Thursday, January 31, 2008

Political Attack Add is where I got it.

Doesn't get much better these days ;)


I blog at several places, for different reasons at each place, as well as owning a four letter domain that runs about twelve thousand hits a day. A check at sitemeter shows that this blog gets probably 120 hits or less a day. My primary topic, grief and relationship issues, also draws the fewest hits and some of the nastiest trolling.

It is tempting to slide off to other topics. Posting on the Shangri-la diet will double visitors or more. Certain kinds of posts will do the same thing. But I'm most likely to get e-mails or feedback that I've helped others who have suffered grief, especially the loss of a child, from the grief related posts.

I started the precursor to this blog (before there were blogs) as an on-line journal so people who knew me and wanted updates had some place to go. It gave me a measure of control. When that wasn't necessary, I was going to stop writing, and that resulted from contacts from people who were places I had been and found it helpful (like I had found it helpful) to read someone else's experience and comments.

So I kept writing.

I found that the religion posts, which I enjoy, drew page views and attention (and one even made a "best of" competition), but most parents who have lost children don't seem to want a religion specific theology discussion. So I scaled back on those and then was lucky enough to find a place to group blog on various matters.

As for my lame pet troll (I've got only one)? So jejune. A thin and insipid coward, he reminds me to try to do better. While he tempts me to leave his posts up because they draw attention and sympathy, but I don't need that, it is only a distraction.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Remembering Jessica

Jessica (February 12, 1986 to January 26, 1993)

When my daughter Jessica was little she used to need to be told stories to help her go to sleep. Later, even when she did not need the stories, she liked to listen to her two favorite stories. I will share them with you now.

Once upon a time there was a house with four windows and four doors. The first window looked out on the mountains. The second window looked out on the forest and the trees. The third window looked out on the sea and on the beach and the fourth window looked out on the highway that went South into the city. This is the story of the house with four windows and four doors.

There was a man who went on a mission. When he was twenty, he met two people who had a beautiful three year old girl. He decided that he had to get married and have a girl of his very own. After years and years he finally was married. A year and a month after the wedding he had a daughter and named her Jessica. After three years she was the most beautiful three year old in the world. This is the story of your Daddy and the daughter he always wanted.

I confess, I miss her still.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Friday February 1 2008

2:00p – 4:00p

# of tickets

Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons
Margaret B. Young & Darius A. Gray

This film exposes the continuous presence of African-Americans in the Latter Day Saints. The archival photographs and never released footage shot in 1968 make this film simply amazing. Includes interviews with Martin Luther King, III.

(Running Time 73 min)

A good reason to find a way to get off of work early.

Studio Movie Grill/Addison


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Being afraid of happiness

This post is about things that are natural and a part of recovery from grief, but just because something is natural doesn't mean it is necessarily pleasant, rational or easy.

There are two emotions that are overwhelmingly irrational, yet inescapable for many. The first is guilt, both over the event that creates grief and then at any time afterwards that one has happiness. Guilt, for me, is self indulgent behavior, like self pity, that I have discarded (it isn't for others, and can be a terrible burden). But while I have been able to discard guilt, especially since I have felt responsible for helping others in my family in recovery, fear has dogged me.

Fear is the second inescapable emotion. It stalks me at times.

Strangely, what triggers my fear and causes dread is happiness and success.

I have always been terribly content with many things. While I never lived up to Eugene Jacobs' hopes for me (he always felt that he and the school had let me down, I always felt that I had failed him by failing to find the kind of traction necessary to do the things he felt I could do, I mourn his passing), I have met many of the goals those I knew growing up had for me. I was just a poor kid in a trailer park with crippling levels of ADD. I have beautiful children, a wonderful wife and a polydactyl cat. I enjoy my job a great deal, I enjoy what I do with my life.

The last time I was content like this is when my life fell apart. I had finally gotten "over the hump" (so to speak) in getting my practice going. I had money in the bank, three wonderful children (sadly I've never gotten above two alive at any one time since then), a wife who was unbelievably wonderful and a community I loved (I still have fond feelings for Wichita Falls, I just can't bear to live there any more). I was publishing and thinking. I was really happy.

