Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How not to give a compliment

They'd been married about twelve years. He had just given a great talk, even though he hated public speaking.

She said "You used to give such lousy talks" and he cut her off and walked away, face grim.

"But I was just trying to compliment him" she said to me. "I wanted to point out the wonderful progress he had made."

Instead of responding to that, I asked her how she was getting along with her mother. Every time she had a talk with her mother at church, one would find her in the hall in tears.

She looked at me and then she got it, kind of. "Your mom gives you compliments the same way you tried to compliment your husband. You've had about thirty years to learn to appreciate that method, your husband has had only twelve." She really got it.

If you try to compliment anyone on making progress, and you start by piling on the fertilizer, your target will only feel covered in fertilizer, they won't feel complimented and they will not feel nourished.

If starting with a criticism of the past hasn't worked yet in complimenting those around you and making them feel happy, give it up. Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This particular pattern (point out how terrible someone was in the past in order to set up a "my, you've improved and are doing better" compliment) is usually generational and it fails in every generation. But too many people fail to realize that what their parents do to them that leaves them in tears, won't work any better on other people.

Usually the method will not make anyone feel complimented, loved or appreciated. It only makes them feel like fertilizer.

Don't let it take you twelve years of inflicting pain, and thirty years of getting pain, anger and stale fertilizer to learn not to make a compliment by making a comparison with the past.

Yes to "You've come a long way" or "you are really doing well."

No to "You used to be a failure, but you've come a long way and are doing well." You will lose your audience at "...a failure" and will never get them back. You've lost them before the transition, and as much as you want to blame them, it is your fault, not theirs.

BTW, I'm so glad I never had to deal with that sort of thing from my parents. Learning things like this has only made me happier with them.

"Mushaboom" by Feist is happy.

You can visit her official site here, and the CD, which I bought for my wife for a birthday present, is here. (Ok, I confess, I shop Amazon used CDs and DVDs all the time, and even buy one once in a while).

Be happy.

Monday, May 29, 2006


[If you are here about the Shangri-la diet click on: Diet Link Index]

More than fifty years ago, LeRoy Marsh got on his bicycle and rode thirty miles to the L.A. Coliseum. When he got there, he borrowed a pair of running shoes and as a sixteen-year-old, he tied Jesse Owens' Olympic record in sprinting. Woodruff Wilson in South Pasadena used to have a plaque in his memory. LeRoy then disappeared.

A while back he was added to a list of amazing Black athletes who disappeared.

Well, he was an amazing athlete, but he isn't missing. He is my 75 year-old father. Stereotyped names and running events to the contrary, he is blond like I am. Still, it is nice to know someone remembered my Dad, even if for the wrong reason. He is visiting with us for my daughter's graduation, and I'm very glad he isn't missing.

Though he is still amazing, even if he no longer runs quite so fast.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What you do three times ...

You should do things for your spouse. Thanks and appreciation should be active, actions, not just words.

But, anything you do three times ceases to be new and becomes what is expected. So, we both have the chores split up, and I send my spouse to bed and mop the kitchen floor for her. The first time it demonstrates love. The second time in a row, it is neat. The third time in a row, it has become part of my half of the chores.

Instead, the first time it shows love. The next time, I pick something else to do. That way I am able to communicate "I love you" rather than "I should be doing this."

BTW, a friend pointed out that I should refer to these things as recipes -- a better metaphor than others.

In that line, I would add that small gestures, repeated, are much better than grand gestures, rarely done. At least if you want your spouse to feel happy and nourished. You get more credit and attention for a grand gesture, but that is really something you are doing for yourself. If you are doing it for someone else, a number of small gestures, repeated thoughtfulness and kindness, small gestures work better.

A single flower one day, a special food or candy on another, washing the sheets a day early and making all the beds in the house the third, won't impress anyone like a dozen long stemmed roses, but they will make your spouse happier and more nurtured. Especially in times of struggle or grief or loss, you need to nurture each other, care for each other, be kind and reliable for each other. Leave the grand gestures to people who don't know any better or who need attention themselves, and focus on tenderness and patient nurturing.

Diet Index

I woke up this morning, realized I had lost 57 pounds so far, and decided that I had done enough updating with the diet. It works. The hardest thing about it is dealing with the emotions that I was submerging under food. Using this method of shifting my set point has pushed me into dealing with recovery, since I could not do anything else.

If you want more information on how to do the diet:

If you want direct contact with the author of the book about the diet:

If you want to buy the book at

If you are interested about th
ings I've had to say about the diet:

If you are interested in other diet related links:

Finally, if you want a good judo club, with better instruction than I had hoped for:
Funniest comment about the diet: "Are you just going to do this the rest of your life?" "Well yes" (said in the same tone as "duh" -- I only wish it had been me saying it).

That pretty much says everything I have to say. I've used a number of sources of flavorless calories. Extra Light Olive Oil (ELOO), Grapeseed Oil, Canola Oil, Sugar in water, sugar cubes, natural whey protien. They all seem to work well. Currently I use natural whey protien in water and an ELOO/Grapeseed Oil mix. Just bought my first 32" belt because I needed a size smaller (though I'm still in size 34" pants). My chest is a 44 and my wife likes the way I look.

