
  2. They thought they knew better (that what they had been told or experienced in the past).
Seeing all the things people have done wrong and have messed up because of one of those two reasons has really made me stop and think about what are the things I do not know and when are the times I think I know "better" and really don't.

We all remember times from when we were kids. We thought we really didn't need to study for a test, or really did not need to get to sleep or that we really could make it across that stream without falling in or really did not need a coat or ...

But there are times for adults too.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How do you deal with a Snarker? Everyone meets them, every office has one or two (if they are lucky) and even the bloggernacle has at least one.

The real question that a Snarker represents is how to deal with humorists. If you are Bill Clinton, how do you deal with Doonesbury?

You have several options. You can ignore a humorist. If everyone snubs them, they go away, though the world is often a grayer place without them. Not to mention, almost every community will generate its own humorist or two. In getting rid of one, you need to ask yourself what will take his or her (or their) place. If the Onion (or Sugar Beet) falls, what comes next?

You can fight with them. Shower them with attention and provocation. They will be grateful and you will encourage them to do whatever it was that got your attention to start a fight.

Or, you can try to encourage good humor and ignore the bad. Humorists generally broadcast for an audience. If what they do creates attention and comment, then they do more of whatever that was.

The maxim, of course, is that whatever you feed will grow. The approach to take to any humorist is to treat them like a bonsai, using all the tools available, to encourage the kind of humor that you want.

The rule works for a blogging community, a congregation or a classroom.

Good humor doesn't just occur on its own, it needs cultivation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A complete collapse of hope and desire. That is what Russell Arben Fox is facing.

His essay has stimulated some very interesting comments and reflections.

I think that the Lord does not value us more when we are unbruised. All the guarantees of hope and blessings in the scriptures (I searched for them frantically, looking for a promise that things would be okay) concern the next life. For this life, he promises that he will always be with us, but not that our loves, our hopes, our families, our futures, or our self-conceptions will be. There is no terra firma, but just as surely, there is still the Lord.
Is one of them.

Read the comments and reflect.

One thing that really struck me as I was reading his post and going over my old on-line journal I kept at is just how many typos I had in my writing then.

Some day I need to go back and clean up all the things I wrote to edit and clarify and remove the mistakes.

Which reminds me of Carol Lynn Pearson and a part of My Turn on Earth [the musical, not the song] where she implies that editing and clarifying is part of what God does for us after everything else, to give us meaning and perfection.

The play shares so much hope.

If you have any hope to share, please drop by the discussion about Fox's decision to stop blogging as he tries to salvage his life and share it with him.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Too often people react to their own histories and not the present.

You will find people reacting to
* people in their pasts
* events in their pasts
* problems in their pasts

Sometimes if you point out what they are doing to them, they immediately realize what they are doing (like when my brother said "but Grandmother, I'm Mark ..." and she immediately changed the way she was reacting), but often, even if you know what they are doing and tell them, they don't adjust. "It is 42!" "But, that was the math question from yesterday" is not the right response. Telling them makes the problem worse, it does not solve it.

There are many things that can only be heard by letting there be silence on your part.

Sometimes what we need to do is listen in order to listen. It can be a necessary use of silence. Too often people listen in order to speak when what they need to do is listen in order to listen. One way to catch yourself, is to hear your own questions. Do the questions have a point or are they questions. Is the question a prelude to speaking or is it a prelude to listening?

Sometimes the only way to the present is by listening and sometimes that can only happen if one person can be silent until the other person reacts to the present and not the past.

As an aside, I've been amazed at how often telling people the truth causes them to reject it or causes more harm than good. I remember a dear sister who saw a psychologist. "You are trying to be the child in the relationship instead of one of the adults" he told her. 100% right. She was grossly offended and told everyone and rejected what was the key part of what she needed to make progress. As I listened to her outrage I kept my peace -- telling her the doctor was right would not have helped, it would have only made her problem worse.

The Rotary formula of:
  1. Is it the TRUTH?

  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?


  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

has a great deal of value. Metamessages aside (i.e. when you are asked "do these make me look fat" sometimes the real question is "do you still love me and find me attractive" and the way to answer "yes" is to not say "yes, they make you look fat."), what are we really doing if what we say is not fair, does not build goodwill, and harms instead of helps? I don't think it is communicating a truth that is worth being said.

Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

In these Spiritual Exercises, when seeking the Divine Will, it is much better and more advantageous that the Creator and Lord should communicate to the devout soul, inflaming it with His love and praise, and disposing it for the way in which it will be better able to serve Him in the future. Thus, the one who is giving the Exercises should not turn or incline to one side or the other, but standing in the center like a needle on a scale so as to allow the Creator to act directly with the creature, and the creature with his/her Creator and Lord.
For more, see Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Wheaton College. Note that "All of the files linked here are in the public domain. Copy freely."

