Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Last Posting in RED In Transition

A picture from my Alaska adventure that was the subject of my first posting on this Blog!
In July of 2011, I decided to launch my blog RED In Transition.  Some 195 postings and over 30,000 domestic and international views later, I have decided to not publish any more.  

As stated on my homepage, I have blogged because I need to blog.  Other than talking with my wife, this place has been where I have processed my thoughts and feelings, where I have shared my interests, where I have been open.  It has been therapeutic for me.

I've wondered if I just needed to be true to myself and damn the torpedoes.  I feel that I can be true to myself in a safe way by continuing to write, but to write for myself.  

I have come to appreciate the fact, and it is a fact whether I like it or not, that because of the psychotherapy work that I do, I do not have the luxury to be so open in written form. The "down" side of being so transparent outweighs the "up" side.

It might be different if my some of my thoughts were more "mainstream," but they have the potential (and in one case have already caused a problem) for someone who has read or in the future to find this blog and use it to support a position against me.  Even though that risk is small, there is the risk, and I've decided it is not worth it.  I am going to delete from the blog history any postings that might be viewed as being controversial.  I will put them in my blog which I have kept exclusively for me, and eventually, my posterity.  I definitely want my posterity to know me. That has been one of the main reasons for writing in RED In Transition.

I have used Facebook to direct people to this blog.  I will obviously no longer be doing that. I have decided to not write about myself in any way on Facebook and just post what to me are clever or unusual things on there.  I just can't afford (figuratively and literally) to be so open about myself.

This does not mean that I will not continue to write in my professional blog  I will write there, and perhaps more than I have been in the recent past.  I have a easy-to-read writing style, and I believe I have ideas to share with my therapy clients.

I want anyone who reads this last posting and who has been reading this blog for awhile or who may have commented on it, that I have appreciated that attention.  I didn't really write to have large numbers read it; my views numbers have always been modest.  I wrote because this shy redhead wanted the world, and especially those who know me, to understand my life.  I wanted to perhaps help someone who might be experiencing what I have or something similar to it.  I wanted to challenge people in some cases to think about their views.

So thank you.  Thank you a lot!  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Musical Guilty Pleasures -- Part Two

So here is a second edition of my Guilty Pleasures.  I was frustrated that I was unable to upload onto this blog the exact videos of the songs.  There must be some copyright issues or something.  Anyway, here are another ten guilty pleasures. Like the first edition, I own all of these, be they on mp3 or CD.

Go Down Gamblin'
I really liked the horn-infused vibe of Blood, Sweat and Tears.  David Clayton Thomas was one of the best lead singers of any group.  This is one of my favorite rockers from this group who was "competition" at one point with a similarly horn-infused, jazzy Chicago.
Baby I'm a Want You
Bread appealed to my soft rock period in the late 60s and early 70s.  Saw them in concert and learned that the lead singer, David Gates, had Mormon ancestry (guess in which state I saw the concert?) That's him on the right.
Bring Him Home
This is not so obscure, except my guilty pleasure is that I like Hugh Jackman singing this incredible song.  Every time I hear this song I think not only of Les Miserable, but also, about my own boys and my feelings about them.
Lean On Me
Bill Withers originally did this song, but I really like the funky cover that Club Nouveau did.  "We be jammin!'"
The Auld Triangle
Like in my first list, I have fallen in love with The High Kings.  This song is about loving a woman who is incarcerated by a man who is also incarcerated, and is sung a'cappella--without accompaniment.
Lonely Looking Sky
I first heard the music to Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Neil Diamond while living and working in Argentina. Thus for me it has a strong emotional connection.  The music is very introspective and shows Diamond's talent in my opinion. For me, this song creates a mood. 
Simply Irresistible 
This popular song by the late Robert Palmer is a favorite.  When I hear it, I often think of the video.  For some reason, I could not pull it up; thus, there simply is a picture of him and the "clone girls."  By the way, this is an extended version of this driving tune.
Yes, I do listen to some semi-modern tunes.  This one from the Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins is certainly a guilty pleasure.
Me Wise Magic
This is a bonus track off of one of Van Halen's Best ofs. (They've put out a few.)  I like this tune because of its driving sound, in-your-face musicianship from Eddie, and typical David Lee Roth vocals (although he sings part of it in his lower register.)
I guess all of Weird Al's tunes are guilty pleasures, and this one is an oldie but goodie, a take-off of the song Lola by The Kinks.  One of my fond memories was when my four kids, wife and I were singing this song driving around the Tacoma, Washington area in the late 80s.  It is not difficult to upload from You Tube the actual videos associated with his songs, but for some reason, they cannot be uploaded and placed in my blog. Thus, this is a concert clip of him doing this song (for about the first 3'20") about the Jedi of all Jedis!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Red Rocks Canyon

Some 45 minutes north of Lancaster, California, on Highway 14, is a not-too-well-known California State Park known as Red Rocks Canyon. Most of the red rocks are on the other side of the highway from where these pictures are taken.  This sandstone/limestone? paradise is quite visually stunning and has been in numerous Hollywood motion pictures and MTV videos.  