Wish you all the same, and recovery, always.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Reflections, redirection.

I keep wondering if you've thought about having two blogger spaces. Your words on loss and grieving and sustaining a relationship have been generous, and helpful to me, though I have not lost a child.

The ShangriLa eating plan seems like such a different topic, maybe even jarringly so. But perhaps on my part, that's the impulse to take grief and put it in a box, safe from threatening other things, refusing to see death alongside life going on?

The weight loss is important to me, mostly because I was dealing with grief, in part, by eating until I submerged parts of the pain. The diet cut out the mental connection to food and broke all of that loose. In addition, the diet creates changes in mental states unlike anything I've experienced (for more than a week).

On the other hand, I really think I can move the diet comments to Seth Robert's on-line forums, now that they are up and running. I need to get back to my core, especially if readers find it jarring. It was seductive to get up to a thousand page views in a day (May 4th), but now that things are moving along, people can get diet information lots of places.

I'll blog about another rule of three next, and get back to my core.

If you want more diet information, go [here] and [here/here] (the second link pair takes you to the message boards that Seth Roberts set up and lots of other people's perspectives and thoughts on the diet). I'm back to my roots, where I can do some good.

Thanks for the reminder and the perspective.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Guest Post: A Crisis of Faith

-Meaning of Life-

This summary is a view from a convert of the church about what it means to be converted and really know what God's love can mean. My conversion took place about 19 years ago. I grew up ina very faithful protestant family well acquainted with sincere prayer and a strong sense that God was real and really loved us. On more than a few instances, I observed prayer and actual faith healing take place as a child and was very motivated to "get with the program" where God was concerned.

After a dozen or so churches growing-up, it became very obvious that many of them though sincere didn't really have a 'current' connection with heaven and were largely riding the coattails of those that had gone before.

After a move to a small town in Idaho, I became acquainted with a number of Mormon families and kids in school and was very taken with the glow and confidence the displayed, and took the discussions for about 2-years before being baptized. Though one of my parents (my mother) had been very spiritual, the other had been a very damaging influence with numerous incidence of abuse and my life had thus been a confusing mixture of realities and I looked-forward to finding a 'clean and simple' path to walk.

In spite of sincere efforts, my early years in the church were riddled with negative experiences from church members as soon as I had been garnered-in.

Those that had been my friends did many un-Christian things to me, and I saw a very large amount hypocrisy. It didn't make sense to judge the church itself do to this, because, life is truly not perfect, and at the time, I felt somewhat lucky to have had to go through this early to test my metal.

It seemed nearly impossible to save the money needed for a mission in the area I lived. Money was scarce and slow to accumulate, and coming from a very poor family, I had never really handled money and probably didn't save as effectively as I should have. over time though, with the help of the ward, I was able to leave for my mission to Brazil, and it seemed like my life might finally come into focus.

Strangely, though I simply wanted to follow the rules, and had complete faith that 'doing what I was told' would bring me peace and blessings, it was probably the worst time of my life. Fortune seemed to once again lead me to the poorest examples of church members in conduct and faith that the kingdom had to offer and my faith really sank to a low level. What did it mean? Friends at home told me to tough it out and that everything would work out and also that Satan would temp and try me. Did it have to be this hard though?

My mission president was really great and talked with me often about these feelings. At first, he did the pre-emptive chastising that is part of the job, but as I shared the rough experiences, he was very sensitive and supportive and acknowledged that my feelings were understandable. His advice was that this was preparation for a future work that was important.

The trouble however got worse and worse and before long, I began to feel somewhat suicidal. On a mental level, I know that it was probably unreasonable to expect that a group of humans would be perfect, but I simply wanted to get with the program and feel at peace. Instead, I felt strapped to a run-away train like a small dog getting my legs worn off. Eventually, headquarters told my mission president that I was to be sent home.

It was an honorable discharge, but the home crowd didn't understand the problem and had a really hard time knowing how to relate to me. This led to me having a hard time relating to them too, and my activity become strained. As college come into the picture, there were a lot of new ideas and educated people who had long-since given up on religion as a source of meaning or wisdom. My faith in God, and prayers and such didn't cease, but relating to the church and a single's ward full of judgmental and self-righteous wiper-snappers was tough, and my attendance fell further.

At a time when many of my member classmates were getting hitched, I wanted nothing to do with it. Church girls often fall into two distinct classes, much like their female colleagues in Jewish society - the spoiled elitist, or the desperate. Neither of these was very appealing. Also, most people beyond the usual ages at these hitching posts were there because of issues, or they would have been married already. I suppose that would include me too. The only girls at church I could relate to, who were not dyed-in-the wool B.O.M. thumpers where the ones on the edge, but sadly, a number of them were doing seriously bad moral things and getting racked-over the coals by life. This was not what I wanted either.

I simply wanted to feel that life was something more than waiting for the afterlife and 'pre-distancing' one's self from everything around them that wasn't likely to be saved into the celestial kingdom. A number of my friends in church were in the married-congregations (because they were a little older, like me) and a number of them thought I was a really pathetic figure. One of them was married to a law-student who openly considered me to be a 'jack Mormon' and bad influence on her husband. This "holier than thou" stance really seemed strange the day that she told her husband that she wanted a divorce and turned her back on her temple covenants.

