My Balinda: The view from here.

law, politics, spirituality……are we making the world a better place, today.

Peace is Priceless #1

Hezekiah prospered in all that he did. 31And so when ambassadors of the rulers of Babylon were sent to him to inquire about the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone to test him, that He might know all that was in Hezekiah’s heart.

2 Chronicles 32

I was at a place in life of facing myraid challenges and unexpected, repeated, tragedies, including but not limited to a divorce and my son being injured and hospitalized multiple times.

In spite of these of these hostile invasive events, my professional life flouished.  My busines grew. I received recognition and accolades. My material possesions and trappings increased, while I travelled and fully enjoyed single life.  I struggled though, internally, with the propriety of my work, the meaning of it all, and in general, perpetully questioning my own okay-ness.

On one typical Thursday afternoon, I was leaving my beautiful tenth floor office in South Orange County  I was headed to my favorite wine bar, not too far away, when I got rear ended in my beautiful blue Mercedes. 

Peace is priceless, was my motto in all things and something I constantly communicated to my divorce clients. As we had to put a dollar value on pretty much everythig in their lives, I told them, peace is priceless, but in this process you will have an oppotunity to purchase it, and only you can decide how much it will be.  

I pulled into the parking lot of the Wine Bar, where the valet usually greeted me by name,. Instead this time, I got out of the car to find out the name of stranger who just hit me. A Prius pulled in right behind me and a young man jumped out, rubbing his head and apologizing.  I told him to take a deep breath and just tell me his name.  He said his name was Noah.  

I just stared at him and said, “Of course it is”.

At that moment in my life, it really was as thoguht Babylonian invaders, had wanderded through my life to see what I was made of,  and the Lord was watching to see form my choices, what was in my heart.  I was broken, and searching, and hearing the call of the Lord to the things and the ministry I had long ago laid down, and what I really needed, more than anything, at that moment, would have been an ark. An ark to resuce me from the flood that I knew was coming.  There I stood, with Noah, and his Prius, and him having a panic attack over rear ending my Mercedes.  

I realized this was one of those moments that I could choose, and that how this was going to go, was dependent upon me.  That motto, about peace, is really about taking the power, to choose, and not allowing circumstances to be an excuse for not choosing. There is no reason to allow circumstances to dictate your identity, your future or the outcome.  The Lord stood back and allowed me to make choices in these difficult places and events in my Life.  God showed up, through a supportive Pastor, a scripture at the right time and place, a word of reminder about the promises I had made, my own inadequacy and His unfailing faithfulness.  Each time, it was up to me though, to choose. I could choose His promises, or I could choose me, my way, or the World’s way. 

I told Noah that he should have a nice evening and forget this ever happened.  He looked at me stunned. He continued to comment on what a beautiful car I had and asked if there was anything he could do for me.  I told him to pray for me. 

Hezekiah had succeded in everything he put his hands to. (v.30) He really made a name for himself, and pepe noticed.  I know what that is like.  It makes it easy to take yourself too seriously, and it doesnt always result in peace. Peace is priceless, but we have to pay something for it. The cost of peace, is surrender. 

The Lord was watching, to see what was in my heart. On that day, it was Peace. 

Hoping for more square pegs

Society requires a certain degree of conformity.  We seem to be in a place of great tension right now as we define and reshape our view of “normal”.  The proverbial “square peg” in a  round hole has come to define many people who used to believe that their view of the world was the “normal” one and they/we are presently being increasingly called out by the “establishment” as needing to conform.  The notion of conformity has been wielded by those who view themselves as the disenfranchised, not realizing they themselves are the ones doing the disenfranchising.

I read this morning on the Chicks on the Right page that a public school is considering the petition from a student to terminate its ban on chapstick.  Yep, chapstick.  The rationale the school gave was the possibility of chapstick being shared and spreading disease.  Again, yep, chapstick.  I’m not sure if they did any studies to show if shared chapstick actually spreads disease, but it certainly sounds like one of those things that your mother told you would happen and it is a little bit gross.

It begs the question though, does the school really have THIS much responsibility to determine and dictate the behavior of our kids? The answer is of course, they have as much authority as we have given them. I do love that the girl in that story was taking on the school and making an effort to get the rule changed.  I understand that, entering through the front door, following the procedures and giving the school board the deference of the governing body that it is.  I wouldn’t have done it that way, but kudos to her.  Myself,  I would have had a hard time being respectful of such a stupid and irrational rule, and I would have challenged it by ignoring it.  If my kids needed chapstick and it was banned at school, I would have sent it anyway.  I really am not sure if that makes me a bad person or pain in the ass, but I still believe and always will, that our entire society and the order therein, is based upon the consent of the governed.  The more we fight against ridiculousness, the more power we give it.    We have to be “about” bigger things than chapstick.  If I had been, as a parent, called on the carpet about this decision to send my  kid to school with a banned substance, I would explain that there was a medical necessity that trumped the rationale of the rule.  In general, pure logic and reasoning has yielded me fair results in the school system, and I have managed to get two kids nearly through the process.