I drive by the Park when I am traveling to Ridgecrest, and while I have stopped to take pictures of the red rocks on the other side, I had wanted to visit the Ricardo Campground to see more stunning landscape.  I thought it would be a fantastic place to take pictures, and I was not disappointed.

Let me take you for a brief photographic tour of what my wife and I saw and experienced.  I apologize to any picky photographers because these are un-photoshopped and shot without filters. What you will see is pretty much what I saw as is.
My wife said that this place was like a big beach sand castle!  I thought that was a great description. As you can see, the sand castles are pretty substantial.  There are gaps or slots between some of the "pillars."
There was sand everywhere (obviously!)  The brochure at the Ranger Station said that this area was under water at one time.
Here you can get a scale of the enormity of some of the sand spires and how there are slots betweeen them.  They are simply fascinating!
Between the sand spires, there occasionally were spaces like the one above and the one below.  Some were too small to enter into; others just barely passable.
What was amazing was sometimes what you would find in these slots once you were able to squeeze your way inside of them. The next few pictures are from slots that we were able to enter.  They often were quite stunning.  I would point my camera skyward and shoot.  It was really something to be in such a wondrous, secluded place where few people have been.  I say secluded because many were very difficult to access. For some reason, I didn't feel claustrophobic like I have felt in other tight places.

You could see texture on the walls in most of the slots.  They almost seemed other worldly, as you can see from the photos below.

This photo below was taken outside of a slot, still pointing the camera upward but witnessing the other worldliness of the scene.
This last picture took a little bit to get to in order to shoot it, but I thought it was worth the effort.  Rome has its Roman architecture, Red Rocks has Mother Nature!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Near Death Experiences

For some reason, my wife became very intrigued by near-death experiences (NDE). Some of the people who have experienced these unique, unforgettable experiences have written books about them.  I likewise have become intrigued with NDEs as well, as we have listened to books about them on CD while traveling and while driving to and from work.  
Those who have had NDEs are from all walks of life and from all over the world. Among them are atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, evangelicals, and Mormons. Whenever I learn about someone of my faith experiencing an NDE, my interest is piqued and I listen to what sometimes is familiar to me as interpreted by them.  I have come to understand that most of the time, people who have NDEs see what they are experiencing are through the lens of their life experiences. (How else could they?) And if they have some religious background, they observed the events through that lens.  Because everyone is different, it only stands to reason that their NDEs are not the same.

All of these experiences, no matter who relates them, are amazing and challenging.  I write amazing because these people supposedly have caught a glimpse of what it is like to be in the "other realm." They relate incredible experiences of a place where there is no time, where they feel unconditional love from those whom they encounter there, where there is no pain or anguish or sorrow.  Some have often struggled as to whether to return to mortality, and most then struggle to put into words what they witnessed while out of their bodies.

I write challenging because of how their experiences can sometimes conflict with what I have been taught in my Church concerning the doctrines of the "after life." These NDE stories confirm a belief that inside of our bodies is a spirit and that those spirits do not die when our bodies die but continue on.  These stories often treat the subject of a being or entity that governs the after life and from whom emanates pure love.  But they also sometimes relate experiences about multiple earth experiences, multiple dimensions, or karma.

I find that they demand of me to consider that my religious teachings may not contain all that there is to know about what transpires upon death.  They demand of me to be open to new ideas.  They challenge me to be available to entertain new truths.
One thing is for sure, those who return to mortality having been out of their mortal bodies come back very changed.  They see everybody and every thing in a new way.  They no longer can be who they were before.  Their previous views, ideas and beliefs no longer serve them; they want more.  They often have greater understanding of their place in the universe, how interconnected we all are, how precious life is.
As I have listened to their stories, it has brought me to serious reflection.  I have considered how fragile and short my life is.  They have helped me to keep my life in better perspective, to not sweat the small stuff, to consider what is my potential, to better realize how connected I am to everyone else.  They have helped me to realize more than ever that the most important thing that I can do during my mortal sojourn is to love and to try to do so unconditionally.  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Musical Guilty Pleasures -- Part One

I listen to all kinds of music constantly, mostly on my I Phone, sometimes on the radio, sometimes on Pandora.  It is part of the fabric of my life.  As I have written previously on this blog, my tastes are all over the place.  There are a few tunes that I enjoy listening to that are not very mainstream.  These tunes often are not well known and not the most notable songs from a particular artist.  I call them my guilty pleasures.  I thought I would find some of these on You Tube and share them.  I hope you could enjoy them as well.

I love Diana Krall and her sensuous alto voice.  I like so many of her songs, but I chose this cover of the Eagles song of the same name.  "Come down from your fences before it's too late."