At this point, the only two things that kept me feeling some hope for my sanity as a church, were my overwhelming feelings of peace and childlike bliss that had been experience in the temple and examples of older members who had a beautiful "live and let-live" glow about them. In these examples, I sometimes felt that life was not such a hectic and overwhelming thing, but was here to make us happy. These feelings didn't mean I had to shun my gay art teacher or friends that were not living the word of wisdom. Instead, it seemed that "perfect love" truly could cast out fear, and that I could find something beautiful in most ever person I met and didn't have to fear being friends with them because "they may not make it into my quorum in heaven someday."

This total lack of connection between my church surroundings and newly developing feelings of spirituality, caused me to dig into my career plans and schoolwork. When friends were enjoying a swim during the summer, I was taking summer school to get ahead of the game. Many of my instructors were atheists and otherwise very empirical thinkers that had an equally unsatisfying view of life compared to my young church comrades. Many felt that religion was a crutch that enabled people to lazily go through life without achieving anything because of a view of the hereafter, and that religion carried some very serious issues when it came to inspiring hatred and violence in others.

Surprisingly, it was these existentialist opinions that helped me to come to terms with the judgmental and erratic views of my church friends. As Paul said "for the ceremonial law was a schoolmaster to lead us unto Christ". Could it be that one cannot simply do the right thing because it is right? Could it be that maybe legalism was an early, critical stage in forming true spirituality? It all was starting to make sense, but my troubling experiences to date didn't make actually being around these people any easier.

Whenever I spoke in sunday school about living by the spirit and seeking personal inspiration from the Lord (the two things that had made life bearable to this point) the rest of the class would look at me like I had just spouted out of Teretz syndrome, and would proceed to talk about following the brethren and keeping the commandments. It seemed like maybe the 'Born Again' churches I had attended before my life as a Mormon might have well understood a few things better than we did about the nature of works and grace.

Professional life proved to be tough after graduation. Despite graduating with the best and most polished work of my class (if there is one thing that is good about a crisis of faith is that it inspires a need to be good professionally), the 911 event caused severe depressions in the industries I had been interested in and I lived off of a credit card for the better part of a year. Eventually opportunities came, but they were in things I had always enjoyed as hobbies and had never really thought possible for a living. Things like art, photography and such, had been a way of keeping my sanity amidst the trials, but a part of my original nature to get "in the groove" and stay there told me that I should seek a real job.

On one hand it seemed like I was being offered a chance to 'play for a living', and a few times, these hobbies actually made me enough money to take care of my bills and live off of. Still, it didn't seem real or possible to NOT 'work for the man' and I persisted in looking for a real job.

Depression became very much a daily topping in my life as bills mounted and opportunities shrunk. I started feeling sorry for myself and began to feel that my life was simply not meant to be. A very bitter time ensued afterward with hard questions. A very dear friend who had left the church when we were in college came to visit, and to-spite my own problems with faith, I earnestly urged him to see the good in the church and realize the the church was made of imperfect people. Why had I told him this? Was it to convince myself that I still believed it and that life actually did make sense? Later he committed suicide and this weighed very heavily on my mind.

What was life really about? Was I in some way defective? Was life trying to push me to either "shut-up and get with the program" or end my own existence, as my friend had done? After this point, I prayed less and less, for the first time in my life, because of a creeping distrust for the Lord's motives in my life.

In the midst of all of this, some amazing opportunities arose in my professional world that made thoughts of suicide seem like a "tomorrow thing". My mother had sold a very large parcel of land and decided to invest in me starting a business relating to my art and photography. For the first time, I was working for myself, making my own way and the quality of my creative abilities were steadily improving. That year was like a miracle. Though money was tight, there was fairly constant business and countless opportunities to devote to this notion to 'play for a living'.

Guilt and uncertainty were constant companions, however, since my prayers had declined and it became difficult to really grow in this new life without taking care of past issues.

Over the next year, a change in the wind began to happen in the business and all of the negativity of the past began to compound. I found myself in serious financial hardships, and even had to go back begging to a horrible former employer for work. At this point, I was bitter almost constantly about life and seemed to see irony everywhere. Like I would never have success, unless I was unable to actually take-advantage of it, and that life was some cosmic hustle. This dark, and rough period came to a drastic head as my art business began to boom again and I had quite my horrible day job for the second time to pursue it. Not two weeks had passed from quitting and then the art business dropped again. What did God want from me??!?!?

I remember getting on my knees and crying bitter tears asking him to please either kill me or help things to improve because I simply couldn't endure the stress any longer.

Two magical things happened immediately thereafter. First, on a routine trip to a business partner's establishment, I met one of the most intriguing women of my life. She was very much younger than me, and didn't even have remotely similar religious values and commitments, but suddenly, a very simple and unsophisticated joy of being infatuated took over. I had never committed fornication, and knew that it was something I would never do (my mother threatened to tie me to a tree and beating me to death if I did any of roughly 10 bad deeds - a very scary image, but it kept me out of trouble).