My oldest child was lamenting yesterday about the ineptness and incompetence of college professors.  I pointed out that this is precisely the function of college and professors, to confront you with points of view that you may choose not to adhere to.  You can conform or rebel in both thoughts and action, but the point is in the provocation. Idiot professors certainly have a way of provoking you to thought and action.  Moreover, officials may tell you that chapstick is a disease bearing nuisance but only you can decide in your mind whether you believe that or believe your own experience in which chapstick was your savior from painfully cracked and broken lips on a cold winter day.

I had another opportunity to speak to the administration at a local Yorba Linda school yesterday.  It is an opportunity I have been afforded on a pretty regular basis over the past 13 years.  Because I have raised and birthed (this is not a nature vs. nurture debate, that is a whole ‘nother blog!) kids who are notorious “square pegs”, these arbiters of the “round holes” have need of pretty regular contact with me.  All good, we have managed to think through some things, resolve and theorize these rules and policies to the satisfaction, of well, usually neither of us, but well, we move on and get through it.  I have never managed to get any rules or policies changed but I have managed to garner some respect for my views and the unique “shape” of my kid.  I will never stop being an advocate for those who are “square pegs” because the “round holes” should be fluid enough to make room for everyone.   Adherence to myopic and arbitrary rules does not a person of great character make.  Great character is about being respectful and caring of the needs of others, not being abrasive, abusive and of course, not spreading communicable diseases with willy nilly sharing of chapstick, but if at all possible, rules and minutia should not prohibit a kid from being who they are, the best they can be and enjoying and being safe in the process.

“All created equal” and “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, seem to anticipate this kind of differentiation and myriad uniqueness.  We should be embracing it and not quashing it. I’m going to keep embracing and promoting that, whether any establishment is or not.

So, kids, if you need chapstick and it helps you concentrate and be a better student, by all means, bring it to school.  You can still be charming and cooperative with your teacher and the educational system, but maybe, bring a note from Mom or a doctor, and don’t share it with eighteen people who have communicable diseases.  Be yourself, ignore your college professors when they are communists or just ordinary idiots.  You don’t have to point out how unintelligent they are, but you don’t have to actually take in and take on anything they say either.

There is room for all of us.  Tyranny of the majority is something our founding fathers planned for and made concessions for when it might occur.  The same principle applies down to the most local parts of our society.  We are not slaves to the opinions and mandates of minute behavior modifying ridiculousness,  but we also don’t have to get into an uproar over them.  Move forward in the confidence of who you are, square peg, which have been and will continue to be, the foundation of a great society.

What if there’s no label for me

Someone described my generation as the generation that wants everything neatly in boxes, then proclaims: ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ boxes!”  Of course we are the “Think outside the box” generation.

That explains only a little of why it is so hard to define our views.  We label ourselves as voters of “Democrat” or “Republican” ideals and candidates and we label others as “Conservative” or “Liberal” based upon what we saw on Facebook or what a PoliSci professor told us in college.  All too often we put on these labels because we like some characteristics of the other people who are wearing them or we dislike some of the people who are wearing the other.  It becomes something of a game of choosing “my people”, which although a noteworthy effort in the human experience, it falls short to utilizing our opposable thumbs and abilities to reason.  We can think.  We should.  We often don’t though, and we just sign up.  “Yeah, I wanna be like that guy, put me on his team.” When we do so, we fall short of our moral and ethical obligations to do the right thing, and we pay extraordinarily high consequences.

Lately, I’ve been having many conversations about the labels, “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice”.  “Why?”, you ask.  Well, God told me to, and that’s another blog, but the interesting thing, the most amazing thing, about this issue of when you believe that life begins and when and how a woman can exercise her rights over her own body….this pivotal and fundamental issue that speaks volumes about how we see ourselves and God and humanity, is one that people truly can not explain why they hold and wear and covet the label they have chosen.  So, then I must or necessity ask, “Why?”.

“A woman has a right to choose.”

These words were spoken by Anita Perry in an interview a few months ago.  She is the wife of Texas Governor, Rick Perry.  This interview was at a time when Wendy Davis (Abortion Barbie) was preparing to announce her campaign for Governor of the State of Texas and of course News outlets jumped on this story, proclaiming that Anita had effectively upstaged Wendy by announcing that she was “Pro-Choice”.  Funny.  I watched the interview with Anita Perry and she said nothing of the sort.  Not at anytime did she say “Please give me a button, and tattoo on my forehead the words PRO-CHOICE because I want tot carry that label throughout my life.”  What she did state, was an accurate account of what the law is, that is is a woman’s right to choose.  She went on to add…..”but it would never be my choice.”

I found the way the story was twisted and carried remarkable.  I also found it interesting that her words were my words on any, many, many occasions that I have been asked about this issue in the course of my involvement in politics.  I hired a political consultant when I ran for office in 2010.  He knew I labeled myself a “fiscal conservative” and would run in my red city and red county on a “conservative” platform.  He asked me if I was Pro-Choice or Pro-Life.  I proclaimed as I often did, that I was a lawyer, who read an understood Roe, and Casey and the cases that followed them and that although I have never had an abortion, I have also never had an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, I would never judge anyone who made the choice to abort a pregnancy, and that as such, I would wear the label “Pro-Choice”. He pointed out to me that I was not Pro-choice based upon that statement, but Pro-Life.  As we discussed it further, he pointed out to me that my differences and issues were with the Pro-Life Movement, their strategies and tactics and person, but that my fundamental views were shared with Pro-Life and not Pro-Choice.  It made me think.  It gave me pause.  I thought I was being so grown up, so progressive, so think-for-myself, in assuming this label that my party, my religion my political colleagues would differ with me on, I thought I was being bold and brave.  Maybe I was just taking the easy way out.  Luckily in a city council election, abortion is not a city government issue.  I was asked by one conservative group, and I responded that I was Pro-Life,  having had this epiphany, but at that point, I was truly unsure.  Unsure in that, my perception was that the Pro-Life lobby were marginally maniacal and not folks I wanted to be lumped in with.