See also:

BTW, I'm tempted to blog on why almost any nation that invests in weapons of mass destruction has just wasted a great deal of money. All of them provide less "bang for the buck" than conventional weapons. Nuclear weapons rot as they sit in silos (nuclear decay ...), Hitler never found a time he could use his nerve gas stockpiles effectively against military targets, biological agents are best used against populations that are less healthy than one's own ...

Even the printed information on fusion weapons (that focused on light pressure as the key to fusion) was misdirection. A nation-state has much better things it can do with wealth.

With rare exceptions (the capital of South Korea is within mortar range of the border with North Korea), that rule holds.

Anyway, the topic is away from the core of what I blog about, but I thought I would mention it. The times when a country should invest in nuclear weapons instead of conventional (or, better, infrastructure such as schools, roads, water and power) are extremely limited. I do not see anyone looking at the issues in those terms.


May we have it, may we share it, may all find it.

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort
than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life

St. Francis

Thursday, March 16, 2006

With my vacation over, I've not had much time for blogging, though I've thought more on the thought that it is our weaknesses that bind us together and make us able to become what we should be. We are human, acting in faith, rather than static entelechies, isolated in perfection.

Also encountered A Prayer of Faith, a new group blog. I've high hopes for them.

I'm so sore from my work-outs, but happy too.

Note, Blogger has crashed this entry several times. I'm hoping the system starts working again soon. Guess the post will show up when it does.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Here's another guest post -- by Annegb:

I went on a cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico last week with my stepdaughter, Jessie. Cruises are over-rated, in my opinion. Not restful in the least. They show pictures of beautiful people lazing away on a sun-drenched deck with a waiter serving them Pina Coladas. It's not like that. It's wall to wall people with waiters tripping to serve them Pina Coladas, wall to wall gluttony, eating lobster and chocolate mousse, then refilling on shrimp salad sandwiches and sherbert two hours later.

But this isn't about cruising. I didn't know what to expect in Mexico, I don't like southern California at all and I was just humoring Jessie, letting her pick, it was her special trip. We got up in the morning docked off Ensenada.

The city looked promising in the early morning light, with the harbor water reflecting the sun and little boats all over. We got on a bus, incredibly rickety and went into the city to change buses or walk downtown.

As we got off the bus, a young mother came up to me to sell chimes. She wanted $5 for it. Jess herded me away, but I pulled out dollar bills from my pocket and stuffed a bill in each of the children who rather miraculously appeared and multiplied around me, being scolded by my daughter all the way.

We got on the bus, and the young mother went around to my window. I bought the chimes through the window and put a dollar bill in the tiny hand of the baby another woman held up for me to see with a pleading look.

It was a small thing.

Then we drove out to the blowhole, with our wonderful guide, Fernando (another younger man for me to fall in love with), telling us jokes and explaining the few sights--Costco and Radio Shack! The landscape reminded me of Tonopah, Nevada, where I grew up, scraggly bushes dotting the deserty mountains, ramshackle houses.
When we arrived at our destination, we headed for the toilets, 50 cents a pop. They were clean, with warm water and soap, and hey, double ply. Nothing to complain about there, I could have been home. Wal-Mart in Cedar City only has single ply.
I somehow immediately lost our group as I gawked and tried to speak to all the people asking me to buy stuff. I felt very important and rich, magnanimous in my smiles and como esta's.

I turned and some trinkets caught my eye. I immediately noticed the barren nature of the stall the boy was standing by, as compared to the others. Bare wood and dirt, unadorned by the colorful shawls and scarves, a small table with statues and bracelets. Maybe he was 10, maybe 11. No more. He was alone in his stall, no fat, happy, ebullient parents and silly siblings.

He didn't smile broadly and shout "hey, Amiga, buy!" He smiled thinly, with effort. His eyes were glazed, his color was bad. He looked tired. He caught me.

I stepped toward him and touched his arm and asked, "are you all right?" As I reached out, he flinched, then caught himself and tried to smile, apologetically. I took my hand back, but I wanted to draw him in and hold him close and fill him with my abundance, to warm him and comfort him.

I bought something, I don't know what. I didn't dicker, I just gave him the money and said, "God bless you" as I walked away.

Then I forgot him. I danced my way down the aisle of shops, having fun and buying stuff cheap, probably cheap stuff. I bought a hat which I must say made me look like a hot older woman and I bought dresses for my granddaughters and hammocks for my grandsons. I bought and bought and bought.

I bought and ate a seafood taco, the guacomole dripping through my fingers. I had my picture taken with four merry men dressed in black, with guitars. Happy men, happy pictures.