The innocent fun, however, of hanging out with this young, bright spirit was very refreshing. Secondly, almost as an omen from God like a "burning bush" as I was driving back home from the business trip, a brown-tailed hawk dropped a huge, dead rattlesnake right in front of my car on the road. I have not really ever been one to overly read into things, but there was something about this huge reptile lying on the road (sans its head) that seemed like a change in the winds for my life. The next couple of times that self-pity tried to enter the picture, I was keenly aware of the many blessings that my strange little life had afforded.

I was having the opportunity to pursue my dreams each day, while so many of my friends grinded away like slaves. Each time that I had taken the time to pray thereafter, immediate results where there to witness. Did I owe the Lord and apology? You bet. Rough events have continued in the ebb and flow of life, but on holding to the believe that the Lord really does love me and wanted something more for me than to be a mindless follower, each one has resolved and fortunes and opportunities have continued to improve. At age 33, I am feeling 18 again and see beautiful professional opportunities on the horizon, and feel the Lord's gentle hand helping me to improve old hurts and mistakes of the past.

In the realm of marriage and church attendance, I know that I will never feel the same as I did in the beginning, but this no-longer worries me.

Each walk is individual, but that does not have to keep us from finding common ground. I understand now, that life has many correcting factors to help us as individuals to find our way. The Lord loves us enough to carve a custom path for each of us to reach the end. My path is one that is designed to see past dogma to the simple, fundamental truths of life.

Others may walk their entire lives in the church and not have any major struggles. I see now that all of these are equally valid. Individual points require individual paths to reach the same destination. Today, though it is sometimes still difficult, I thank the Lord often for loving me enough to walk me through these fires. Because of them, I now know what I believe in my heart as well as in my head. I feel that family, and a long, successful life on on the horizon, and I am thankful every day for a God who has made it possible.

In Jesus name,


I'm glad he wrote me and that he is doing better. Even more, I'm glad he decided to share this essay.

Weight loss, death, love, and my blog

I started this blog to continue my on-line journal, which was a pre-blogging days sort of proto-blog, about grief and grief recovery. I need to go back and edit that, many of the posts are pretty raw.

I've started blogging a bit about diet, since I found something that seems to work for me and those who have tried it. More than the 2-3 weeks and then yo-yo that traditional "diet & exercise" schemes create. I've lost about 57 pounds as of this morning. But I also post about that at Seth Roberts boards [here for example]. Those posts drive a lot of traffic, and they do some good (a lot of parents whose children have died take a lot of solace in food), but I admit that they are not really ethesis. On the other hand, a method to move your set point that isn't "reduce calories and fail again" is pretty neat.

The grief, loss and recovery themes have started to incorporate some twelve-step materials. I never understood what the programs were about, I just sent clients to them because judges liked it (I attribute a win in the Texas Supreme Court to the client attending a twelve-step program -- it can make that kind of difference and I think it is why we had the surprise win in In Re Lock). Having taken a closer look, I understand the potential a lot more. My church has a free 12-step manual it distributes on-line, and I've been reading that, along with related materials. [Free Twelve-Step Manual]

I'm not sure how well the manual works for its intended purpose (and no, I don't plan to become an alcoholic to find out), but I was talking about it with a friend and his church has a generic twelve step program for people who just want to be closer to God -- kind of like the old Oxford Groups before they became a cult of personality. There s a lot of wisdom in those programs.

I blog on relationship issues. When a child dies, most parents end up divorced, and those who don't need help and support in repairing their relationships. I've blogged about a number of three part messages, and rules of three (in fact, I'm about to blog about another rule of three) and the need to keep courting each other.

Finally, I blog on some personal reflections. Sometimes just snippets. Win and I attended a wedding this week-end (she set them up and it was a real success) and I got hugged by the groom (for being related to my wife). It was delightful, you can find true love and humility and reserve at every level of society, with all people.

May love find and keep you.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My grandfather only tried to buy me once

My grandfather only tried to buy me once. If I would forego a mission, he would put me through Harvard. It wasn't quite phrased like that, but my parents sat me down and explained that was what it really meant. I'd already passed on MIT and Stanford (though he did not know that) in favor of BYU. I turned down his offer.

I grew up in trailer parks, the son of an enlisted man in the Air Force. My dad had volunteered, been rejected, was drafted and was then accepted (the draft board didn't care about his broken back, and when they cleared him, the Air Force was suddenly interested in him). He never got out, staying in the military far longer than the four years he had originally expected.

My mother's family had a different perspective on life. When she went to visit her uncle in prison, the guards served them a picnic lunch on the hillside. She later learned that guards in most prisons do not address the prisoners with "yes sir" (or the Greek equivalents). My mother's twin had a place in Manhattan, one in Rome and one in Athens when they weren't at Princeton. I had a triple bunk bed I shared with my two brothers, all the books in the world, and was happy. I look back and am still happy to have lived my life.

Best of all, I had loving, kind and thoughtful parents, who spent time with me and who I am happy to see, even today. And I'm glad I did not sell myself.

Thanks to FMH and Eve, whose post [here] got me to finally start writing a bit on this topic. I'll try to write more.