The statements I made to my consultant and others who I talked with on this issue, were nearly identical to those comments of Anita Perry.  I defined myself as supporting “Choice” yet was told I actually supported “Life”.  She was explaining she supported “Life” but was characterized by the media and the interviewer as providing some earth shattering disclosure that she supported “Choice”.

What is happening now in the “War on Women” rhetoric, is that reasonable regulations and politicians who support them are being characterized as trying to rob women of their reproductive rights and take control of women’s birth control and ban all abortions.  I have spent a great deal of time recently researching the efforts of conservatives in this arena in recent months and I can assure you the hysteria is fomented, fear mongering, to scare you into a corner of believing there are only these two choices.  Well, as we discussed it is not in any way clear, and there are not only “two” options.

There is no politician anywhere at this time, proposing a wholesale ban on abortions in all circumstances, and not many (a few on the fringe I suppose) who are clinging to any hope that Roe will ever be overturned.  That was a silly pipe dream and never should have been pursued.  It is an idea that seems to have largely run it’s course.  However, it is worth noting that the “movement” that began in the 80’s, was one that frightened many of us, myself in particular, away from this issue.  I went to one of those rallies in about 1985 and I really could not decide which horrified me more, the bizarre views and enthusiasm of the speaker and the crowd or the horrific images on the movie they showed.  They succeeded in driving me away from the cause, that is for certain.

Since the Roe decision, 57 million abortions have been performed in this country.

Assuming steady rates, maybe 45 million of those have been performed in the 30 years since I and others ran aways from a movement that frightened us in its blind zeal.  45 million people is a lot of souls that our society has lost the benefit of having among us.  Would we have had the scientist who would have cured cancer by now?  Would we have had the master negotiator  that would have engineered peace in the middle east?  Maybe someone who just became an astute security guard at a Boston airport who prevented the hijacking of planes that took the lives of 3000 Americans?  we just don’t know who and what we have lost.

I’m not trying to preach to anyone.  I spent too much time preaching to my Christian friends about how they should not be so cold and judgmental on this issue and understand that for some women there truly is no other choice.  I don’t know, I never had to make that choice.  I have experienced that loss only in the form of the death of three unborn children.  Children who I wanted very much.  I know the experience of having the death of something longed for, removed from my body.  I can not imagine having life stripped from me, and I mourn with and for those women.

Why would it be “war” on women to inform them of the ramifications of exercising their legal “choice?  Why would it be “war” on women for them to have adequate medical care, access to life saving procedures and equipment that only exist in hospitals?  Why is it “war” on women to offer them adequate and truthful information on the efficiency of birth control so that they do to have to face an imminently life changing choice?  Why is it “war” on women to acknowledge their unique biological gift as the carrier of new life and acknowledge the unique emotional, mental and physical consequences of this responsibility of being the mothership of the human race?  Why is it to respectful and venerable toward women to acknowledge their needs, medically and emotionally, in procreation and honor those with regulations and requirements that they and any unborn life in them and any future procreative rights be protected?  How is this the “war” on women?

The new conservative voices are the reasonable, legally appropriate, respectful to women, to babies and to procreative rights.  The rhetoric only serves to drive the sides farther apart and to keep women, ordinary women, OUT of the discussion.  It is your body, it is your baby, it is your future, you have a right to be heard ladies, but if you sit on your hands and ignore the dialogue, buying off on the rhetoric of whatever side you have signed up on or whatever label you choose to wear, then you have relinquished your “choice”, unfortunately to someone who may not have your best interests in mind.

I am Pro-Life.  I am Pro-Choice.  I am Pro-Woman.  I am Pro-Baby.  I am Pro-Privacy.  I am Pro-Procreation.  I am Pro-Birth Control.  I am Pro-Marriage.  I am Pro-Speech.  I am Pro-Freedom.

I am Pro-Human.

I think from now on, that is the only label I will wear.  It is the only one that really fits.  There is no all or nothing approach to this that is going to work and we have reached a crisis level, fever pitch in this country.  If we do not deal with the problem, it will certainly find its own way of dealing with us.  If you do not believe that Abortion is  a crisis for our country right now, then you may not have heard of Kermit Gosnell.  If you didn’t, shame on you.  You are part of the problem.  We must wake up and begin meaningful dialogue. Many, many women and babies die in silence every single day, because we will not talk about it, because we have hidden behind labels that mean nothing except “I am on team _______.”.  By taking on a label, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility of thinking our way through an issue. That time has passed, it’s not just the 40 million that have passed while we’ve been asleep, its the dozens of women and there babies who have died at the hands of (convicted) murderers like Kermit Gosnell.  Until we wake up, it will continue.