I gorged on stuff. I gorged on the act of buying, of being important to those poor people.

When I got back to the ship, I counted my bounty, sorted out what I give to who, sighed in satisfaction over the wood salad bowl and dishes, gawked at myself in that hat with my hoop earrings, "damn, I look good for an old woman."

But when I went to bed, when the lights were out, and I laid in my bunk, with high count sheets and the down comforter, that boy, his eyes, oh, his poor glazed sad eyes, they came back to haunt me.

How utterly selfish and self absorbed I was that day. How greedy. In the face of sorrow or whatever burdens those people hid behind their merry calls to buy, the face that young boy could not hide, though he tried. How could I have been so small minded?

I came home to my little house, small even in America, but clean and warm, well kept, comfortable. I will delight my granddaughters with those pretty dresses. Ryan and Forest will have a blast with the hammocks this summer, Grandpa will help hang them. Casey and Alex will love the marble game sets and Max will probably break his guitar the first twenty minutes.

And I will be haunted forevermore by that nameless sad child.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Just because things are known to be true doesn't mean we believe them. That recently came in focus when Naiah posted at FMH. Kindness, patience, grace: everyone knows them to be true principles. Yet, the trolls were out in force, trying to deface what was the brightest post I've read this year.

Too bad the trolls did not have either faith in the truth or the strength to embrace kindness, patience and grace.

Even worse, the trolls are sick enough that they do not feel shame and remorse for being trolls. Without recognition, they are unlikely to acknowledge their wrongs or their weakness, face their mistake and weakness, and in facing those, turn to God.

It is weakness, not strength, that binds us together and to God. We have weaknesses that they may become a source of strength to us (cf Ether 12). It is hard to remember that sometimes, and harder, still, to believe the things we know to be true and to let God in our lives.

Yes, I'm aware of Naiah's weaknesses (after all, her various blogs document them). Yes, I know that trolls are people too.

But, read her post, skip the comments, and may this week give you kindness, patience and grace.

As Naiah says:
I look forward to the stillness, the unperturbed stillness. It is an anchor, a point of sanity in a world gone awry. Eternal truth in all its depth and breadth and height is there as plainly manifest as the sun shining on me now.

From the very first of my return, (detailed here) I have known I was working my way back to the temple. I am almost there. I can’t wait. I can feel it in my veins… “Home. Welcome. Welcome Home. Time to let it go. Beat. Beat. Beat. Breathe. Beat. On and on.”

No matter how lost, no matter how much pain, may you be able to believe the things you know to be true and may you all find your way home.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The most flattering thing anyone ever said to me was a female attorney in our stake who remarked that she wished she had been one of our kids, which led several other adults to chime in that they felt the same way. Felt like a vote from my peers. My kids love me, but that is the nature of kids. I always loved my parents, never realized just how good they were until much later in life.

Now I'm grateful for them in a much deeper way, as well as loving them intensely.

Not much else to blog right now. Saw Jeff Green today, Win and I had lunch with him, always makes us happy to get good news about he and his family and to see them.

Other than that, I did a guest post at Naiahdot. I've been waiting on Pistas3 (the founder of FAIR) to write a guest post for me, not getting around to doing my next guest post for Millennialstar (I've done a couple in the past and had one I started a few months ago, and never got done) and this one crept up on me when Naiah asked me to write it. The introduction is better than I deserve, but I was glad to write the post.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

For spring break, I took the week off for vacation. On my time off I won a summary judgment motion (well, that is work, but it is also recreation for me), started a new exercise program and helped build a fort (a family project) in the back yard.

That fort is a lot larger than it looked at Costco (cheaper from the store than ordering on-line as well). Big enough for our family and lots of friends.

I'm glad we spent the last three days on it (among other things we did). More vacation to come. (And yes, center is Win, my dear wife, who, when someone realized she had laid the tile in our house said "she gives new meaning to the term 'homemaker' doesn't she?" At the JRCLS Christmas party I introduced her as "taller, better looking and smarter than I am, for which I'm grateful" and one of the other guy's wive's nudged him and said "I want that kind of introduction too." Better half? I just prefer to note "better." Or, as our kids say "the best.").

We are a two power drill family, and have double socket sets around. As a team, building the fort went a lot faster.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I made a mistake and my wife heard me talking to her. Ever since we were first married, I've talked to my wife in her sleep. I'd just be so happy with her and would have to tell someone. So, I'd talk to her while she was sleeping, telling her how wonderful she was. Last night, I was just too happy and woke up and was talking to her about what a neat friend and wonderful wife she was, when I realized she was awake.