On the Shangri-la Diet, I've come across some various flavorless protein powders and I'm going to start using those for my flavorless calories, at least in part. That way I can up the dose, yet still get enough protein in my diet. I'm pleased with the new weight training approach I've found and am really hoping to be in decent shape by September. Funny, I've gone from having a hoped for goal of 178 pounds to seeing that as a way point on the way to my current goal.

My bruised rib is almost completely healed (I lost track of the ground while trying to throw someone softly and dropped them on me instead of on the ground. Still a throw for Ippon, but ouch ...) My shoulders have recovered from the rotator cuff inflammation I had that sidelined me for a couple of years,* and I can now do weight exercises with them. It has been interesting coming back to Judo without a significant edge in arm and shoulder strength. I am finding many, many things I learned wrong but that I used to muscle through.

Now I learn something new every class, often with a good deal of embarrassment.

(*it was too easy to fix, especially after being a nagging pain for a couple of years. I saw a doctor, he passed me off to his therapist who basically told me that it didn't matter how I got the problem, all I had to do was work on my posture and it would go away. I did, it did. That theme of "it doesn't matter what caused the problem, the question is how to solve it" has come up a lot in my life this year).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Unthinkable thoughts

I've had two kinds of unthinkable thoughts: those on grief and those on dieting. (click on either word to skip the other).

With grief, I have been part of a number of grief groups. In theory, everyone can speak freely knowing that no one will criticize you. In reality, I spoke openly once, had people jumping down my throat, and never spoke another unguarded word again. Ever.

My unthinkable though, which I am over now, was that I wished I had spent more time on my career and less on my kids. They were dead and I felt like I had nothing to show for it, whereas if I had spent more time on my career, especially my writing ... How can I tell I'm over those thoughts? Simply, I tell Rachel new stories every night (before anyone gets excited, they are all about Ariel and her flying magic hamster and her friends Rachel and Morgan.

There is a reason I'm not writing them down, but she really loves them, and they do take creative energy). I could spend the time working on a book on mediation (I have the rough draft done) or a book on negotiation (I have the outline worked out, see ).

Instead I spend that time and energy on Rachel.

But I had the thought. Came back to me when I passed up on professional advancement/improvement that I had always planned on in order to keep Rachel's school situation stable. They love her at her school. That is well worth it to me. Not too long ago I would have seen that as giving up on my life's dream. Now I see my children as my life.

With food, the great heresy is that I don't believe that being fat is sinful and I don't believe that losing weight is a sign of virtue or the mandate of heaven. To the extent I have any weight related theology it is "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which doesn't satisfy? listen diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." (Isaiah 55:2) not to mention "Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

In fact, as far as I can tell, that willpower and virtue will lead to weight loss is just one more great illusion, a false idol people build up. Am I glad that the Shangri-la Diet works for me? Very much so. I'm glad it works for the people I've gotten started on it. But it isn't a sign of moral superiority that any of us are losing weight, nor a sign of moral failure that any of us gained weight. Or a sign of any sort of failure for those who have not lost weight.

To many, that is an unthinkable thought, even though it is true. It threatens them somehow.

Just thinking and remembering unthinkable thoughts.

[if you've come for Shangri-la diet notes, click here]

And remember, you can find the Shangri-la Diet at

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I Make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place.
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four --
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
* * * * *
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man --
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began --
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire --
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

A classic by Kipling. I ran into it as a teen and really liked it. My teen-age daugher just found it and wanted to make sure I saw it. Life turns circles.

God Rides a Yamaha: Musings on Pain, Poetry and Pop Culture was the closest I could come to a book by Kathy Shaidle that was recommended to me. Guess the other book is out of print. I also found Many Roads One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps which is an alternate voice, even if I disagree with it. is where Shaidle blogs, I'm just getting ready to look at it.

I only wish I had real help and advice for people, I really do. I only have so little sometimes, and I realize the limits of what I know and can share, but I feel for those who have lost children, as I have, or who fear that, as I have feared it.

[if you've come for Shangri-la Diet notes, click here] Also, if you blog on the Shagri-la Diet, Add your blog to the ecosystem.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

There is hope, there is a future.

oh my god please help me. please. I stumbled across your blog accidentally. I read your about me statement and I have been crying ever since. I have one child. the absolute love of my life. He has not died, but god I just know he is going to. No! He's not going to, there is no reason for him to and oh god he just can't.

I'm not making any sense. My father was murdered when I was two. I may have seen it, I don't know because no one ever has talked about it but I do know I was in the house. My stepfather was abusive in every way a monster can be abusive. My mother was depressed and fairly abusive too. I lost my father, I lost my childhood, and I have lost myself. I'm 33 now, and my son is 3.

I get comments to my blog e-mailed to me, it is an option in blogger. I couldn't find where this comment was left, or I would have responded to it there.

If you have this sort of problem, of course you need a professional.

Next, two things I can recomment.

First, (If you had actually lost a child, I'd suggest Compassionate Friends) But in your situation, find a free, local group (they are all free) and let them tell you "welcome home." Yes, they are, on the surface, about compulsive eating (for both the overweight and the anorexic/bulimic), but what they are really about is recovery, acceptance and serenity.

Second, Feeling Good by David D. Burns. Your library will have it (and Amazon has used copies for 4-5 dollars. I'm mailing another copy to a friend today). Cognitive therapy has helped a lot of people when nothing else would. Also, helping many, is Adult Children of Alcoholics -- at every libary.