Who Am I

The answer to this usually starts with a list of labels, acquired by looking outside ourselves, to our relationships, friends, family, colleagues, to the terminology of social mores. However, the higher call of our human experience periodically taps us on the shoulder to let us know that our journey here, requires something else. It is frightening because, if we look too deeply at this, we may be forced to admit we are less than we have convinced others to believe about us. We may also discover that we were fooling only ourselves to the extent we had come to beleive we were more than someone else. Maybe though, we are most fearful of discovering that we are imminently powerful, and divine, and neither less than or more than any other human being.

For me, examination of that question was more painful and frightening, even than all the things I had been valiantly and sacrificially “doing“ to acquire the myriad extensions of my self. Self knowing is a journey, that requires courage and motivation. The motivation to embark upon the journey is often supplied for us by circumstances that drive us out of the comfort of the life structures we have built. When that motivating call intervenes in our life, sometimes mercilessly, sometimes repeatedly, our tendency is to turn away from it, and to retreat back to the safety of our seen and perceived ego constructed world. It is seductive to accept the products of our life’s work, to just continue on with all of the “doing“ that we become accustomed to. Our ego is fed by all of our doing and achieving, and convinces us we are safe. The more we do and have done, the more we have accomplished, the more goals we have met, the more we rest on the magnitude of our personal sacrifices, the more we regard our lives as good and noble enough, the more we will feel safe and validated in our comfort and complacence. The more we are self satisfied in this way, the more in danger we are of missing our real point of being here. Taking our ego out of the drivers seat of life is not an easy process.

For me it started with many realizations of who I am not.

I am not a Lawyer. I am not a Wife, Mother. I am not a Politician, Republican, Advocate, Donor. I am not Conservative or Moderate. I am not a blue Mercedes, a big lovely House in an upscale suburb or a pool or marble flooring or however many flat screen TV‘s or iPhones I have. I am not a community Leader, a generous Supporter, a big tipper. I am not a Cougar, or a Single-Mom. I am not fine jewels, expensive shoes, or a designer wardrobe. I am not a Baptist or a Christian, or a Pagan or a Buddhist, a New Age thinker or a Hindu. I am not Depression. I am not Addiction. I am not my medication or any diagnosis. I am not my debt, or my income, my expenditures or my balance sheet. I am not the things that people say about me. I am not my past victories or defeats. I am not a Victim. I am not my Past. I am not the credentials, certifications, awards or elite listings commemorated by stuff hanging on my walls. I am not Failure. I am not Success.

Crisis, trauma and pain showed me that all of these things are always at risk. There is a great deal of vigilance and effort and sacrifice required to protect these ego structures, these cherished definitions of self. Ultimately, though, they all fail, or end, terminate, change, deteriorate or die, in some way at some time. All.

What I am, always, and underneath and in spite of all of the material definitions that I or others have imposed upon me, is an eternal soul, having a temporary human experience. I am made in God’s image, redeemed from the failings of my humanity by God’s grace. Infinite power is available to me and through me, once I tap into the reality of my own eternity and divinity and birth right of relation to God. I can remove my ego from the drivers seat of life. I am a divine creation, miraculous and powerful, capable of being rightly connected to God and all that is good.


Five Senses

Five Senses

Diesel, my German Shepherd dog, and I have seen this a few times on our walks this past week. A spontaneous artwork memorial to a recently lost friend. I stopped to look at it the other day while Diesel trotted on without me. For some reason, today, Diesel intently crossed over from the middle of our wide path, to be right on top of it. He lingered. Sniffing his way up all around it, backing off, then approaching it again.

As I also paused to observe him, I remembered that I’ve been told Dogs only see in black and white. I also thought, perhaps to dogs, humans only smell in black and white. What full spectrum of things does he smell that I have no idea of?

I wondered, as I looked at the colors and the shapes, what does grief, affection and sadness smell like? What has captured Diesel’s attention here? Does he smell someone he recognizes? Had my son been there? Which of my son’s friends might have been there? Does Diesel know or recognize the scent of someone he knows, or is it more than that? Diesel paused for a moment and looked back at me, then he took one more long look at the artwork and we were again on our way.

When he paused to look at me did he know? Did the grief there smell the same as the grief I have been experiencing this past week? Did it smell the same as the tears he licked from my face last Sunday night? Was is similar to the scent of my exhausted and broken soul when I returned home from the memorial and he laid his big muzzle in my lap? Could he smell the residue then of anguish from my hug with a bereaved father? Did I bring home with me the aroma of love and the comfort of old friends?

Without words this furry beast comforted me, both in his actions days ago and again this morning. Without words he understood something real and important and awful had happened. Without words, but with his full spectrum nose, he looked, observed and quietly acknowledged something that most of us could not find words for.

Many things that are real, are missed by our five senses because we are so chronically diverted. The connection and devastation we all experience in a tragedy is real, the compulsion to reach out to one another, the lump in your throat, the pain in your chest, the weakness in your knees to stand and face it. Such wrenching pain cuts us to the quick, to places in our psyche that we don’t usually activate or pay attention to. That place in our soul where were are all eternal, where we are all real, that place we so easily and daily ignore and overlook with our busyness and our goals and our to-do lists. I don’t know the feeling of a bereaved parent’s broken heart, but I have seen it, and heard it, and hugged it and it caused a deep part of me to awaken in acknowledgement.

