Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Whirlwind

Noticing that the last entry to this blog was in June, I realized that so much has changed in the past seven months, that I don't quite know where to begin:

  • Towards the end of June, I got a phone call from a judge I know here in Texas.  She indicated that a position that I had previously applied for had come open, and that she was inviting me to apply.  Now, this position was not any ordinary position.  This was the job leading the department that I had drafted a blueprint for way back in 2009-2010.  This was the job that led to me being cornered by another judge at a judicial conference and interrogated on what my qualifications were (they were not substantial at the time).  This was the hole that I saw in court administration in this county and I was now being asked to fill.  After an interview with six of the twelve judges in the county, they offered me the position.  I started work in the Montgomery County Office of Court Administration on August 6.  There have been a flood of projects and ideas, such that even despite all these things, I still volunteered to write a piece for the Trends in State Courts journal.  I work with great people, and I find that even with irritating idiosyncrasies, I still have great respect for the judges.  They rise to the occasion.  I LOVE MY JOB.
  • At the end of August, we moved from the country back into the city.  We bought a forty year old two story in an established subdivision that is a five minute walk to the elementary school, a nine minute drive to work, and a quick trip to everything.  T loves the convenience, I enjoy coming home for lunch, and we love it.  Being forty years old, there have been some "money pit" experiences: painting, reorganizing and reshelving closets, shower and bath fixtures, leveling the foundation, having the kitchen remodeled (with us doing the tilework), and finally having a new gas line installed to the house after leveling the foundation broke the old line. Mssr and Madam J. assure the public their production will be second to none.  
It often seems like when it rains it pours.  I've co-opted the Keep Calm meme by hanging up an appropriate sign in my office:

Keep Calm and Stay Humble


Monday, June 10, 2013

Looking Beyond Today

So on Sunday, T and I spoke about two different topics in sacrament meeting; her topic was Calling and Election and mine was Come, Follow Me.  After some encouragement (and assuring T that I didn't get the topics mixed up after the phone call asking us to speak), we found some fruitful spiritual confirmations and had good experiences.  While my talk focused on the Savior's invitation and what it means as far as putting off the natural man, consecrating everything to God, and doing the things that the Savior did, it jump started my thinking about more than just my personal testimony.

Work had been difficult the past few weeks, and a particular social situation between me and a co-worker was to blame.  Finally, after weeks of steely silence, I cleared the air and asked why.  She was frank with her reasons, and since then has been more communicative, and I feel like there is finally some progress on the interpersonal relations front.

The biggest realization was that fear is, for the most part, a very unproductive emotion.  It leads to assumptions, and misunderstandings and even passive-aggressive behavior.  When I was thinking about Jesus Christ instructing Nephi to do "those things ye have seen that your Lord and your Savior should do," I could not envision Christ speaking with anything but love.  It is said that faith is the opposite of fear; I would argue that faith is the absence of fear, but love is its opposite.

It is so easy to go through a daily schedule without considering what lays beyond; sure, we can plan for the future, but what would happen if we looked beyond everybody's demeanor today and envisioned them as better tomorrow?  That is faith, but if we're going to do what Christ did, then it also needs to necessarily be love.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Life Begins

On the criminally underrated Beach Boys album "Friends" from 1968, there is a very slight opening track called Be Still.  The only accompaniment is an organ, with a single human voice singing.  The bridge, which is only four bars (if that) goes:

"Now is the time, life begins"

On the phrase "life begins," the normally dry voice opens up with massive reverb and the organ stops.  It is such a small and subtle change, but the effect is huge.

When asked about future plans and how I feel and if I'm going to get a raise and on and on and on, the only words that I typically say are, life begins.  I made such huge personal changes (for the better) while I was going through school, that coming out on the other end is so much more than my last post about having more time.  It's about a fundamental change in my immediate universe.  I no longer have excuses, and I truly believe that is the content of that fundamental change.  

I am reminded of something I have scribbled in my scriptures next to this verse:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

 The notation I have scribbled is something to the effect that this verse constitutes the "end of excuses."