I wish I could do more for your pain. I am so sorry about all the terrible things that have happened to your past. But there is hope, there is a future. Quite frankly, that is the real reason I blog.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Seperate the difference ...

Understanding the Twelve Steps : An Interpretation and Guide

I like this one. "At the heart is the personal struggle to understand who God is and how God operates in your life." "God doesn't change, but your understanding of him does."

I find that much (though no where near all) of what goes on in twelve step programs fits into grief. We have no control over the forces that seperate us from our children who have died, or over grief itself. We need to refind and reconnect with God, as we understand God (I'm not sure I go so far as the guy who had a coke bottle as his higher power, though). We learn to pray again and to find peace. Some of the material is more useful than others, and for a non addict/alcoholic, this book is probably one of the best.

"People get into trouble when they fail to seperate the difference between the Higher Power and "my undersanding" of the Higher Power.

"God allows peole to experience the consequences of their own behavior, to learn from their mistakes, and to make choices in order to do what is necessary to correct the problems."

More diet links:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Remembrance, inclusion, exclusion

Mother's Day is always a mixed blessing. It is when we decided to start our family, with Jessica. We remember her and miss her. Much life Father's Day for me, Mother's Day is such a remembrance of things lost, as well as things gained. I always feel like such a total failure on Father's Day. What kind of man am I if my children died and I couldn't stop it from happening? Yet, I am so pleased with the children that I do have living with me.

Saturday night, both of my daughters had friends stay the night, so this morning we had people in the house. We presented Win with some presents (the Beatles CDs she wanted, a vase, some flowers I'd hidden the night before), I prepared breakfast (waffles for some of the kids, blueberry waffles for some of the kids, mixed fruit [blue berries, black berries and sliced strawberries] with yogurt and sugar on the side for Win) and we went for some walks. Win did almost ten miles this morning, basically one 3.3 mile circuit with each of us. is about why so many people find Americans annoying. It is also, if you think about it, why some segments in our society find other segments so annoying. "We're not obnoxiously evangelistic, just obnoxiously self-involved " is the take-away from the article. So often, we are obnoxiously self-involved.

Which is how Church ended today. The Young Men came in and gave flowers to their mothers -- and skipped everyone else. That made a definite point, especially following a lesson on loss and death and being excluded. Kind of capped the point.

And yes, today is a day when I would like to just subsume my feelings with a double batch of brownies and a half gallon of ice cream. Instead, I remember I'm allergic to chocolate and stay continent and just feel the emotions instead, caring for those I love.

10 THE SHANGRI-LA DIET, by Seth Roberts (Putnam)

[if you've come for Shangri-la diet notes, click here]

[if you've come for a diet up-date on me -- a progress report sort of thing, click here]

Add your blog to the ecosystem.

If you have comments, or questions, always feel free to click on comments and say something, or send me an e-mail.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Homosexuality, etc.

[if you've come for Shangri-la diet notes, click here]

Carol Lynn Pearson's talk on the subject. I enjoyed her book, so I listed to the webcast, at least some of it.

I'm only fifty. I don't know enough to comment more. So, in case you are wondering why I haven't blogged on the subject, it is because all I know about homosexuals is that they suffer and need love, especially in grief, like everyone else. It is our weaknesses and needs that bind us together.

As an update for those with questions about the strength training I'm doing: for the essay that I used for the foundation of my weight training (though I kind of slipped into most of it by accident over the last three years, this just solidified my thinking).

Lennika is a pretty name

Last night we saw Kenneth Cope in concert. He and his subtle piano player were affectionate, and the show was extremely well done. While we were sitting there, my wife brought up names and that Lennika was a good example of a pretty name that is under used. We then talked with the couple next to us for a while, discussing girls' names that are pretty, but underused.

The concert also made me think of sons. If I'd ever had one, I'd have named him John Robert. John for the first Marsh in the United States, brought here as a bond servent/slave with the William and Mary Company and Robert in memory of my family line (it is a traditional name for first born boys in my line, Stephen Robert, LeRoy Robert, Robert Henry, etc.).

The concert was first announced as "for singles only, the rest of you can't come" (a seperate charge part of a multi-regional singles conference) and then, when they did not handle the ticket sales and publicity well (and thus got very few sales, though the conference was rumored to be a success), "for you too, but not really." Cope did an excellently professional presentation, to a half filled cultural hall.

His Greater Than Us All helped my wife about ten years ago, in the midst of burying children. But the concert was much better than that, if the comment makes any sense. Felicia Sorensen's She Believes is still my favorite, but I was pleased with Kenneth Cope's music, which has sold better.

Lots of things that are underappreciated.

Leave me a name or something else that you feel is not appreciated the way it should be.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

All that matters is how you fix the problem

[if you've come for Shangri-la diet notes, click here]

I had an inflamed rotator cuff that was bothering me. I laid off the work out that inflamed it and quit exercises that involved my shoulders and kept waiting for it to get better. Finally I went to a doctor. His therapist sat me down and said "it doesn't matter how you got the problem, what matters is how to fix it." The solution was simple, basically a little exercise and working on my posture. Problem solved.