Now, many things are going well in my life again. I wake up happy to see my wife sleeping next to me. I'm not teaching anything other than at Church right now, but I'm reading and studying (things that would probably seem boring to most people, but I'm getting a much broader background for applied legal ethics, refreshing things I know or knew, filling in holes in my knowledge, updating myself on some economics developments and enjoying it). I've participated in some ethics seminars and expect that I will eventually write again, I can't help myself.

Physically, I'm in better shape than I've been in a very long time. I weigh less than I did before Jessica died. That was a very long time ago. I can feel my emotions, ones I've hidden from for a very long time and they are mostly joy. But I have an irrational connection between this emotional state and the five years that followed the last time I had it.

I know that what I am feeling is natural and a part of recovery. That helps. People who have been through trauma and loss often find that when life starts to become sweet again, when they have things that they enjoy and value, then they start to feel a fear that those things will be taken away. The fear isn't crippling and it isn't constant. I'm lucky that way.

But I'm ready for it to be gone, to be past the middle of February and into Spring again, with hope and life in the air and surrounding me.

I know it could be much worse, I could have a life without things I value and would fear to lose. I could be going through this not knowing it is a normal part of the journey of recovery from grief, not knowing that it will transition, that it is another step in healing.

So I face my fears, I read my little girl bed time stories, make sure she has brushed her teeth and practiced her piano, help her with her prayers, tuck her in at night and am grateful for my fears.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Quick Notes, Off Topic/FIOS Internet

Best line in a blog "No Moussaka, No Peace"

Reminds me of a restaurant that wouldn't serve my brother Mark moussaka (remember, he is half Greek and he grew up on my mother's cooking, including her moussaka) claiming he wouldn't like it -- until he came in with my nephew Ben, who looks more Greek than Mark does (Mark Alexander -- come on, how more Greek can you get?), then they served him.

CompUSA is going out of business. 8 GB Ipod Nanos selling for $160 at the local one (my wife just bought me one for our anniversary). Sad to see them go (TigerDirect bought the trademark and the web site), but there are some interesting sales as they clear out all the inventory.

Interesting links around the blogs
By the way, I've got FIOS internet service and telephone service. Recently it has only been up about 60% of the time.

I don't know if anyone else has had problems like that.

I'd also note that if you use the database, it doesn't have any answers, if you use the mail it is hooked up to an AI or an help desk that is staffed by illiterates (they suggested that I check out on-line gaming in response to my questions) and the "call us" sends me to a diagnostics routine that hangs in firefox and causes IE 6 to suffer a runtime error and close.

It is fast, I can get BYU TV, but I do hope that they get the reliability for the rest of the package up. Over six months it has gone from 90% available (which isn't good) to about 60%. At least I rarely get home phone calls anymore, FIOS phone service being out so often kind of took care of that. Makes me glad of my cell phone.

Last comment. If you have the required wireless home network, all of the database and other "help" materials refers you to D-Link, none of it to the Actiontec MI424WR. Actiontec doesn't have a database, they want a $39.00 service call and the internal link to corrupts any saved passwords (if you use a service such as Firefox provides). Luckily, the WEP key for each server is printed on the bottom, so if the service call installed the box, changed the password, saved it after changing the WEP key and you want to add an additional system to your network, while the tutorials, etc. on the FIOS site will leave you stranded, just reset the box and use the WEP key on the bottom for everything.

I don't know how hard that would have been to put that on the help database at the FIOS site. Or why they actually made me disconnect all my D-Link equipment that I had when I switched over.

Just FYI.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Now she has a life chosen for her by a high-school kid.

That is an amazing line in an essay about employment, professions and life choices, about how the decisions we make in high school often guide us through to where we are in middle age, and leave us without choices we find palatable.

Myself, I like law. I came in from vacation to spend half a day on a case that will resolve with a 12b motion as soon as the co-Defendant removes it to federal court. (This will make one a year for a couple years in a row now).

Some other things that I love, I've let go. I really liked Shotokan, but I could never see it as a way to earn a living or support a family. I'm not a bad game designer, but is it really the path I should take?

For a time I was a successful country lawyer, coming home every day for lunch, windsurfing every evening with my girls, in what was an Indian Summer dream. Too many deaths took that away, just like it took some other options away from me, at least for a time. Now I litigate, and find it satisfying and mentally challenging.