Whatever lies ahead, I can have confidence that there is going to be a strong need for reliance on the Spirit, and the admission and submission of weakness.  Like a child, life begins.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Yesterday I finished the last final I will ever take and turned it in by e-mailing it to my professor. I did so five days ahead of time, and I turned in the final for my other class six days previous to its due date. I'm done. And I'm beside myself (a schizophrenic phrase if there ever was one). Nine years ago I felt almost exactly the same as I do now. I had just finished my two year mission in British Columbia and was home in Southern California. I didn't know quite what to do because all of a sudden I had this excess of time. Of course much has changed in those nine years. Marriage, move to Texas, buy first house, have first child, have second child, move to a new house, have third child, graduate with my Bachelor's, have fourth child, and now graduate with my Masters. There was also full time work for eight years of this time period. The point still stands that I've been going to school for almost eight years and the routine of researching and writing has become a nightly occurrence. What do I do now with all of this time? I still have work, which takes me out of the home for nine hours during the day. I still need to prep this house to sell in the near future (it's on our list and has been for a long time). I still want to help T pursue her education. If I were to truly dedicate time to listing out all of the things I need to do, I'd probably be able to fill every ounce of time. It still does not erase the feeling of opportunity, anticipation, anxiousness, hope and the unknown. I got engaged the last time I had time on my hands. What is going to happen now? I'll tell you one thing, I most likely won't be writing the next great American novel.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Graduation Day... coming soon. I'd almost forgotten that I will be done with my Masters program in a month. My T has been a vital support throughout this entire process, and I don't know what life is going to really be like without school there. This has been the routine our entire marriage, and now it's almost over. These are days that we have dreamed about for years. There is so much to think about for the future. Part of that thinking of the future involves sending out resumes and cover letters, applications and letters of interest. Until just the past couple of days, I've been focusing on court administration jobs, but have recently opened that up to municipal administration jobs. Who knows where we'll end up, who knows what I'll be doing; the only thing I'm anxious for is to get there and do it. There is so much to be grateful for, and while there may be excitement and anxiousness, I can't forget to thank my Father in Heaven for making such conditions and circumstances possible. I've been planted, and I need to bloom in thankfulness.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Price of Bananas

So, it is not common knowledge, but my eldest has some simian traits of which she is proud. One day this week, I was washing dishes in the kitchen when I hear the TV in the living room switch to some video that I'm unfamiliar with. "What is that?" No answer from the peanut gallery. "Tabitha?" Silence. I walk around the counter into the living room to see Tabitha with the remote control, which I had neatly laid on top of the bookshelf, about 6 and a 1/2 feet high. "How did you get that?" I asked, flabbergasted. She put up her arms in a stumped pose and said in her best 7 year old Valley-speak, pointing to herself "Dad, monkey-climber, hello?!" Now it was my turn to be silent, and incidentally do my best not to laugh. Gotta love my monkeys.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thinking About Closing That Courthouse? Think Again.

I do love my disaster class, and particularly the topic that I've chosen for the research project this semester "Courting Disaster: The Socio-political Effects of Closing Courts During Recovery."  I had thought about the philosophy behind why courts need a contingency plan in the event of an emergency,  but this paper has brought it all to a level of analysis I couldn't have dreamed of in 2008.  Such are the effects of a Masters in Public Administration.

From the first section:

"As challenging as circumstances may become, judges have choices as to how they will confront exigent situations. Leadership in these instances begets legitimacy and trust. A party that knows the judge is going out of her way to make sure that needs are met and rights are protected is going to be that much more satisfied with the verdict, even in the instance that it doesn't favor them." 

To not give too much away, the thesis revolves around the assertion that courts lose legitimacy and public trust the longer they are closed, and that there is a political cost in doing so.  I'm sure this is an instance of a grad student loving their own research, but I'm excited for how this will help in drafting a Permanent Plan for the Texas Judiciary, acknowledging the far-reaching aspects of court preparation and its connection with the mission of the judiciary as a protector of the people's rights.