The lesson I just thought about again today, the important lesson, is that we often have problems. Almost every time it doesn't matter how we got the problem, what matters is what we do to solve it -- which often doesn't require knowing how the problem occurred. If you've fallen into a pit, I don't really need to know how it happened to throw you a rope and pull you out.

I just thought about it today when I realized I'm not working out on the balls of my feet. Doesn't really matter how I managed to quit doing that, all that matters is what I'm going to do to fix the problem. Not only that, but in most of the things in life, the same lesson applies. Looking forward to fixing problems is often more useful that looking back to see where they came from.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Three part messages: changing behavior of others

I was going to write on three-part messages, but Ozarque covered it perfectly. Try this in person or on-line with anyone who isn't a troll.

Perfect three-part messages are composed entirely of things about which no rational person could argue. [If the person you're interacting with isn't rational, that's a different problem, and beyond the scope of this brief post.] My favorite perfect example is this one, already familiar to you:

"When you don't water the tomatoes, I feel angry, because plants die without water."

Part one ("When you don't water the tomatoes....") is the one specific behavior you want changed. Unless you're also irrational you won't be saying that unless the person really has failed to water the tomatoes. It's verifiable in the real world, and it contains no judgmental or subjective chunks of the sort that "When you don't do your fair share of the garden work" would. It's a valid part one.

Part two ("I feel angry...") is the weakest part of the three-part message in terms of the requisite real-world verifiability. English allows dialogues in which one person says "I feel tired/sick/angry/whatever" and another person can acceptably, although rudely, say back "Oh, you do not!" When properly constructed, however, it's verifiable in the sense that it is (a) appropriate for the context in which it's spoken, and (b) backed up by the speaker's body language, including intonation and tone of voice. It's conceivable, though unlikely, that it may be challenged with "Oh, you do not feel angry!"; if that happens, the appropriate response is just to repeat the original three-part message even more sincerely.

Part three ("because plants die without water") is the hardest part of the three-part message to construct. Its function is to say why it's your perception that you are justified in making the request for a change in behavior. To be valid, it must also be concrete, verifiable in the real world, and not subject to rational argument. "Plants die without water" meets those specifications. None of the following alternatives would qualify:

"....because it's not fair for you to leave all the work for other people."
"....because you're just being lazy."
"....because a decent person would do their share of the chores."

Any of the three unacceptable alternatives might well be true, and justified. That's irrelevant. They don't qualify as a valid part three for a three-part message.

click on the link above for the rest of the discussion. I couldn't ask for a better cover of the topic than if she had done it for me as a special favor.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

In grief you will need physical contact and comfort

[if you've come for Shangri-la diet notes, click here]

You will need non-sexual physical contact. But, you need to nurture things to make that happen. By this I mean you need to establish patterns of physical contact that do not lead to sex. For example, I rub my wife's feet, often when she is very tired, which puts her to sleep. She knows that if I'm rubbing her feet, she can enjoy it, even if she isn't planning on it leading to other things. The same is true when I rub her back or when we are going to sleep and she wants to rest her head on my shoulder. We can take comfort in each other's presence without there being any other message. That is an important pathway to create and nourish in a relationship.

It is also one you can start at any time. A simple "honey, I know you are tired, but if I rub your feet it will probably put you to sleep. Just go to sleep while I rub some lotion into your feet" can start you on that path. One that will allow you both to have the comfort you need without any other message than "I love you" being communicated.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What I eat on the Shangri-la Diet

In response to some comments and some questions ...

Two eggs and 120 calories of dry toast, 40 calories of orange juice for breakfast, along with one fish oil, one calcium and one multi-vitamin.

2-3 tablespoons of sugar/fructose in water at 10:00 (just started doing that, I may quit, I'm not seeing it make a difference).

Non-fat yogurt with sugar to taste, 70 calories of luncheon meat, two slices bread.

2 tablespoons extra light olive oil or grapeseed oil at 2:30 to 4:00 (somewhere in there).

On the road or at church I might try sugar cubes instead (at 10 calories each, 24 = 240).

Non-fat yogurt with sugar to taste, 70 calories of luncheon meat, two slices bread.

That's it. I blend various brands of non-fat yogurt (I find it makes the taste mellower).

If I eat out I often have a grilled chicken chicken Caesar salad, dressing on the side, or a dry hamburger with tomato (I may cut it in half and take half home if it is large).

I spend very little time thinking about food and I drink a lot less diet soda (or any soda) than I used to.

Judo two to three times a week, walking prn (as I can get someone to walk with), weight lifting once a week (I'm following a myogenic program, since I maxed out the weights pretty much otherwise), 1600-1800 calories a day. When I started I wasn't able to even walk much. Now, at the end of weight lifting my heart rate is 104 on the bike as I warm down instead of 140 or so as it was in November.

My biggest concern was to get enough protein once I quit eating as much. Originally I was doing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I was using less than a teaspoon of peanut butter and jelly and realized that at 70 calories worth, I wasn't getting much protein from them (none from the jelly -- though a small bottle of jam lasted a long time at that use rate). I've moved to whole wheat bread, which makes it harder to get 60-70 calories a slice, but I can often find it that way, or just cut a larger slice in half.