Desperado -- Diana Krall

Beck is a performer born near where we used to live on Mt. Washington here in Los Angeles.  He refuses to be pidgeonholed into a certain genre.  This particular tune is one that I like to play for some of my Latino friends.  This particular video lacks the charm of the original recording which I was unable to find online.  "Que onda guero?"

Guero -- Beck

My college years were filled with The Carpenters.  This tune was a cover of a Beatles song called Ticket to Ridef from their very first album.  Richard Carpenter is a great arranger, and I love what he did with it.  I really like singing along with this song.  She was a young 19 year old when this tune was cut.  "Think I'm gonna be sad!"

Ticket to Ride -- The Carpenters

The High Kings are an Irish group I have fallen in love with.  This likely is a drinking song, as are a number of their songs, and it has a catchy melody.  They are fun to listen to, and this is one of my favorite songs that they do. "1-2-3-4-5, hey!"

Rocky Road to Dublin -- The High Kings

This tune is one of their more well known offerings.  But the Ramones are from the punk rock genre, and were punk rockers before most of the others punk rockers.  Their music is full of energy and I like this song along with the fun I Wanna Be Sedated.  Blitzkreig Bop was the first cut of their very first album.  "He ho, let's go!"

Blitzkrieg Bop -- The Ramones

What would a rock music guilty pleasure list be without an offering from Weird Al Yankovic?  Many of his tunes are guilty pleasures and have been for many years.  Here is one of my favorites, a cover that got him in trouble with Coolio, the performer of the original song "Gangsta's Paradise."  "We're gonna party like its 1699!" His lyrics are the bomb!

Amish Paradise -- Weird Al Yankovic

Steely Dan is a basically a two-man group that had a long list of jazzy rock songs.  Their album Pretzel Logic is one of my favorites, and the bluesy title cut is one of my favorite tunes of the album. "Where did you get those shoes?"  Walter Becker and Donald Fagan put out some great music!

Pretzel Logic -- Steely Dan 

People my age are familiar with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  Her Albert went on to form a record company with a friend Jerry Moss called A&M Records.  In 1979-1980, he decided to go back into the studio (his own) and perform again.  This instrumental cut, called Rise, is one of my favorite cuts from this really great album, in my estimation.  I believe the woman in the video is Lani from Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 who became Herb's wife.

Rise -- Herb Alpert

One of the great super groups of all time was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  Neil Young has had a great solo career, but I really like this particular not-to-wellknown tune about loved ones who have died from drug addiction.  "Every junkie's like a setting sun."

The Needle and the Damage Done -- Neil Young

The film O Brother, Where Art Thou? was a great movie and this tune by Alison Kraus was a memorable song of a memorable baptismal scene.  I really like this a'cappella tune.  "Let's go down, come on down."

Down to the River to Pray -- Alison Krauss

This last tune is perhaps my greatest guilty pleasure of them all.  In the late 60s and 70s, many rock groups did "theme albums."  The idea is that the group would do a complete album around a given theme.  Some of the more memorable theme albums of this era were Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, and Days of Future Past by The Moody Blues.  

Perhaps the most bizarre and uncharacteristic LP of this theme album era was from The Osmonds. Known for light weight, bubble gum-type music, these Mormon boys from Utah decided to break out of the image they had been given to the degree that they could, and do a theme album about a doctrinal subject--The Plan of Salvation, trying to deal with existential questions such as "where did I come from," "why am I here," and "where am I going."  The album is all over the place musically, very uncharacteristic of the music for which they were known. One of the last songs of this album dealt with the last days, the time Mormons believe that will preceed the coming of Jesus Christ again to the earth.

This song, named "The Last Days" is an edgy (for them) hard rocking work.  It sounds very 70ish, but you have to hand it to them for making the attempt.  I can't say that I really care for the album itself musically, but I like to listen to this interesting song by the five brothers from my tribe. "Nations take up their battle stations."

The Last Days -- The Osmonds

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Reflecting upon my early years, I have concluded that I was essentially raised as an only child.  My brother got married right before I turned three years old, and I have no memory of him being at home.  My sister got married when I turned five, and I only have a couple of memories from her time at home.  From five on, I had no siblings to interact with.  For that matter, I don't remember my parents interacting with me very much.  In this regard, I would refer the reader to view my earlier blog posting "A Long Time Ago," from October 29, 2014.

Since being alone was my "normal," I didn't think my lone life was abnormal.  There was no brooding, no "my life really sucks,"  I don't know that I really thought that it was a big deal to not have brothers or sisters at home, even though all of my friends seemed to have siblings at home. I had a few neighborhood friends and knew some kids at school, and it seemed like a pretty typical situation outside of my family. I remember thinking that my parents were a little old but that they loved me, not realizing at the time that they didn't often interact with me. I don't recall feeling very lonely, but then, that was many years ago and I don't recall a lot of things.

One of the results of my fairly solitary life was having a rich inner life.  That is, lacking significant interaction with others, and not having a pet, I would have interactions with myself--in my mind. I believe that I got used to thinking about things, to entertain myself with my thoughts, to basically talk to myself, although I don't recall that I actually had verbal conversations!  I lived in my head.