She went "ahh" and went to sleep. This morning I was thinking about it and smiling and she just laughed at me. But she makes me so happy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

In recovery, grief differs from other afflictions in that once it starts, even when fatigue sets in, recovery just keeps happening. For an alcoholic, a compulsive overeater or someone similarly afflicted, when they have recovery fatigue, they can relapse. For them it is a great peril, but also a great freedom. Those walls they hit at three and five years are real walls, not just periods of pain that can only be embraced until the suffering grows dim.

That is something I learned from studying twelve step programs. Over the past thirteen or so years, there have been times I was so weary, when the warning "be ye not weary of well doing" really struck home. But I felt like I had no choice if I did not want to go septic, burying my grief and hiding from it in ways that could only make it worse.

I just realized that I had choice. Not a good choice, mind you, but that it was a choice, and that rebirth and renewal were choices, not unstoppable forces.

Other than that, I've agreed to teach an ethics class, something I really enjoy doing. I confess that much of the way I present things depends on my audience. Not to mention, as an audience member in ethics I tend to be an essentialist, which is somewhat simplistic, and I don't compete with the presenters. When teaching, especially lawyers in practice, I tend to be much more lively and nuanced. With undergraduates I'm more bright line, but I love the topic.

Also started an a great exercise program -- they have a strong program for adults. It has been a long time since my bengoshi waza days, and I've always planned to return. Now that I've lost the weight, and found a great program, I'm excited. I know, it seems like no matter where I've been or lived I've always found things that I really enjoyed, but I'm still pleased. I'm looking forward to enrolling my youngest as well.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A figurative story is sometimes more important than the historic one. For example, the way this story is used to illustrate things in our own lives that are timeless:

... while that world was young, and we, too, were young and beautiful and full of life, a corner was turned. Something happened, which we have heard about, but never fully understood, or we would see it playing itself out every day of our lives, and more important, we would also see the chances given to us every day to reverse what happened.

'Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. "Really?" he asked the woman. "Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?"

"Of course we may eat it," the woman told him. "It's only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die."

You won't die!" the serpent hissed. "God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil."

The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. (Gen 3:1-6 NLT)


There are no words.

Wail; beat your chest; fall to your knees; let out a long, lonesome howl of bitter remorse.

The woman was convinced. That's it? Just like that? In a matter of moments? Convinced of what? Look in your own heart - you'll see. Convinced that God was holding out on her. Convinced that she could not trust his heart toward her. Convinced that in order to have the best possible life, she must take matters into her own hands. And so she did. She is the first to fall. In disobeying God she also violated her very essence. Eve is supposed to be Adam's ezer kenegdo, like one who comes to save. ....

... Having forfeited our confidence in God, we believe that in order to have the life we want, we must take matters into our own hands. And we ache with an emptiness nothing seems able to fill.

(Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge -- pointed out to me by Elesaid)

We all seem to have that moment, when we feel that God is holding out on us, that we can not trust his heart towards us, when we have learned to fear the will of God.

Pain, resentment, prayers without answers we can understand -- all of these lead us to the point where we need God, we need to trust in a power greater than ourselves, but we have learned to fear that there is something better if we just don't follow God, because God is holding out on us and the only solution is to find another way.

Which cuts us off from the path that can heal us, which is the human condition.

We are bounded by time, and the real test is to find a way to trust God to order our time in the way that leads us to finding hope, faith and love -- the things we truly need.

The importance of a figurative story is that we can apply it to our own lives. Such a story is told not necessarily as it really happened, but in a multileveled way that allows us to see ourselves in it.

Thus Eve can be seen as someone who chose to experience life, to know good from evil, to experience hardship, pain and choice, that she could grow. Each of us can look at ourselves as having made the same choice by being born. But we can also see in our own lives other levels of the story, especially the temptation to believe that there is no other way to have what we want than by disconnecting from God and that our great challenge is to find that connection again.

That is why we have figurative stories, to find multiple levels in them.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Stay away from that racist." The warning was clear, blunt and hostile. The sergeant getting the warning was African-American, the person he was being warned against eating lunch with was my dad, another sergeant. The guy giving the warning had an extra stripe or two, but was part of the squadron.

"He's a Mormon *&* and you know how they are."

"Yeah, I know" replied the sergeant. "When the shippers screwed up and I went more than two months without my car showing up, Marsh here was the only person who would give me a ride to work. Every morning he drove over from Landstuuhl, crossed the base, out the other side, to my house, picked me up and drove us both to work. Every night he drove me home. Never asked me for a penny, never hassled me, the only one of you man-jacks who doesn't swear at me."

"I know who the racists are, and I know who the Christians are in this group. I'll sit with Swampy here."

Made me proud of my dad. Kind of like how I felt on learning that when my grandfather's first pastor joined the KKK my grandfather found another church. Sometimes actions are the only true message.