My dog, like these children, responded, automatically, instinctively. When they heard a song in their heart they sang it, when they envisioned art on an empty space they painted it. When Diesel caught the scent of something that seemed relevant, he simply acknowledged it. These children and this furry beast reminded me today, to strive to be authentic, to be connected, feel your feelings, follow what inspires you, that words are not necessary to lend comfort and that we should not allow these real things in us to deactivate.

“Divorce is easy” (Only people who have never been divorced say that)

In the thousands of times that I have sat across the desk from an individual contemplating ending their marriage, I have on only two occasions, had a person acknowledge that they fully expected the relationship to end this way. The point being, everyone is surprised when they end up in a divorce lawyers office. Everyone is surprised when their relationship is the one that ends in some fashion other than “death do us part”. No one expects it, because everyone believes it when they say, “In sickness and in health”, “For richer for poorer”. We humans are imminently hopeful beings. We want it to work. We know the statistics, yet we march down the aisle and say those words. Each one of us who has done so, did it and said it, and believed it, and had total confidence that WE were the couple that would beat the odds. We heard what the personal skeptics said, the ones who told us we were too different, it would never work, we were too young, too old, too naïve, and did it anyways. Because we believed it. We would be different.

The shock of ending up in my office is overwhelming. I get it. I did it. I was a disaster when I unexpectedly ended up in the office of one of my colleagues as a client, after 19 years of marriage. I was the same as any of my clients. Shocked, ashamed, bewildered, disoriented and numb.

Every study on the subject tells us that half or more of marriages end in divorce. Everyone knows it. It doesn’t help to ease the pain of that moment.

Pundits and many religious teachers say that there are so many divorces because it has become too easy. That myth likely began when states like California began “No Fault” Divorce. Which just means, if you ask for a divorce, you get a divorce. Period. Who did what to who, is not a consideration in the granting of a divorce. “Dissolution of Marriage” is the legal term. Changing the verbiage has not made it easier. Changing the burden of proof, to “Irreconcilable Differences” (That’s the fancy term for No Fault) has perhaps in some ways shortcut the litigation, but the pain is the same.

The grieving process is what it is. There is no court order or legal process to change the way people do it, and everyone grieves the end of the marriage that they expected to last until death. Even if they are relieved to be away from a person who was a danger, aggravation or nuisance, the grieving still must happen. The bargaining, the anger, the sadness, it all happens. Everytime.

It is not ever “easy”. Some cases move faster and with less drama and legal activity than others, but I have yet to see one in which it was “easy” for the parties.

The purpose here, it to help people appreciate this. I am occasionally frustrated, when I have this conversation, one on one, for the umpteen thousandth time. I keep thinking, if only people knew. It takes a great deal of courage to make an appointment with a lawyer and actually show up to talk about this. I am certain that there are many people who are having this emotional process going on and think they are the only one. The only one plagued by the failure, the shame, the disarray that occurs in the life of one grieving the loss of relationship, and I want to help them know that it is a process, with stages, and there is something better on the other side.

It is notoriously, one of those awful times in life, that the only way out is through. If I could speak to those people, I would tell them to talk to someone, a lawyer, a therapist, and explore the options, take a step, start the process, of whatever it is you need to do. It can’t get better through inaction.

I believe that any marriage can be saved, but we all know that many just are not. It is not the end of the world, it just feels like it. Divorces happen because people are human and flawed. When two flawed humans come together, not only do they not fix each other, sometimes they make each other worse. In and through it all, humans keep signing up and walking down that aisle. The death of that expectation and hope of “forever”, is anything but “easy”.

Darrin’s Song

I authored this on May 30, 2009. On that dark day I had attended the funeral of someone who had failed to overcome the demons of addiction. I saw before my eyes, visions of the hope of a beautiful young life, turned to ugliness that no one wanted to face, at the hands of a raging uncontrolled addiction. The reality of children left with only one parent, and countless dreams unrealized. In the wake of the horrific end of Whitney Houston’s life, I remembered my feelings from that awful day in 2009 and wanted to share them with everyone. The point of all of this discussion is that, it does not have to end this way.

Consequences and Happy Endings

I am uniquely situated in a profession in which I am daily exposed to incredible human tragedies and sadness. After 13 years, it no longer overwhelms me as it used to, but I hope I never cease to be in awe of it all. Like all jobs, some days are better than others. I have recently faced a couple of really bad days. On a really bad day in my job, lives are changed forever, children are irreparably harmed and what were once hopes of happy endings evaporate like fairy tales or cruel jokes. However, like firemen who run into burning buildings, all of the potential negative outcomes are pushed aside in my mind daily. I focus only on the hope of overcoming the odds and saving someone from the natural consequences of the emotional catastrophes I am confronted with. Sometimes I fail, and the natural consequences run their course.

However, not all natural consequences fall upon those who have set them in motion, and some befall those whom have not in any way earned the outcomes and repercussions.

We are all confronted with seemingly random tragedy, or tragedy that befalls us at the hands, or as a direct result of, the bad actions of others. Immensely negative natural consequences certainly can and do regularly occur in the lives of people who did not set in motion those things that created the horrible outcome. So what do you do? How is that fair? How do you cope? …and what about the kids?