I need to express that I believe that my nature is to be shy and introverted.  I believe that I came to earth this way.  I also believe that the nurture I am writing about provided ample opportunites to be shy and unsure of myself, even though I learned to be "self-sufficient," to take care of myself, to try to make sense of my experiences.   

But because there was precious little emotional interaction, especially with my parents, I can see now that I was hungry for approval, for some response that I was doing okay. In fact, in retrospect, I wanted to have any interaction at all to break through the "aloneness" and shyness of my life.  In retrospect, I believe that there was a sense of emotional abandonment.  

I wrote in the blog posting referred to above about feelings of emotional abandonment from my father.  But there was an interesting dynamic in my relationship with my mother that likewise produced emotional abandonment, of my own doing to be sure.

My mother developed colon cancer when I was very young and had to have major surgery in which part of her colon was removed.  The result was having to have a colostomy for the rest of her life.  Another result was that my mother experienced a "nervous breakdown," or so I was told.  The surgery altered the appearance of her lower torso, and I deduce that it had a chilling effect on my father. I am not sure that there were not other emotional issues present before this occurred with her, but their relationship was not emotionally fulfilling for her. My father never spoke to me about his relationship with my mother. During my growing up years, if my mother thought that my father was either physically or emotionally attaching to something or someone else, especially a woman, it rocked her world.  She could not handle it.  It made her incredibly needy.

The result of this dynamic back then was that since she was unable to have a normal, healthy emotional connection with my father, she turned her neediness onto the only other person in the home--me.  Her neediness for me at times seemed completely smothering. Because it felt overwhelming as I became a teenager and even after I got married, I pushed back, throwing up an emotional boundary to preserve myself.  As such, I felt the need to retreat back into my "aloneness" because I didn't feel safe.

My adult life has been a journey of looking for attachment.  I have often said in therapy that if we do not deal with and try to resolve our childhood issues, they will play out in our adult lives, to our detriment. It has been a journey of hoping that people can reach through my solitude and connect with me, which is really unfair. It has been a burden I have placed unfairly on my wife, and for which I am deeply sorry.  

Because of my shyness and introversion, I costs me somewhat to reach out through my solitude to connect with others.  I have realized that if I want the dynamic to change that it ultimately is up to me to change it, to reach out.  I am responsible to for my own needs, not my spouse or anyone else.  I am not always successful at this endeavor, but "if it is to be, it is up to me." 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hanging with the Servants of Satan

Like the initial Affirmation Conference which I attended in 2014, I came away from this most recent one held in Los Angeles on January 15-17 feeling somewhat sad, but hopeful and connected.   Some 125 people attended, held on the Loyola Marymount campus.  There were speakers, workshops, and of course, the special Sunday meeting where people were allowed to share “stories” or to bear testimony.
Being around LDS LGBT people is a emotional experience for me because of the good people I see and with whom I associate who are wrestling with the paradox of wanting to be faithful members but in many cases have been poorly treated by intolerant members and leaders of the Church.  I likewise wrestle in my own way with the paradox of wanting to be faithful to a Church that produces what it did in the Handbook last year and whose leader of the Quorum of the Twelve says what he did about it being revelation.   It pains me because the Church does so much good, and Pres. Nelson is a good man, but I digress. 

I was pleased that Ann decided to attend and that she likewise felt the Conference was very worthwhile. I am grateful that we could share this unique experience, and that we have been able to discuss it and how we felt about it.

It was nice to see people I met at the previous conference and with whom I am Facebook friends, some of whom are the movers and shakers in the LDS LGBT community.  For example, it was great to see and to briefly chat with John Gustav-Wrathall, the current director of Affirmation, Tom Christofferson, a brother of the apostle, Vicki Wimmer, Sara Jade Woodhouse, and Carol Lynn Pearson.  It was great to make new acquaintances and to see that the new Executive Committee of Affirmation is in good hands.

There were a few poignant meetings that had special meaning for me.  One was the workshop led by John Gustav-Wrathall that addressed the landscape of feelings about the recent revision of the Church Handbook and the address given by Elder Nelson and his wife about that revision.  Feelings were raw and candid, as would be expected, with many expressing confusion, anger, betrayal, and so many other difficult emotions. But there were also shared feelings of hopefulness, determination, and caring as well.  There were many tears but there were also many smiles.

I very much enjoyed listening to the address given by Christie Frandsen.  We know one another from our association in my Stake, and I suspected that her talk would be one of the highlights, and she did not disappoint!  This Seminary and Institute teacher was on topic, insightful, eloquent, and sincere as she discussed the LDS LGBT community and the importance of being knitted together in a wonderful multi-colored blanket.  I was very proud of her, and I am proud of how she has supported and loved her gay son Christian, one of her 11 children.