Since then, I've done other things, like teach post-graduate students in advanced classes. That was fun, but scarcely reality.

"In the design of lives, as in the design of most other things, you get better results if you use flexible media."

"Whichever route you take, expect a struggle."

My wife has found a profession she enjoys as well, one that suits her and doesn't do violence to her personality.

Would I change things? I'm not sure, I decided not to keep current enough that game design would be a temptation, after a close brush with returning to it. I still teach a little here and there and keep thinking, though I write so much as a part of work I'm not doing much writing on the side any more.

I don't know. As I emerge from the dark night of the soul I entered as my children started dying, I'm not sure what to do with the light.

BTW, at law and letters, there is a post on what to do to find yourself before that high school kid determines your life. Paul Gowder suggests taking a year to work after you get your bachelors and before you start law school, spending the time as a paralegal or clerk/typist in an area of law you think you would like to work in (or as an executive secretary or similar worker in any other post graduate area) and a year to explore something(s) else.

I'd suggest that while you are an undergraduate is the time you should explore. I had friends who learned to fly, one who became a golf pro (hi Jeff!), others who got brown belts in martial arts or qualified for nationals in Judo. I've friends who became paramedics or who learned other skills or explored other things. Knew a couple who decided not to become veterinarians when they realized they made more money and had more fun in their summer jobs than they would after a program that is harder to get into than medical school.

There are really three problem areas. The first is the one where you make a decision in high school and grind your way to the end, like the medical doctor in the one example or many lawyers in others. In that situation what you need to do is come up for air in order to get some perspective. Work a summer or a year as an anesthesia tech or as a paralegal and see if you like the work and the people.

The second is where you've picked a direction where you do what you love (and so have too many other people) but that pays less than your night job waiting tables. Medieval History comes to mind, or the philosophy students at programs outside the hiring belt (some programs place people in jobs, some don't). All the fourth class game designers I met over the years who couldn't quite get past aspiring to mary sue designs (sure, they loved what they did, the problem is no one else did) -- I guess the modern equivalent would be fan writers who are really, really bad but who love to write or tone deaf musicians.

Many people in these areas can find related areas. Learning to typeset, or run music boards as a sound engineer, or similar things that are similar to, but not quite the goal that would basically be just playing all day.

The third is where you enjoy your direction, but can't quite connect with the end goal. The kid with the MCAT of 6 I knew (I actually knew three, two got into medical schools on affirmative action). That is where people readjust -- before they find themselves as a microbiology graduate working in a sewage plant because they couldn't get into medical school and had no other direction (sewage plants hire applied microbiologists) except going to law school.

Though I do agree that focusing on money is much to much focusing on the wrong thing. It is why I enjoy my daughter's teachers in school, people who love what they do and who are worth loving in return.

The Persistence of Grief

On Television shows everyone gets over just about anything by next week, and usually within thirty minutes. Death, dismemberment, divorce, unemployment, they all resolve back to a happy face by the end of the current show. The hidden message is that life resolves just as quickly.

Of course it does not. After Jessica died my brother sent me a clip from a book where David Oman McKay's wife was talking to a relative, when she was in her eighties, about how the pain of her son's death was still with her.

At this time of year, as I go from Christmas through a couple days past Valentine's Day, the persistence of grief always comes to mind.

I think I have so much to write about it and then, suddenly almost, it is more than words can convey.

As I blog on religion at Mormon Matters, I expect that I will revert back, more and more, to reflection and life, writing more to those who know grief or who are in recovery (but, alas, never fully recovered) here. Two very different blogs, two very different topics.

Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love, who represents a hereafter where there's no hell, who wants you to lead a life where you can confess your sins and feel much better afterwards. Those are lovely concepts of God."

A great quote, sent me by Suzette Haden Elgin

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Off topic

I recently read Starlight 3 (Starlight) and it was terrible. "Science fiction" but mostly fantasy, the stories were mostly idea sketches rather than stories. E.g. "What if God is arbitrary and capricious and we are supposed to love him because he is the source of all pain, and what if the world were filled with the random visitations of angels" ... ok. Interesting idea, but not much story there (heck, not much of an idea either). Lots of that sort of sketch, a good reminder as to why I don't read many sf short story collections any more.