I have learned that kids are smarter and deeper and more resilient than adults ever give them credit for. A pure victim is rare, but there are many volunteers. Once you realized you have volunteered, freely entered into a situation of your own choosing, OR THAT you possess within you all of the power to choose your own response, then you have options and the power to create whatever ending to your story you choose. Your choices are to find and create your own happy ending or wallow in a sad unfortunate version of your story. Any tragedy can be turned into whatever positive experience we as humans can imagine.

Opposable thumbs? Is this what separates us from the rest of the creatures on earth? I think more influential in human history is our ability to reason, to choose, to press on and overcome. Although picking up a hammer at some point was important too, our mental strength and moral character does not exist in any other being on earth except humans!

The point of my pontification here is this. I have seen emotional mayhem, human waste, destruction of individuals and families, that could easily lead to hopelessness and despair. I do not choose hopelessness and despair. I am constantly inspired by individuals who could, and should and are well justified to choose hopelessness and despair, and instead they press on, overcome and find happiness and success in spite of their horrific and tragic circumstances. So long as there are others who can overcome despair, I will to. We have the power to create our own happy endings from seemingly impossible situations. We possess the opportunity to do all the following.

Choose to be positive and not negative.
Choose to forgive and not harbor anger.
Choose to be hopeful and let go of despair.
Choose to love yourself and to accept responsibility for only the part that is yours.
Be honest and only attribute to others that part that is actually theirs, then leave it to them to figure out how to fix themselves.
Fix yourself, and cure your own curable diseases.
Accept the seemingly random nature of the universe and trust your higher power that there is purpose in it all.
Find something beautiful in ugliness.

(Original Re-Publish date 2/13/2012)

What is the shape of a family

What makes up a family? Is it one mom, one dad and two kids? Is it One mom and two kids? Is it two Dads and one kid? It is being defined and redefined every day. That is the one thing that is for certain. Is one shape superior to the others? Research and wisdom and data on the subject says no.

Our puritanical and religious roots tell us that one mom, one dad, and their biological offspring is the best form of a family. This is rooted in tradition, propaganda, social mores, and a concept most of society clings to that it is somehow the “best” situation for children, yet there is little to no research on child development to bear this out. The studies that argue that this traditional formatted family is “best” for children, omit the factors of the social, personal and religious pressures that in the past have been inflicted upon non-traditional and alternately structured families. The studies and research that argue a one mom, one dad and their biological offspring are the best structure for children also ignore the ramifications of dysfunction within this relationship to the children being raised in this structure.

Two low functioning parents, unhappy in their current relationship status, dissatisfied with their life, and disgruntled with their social obligations to remain in a non fulfilling spousal role, are not providing the best of anything for their biological children. Is there a reward, medal, a pay-off at the end of the day for “hanging in there”? The real consequence of staying in a unhappy marriage for years, for the “benefit” of the children is actually years of lost happiness, years of lost self-actualization, years of less effective parenting, years of checking out due to the overwhelming depression, and children who are worse off, possibly emotionally, physically and mentally neglected because of it. Children who have lost time with their mentally and emotionally unavailable parent, children whose development has been ignored and not supervised. Children who learn hopelessness, because they have been taught by example that there are no other options.

There is nothing magical about a man, a woman and their biological offspring. A parent, each parent, individually, must be a functional individual first, before he or she is an effective and successful parent. A parent who is abused and unhappy because he or she is committed to an ideal that is not congruent and fulfilling its original destiny and expectaion, is setting an example for a child that happiness is not a priority. Quite possibly and likely setting the example that emotional drudgery is the norm in adult life. Children are far more emotionally real and susceptible than adults are. We must protect and treasure that vulnerability and realize their pain and their empathy for our pain is so much more intense. When we teach them to ‘stuff’ their pain for some higher good, an alleged greater aspiration that has no pay-off, i.e. staying in an unsatisfying relationship just ‘for the kids’ or because it is the right thing to do, we damage them. We damage them when we damage ourselves.

A low functioning parent is a low functioning parent. Period.

That is not to say that there aren’t many, MANY, man and wife parenting teams that are doing an awesome job of raising well adjusted, healthy kids, but it is not automatically a winning combo. What then is the cost? The cost of adhering to this outdated and outmoded ideal of one size fits all? An ideal and aspiration that had some practical historical and religious roots, but has been shown on an individual basis and by research to not be a litmus test, or the be all end all, for how to raise a happy, successful, self actualized and well adjusted child.

What is the shape of a family then? Hopefully it is where a child has a parent or parents, whom love and support the child, because the parent feels loved and supported, and are able to exist in an environment where parents and children feel safe, emotionally, physically and mentally, in a way that they can all self-actualize in a way that is in the developmental best interests of all.

(Original publish date October 12,  2012)

The Fallacy of Fault

I read a newspaper article recently about a group of investors who lost a great deal of money with a real estate investment firm. An investment firm, that by definition was managing and acquiring a variety of speculative real estate ventures. The firm is now in bankruptcy, with lawsuits pending in two counties, the ongoing obligations of taxes and maintenance of the properties, not to mention no further influx of investor cash. The news article alluded to some possible fault or mismanagement of the executive at the helm.

Really, people lost money in real estate in the past five years? You would have to live on Mars to not know and expect that turn of events.