Another was the Saturday night meeting at which Carol Lynn Pearson addressed the Conference.  She has been in the struggle from the days her husband died from AIDS in 1984 and which she poignantly wrote about in the book Goodbye, I Love You.  She was graceful, eloquent, witty, vulnerable, and believable.  She represents what I believe to be the heart and soul of the LDS LGBT movement, the grand dame, so to speak.  She is all about loving, caring, and supporting each another; she says that these are the weightier matters of the law.  I particularly appreciated her tenderness as she sang a tender lullaby as she concluded her remarks.

Of course, the testimony meeting is always very significant and powerful.  There were a lot of tears shed, a lot of warmth and gratitude expressed, and a lot of strong witnesses of the love of the Father and the Son with strength and conviction.  Allies like me were encouraged not to share their testimonies because so many LGBT people are unable to do so, having been excommunicated from the Church for "acting" LGBT.  The Spirit was strong and I felt peace and comfort, and assume others did also.

It felt good to be around people who can find happiness in the midst of turmoil.  It felt good to be around people who are dealing with the label of being "Servants of Satan."  It felt good to listen to and watch an LDS bishop who desired to understand LGBT people and who self-reported that he came away a changed man.  It felt good to be around people who honestly care about each other and treat one another in loving, non-judgmental ways, as He would do.  It felt good to be lauded for being in attendance even though I do not have a close relative who is LGBT.  It felt good to see people who value the Church and its teachings (except for this one) and who want to stay attached to it.

I look forward to future conferences.  There is the main annual Affirmation Conference, this year in Provo, Utah, from September 22-25.  Who knows?  I may attend.

I wonder if I am a Servant of Satan....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

One Mo Time!

Last November, I posted about my difficult preparations to take the Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) exam once again in December, having failed it last February.  The test I failed was a 200 question multiple choice exam taken over four hours.  That failed test would have been the first of two required tests, the second one being a 75 question, multiple choice "vignette" exam.

I knew that new tests were being prepared for 2016, and feeing some anxiety about having to study for whole new exams, I was preparing to take at least one of the old exams in December.  I was hopeful that I would be grandfathered into taking the second exam in 2016 having successfully passed the first one.

Little did I know that there would be no grandfathering!  Little did I know that there would be no test taking at all during the month of December, because the test didn't exist anymore!  I was chagrined to learn that reality as I spoke to someone in the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) office in Sacramento when I was unable to schedule a test time.  All of the practice exams (answering 775 questions in 31-25 question tests!) I had taken were for a test that now couldn't be taken!

There was absolutely nothing that I could do about taking the old test. Nothing. I decided that I would have to face reality and start studying for the new exam. I had learned that I must take before the one year anniversary of failing the original exam.

I soon discovered that the website where I had taken all of the practice tests now had practice tests for the new exam.  This first of two exams is now about the law and ethics surrounding my MFT profession. It is a 75 question exam. I have been spending a lot of time in this new preparation; all told, I have answered 435 questions of the online test prep examinations, plus I have spent many, many hours studying.  I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the material, but then, I felt that way before the first exam.

Tomorrow morning I take the new law and ethics examination.  I am cautiously optimistic that my 61 year old brain will be able to retain what I have studied and will have the wisdom to make the correct choices.  I believe I must get a minimum of 50 correct....

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Year in Review -- 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I wanted to review this eventful year.  It had many memorable events and people, and since this is a blog/journal of my life, it seems appropriate to now look back with words and some pictures:

In the early part of 2015, my son BJ received his Certification as a Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor  He had taken his test in 2015, having completed a four semester program at California State University, Dominguez Hills.  I am very proud that he is using this certification to legitimately work at and for The Beacon House, the rehab where he finally overcame his drug addiction.  He and I both would say that it is never fully beaten, but I am proud of his work and thankful to God.

I, on the other hand, failed my first attempt to take the first of two licensing exams to become a legitimate, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT).  I was unable to try to retake it in the rest of 2015, but will take it in January 2016.
In the spring of the year, we decided to visit the area to the east of Los Angeles.  Using a little residence as a base in Morongo Valley, we explored Joshua Tree National Park and all of its wonders--which are many.  We spent more time in the Morongo Valley and then returned for a visit of Palm Springs.  It was a great opportunity to take pictures, and I took many, one of which is above.
Lake Moraine, pictured above, was on my bucket list.  We decided to see people and places on what ended up to be a 4600+ mile loop north in Northern California (we saw Emily, Adam, the grandkids, as well as my cousin Scott), Seattle (we saw Rebecca & Isaac), the North Cascades National Park eastern British Columbia, Banff National Park (home to the Lake above as well as other beauties), Glacier National Park in Montana, and Utah (we saw extended family).  It was a 16 day trip and I am so glad we took it!  We saw some of the most scenery I have ever witnessed, and I was able to photograph some of it. It spawned a coffee table book of pictures I have taken so far.
Ann had a dream about driving a blue 2005 S-Type Jaguar, having downloaded a picture of one on her computer as a vehicle she would like to own some day.  I took that as a challenge.  Our son Doug needed a car, and so we decided to sell it to him and to buy a blur Jag.  Although it has experienced some mechanical challenges (what did we expect?), Ann loves it and it is really a luxurious,  lovely car!
In June of 2015, Adam and Emily loaded the kids into their van and drove across country from New Jersey to begin a new life in the Golden State.  We helped them locate a sutiable area, helped them move in, and visited for a number of reasons five times between June and the end of 2015.  By the way, the picture of Charlie above is at the Wonderland Park in Oakland, visited by Walt Disney prior to building and opening Disneyland in Southern California.  This little urban park reportedly served as inspiration for what would become the Happiest Place on Earth!