Once in a while I'll have Wheaties for breakfast, or tomato basil soup and a split appetizer for dinner (when we go out) or soup in the place of yogurt at lunch or dinner. For Thanksgiving I skipped a meal and had some turkey and dressing, though not as much as I'd have had for serving. Some days I have only two meals instead of three (Sunday, for example, when we have Church on the afternoon block).

I added the morning sugar-water as a result of the book, but I think I'm going to drop it as it doesn't seem to change anything for me. When I started I was at four tablespoons of oil a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon (after transitionning from sugar water), hit a plateau and dropped the morning dose and started losing weight again. Plateaus for a week or so are pretty common.

When I started I was also eating three eggs, three slices of toast, some butter and 8 ounces of orange juice. I've slowing trended down on how much I eat for breakfast.

I'm usually very well hydrated.

That pretty much sums it up for right now, though my wife bought me some Lands' End Trim Fit shirts and they are perfect to a little loose. I love it. Now to lose that last thirty or so pounds.

My gateway post on the diet.

Next post, back to dicussing relationships, three part messages and other core things.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Who I am, why I blog, the Shangri-la Diet and Me

Beginning in 1993, I buried three children in the space of four and a half years, each dying from unrelated, non-genetic causes. I took great solace in food and did my best to survive with what remained of my family and the help of my wife, who suffered everything I did and more. When I realized I would not be able to eat myself into oblivion I lost some weight, but I had moved my set point to a new high. I had two problems. One, I needed to lose weight to regain mobility and for other health reasons. Two, I wasn't sure I could cope with life without recovery and serenity and I didn't have any source for those except for food.

I joined OA and on November 13, 2005, started the Shangri-la Diet. I weighed about 240 at that point, a fair amount of muscle, but a hideous amount of fat, over which I had no control. OA helped me find the tools I needed to deal with life without food, the Shangri-la Diet gave me a food plan, so to speak, that worked for me.

Today is May 3, 2005. Yesterday morning I weighed in at 189. My optimum weight is probably 160.2. I'm about 5'6" -- but years of lifting weights have given me some serious muscle mass. I now wear Lands' End trim fit shirts and they look good (and my wife smiles). I'm a better, and smaller man, and I'm still losing weight.

I blog because, in a moment of weakness, I wrote some essays for other parents who had buried children. The essays helped others. I started an on-line journal (in the days before blogs) and when I was ready to quit writing, I received a number of letters from parents I had helped. I eventually shifted to blogging, where I blog for the 20-30 people each week who actually need what I'm blogging about.

I blogged about the Shangri-la Diet because (a) it has worked so far for all of my friends and associates who have tried it correctly and (b) there are a lot of other parents out there who found solace in food when their children died and who don't need another useless diet that does nothing but mislead and harm them. I've tried a lot of diets since 1993. None of them made any difference until now.

So, if you've found my blog and wondered what a diet is doing mixed with discussions about prayer, faith and surviving the death of children, this post explains how they fit together and where I fit in all of those themes.


Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question in the comments.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ok, one more diet post

Just some links to what others are saying:

  • 2006 (May 1) Sierra, K. The strangest, easiest way to lose weight. Creating Passionate Users."It's been two weeks since I started and oh-my-god. . . . It works by using your body's natural appetite suppressant—the desire to keep you at a particular weight. . . . It is the weirdest damn feeling . . . it's a kind of "not hungry" that is unlike anything I've ever experienced. . . . I have two other friends on it now, and after five days, they've noticed the effect as well."
  • 2006 (April 28). Anniejs. A tubby hurrah! Spewage. A subtle and detailed comment.
  • 2006 (April 27) Swartz, A. A future without fat. Aaron Swartz: The Weblog. I love this.
  • 2006 (April 20). Dubner, S. The Shangri-La diet, between hard covers. Authors' Blog. A little masterpiece of show don't tell.
  • 2006 (April 20). Cohen, J. The diet to end all diets. HuntGrunt. Joyce was given The Shangri-La Diet book proposal by a Starbucks employee. My agent had left it there by mistake. Brilliant viral marketing!
  • 2006 (April 20). Reynolds, G. The Shangri-La diet - lose weight without hunger while eating whatever you want. VideoGameWorkout. An example of combining the Shangri-La diet with other weight-loss methods.

The book on (about twelve dollars, vs. twenty in the store).

My main post on the diet and some more below:

Contrary Voices:


I was really impressed by Naiah's side bar -- a collection of links to her comments on other blogs. Co-comment (see the very bottom of my page) does that.

When I signed up, I tried it for a couple of weeks without success. Then, I tried it again and it worked. I'm not sure what made the difference, but now it works. e.g. (I know, nothing earth shattering in my comments, but it is neat to see the concept working):
THE SMILING INFIDEL: I'm Throwing My Hat Into The Ring
Ethesis (Stephen): Very cute.
Ethesis (Stephen M (Ethesis)): That is an interesting approach, and an excellent idea.
Zelophehad's Daughters: Coming Back to Life
Ethesis (Stephen): Welcome back, I hope all is well.
Naiahdot: Somebody stop me
Ethesis (Stephen M (Ethesis)): Well, I hope this means that you are well again.