As I recently sat through a morning calendar in an Orange County courtroom, I watched an attorney argue vigorously that a spouse who had been awarded the family home, had a duty to continue paying and pay off a second mortgage, on a house that had been short-sold or foreclosed upon, in order to protect the credit rating of his client, the spouse who was not awarded the house. Essentially, requesting spouse be an absolute guarantor to the other spouse. The judge cited, more than once, that the Judgment in that case was entered five years prior and that the house was gone. Each spouse got his/her bargained for exchange, along with whatever risk and benefits came with it, but now with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, someone has buyers remorse, as well as the energy and disposable funds to march in and complain about it.

Five years later?? If there was no order to refinance the debt into the sole name of the recipient spouse, the client who is out, and still on that outstanding second loan is most certainly on the hook still, as to the lender. The family law judgment does not have jurisdiction over creditors. First year divorce lawyer stuff. Civil Procedure? WHO does the court have jurisdiction over? First year law student stuff. Come on.

Periodically, on the court days that we call Mandatory Settlement Conferences, parties (not surprisingly), as they stare down the barrel at a trial date, become far more flexible in their positions and their overall willingness to compromise. What I have observed is that it is very easy to be courageous and bold in the safety of my office, on the phone or in an email, but once we are at court, with the prospect of that stranger in the black robe taking a few minutes to decide a litigants’ future, they become far more in tune to what result they can and can not live with, and cases settle.

However, that weary litigant, home after a long hard day of hammering this out in the courthouse cafeteria, then has to answer to a plethora of their cheerleaders, Mother, Father, sister, brother, significant other. All of whom have been this litigant’s emotional and sometimes financial support, crying shoulder, sympathetic ear, and confidante. This group, not in any way happy to hear of a settlement with that dirtbag of an Ex. Didn’t your lawyer fight for you? How could this happen? You were so mistreated during your marriage. This is not right. This is not fair. You need to change this. Back in the safety of life where the delusions and denial are all accepted part of the norm, weary litigant is wondering what happened and fully forgets the earlier pleas to his/her lawyer, “I juuuuust want this DONE.

It must be the lawyers fault. That lawyer didn’t do enough, didn’t care enough, didn’t know enough, was afraid, unprepared, liked the other side better than you…..the list is long.

When I was in middle school I had a typing teacher (It was in olden days when there were typewriters that didn’t even plug in) who saw it as his platform to teach life lessons. His theory and philosophy of that class was that everything, every single thing, event, incident, outcome, in your life is a result of your choice. With that, he gave us a contract and told us to pick our grade for his class. If we abided by the terms of the contract we would receive the grade we selected. That lecture stayed with me, I took it to heart and believed it. It was much like what my grandmother was trying to teach me everyday. Somehow I got it.

I have learned that a whole bunch of people wandering around in the world never got this lecture. Our collective ability to accept responsibility for our circumstances is abysmally low.

How about this one: It’s not my fault, I voted for that other guy.

In taking the temperature of our society, we can not escape the fact that we re-elected a leader, whose mantra has been, “it is the other guys fault”. Those who did not support this lemming like rush to the fiscal cliff, have now as their mantra, “I did not vote for THAT guy”. Really? Your one vote? You did NOT support this result, so you are off the hook? What effort did you put forth for YOUR guy?

The process worked. We all got the result from the last Presidential election that we deserved. The result that we collectively earned. Before you go raving off, just let that sink in for a moment.

A leader reflects some level of collective identity, and this one (Our current Commander in Chief), at his foundation, is that of non-responsibility. I can’t tell if the personna of the leader of the free world is the beginning or the end of this attitude, but you can not deny it certainly is the culmination, a social mirror of sorts, that we are all looking into. Denial permeates all of this behavior, ‘it is not my fault’ is the battle cry. With denial, usually comes delusion, and the ‘Kumbayah’, if we all hold hands and wear Birkenstocks and give out more free stuff we will all be as one, like the “Give the world a Coke” commercials from my childhood.

How pathetic. We are not The Great Generation. If they were here with us, and if those few who still are, were cognizant of these things, they would be ashamed of us. I know my Grandmothers would be. Nothing is easy. Nothing is free. I am in charge of myself. These were their attitudes, their battle cry.

My paternal grandmother told me of times when she was picking cotton, she took her four children with her to help, and the baby was swaddled to her chest while she worked and minded the children. She would be shocked and appalled to hear some of the stories I hear of young mothers who refuse to work because they have a baby. I wonder why these mothers have come to the place they believe it is okay to live with their parents, and not work while they collect a check from the father or the government. In no way does in occur to some of these girls that they are not meeting their moral obligations as a parent.

If my maternal grandmother were here, she certainly would have mastered that art of extreme couponing, because she was the Queen of the Blue Chip stamp. Well into my adult hood she would remind me of the critical things she purchased for my life with the strategizing of her blue chip stamps. She got my first high chair at the Blue Chip stamp store. She collected Christmas glasses from Arby’s, and went there often enough on the holidays to get me 12 of those glasses. (I use them proudly every Christmas) She reminded me daily that on the reservation where she grew up, her bathroom was outside the home as there was no running water and running water is something you should never take for granted. Everything had consequences, and no one had the right to complain about their circumstances, but everyone had the right to go out and do something about it.