This is an annual event held in Salt Lake City.  I thought that it was important to attend to be able to learn more about the Lifestar program with sexually addicted clients.  It was also important to interact socially with my peers in counseling, and I enjoyed haging out and being with them there.  A couple of our activities were to see a concert of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in Park City and to sight see Bridal Veil Falls up Provo Canyon, Heber Valley, and Park City again.  Nice.
Rick and Amy, my borther and sister-in-laws, held a family reunion at the beach in Oceanside.  It was nice to spend time talking with them, walking to the pier, eating, and just hanging out.  I wish we lived closer and could have more time with the crew.  All of the children were there except Suzy, and it was a chance to see Rick and Amy's new grandchild.  It was great to see Amy who continues to suffer from a bunch of physical ailments.
Emily and Adam were able to go on a company-paid trip for a week to Rome!  We gladly obliged to watch the kids here in Southern California while they had a wonderful time there.  BJ wanted to spend time with the kids, and they really enjoyed spending time with him.  At a nearby park, he was able to help them have the thrill of learning how to rock climb, as shown by Elizabeth above. Always physically draining, we enjoy spending time with these wonderful kids!
Walking to and from the grave site at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills was this lovely, tender sculpture. It reminded me of the tenderness of Trish, a woman from our church congregation to whom Ann and I had been assinged to home teach along with her husband, Bob.  This vibrant, dancing, cat and dog-loving woman contracted cancer which eventually led to her death and which caused her to lose a lot of weight.  Ann and I remarked that she physically looked like she belonged in a concentration camp, and it was a blessing from Above that she was finally taken.
Much to my surprise, the Church decided to institute policy changes regarding practicing homosexuals and their children.  These changes listed above greatly saddened me and Ann.  While we continue to support and sustain Church leaders on a local and general basis, we are saddened, confused, and on some level, upset and even angry at what has happened.  We continue to nurture our connection with Heavenly Father and His Son, and trust that we will have understanding of this change, and hope that He will make things right.  It is also a chance for us to be more loving, kind and repsectful to His children, no matter their sexual orientation.
The Johnsons came to Southern California for Thanksgiving, and we went north to the Bay Area for Christmas.  It was wonderful to see Christmas through the eyes of children, to feel of their excitement and energy.  This gave us another opportunity to spend time with them, Adam and Emily, and, on the day after Christmas, to make a trip to the City, San Francisco.  It was a great way to end 2015!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Is One Mortality Enough, and Other Easy Existential Questions

I firmly believe in the immortality of souls.   While others may wrestle with the idea, I do not.  It makes no sense for us to deal with the pains and sufferings of this life without some purpose or reason.  And while this certainty is one of faith, I am as sure of this truth as I am that I am writing here.   I assume that I exist!

My faith in my LDS religion informs me that we come to this planet from a pre-mortal realm, experience life while growing and becoming, and at an unforeseen time are called back to our heavenly home.  My faith informs me that there are experiences in mortality that can only be obtained here, and that my purpose on earth is to have those good and bad experiences, learning to choose wisely but learning from my mistakes.  I have confidence that I exist for a reason!

I also believe that my mortal sojourn is choreographed by an all-knowing, all-loving Supreme Being who is only interested in giving me learning and becoming opportunities.  That is not to say that everything in my walk is predetermined.  While He may know my beginning and end, I don’t.  He knows what is going to happen in my life but I still have choice, or agency.  And I believe that every mortal's life is likewise choreographed.

However, those who are mentally incapacitated lack the ability to choose and to experience the full breadth of life, although their lives can often be a blessing to those who care for them. Others who become truly addicted to a substance or behavior, or who were born with or developed psychological maladies like obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia, or whose upbringing caused these mental dysfunctions to happen, have limited agency and lack the ability to fully experience life. 

Those difficult conditions beg some questions: what learning and becoming experiences can such persons have?  Do they "get a free pass" for the tests of mortality, or are their conditions for the learning and becoming of those who interact with them?  Did they choose these deficiencies in that pre-mortal realm?  Is it possible that they will learn all that they need to learn in a future time (the Millennium period, in LDS belief), free from the chains of their dysfunction, before they are judged? Or are they just out of luck?