On the other hand, I have to compare it to Infinite Space, Infinite God which is moving. It is a collection of science fiction stories by Catholics, written with religion as a strong influence. But they are stories first. Some of them are very moving, some are very touching, but they are stories. The concept sketch gets out of the way on the title page and the rest of the volume is solid stories.

Infinite Space, Infinite God

I very much enjoyed it and wish there was more fiction of that sort. is my review.

Shifting gears, I've also been reading a fair amount of Carol Berg fiction. Even won one of her books in a contest. She writes about frail and believable people, often in difficult situations, often marred or broken by events, and how they are restored.

When you realize that Carol H. Berg and Carol Berg are probably different people the lack of graphic sex or violence in the books makes sense (CHB's book on amazon is an erotic tale and comes up when you search for CB. None of the Carol Berg books I've read have had sex or graphic violence in them).

I don't know if With Hearts Expanded is by her or not, but I could well believe she is the Carol Berg listed as an author. ("The continuing history of the Convent of the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict at St. Joseph, Minnesota, from 1957 to the present. Includes some history of the College of St. Benedict, as well.").

I expect some great things from her as she gets her footing.

Finally, like everyone else in the bloggernacle I've read Elantris by Sanderson and enjoyed it. Should be interesting to see what he does with The Wheel of Time.

Ok, enough of this, I'll be back to regular posts shortly.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Do the humanities ennoble/Mormon Matters

Do the humanities ennoble?


If it were true, the most generous, patient, good-hearted and honest people on earth would be the members of literature and philosophy departments ...

That got me thinking, but not the same direction as the various articles and commentaries on that editorial.

Instead, what does ennoble, what makes people patient, good-hearted, honest and generous?

I think it is service and action, rather than study, but I'm looking for input about what caused people to be the kind of people they are happy to be.

BTW, I've accepted an invitation to start blogging on religion at

"must have a deep and abiding love" and "All discussion must be respectful ..."

I've finished my first two posts (I'm committed to weekly posts) and have outlines a couple-three more solidly. Now I just have to learn how to upload them to the format there. If I do well, I'll graduate from permanent guest to permanent group blogger.

This blog will go back to more relationship/grief/life posts.

BTW, a great book that teaches people things they wish they had known:

The Grandmother Principles
by Suzette Haden Elgin

My own mother thinks of it as the best book for how to be a grandmother that she has ever seen (well, the only one, but she loves the book).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Honest Kindness

This was the High Priest's message part of our ward's newsletter for January, 2008
One of the challenges of attempting to be like Christ is to find touchstones or guidance that works in day-to-day life. In finding specifics, I had it suggested to me that whenever I wondered if I was being Christlike, I should ask myself if I was being honest and if I was being kind.

Rather than general terms, I was told to ask myself if I was being gentle, pleasant and truthful. If I had doubts about the answer being yes, I needed to rethink what I was doing. If the answer made me feel angry, annoyed or resentful, I really needed to rethink what I was about to do.

I've just begun to try using the test, but it seems to guide me towards being more like Christ whenever I look to see if what I am doing is honest and kind and when if I ask the questions of myself about whether I am being honest and kind I feel good about myself rather than feeling hard thoughts about others.

May the new year help each of us find the grace and guidance that God has for us.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Baptism this Saturday, small miracles.

Rachel is getting baptized this Saturday.

It has been a long time since we've had a child live long enough to be baptized. Kind of like her last milestone before we can go back to trying to live normally.

Strange how there are such hidden things in our lives, with such meaning.

In grief there are two kinds of milestones involving children, both hard to understand.

As Jessica's friends were baptized, had bat mitzvahs, went to college, got married and went through other life stages, there was such bitter-sweet sorrow in her not being there, not doing the same things. At the same time, there is comfort in the fact that life is going on and such joy to see her friends doing well. By all means I was much happier to see the events than if I had missed them.

The other is as children reach the ages that siblings died at, it is as if a heavy weight is lifted each time. Jessica so wanted to be baptized. To see Rachel go through that event was so sweet, as if she had finally begun to live, while at the same time it was one of the first kind of milestones as well.

Life is so many small miracles, so much joy, so much perspective. I am glad of it.