Our societal ills are not going to be cured or even treated with the proliferation of platform, or policies, or any more dogma. We have to start looking at the problem as a personal one. As long as you are pointing a finger, you are the problem. We each have our own cross to bear, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Being American does not entitle you to anything except an opportunity to become something. Being an investor, like being a gambler, only entitles you to profit if your numbers come up right. Being a spouse does not entitle you to support for life, guarantee insulation from financial risk or emotional pain, you are entitled to share in the gains and the losses. Being a litigant entitles you to a trial, to a determination, from another human being in a black robe of whether you are wrong or right, and you might be found to be wrong. In which case, you have the right to bear the costs of being wrong, and paying for services that you contracted for. You have the right to parent a child, if you desire to and are able. You have an obligation to support that child.

What we control in our world is our response, to everything. The greatest thinkers on the planet have learned, experienced and taught this. Nelson Mandela, DeePak Chopra, Viktor Frankl, have all promoted or espoused some form of this. You can choose joy over misery. You can find peace and pleasure in the fact that the sun came up today, or you can choose aggravation over a flat tire, traffic jam or some other inconvenience. The seed of opportunity always exists, to choose a response that edifies you and multiplies positive energy in your surroundings, or you can kill it by fostering negativity and feeding an attitude of lack.

No rights are absolute. No privileges are limitless. No one owes you anything. We have become so enamored with our blessings and confused them with entitlements, we have forgotten about what we are obligated to. We should start applying the simple philosophy of Viktor Frankl to our lives, which is that the only thing you can control in the world is your response to your surroundings. Own your choices, think carefully about what our obligations are. To not make matters worse? To not bring harm or cause misery to others? To take care of ourselves? If we choose our responses carefully, then the outcome is no one’s “fault”, it just is.


(Original publishing March 3, 2013)

Relationship Reset

For over 17 years now, I have worked hard to help people keep it together while their lives are falling apart. I have experienced fatalities within the context of a half dozen of my cases, due to heart failure, overdose, suicide and substance abuse. I have sat with a client at counsel table while they are told that they will no longer have their children in their residence. I have asked questions in a courtroom, on hundreds of occasions, about the final and complete breakdown of a marriage and have on a few occasions donned a black robe to make a judicial finding and affix my signature to a Judgment stating that a marriage is irretrievably broken and therefore dissolved. I have received phone calls from a client on their way to jail, on their way out of jail, or telling me their spouse is in or going to jail. I have met with clients in rehabilitation and mental health locked facilities. I have met with clients in the presence of their mental health professionals. I have seen and heard about the stitches, bruises and mental scars of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. I have conversed with clients about what it is like to find your child dead, to find your spouse with another lover, to want to end your own life.

I have done these things at times, while my own life felt like, or actually was falling apart. I continued to practice, show up to court and hit my mark, through a variety health crises
(a miscarriage on the eve of my 40th birthday); injuries (a fractured vertebrae); and personal losses (my Grandmother, my Grandfather, my beloved Mother-in-law); through the emotional ends of close professional alliances (The best paralegal I ever knew, wisely chose motherhood over the practice of law, several associates left me for greener pastures, and a dear friend and colleague recently abused and betrayed my trust); divorce, recession, several office and home relocation and two too many visits to the ICU with my son. I learned a few things in this battle field of humanity about myself and others, and I‘m compelled to share what I have learned.

What I have learned is, you don’t have to stay in that place, the excruciating location in your life, where things are unmanageable and hope is gone. Humans possess an immense and amazing power, that is, to accept our human condition, to recognize and acknowledge God, and to surrender our will and our ego.

If and when we truly put those simple concepts to work, we then become able to transcend the greatest tragedies and challenges that life can hand us. Our ego, our mind, as it struggles against circumstances that we judge as “wrong” or unfair, unjust, exacerbates our condition, and complicates our difficulties. When we come to a place that we can surrender to what is, focus on what we can control, ourselves. Release the past and embrace the uncertainty of the future, everything changes. We change.

Any relationship can be saved. That doesn’t mean that every relationship will be saved, but, if both parties, to any relationship are willing to truly get over themselves, get right with God, release their ego attachments to “what is” and accept the uncertainty of life, that dramatic change would heal any rift.

This is biblical, this is spiritual, and what I have seen in the myriad tragedies that I describe above. A spiritual awakening precedes any real life change. I am hoping to help people discover and find this in their own lives. I have worked and coached and supported people through tragedies and break ups for so many years. I am eager to work with people who wish to avoid the devastation, head off a divorce before it happens, roll up their emotional work sleeves and do the personal work of transformation that can keep things together, before it all falls completely apart.

I used to always marvel at the amazing transformation my clients go through in the course of their divorce. Abusers must gain insight, victims must learn self respect, addicts must become clean and sober, and liars must tell the truth. Whether by virtue of the court’s requirements upon them, or the transitions of life in the process or the desire to maintain a relationship with one’s children. I have always marveled about how different it would be if the transformation was sought and achieved before the dismantling of the marriage and the family. I am working on that now. Attempting to help people with these lessons, these realizations and practices that can reset a relationship.

I will have more in the coming weeks about the studies I am guiding and the help I am providing to people trying to save their marriages. Follow this blog for updates and specifics.

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