On a related subject, can someone who did not have a full mortal life in which to experience mortality learn all there is to know in a millennial period (another LDS belief), assuming they have all 1000 years in which to experience "life?"  The Church teaches of a terrestrial, peaceful 1000 years.  How can one experience how to choose between good and bad, or much more difficult, good and good, when there won't be bad?  LDS belief dictates that the Devil "will be loosed for a season."  I wonder how long that "season" is, and what really can be learned in a "crammed test?" 
And how can physically and emotionally sound people (are there many of us?) experience all that there is to learn in mortality in 70 to 90 years? I’m 61 and I am still learning so much, and arguably, I am on the downside of my mortality and don’t have 61 more years left.  How can I learn experientially about mortality in a post-mortal spirit world (yet another LDS belief)?  Are we put in charge of overseeing mortals in that realm?  I can learn theory there, learning from my experience in life, but I believe that I knew theory before I came to earth and I needed this mortality to actually experience what I had learned theoretically.  

Is one mortality enough to gain the experiential insight we need?

Because of LDS doctrine which teaches an exclusive salvation, I have wondered about the literal tens of billions (a billion is a 1000 million!) of people born on earth through the millennia, most of whom never will hear about God the Father or His Son, Jesus Christ.  There is the LDS doctrine of performing “ordinances of salvation” for ancestors and others who did not have the opportunity to participate and accept such works, as well the genealogical work to account for dead ancestors. LDS people believe that temples will be open 24 hours a day during the millennial reign of Christ, but work in the temple for tens of billions?  Will there be more billions of bodies born in the millennium for those spirits who were aborted naturally or by man, have been given another body?  
Most of my LDS brothers and sisters will read my esoteric questions and either roll their eyes or pat me on the head and say something to the effect of “there are answers to all of these questions and God knows them all, so just have faith that He’ll take care of things.” Just because I have questions does not mean that I am on the road to apostasy, nor does it mean that I am tempted to abandon all that I do know.   I just don't see with my limited experience how all of this is going to work out.

I'm glad that I have these questions.  But at their core, I wonder if a single mortality is enough to experience and learn all that is needful to experience and learn in order to become a god (yet another and very uniquely LDS doctrine)?  And yes, it makes perfect sense to me that if in fact God is the father of my spirit that inhabits my physical body, He would want me, His son, to become like Him!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Thank you for believing in me when I didn't believe in myself"

My son BJ (Robert) sharing at the Tree Trimming gathering
"Thank you for believing in me when I didn't believe in myself."  So stated a number of guys at the Beacon House in San Pedro last night.  The occasion was an annual "tree trimming" gathering put on for the approximately 100+ guys and alumni of the "House."  It was a chance to share their hearts and their gratitude with their brothers and others, and then hang a meaningful ornament on a Christmas tree. I felt so blessed that my wife and I had been invited to attend.

"I am where I am supposed to be," said some, commenting on how profoundly the Beacon House has turned their lives around and given them hope, a hope that many said they never have experienced.  Some stated that they had been to other rehabiliation centers but felt that the Beacon House was different, but they somehow knew this was home.

"Thank God for my life," announced another, reflecting on the despair and depression he had felt for most of his life, and how the "House" had given him another chance.  Some spoke of times past when they had felt suicidal because they had lost all hope, and how bleak their lives were, but then spoke of renewal and enthusiasm for the future, and how blessed they felt for having another chance.

"I really love my life right now," said others, talking about new outlooks, new schooling completed, new jobs, the sense of community and brotherhood and unconditional love they now feel.

"Words cannot express what I'm feeling right now," stated others tearfully as they stood humbly before a filled hall, realizing they now were clean and sober, being overcome with gratitude for the "House" and its staff, feeling the warm love and caring eminating from their brothers. These are men who had lost faith in themselves and in their ability to change course; many men who had lost everything because of their addictions.

"All the things I was promised have come true," some said as they reflected on how Bill and Brent, the managing and program directors, challenged them to "shut up and follow directions," and that if they did they would finally become the man they always wanted to be.

"Are you going to abandon your son again," said another, quoting something very poignant Bill had said to him when he was given a second chance for sobriety and recovery at the "House" after having willfully left prematurely.  There was always complete openness, transparency, and rawness as hearts were softened during the share.
The Beacon House

"I know God is in this House," stated another.  His heart was full as he gave thanks for the grace and mercy extended to him by his higher power, as well as offering thanks for the love and compassion offered him by the staff and his brothers.  There was talk about how there were miracles that occured routinely at the "House" as men came around to themselves and changed their life's course and credited their higher power for the miracle.

"This place is my home," opined many others, noting that they felt more at home among the people at the "House" than even with their own families, noting the positive feelings and comfort they felt.  Some longed to be with their families at Christmastime, but then stated that they knew this was where they needed to be.

"You never gave up on me," said various men filled with emotion.  They expressed profound appreciation to Bill and Brent, often noting that they seemed like father figures they had never had in their lives and how they looked up to them, and feeling so profoundly grateful for that blessing in their lives.  Some talked about second and rare third chances to be admitted to the "House," even relating how Bill and Brent had on occasion sent some guys to pick them up on the streets because they had lost hope in themselves.

"I'm grateful for my brothers," said nearly all the guys who stood in line for a long time for a chance to express their profoundly deep and raw emotions to the guys who had accepted them with open arms and hearts.  Some expressed how hesitant they were to engage with others when they first arrived, but how they were greeted with open minds and hearts.

"You showed me the real meaning of family," stated many who had felt they had been so selfish and proud with their own families and who, free from the grasp of addiction, had been able to feel the warmth and love of caring brothers walking similar paths.  There really was a feeling of acceptance, forgiveness, caring and love that permeated the hall.

"God's got my life now," announced another, reflecting on how through actively embracing the rules and directions of the "House" and developing a firm belief in a higher power, he felt connected to God and felt His influence in the daily workings at this rehabilitation program.

"I want to sparkle again," said a one-day veteran of the Beacon House, holding a sparkling ornament and using it as metaphor for what he hopes will happen to him there in the coming months and years.  Others who shared had been to this tree trimming event for many years but who come back annually to express profound gratitude for their lives given back to them by the staff and brothers of the Beacon House.

On a personal note, I feel to express my deep appreciation to Bill and Brent and the "House" for giving me back my son BJ and for giving him the opportunity to bless the lives of others there.  It is continually amazing to me how God worked in his life to help him face his demons, and how in His amazing grace and mercy He has helped him turn his life completely around.  

I loved to hear last evening how in his ministry, if I can call it that, at the "House" as part of the young staff, he is touching lives and sharing his knowledge gained through that school of hard knocks.  It's one thing to be licensed as a Drug and Alcohol Rehab Counselor, and another to actually be touching hearts on a daily basis.  He has been been in the dark place that the guys know well, and can not only relate to them but to call them out when they lie to themselves as he did.

So Merry Christmas to the staff and the guys at the Beacon House.  I felt so honored to be in your humble presence.  And thank you for my son. 
Not the staff of Beacon House; just a picture of my son repesenting the "House."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bobby Davis -- Early Edition

My dad and me--he was 38 in this picture
I am very grateful to my sister Darlene who goes to great lengths to send me memorabilia from my Davis family.  By the way, my mother was a Davis before she got married to my father (no relation!), so when I say Davis family, I mean that literally.  She recently sent my pictures from some scrap book in her possession that I believe I already have in my scrap books.  But it was that Darlene thought that I might not have them; that she was thinking about me!

These pictures are from my earliest days, literally from birth to some age before eight months.  I write eight months because that was when my parents and I moved from 337 North 6th West to 509 North 8th West, the home in which I grew up, and which can be seen in its present state in another blog posting (August 5, 2015).
Notice the fashions, the car, the chairs, and most of all, the crib.  Mom, Darlene and Aunt Ruby looking on.

I was born on Friday, June 4,1954 to Albert Earl and Bess Davis.  If I'm not mistaken, I weighed a paltry 5 lbs. 10 ounces.  I don't recall ever getting an answer as to why I weighed so little, so I usually state my deductive reason:  my mother was not really taking care of herself physically because she was nursing my father back to health from a heart attack he had in May of 1953--at the age of 37.  My reasoning is probably not accurate.  I need to ask her that in person when I see her in the next life!

What my birth timeline does tell me is that I likely was conceived whilst my father was recuperating from the heart attack.  I was born when my father was 38 and my mother was 37.  I was very much an oops; how can it be otherwise with a brother who is 17 years older and a sister who is 12 years older?  There was a baby born between them but who dies within an hour after he (Eugene Leroy Davis) was born, or so the story goes.
My wonderful 12 year old sister Darlene.

When my mother was preparing to leave the Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City the Monday after, she was told that I was not breathing properly and that I "had turned blue."  I assume that referred to my coloring.  She was told that I had been placed in an isolette with 100% oxygen (very much a no-no these days because of its negative effect on eyesight).  

I guess there was some doubt as to whether I would survive.  Evidence of that is, as the story goes, I was given a name and a blessing (an LDS ritual for newly born babies usually done in a church service a month or two after the birth) in the hospital.  My mother used to say that I looked like a little sparrow that had fallen from the nest.  At 5 lbs. 10 ounces (perhaps a few ounces less at the time), I must have been quite tiny.  I was given the name of Robert Earl Davis, a given name that my parents liked and a middle name the same as my father's.  I did have some red hair, so my initials were an indication of that red hair which I am proud to say I still have plenty of!

Obviously, I survived.  Obviously, I gained weight.  Obviously, I was loved by my parents and am loved by my siblings.  Obviously, that was the first of many wonderful blessings in my life.  

Thanks Darlene for caring about me and sending these pictures!  And yes, they are black and white because I'm that old!